This entry is an excerpt from the OECD’s International Compendium of Entrepreneurship Policies (2020), which contains 16 case studies from 12 OECD countries. The Compendium examines the rationale for entrepreneurship policy, presents a typology of policy approaches and highlights principles for policy success. Case studies span policies for regulations and taxation, entrepreneurship education and training, advice and coaching, access to finance, internationalization, innovation, and holistic packages for ecosystem building. (OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/338f1873-en.)
This case study illustrates an approach targeted at improving place-based entrepreneurial ecosystems. Startup Delta/TechLeap.NL is an independent public-private partnership which brings together all regional entrepreneurial ecosystems in The Netherlands.
Originally founded as "StartupDelta", the organization aims to support the development of the 14 regional ecosystem initiatives which support start-ups and scale-ups at the sub-national level in the Netherlands. It also seeks to create linkages between these independent regional ecosystem initiatives, break down barriers between actors within and across regional ecosystems and improve access to talent, capital, networks, knowledge and markets for entrepreneurs.
The rationale behind TechLeap.NL is that creating linkages between the existing innovation-hubs across the country (ten at the outset) should foster national cooperation rather than competition between regional ecosystems (European Commission, 2015), thereby fostering synergies and improving the overall start-up ecosystem in the Netherlands as well as raising its international profile and promoting international linkages. This would benefit domestic entrepreneurs and attract founders of innovative start-ups and scale-ups from abroad.
The StartupDelta/TechLeap initiative includes a wide range of actions involving different actors of the entrepreneurial ecosystem and intervening at different stages of the entrepreneurship process, from building an entrepreneurial culture to supporting existing start-ups.
This includes efforts to create better linkages in the ecosystem and facilitate start-ups’ access to key resources, notably through the launch of the startupdelta.org portal which maps the start-up ecosystem of the Netherlands and offers searchable databases for start-ups and knowledge providers (Startup Finder and Science Finder). Another notable initiative is the COSTA collaboration, which brings together Corporates and Start-ups on a platform called the Corporate Launchpad to create business-to-business linkages and opportunities for innovation partnerships and investment. Efforts also include linkages with knowledge providers: the TekDelta pilot programme provides start-ups with access to knowledge and laboratory space at the Netherlands Organisation for applied scientific research (TNO), Universities of Technology, the telecom provider KPN and other private companies such as Philips and NXP.
The initiative also works to facilitate interactions between entrepreneurs and public services. Together with the Chamber of Commerce it introduced Startupbox, an instrument guiding start-ups to the most suitable public policy programme. It also successfully advocated for a reduction of the application process time for R&D tax deductions for start-ups: it was reduced from 3 months to 1 month. The programme also operates the Startup Officers Network, composed of representatives of government organisations, which aims to improve access of start-ups to government organisations. It has also established a coalition of government departments and municipalities collaborating in a test lab, encouraging local governments to consider investing in start-up led solutions with the goal to foster broader access to public procurement for startups.
StartupDelta/TechLeap.NL seeks to attract and support foreign start-ups settling to the Netherlands together with the Netherlands Point of Entry at the Dutch Enterprise Agency. Efforts include the introduction of the Orange Carpet programme, with simplified steps for installation for foreign start-ups and a single support portal for all foreign start-up related issues. The Netherlands also introduced the Startup Visa, a temporary (one-year) residence permit for foreign start-up founders.
The programme works with the government to support the development of policies that makes it easier for start-ups to attract talent, for example by reducing tax obstacles to using “shares as wages” and to develop new rules for attracting essential personnel from outside the EU. It highlights bottlenecks encountered by start-ups and scale-ups and advocates for their inclusion in the policy agenda. Startup Delta/TechLeap.NL is also often consulted on the development of a range of government policies for issues that may be relevant for start-ups and scale-ups.
The programme supports internationalisation of Dutch start-ups through international missions for groups of Dutch start-ups. Missions are frequently organised together with the Dutch Enterprise Agency to global network events (e.g. Consumer Electronics Show, Computex, WebSummit, Slush, SouthbySouthWest, and Hannover Messe), globally known entrepreneurial ecosystems (e.g. the Silicon Valley, Seattle, Tel Aviv, Berlin, London) and promising destinations for Dutch start-ups (e.g. China and South Korea).
A recent initiative is the creation of a community of “start-up diplomats” at embassies and consulates in priority countries to raise the profile of start-up support in the embassy network of the Netherlands. The programme also manages mentor networks, including international peers (start-ups abroad) who provide advice and support to entrepreneurs seeking to expand their activities in Silicon Valley, Los Angeles, Boston, New York, Singapore, London and Berlin and Paris.
Finally, the programme aims to build capacity for innovation and entrepreneurship in society at large through programmes such as Codepact which offers software programming lessons in primary education.
Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy
Timeline of the program: 2015-2023
The program has been implemented in phases:
- StartupDelta 1.0 (mid-2015 – mid-2016)
- StartupDelta 2.0 (mid-2016 – end-2017), and
- StartupDelta 3.0 (January 2018 – mid-2019).
- TechLeap.NL: (July 2019 - 2023): this four-year program replaces StartupDelta and will run until 2023.
The initiative aims to achieve two overarching targets:
- Entering the global top 5 of start-up ecosystems in the ranking of Startup Genome in 2020 (the Netherlands was ranked 19 in 2015)
- Becoming the first start-up ecosystem of Europe, as indicated by the Startup Genome ranking
A series of sub-goals were also set, which include:
- Establish one Single Hub
- Grow the pool of “smart funding”
- Attract top Venture Capital funds to the Netherlands
- Link Dutch start-ups to the rest of the world
- Mentor entrepreneurs for international expansion
- Attract and support foreign start-ups in the Netherlands
- Participate in and contribute to relevant international start-ups networks
- Open up public procurement to start-ups
- Connect start-ups and corporates
- Remove barriers for start-ups and increase access for start-ups to EU markets
- Address shortage in Tech talent
- Facilitate entrepreneurship in education
- Boost academic start-ups
The StartupDelta/TechLeap.NL programme is evaluated every 1.5 years for the Ministry of Economic Affairs, with informal intermediate progress reports provided in between. The evaluations are not publicly available. The targets change in each period. In the first period (StartupDelta 1.0), the focus was on increasing interest in start-ups among politicians, the ministries and the general public. During its second period (StartupDelta 2.0), StartupDelta focused more on stimulating and accelerating structural changes in national and regional policy to support start-ups. StartupDelta 3.0 had four focus areas: (i) the creation of “One Single Hub” (linking the whole Netherlands start-up and scale-up ecosystem through acting like a network of networks) and reinforcing Dutch tech networks within and outside the Netherlands; (ii) helping start-ups scale up, notably by organising missions abroad; (iii) encouraging breakthrough technologies and academic start-ups; (iv) making the ecosystem more transparent with better (accessible) data.
Some objectives are not foreseen to be achieved in one 1.5 year period and objectives have evolved over times. Some goals have been cancelled or transferred to other governmental bodies. For example, the goal to “Remove barriers for start-ups and increase access for start-ups to EU markets” was foreseen to be achieved through the creation of sandboxes for testing of new business models. However, the programme managers judged that this could better be managed by the Ministries of Economic Affairs and Foreign Affairs, to which the responsibility for the objective was transferred.
StartupDelta/TechLeap.NL includes so-called action programmes of 1.5 years, which are evaluated. This includes self-evaluations, which are public, as well as several informal evaluations by external entities, whose reports are not public. The key conclusions of these evaluations are provided in letters to parliament.
The first period (StartupDelta 1.0) was assessed favourably by the Ministry of Economy which estimated that it helped: “[put] The Netherlands […] on the map as a start-up-country” (Ministerie van Economische Zaken 2016a).
The subsequent periods (StartupDelta 2.0 and StartupDelta 3.0) have been evaluated in more detail. The short term of these action programmes makes the overall programme adaptive to the needs of the players in the start-up ecosystem.
Lessons for other ecosystems:
StartupDelta/TechLeap.NL aims to reinforce the national entrepreneurial ecosystem, understood as a national network of regional networks. It focuses on co-ordinating regional interests and aims to provide benefits for all participating regions and limit unproductive competition. In the absence of public information on the results of the evaluation of the programme, it is difficult to identify specific lessons for similar initiatives. Nonetheless, three potential success factors can be identified:
- A potential strength of the initiative is its holistic approach: the programme targets all actors in the ecosystem and extends support to different types of firms at various stages of development, as well as potential entrepreneurs.
- A reported strength of the programme is its flexible short-term agendas, allowing for rapid experimentation.
- An initiative seeking to coordinate different regional ecosystems within a country would be particularly suited to contexts where regions have distinct sectoral specialisations. A possible success factor for this programme is that the different Dutch regions specialise in distinctive R&D areas, which is conducive to co-operation and complementarity.
Constantijn van Oranje, Special Envoy for Techleap.nl
Size and budget of the programme:
The budgets for StartupDelta 2.0 and 3.0 were subsidies from the Ministry of Economic Affairs and have been matched with equal amounts of private funding. With other related public funding, the total budget of StartupDelta 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0 has been around EUR 4.5 million. The earmarked budget for the different phases of StartupDelta has been:
- StartupDelta 1.0: EUR 450 000 (in addition to seconded personnel from government departments)
- StartupDelta 2.0: EUR 725 500
- StartupDelta 3.0: EUR 1 297 749
- TechLeap.NL: a four-year budget of EUR 35 million has been earmarked.