1. Why should I choose Amsterdam?

Aside from it being one of the most creative, cycle-friendly and beautiful cities you’ll ever find, the innovation capital of Europe offers great advantages to the startup entrepreneur. It is no surprise that Amsterdam is home to unicorns (startups valued at more than €1 billion), Adyen and Elastic; the rapidly growing Catawiki, and success stories like Booking.com.

Three unique advantages of Amsterdam:

1.      Amsterdam is a natural testbed for startups thanks to a tech-savvy, adaptive (and sometimes critical!) consumer base. Tech companies like NextDoor, Tesla, Netflix and Optimizely based their European headquarters here with the intention of growing into Europe.

2.     Amsterdam is an attractive place to live and work, so there is a huge international talent pool for you to draw from. This is the reason that companies such as Uber and 3D Hubs have based their tech teams here.

3.     Once you are ready to scale, Amsterdam is your launch pad into the world. Not only because of our infrastructural connectivity, but initiatives such as SCALE (Startup City Alliance Network) links us to other cities like Paris, Berlin, London and Stockholm helping you connect to peers and grow into Europe.

2. What does it cost to set up my business in Amsterdam?

The Netherlands is in the top three countries with the lowest business costs according to KPMG’s guide to international business location costs. Costs are especially low for digital and research and development services. The minimum cost of setting up your business in Amsterdam is €50, which covers your company’s registration at the Chamber of Commerce. For businesses with an incorporated structure (like a BV) you will need a notarial deed, which will cost you around three hundred euros. Note that no longer need startup capital to register a BV. Prices of notary firms vary and it worth shopping around for detailed quotations both in and outside of Amsterdam. For a clear overview of the process and model legal documents, see this blog post by Amsterdam-based Capital Waters.

3. Can I move to Amsterdam just like that and start up?

Yes you can. In fact, the Netherlands has a Startup Visa and innovation incentives in place to encourage you to do just that. Furthermore, the Amsterdam Expatcenter is at your service to streamline procedures. The Expatcenter is a one-stop-shop that offers a range of services to international entrepreneurs, companies and their highly skilled migrant employees, and international graduates.

Startup Visa - Entrepreneurs from outside of the European Union can apply for a Startup Visa: a residence permit that can be obtained from the IND. To be eligible for this visa you need to have a business plan for an innovative product or service and sufficient financial resources to last you a year in the Netherlands. Most importantly, you need to register your company at the Chamber of Commerce and find a facilitator (business mentor who is registered at Chamber of Commerce). DutchBasecamp can help you find your perfect mentor match. After one year, you may have the duration of your residence permit extended under the Dutch government’s self-employment scheme. Find more information about the Startup Visa.

EU members - If you come from one of the EU Member States, the EEA (European Economic Area), or if you are a Swiss citizen, you are free to live and work on a self-employed basis in the Netherlands and do not need an entry visa or a residence permit. It is advisable to register with the IND, as many Dutch authorities ask for a proof of registration. You will also have to register at your local municipality (if you intend to stay over four months, which we imagine you do) and apply for a BSN number. The Expatcenter is available to help with any of these formalities.

Innovation incentives – The Dutch government is eager to stimulate innovation brought on by entrepreneurs, which has resulted in numerous innovation incentive schemes. The SME+ Innovation Fund is of particular interest to small and medium-sized companies and the R&D Tax Credit incentivises entrepreneurs to invest in research. Read about (micro)credits and other small loans available to entrepreneurs) in the Netherlands and the associated regulations. 

4. What are the actual steps to getting that business up and running?

First of all, register your company at the Chamber of Commerce (KvK). You are ready for this if:

  • You are legally allowed to live in Amsterdam.
  • You have a business plan.
  • You have decided on a business name and legal form.

Registration has to happen in person and, as the Dutch are quite an organised nation, you’ll need to make an appointment via the KvK website. If your company needs to be incorporated through a notarial deed (e.g. a BV) you will have to make an appointment with a notary beforehand. Find a detailed guide to starting a business in Amsterdam or download the ‘Starting a business’ pdf from the KvK. The article on legal forms of companies is a particularly useful guide to your options.

5. What are my options when it comes to hiring talent?

With an ever expanding tech community and an education system that scores among the highest in maths and science worldwide, it’s easy to find exceptional talent for your startup.

