The Complete Tech Ecosystem Guide 2021
Monday March 22, 2021
Coined as one of the world’s top ‘must-see’ cities by Lonely Planet, Rotterdam, also known as the “gateway to Europe”, is Europe’s largest port. The Rotterdam region is home to top research universities in Europe: Erasmus University Rotterdam, Delft University of Technology, and Leiden University. The city consists of 170 resident nationalities and an international airport while welcoming over one million visitors every year. Rotterdam is famous for its modern architecture, with landmarks such as the cube houses, the market hall, the Erasmus bridge, and its many skyscrapers. Its diverse nightlife boasts a variety of bars, pubs, and nightclubs. Rotterdam’s multicultural character attracts pioneers and innovators from all over the world. It is no surprise, then, that Rotterdam is gradually becoming a major European tech & startup hub.
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The largest sectors in Rotterdam’s innovation ecosystem are the following:
The Rotterdam innovation ecosystem provides the perfect environment for exploiting and nurturing talent and creating new opportunities. If one wishes to start a business in Rotterdam, they will need access to knowledge, talent, networks, financing, public support, market access, etc. Thankfully, Rotterdam allows entrepreneurs to establish a company within an environment with many innovation-oriented programs which tailor specifically to start-ups and businesses to help them reach their potential. Such programs include:
Apart from programs, support for startups and businesses is offered from various other sectors all over Rotterdam region. These include:
Up!Rotterdam is a public-private partnership program for innovative entrepreneurs, co-founded by Rotterdams’ innovation hubs: 42workspace, CIC, ECE, and Bluecity. The program’s objective is to accommodate innovative startups, scale-ups, SMEs and corporations that think big. Rotterdam’s ideal innovation ecosystem promises growth and success to all the aforementioned forward-thinking companies. The program achieves this through partnerships.
Up!Rotterdam’s action plan is divided into five pillars:
Rotterdam Partners is an official destination marketing organization and investment promotion agency in Rotterdam. It builds on the sustainable growth of the city by inviting residents, companies, and future visitors to explore the city. Rotterdam Partners is an agency that strives to take the city forward by creating the most hospitable and entrepreneurial environment for innovators. Rotterdam Partners knows the city and knows how to help you to make the most of the opportunities in your specific area of business, through:
The Rotterdam Expat Centre is the specialized one stop shop for international businesses and expats who are looking for services and information about working and living in Rotterdam.
InnovationQuarter is an economic development agency situated in the province of Zuid-Holland — The Hague area. It is the third most active venture capital investor in the Netherlands, with €51 million invested in 88 companies since 2014. Their mission is to strengthen the regional economic structure by stimulating the innovation potential of this unique delta region. In close collaboration with all major corporations and many SME’s, educational and research institutes as well as government organisations, we align the efforts required to design a brighter tomorrow.
Tech Advocates Netherlands is part of the global tech advocates, located at the tech hub of 42workspace in Rotterdam. There are more than 15,000 business leaders, investors, and experts campaigning with the tech community to improve and innovate the global tech industry.
WeTechRotterdam is a private partnership aiming to boost Rotterdam’s innovation ecosystem, founded by 42workspace and fast-scaling startup HelloPrint. WeTech connects corporations to talent, investors, as well as to one another through three pillars:
TechLeap helps startup founders make decisions more easily via programs, resources and tools. It connects established CEO’s, investors, policymakers and ecosystem builders with the startup founders to help each other create solutions for the current biggest challenges.
The Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR), in collaboration with YES!Delft, are currently setting up an accelerator that encourages entrepreneurship and enhances up-and-running EUR initiatives with YES!Delft’s expertise. This partnership does not only combine business and technology, but it also incorporates entrepreneurship in education and research. Further, EUR, Erasmus Medical Center and Delft University of Technology collaborate on Sustainable Rotterdam Delta to focus on research in artificial intelligence (AI). Currently plans are being made to build a Med-Tech campus next to Erasmus MC. The collaboration has drawn up a budget of half a billion euros for the next ten years, with additional investments from private sectors and the government.
