Before we move forward, let’s look back.

In wrapping up 2020, we’re choosing a different approach. Because if there’s one thing we learned: negative adjectives and sad stories are not what startup and scale-up founders are about. So before we dive headfirst into 2021, let’s look back on 2020 and the many amazing entrepreneurs that let us peek into their kitchen. 

When you head over to our ecosystem finder, you’ll see that our region is home to over 1.500 startups and scale-ups. These innovative companies, or rather their founders and teams, are a treasure trove of inspiring stories. How did they tachkle the challenges that the coronavirus threw on their paths, and what can we learn from the positivity, flexibility and resilience that seem to be a part of their DNA?

It’s all about resilience
Two industries that took an exceptionally hard hit this year are the events- and hospitality industry. They were forced into creativity to keep afloat and despite facing enormous challenges themselves, companies like Stager and Rechtstreex set an example when it comes to “looking after one another”.

For many companies, continuing to work the way they did was simply not an option. Equalture and Cruisereizen are two examples of how to successfully adapt your business model to keep up with a changing world. Equalture, initially helping companies with their hiring process, swiftly changed their focus to help companies develop their current team and assist them in working remotely successfully. Faizal, founder of Cruisereizen, had to pivot completely. In order to save his company and the 40 people on his payroll, he started plannen.nl: a tool to process appointments and handle the mandatory corona administration. Add Scheidingsapp.nl to the companies he’s founded since the crisis hit and you have a resilient entrepreneur in its purest form.

Luckily, the companies that shape the innovation ecosystem of our region weren’t completely left on their own. In April 2020, the Dutch government announced to free up €100 million in bridging loans for startups, scale-ups and innovative SMEs. Since then, the scheme has been expanded twice with an additional €200 million and helped numerous companies, among which Jeroen van Velzen’s corporate travel scaleup Roadmap. The Corona Bridge Loan gave him and his team the slack they need as they work hard to adjust to the changed circumstances.

But it wasn’t only about surviving. 2020 was also a year in which some companies got to accelerate their growth and contribute to a healthier and safer environment. Parx Materials developed a technology that can make plastics antimicrobial, with application opportunities on anything from fast food trays and food packaging, to pens and even face masks. The team has established that their solution can also be rather effective against certain viruses which translated into plenty of inquiries into their technology.


More than corona
Despite the coronavirus taking the lead role in all of our lives this year, it’s important to not lose sight of what else is out there. Our region is home to many innovations that contribute to a more sustainable economy, and we were happy to put the spotlight on them. 

Circularise, for example, enables companies to move towards a circular economy. Having recently raised €1,5m in funding to trace the plastics supply chains, they are one step closer in their mission to counter (plastic) waste. 

And then there’s Juuve: the carsharing platform that aims to reduce the overall impact of vehicles in cities, while not taking away from the ‘freedom’ that owning a car brings. Juuve makes owning a car unnecessary and successfully so, as proven by their 1.000 active users sharing 250 cars. Reduced pollution, anyone?

But also outside the sustainability continuum, innovation can help make our lives a little easier. Something we all have to deal with in our lives is personal loss. Closure aims to unburden relatives by finalising all the contracts, accounts and subscriptions of the deceased person in those situations. 

So what is it that makes a successful company? How do you create something from scratch and make it work? We closed off the year with serial entrepreneur Hans Scheffer sharing his greatest lesson with us: a strong team is essential to building and scaling a successful business.

Just like you, we’re excited - and maybe a little nervous - about what’s to come. But one thing is for sure: the startups and scale-ups in our region play a big role in our future and we’ll be sure to keep shining a light on them as they solve the world’s problems one innovation at a time. Here’s to 2021!