2021 written in sand on the beach

As 2021 comes to a close, our team at Techleap looks back at our highlights and challenges of the past year. Without a doubt, 2021 has been a challenging year as COVID-19 is still taking a toll on our society and economy. Nevertheless, we are very proud to see the Netherlands emerge as the hottest tech hub in Europe in 2021, according to Atomico’s latest report. That said – we see a lot of potential that is yet to be seized by the Dutch tech ecosystem, as we lag behind in certain areas such as deep tech investments, early-stage funding, and access to tech talent when compared to other European ecosystems.

Our mission at Techleap this past year has been to incentivise and support Dutch founders in bringing their businesses to new heights despite the challenges imposed by the lasting pandemic.

As a year of transition, 2021 has further shown us the importance of connecting with each other, sharing knowledge, and working together towards a common cause. In other words, it has shown us the great power a strong community can have in sparking positive change within the Dutch startup ecosystem.

Subsequently, our work has been centered around strengthening the links between our core audiences: founders, investors, and policymakers. With healthtech at the forefront of innovation and societal impact in the past years, we’ve decided to particularly focus our 2021 ​​activities around collaboratively building solutions with our ecosystem partners towards accelerating the growth of healthtech startups.

Here are some highlights of our 2021 activities and some of the plans for 2022:

Pushing the Dutch Healthtech forward: our initiatives

In 2021, we’ve seen more than ever the importance of two things: our health and the necessity of technology in our everyday lives. As healthtech startups have been playing a crucial role in bridging new scientific innovations into tangible solutions, we’ve seen the increased relevance and importance of focusing our work on supporting the growth of Dutch healthtech companies. Having said that, what exactly did we do?

We bridged more data insights into the actual state of innovation by the means of our Dutch Healthtech 2021 Report and made it available to (inter)national experts and relevant investors.

To be able to build effective solutions to support our healthtech ecosystem, we first had to identify the existing gaps and challenges experienced by healthtech startups and scaleups. We did it by collecting survey insights from 106 startups from the Dutch healthtech ecosystem. Ultimately, we condensed all these learnings into this data report that acts as a foundation for our healthtech initiatives and that has ultimately been brought to the attention of relevant (inter)national healthtech experts and investors.

We provided acceleration programmes to startups that can make a material impact

We’ve launched three programmes in 2021 to enable ambitious Dutch healthtech companies to scale more efficiently within and across the Dutch borders.

Rise Batch #5 has been dedicated to empowering 10 most ambitious, high-impact healthtech startups within the Dutch ecosystem. You can learn more about the selected batch here.

GoGlobal US Health programme has been launched this October and developed with the goal of providing access to the industry experts and the business must-knows that would help accelerate the companies’ growth to the US health market. The launch event of the programme took place on November 11th, 2021 and featured 27 strong Dutch healthtech players ready to embark on their mission to the US. The event was very rich in valuable market-expansion insights from our keynote speaker Jamie Heywood, which we’ve shared in our latest blog. The programme will continue with smaller, more targeted sessions throughout December.

Pole Position Batch #1 is our joint pilot programme with four incubators, namely YES!Delft, UtrechtInc, Braventure and NovelT. For the first batch, we’ve selected 10 high-impact early-stage healthtech companies with a B2B deeptech focus. Our goal with this programme is to bridge the ‘valley of death’ that exists within the deeptech industry in the Netherlands, as Dutch deeptech startups need more expert support to successfully transition into a scaleup phase. Batch #1 of Pole Position will continue throughout 2022 with regular expert & peer check-ins

Enabling more attractive conditions for employee stock options & early-stage funding by angels: KickstartNL

As part of our #KickstartNL movement, in 2021, we organised an election debate that was broadcasted live on national television. Topics of the debate included employee participation, incentives for early-stage investments by business angels, and educating more tech talent.

In September we welcomed the announcement of the improved stock option plan, which was one of our #KickstartNL proposals. Unfortunately, it takes a bit more time to pass parliament.

However, more is needed to make the system truly competitive.

That is why Techleap.nl, together with the Dutch Startup Association and other parties including SecfiEY and VanLoman, is committed to addressing the current high tax rate of stock options with the new cabinet. In line with these efforts, we launched two expert groups consisting of the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy, and relevant experts. We’ve explored the possibilities of more attractive fiscal schemes for employee stock options as well as early-stage funding by business angels.

Moving into 2022, we will continue our efforts towards facilitating the adoption of the aforementioned proposals by the relevant decision-making parties.

Helping ambitious Dutch tech companies scale: Rise & Compass programmes

Healthtech wasn’t the only area of focus for Techleap.nl this year. We’ve launched two non-thematic Rise batches (Batch #4 & Batch #6), joined by 19 promising ventures from various industries – from environmentally-conscious fashion and logistics solutions, to unmanned convenience stores.

