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Photograph of StartupAmsterdam team having summer drinks, with "Stad Amsterdam" sign in background.
Image from Mell Photography

The people behind StartupAmsterdam: proudest moments, future plans and the best startup city in the world.

Members of the StartupAmsterdam programme look back over another fruitful four years of building Amsterdam’s startup ecosystem.

Published by StartupAmsterdam
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The second phase (2019-2022) of the StartupAmsterdam initiative is coming to a close and the team is feeling reflective. Those four years have seen the team support countless startups – and each other – through the best and toughest of times. From shining a spotlight on founders and pushing for greater diversity in tech and entrepreneurship to launching initiatives such as TOMAS and RestartUp Netherlands, there’s plenty to look back on proudly. With Amsterdam’s ecosystem thriving more than ever, each member of the StartupAmsterdam team recalls their highlights and looks to the future for startups in the city.

Aleksandra Sheshmini

Describe your role in three words. 

Newsletters, #FoundersFridays & Communities.

What was your proudest moment of the last four years? 

It would definitely be starting the #FoundersFridays series. Once I joined the team, I thought it would be great to give Amsterdam founders a stage to share their journeys, celebrate their wins and ask for help. Why is it my proudest moment? Coming from a human rights activism background, my main goal was to make this series as diverse as possible and help underrepresented founders share their voices. Hopefully, this series helped our founders achieve additional recognition and inspired our ecosystem by showing us how diverse it actually is.

What has been the best thing about being part of the StartupAmsterdam team?

It simply felt like being part of a family. Everyone had their ups and downs, but in the end we were all together to celebrate our wins and overcome the difficulties. Of course, a special shoutout to our former MarCom Sabine for giving me the opportunity to join the SA team and my partner in crime – the other Alexandra, with an ‘X’ – for checking my newsletters on Thursday nights.

What makes Amsterdam a great city and tech ecosystem, in your opinion?

I can say with 100% certainty that the phrase “Amsterdam is a metropolitan city with a village-like charm” is true. And I also recognise this in our tech ecosystem as well. You have all the perks of a 1st-tier tech ecosystem (you can raise serious capital, find top-class tech talent, sign exciting partnerships), but at the same time you’re part of a tightly-knit community of real people, with cool ideas – and you can always ask for help or learn from each other’s journeys.

What do you expect from the ecosystem next year? 

I can definitely recognise that the ecosystem has come a long way when it comes to being diverse and inclusive. That said, there’s always room for improvement. My hope is to see many more people from underrepresented communities play a more active role in the local tech scene.

Bonus question: Tell us something we don’t know.

I am a human rights activist at heart living with a dog and two bunnies.

Stay in touch with Aleksandra.

Semra Celebi

Portrait of Semra Çelebi of StartupAmsterdam team in office
Image from StartupAmsterdam

Describe your role in three words.

Diversity & inclusion, women, entrepreneurship.

What was your proudest moment of the last four years? 

The subsidy for Equals, an organisation supporting equality and diversity within tech in Amsterdam, and actualising the Female Hub

What has been the best thing about being part of the StartupAmsterdam team? 

The way we stand for the same mission and bring different perspectives to the table, which makes us a winning team. We are diverse and inclusive because everyone has an equal voice at the table. No competition, only collaboration. 

What makes Amsterdam a great city and tech ecosystem, in your opinion? 

Amsterdam is an international city and village at the same time. Diverse with 182 nationalities and yet village-like: you can bike anywhere. It’s very attractive to young people from all around the world because of its reputation of being an open-minded and diverse city. Everybody speaks English and the ecosystem is very well connected; that’s why it’s attractive to start and build your own startup here.

What do you expect from the ecosystem next year? 

I expect it to be more future proof with focus on building and supporting companies that are impact driven in their mission and their products. 

Bonus question: Tell us something we don’t know.

I can control my subconscious mind by stepping out of nightmares whenever I want to. 

Stay in touch with Semra and follow equals.amsterdam for updates.

Guy Vincent

Portrait of Guy Vincent of StartupAmsterdam team
Image from StartupAmsterdam

Describe your role in three words.

