The Hague’s startup ecosystem: A hub for positive social impact?

Being the third-largest city in the Netherlands after Amsterdam and Rotterdam, The Hague hosts the central government and is well known as the international city of peace and justice – with The International Court of Justice, The International Criminal Court, Europol and around 200 other international organizations and knowledge institutions. 

However, step by step, the city is proving itself not only to be a political and institutional hub but also an excellent spot for entrepreneurs. Because of its local and at the same time uniquely international network, The Hague connects NGOs, research centres, knowledge institutions, companies, governments and many young and creative entrepreneurs who want to make a difference in the spheres of IT & Tech, Finance and Legal, Peace, Justice, and Security.

Did you know, for instance, that The Hague is considered a major hub for cybersecurity in Europe? It is demonstrated by the presence of the European Cybercrime Centre Europol (EC3), NATO Communications and Information Agency, the Dutch cybersecurity, intelligence and security agencies and a wide range of cybersecurity businesses. Moreover, The Hague is also a suitable place for AI and Blockchain innovations. As if it is not enough, the city also offers multiple opportunities and services to entrepreneurs with innovative ideas with a clear focus on positive social impact. 

Taking all the facts together, although there is a long way to go, The Hague emerges as a growing startup community that has a distinct social, political and environmental impact. Below, you’ll find some essential insights into the entrepreneurial community in The Hague – everything from its key players to the most popular tech and startup events.

Governmental Support

One of the key drivers behind the growth of The Hague’s startup community is the support from the municipality and its encouragement of impact entrepreneurship. Driven by the motto ‘doing good, doing business’, the city provides all kinds of practical help to such companies – from assisting with settling to possibilities for financing which are delivered and implemented through The Hague Business Agency. As a result, The Hague is receiving growing interest from European venture capitalists and entrepreneurs alike, willing to invest and launch in a city which abounds in under-used potential and institutional support. 

The Hague’s top startup hubs and communities

Due to its political background, it’s not unusual for startup hubs to also have some social, political or environmental mission, using tech to further their collective mission.

The Hague Tech – The Hague Tech (opened in 2016) is a thriving local startup community in the centre of The Hague which facilitates internationally-focused entrepreneurs and business owners in growing business in Europe by providing co-working space, events, co-creation opportunities, support and network. The hub also hosts Soft-Landing Program which is the fruit of the collaboration between The Hague Business Agency, Innovation Quarter and World Startup Collective.

Yes!Delft The Hague – Yes!Delft (2005) is a leading tech incubator in Europe located on the campus of the Delft University of Technology which hosts the largest physical tech startup community in the Netherlands. Aimed at creating a vibrant and strong innovative ecosystem for tech startups working in AI and Blockchain, Yes!Delft opened its second location in The Hague in March 2019. It offers multiple community services as well as various incubator programs for AI and Blockchain startups. 

The Hague Security Delta – The HSD (2014) is the national innovation centre of the Dutch security cluster and is the largest security hub in Europe with labs, education and training facilities, flexible office space and meeting rooms to promote innovative security solutions and knowledge development. It prides itself in its collaboration with businesses, governments and knowledge institutions and helps them develop products and services that contribute to a more secure world.

Apollo 14  (you got the reference to the first successful Moon landing mission, right?) is a co-working space (2018) hosted by the city Municipality and offered to impact entrepreneurs. Located in a fast-developing part of The Hague The Binckhaven, the hub offers office space as well as access to multiple service providers in the startup ecosystem. 

The Hague Humanity Hub – The Humanity Hub community (2018) brings together professionals from organizations active in peacebuilding, justice innovation, humanitarian action, climate action, and development aid, and ranging from non-profit to for-profit, startups to scale-ups, small local to large international organizations and academia.

The Hague Institute for Innovation of Law – HiiL (founded in 2005) is a social enterprise devoted to user-friendly justice which supports justice innovation with multiple programs, including the Justice Accelerator. 

 

The Hague’s startup support organizations

The Hague Business Agency – Started in 2000, the THBA is a non-profit organization which helps innovative businesses to expand their operations to Europe and offers them tailor-made programs and solutions incentivizing them to choose The Hague as a new home for their business.

World Startup CollectiveGlobal Entrepreneurship Platform – WorldStartup accelerates the global transition to sustainable and equitable societies by enabling purpose-driven innovators to create successful ventures. Their global collective of support organisations offers purpose-driven innovators the training, tools, resources and networks to create the ventures that accelerate the transition to sustainable and equitable societies. They offer one of the best accelerator programmes in Europe.

ImpactCity – ImpactCity (2015) is the startup and scale-up community in The Hague. It is a local point of entry for international startups willing to launch their business in The Hague and the Netherlands. Providing a vast array of services to young entrepreneurs, ImpactCity ensures that The Hague attracts inspiring companies with ‘doing good & doing business’ mindset. 

Startup In Residence Intergov – This innovation programme (2016) is a fruit of a collaboration of the Municipality of The Hague, several ministries, including Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy, Ministry of Social Affairs and the Province of South Holland. The program offers startups the unique opportunity to use the government as a sparring partner and customer in an accessible way. It takes several months when civil servants work with startups to find solutions to social issues.

Investment opportunities in The Hague

The financial support available in the city includes venture capital funds (Ventures One, 4impact, TIIN Capital, The Hague Fund Investment Group), Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO), FMO Entrepreneurial Development Bank, regional economic development agency (Innovation Quarter) which finances innovative and fast-growing companies and an investment fund supported by the EU (UNIIQ) providing seed capital for West Holland-based entrepreneurs. Most of these organizations offer more than just financial support, and it is of crucial importance for the startups to choose the right source of help based on their stage and next steps. 

The Hague’s most popular startup & tech events

With many in-person events postponed to Q3-Q4 2020 or next year, or going online, it’s still worth mentioning a few of the most prominent startup events in the city.

Impact Fest – Launched in 2016 and supported by the city municipality, Impact Fest is an annual event for purpose-driven organizations and is the largest impact meetup in Europe. It connects impact-makers from around the world and offers an opportunity to impact startups to connect with investors and local partners. The next edition is October 2020.

Get In The Ring – Get In The Ring is a global startup competition active in 200+ cities around the world. Originally from Rotterdam, GITR has recently opened another office in The Hague. Moreover, The Hague was chosen as one of the cities for the new Impact Competition – together with Geneva, Lisbon, Berlin, Copenhagen and Oslo. 

New Business Summit (new website in construction) – since 2017 is an annual event where entrepreneurs, corporates, investors, SMEs, research institutions and government meet to tackle societal challenges. For startups, the event creates an opportunity to exchange and validate their ideas and product with potential investors and customers. Unlike most startup events, New Business Summit focuses on personal connection and dialogue, by creating smaller meeting groups who discuss shared problems and co-create impactful solutions.

Additionally, these are some international conferences and events which took place in The Hague only last year. In June 2019 The Hague hosted Global Entrepreneurship Summit organized by the US and Dutch government which brought together 2000+ entrepreneurs, investors, policymakers and corporates intending to promote international entrepreneurship and innovation. In November 2019 EVPA Annual Conference took place in The Hague gathering 1000 professionals in venture philanthropy and social investment from foundations and impact funds from all over Europe.

If you’d like to dive further into the Netherlands’ startup ecosystem, check out our article 10 promising Netherlands-based startups to watch in 2020.