First published in AMS business magazine. Author: Jayne Robinson

The start-up visa scheme, which was implemented on 1 January 2015, was designed to bring great business ideas to the Netherlands. It makes it possible for ambitious international entrepreneurs to apply for a temporary residence permit on the grounds of their idea for an innovative product or service. They get one year (with the possibility to extend) to launch and grow their start-up, while being offered the support they need to develop it into a mature enterprise. This scenario is not only beneficial for the entrepreneur but also creates a solid foundation for job creation and economic growth in the Netherlands – after all, entrepreneurship remains one of the driving forces of the Dutch economy.

And if the budding entrepreneurs choose the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area as their base, they will work in what is widely seen as one of Europe’s most exciting start-up scenes. Bolstered by a creative mindset, numerous initiatives that support new businesses and a high quality of life that attracts people from all over the world, the Amsterdam area’s start-ups are thriving.

Finn Hansen

Co-founder of Biddy, a peer-to-peer video marketplace for clothing

The start-up visa certainly influenced my decision to set up my company in Amsterdam. It made it possible to access all the great things the local start-up community has to offer, such as numerous weekly meet-ups and pitching events, experts and co-working spaces. All these things helped me find co-founders, qualified feedback, advice and other networking opportunities I don’t believe I would have gotten as easily elsewhere. Here, you have access to one of the leading European start-up ecosystems.

Amsterdam is one of the best places in Europe to start and grow your company due to the mindset of people in the community and the numerous start-up hubs. The local community pays it forward, just like in Silicon Valley. People are accessible, open to grab a coffee with you and tell you how they see it. If they can help, they will, or they will introduce you to someone who can. It’s that feedback and sharing of experiences and knowledge that really makes the community valuable. The city is littered with start-up hubs like Rockstart; you walk in and are surrounded by dozens of high-potential start-ups. It makes you feel like you are in the right place.

Nothing beats the quality of life here. The cost of living is way cheaper than in most major European cities, you can cycle to work and the start-up community is very cosmopolitan and keeps it dynamic and diverse. I have made friends from all over the world, who all moved to Amsterdam to start their companies. It’s a very soft landing when you arrive: 99% of people are fluent in English, and it’s not unusual to conduct business in English. My advice to a start-up founder applying for the visa would be to assemble a team with complementary skill sets and build a lo-fi prototype together, then apply to all the relevant accelerator programmes. If you get into one, the visa will follow. Immerse yourself in the start-up community and build a local network.

www.biddy.co

Ajay Varadharajan

Founder and CEO of Green Insights, a company which supports businesses through their sustainability journey

As a sustainability consultant in the US, I was working in an environment where sustainability was viewed with scepticism. This made it difficult to innovate and push the boundaries of sustainability in business. As it’s common knowledge that the Netherlands is one of the most progressive countries in the world and its capital is the Mecca of circular economy, Amsterdam was an obvious choice for me to get involved in the sustainability and circular-economy community and create new knowledge in this field. I started Green Insights with the goal of helping companies push their limits and extract new value through insights and innovative business models. So far, I haven’t been disappointed.

The most important thing that the start-up visa has allowed us to do is to open up access to the European market. The one-year period helped in that it gave us time to experiment with our business model and tweak it to make it work best for us. The facilitator model is another great feature, as it offers coaching, opens up existing communities and gives valuable insights into European markets. Amsterdam offers this unique blend of an active entre-preneurial community, government involvement and support, and a talent pool from the local universities. With a financially healthy customer base that is willing to try out new products and services and relative proximity to similar, bigger consumer markets like Germany and France, start-ups have a better chance of scaling successfully. In addition to all of that, Amsterdam is a great city to start a life: it is vibrant, tolerant, diverse...and a very fun place to live in.

I would definitely recommend the start-up visa for non-EU entrepreneurs that have identified a societal problem and want to test out their solution here in Europe. It is a great opportunity to have an impact, learn a lot in the process and live the good life.

www.greeninsights.org

Juan Pablo Jimenez Marroquin

CEO of eGEO, a Columbian hardware development start-up for smart-grid technology

We came all the way from Bogota to Amsterdam to enhance our knowledge and technology. Knowing the Netherlands’ reputation for research, experience and innovation on smart cities and green energy, our team decided that Amsterdam had what we were looking for, and we were delighted to be one of 10 start-ups from around the world selected by the start-up accelerator Rockstart. Currently, we are part of their 2016 Smart Energy programme, which provides training and support. Being in Amsterdam allows us to test our technology, putting our initiatives into action and gathering valuable data in order to improve and grow.

Right now we are in the process of obtaining a start-up visa. As we are a Colombian company, this visa is extremely important in giving us the legal status and stability to develop our business. The visa simplifies the whole process and provides start-ups with the right tools to be able to focus more on the entrepreneurial part of the transition than on paperwork or complicated requirements. Amsterdam is a very welcoming, open-minded city with a huge focus on innovation. There is a great feeling of hope for new technologies, business models and companies here. Within this community, it is very easy to exchange ideas and grow as a start-up. 

www.egeo.co