Getting Started in the Netherlands

Tech Startups

Monday January 17, 2022

Introduction

Thinking about building your tech startup? The Netherlands is the perfect location for you and your company. Moving to the Netherlands for business requires you to do some paperwork. This guide will inform you about what you need to take care of before and after you arrive. 

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1 Entrepreneurship in the Netherlands

The Netherlands is an ideal country to move to for entrepreneurs who want to build their tech startups.

The Netherlands has consistently ranked as one of the top ten most competitive economies in the world for the past decade. There are several reasons why the Netherlands is an ideal place for entrepreneurs, including foreign nationals. 

Some of the reasons why are:

  • It has a diverse population.
  • 90% of the Dutch residents speak English. 
  • The government offers competitive tax deductions, allowances, and reimbursements. 
  • It is a democratic and politically stable country. 
  • The Dutch government encourages foreign entrepreneurs to start a business by creating the Netherlands Startup Visa for non-EU/EEA citizens (see: Chapter 2) and developing the Ambitious Entrepreneurship Action Plan for startups.

A key driver of the country’s encouragement for entrepreneurial success is the practice of fostering entrepreneurship and innovation in higher education institutions. In 2010, a public policy, known as the “Valorisation Programme”, served as a new way of applying research with practice as a means to educate students on entrepreneurship and valorization structures. 

The Netherlands is thus an ideal destination for foreign & entrepreneurs of tech startups.

2 Before you Arrive

Before you begin thinking about tech startups, you must familiarise yourself with the country. The Netherlands is a great place for starting your business, but you should know the basics about the nation you wish to live in and what it requires from you before you arrive.

Cost of Living

The Netherlands is a relatively affordable country by western European standards. However, the cost of living in the Netherlands varies from city to city. Amsterdam and some other major Dutch cities are the most expensive places to live in. It is estimated that the monthly costs of a single person minus rent can reach €854,76. Meanwhile, monthly costs for a family of four may surpass €3,000 without including rent. 

Here’s how you can expect to allocate your living costs in the Netherlands:

  • Rent (29.5%)
  • Markets (28.7%)
  • Restaurants (15%)
  • Transportation (13.2%)
  • Utilities (6.1%)
  • Sports & Leisure (4.9%)
  • Clothing & Shoes (2.7%)

Renting an Apartment

Renting is easily one of the most convenient solutions to housing. Rental homes that are owned by social housing associations make up 32% of the Dutch housing stock. However, in 2020, it was reported that landlords increased rent by an average of 2.9%, which was one of the biggest rent increases in the last six years. Major cities such as Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and The Hague saw the highest rent increase. Nonetheless, the Netherlands remains an affordable option for many expats.

The most popular cities to rent in the Netherlands are: 

  1. Rotterdam: Second-largest Dutch city and home to Europe’s largest port, Rotterdam’s known for its multinational make-up, innovative infrastructure, and diverse cultural scene. Many large businesses such as Unilever and Allianz are located there. It is an ideal place for tech startups. 
  2. Amsterdam: The capital and the most populous city is the center of the Dutch economy. It is considered to be the 10th best European city for starting a business. The capital is also home to a large population of immigrants, with half of the Amsterdam residents being born abroad. 
  3. The Hague: The western city is most famous for hosting the government of the Netherlands, the International Court of Justice, and Europol. It is the second-most expensive city to live in after Amsterdam. 

If you’re looking for housing, check out real estate developers such as Citylife.

Visas & Work Permits

If you are not an EU/EEA citizen, you will need to apply for a residence permit. As an EU/EEA citizen, you are eligible to work in the Netherlands without applying for a permit or visa.

As a non-EU/EEA citizen, you cannot apply for a work permit yourself. You must ask your employer to apply for it for you.

If you are an entrepreneur who is looking to build and develop your own tech startup, you can apply for a start-up visa. Make sure that you meet the following conditions as indicated on the IND website:

  • You are collaborating with experienced facilitators such as Legalee and Clevver. 
  • Your product or service is innovative for the country.
  • You have a (step-by-step) plan in order to move from a basic idea to a concrete business.
  • You and your facilitator are both registered in the Trade Register of the Chamber of Commerce.
  • You have sufficient financial means to live in the Netherlands.

3 Starting your Company in the Netherlands

Once you have taken care of all the moving preparation, it’s time to do some paperwork allowing you to become a resident first and an entrepreneur second in the Netherlands.

When you Arrive

Upon arrival, it is important that you take care of two essential checklist items:

  1. BSN (citizen service number): All Dutch residents and foreign nationals who live in the Netherlands must obtain their BSN when they arrive. You can get it by registering at the municipality.  
  2. Dutch bank account: After you get your BSN, book an appointment to open a Dutch bank account at one of the banks. Two of the top Dutch banks, ABN Amro and ING make banking easier for foreign nationals by providing information in English. This includes internet banking services such as the mobile app.  

Finding a Coworking Space

Coworking spaces are extremely popular worldwide. In 2020, it was reported that they reached 20,000, and they are predicted to surpass 40,000 by 2024 worldwide. They’re practical, affordable, and the perfect networking hubs for meeting like-minded individuals. 