Foreign nationals, who are from outside the EU, can apply for a Dutch Startup Visa if they are looking to start a business in the Netherlands. The Startup Visa is a residence permit, and it is valid for a maximum of one year. During this year, aspiring founders must introduce an innovative product or service through the guidance of a business mentor (facilitator). The Rotterdam/Delft area is home to five startup visa facilitators.
Scale-Up is a collaboration with ‘Cleantech Clusters’ from the Netherlands, England, Belgium, Denmark and Sweden, with the municipality of Rotterdam and Clean Tech Delta as the program’s initiators. The main aim is to assist corporates in purchasing green products from innovators. Meanwhile, new and small companies can grow and the economy is well sustained.
With over 400 Life Sciences & Health companies in Rotterdam, this is a very strong and important industry for the region. This is more than 10% market share of the Netherlands, which is supported by one of the leading Life Sciences & Health networks. Here is an overview of the Life Sciences & Health ecosystem.
Startup Foundation facilitates knowledge exchange in regards to startup entrepreneurship to make sure that everyone has access to the much-needed knowledge on what does, and what does not work. The Startup Academy programs supports anyone, from students to c-level board members, and from individuals to whole teams at booking.com to gain practical experience with startup entrepreneurship.
ImpactCity supports startups and scale-ups in The Hague. The Hague innovators offer a variety of services, including access to an international network and, thus, access to talent. It invests in various development programs with the aim of promoting entrepreneurship in universities and colleges. Meanwhile, for professionals, they offer programs focusing on new technologies like Blockchain.
There are various events, including tech meet-up groups for startups that you can find online by tech innovation partners as institutions who want to help attract innovative startups. Examples of such events include the following:
Upstream Festival is an annual, week-long event that aims at giving startups and scale-ups access to funding, new markets, and talent. The program, through its match-making, workshops, key-notes and more, appeases all kinds of innovative groups:
The Rotterdam Unlocked initiative offers opportunities in the Rotterdam region for foreign innovators to find innovative solutions with local businesses and the government. The collaboration between startups and large businesses solves various industry challenges, as together they can enhance and preserve the innovation ecosystem in Rotterdam.
In collaboration Dutch Basecamp, the Globaliser is a 12-week program for the international growth of scale-ups. Through coaching, networking and validation, startups gain the confidence they need to take the daring steps forward.
The Corporate Innovators Alliance (CIA) brings experts from corporates and startups to tackle challenges together and share and exchange knowledge on a theme-based collaboration. The topics are relevant for them and for the region, such as energy transition, smart mobility, and circularity. Through the CIA, 19 of the largest corporations offer to share knowledge about working with startups and exchange information about the most promising startups.
The #HackYourCareer Talent Campaign helps attract talent to Rotterdam’s fastest growing startups and scaleups in order to grow their business. The campaign was co-created with and funded by startups and scale-ups in Rotterdam, and it was also partially funded by the municipality.
If you are looking to start a business in the port of Rotterdam, either as a start-up or scale-up, or even if you are still in the concept phase, find innovation partners within minutes.
Source: Port of Rotterdam
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Tech Innovation Partners in Rotterdam-Region
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The Greater Rotterdam Area is a hotbed for talent and entrepreneurship. This is due to the fact that the city is surrounded by strong knowledge and research institutions. Moreover, the area is home to some of the best-ranked universities in the world. These include:
More than 28% of the students in those campuses are enrolled in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) programs and courses. Moreover, YES!Delft ranked second best incubator in the world in the UBI Global ranking of the world’s best university incubators. Further, while being Europe’s largest, the Port of Rotterdam is also coined as the world’s smartest port.
