The Techleap team during the 2022 State of Dutch Tech Summit- Unite

On February 10th, we welcomed 14 expert speakers and 4 moderators at our event-of-the-year IGNITE | 2022 Techleap Summit. For 2022, we see a clear set of ambitions that we want to achieve as a country. And so, we believe tech plays a key role in it. This is why we brought together tech founders, investors, and other experts as part of IGNITE | 2022 Techleap Summit to discuss how we can bring the Dutch tech ecosystem to new heights together.

Plenary | ‘State of Dutch Tech’ and panel discussion

Moderated by Christina Caljé


  • Constantijn van Oranje, Special Envoy Techleap
  • Janneke Niessen, Founding Partner CapitalT Founding Partner, CapitalT
  • Derk Arts, Founder and CEO Castor DC
State of Dutch Tech 2023 Ignite panel

Constantijn: With this event, we aim to celebrate the great results that the Dutch tech ecosystem has achieved so far as well as address the gaps that are still present and need our collective attention and action.

Essentially, we see three core areas that need an urgent extra push to bring the Dutch tech ecosystem to a desired leading position:

  • Culture & People
  • (Early-stage) funding gaps
  • Opportunities in deeptech

Tech entrepreneurs need our support in tackling the world’s biggest challenges. We need to invest in people who think differently, bigger, faster.

How was 2021 for the Dutch tech scene?

  • The Dutch ecosystem value has grown to €302B in 2021, making it into the top 3 in Europe, and scored fourth in the World Economic Forum Competitiveness Index.
  • European venture funding has tripled in 2021, getting to €5.6B
  • 5 Dutch companies have raised more than €200M in 2021;
  • However, only 21% of Dutch startups convert into scaleups (compared to 60% in the US);

Does ambition define a successful entrepreneur?

Constantijn: Ambition plays a big role in entrepreneurial success. If founders are ambitious, they can raise capital beyond the Netherlands. Of course, the government and other stakeholders play a big role in facilitating the right climate and it’s ultimately about the entrepreneur’s ambition in going up and above the set boundaries.

Janneke: To me, there isn’t one profile of the Dutch founder – but I tend to see Dutch founders, especially at the pre-seed stage, asking for less capital than they should. So they are equally ambitious with their goals but end up asking for less funding than they might need to scale bigger and faster. This is a problem because if you don’t ask for enough money at the pre-seed stage, it will be so much more difficult to eventually raise more funding in the seed round. Dutch entrepreneurs should ask for the capital that would match their ambitions in order to make those ambitions happen.

That said I would recommend Dutch entrepreneurs to look elsewhere if they are not able to find a Netherlands-based investor that would match their ambition.

Derk: I want to reinforce that the Netherlands has an amazing infrastructure and support system to grow startups, but we need to see it as a launching pad, and not the only market to conquer.

derk arts state of Dutch Tech 2022 Ignite

My advice to peer founders will always be to use the Dutch market to prove your product-market fit, for example. But if you want to build a billion-dollar business, it probably won’t happen in such a small economy as the Netherlands.

Derk Arts, Founder and CEO Castor DC

Focus area #1: Recruiting and retaining the best talent

Where does the Netherlands currently stand at?

  • Shortage of tech talent continues to grow, 56% of tech jobs in the Netherlands are considered hard to fill, while in the UK this percentage is 37;
  • To compete with other ecosystems, we need to make working at a startup more attractive by making share options for team members commonplace. The problem is that share options are heavily taxed in the Netherlands.
  • The Netherlands underperforms when it comes to gender diversity in tech, with only 16% of women being employed in the tech scene, compared to 25% in the US.
  • When raising funding, women receive only 4% of capital from Dutch investors.
  • 87% of VC firms in the Netherlands have 0% female investors.

Employee ownership is important both as an instrument for talent attraction and retention, as well as an instrument for better wealth distribution which in turn will get the flywheel spinning. 

What are some of the changes you’d like to see happening within the ecosystem?

Janneke: We’ve seen the stats on the employee diversity within tech in the Netherlands and I think it’s a matter of hiring more women and minorities, not only talking about the existing gap. When you look at our education system, starting from elementary school, there are lots of things that need to be revisited there, such as introducing some more 21-st century skills to the curriculum.

Constantijn: Getting policy changes towards more favourable conditions of employee participation approved by the government is a lengthy and challenging process. Nevertheless, we at Techleap strongly believe that employee stock options are the best way for startups to compete with big tech companies in attracting and retaining qualified employees. We will therefore continue to push for the adoption of a competitive solution and fair tax rate for employee stocks by the government. Why should employees pay a different tax rate than founders and investors?

Derk: I think every tech founder should endorse the idea of offering stock options to their employees. Working at a startup tends to be chaotic and it’s fair to reward your employees for being on this journey with you.

