Amsterdam: a massive part of Catawiki’s success

Founded in 2008 by fanatical comic-book collector René Schoenmakers and Marco Janssen, Catawiki was launched as a website for collectors to manage and keep track of their collections online. Now it’s grown into one of Europe’s leading auction sites, helping sellers trade tens of thousands of specialist items on its weekly auctions, including art, antiques, classic cars, watches, jewellery, books and stamps. In addition to its two locations in the Netherlands, the company has offices in Belgium, Germany, France, Spain, Italy and Sweden, and it has hired 400 new staff in the last two years alone. 

According to CEO Ilse Kamps, being based in Amsterdam has been instrumental to that success. “Amsterdam became our second office when we started to expand internationally,” she explains. “Being in the city really helps us, because it’s a really international place – we have about 40-plus nationalities working in this office alone. Amsterdam is also very well connected. We do a lot of our business throughout Europe, and it’s easy for us to have people fly in and out of the city.”

Having previously helped sell Spanish King Juan Carlos’s old Mercedes – as well as a fossilised nest with dinosaur eggs and one of the rarest comic books in the world – Catawiki recently auctioned off its 3 millionth item. “This fantastic milestone shows that Catawiki is the place to buy and sell unique objects for many people in Europe,” Ms Kamps said. “And that success is certainly helped by working in Amsterdam, which has really helped us to grow internationally. We work closely with a lot of third-party companies, many of which have an office or representation in the city. We also collaborate with other startups and companies operating in Amsterdam to learn and share ideas.”

One of the fastest-growing companies in the world

Deloitte called Catawiki the “fastest-growing technology company in the world”, and the business is now aiming to move into Asian and American markets. It's also cementing its position as one of Europe’s leading marketplaces. Ms Kamps believes that the high quality of Amsterdam’s international talent pool has helped the company move into new markets very quickly. “When we expand into a new market, we usually start with attracting talent here in Amsterdam; that way we can start connecting to a market almost immediately,” she explained. “Straight away, we can find someone that knows the market we are moving into and who speaks the local language, and after that we can grow a market from right here in Amsterdam. In fact, a lot of our international teams are based here.”

The Financial Times put Catawiki at thirteenth place on its list of Europe's fastest-growing companies, the highest ranking for a Dutch company, praising its goal of making special objects universally available. The company now offers 35,000 lots each week. “Where Catawiki stands out from other marketplaces is that all of our objects have been curated by specialists, so you know that if you come to our website you will find something truly special,” explained Ms Kamps. “We started as a small Dutch company primarily trading collectables, and we expanded into multiple categories and expanded into multiple countries. That allowed us to grow very quickly. And if we had to start all over again? Of course, we would still choose Amsterdam as our base of operations.”