The Rotterdam/Delft innovation ecosystem offers the best environment and infrastructure to Rotterdam’s largest sectors (Chapter 1). Initiatives that assist these industries to thrive include:
Rotterdam’s “Make It Happen” mentality is what unifies the various innovative partners and institutions to seek together one mutual goal: innovation. Startups get the chance to grow, while scaleups get to expand by being involved together, among several different corporations, institutions, and further governmental support. Additionally, Rotterdam’s mentality of thinking in solutions secures that innovation ideas are put into practice. Thus, the ever-changing innovation ecosystem of the city becomes an inspiring example for the rest of the world.
The quality and cost of living is most crucial when thinking of starting a business. Rotterdam is known to be one of the best cities to live in Europe. In fact, Netherlands is the only country to consistently remain at the top three of any European Index of the Health Consumer Powerhouse.
Rotterdam also took the no.1 spot for best city in Europe for expats in 2019. Apart from the fact that English is the business language, making it an easily accessible and welcoming environment for non-native speakers, Rotterdam is also 30% less expensive of a city to live in than London.
Universities are the hotspots for emerging talent. As previously mentioned, the Rotterdam area accommodates some of the best ranked universities worldwide. Hence, founders may invest in important sources of talent such as students from the following universities:
As an innovative founder, you can gain access to such talent in the Rotterdam Region through the right support. There are numerous, creative options for sourcing the right talent which helps companies of all sizes.
InnovationQuarter‘s Capital is a fund investing €80 million in various innovative companies. Such companies can range from start-ups to scale-ups, as well as mature SME’s in the South Holland province. For more information on IQ Capital, refer to the company’s online brochure.
The Mainport Innovation Fund accelerates innovation in logistics, transport, and aviation. They invest both in B2B and B2C and focus primarily on sustainable infrastructure and materials, mobility, digitization, security & safety and more.
The Rotterdam Port Fund helps companies that focus on sustainability, durability and technology. It offers investors the help they need to develop the future port economy and meet their sustainability goals.
The iFund Foundation promotes sustainability and innovation through its support of innovative entrepreneurs who focus primarily on energy, food or water.
Arches Capital is an angel fund that acts as a professional VC, active throughout the Netherlands, with also a chapter based in Rotterdam. With regular meetups between startups and angels, they scout for the best early-stage startups. Arches Capital is a fast-growing group of business angels that is bridging the gap between Venture Capitalist (VCs) and Business Angels, by joining the best of both worlds.
Unknown is an early-stage VC and business development firm, supporting founders and industry leaders to successfully bring innovations to the market. With a fresh approach delivering venture success, lining up the industry and creating a pool of solutions ready to be adopted by the market.
Uniiq is a €22 million investment fund that helps startup founders in West Holland realize their innovative goals by supporting them in their strategic development.
With a size of €35 million, ENERGIIQ funds entrepreneurs in the province of South Holland who aim to accelerate the energy transition to clean, sustainable energy in the region.
Rabobank supports start-ups with funding, knowledge and networks. Check out the link for more information regarding their activities around innovation and startups.
Lendahand offers the unique opportunity to invest in entrepreneurs & SMEs in the form of projects on their crowdfunding platform. The focus is on impact first companies.
Fundsup is a useful tool for start-ups or scale-ups seeking to match with investors and vice versa. It is an easy way for both investors to seek innovative companies to invest in, as well as for startups and scaleups to find the right source for their capital.
GetFunded is a programme by the Municipality of Rotterdam, seeking to help innovative start-ups and scale-ups by applying for European subsidies. Subsidies are an amount of money granted by the EU to help businesses maintain a low price for the product or service.
Citylab 010 offers to support and sustain all initiators’ ambitious dreams through its annual program with a budget of €3 million. The program offers knowledge, coaching, workshops, conversations and resources to help you further with your initiative.
Startups often don’t have the opportunity to test their ideas and elaborate them in practice. At the same time, numerous government institutions and companies (our launching customers) are looking for innovative solutions for their mobility challenges. Mobility Lab brings these two parties together. Not only to talk, but also to effectively work out solutions.
Mobility Lab helps every participating startup during the 9 month programme with:
The Graduate Entrepreneur Fund is a youth program that helps students in Rotterdam and Delft realize their entrepreneurial goals. The venture aims to stimulate the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the Netherlands by providing capital, network, and hands-on support to those willing to change the world. A fund of €3 million has been set up to fund 30 start-ups annually.
