Young, technology-based firms (‘start-ups’) are important drivers of innovation and economic growth. Consequently, governments all over the world are taking measures to improve the conditions for start-ups to survive and grow. In the Innovation Studies group, we look at successful high-tech regions around the world to identify best practices. Our research enables Dutch policymakers to design more effective policies to support start-up firms in the Netherlands.
The key lesson is that every region has a unique ‘entrepreneurial ecosystem’ that is embedded in the local regulations and cultural values. In Israel, the military is an important source of technological knowledge, for example, in the field of cybersecurity and big data. Former military personnel can use this knowledge to start successful businesses. One of the drivers behind the success of Silicon Valley is the ‘pay it forward’ culture, in which successful entrepreneurs feel a strong urge to support young entrepreneurs with funding and with their experience. These factors are unique to each region, which makes it difficult to simply copy policies from abroad.
We have conducted interviews with entrepreneurs, investors and policymakers in Israel, the United States (Silicon Valley and the Boston area), Australia and Asia.
Results and solutions
Regardless, policymakers can certainly learn from these successful regions. For example, Israel is similar to the Netherlands in the sense that it has a very small domestic market with only 8 million inhabitants. This can make it difficult for start-ups to reach global markets and grow into successful businesses. To solve this problem, Israeli investors and incubators enable start-ups to partner with large, multinational companies. These companies provide start-ups with access to a large, international network, which enables start-ups to expand their business beyond the small Israeli market.
As with the Netherlands, Australia’s culture traditionally does not encourage entrepreneurship, as risk taking and ambitious thinking are not as socially accepted as they are in Silicon Valley. We found that co-working spaces enable entrepreneurs to overcome these cultural constraints. Being surrounded by other like-minded entrepreneurs creates a unique culture in which individuals inspire and motivate each other.
In 2015, we wrote an article in the Dutch newspaper ‘het Financieele Dagblad’ recommending that the Dutch ‘special envoy for start-ups’, Neelie Kroes, stops trying to copy the success of Silicon Valley. Instead, we recommended that she pays close attention to the unique characteristics of the Dutch context. After publishing this article Neelie Kroes reached out to us, and we work together to try to improve the conditions for Dutch start-ups.
Back to top