How to set up a startup business in the Netherlands

Published by:
Netherlands Chamber of Commerce, KVK
Netherlands Chamber of Commerce, KVK
Immigration and Naturalisation Service, IND
Immigration and Naturalisation Service, IND
Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy, EZK
Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy, EZK
Netherlands Enterprise Agency, RVO
Netherlands Enterprise Agency, RVO
6 min read

Do you want to launch an innovative company, a so-called startup business, in the Netherlands? The Dutch startup programme includes support from organisations in setting up shop in the Netherlands, and a range of incubator and accelerator programmes. Find out what steps you need to follow.

What is a startup?

A startup is not just any starting business. To give a short definition: a startup is a business that translates an innovative idea into a scaleable and generic product or service, using new technology. Scaleable and generic means that the product or service is developed and produced once, and can be sold over and over again. Not customising your product or service for each new client makes your product or service cheaper and easier.

The steps below help you setting up your company. EU citizens can proceed to step 3.

Step 1: Apply for a Dutch residence permit for foreign startups

The Dutch residence permit for foreign startups is a special one-year residence permit for ambitious non-EU entrepreneurs who want to launch an startup business in the Netherlands. Check if you are qualified for a residence permit for foreign startups, and apply.

At the end of the year, you can continue running your startup business under the self-employment scheme.

If you plan to start doing business in the Netherlands, you will also need to have or apply for a business bank account (IBAN). The Dutch Banking Association has created a Quick Scan to help you find out if you are eligible. Read how it works.

Step 2: Find startup funding

Startup funding is an important issue for starting and growing businesses. For startups, there are several government funding options that you could try to apply for. Check out the Startup Boxto find out which option suits you best.

You can also try to interest banks in giving you a loan, or convince investors to invest in your product or service in exchange for a share in your business — this is called equity. Business angels may be willing to fund your ideas; you could set up a crowdfunding project; or apply for funding from a regional development company or venture capital fund.

Be creative and approach your investors in time, pitching a well-thought-out business and financial plan.

Step 3: Find a startup facilitator

One of the requirements for obtaining a Dutch residence permit for foreign startups, is working together with a business mentor, a facilitator. This cooperation must be officially established in a (signed) agreement between the startup entrepreneur and the facilitator. The facilitator must have experience in guiding innovative startups. The facilitator provides the entrepreneur with a tailor-made package of support dependent on the specific needs of the startup.

For the self-employment scheme a facilitator is not required, but you do have to submit several supporting documents, including a thorough business plan, proof of income and education.

Step 4: Choose a business location

Choosing a location is perhaps the most important decision a startup business has to make. The Netherlands has a large variation of workspaces, incubators, startup facilitators, accelerators, and other buildings available for startups. See the company and investor map.

In certain premises or locations zoning regulations stipulate which types of business may be conducted. Contact the local authorities to find out how areas have been zoned or premises have been designated for business usage.

Step 5: Register with your local council

To identify yourself or get access to authorities you have to register at your local council's Municipal Personal Records Database (Basisregistratie Personen, BRP). Most towns offer online registration; check the website of your town of residence to find out how to register. You will receive a citizen service number (burgerservicenummer, BSN) once you've registered with your local council, or if you're a non-resident once you've recorded your details in the Non Residents Records Database (registratie niet-ingezetenen, RNI). Registering is free of charge and you need to make an appointment.

Need help with your residence permit application or local council registration? Call one of the Netherlands' expat centers. They can be of assistance with all these personal and/or family-related matters. Be aware that some expat centers charge a fee for their services.

Step 6: Register your startup company

To register your company in the Netherlands, you will need to make an appointment with the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce (Kamer van Koophandel or KVK), or use the services of a notary. This will depend on the type of legal business structure you've chosen for your business. Once you've registered, KVK will forward your details to the Netherlands Tax Administration (Belastingdienst) so that they can issue you with a VAT number.

Step 7: Open a business account and a personal bank account

To handle financial business transactions in the Netherlands you will need a Dutch business bank account. There are around 60 banks active in the Netherlands. Leading banks in the Netherlands are ABN AMRO, ING, and Rabobank.

Are you already in the process of registering with the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce (KVK) and obtaining a residence permit? And are you receiving assistance from the NFIA or from another facilitator? In that case you can take the NVB Quick Scan ‘Dutch Business Bank Account’. The bank of your choice (ABN AMRO, ING, or Rabobank) will let you know within 5 working days if you are eligible to apply for an IBAN business bank account. This only applies if you are not from a country inside the SEPA zone.

Besides a business account, you will also need a personal bank account. For non-EU residents, your citizen service number (BSN), an extract of your business registration and your residence permit is required when opening a personal bank account.

Step 8: Arrange your personal and family matters

Settling in the Netherlands will also raise many questions about personal and family matters. Such as:

Where to go for support

This step-by-step plan should help you get started. You can also make use of the Dutch startup ecosystem to find organisations that will help you.

  • Several local and regional organisations offer mentoring and coaching. Another option is finding an existing company to co-found your startup. For instance, if you want to develop a product but lack the equipment to do so, you can try to team up with a company that does have the equipment.
  • The Netherlands Point of Entry has been set up specifically for international startups and scale-ups to help them find their feet in the Netherlands.
  • Is your startup a tech company? Then you can explore the Dutch tech ecosystem with guidance from They offer programs and links to startup funding and mentoring, and a Finder to help you find what you are looking for. Please note: the Finder does not work in all browsers. They also offer a ScienceFinder (beta) that can help you find publications and scientific expertise on topics that interest you.

Other options for highly educated and highly skilled persons

The Netherlands offers several other types of visa besides the residence permit for foreign startups. Graduates and researchers may be able to apply for a residence permit for orietnation year. Or, if you will be working as an employee, take advantage of the highly skilled migrant scheme. If you are recruiting personnel, becoming a recognised sponsor has several benefits.

Questions relating to this article?

Please contact the Startup Information Desk, KVK