A fruitful Startup Election Debate in Amsterdam

The Dutch capital’s first-ever Startup Election Debate took place on 9 March. The event was a collaboration between StartupDelta, B. Amsterdam, Sprout, RTL Z, Accenture and Get in the Ring. The tables were turned at the event, as Amsterdam’s startup community took a break from their own pitching to listen to pitches by seven Dutch politicians.

Roughly 300 startups were present at the event, as well as economic representatives of seven of the Netherlands’ political parties, including Tom van der Lee (Groenlinks), Mei Li Vos (PvdA), Nico Drost (ChristenUnie), Aukje de Vries (VVD), Agnes Mulder (CDA), Arda Gerkens (SP) and Kees Verhoeven (D66).

The debate was moderated by presenter Hella Hueck, and the economic representatives took questions from an expert panel consisting of Mirjam Bink (ONL), Mark Vletter (Voys), Janneke Niessen (Improve Digital) and representatives from Plugify, The Next Closet and Nerdalize. Of course, audience members were also given a chance to interrogate the politicians.

A general consensus between the parties

Although the event was intended to be a debate, the parties agreed on many of the issues raised, meaning actual debates were few and far between. Parties were harmonious in their support of more coding-based education in schools, more affordable recruitment and simplifying bureaucracy. Voys’ founder, Mark Vletter, noted that he once had to sift through a 40-page form, which wasted valuable time for his startup.

Parties also agreed that employment law regarding sick employees should be modified, stating that two years of paid sick leave is too long and should be adjusted to one year. Arda Gerkens (SP) and Tom van der Lee (Groenlinks) also acknowledged that the current two-year period is a breaking point for many smaller companies, causing them to go out of business.

Many called for smoother investment processes, particularly Kees Verhoeven (D66), who believes that startup investment should carry more incentives for venture capitalists. Verhoeven went on to praise the UK’s Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS), which offers tax benefits to investors in return for their investment in small and early-stage startups.  

Disagreements over the WBSO

The WBSO (R&D tax credit), which enables companies to lower the wage costs for research and development, was one of the more hotly debated topics. Perhaps unsurprisingly, many startups represented at the event supported the act, with some of the audience members stating that they made good use of the WBSO. Others, including Vletter, were more critical of the act, claiming that it could and should be simpler.