There are plenty of coworking spaces all around the country, and you can book them online. For example, in Rotterdam, you can find 42workspace that offers coworking spaces in the city. Moreover, if you prefer a more private area to do your work and set up your office, you can also look for office spaces in Rotterdam. Additionally, in Amsterdam, you can find coworking office spaces at Regus

Insurance

When you work in the Netherlands, it is mandatory that you take out health insurance. Your options include the Dutch standard healthcare which costs around €100. It covers basic medical care such as doctor visits, ambulance services, dietary advice, etc. Alternatively, you can get coverage for more extensive medical treatments like dental care, physical therapy, etc. by paying extra. Check out the available packages on the website of your selected healthcare provider. 

The largest healthcare providers in the Netherlands are:

For visiting other European countries, make sure that you take out travel insurance if you are not an EU/EEA citizen. 

Taxes

For taking care of your taxes, it is highly recommended that you hire an accountant. They will let you know about everything you need to pay, including when to file tax returns. That way, you can never be wrong. There are different types of taxes in the Netherlands that you are likely to pay. Types of taxes include:

  • Income: Based on your financial situation, including your pay. 
  • Payroll: For employees, indicated on their payslips each month. 
  • Wage: Based solely on your pay. 
  • Sales (VAT): For freelancers, paid quarterly.  
  • Property tax: For when you are registered as an owner of a property.

Starting a Company

When starting a business in the Netherlands and establishing yourself among other tech startups, you must take into account several checklist items. As indicated on the Business Government (information for entrepreneurs), these items include:

  1. Making sure you meet the conditions to stay in the Netherlands 
  2. Making sure you have the professional qualifications to start a business in the Netherlands
  3. Creating a business plan using the Lean Canvas
  4. Defining the stage of your business: Are you starting from scratch, moving your business from another country, etc.?
  5. Choosing your legal business structure as a sole proprietor or a private limited company
  6. Giving your company a company name, address or rental contract to register at KVK (Chamber of Commerce)
  7. Registering with Dutch Commercial Register & Dutch Tax Administration 
  8. Reporting a home business at your local municipality if you’re working from home
  9. Registering as an employer for payroll taxes & social security
  10. Aligning your choice of location for your business with the municipal zoning plan & Dutch environmental regulations
  11. Seeking support from Dutch government organisations

Find the complete checklist on starting a business in the Netherlands here

Subsidy Partners & Advisors

For information and subsidy from partners and advisors, visit RVO. The website provides information for many industries.

Additionally, be sure to check out the companies below which can assist you on specific matters for launching your tech startup in the Netherlands. 

Dutch Startup News Sources:

  1. TNW (The Next Web)
  2. TechLeap
  3. Innovation Quarter
  4. Up!Rotterdam

Banks for opening account:

  1. ING
  2. ABN Amro
  3. BNP Paribas
  4. Rabobank
  5. SNS Bank

Mentoring and Coaching for startups:

  1. Techleap.nl
  2. O3NL
  3. Dutch Startup Association
  4. Dutch Basecamp
  5. Venture Cafe
  6. NLGroeit

Funding/Financing:

  1. Golden Egg Check
  2. Nlfunuding.co
  3. Qredits

4 Settling in the Netherlands

Once you have taken care of all the paperwork, it is time that you began settling in. In this chapter, you can find resources on how to get around, learn the Dutch language, and where to meet people.

Getting Around

The Netherlands has created the perfect casual biking culture for its people next to its efficient public transportation system. The Dutch own around 22.5 million bicycles — 84% of the population ride a bike. On average, they own 1.3 bicycles per capita which is more than any other country in the world. In addition to cycling, the Dutch transit system makes intercity travelling much easier. Use the OV-chipkaart, the national smart-card payment system for public transport in the Netherlands, which includes buses, trains, metros, trams, ferries and even bike rental.

Phone & Internet

There are different subscriptions and various Dutch providers to choose from. Services such as Youfone allow you to retain your current mobile phone free of charge. For internet services, you can sign up easily via your phone or online. The most popular internet providers in the Netherlands are:

  • KPN
  • Tele2
  • T-Mobile
  • Youfone
  • Ziggo

Learning the Language

Learning Dutch may not seem necessary in a country where the majority of the people speak English. However, there are a few compelling reasons why you should learn Dutch:

  1. Networking: It’s easier to mingle with the locals when you speak their language. That way, you won’t have to restrict your social network to (mostly) internationals.  
  2. Job opportunities: Knowing Dutch in a Dutch-speaking country will give you access to more jobs that you otherwise wouldn’t qualify for. 
  3. Gain independence: The more Dutch you know, the easier you can get around without needing any help from others or relying on a translator all the time. This includes the little things such as reading signs, food menus, etc. 
  4. Embrace the culture: If you choose to live abroad, it might be due to the foreign country’s lifestyle and culture. Familiarise yourself with the culture and learn about Dutch traditions by learning the native language. 

Useful links and apps for learning Dutch:

Meeting People

As a foreigner, you might need to make the extra effort to meet new people. However, there are different ways of meeting new people in the Netherlands.  As already mentioned, one way to meet people is by working in shared office spaces. Attend events for tech startups in your area. You are more likely to meet peers and entrepreneurs there. Additionally, taking Dutch lessons might also be beneficial. Last, try starting a conversation with a stranger on the train! You never know how far a simple compliment or a curious question can take you.  

Starting a business and joining other tech startups in a foreign country comes with a lot of paperwork and planning. But with the right preparation and enough resources, you can integrate into the Netherlands smoothly and build your company from scratch. 

One response to “Tech Startups”

  1. Lukasz says:

    Hi, I’ve been through the process of settling in Amsterdam myself. Useful content. For the language you could add https://www.taalhammer.com/dutch-language-learning-online-hub/

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