As startup capital of Europe, there are plenty of reasons to get your business idea off the ground in Amsterdam. Read on to find the answers to common questions about startups and what you need to know about launching one.
There are many reasons to start a new business in Amsterdam. Not only is the city an inspiring ecosystem filled with talent, it’s also an ideal testbed and springboard to the EU – and the world. And since it’s backed by unparalleled infrastructure, Amsterdam is more than just a pretty place to live.
Aside from it being one of the world’s most creative, bike-friendly and beautiful cities, the innovation capital of Europe offers great advantages to startup entrepreneurs. It's no surprise that Amsterdam is home to unicorns (startups valued at more than €1 billion) like Adyen and Elastic, the rapidly growing Catawiki and Picnic, as well as long-term international success stories such as Booking.com.
Amsterdam is a testbed for startups thanks to a tech-savvy, adaptive and discerning consumer base. Tech companies like NextDoor, Tesla, Netflix and Optimizely all based their European headquarters here with the intention of growing across Europe.
Amsterdam is a great place to live and work, so there is a huge international talent pool for you to draw from. The excellent quality of life and beautiful surrounds are why companies like Uber and 3D Hubs have located their tech teams here.
Once you are ready to scale, Amsterdam is an ideal launchpad. There’s excellent infrastructural connectivity and initiatives like SCALE (Startup City Alliance Network) links the city to places like Paris, Berlin, London and Stockholm, helping you connect with peers and grow into Europe.
Another important advantage is the city's digital infrastructure. The Amsterdam Area has one of the world’s highest broadband concentrations, and it's home to an amazing digital foundation – the Amsterdam Internet Exchange (AMS-IX) – which is one of the largest data transport hubs on Earth.
Amsterdam is a cosmopolitan and compact metropolis with a historical centre criss-crossed by canals, and is home to numerous famous museums and architectural highlights. Travelling through the city can brighten up any day. It can be as simple as the sun poking through grey clouds and casting beams across the canal, or noticing new details on that 400-year-old building you cycle past each morning. Incredibly diverse, Amsterdam has residents representing 180 nationalities and a multicultural, multilingual, open-minded outlook. English is widely spoken (including in many companies), enabling non-Dutch speakers to comfortably live and work in the city.
Amsterdam’s business community has centuries of history when it comes to being open, inclusive and innovative. And in recent years, there’s been an intense focus on supporting startups.
The entrepreneurial ecosystem in Amsterdam is flourishing thanks to the increasing number of startups present here as well as initiatives that are popping up and developing across the city.
To get started, check our list of co-working spaces, incubators and accelerators. Also, take a look at our Startup Map – startups, scale-ups, investors and other parties in the ecosystem can add themselves to it and search for other companies in their industry. In our event calendar, you can discover meetups, conferences and workshops taking place in the city.
There are numerous news sources on the Dutch and Amsterdam startup scenes, such as StartupJuncture, Sprout.nl (Dutch link) and Silicon Canals. And on our latest news page, we bring it all together: who got funded, which opportunities are available and how things are developing.
Yes! One great example is Startup City Alliance (SCALE) – a connector of European cities for entrepreneurs. It’s a great way to access local knowledge and opportunities to help you expand into other markets.
Yes, you can. In fact, the Netherlands offers a variety of support, including a Startup visa and innovation incentives, to encourage you to do just that.
IN Amsterdam is at your service to streamline procedures. IN Amsterdam is a one-stop shop that offers a range of services to international entrepreneurs, companies and their highly skilled migrant employees, as well as international graduates.
Entrepreneurs from outside of the European Union can apply for a Startup visa: a residence permit that can be obtained from the IND. To be eligible for this visa, you need:
After one year, you may have the duration of your residence permit extended under the Dutch government’s self-employment scheme.
If you come from one of the EU Member States, the EEA (European Economic Area), or if you are a Swiss citizen, you are free to live and work on a self-employed basis in the Netherlands and do not need an entry visa or a residence permit.
It is advisable to register with the IND, as many Dutch authorities ask for a proof of registration. You will also have to register at your local municipality (if you intend to reside here longer than four months – which we imagine you do) and receive a citizen service number (BSN). IN Amsterdam is available to help with any of these formalities.
The Dutch government is eager to stimulate innovation via entrepreneurs, which has resulted in numerous innovation incentive schemes. The SME+ Innovation Fund is of particular interest to small and medium-sized companies, while the R&D Tax Credit incentivises entrepreneurs to invest in research. Read about (micro)credits and other small loans available to entrepreneurs in the Netherlands and the associated regulations.
Begin by registering your company at the Chamber of Commerce (KvK). You are ready for this if:
Registration has to happen in person and, as the Dutch are quite an organised nation, you’ll need to make an appointment via the KvK website. If your company needs to be incorporated through a notarial deed (e.g. a B.V.) you will have to make an appointment with a notary beforehand. Find a detailed guide to starting a business in Amsterdam or download the ‘Starting a business’ pdf from the KvK. The article on legal forms of companies is a particularly useful guide to your options.
Before going further, it is helpful to know that the Netherlands is one of the top three countries with the lowest business costs, according to KPMG’s guide to international business location costs. Costs are especially low for digital research and development services. The minimum cost of setting up your business in Amsterdam is €50, which covers your company’s registration at the Chamber of Commerce. For businesses with an incorporated structure (like a BV), you will need a notarial deed, which will cost you around €300. Note that you no longer need startup capital to register a BV. Prices of notary firms vary and it is worth shopping around for detailed quotations both in and outside of Amsterdam. For a clear overview of the process and model legal documents, see this blog post by Amsterdam-based Capital Waters.