Constantijn van Oranje, Envoy at

Employee stock options are the best way for startups to compete with big tech companies in attracting and retaining qualified employees.

Constantijn van Oranje, Envoy at Techleap

Breakout | Employee Ownership, how to recruit and retain the best talent

Moderator: Christina Caljé – Entrepreneur, Investor & Advocate

Speakers: Frederik Mijnhardt – CEO, Secfi | Janneke Niessen – Founding Partner, CapitalT

State of Dutch Tech 2022 summit in discussion

Key takeaways:

  • Moving the needle towards normalising the concept of employee stock options is complex in the Netherlands and needs more attention, as we score 16th internationally when it comes to ESOP opportunities according to Index Ventures.
  • There is still some lack of knowledge as to why sharing company ownership with employees is important: founders do not give enough to attract top-notch talent & employees don’t ask for enough benefits.
  • Frederik: The average employee ownership in the Netherlands is about 4% – 7%. If you compare this to other successful startup markets, employee ownership accounts for 18 – 20%. If you have 20% of your company owned by employees – that value goes back into the ecosystem. We need to keep the capital in the ecosystem, otherwise, this capital is likely to fleet abroad.
Janneke Niessen techleap summit 2022 ignite

The war of talent is really unravelling as we speak, and it has been only exacerbated by COVID. So it is even more important now than ever to attract them by incentivising plans.

Janneke Niessen – Founding Partner, CapitalT

Focus #2: Bridging early-stage funding gaps

Where does the Netherlands stand now?

  • The early-stage funding gap in the Netherlands got bigger in 2021.
  • With some of the largest pension funds in the world, the Netherlands could be a leading force in venture capital. However, pension funds and other institutional investors still invest 0.01% in VCs. Plus, VCs have participated in only €100M in deals in 2021.

How to navigate this early-stage funding gap in the Netherlands?

Derk: I believe with a great team and a shining business plan, you wouldn’t have to search for investors very long. I believe it’s crucial to connect with other founders who have gone through the same challenges as yourself. Be deliberate who you reach out to and surround yourself with people who believe in your story.

Janneke: It’s great that international VCs come to the Netherlands, it shows the potential that exists here. At CapitalT we try to cooperate with them whenever we can. Having foreign investors also incentivises Dutch VCs to keep up with modern practices and even contribute to removing the ridiculous, outdated investment terms that still exist in our ecosystem.

Breakout | Dutch LPs: Why funding tech is worth the risk

Moderator: Maurice van Tilburg – Managing Director, Techleap
Speakers: Nienke Vledder – Senior Portfolio manager Private Investments, ABP Dutch Energy Transition Fund – APG Asset Management | Rune Theill -Co-Founder and CEO, Rockstart | Tjarda Molenaar – Managing Director, Dutch Private Equity & Venture Capital Association (NVP)

State of Dutch Tech 2022 Ignite panel discussion on Scaling Deeptech

Key takeaways:

  • One of the biggest bottlenecks amongst pension funds investing as LPs lies in the current lack of understanding of technology developments and future roadmaps;
  • Pension funds tend to have 1 asset manager on, say, €1.5B. For them, it is too much work and hassle to get involved with seed funding. A potential solution in that sense would be involving a middle party to manage the capital provided by the pension funds. In addition pension funds have had negative experiences with these tech investments some decade ago. It is good for them to realise that this has now become a separate asset class with its proper returns and manageable risk.
  • Though it might look like pension funds are not the right party when it comes to securing risky investments, they do invest in risks, otherwise, they wouldn’t be able to get returns of 10% per year. However, they outsource the funds’ management to big managers like BlackRock, Morgan Stanley, and other US parties, which is in part the problem. We need to have a proper Dutch manager who would ensure that the Dutch pension money gets invested in the Netherlands-based startups, and not the US ones.
  • As a founder, you shouldn’t be knocking on each and every door. You have to really find out for each type of investor what their approach is and where their win lies. This also applies to founders and VCs applying for LP funding; they should also understand more about the LP or pension fund before approaching them for funding. The proposition should fit in the LP mandate and provide real added value, such as qualitative deal flow and sector/impact relevant portfolio.

