First published in AMS business magazine. Author: Douglas Heingartner
An introduction to amsterdam inbusiness
amsterdam inbusiness helps newly-arrived companies in the Amsterdam Area get up and running. That help can involve assistance in finding the right office or home, information on international schools, or even tips on finding a good doctor. The team also provides business intelligence to companies that are thinking about setting up shop in the region, as well as facilitating introductions to strategic partners, knowledge institutions, governmental agencies, and even potential clients. ‘I deal a lot with the city government and the bureaucracy, and for me that’s the fun part of the job,’ says Hilde van der Meer.
A unique base for startups and big business
A lot has changed in these past ten years. The main market for FDI in Amsterdam has traditionally been European headquarters and sales & marketing offices, which led to an ecosystem of service providers in the creative, IT, financial, business and logistics fields, for example. But now (tech) startups are also part of the mix. ‘We’ve not only become one of the major startup cities in Europe; we’ve also become a tech hub,’ says Van der Meer.
It’s the interaction between all those startups, scaleups, and more established headquarters that makes the Amsterdam Area so unique. ‘Many cities in Europe have also become startup cities,’ Van der Meer says, ‘but not all of them are able to combine the bigger, established companies to really get the business going between them all. ‘So we have the headquarters, marketing and sales; we have the tech; we have the logistics; and now, with the arrival of the European Medicines Agency, we might also get the life sciences,’ she adds. ‘Those are the four strengths of international Amsterdam, and for now the four pillars for foreign direct investment.’
The Amsterdam Area: a constantly evolving region
Another big change is that neighbouring locations in the Amsterdam Area, such as Amstelveen, Hoofddorp and Almere, are increasingly becoming part of the ‘international’ city. ‘That’s a development we’re really working on,’ says Van der Meer. ‘There are so many people from all over the world who come to live and work here, so we’re constantly thinking about how we can spread out the growth of the city and scale it up into the region.’ Van der Meer sees amsterdam inbusiness as an active participant in the region’s evolution. ‘We are a driver and an announcer of what’s happening,’ she says. ‘We constantly have our eyes and ears open, and when we see a trend, an opportunity, or something that is not being dealt with properly, we are very close to the city government to be able to address it. Over the years we have raised many issues with them, which in the end has improved the investment climate.’
Ten years ago, for example, things were more difficult for newcomers to the region, says Van der Meer. ‘They had to go through lots of bureaucratic hassle before they were able to start working – getting a residence permit or a parking permit, for example. So the city started Expatcenter Amsterdam,’ which is now known as IN Amsterdam. ‘More recently,’ she adds, ‘we felt there was a big shortage in international education so we helped to set up a plan, and last year alone, 800 new places at international schools were created.’
Amsterdam Marketing and amsterdam inbusiness: a special relationship
The amsterdam inbusiness team also works closely with Amsterdam Marketing. ‘We put all our business marketing in their hands,’ Van der Meer says. ‘And if you look at cities around the world, they are doing an excellent job. Amsterdam Marketing is a really professional and flexible city marketing organisation. All of the government-related organisations in the Amsterdam Area outsource their business marketing to them, which means we have one story and one uniform look, and it’s all really high quality. ‘We‘ve gained a lot of knowledge through the years,’ Van der Meer concludes. ‘My team is great, and people stay for a long time, because you can be part of forming the region. We’re not city planners, but we deal with what is happening in the region from day to day, and we can help influence it. ‘I’m pretty proud of what we’ve achieved. So maybe we should celebrate after all!’