Helping fund founders.

What was your proudest moment of the last four years? 

Scale Cities Dealmaking Day, which connected 30 European urban tech scaleups with international investors.

What has been the best thing about being part of the StartupAmsterdam team?

The team itself! The people behind StartupAmsterdam care about founders and connecting government services to support them.

What makes Amsterdam a great city and tech ecosystem, in your opinion? 

Amsterdam is leading the way in developing a circular economy, and that sets an inspiring example for the rest of the world. Now we need to grow Amsterdam’s circular tech ecosystem! 😊

What do you expect from the ecosystem next year? 

Amsterdam Circular will make waves and help to position Amsterdam as the #1 circular tech hub in the world!

Bonus question: Tell us something we don’t know.

I’ve been geeking out on fermenting food waste (aka bokashi) since living in Bali in 2016. Expect a bokashi project to start growing in 2023. 🧑‍🌾💚

Stay in touch with Guy and follow Amsterdam Circular for updates.

Joël Dori

Portrait of Joël Dori of StartupAmsterdam team
Image from Elena Zemlyanskaya

Describe your role in three words.

Help startups grow. 

What was your proudest moment of the last four years? 

This summer we organised a big event aboard the Clipper Amsterdam including most of our partners. It was great to catch up with them and reflect on the programs we’ve set up together to help entrepreneurs in our city over the years. This trip down memory lane gave me a moment to reflect and made me proud of what we’ve achieved together with so many different organisations on a bunch of important topics.   

What has been the best thing about being part of the StartupAmsterdam team?

The dedication we’ve shown as a team to moving Amsterdam forward and our strong belief in the important role startups have in the sustainable development of our city. We’re a group of dedicated individuals that come from all around the world and bring different perspectives to the table, which inspires me every day.

What makes Amsterdam a great city and tech ecosystem, in your opinion?

The combination of a vibrant, cultural and forward-thinking place to live with an inspiring environment to do business. This balance is key to the identity of the city and is essential to maintain.

What do you expect from the ecosystem next year?"

I would like to see startups, scaleups and bigger tech companies open up even more. Help educate Amsterdammers about your products and technologies that are tackling society’s challenges. Free some time to inspire the youth in Amsterdam for a career in the ecosystem by giving a presentation at a high school, and make all the inhabitants of Amsterdam aware of this sector’s valuable contribution to our city. In this way all the Amsterdammers become part of the ecosystem.

Bonus question: Tell us something we don’t know.I almost missed my job interview at StartupAmsterdam because I was waiting in the wrong City of Amsterdam building. 

Stay in touch with Joël and check out his project Business Involved: our platform for tech companies to find volunteering opportunities in the city.

Kriya Mehta

Portrait of Kriya Mehta of StartupAmsterdam team
Image from StartupAmsterdam

Describe your role in three words.

International. Trade. Networks. 

What was your proudest moment of the last four years? 

It’s too hard to pick one achievement. I was most proud when our team came together more than ever during the pandemic. We used creative ways to provide comfort, support and comradery to each other during very lonely times. 

What has been the best thing about being part of the StartupAmsterdam team?

The young, international, DIVERSE, vibrant people we are. This ambitious, creative, open, helpful, magical TEAM!

What makes Amsterdam a great city and tech ecosystem, in your opinion?

How connected the different players in the city are. How international it is. How beautiful it is. 

What do you expect from the ecosystem next year?

To make an impressive shift towards ‘tech for good’.

Bonus question: Tell us something we don’t know.

I met Nelson Mandela when I was 11 years old. 

Stay in touch with Kriya and check out her project SCALE.Cities.

Igneta Skliaustyte

Portrait of Igneta Skliaustyte from StartupAmsterdam team
Image from Elena Zemlyanskaya

Describe your role in three words.

Connecting companies & talents.

What was your proudest moment of the last four years? 

Initiating, building and executing the project called TOMAS, a platform to simplify investing in local Amsterdam talent. It was like running a startup: from validating, to building the first MVP, to launching and then ultimately iterating. I loved the challenges, the connections and the learnings it has given me.

