Fostering Diversity and Inclusion in the Dutch Startup Ecosystem

Sep 25, 2023

The word inclusion written with colorful wooden blocks for children

Hello, it’s Jeremiah (Tobi) again! It is my turn to write a lovely blog post, and I would like to write about something that makes the Madglove Amsterdam founding team click so well together. Yes, you guessed right it’s: Diversity and Inclusion

Although this wasn’t even a remote thought when the founding team came together, this has helped us grow in multifaceted ways through our ideas and approach to challenges we have faced as a growing company. The Madglove team’s nationalities span multiple continents with very different traditional backgrounds, not to mention our gender diversity. All this to say that the Dutch Start-up Ecosystem has been great for us! Let’s dive a bit deeper…

The Dutch start-up ecosystem has been making waves on the global stage and is known for its innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurial spirit. However, diversity and inclusion have been ongoing challenges, as with many tech ecosystems worldwide. In this blog post, we’ll explore the importance of diversity and inclusion in the Dutch start-up scene, the current situation, and initiatives aimed at fostering a more diverse and inclusive environment.

The Business Case for Diversity and Inclusion

Before diving into the specifics of the Dutch start-up ecosystem, it’s essential to understand why diversity and inclusion matter in the first place. Research consistently shows that diverse teams and inclusive workplaces improve business outcomes. Madalina brought an incredible idea and invention to three, who became four. In the last two years, we have grown remarkably with regard to product generation and business strategy (of course, with incredible support from excellent ambassadors). Here are some key reasons why I think our diversity and inclusivity have helped:

  1. Innovation. We bring various perspectives, experiences, and ideas to the table. This diversity of thought is a breeding ground for innovation, leading to the development of what we believe will be a ground-breaking product and an impactful solution.
  2. Market Access. In an increasingly globalised world, our diverse team is better equipped to understand and tap into diverse markets using our backgrounds as launching pads, relating to a broader range of customers, potentially leading to increased market share.
  3. Talent Attraction and Retention. Inclusive workplaces are more appealing to a broader range of talent. Start-ups that prioritise diversity are more likely to attract and retain top-notch employees. I feel more comfortable working with traditionally diverse colleagues; it is more engaging and socially rewarding.
  4. Risk Mitigation. For our mission, identifying and addressing potential blind spots or risks of our wide-ranging audience is crucial, and our diversity helps us navigate that well.
  5. Legal and Ethical Considerations. Many countries, including the Netherlands, have anti-discrimination laws. Complying with these laws is not only ethical but also a legal requirement.

The Current Landscape in the Dutch Start-up Ecosystem

The Dutch start-up ecosystem, centred around cities like Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and Eindhoven, has grown significantly over the past decade. However, diversity and inclusion in this ecosystem have yet to catch up. Let’s examine the current situation:

  1. Gender Imbalance. Like many tech ecosystems, the Dutch start-up scene has a gender imbalance. Women are underrepresented in both founding and leadership roles. Initiatives like “Female Ventures,” “Fem-Start,” and “TheNextWomen” have aimed to address this issue by providing support and networking opportunities for female entrepreneurs.

Madalina has been selected as one of 15 pre-finalists for the Dutch Fem-Start Up Awards

Truly deserved, she is a game-changer!

  1. Lack of Ethnic Diversity. Dutch start-ups have also been criticised for their lack of ethnic diversity. There’s a need for more inclusivity and opportunities for entrepreneurs from diverse ethnic backgrounds. Note that this is not only with start-ups but in the general corporate system. Initiatives like “New Dutch Wave” seek to promote diversity in the Dutch start-up ecosystem on a global scale.
  2. Inclusive Leadership. While there are exceptions, many start-ups still need inclusive leadership and policies. To truly foster diversity, inclusion should be embedded in the culture of a company, starting from the top.
  3. Access to Funding. Access to funding can be more challenging for underrepresented founders. Venture capital firms in the Netherlands are increasingly recognizing this issue and are working to support diverse start-ups. Big up to the student-focused Academic Angel Fund!

Initiatives Promoting Diversity and Inclusion

Despite these challenges, there’s a growing recognition of the need to promote diversity and inclusion within the Dutch start-up ecosystem. Several initiatives and organisations are leading the way:

  1. This organisation is committed to making the Netherlands the best place in Europe to start and scale tech companies. They actively promote diversity and inclusion in their programs and partnerships. Great work by Constantijn Van Oranje-Nassau, who is as much a lovely character as he is a pioneer.
  2. Start-up in Residence. A program by the Dutch government, Start-up in Residence, encourages start-ups to develop innovative solutions to societal challenges, focusing on diversity and inclusion.
  3. TheNextWomen. This community of female entrepreneurs provides support, access to capital, and a network for women looking to start or scale their businesses.
  4. The New Dutch Wave. This initiative aims to showcase Dutch creative, tech, and entrepreneurial talent globally. It emphasises diversity as a core value.
  5. Investor Pledges. Some venture capital firms in the Netherlands have signed diversity pledges, committing to invest in more diverse founders and leadership teams.
  6. Educational Initiatives. Universities and educational institutions in the Netherlands are also taking steps to encourage diversity in entrepreneurship by offering programs and resources for underrepresented groups.

Going Forward

While there’s progress being made, fostering diversity and inclusion in the Dutch start-up ecosystem is an ongoing journey. Here are some critical steps for the road ahead:

  1. Data Collection. Start-ups and organisations should collect data on diversity metrics to measure progress accurately. This data can help identify areas that need improvement.
  2. Education and Awareness. Education and awareness programs should be implemented to address unconscious bias and promote inclusive behaviour.
  3. Access to Capital. Continued efforts to ensure that underrepresented founders have access to funding are crucial. This includes support from venture capital firms and angel investors.
  4. Inclusive Leadership. Encouraging start-ups to have diverse boards and leadership teams can set a tone of inclusivity for the entire organisation.
  5. Collaboration. Collaboration between start-ups, corporations, educational institutions, and government bodies is vital in creating a more inclusive ecosystem.

In conclusion, I have met and engaged with many incredibly talented and diverse start-up founders with incredible missions and diverse mentors who have inspired me personally and the Madglove team. The Dutch start-up ecosystem has immense potential, but diversity and inclusion must be at the forefront to fully realise it. The efforts of organisations, government bodies, and individuals are beginning to reshape the landscape, but there’s still work to be done. The Dutch start-up ecosystem can become a shining example of diversity and inclusion in innovation with continued commitment and collaboration.