The Netherlands’ Small (But Mighty) FinTech Scene

Netherlands FinTech Scene

Though Brexit has left everyone looking for the “next best” European startup capital, the Netherlands, while a strong contender, may be destined for greater things. Holland may not be the biggest European nation, but in this week’s Tech Center Roundup, we explore why it could just have the most potential.

In this week’s edition of PYMNTS’ Weekly Tech Center Roundup, we check out a small country with a huge potential to emerge as one of Europe’s premier FinTech spaces.

Before we jump into the post, here are a few quick facts about the Netherlands and its tech scene: 

  • The Netherlands is estimated to have a population of 17 million.
  • The country’s GDP was approximately $880 billion in 2014.
  • Nearly 90 percent of the Dutch population speaks English, making it an attractive location for tech talent.
  • Forty-one percent of the jobs in the Netherlands are created by startups.
  • In the first four months of 2016, the technology companies based in the Netherlands raised €37 million in capital.
  • Last year, Netherlands-based startups raised €430 million across 153 deals.
  • The 2016 Startup Nations Monitor ranked the Netherlands as number one for implementing policies aimed at boosting startup growth.

While London and Berlin may be the first two cities that come to mind when thinking of Europe’s most well-suited areas for startups, Amsterdam isn’t that far behind.

Don’t let the small size of the Netherlands fool you.

The country has a longstanding reputation of considering itself “Europe’s best-connected and largest ecosystem,” but it may soon actually be living up to the self-appointed title. Holland’s capital city, Amsterdam, broke into the top 20 pool in last year’s Global Startup Ecosystem Ranking and saw the exit values of its startups grow by five times the two-year moving average.

Major global companies, such as Uber, Netflix and Tesla, have recently established European headquarters in Amsterdam, and it’s expected that others will soon follow suit. The city’s growing recognition for a thriving tech scene also landed it ranked in the number two spot in the continent (behind London) for startups on last year’s European Digital City Index.

It’s no wonder Amsterdam has seen its hat thrown in the ring for which major European city will be the “new London” in the wake of Brexit.

This may have something to do with the Dutch Parliament’s efforts to bolster the country’s startup ecosystem through a growing number of initiatives and policies. Legislation is in the works that makes it both easier and cheaper to launch a startup in the Netherlands, as well as the country’s establishment of mentoring networks and residency programs aimed at helping entrepreneurs flourish.

Though it may have a relatively small population, the country is known for its top tech talent and high internet penetration (94 percent). Not only has the government helped to foster a startup-friendly environment, but the Netherlands also offers favorable trade deals, a highly regarded education system, a strong economy and convenient location.

“Why Silicon Valley is successful is you have a good environment for investment, for risk-taking, and there’s an infrastructure to do it. Here what you have are some similarities, but you also have a place that people want to live in,” Maarten Plesman, VP EMEA for Revinate, recently told Tech City News.

“It is a magnet for people to come in, and the rest of the infrastructure is building up right now. The investment climate is nowhere near Silicon Valley today, but I think we see a lot of signs that it’s improving — that there’s more risk-taking, more possibilities for startups or for anybody else.”


The Blockchain Boom

Earlier this year, the Dutch government announced plans to open a new campus devoted entirely to attracting banks and financial institutions through the development of blockchain.

Willem Vermeend, the first official “FinTech Ambassador of the Netherlands,” and the Dutch Ministry of Finance said the blockchain will become a critical part of the financial sector, but what’s needed is collaboration.

“There is a lot of creativity in the Netherlands. The problem is that I have spoken to 20 parties who do not know what each other is doing,” Vermeend said.

The hope of the campus is that it will help both individuals and companies work better together.

Beijing-based bitcoin company Bitmain Technologies Limited recently acquired Amsterdam-based bitcoin wallet provider and analytics platform Blocktrail in a move that the company said will only help to benefit its users.

Blocktrail is a provider of tools for blockchain integration and serves both consumers and developers with resources and information about cryptocurrency transactions.

“Joining forces with Bitmain is an important step forward for us, which will not only benefit you as our wallet, API and block explorer user but also enforces our collective goal as bitcoin users — to continue the growth and advancement of the bitcoin ecosystem,” the Blocktrail team said in a statement announcing the acquisition.