The Netherlands has a relatively high number of startups, however, compared internationally they more often fail to scale up their business. World-changing technologies and ideas are failing due to lack of capital, shortages of the right talent to drive the technology forward, insufficient demand, or all of the above. One aspect remains underexposed: the Dutch culture.

Entrepreneurs that find the success of their venture important and seek to scale up quickly are called ambitious. Most entrepreneurs are not focused on scaling their business model. The ambition of people is reinforced by the supportiveness of the environment and the history of entrepreneurship in a place. Academics research all these dependencies and call it the culture of ambitious entrepreneurship. This topic is highly relevant and an important source of employment and economic growth in the Netherlands. Some even go as far as saying the ambition to scale has more impact on economic growth than the general entrepreneurial rate (Hermans et al., 2015).

We should build towards a solid culture that is more appreciative to entrepreneurs who are prepared to take risks to tackle grand societal challenges.

Niels Bosma, Associate Professor @Utrecht University School of Economics

This might be problematic for the Netherlands as 20 years of historic Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) data shows that compared internationally the Dutch place higher value on self-employment and starting your own business than growing it successfully. Surprisingly, as it is growing your business successfully which brings a positive impact to the economy. This is referred to as the Dutch Entrepreneurship Paradox. The effects of this culture may be shown in a high number of startups, but a low number of scaleups and unicorns (businesses worth >1B USD). It also gives us a disadvantage internationally to leverage the benefits of innovations.

Starting now, Techleap will work together with the Utrecht University School of Economics to analyse the latest data by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor and increase the level of ambition in the Netherlands to improve startup success. With the use of 20+ years of surveys from 115 economies all over the world and our connectedness in the Dutch ecosystem, the barriers that naturally arise in aiming to change cultural aspects of society are smaller than ever before.

The next stage of this research is to conduct statistical analysis on the variables that impact cultures in the Netherlands, as well as Sweden, Israel, Switzerland, and the United States. Our general aim is to provide a comprehensive background on the culture of ambitious entrepreneurship and what we can do to change. To achieve this, we will compare national and international (sub-)groups of society.

Put concisely, upcoming data deep dives attempt to untangle the Dutch Entrepreneurship Paradox and dissolve the same through engaging the Dutch government, as well as entrepreneurial pioneers, influencers, and coaches. According to us, the paradox has existed for far too long, how about you?

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