One of the best things about working with Startups is their way of thinking. Their mindset of thinking in possibilities. Every day we meet great examples in the Netherlands and abroad. The startup vibe is contagious, to say the least. It is all about how to make things work and to innovate. How to speed up, be flexible, absorb experiences and ideas and improve yourself. About connecting the new dots and disconnecting the old dots. About daring to take risks.
Recently a publication (Originals: How non-conformists move the world, by Adam Grant) showed how successful entrepreneurs like Larry Page, Elon Musk and Jack Dorsey dealt with failure. They explained that they shared the fear of failure with most people. They just responded to the whole phenomenon differently. They weren't so much scared of failing because they were taking risks. They were scared of missing out on opportunities and not taking the risk. Failing to try was what caused them nightmares. You have to arrive, before others do, and make the difference. That is the drive. Never give up, learn fast and find new ways.
Seizing opportunities and risk taking go together. It is about stepping out of your comfort zone, because new challenges require different responses. Our society is surrounded by challenges. Churchill once said: If you don't take change by the hand, it will grab you by the throat. He couldn't be more right. Not only then, during the dark times of the WW2, but even more so now. When focusing on innovation and startups we see the effects of responding (too) late in the travel industry, telecom sector and many other industrial branches who could be witnessing their Kodak moment if they do not react and adapt rapidly. There are huge opportunities everywhere, looking at sustainability, healthcare, mobility and many other sectors.
That is why from StartupDelta, together with the Erasmus University of Rotterdam and VNO/NCW we are working together on establishing a frontrunners group of corporates, who have the ambition and vision to work closely with startups in their organization and business models. We invite them to speed up their learning curve. Introduce best-practices; define clearly when it is a success and evolve the models further. We also challenge them to appoint a CSO – Chief Startup Officer – on board level. Change has to come from within and has to be supported by the top-level. Corporates, with their vast networks and experience can play a major role in strengthening the innovation ecosystem, when cooperating closely with startups. Dutch "home grown" corporates like KPN, DSM, AkzoNobel, Philips, ASML, Unilever, and ING are playing an increasingly important role in this. Very soon we will announce more news on this topic.
A very good example of responding swiftly to change by the government is also the appointment of a Willem Vermeend as Special Envoy for FinTech, this week, by the Dutch Ministers of Finance and Economic Affairs. Neelie had suggested this idea herself to both Ministers as well as during a meeting with the Prime Minister and FinTech startups, and in her speech at the VNB, looking at the rapid developments in London and Dublin, but also in Tel Aviv and Silicon Valley. When she mentioned the forthcoming appointment to Marc Andreessen last week, Marc responded enthusiastically: "Send him over"!
It is all about seizing the opportunity. Silicon Valley is extremely open to this and effective. Speeding up the pace, being open to more cooperation and curiosity driven. The best ecosystems unveil themselves by taking change not just by the hand, but grabbing it by the arm, so to say.
Why a Special Envoy for FinTech, when you already have a Special Envoy for Startups? StartupDelta is about making changes in the system on a general structural level and linking up the Netherlands to the major players and ecosystems in the world. For instance by proposing changes in our tax system which benefit startups and investors in general. Some opportunities, with a great sense of urgency, however, require special expertise. Like the FinTech sector. We will definitely visit Marc Andreesen with Our new FinTech Envoy and with reason. The Netherlands has both a strong financial sector, as well as being a frontrunner in new technologies and successful business models; merely look at our unicorn Adyen and for instance Bunq, Symbid and Leapfunder. We need to create regulatory space; attract investments and combine opportunities in this field with all the main players. Holland Fintech is doing a great job in creating awareness and also parliament, about two weeks ago showed great interest in this topic. It is time to act. In the UK they know how to play this game in an excellent manner with initiatives like Level 39, the Sandbox and very active involvement of the government. FinTech requires special expertise and a specialized team that can move forward very rapidly for the next one and a half year. Seize the opportunity! We welcome the rapid response by both Ministers and welcome Willem Vermeend and looking forward to cooperation! Let's not be formalistic about two Special Envoys and their missions. Let's be pragmatic and proactive! Make the difference, seize opportunities and enjoy taking risks!
Neelie Kroes, Special Envoy for Startups
Sigrid Johannisse, director StartupDelta