Amsterdam being selected as the European Innovation of Capital 2016 is hardly a surprise. When looking at the big international, innovative brands housed in the city, it seems to have become a veritable home for innovative companies in general and technological innovation in particular. Global major players such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Netflix, Tesla, Uber and many others have offices in Amsterdam.

However, Amsterdam does not only attract foreign talent, it is a breeding ground for unicorns and start-up success. Being the third most popular start-up city in Europe and the birthplace of disruptive players such as Booking.com, TomTom, WeTransfer and TravelBird, it seems like the place to be for people with bold, new ideas.

Having a great and new idea is a start, but you need more to actually make it. Network, knowledge and dedication are gateways to success. While the latter is up to you, network and knowledge can be found in one of the various incubators located in Amsterdam. I was lucky enough to visit three: Impact Hub, Rockstart & ACE Venture Lab.

Impact Hub and ACE Venture Lab have a clear focus as they support social and academic start-ups respectively. An example of a social start-up and member of Impact Hub is Closing the Loop which recycles old mobile phones. Metrica Sports on the other hand is one of the in-house start-ups of ACE Venture Lab and provides tactical analysis for football. The start-ups housed at Rockstart range from a goods borrowing platform (Peerby) to applications combining positive psychology and virtual reality (SONOVR).

All three incubators offer programmes teaching the basics necessary to start and set up a new company and continue to support their alumni afterwards. An important aspect of these incubators is that they create a community of innovative and motivated people. As a result new start-ups become part of a valuable network and can turn to each other for help and feedback. These networks are strengthened through the workshops and events organised by the incubators.

Even without the goal of becoming a start-up, building a network of like-minded and passionate people is always a good idea. Various communities of developers and innovators call Amsterdam their home and contribute to a buzzing social calendar. The Things Network aims to build one of these communities and I had the pleasure of seeing them in action during their Hackerspace on the Internet-of-Things. Their goal is to build a global Internet of Things data network and they organise meetups during which people can experiment with their hardware.

With all these organisations, communities and infrastructure at hand, Amsterdam holds all the right cards to remain one of Europe’s leading innovative cities for years to come!

– Lilith Van Biesen

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