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Image from Laura Lee Hulsman

Halfway through 2021: Amsterdam’s startup investment landscape

As we emerge from the pandemic, 2021 has been a year like no other – with the needs and values of society changing and dictating the nature of the startup ecosystem. At the halfway point, we present the key trends that have arisen so far in 2021, an overview of the companies and sectors that have received the most investment, and which startups are hiring.

According to the Dutch Startup Association, startups in the Netherlands raised €3 billion in the first six months of 2021 – that’s more than in the entire year of 2020. This staggering figure was led by a few gigantic investment rounds from, among others, Mollie, MessageBird (both $800 million), bunq (€193 million), NewAmsterdam Pharma (€160 million) and Lumicks ($93 million).

Highlights of H1: Mollie, Messagebird and bunq

Household names in the Amsterdam startup world, payment platform Mollie and omnichannel communications business Messagebird each attracted $800 millionin Series C capital. Both taking place in spring 2021 and involving a range of different investors, these were by far the biggest investments of H1 2021. This is perhaps unsurprising: Mollie is used by millions of consumers to make online transactions, while Messagebird is used by businesses for online, multi-channel interaction with their customers – and both have boomed during the pandemic due to the increase in online shopping.

The other big news is that the innovative bank bunq, after having received its latest funding round, is now Amsterdam’s newest unicorn, being valued at €1.6 billion.

Investing in health

Again, the effects of Covid-19 are being felt in the startup ecosystem as investors rushed to support companies working in the hugely important healthcare sector. While there have been 12 investments to the tune of €350 million in total, the biggest injections of capital have been directed towards clinical-stage company NewAmsterdam Pharma (€160 million in Series A capital) and life science tools company Lumicks ($93 million) in Series D capital).

Transport, food and fashion

Because of the significant investments in Mollie, Messagebird and bunq, the FinTech, telecoms and enterprise software sectors have seen the highest investment so far this year. But hot on their heels comes the health industry for the reasons already mentioned, with both health and enterprise software receiving investments for 12 firms in each sector. Among the top 10 investments, four were in health-related firms, followed by two e-scooter rental companies, DOTT (€112.06 million in Series B capital) and Felyx (€24 million in Series A capital), showing that the transportation sector is still going strong – perhaps as people look for safe public transport alternatives.

Food and meal delivery companies received a higher number of investments than the FinTech industry, as more people focused on healthy eating at home. The fashion industry also received a large injection of cash, primarily as a result of online fashion outlet Otrium receiving €131.31 in Series C capital from three investors.

Bas Beekman, Director of Startup Amsterdam, comments: “It’s great to see that, in addition to the sectors that traditionally score well in Amsterdam – FinTech and software – companies from important growth sectors such as health, food and energy are also able to raise more and more growth capital. These are important sectors for the city, which we try to facilitate as best as possible with StartupAmsterdam and amsterdam inbusiness.”

Up in the cloud

Talking about the investments made in the first half of the year, Thijs Dijkman, Investment Manager at Peak, has noticed a globally accelerated adoption of cloud technologies, and huge changes in the way that people interact and do business, therefore spurring growth in the fields of remote/hybrid work, e-sports, e-commerce and online education. “I would say the biggest trend we’ve made investments on in 2021 is remote work,” he says, “and then specifically our investment in Mibo. They tune in on online events, informal meetings or just hanging out with your team, or friends.” 

Venture capital expert Thomas Mensink runs monthly startup ‘speed dating’ event Startup Roulette. He says: “Last year was more extreme for startups. Some companies experienced a flying start or increased their growth rates even more, especially in the markets that quickly became ‘hot’, like remote working (such as Mibo, Workwize and infinitSpace) and e-commerce (e.g. Otrium, Orderchamp and Crisp). Others found themselves in challenging market conditions, for example in the travel and event sectors. I expect that the latter group will return stronger (e.g. TicketSwap), because they have had the time to improve their value proposition, or won’t return at all.”

Startups hiring

The labour market has been tough for job seekers since the start of the pandemic, but in the Netherlands startups are bucking the trend – and have proven to be the number one job growth engine in the country. While many larger companies have been forced to shed staff, startups showed more resilience, with a 4% growth in job openings in Q2 2020. Dutch tech startups currently hiring after raising funding in 2021 include HousingAnywhere, Felyx, LALALand, Creative Fabrica, ChannelEngine, Quin, Kambr and AxonIQ.

Ones to watch

And away from the pandemic, which sectors are on the rise in 2021? According to Mensink, plant-based food is the industry to watch. “With an increasing interest from society – and therefore from investors – companies that offer sustainable food solutions and meat substitutions are raising significant amounts of funding (examples include Meatable, Protix and Mosa Meat) and will probably continue to do so.”

Top 5 investments and industries in H1 2021

Messagebird (telecoms/enterprise software)

Mollie (FinTech)

bunq (FinTech)

New Amsterdam Pharma (health)

Otrium (fashion)

Explore a full report on the Dutch funding landscape for H1 2021 here.