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Innovation Hub: The Silicon Canals, Amsterdam

Remco Janssen

Innovator: Remco Janssen, Editor-in-Chief, Silicon Canals

Yesterday- May 27th Startup Focus gathered at the RockstartAccelerator in Amsterdam to invite local startups to learn about the HANA platform and understand the opportunities to commercialize their solutions with SAP’s global enterprise customers- with a call to action to join the program. The exchange with Amsterdam’s local startup scene represents SAP Startup Focus’ ongoing efforts to bridge SAP technology and customers with emerging startup hubs around the globe.

The evening session offered startups best practices about funding, building a team and and establishing a strong media presence.  Local founders and other innovators from the startup scene turned out to participate- with a handful pitching during the latter part of the evening.

In a city known for its bikes, canals, and cafes, Amsterdam and startup are not likely synonyms. The founder and CEO of the Rockstart venue, Don Ritzen, has witnessed the rapid ascension of Amsterdam’s startup community, attributing it to the country’s history and its obscure language that prompts fluency in English and Dutch entrepreneurs to look beyond the country’s borders to create businesses of meaningful size. In this sense, the Startup Focus program and Amsterdam’s startups could not have missions that were any better aligned.

Leading up to the forum event, SAP Startup Focus spoke with Remco Janssen, founder of the online startup-centric media hub, Silicon Canals to get a flavor for up-and-coming startups, available resources, opportunities, and his perspective on what will be required to grow Amsterdam’s startup ecosystem even further.

With a resume brimming with startup related experiences, Remco Janssen knows the ins and outs of Amsterdam’s startup scene. The founder of Silicon Canals worked for Urbanbite and the Austrian startup 123people, finally growing his trademark blogging presence into Silicon Canals. The online site has since become a major content hub for the Dutch startup ecosystem, covering daily news, interviews with startup founders, and trusted resources for startups looking to ramp up their media efforts. The name Silicon Canals, Remco described, depicts the geographical proximity that many of Amsterdam’s startups have to the city’s canal system- the major landmark running through the city proper.

While he sees the city’s ecosystem as relatively young compared to other country’s, Remco believes it’s only a matter of time until they catch up, propelled by lenient government oversight, an expanding investment culture, and aerial founder ambition. “The climate is right for scaling”, he said.

With numerous startup outposts engaged by the Startup Focus team on a monthly basis, each has their unique roots conducive to entrepreneurship. For Amsterdam, Remco attributes startups’ dynamism to the “VOC mentality”, a term that harkens back to the United East Indian company that bolstered the country’s economy during the “Golden Age” 17th century. The country’s social and cultural policies as well as its robust commercial capabilities have bred a new class of startup merchants.

Over the past 5 years, startups have benefited from the explosion of resources- everything from accelerators like Startupbootcamp, coworking spaces like The Startup Orgy, and a growing VC, government, media, and international investment presence drawn to the country’s industrial and innovative activities. Those with the biggest footprint are e-commerce (including the likes of local powerhouses like Booking.com, Bol.com, Coolblue and Fonq), Fintech (with payment service provider Adyen, a “unicorn”), 3D-startups like Shapeways, high-tech (Eindhoven) and biotech (Wageningen), the sharing economy (Peerby, Snappcar and Barqo) and  Edtech (companies like Squla, Springest, StudyTube).

The development of Amsterdam’s climate will grow stronger in the coming years as startup clusters emerge, which Remco himself fosters through Silicon Drinkabout Amsterdam as Chief Drinking Officer. The Friday night outing encourages startups to meet face to face, define alignment, and share talent and best practices. Beyond that, Remco anticipates that accelerator programs will grow beyond Amsterdam to neighboring tech clusters in Antwerpen, Gent, Paris, Cologne, and Berlin. Personally, he hopes to develop an as yet untapped opportunity- to build startup exchange programs between cities to bring local startups to other tech hubs to learn, network, do business, and exchange ideas.

remco blog

The Dutch government has proven to be a startup ally as well, with the launch of a nascent initiative  calledStartupdelta, strong provisioning of subsidies and grants, and political party allegiances spinning new supports like the 42 step program.

To get a sense for the action happening on the ground, we asked Remco to identify top five most promising startups.

  1. Adyen, an International Payment Services company, raising $250 million
  2. Treatwell, a beautybooking marketplace. The CEO built the company from the ground up in two years into what is now a 150 person team, launching into the Belgium and German markets soon.
  3. Quiver, a security startup that enables corporates to share documents and files securely. The company has gained a lot of attention from press, investors and large enterprise customers and just opened an office in the U.S.
  4. ULU, a Slovenian based team with a connected car-platform with half a million seed round from a big Chinese investment fund.
  5. Bundle, an app that lets users bundle photos on their camera roll, with half a million euro initial funding.

With the first conversations with Amsterdam’s Rockstart accelerator and Silicon Canals underway, SAP Startup Focus will continue its commitment to offering startup communities around the world global relevance in front of SAP customers and technical support to drive adoption of SAP HANA. The Startup Focus team and local players in Amsterdam will continue to develop the shared Communities of Innovation imperative to bring new emerging technologies and market insight to the enterprise community, and enterprise opportunities to startup companie

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