The key takeaways of the 2021 Summit

2000+ attendees, 13 different interactive sessions throughout 3 days, and more than 350 one-to-one sessions with Techleapers - this is 2021 Summit in a nutshell. Our 2021 Summit was filled with inspiring deep dives on access to capital, talent, technology, and markets with the best business and governmental leaders. In case you’ve missed any of the summit’s open sessions, we’ve compiled a summary of key learnings per session that you can easily scan through:

1. Opening session: The State of Dutch Tech

The opening session was kicked off by the State of Dutch Tech presentation, held by Constantijn van Oranje, and was followed by Mark Rutte and Mona Keijzer’s speeches on the importance of the tech industry and on scaling the Dutch tech ecosystem. Two panel discussions ensued featuring renowned speakers, such as: Pieter van der Does (Co-founder / CEO @ Adyen), Adriaan Mol (Founder @ Mollie / Co-Founder @ MessageBird), Femke Halsema (Mayor of Amsterdam), and many more!


Startups are an integral part of the future of our economy and our success as a country.

Constantijn van Oranje - Special Envoy at

Key highlights:

  • The Netherlands needs to attract more talent, increase (VC) investments in startups, and turn more research into a commercial success.
  • The Netherlands is ready to scale its ecosystem, we all need to work together to make it happen. Collaboration is key.
  • The ratio of companies that get to the scaleup phase is consistently too low - at less than 2%, but the good news is we have a good pool with the potential to reach unicorn status.
  • 2020 was another record year for investment in the Dutch startup ecosystem - with over €1.8 billion raised. Healthtech and enterprise software have attracted the most capital last year.
  • Dutch startups account for over 100,000 jobs. Startups are a massive job engine for the Netherlands.
  • The Netherlands ranks #3 in Europe for combined ecosystem value, just behind the UK and Germany.
  • The Netherlands lags behind in deep-tech investments;
  • The Netherlands’ challenge is to increase investments and keep investments within the borders;
  • 94% of partners at VC firms are male;
  • It is important that tech development is seen as one of first priorities in the coming years. Tech and data innovation must be at the forefront of the economy of the Amsterdam region.
  • We need to step up our educational system, especially around AI. We need to welcome talent from outside but we also need to improve the education system here, as there will be big tech shortages in the coming years.

Some key quotes:

Pieter van der Does when asked which were his biggest learnings from establishing two businesses: "Keep investments and share structure simple. Avoid rights, no board seats and give each investor the same terms”;

Femke Halsema"Covid showed the weakness in the Amsterdam economy and its dependence on foreign visitors. It's very important that it's not only Amsterdam but also Amsterdam regions that are seeking tech development as one of its first priorities for the coming years.";
Adriaan Mol when asked about his key learnings from running his businesses: "Bootstrap early but dare to think bigger. Earlier VC investment would have allowed Mollie to scale faster.";

Ineke Kooistra when asked what can be done to diversify the talent pool in the Netherlands: "It's important to look closely at your own employees' interests. It might be the case that some of them would be interested in developing their tech skills. And this way you can train tech specialists internally.";

Watch the video where Constantijn van Oranje is highlighting the current state of the tech landscape in the Netherlands and the potential future direction of the startup ecosystem.

2. Talent: Inclusive leadership teams

This session started with a ‘Ted-talk’ by Anje-Marijcke (Organisational psychologist, executive (team) coach in business and sports) and was followed by an interactive panel discussion about inclusion and diversity in the workplace with our special guests: Kyang Yung (Junior Partner @ Inkef Capital), Matthijs Keij (Chief Executive Officer @ Withlocals), Ivonne Bojoh (xTech Strategist | Start-up Mentor).


Leadership behaviour is contagious, set an example.

Anje-Marijcke - organisational psychologist, executive (team) coach in business and sports

Key highlights:

  • Diversity and inclusion needs the attention of top-level management; 
  • Founders are by default mostly focused on their product, so they need to make a conscious decision to also focus on diversity and inclusion (D&I);
  • Build a team identity that will make diversity work;
  • The process of creating D&I within your team might be awkward and challenging - that's when you know you’re making progress;
  • Diversity comes in many shapes: biological and ethnical, but also cognitive and experimental. Work with all of them.

