"Your competitor is usually not your neighbour but is often on the other side of the world," said Prince Constantijn van Oranje. And there is a well-known Dutch saying that literally translates to 'rather a good neighbour than a far friend'. With this in mind, programs like Startup Visa, which supports non-EU startups to land in The Netherlands, and literally making them our neighbours, are key.
With startups from Kenia, Iran, Russia, Georgia, India, Qatar, and Dubai and applications from the United States, Jamaica, Canada, and Brazil, Startup Visa brings knowledge we badly need: brains from bright minds to add to what we already have so that we can compete with the rest of the world. But also, to give entrepreneurs resources they don't have in their region, so they can fulfil their potential. To show what the program entails, project lead Francisca Medina and facilitator Lennard Drogendijk respond to four statements.
“The northern region is only open for water-focused startups”
Francisca: “Not at all, I see the project as promoting collaboration and cultural diversity for the solution of current problems. So that is broader than just one sector. Startup Visa is meant for startups that are willing to do something innovative in Friesland and add value to the region. Main sectors are not only water but also, agriculture, HTSM and digital as a more general topic.”
Lennard: “A successful case is, for example, Moving Message. It was the first Non-EU startup to use the Startup Visa program and is quite successful now. It works with screens that you can place on trucks or lorries and can broadcast all kinds of messages. They are cooperating with partners such as TIP Trailer.”
“Startup Visa helps non-EU startups with more than just coming to the Netherlands”
Francisca: “Sure, that is basically why the program is linked to a facilitator. The facilitator is meant to help you on the business side: with the Chamber of Commerce registration and by giving you access to the network and sector that involves your startup. And we as Startup Visa provide you with a soft landing on a more personal level. For example, with information about housing, insurance, or schools if you come here with your family.
We’re trying to create the softest landing possible for the startups; a great runway towards the growth of their company."
That’s important, speaking from my perspective as an international. Because guidance can be helpful. In some countries, you don’t have to be registered in de ‘gemeente’, for instance. Here you do. It is very structured in The Netherlands and if you don’t speak Dutch, it all can be difficult.”
Lennard: “Yeah, I agree; we’re trying to create the softest landing possible for the startups; a great runway towards the growth of their company. That means we need to serve them in every aspect of their life. So, they can focus on their entrepreneurial journey in which I, as a facilitator, will definitely be able to find what they need.”
“You will meet likeminded entrepreneurs”
Lennard: “Yes, whenever you come here as a non-EU startup, you will obviously meet like-minded people. But you have to be open to it. Half of our cases decide not to live in the North, but only come here for coaching and sometimes a networking event. While the people that decide to really participate in the events and be a part of the community, gain the most from the program.”
Francisca: “That is also why we thought of creating a buddy system in which we link two entrepreneurs with each other, that can be a Startup Visa holder or a local entrepreneur.”
You don’t just get them to the Netherlands but open the entire European market for them"
“The process from notification to arrival in the Netherlands is clear and predictable”
Francisca: “Well, it depends, in average, it takes 12 weeks. Every scenario is different, of course. But Startup Visa is always an option for everyone, from every country, as long as you have an innovative startup and need a Visa!”
Lennard: “The whole idea is based on The Netherlands benefiting from the intelligence of people outside Europe. So, we want to open the Dutch market for all these clever minds and let them contribute to the added value proposition of The Netherlands.”
Francisca: “And I believe it’s even broader; because in the perspective of the entrepreneur you don’t just get them to the Netherlands but open the entire European market for them. They are founding in Leeuwarden to access a whole continent.”
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