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How Ready to Scale turbo-charged Amsterdam’s startup ecosystem

After seven successful years, Amsterdam’s original Ready to Scale partnership came to a close last year. Now that the dust has settled, we look back on some of the programme’s key achievements, meet some of the companies who benefited from the scheme, and find out what’s next for the scale-up initiative.

Supporting Amsterdam’s finest startups and scale-ups

Ready to Scale (formerly named Ready2Scale) has played a key role in the Amsterdam startup ecosystem since it launched in 2013. Originally created by ACE Incubator, The Startup Network, entrepreneurs, investors and Amsterdam-based universities, this unique initiative was designed to boost the growth of Amsterdam’s finest startups and scale-ups with a hands-on programme tailor-made to suit the needs and realities of entrepreneurs looking to expand their businesses. The programme set out to connect growing startups with mentors, fresh talent and investors while preparing participants to scale up and enjoy long-term success.

Over seven years, under the wing of of ACE Incubator, Ready to Scale supported over 2000 Amsterdam startups and scale-ups. Almost 250 of these companies took part in the Ready2Scale group programme, 1-on-1 coaching or one of the trips to Silicon Valley. In late 2020, the original format and leadership of the programme came to an end, but Ready to Scale continues under a new consortium, with a focus on Dutch-speaking companies and digitisation. 

Teaching leadership skills and day-to-day routines

The three-month long Ready2Scale group programme included lectures, presentations from experienced entrepreneurs, workshops for founders to apply new learnings directly to their own companies and coaching for evaluating their business strategy, focussing on themes such as execution, leadership, funding and growth. These components result in a successful mix of conveying the right habits and leadership skills and providing support with the day-to-day practice of scaling up - not to mention building a powerful network and lasting friendships with fellow entrepreneurs. 

Impressive growth 

As the name of the programme suggests, to take part in Ready to Scale, businesses needed to be, well, ready to scale. For the previous programme this meant having between €100,000 and €2.5 million in annual revenue, and having taken the first steps toward reaching the next level of growth. 

The average revenue of companies when they joined the programme was €430,000, and 7 FTE. 

Within the first three years after taking part in Ready to Scale,

• their revenue increased by 27% year-over-year

• they expanded their teams by 19% FTE

• they received an average of €771,500 of funding

Success stories 

Ready to Scale has helped some of today’s hottest startups grow, develop and establish themselves on an international level. The New Fork, which assists agrifood companies looking to implement blockchain technology, participated in 2018 and has felt the benefits ever since. 

Discussing her experience, COO Kirsten Coppoolse says: “Ready to Scale convinced us of the importance of working on the company instead of in the company. We now set aside planned time to think about strategy and structure.” She adds that the programme “gave us the structure to manage our scaling-up process. It was also very helpful to compare experiences with the other participants.”

Ev Liu, founder of Straw by Straw, which manufactures eco-friendly drinking straws made from wheat, also had a positive experience, saying Ready to Scale “helped me to shape the internal structures of my business.” She also believes the programme provided her with the knowledge required to handle the challenges she faces as head of a growing company. “As a young founder, it’s impossible to know everything and the programme showed me what kind of struggles or complex situations you can get in, and how to deal with them.” 

For Maarten ten Houten, the programme provided invaluable exposure to different aspects of running a company. The CEO and founder of Coolfinity, which makes a refrigerator that can run for 24 hours on six hours of power, says that, "In a startup, you often have to handle all aspects of a business, but normally you have only experience in a few, like innovation, but not finance or HR. Ready to Scale was a great experience for our team as it opened our eyes to a much broader scope. It provided us hands-on tools and showed us how to directly implement them...[helping] us prepare and plan for the next phases of growth.”

A support network for life 

Ready to Scale offers some great perks, including the chance to connect with potential investors and pitch to corporate clients. For Straw by Straw’s Ev Liu though, the best thing about participating was bonding with other people growing their startups. “The biggest benefit is learning from other entrepreneurs,” she says. “Some are more experienced than others, but everyone has a fresh new look on the same situations.”

Ready to Scale’s Project Manager Ellen Spithoven echoes this. She describes the benefits of the programme as stretching far beyond the course itself, with Ready to Scale alumni coming out of the programme with “a powerful network on which they can rely for the rest of their entrepreneurial careers.” She says:  “I really like the fact that a lot is shared within the sessions, so everyone quickly gets to know each other very well. The previous groups are still in touch with each other, having drinks and sparring about business, which is worth so much more than just being part of a programme”

Group photo of Readytoscale standing outside Venture Studio
Image from Readytoscale

What’s next for Ready to Scale?

The original Ready2Scale partnership between ACE Incubator, The Startup Network, entrepreneurs, investors and Amsterdam-based universities came to an end in late 2020, with seven highly successful years under their belts.

After being granted a subsidy from the Municipality of Amsterdam and Amsterdam Economic Board of Affairs, Ready to Scale will continue in a new direction for the next three years, under the guidance of KplusV and Preneurz. Group programmes will only be available in Dutch, with a focus on digitisation and future-proofing. 

Spithoven explains: “The programme was originally designed for innovative tech and science companies, but from this year on, all companies are welcome. We’ll have one cohort for innovative scale-ups and one cohort for broad SMEs - which could include anything from a bakery to a recruitment company.”

Another big change comes in the bar for entry, which was previously set at 100k but has increased to 250k from this year onwards. More details and entry requirements can be found on the Ready to Scale website

Are you ready to scale?

Could Ready to Scale make a difference to the future of your startup? Don’t hesitate to contact Ellen Spithoven for information about the application process, stay up to date with new announcements and programmes via the Ready to Scale website, or read more on StartupAmsterdam about making the leap from startup to scale-up.