Helping budding entrepreneurs in Amsterdam

Patrick de Zeeuw first got the idea for Startupbootcamp after his own experience as a 15-year-old entrepreneur. “I made all the mistakes in the world. I had some successes, but I mostly learned from my failures. I had very like-minded friends and entrepreneurs in my field of interest and I said to them: ‘Why don’t we go and help these early-stage companies avoid making the same mistakes that we did and make the most of the network that we have built internationally?’”

That simple desire transformed into an organisation that's making a difference for entrepreneurs by opening doors, providing access to funding and equipping them with the knowledge required to grow. 

Startupbootcamp runs programmes in Europe, Asia and the Middle East

Startupbootcamp began in the Netherlands in 2010. It now runs accelerator programmes in Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Copenhagen, Eindhoven, Israel, Istanbul, Singapore, Dublin and London, and boasts an international alumni group of more than 2,000 people. Two three-month programmes are held in Amsterdam every year and  the competition for each place is intense.

Participants receive help and advice from the organisation’s global community of volunteer mentors and advisers who provide coaching and connections to customers, partners and investors. During the programme, participating startups can use a free co-working space and receive financial support to cover living expenses.

After three months, the startup teams get a chance to pitch to top investors and venture capitalists on Demo Day. On average, more than 70% of teams go on to receive funding.

Amsterdam canalSearching for skilled, energetic teams to launch new companies

There are more than 1,000 applications for every Startupbootcamp course. A recent programme saw applications roll in from more than 60 countries, including North Korea, and it’s an arduous selection process. After a series of online pitches and face-to-face interviews over a period of six months, the group of candidates is whittled down to ten finalists.

De Zeeuw says he’s not searching for complete novices when it comes to choosing participants. “What we’re looking for is qualified, high-energy, dedicated teams that already have some skills,” he says. Each programme costs around €1 million and is funded by Startupbootcamp’s corporate partners and informal investors. The ten lucky startups each receive €15,000 to help them launch in Amsterdam and cover expenses for six months.

In return, Startupbootcamp takes 8% of the equity in each budding company for up to six years, during which the companies have access to the knowledge and advice of experts and alumni. Any money earned is ploughed back into funding new boot camp programmes. 

Teaching participants how to think and succeed

One Startupbootcamp participant thought the programme was so great that she came back twice. Michal Hubschmann, who is from Israel, sold her first venture to one of the largest travel companies in the Netherlands. Her new initiative is a data engine designed to help brands get more from their online advertising campaigns.

“I learned from my mentors. I learned a lot from the management of Startupbootcamp," she says. "They show you the right way to think and validate your product. I’m very happy to be here.”

Pitching to 400 investors from across the globe

Each boot camp culminates in Demo Day, where participating startups are put on stage and given ten minutes to make their pitch to a room filled with 400 investors from around the world.

This is the open door they’ve been waiting for. While some will return home, others will stay in Amsterdam. De Zeeuw says that the bootcamp is not only a place where new tech startups can find success – they can also make mistakes and learn free from the pressure of media attention.

He adds that Amsterdam has always been driven by innovation and has long shown an openness to new ideas. But even though these are good reasons in themselves to be here, he concludes that there is something else. “Business is important, but even more important is that you enjoy the business you run – and you also have some nice free time to spend in a beautiful city.”