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You want to start a business, and you have an innovative idea. If your business idea meets the criteria for a startup, you stand a greater chance of securing support and financing. So how does it work? What is a startup, and which routes are available?
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.
Do I have to be on my own?
You can found the startup on your own, or you can enlist the help of one or more co-founders. Depending on how you choose to go forward, you will have to choose a legal form of business.
I need help
Starting any business is a daunting prospect. You will do well to ask advice from more experienced partners. There are several local and regional organisations that offer mentoring and coaching. If you come from outside the EU, you can benefit from the Orange Carpet treatment and the Dutch startup visa.
Another option open to you 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 TechLeap.nl. They offer programs and links to funding and mentoring, and a Finder to help you find what you are looking for. N.B.: 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.
I need money
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 Box to find out which option suits you best.
You can also try to interest banks in giving you a loan, or 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.
There are also networking and financing events that you can attend. One of the major ones is the Amsterdam Capital Week, which takes place yearly in September on several locations in and around Amsterdam.
Don't ask for too little money - think big and think ahead. Where do you want your company to be in five years' time, and what will it take to get there? Also, don't be afraid to say 'no' to an investor, if you feel you don't have a match and have to comprimise too much - it might cause problems later if you ignore this.
For more tips and tricks on finding investors, read the short blog by KVK Entrepreneurial Financing Expert Martijn Lentz.
Follow the rules
A few more tips:
- Before you invest in costly prototypes for your product, make sure you have validated your idea. That way, you will have a more sound basis for financing as well.
- However great the temptation may be to start diversifying straight away, don't give in to it until you have built a solid base for your company from your core product or service.
- Identify all potential markets for your product or service, and choose the one that is easiest to start approaching. That way, you will build your company to be ready for other markets as well.
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