Why did you apply to Young on Board?
I care a lot about the region and I think there are fantastic opportunities for Amsterdam that are currently unused. Amsterdam is the only European city on the mainland where expats really know how to speak English and we have a relatively well-functioning bureaucracy. In addition, the Randstad, with nearly 10 million people, is not inferior to London or Paris – and that with a measurably better quality of life and a more diverse economy. But at the same time, our economy is too dependent on trade and globalization. Innovation lags behind ( we’ve only become 10% more productive since 1990 ), wages have stagnated for years (de shrunk by more than a third in the past 15 years ) and we are building too few homes, causing house prices to rise.
These problems are mainly related to a general lack of innovation and ambition. This lack comes to the fore when you look at the world I am in and where most solutions should ultimately come from, namely the start-up community. This is not necessarily an Amsterdam problem. You can see this throughout Europe. I hope that in Amsterdam we can make a start on a new impulse for innovation. From Young on Board I want to convince other members of the Amsterdam Economic Board of the urgency of our problems in the field of innovation and encourage them to think bigger and more ambitiously.
What would you like to work on with the Board?
I am convinced that regions can only flourish in the coming decades if they move away from globalization and focus more on innovation. If we continue to pursue a financial trade economy as it stands, we will spread old ways of development around the world that result not in value creation, but in destruction and pollution. In the end, startups are the only ones that can really bring us technological innovation – free from slow corporate processes and political hassle.
I would like to work with the Board on this switch from globalization to innovation for the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area. The beginning is already there. At the moment, our region is the forerunner in effectively combating globalized mass tourism, we have ambitious sustainability goals, we have succeeded in attracting international tech companies to Amsterdam and we have success in innovation with Dutch companies such as Adyen. Now is the time to pursue this with much more ambition. For that we need a government that is committed to serious economic growth and a different mindset that puts innovation first. And above all, more smart capital for entrepreneurs.
How do you see the region in five years?
In five years’ time, I hope that we have successfully made the switch from globalization to innovation. The tech scene is flourishing. Not only successful fintech and software companies have been added, but also serious hardware startups that can grow up to ASML level. As a result, it has been possible to achieve an average of 5% economic growth per year for the region, which is reflected in the income of the inhabitants. Furthermore, through deregulation of housing construction, we have been able to do something about the tightness on the housing market – as far as I am concerned, the whole of Amsterdam north, for example, can go to the fifty floors. Students no longer dream of a comfortable job at KLM or ING, but want to join the new wave of entrepreneurs, products and services made in Amsterdam .
How do we get there? It seems to me that we need several innovative tech unicorns (valued at more than € 1 billion) per year to get serious and sustainable economic growth. That should be the starting point.
What would you like to change?
To produce those unicorns I would fully commit to more smart capital for entrepreneurs. Our local start-up and innovation community is a complex system that is difficult to manage or control. Fortunately, we do see that there is something that is structurally bearing fruit: new tech multi-millionaires who use their capital for a new generation of young entrepreneurs. Bee Deedmob we have come across just about all forms of financing in recent years and the best investors are those who know what it’s like to build a business in the 21st century. Entrepreneurs who invest in entrepreneurs bring not only money, but also knowledge and, above all, ambition. Zuidas types who also want to play venture capitalist and subsidy programs you want to keep at a distance. That is not smart capital.
Amsterdam therefore needs more new multi-millionaires quickly. Left Amsterdam may not be happy about it, but this is nothing new. The Golden Bend was also not built by old nobles but by new money. We have to be inspired by this. If we want a new cultural equivalent of the Golden Bend with all the progress that goes along with it, it will have to be built by new money that comes from scalable innovation.
There is a logical way to make these new millionaires and that is with more exits and thus liquidity for entrepreneurs. We have a liquidity problem for startups in Europe. In the US, corporates are much more eager to buy startups than in Europe, in order to bring in the sought-after talent. There is also a big difference in the types of investors in startups between Europe and the US. If our pension funds invest more in startups (65% of the money in venture capital in America versus 18% in Europe), as major shareholders of our corporates they could also encourage us to make more acquisitions of startups. These are just a few ideas. Ultimately, we need major corporates to change their thinking about buying startups.
How do you look at the challenges the Board focuses on?
The challenges that appeal to me the most are Talent of the Future and Digital Connectivity . Without good education and a good business climate for talent, we will not succeed in becoming an innovation-driven economy. I find it interesting to see that in interviews for Deedmob we speak to people from all over the world who want to come to Europe and specifically choose Amsterdam. Nowadays these are often people who come for the quality of life and, for example, have a family, but we also increasingly see ambitious people in their twenties who prefer Amsterdam over London.
How can we connect young changemakers even more to the network of the Board?
Visibility and communication are essential. I didn’t know Young on Board when I saw the call for new members. By sharing more about our work and showing our results, we get closer to ambitious people in the region.
This is part 3 in a series of interviews with new Young on Board members. Curious about our other new members?
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Young on Board is a member of the Amsterdam Economic Board and thus forms the link between young changemakers and experienced decision-makers. Young people look, think and work differently. While the older generation has the connections, knowledge, experience and realization power.
By bringing both together, inspiration is created on both sides, and innovative plans can be realized. For example, they work together on the economic growth and quality of life of the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area. Every quarter Young on Board focuses on a specific challenge that the Board is working on.