Tip: The Belastingdienst website provides information in English on taxation for businesses. It is also recommended to seek out professional financial and administration advice before starting a business.
Once your company is successfully registered at the Chamber of Commerce, the details will be passed to the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration (Belastingdienst). Your company will be assigned a VAT registration number (‘BTW’ in Dutch). As a business owner, you will have to pay tax to both the government and the municipality. These can include wage tax (loonbelasting), income tax (inkomstenbelasting), national insurance contributions (volksverzekeringen), employee insurance contributions (werknemersverzekeringen) and VAT (omzetbelasting). Read an overview of the taxes required for startup entrepreneurs.
The Netherlands has a corporate income tax rate of 20% on the first €200,000 of taxable profits (25% over profits exceeding that amount). Find more information about taxes.
Tip: If you set up a legal entity, such as a Dutch BV, and become an employee of that company, you are considered to be in an employment situation and could consequently be eligible for the 30% ruling, if you qualify as a highly skilled migrant.
Business owners pay tax to the government and the municipality. The Netherlands has a corporate income tax rate of 20% on the first €200,000 of taxable profits (25% over profits exceeding that amount). Read an overview of the taxes required for startup entrepreneurs.
Tip: If you set up a legal entity, such as a Dutch BV, and become an employee of that company, you are considered to be in an employment situation and could consequently be eligible for the 30% ruling, if you qualify as a highly skilled migrant. Find more information about taxes.
With an ever-expanding tech community and an education system that scores among the highest in maths and science worldwide, there are many ways to easily find exceptional talent for your startup.
Not only does Amsterdam attract talent from across the country and globe, it actively educates talent. Startup academies like the Growth Tribe Academy train the workforce that can code and grow your tech company to help you achieve world domination.
You can post your job openings or internships at job portals such as Dutch Startup Jobs for a fee. LinkedIn is a much-used platform among the Dutch workforce, and should not be underestimated in your recruitment process. For other budget-friendly options try scouting Facebook communities such as ‘Startup and other jobs Amsterdam/The Netherlands’ or ‘Amsterdam startups’. For a great overview of Amsterdam's startup and tech job sites, visit our job boards page.
Another tip often given by startups is to hire freelancers as this will provide the flexibility to scale up or down as the need arises. This article by StartupDelta explains the hiring rules for working with freelancers. Amsterdam-based startup Jellow has built a platform where startup teams can recommend and scout the best freelancers. Other freelance boards include Fiverr and Upwork. There are also several networking events and meetups that provide the perfect opportunity to scout for talent. Take a look at these upcoming events.
International talent: You can also search for talent outside the Netherlands. The 30% tax ruling is designed to make this easier. From a tax perspective, the ruling means that the salary agreed upon between the employee and employer will be reduced by 30%. In return, the employee should receive a 30% allowance as reimbursement for expenses. The ruling adds an extra incentive for internationals to come and work for you. Find out more about the 30% tax ruling.Keep in mind the importance of retaining the talent you have, as they are your most valuable ambassadors. Introducing participation plans is an excellent way to do this.
The Startup visa was designed to make it easy for entrepreneurs from outside the EU/EEA to get their innovations off the ground in the Netherlands. To apply, you need to offer an innovative product or service, have sufficient funds for one year in the Netherlands and meet other criteria. See IN Amsterdam’s FAQ on the Startup visa.
EU and EEA nationals can of course bring their startup to the Netherlands without a visa or residence permit. Register with the IND and your local municipality, and contact IN Amsterdam if you require any assistance.
To find a business mentor or facilitator (one of the requirements for the visa), see this list of resources provided by the Netherlands Enterprise Agency.
There are a variety of work permits that enable non-EU citizens to work in the Netherlands.
Entrepreneurs from outside the EU are also eligible for the Startup visa.
Recent graduates can apply for the orientation year permit, while current students can learn about internships in the Netherlands.
Employees who are recruited from abroad (for the purpose of working for companies on an approved list) may qualify as highly skilled migrants.
The Netherlands offers excellent advantages for helping your company attract the specialised talent it needs. See IN Amsterdam’s information for employers, and find out about hiring highly skilled migrants - a special residence and work permit. Highly skilled migrants may also be eligible for the tax advantage known as the 30% tax ruling.
Looking for more information about launching your startup in Amsterdam? Check out our guides, interviews and insights to help you build your business and connect to the city’s most interesting innovators.
Newcomers to Amsterdam often choose to rent a home first, before arranging a mortgage and buying a home at a later stage. As with all major cities, there is high demand for accommodation so it helps to start your search early. IN Amsterdam also offers tips in their informative booklet called 'My First Month', and hosts seminars on renting and buying property.
International residents are increasingly choosing to live in the wider Amsterdam Area where there is a greater variety of homes to buy and rent, including new housing developments.
Co-working spaces are popular in Amsterdam. Conveniently located and appointed with all the essentials (like excellent coffee), you’ll find an inspiring working environment where you’re sure to bump into creatives, tech professionals, and other entrepreneurs setting up in Amsterdam. These spaces come highly recommended for startups.
Whether you need a mentor, a supportive network to help you navigate, or funding, we hear you! Amsterdam is teeming with accelerator and incubator programmes that can help.