The Social Impact Fund invests in entrepreneurs who strive for equal accessibility and affordability in the energy transition.
GIST (Growing Industry through a Sustainability Transition) can assist you in setting up a feasibility study. It also provides funding for any external costs that this study includes.
The Rotterdam Capital Days is all about funding your startup. An event organized and supported by all the Rotterdam innovation hubs: for connecting ideas, talent, and money. Alongside the program, the website itself offers unique insights through the stories that are shared. Currently the program is on hold since 2020.
Sybmid is a crowdfunding investment platform for private individuals interested in funding start-up businesses in exchange for a small share of equity.
De Investeerders Club is a community of informal investors who organize monthly meetings to give young founders the opportunity to pitch their idea, concept or company to them.
Keadyn is a venture capital firm for founders by founders. It believes investors should have more impact than merely their money.
Equidam is a Rotterdam-based company that is quite a handy valuation tool for startups. By working with founders all over the world, the company provides online business valuations and personal valuation advice. Thus, this tool can help you understand the value of your company.
Rotterdam Partners International Trade & Investment is a free-of-charge city advisor for any opportunities in the Rotterdam region. Their role in the city encompasses the following
InnovationQuarter – Internationalization is the regional economic development agency found in The Hague area. It can connect you with the right networks, as their close collaboration with major corporations and SME’s enables the agency to excel at creating a better future for the companies in the area.
The SCALE-UP is a project that connects large companies together with scale-ups to make one another more sustainable and in turn, help assist scale-ups in their business growth endeavors.
PortXL is the #1 maritime accelerator in the world. Out of the thousands of start-ups and scale-ups, the world port accelerator selects up to 20 to provide mentorship, a global maritime network, and pilot opportunities with other partners.
The Circular Challenge is a project realized by BlueCity that offers established companies the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the circular economy of the future. The project is carried out by circular pioneers, design thinkers, and financial experts. This challenge offers innovative solutions within companies and builds a rich circular network.
The Unlocked initiative is opening up opportunities in the region of South Holland for global innovators to test and scale solutions together with local businesses and government.
CoolBlue has been a fast-growing e-commerce company in the Netherlands and Belgium since 1999.
Launched in 1999, Fox-IT provides high-quality cyber security and assurance services to governments and businesses
HousingAnywhere launched in 2009, and is the world’s largest rental accomodation platform of mid-term rentals that connects property owners with international students and young professionals
Launched in 1999, MetrixLab is a global provider of marketing analytics and research solutions.
Zoover is one of Europe’s largest portals of holiday review content. The company was established in 2005.
Calcasa does property market analysis and is a valuation provider.
Hardt Hyperloop has emerged from the winning team at the SpaceX Hyperloop Competition, and is dedicated to realize the hyperloop. The startup was launched in 2016.
Quantib focuses on machine learning medical imaging applications to make more accurate medical diagnoses more efficiently.
Cevinio specializes in smart invoice processing software powered by AI.
Helloprint is one of the most innovative and fest growing e-commerce platforms in Europe and winner of the Deloitte Fast 50 Rising Star 2016.
You can find a complete database of all the startups in the Rotterdam region via the ecosystem finder tool of Up!Rotterdam, powered by Dealroom data.
Rotterdam’s innovation system does not only strive for functionality and improvement but also for aesthetic value. The cityscape has changed over the years due to the many new projects that are constantly being carried out. The city’s future plans can be identified in some of the most recently planned future projects are beginning to revolutionize the architecture of the European city:
The Port of Rotterdam is known as being the world’s ‘smartest port’. The Port of Rotterdam Authority is embracing the energy transition, digitisation and innovations as an opportunity for making logistics chains that pass through Rotterdam more efficient, more reliable and hence more competitive. If it were up to Rotterdam, autonomous ships would be docking in the port by 2030.
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