Some key quotes: 

Anje-Marijcke van Boxtel:

  • “It’s not easy to make the whole spectrum of diversity work”;
  • “Don’t create the culture where employers only say what the leader wants to hear”;

Kyang Yung
: “It would be powerful if leadership teams pause and listen”;

Matthijs Keij: “Start by acknowledging that diversity is important”;

Ivonne Bojoh: “Diversity sets you up for success in the future”;


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3. Global Expansion Masterclass

How do you prepare yourself to scale globally? What are the best practices of successful expansion abroad? How can help Dutch companies scale in other countries? Within this session, successful entrepreneurs and expansion experts, such as: Marleen Vogelaar (Founder and CEO @ Ziel), Francois Mazoudier (Serial tech entrepreneur, investor, advisor), John Aalbers (Technology CEO, Non-Executive Director and Investor), and Wibe van de Vijver (Markets domain lead @ have discussed the challenges and opportunities of scaling abroad. A panel moderated by Peter Gillingwater followed up next. Peter introduced the new global expansion programme - Compass - which aims to help selected Dutch companies to scale abroad.


The Netherlands is a relatively small market, so Dutch founders need to think internationally from day one.

Wibe van den Vijver - Markets domain lead at

Key highlights:

  • The Netherlands is a small market, founders need to scale internationally; 
  • You should have a talent strategy in place;
    • Use local talent. This will ensure the right culture is in place locally. 
  • Do your research on the new market:
    • How business is done in this country;
    • Which local competitors you will face;
    • Do you have potential customers in that country;
    • Study the employment and fiscal legislation
  • Access to capital is key when expanding globally - there is an increasing amount of capital required to scale quickly;
  • VC money can help accelerate your company and comes with fantastic connections. But it is never free. It comes with the responsibility of getting an ROI for the investors.
  • Understanding what you are looking for is the first important call. Every market is different.
  • How will you hire? it’s not always easy as a foreign entity. Have a process, have a timeline. Don’t be opportunistic.
  • Your talent strategy needs to be aligned with the factors/criteria that will allow you to become successful in that market.
  • When choosing a new market: start thinking about the ideal characteristics of your ideal customer. Validate that those customers exist in those countries. You must be sure that you can win multiple customers in a new country.
    • You need to understand what your competitors are doing and how the business is done in that country.

    Some key quotes:

    John Aalbers: "9/10 times you are better off taking a strategic approach when going global." 

    Francois Mazoudier: "There are three questions that you should be able to answer to yourself when deciding to internationalise:"

    • "Do you really have a PMF startup?"
    • "Are you well prepared for it?"
    • "Do you have the team for it?"

    "Having funding in place before you go international is critical. Investors are investing in companies that they think are going to scale very quickly." 

    Zoe Spicer: when asked what should entrepreneurs consider when entering a new market & hiring talent locally: "Have a timeline. Have a process and be clear about which kind of talent you want to have, avoid hiring opportunistically".

    Peter Gillingwater (CEO @ Newfound)

    "Every company has a unique international journey, the Compass programme is designed for your company individually"

    4. Live Q&A with Constantijn van Oranje (Instagram)

    During this 30-min Q&A session hosted via’s Instagram, Constantijn van Oranje answered your questions about the Dutch ecosystem.


    Here are a few of Constantijn's quotes from the session:

    “We have a strong domestic VC base that we want to build upon in order to bring capital to the best startups”

    “More diversity will produce better businesses”

    “Our startups are relatively undervalued, our ticket sizes are small. This means there is a lot of opportunity to invest in the Netherlands”

    “We really want startups to be able to offer share options under a good fiscal regime. So we are working with the government to improve legislation here.”

    You can watch the full replay of the live session on our IGTV. You can find us on Instagram at @techleapnl.

    5. Are you ready to rise?

    In this session held by Katja Berkhout (General Manager, Fliteboard Europe), you could explore if Rise is a programme for you. Diane Janknegt (Founder & CEO, Wizenoze) has shared her experience and learnings as a Rise participant, while Joe Wilson (Entrepreneur in residence @ provided more information on what the programme entails and what applicants can expect from it.


    Rise is the rocket fuel that sends you into orbit.

    Joe Wilson - entrepreneur in residence at

    Key highlights:

    • Founders in the scaleup phase move from one challenge to another. Only other fellow founders really know what you’re going through. Rise selects founders with similar pains to help each other throughout the programme course. 
    • Giving away C-titles too early in the process is a big challenge that many founders face.
    • Rise programme:
      • Rise brings founders who share similar experiences and challenges together for learning & knowledge-sharing purposes. 
      • Interaction, vulnerability and sharing challenges with founders at various stages mark the strength of the programme. 
      • doesn’t charge anything for being part of the programme, there is no equity taken, but we wish for you to give back and co-create opportunities in the ecosystem later on. We are building a community platform so we bring everyone together to stay connected after the programme. 