Breakout | Funding Unicorns, winning the best deals

Moderator: Constantijn van Oranje – Special Envoy, Techleap
Speakers: Bao-Y van Cong – Investment Director, Target Global | Robert Verwaayen – Co-Founder and General Partner, Keen Venture Capital | Marie-Helene Ametsreiter – General Partner, Industrial Tech, Speedinvest

State of Dutch Tech 2022 Ignite Panel discussion Funding Unicorns

Key takeaways:

  • While there are many investment opportunities in the Dutch market for VCs and more funds are becoming available for VC investments, investors are still not founder-centric and ambitious enough to fuel growth. . It is therefore crucial that Dutch VCs give founders more ownership and control to grow their companies, and focus on the upside potential instead of covering downside risk. Liq prefs are generally bad and – if any – should not go beyond the value of the investment.
  • Dutch VCs get involved in a rather late stage for the startups to benefit from the advantages that venture capital funding provides. Instead, more angels, informal investors, and family offices invest in early-stage companies in the Netherlands, which can limit the growth in that stage and diminish the eventual chance of success for Dutch startups.
  • There is not enough co-investment and general collaboration among Dutch  VC funds and with foreign funds, which could provide startups with a longer runway. There is also not enough transparency in the Dutch VC landscape in terms of standardising what, for example, a Series A can look like in terms of deal structure and financial terms.
  • Both founders and investors should keep their cap tables and other deal terms clean in order for later-stage (international) investors to be more likely to invest in the Dutch ecosystem.
  • To founders: do your research and choose your investors carefully to ensure alignment on terms, purpose, and even exit expectations. Be aware of taking money purely on valuation, but look at the terms and the kind of investor you are dealing with.

Focus #3: Maximising the deeptech opportunities

Where does Dutch deeptech currently stand?

  • Deeptech is currently one of the star industries in Dutch tech. The Netherlands is well-positioned to be a leader in deeptech.
  • However, the funding gap is particularly tough for deeptech businesses. Other countries outperform us, and as a result, Dutch deeptech potential remains untapped. You can especially see that reflected within the quantum computing industry, where the Netherlands is still in the early startup activities.
  • More so, Dutch deeptech lacks diversity as well as focus on business growth. Many first-time deeptech founding teams tend to prioritise science and technology over scaling and market expansion.

What would make the Dutch deeptech sector truly competitive?

The first priority should lie on creating the best possible environment and infrastructure for market and product development.

Constantijn: We have a growing venture-capital sector that is focusing on deeptech, but it’s still pretty small. Talking from the government & universities’ perspectives, it is important to invest in science. But if you want to transfer science into business, and generate real societal impact, you have to look at what scientists and entrepreneurs need to create successful businesses. We can learn a lot from other countries where the deeptech sector is more developed, such as the US and Israel for example. We need a culture shift, in which we are proud of academics that spin out deeptech companies and where this becomes ordinary university practice.

Also, we should celebrate when a research concept, funded by public money,  is transformed into a successful business because we need more repeat entrepreneurs in academia and the capital generated by these companies will flow back into science and universities eventually.

However, this takes more than just the universities. Therefore we initiated Science2Impact to work with all stakeholders to improve tech transfer in the Netherlands.

Breakout | Scaling Deeptech: Repeat entrepreneurs driving technology to impact

Moderator: Anne Strobos – Director of Technologies, Techleap
Speakers: Crijn Bouman – Co-founder and CEO at Rocsys | Sven Bakkes – Founding Partner, LUMO Labs, Marissa de Boer, Co-founder and CEO at Susphos

State of Dutch Tech 2022 Ignite panel discussion on Scaling Deeptech

Key takeaways: What needs to be done to get the flywheel spinning?

  • For a deeptech founder to be successful, it is crucial to be persistent and passionate about what you’re building, since it’s likely to be a long ride. Be stubborn and believe in what you preach. Next to their own passion and ambition, founders should pay more emphasis on building and communicating the vision of the company.
  • Split the focus of support for first-time entrepreneurs into ‘company focus’ and ‘personal focus’: put more emphasis on the person who has to make the company a success. For example by stimulating first-time entrepreneurs to attract serial entrepreneurs to lead their first company to success and ‘learn the ropes’ for the next adventures.
  • Provide better availability of high-risk funding for early-stage ventures; analyse which sectors are underrepresented and ensure that funds have sector-specific expertise in order to support startups. In addition, stimulate entrepreneurs-turned-investors funds since they better fit with the challenges of a deeptech company in its early stage.

In conclusion, what will Techleap do to help overcome these challenges?

Constantijn: We at Techleap are shifting our current problem-oriented approach towards actively building a strong and self-sustained community that would support each other without necessarily the intervention of third parties like us. For that to happen, we need more knowledge-sharing to take place between relevant ecosystem stakeholders.

Obviously, we will continue working on pushing forward the implementation of favourable terms for employee stock options on a policy level. And lastly, we’ll look into facilitating more diversity across the ecosystem – it’s a rather difficult matter, but we strongly believe that to be able to build successful international companies, you need to have a diverse culture.

State of Dutch Tech 2022 Ignite

Up for more content? Full recording of the summit is now available, watch it here:

© techleap All Rights Reserved