Some of the performance results for the 2021 Rise Batches:

Addressing funding bottlenecks that prevent Dutch startups’ global growth and impact

For the past two years, COVID has been taking a toll on the Dutch economy with most businesses struggling to stay afloat in these challenging times. To support ambitious companies with a proven sustainable business model, Techleap teamed up with the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy, Regional Development Agencies (ROMs), and Invest-NL to launch the Corona bridging loan (COL). More than 900 companies were able to benefit from the loan from April 29th, 2020 to the end of May 2021. More on the final results of the COL can be found here.

Finding the right investors is another pressing challenge a lot of early-stage startups currently face in the Netherlands. The Dutch ecosystem lacks angel investors, leaving startups with fewer opportunities to secure much-needed funding and expertise. This is why our team is looking into ways to incentivise angel investors as well as to provide guidance for startups in attracting suitable investors.

Funding Allies overview

We launched our Funding Allies to provide an overview of matchmakers, matchmaking platforms, and investor readiness programmes within the Netherlands. This way, we hope to guide startups to the right stakeholders depending on their funding needs. See the overview here.

Angel investors research

To better understand how angel investments can be incentivised, we decided to capture and map the Dutch angel investor community and their investment practices. This has proven to be difficult as there are many investors and deals operating often under the radar. Therefore, we asked our investor community to fill out a survey to help us shape a complete picture of the Dutch investment landscape. Looking into 2022, we will analyse our survey findings and use them as a foundation for building our next funding solutions.

Unlocking the potential of the Dutch scientific power

In the Netherlands, a lot of the innovation is locked up in our universities, which clearly indicates that there is a challenge in turning science into valuable solutions for our society and economy. To raise awareness about this cause, and help boost entrepreneurship within Dutch research organisations, Techleap.nl has launched the ‘Science-to-Impact’ initiative in 2021. This project aims to unlock the potential of the Dutch scientific power by sharing insights, reports, and other resources on academic startups as well as inspire our academic audience to embrace entrepreneurship by giving the floor to researchers with a strong entrepreneurial spirit who are keen to share their experiences and vision with the outside world. Read more about the ‘Entrepreneurial Scientist’ series, created in partnership with Innovation Origins: https://www.techleap.nl/what-we-do/from-science-to-impact

Connecting the Dutch ecosystem: our community events

Having had a rather digital 2020, we’ve realised the importance of staying connected with our community of founders and ecosystem stakeholders at all times. This is why our 2021 has been all about connecting people via digital and (whenever possible) face-to-face events. Here are some of our highlights:


An unforgettable boat ride with startup founders, national and international VCs, and other community stakeholders to network and connect in an informal setting!

Democratising the expertise of Dutch scale icons: The Scale Lab podcast

Another goal we’ve set for our team for 2021 was to make the wisdom and knowledge of successful and experienced Dutch entrepreneurs accessible to a larger audience. This is how the idea of our The Scale Lab podcast was born. This year, 13 scale icons, such as Jitse Groen (founder of Takeaway.com), Ali Niknam (founder of bunq), Pieter van der Does (founder of Adyen), to name a few, have joined our hosts Constantijn van Oranje and Joe Wilson in the recording studio. They openly shared their entrepreneurial journeys: what it took to bring their business to the current scale and which mistakes they wish they didn’t make along the way.

We are very humbled by making it to the top #10 of Entrepreneurship podcasts in the Netherlands for a few consecutive weeks in 2021 and are very happy with all the positive feedback we’ve received thus far from our founder community.

As we successfully wrapped up season #1, we are working hard on the production of season #2! We are VERY excited by the guests’ line-up, so we promise you an insightful and inspiring season with the brightest scaling stars onboard. Keep an eye out for new episode announcements in 2022!

Listen to the podcast now: https://anchor.fm/techleapnl

What will 2022 bring us?

Let’s look ahead at our plans for 2022. What will the Dutch ecosystem look like? What trends will define the tech innovation landscape in the Netherlands? How will Techleap benefit the ecosystem moving forward?

Get answers to all these questions and more at our online IGNITE | 2022 Techleap Summit. Yes, you read it right, the Techleap Summit is back! 2022 Techleap Summit is the place to be for everyone eager to shape the future of the Dutch tech ecosystem. We will take you through the highlights and drawbacks of 2021 and will look forward together at how we can make the best out of 2022. We’ll also be joined by some of the leaders of the tech ecosystem. The online event will take place digitally on February 10th, 2022, from 10am to 12pm CET.

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