    Some key quotes:

    Diane Janknegt:

    • “Of course, you know best how to run your business, but you have to be open to advice from other founders”
    • “Vulnerability shown by Dutch icons like Pieter van der Does and Michiel Muller was eye-opening to me, they are very passionate about scaling a business and willing to help the next generation” 
    • “The strength of the network is everything you need. The team at Techleap has access to high-level connections you wouldn’t have yourself ” 
    • “Meeting incredible founders in Batch #1 and then later in Batch #2 was one of the highlights. Discussing common themes helped me to run an organisation in a more mature way.” 

    Joe Wilson

    • “Leadership needs to be vulnerable and willing to learn in order to participate in and benefit from Rise”
    • “Our entrepreneurs in residence and experts will spend 1:1 time with each scaleup to give them individual feedback on the main challenges they face, along with the group sessions with our scale icons”

    6. Capital: Funding Masterclass by Serial Fundraisers

    This masterclass aimed at presenting how various CFOs, such as Claire Tange (Head of Finance @ Dance), Eli van Goudoever (CFO @ ZIVVER), and Wijnand van de Calseijde (CFO @ Virtuagym) have dealt with the highs and lows of fundraising as well as how you can optimally prepare to secure the right amount of capital from the right investors.


    A warm intro is 10x better than a cold email. Use your network!

    Claire Tange - Head of Finance at Dance

    Key learnings:

    • How you raise series A without repeatable traction: 
      • Put stress on the fact that your market is immature;
      • Build a very strong story on the business case in the future (growth & potential, sell the dream);
      • Learn from your customers. This way you can optimise your pipeline and better understand to whom you sell and how;
    • A warm intro is 10x better than a cold email. Use your network!
    • Make sure you know who the potential buyers and sellers (of your shares) are. Your current investors can help you find out who are the right investors to speak to.
    • Find the investors that match your funding needs and funding type;
    • The must-have financial slides in Series A deck:
      • Sell the dream: potential to grow fast, business model that can lead to huge profitability;
      • Team slide: they need to believe you are the team that can make it happen;
      • Financial slide: what you are going to do with the money that you raise (hire X many people that will bring me to Y level);
    • COVID-19 hasn’t impacted the investment process, and investors will understand your specific situation. Do not let the pandemic hold you back in raising funds. 
    • The investors in the Netherlands are too risk-averse. Average ticket size is 500k euro. 

    7. Closing session: “How to scale like a champion”

    The closing session was dedicated to the topic of blitzscaling. Reid Hoffman (Partner @ Greylock) and Chris Yeh (Founding Partner @ Blitzscaling Ventures) have shared their secrets of achieving massive business scale at incredible speed. Additionally, Kat Borlongan (Director @ La French Tech) has explained how the French tech ecosystem is engineered. 


    If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you've launched too late.

    Reid Hoffman - Partner at Greylock

    Key Learnings:

    • Roughly 20% of investment is external (coming outside France) within the French tech ecosystem.
    • The French Startup Visa facilitates easier tech immigration to France: the only criteria for getting this visa is having a salary that equals twice the social income. 
    • You need to take risk intelligently in order to be successful and outdo your competition. 
    • Choose speed over efficiency - start scaling even if you are not ready;
    • Start off with D&I right from the beginning, when scaling it will become much more difficult. 
    • Your hires need to have some basic skills, but mostly need to be really fast learners. That will make your D&I easier too. 
    • Get knowledgeable and experienced investors on board, and make sure the investors are not looking to run your company, but only to support it. 
    • It’s extremely important to define the culture in your company during the early stages. You should also understand that it will evolve over time with every hire you make. It's your job to make sure the culture stays effective.

    Some key quotes:

    Chris Yeh:

    • “While it is risky to scale, there are circumstances that make it even riskier not to scale.”
    • “If you allow a competitor to scale, you will lose a market for a long time.” 
    • “When you just start off, it's relatively easy to build a diverse team. Later on, this will become more difficult.” 
    • “Culture evolves through the people you hire, your new hires can bring new thoughts and capabilities.”

    Reid Hoffman: 

    • “Entrepreneurship is how we create the jobs of the future.”
    • "If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you've launched too late.”
    • “My mission is to do interesting things with interesting people, and those are entrepreneurs.” 
    • “Blitzscaling requires a massive capital infusion.”
    • “Financing should be seen as a means, rather than an end.” 

    Hungry for more content?

    You can watch the replays of all open sessions for free - get them all delivered straight to your inbox in no time.

    To better understand what is doing on a daily basis and what our actions are to take the Dutch Ecosystem to the next level this coming year, read our Action Plan 2021.


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