Startup Visa - What do we have to offer international startups?
  • Internationalizing

Fleur Mulder: "Startup Visa - What do we have to offer international startups?

Fleur Mulder Fleur Mulder

Changing circumstances require new considerations and a different strategy. This also applies to attracting international companies. More than ever we are focusing on bringing knowledge and innovations to the region. In this blog, Fleur Mulder talks about the new approach of NOM Internationalizing, the Startup Visa and NOM as facilitator.

For a year now I have been working at NOM as a project manager for Internationalization. I was hired specifically to attract international startups. Indeed, Internationalization now also focuses specifically on young companies with innovative ideas. Investment and Innovation, the other branches of NOM, have been doing that for much longer. We actually didn't until recently. Simply because we followed the strategy of the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency (NFIA) to entice large international companies to come to the North. Preferably established names with substantial staffing needs. Not illogical, after all, we were once established to strengthen the regional economic structure by creating jobs, among other things.

Choices

But times are changing. In the Netherlands, space, energy and labor have been scarce for some time. In the Northern Netherlands, too, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find suitable business locations for international companies. Because imagine that such a company needs 10 hectares to build a factory where then a few hundred people have to work. Can we provide the land and the people at all? And can we even guarantee sufficient power? Fortunately, we can meet these questions better than elsewhere in the country. But that doesn't mean we don't have to make choices.

Test Year

'From volume to value ', is the name of the new strategy rolled out by the NFIA last summer. In short, it means that we at NOM Internationalize look extremely critically at which companies are offered the available space. We pay particular attention to the value they add to existing regional ecosystems and their alignment with the strategic goals of the Netherlands as a whole. In short, the focus is on attracting different types of companies than before. Including, therefore, startups. Not only startups within the EU, but also beyond. The great thing is: startups from outside the EU can qualify for a special visa, called a Startup Visa, which allows them to settle in the Netherlands for a year. With the intention of staying here longer. Think of it as a test year, to get a feel for the country, the people and the possible future market for their product or service.

The focus is on attracting different types of companies than before. Including, therefore, startups.
Fleur Mulder, NOM

Criteria

But you don't get such a Startup Visa overnight. There are a number of criteria the company must meet at a minimum. First, the idea must be innovative and scalable. Or more precisely: the idea must be truly innovative for the Dutch market. Also, the startup must have enough capital of its own to stay here for a year. Finally, they must be hosted by a facilitator, a mentor who guides and supports the startup during its stay in the Netherlands. By the way, if the company meets the first two criteria, the third should not be a problem. In fact, our country has numerous facilitators in the fields of Energy, IT, Water, Life Sciences and High Tech Systems and Materials (HTSM), among others.

Welcome and supported

Since early 2023, NOM has also been acting as a facilitator for startups coming to the Netherlands on a Startup Visa. To the Northern Netherlands, in this case. Right now, however, we focus exclusively on guiding and supporting IT startups. What can I do for those companies in the role of facilitator? I want the entrepreneurs to feel welcome and supported and to be able to focus optimally on the development of their business. Where and when necessary, I try to help. In going through the Startup Visa application process, for example. Or arranging all kinds of practical matters, such as applying for a bank account, the Chamber of Commerce registration and finding business accommodation.

Business Coaches

An important part of my job is to ensure that startups become part of the regional ecosystem. Therefore, I introduce the companies at an early stage to parties in the Northern Netherlands that may be of interest to them. Think of possible partners, suppliers and investors. In other words, I let them benefit from NOM's extensive network. I also link them to experienced IT entrepreneurs from the region, who then help the startups along the way as business coaches. Of course, I also point the companies to the possibility of participating in our Market and Investor Readiness program. Both programs are then taught in English.

Startup Visa NL

At its core, the role of facilitator is an extra layer that NOM, as mentioned, exclusively offers IT startups from outside the EU. Because, of course, we are also there for startups from other top sectors. Only then we fulfill purely a connecting role. For example, by linking the companies to other regional facilitators, such as Campus Groningen, Groningen Seaports or WaterCampus Leeuwarden. In this regard, we work closely with Startup Visa NL, an initiative of Founded in Groningen and Founded in Friesland. Startup Visa NL focuses on matching startups from outside the EU with facilitators in the northeastern Netherlands. From there, many leads come to us.

First successes

Have we had any success in attracting IT startups? Yes indeed. For example, two promising young companies now have approved Startup Visas: iki.ai and DeepAvatar. Iki.ai is an edtech startup that uses AI and machine learning to help people with self-study, peer-to-peer learning and professional content. DeepAvatar uses AI to create videos that are initially applied in e-commerce. Iki.ai has already landed in the North and we may welcome DeepAvatar this summer.

This is great for the startups themselves, but certainly also for the region. After all, by attracting international early stage companies, we bring new knowledge and talent to the Northern Netherlands. Founders with big ambitions who want to expand their company here and are eager to make connections with the regional network. At the same time, they can stimulate and inspire existing companies to keep innovating. Of course, that too is worth a lot!