BSSA & Growth Tribe - Not only does Amsterdam attract talent from across the country and globe, it actively educates talent. Startup academies like B. Startup School (BSSA) and Growth Tribe Academy train the work force that can code and grow your tech company to world domination. Find out more about BSSA’s match making events and recruitable talents and about the possibility of submitting your project to the Growth Tribe superstars.

Job portals - You can post your job openings or internships at job portals such as Dutch Startup Jobs for a fee. LinkedIn is a much used platform among the Dutch work force, and should not be underestimated in your recruitment process. Have a company page on LinkedIn where you post vacancies and updates about your company and work environment to create engagement with your potential workforce (take inspiration from Amsterdam scale-up Travelbird that has over 13.000 followers on LinkedIn). For other budget-friendly options try scouting Facebook communities such as ‘Startup and other jobs Amsterdam/The Netherlands’ or ‘Young Creators Group.’

Freelancers - Another tip given by startups is to hire freelancers as this will provide the flexibility to scale up or down as the need arises. This article by StartupDelta explains the hiring rules for working with freelancers. Amsterdam-based startup Jellow has built a platform where startup teams can recommend and scout the best freelancers. There are also several networking events and meetups that provide the perfect opportunity to scout for talent. Take a look at these upcoming events.

International talent – You can also search for talent outside the Netherlands. The 30% tax ruling is designed to make this easier. From a tax perspective, the ruling means that the salary agreed upon between the employee and employer will be reduced by 30%. In return, the employee should receive a 30% allowance as reimbursement for expenses. The ruling adds an extra incentive for internationals to come and work for you. Find out more about the 30% tax ruling.

Keep in mind the importance of retaining the talent you have, as they are your most valuable ambassadors. Introducing participation plans is an excellent way to do this.

6. What’s the deal with company tax in the Netherlands?

Once your company is successfully registered at the Chamber of Commerce, the details will be passed to the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration (Belastingdienst). Your company will be assigned a VAT registration number. As a business owner you will have to pay tax to both the government and the municipality. Read an overview of the taxes required for startup entrepreneurs.  

The Netherlands has a corporate income tax rate of 20% on the first €200.000 of taxable profits (25% over profits exceeding that amount). Find more information about taxes.

Tip: If you set up a legal entity, such as a Dutch B.V., and become an employee of that company, you are considered to be in an employment situation and could consequently be eligible for the 30% ruling, if you qualify as a highly skilled migrant.

7. Where do I find office space?

Work to live or live to work? Startup founders might find they initially spend more nights at the office than in bed. Luckily, there are many co-working spaces around town (that have comfortable sofas!) Depending on the stage your company is in these locations rent out a desk, office cubicle or entire floor. Amsterdam-based startup Launchdesk can help you find the perfect office, or if you would like to buy or rent a property, try Funda in Business. Learn more about renting a work space in the Netherlands.

8. Where can I find housing in Amsterdam?

Prepare for the search by reading up on buying and renting in Amsterdam. You will find all sorts of advice on housing rights, mortgages and the local neighbourhoods. From our experience, the best way to find housing is through word of mouth. Socialise as much as possible when you first arrive and spread the word that you’re looking for accommodation. Try Facebook groups and other social networks too. The Expatcenter offers a helpful checklist to prepare you for the move to Amsterdam, and a booklet called ‘My First Month'.

9. What does it cost to live in Amsterdam?

Costs are crucial for startup founders and it is important to live in a place where you can keep expenses low. TechCrunch wrote that “One of the biggest advantages Amsterdam has in the tech world is that it’s a place where people want to live – and can actually afford to, even on a startup budget.”

When comparing costs between cities, a city apartment in Amsterdam is 130% less expensive than in San Francisco. Amsterdam also rates highly in quality of life compared to other cities. The Economist points out that Amsterdam is more affordable than other startup cities like Paris and London – and that baguette or cuppa is only a few hours away. This helpful video explains the costs of living in more detail.

10. What if I want to bring my family?

You can find extensive information on family life in Amsterdam through the Expatcenter. Find out more about accompanying partners, English-speaking employment opportunities and international schools, along with plenty of other resources to make moving to Amsterdam easier.

Ready, set, startup! See you in Amsterdam.