What has been the best thing about being part of the StartupAmsterdam team?

We have a lot of fun together, and feel unequivocal support from our director. The team is ambitious, proactive and trustworthy. I feel like I can be myself around them. I love our team! ♡ 

What makes Amsterdam a great city and tech ecosystem, in your opinion?

The people. It can take one event, one conversation to get a step closer to your ambitions. And there is so much going on in the city. I said this the very first day I started at StartupAmsterdam and I will repeat it again: Amsterdam is unique because of its cooperative mindset. 

What do you expect from the ecosystem next year?"

I hope to see a greener, even more circular city. And as a talent & diversity lead, I expect to see more awareness and mutual efforts in making the tech sector more inclusive.    

Bonus question: Tell us something we don’t know.

I am starting my own project on the side. ;) It is not a startup per se, but something creative that warms my heart. And of course I will remain in the ecosystem for purpose-driven projects. 

Stay in touch with Igneta and follow TOMAS for updates.

Sarah Herzog

Portrait of Sarah Herzog of StartupAmsterdam team
Image from StartupAmsterdam

Describe your role in three words.

Researching & supporting failure.

What was your proudest moment of the last four years? 

Our launch of RestartUp Netherlands was a great highlight! It is great to see that our research actually identified an important gap and is making an impact by filling it. Also, the network of the ecosystem brought our team of different people together – it shows how well connected the ecosystem is and what great projects can be born out of serendipity.    

What has been the best thing about being part of the StartupAmsterdam team?

The trust (in each other and in each other’s ideas), the support for each other in making them a reality and the great enthusiasm and fun we have in doing that.

What makes Amsterdam a great city and tech ecosystem, in your opinion?

The combination of the impressive old Dutch buildings and homey feeling on the one hand. And on the other hand, the openness and willingness to try new things, internationality and great connections to other hubs.

What do you expect from the ecosystem next year?

I wish for our entrepreneurs and our ecosystem to move even further from wealth creation, towards impact and overall well-being. This also means more equal access to entrepreneurial opportunities and with it more inclusion and diversity.      

Bonus question: Tell us something we don’t know.

Santa isn’t real! 

Stay in touch with Sarah and follow RestartUp Netherlands.

Alexandra Belicova

Portrait of Alexandra Belicova of StartupAmsterdam team
Image from Elena Zemlyanskaya

Describe your role in three words.

Startups. Events. Coffee(s).

What was your proudest moment of the last four years? 

So many jump to mind but I was really proud of the booth we pulled off at TNW 2022 and the benefit it brought to the 12 startups that exhibited with us. It really felt like I finally found the perfect formula to an impactful booth, and those post-event NPS scores seconded that. I look forward to creating many more opportunities like these for our startups in the future.

What has been the best thing about being part of the StartupAmsterdam team?

Apart from being the youngest, most international, most agile team at the City of Amsterdam, what I love the most is the implicit support every team member offers to each other. A lot of the time, it feels like everyone is running in their own lane and working on their own project, but we never fail to come together and show support when it’s go time.

What makes Amsterdam a great city and tech ecosystem, in your opinion?

Precisely the way it both strives to be a trailblazer in innovation and also loves and cares for its inhabitants. Tech can do a lot and a lot of cities around the world have been disrupted by it. But Amsterdam, at its core, is about a wise combination of impressive innovations and growth, on the one hand, and high quality of life, slow pace of the everyday and gezelligheid, on the other.

What do you expect from the ecosystem next year?

I hope to see more impact startups raising big rounds, more underrepresented communities getting access to Amsterdam’s flagship tech events, more women-led and POC-led companies in the news, more of a spotlight on bootstrapped sustainable purpose-driven businesses and more grassroot initiatives taking off – and we will be happy to support any and all projects that benefit our ecosystem.

 Bonus question: Tell us something we don’t know.

I know George Clooney through three handshakes. :D Which means I know the rest of Hollywood through four.

Stay in touch with Alexandra.

Published by StartupAmsterdam
Got questions for the team?
Shoot us an email.
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