Startup Village, located at the heart of Science Park, is Amsterdam’s attempt to mold young technology innovators into entrepreneurs. It started in 2016 with a focus on technology and science companies. The project, an initiative of ACE (Amsterdam Center for Entrepreneurship), Amsterdam Science Park, and UvA Ventures-Holding, now houses around 25 start-up enterprises.
Designed by Julius Taminiau Architects, the Village is made up of old shipping containers converted to offices surrounding a central café. The director of ACE, Erik Boer, began the village to help science and technology students starting their own companies by offering them space to rent offices. However, the Village has a lot more than just space to offer these enterprising minds.
ACE run ‘incubators’ twice a year wherein they select 10 promising start-ups to foster. They aim to provide these businesses with the benefits of access to coaching and networks. As marketing and communications manager, Jasmijn van Houten, 29, explains, “we help them connect to our corporate mentors.” She adds, “As a location it’s nice to see how people meet each other and start their collaborations.” ACE recently held its first Demo Day, showcasing their 10 best startups from incubators of 2017-18. The next incubator programme will commence in April 2019. The Village is in the process of expanding and Van Houten voices the hope that it will be double the size at the beginning of next year.
The Village provides space for business events, such as December 6’s ‘Beyond the hype: How will AI shape the future of work?’, in which three panelists discussed the future of AI in the workplace. The topic was particularly relevant for a generation who could see their career path shifting due to intelligent technology becoming part of the infrastructure of daily life and work.
This outreach event was run by Amsterdam Student Investment Fund (ASIF), a venture capital fund that invests in start-ups of students or recent graduates in Amsterdam in collaboration with UvA. “Besides the fact we are a venture capital fund… we have built a community with four different teams: Start-up crawl, Masterclass, Common ground… and Pitch,” said board member Bas Reiter to the Amsterdammer. Pitch, the most renowned among the projects, provides students with “a literal stage to pitch their idea” to around 200 people. This provides validation for enterprises, he says, and the chance to “get your name out there – it’s super good for your network.” Reiter says ASIF aim to hold events like this monthly; their next Pitch event will be on December 11.
ASIF recently made their first investment in DYME, one of the Village’s neighbouring start-up companies. DYME uses software to detect an app user’s fixed expenses, allowing clients better access and control over these monthly transactions. Their recently-launched app helps users take note of their routine spending. Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Wouter Florijn described the benefits of the app, since “you don’t have to rely entirely on your current bank and what they’re implementing themselves.”
DYME – with a permanent team of three graduates – was previously part of ACE incubators programme and was invited to pitch at ACE’s Demo Day. The best thing about the programme according to Florijn was the contacts and “the connections they offer.” Companies like DYME also continue to benefit from events such as ASIF’s Pitch event, through the opportunity to make themselves known. As Florijn remarked, “the consequences are directly noticeable in terms of sign-ups.”
The Village is all about connectivity: a wealth of opportunities nestled against UvA’s Science Park, which is a major hub for research and innovation. Reiter points to the myth that academia and business don’t go together. He explains that in recent years “there’s been this entire transition that universities are actually embracing entrepreneurship.” ASIF itself works with investment funds from UvA and was founded on the idea of students helping other students, since as Reiter puts it, “who knows better what’s up in the student scene than students themselves?”
BIT, another company in Startup Village, engage AI, Technology and Design students in innovations for their corporate clients. Team member Rick Groenendijk, 24, explained how students can provide a fresh look at companies’ challenges. “In bigger corporates doing innovations is rather challenging… being students you’re quite aware of what technological possibilities are.” Groenendijk feels the main benefit of being located in Startup Village is the community found there. He illustrates this by mentioning “lots of people that are around and that are really passionate about what they do.”
DYME’s Florijn agrees on this note. “We have lots of value from the community here – all the start-ups want to help each other.” He says that the most important part of a business is the team you have, and his advice to budding entrepreneurs would be to get “at least on technical person involved.” They might seem hard to find, but he thinks “there’s lots out there who want to do it.” The budding technical enterprises in Startup Village would suggest he’s right.