It is ‘essential for the Dutch economy to attract foreign talent.’ That is what Prince Constantijn van Oranje, special envoy for Techleap.nl, says in conversation with BNR. ‘We have companies that want to grow fast. If they can’t, they’ll go elsewhere.’
The cabinet actually wants to put a brake on foreign students. This can have major consequences for the Dutch tech sector, thinks Van Oranje. Without foreign talent, it will be very difficult for the university and companies such as ASML. We desperately need the foreign students.’ Otherwise, the companies will go abroad.
BNR spoke extensively with the prince in response to the State of Dutch Tech report prepared by Techleap.nl, a non-profit organization that focuses on accelerating the tech ecosystem in the Netherlands.
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The report was presented to Prime Minister Rutte today. Van Oranje thinks that the government can play a major role for the Dutch tech sector. Not only through retention of personnel, but also through attractive tax rules. “You’ve seen that in the United Kingdom, Israel and for some time now in Silicon Valley.”
The report also shows that Dutch start-ups and tech companies ‘raise significantly less money’ than competitors from abroad. Several factors underlie this, thinks Constantijn van Oranje. ‘There are fewer companies here, but above all the funds in the Netherlands are smaller than in neighboring countries. As a result, the investments are also smaller.’ Therefore, investors should cooperate more, both nationally and internationally. ‘With a collaboration, the investment can be greater because money comes from multiple sources. And foreign investors offer access to other markets.’
Eva de Mol, co-founder of investment fund CapitalT, also sees a cultural issue. On both sides. ‘Dutch investors take fewer risks and are more hesitant. And Dutch entrepreneurs simply ask for less money.’
It would be good for the Dutch tech sector if pension funds invested more in companies. That hardly ever happens now. ‘Very unfortunate,’ says Van Oranje. ‘If they invested half a percent of their total assets in venture capital, the Netherlands would be one of the largest venture capital markets in Europe.’
The pension funds often find the companies or the returns too small. In addition, there is a lack of knowledge within the pension funds, says Van Oranje. A separate investment branch within the pension funds, specifically aimed at Dutch tech companies, would be a good idea. ‘This would really make a difference’, says Eva de Mol. ‘Pension funds are now investing heavily in sustainability. The easiest way to do that is to invest in companies that are active in, for example, the energy transition. They are working on that, but it just takes time.’
The State of Dutch Tech report also shows that very little is invested in start-ups led by women. That share hangs at an “embarrassing 0.7 percent,” the report writes. “I find that really, really painful. Also because we have been working on this for a long time,’ says De Mol.
According to Van Oranje, this is also a self-fulfilling prophecy. ‘The big companies are all led by men. And big companies can raise more money. If those companies are successful, even more money will go to those companies.’ That is why the prince advocates more diversity. According to Van Oranje, De Mol has shown with Capital T that it is possible. ‘Women entrepreneurs are that this is a fund that understands them. They have a healthier pipeline than other investors.’