Europe’s hottest startup capitals: Amsterdam

This article was taken from the November 2013 issue of Wired magazine. Be the first to read Wired’s articles in print before they’re posted online, and get your hands on loads of additional content by subscribing online.

For the third year, WIRED’s editors have visited the continent’s startup hubs to identify the ten tech cities you need to know about. Our conclusion: Europe is on a roll. Here are the 100 companies causing the greatest buzz, according to the local commentators, investors and entrepreneurs we surveyed.


Amsterdam is a true port city – international, tolerant and adaptable. These qualities, plus liberal tax laws, make it attractive for foreign companies. Aussie software giant Atlassian, for instance, chose Amsterdam as its European operations hub in 2008 because of the city’s convenience and strong tech community. This year it will run AtlasCamp, a developer conference, in the city.

“It starts with our history – being a small country with a wacky language forces many Dutch entrepreneurs to be fluent in English and look beyond our borders to create a business of meaningful size,” explains Don Ritzen, 29, cofounder and MD of Rockstart Accelerator. “But it’s the people who built the buzz with a lot of fantastic bottom-up initiatives. Startups here still face many regulatory and visa barriers. In short, the scene today has been created by the entrepreneurs.”

There are clear trends – 3D printing is a standout technology, from Shapeways to Ultimaker — and fintech is a growth area. One problem — as with all port cities – is people moving on. Enterprise application platform Mendix was founded here in 2005 but moved headquarters to Boston in 2008 when it raised $13 million (£8 million) in series A funding. Pressure is mounting for government initiatives to retain startups.

1. Peecho

Rokin 75-5, 1012 KL

“The cloud is connecting Amsterdam startups in the way the ocean did in the 15th century,” according to Martijn Groot, 40, who met his cofounder, CTO Sander Nagtegaal, 38, at Albumprinter – a photo-book company acquired by Vistaprint for €65 million (£54.5 million) in 2011. Peecho connects websites to a network of 2D print facilities (3D is in the pipeline). This means most of its 2,000 clients across Europe and the US are digital publishers, museums and corporates that need bespoke printing across the world with short, high-quality print runs on demand. A fee of €50 (£41) per month secures the basic Simple Print Service, with an embeddable button for sites that operates with one click. Revenue comes from the profit margin on each job.

2. Skynrg

Stadhouderskade 140, 1074 BA

SkyNRG is the only biofuels supplier to the airline industry to guarantee RSB-certified sustainable biofuels to aircraft at any airport in the world. In 2009, former KLM VP of business innovation Dirk Kronemeijer, 39 (above), joined with sustainability consultants Spring Associates and fuel-distribution giant Argos North Sea Group, and began feasibility studies for its cooking-oil-based fuel. The company is in discussions with several airlines and, in April 2013, Virgin Australia and Brisbane airport began a study into building
a “bio-port” in collaboration with SkyNRG.

3. Silk

Spuistraat 239-3, 1012 VP

One of the few Dutch startups to raise money from a prominent Silicon Valley VC, Silk has grown significantly since it was last featured in wired. A funding round in August 2012 raised $1.6 million (£986,000), mainly from New Enterprise Associates — which has backed Salesforce, Groupon and TiVo. A full relaunch followed in April 2013 — Silk now allows users to build pages around their passions, as do most other blogging platforms, but it adds data-search functions for users and visitors alike.

Ones to watch

4. Adyen

Simon Carmiggeltstraat 6-50, 1011 DJ

When US crowdfunding site Indiegogo started taking payments in international currencies at the end of 2012, it picked the Amsterdam startup Adyen to handle its online payments. This topped a successful year for the company: in 2012 Adyen processed more than $10 billion (£6 billion) in payment transactions worldwide.

5. Squla

Panamalaan 5N, 1019 AS

Squla offers quizzes, games and instruction movies for usage at home to support the Dutch primary school curriculum. Around 50,000 childeren use Squla’s virtual testing tools and national testing agency Cito has signed a content deal. Squla offers parents a monthly subscription model. An initial angel round of $540.000 (£332,000) was followed in May 2013 by RTL Ventures.

6. Fashiolista

Bloemgracht 20, 1015 TJ

Fashiolista is a platform for sharing fashion “finds”. Using links to Facebook and Twitter, members can follow friends, magazines and designers. With over 1.5 million registered members in 160 countries, Fashiolista visitors make 25 million page views a month. Revenues for 2012 are projected to be €3 million.

7. Greenclouds

Aert van Nesstraat 45, 3012 CA

Greenclouds helps to maximise spare capacity on cloud servers. The challenge for data centres is their large use of large power, says CEO Peter Zonneveld, 43. Greenclouds buys and sells surplus power and profits from the arbitrage.

8. 3D Hubs

Vijzelstraat 79, 1017 HG Amsterdam

3D Hubs is a platform connecting 3D-printer owners — or hubs — with local people who need something printed. There are just 15 such hubs in Amsterdam and 400 production locations spread over 100 cities receiving an average of ten orders per day/per city. With 100,000 3D printers sold globally, founders Bram De Zwart, 30, and Brian Garret, 27, hope for rapid growth.

9. Wercker

Lauriergracht 116z, 1026 RR

Wercker helps developers test and deploy code. It uses a social-networking element so updates can flow and teams can see who’s doing what with a high degree of transparency. It aims to slot between the likes of GitHub and Bitbucket — where source code is stored for developers to collaborate – and also Heroku and Amazon Web Services — where it’s deployed.

10. Bottlenose

Singel 540, Singel

For brands, keeping track of social-network trends is complex — like maintaining multiple conversations. Bottlenose thinks it’s fixed this. The social-media search and analytics company pulls together real-time updates from all connected accounts with a dashboard showing key topics. Public beta is free but later roll-outs will include professional subscription offers.


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