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The Amsterdam Start Up Scene.

Living liberal under sea level: do these start ups rise from nature or flow with the current?

Last few months I've been keeping busy exploring the start up scene in different cities throughout Germany with a focus on Cologne, Berlin, Hamburg, München, Frankfurt.
To aid my search I use Mattermark as a basic. Mattermark is a great big data tool for private companies, it puts all kinds of indicators (web traffic, social media presence, mobile downloads, etc) together into a so called 'Mindshare Score' (MS) which helps to quickly identify companies whose online footprint is growing the fastest. If you'd like to know more about Mattermark and how I use it, I go more into detail in my first article on Cologne.
Breaking in new and exciting territory: the Netherlands
Amsterdam is a place where anyone could gladly lay its entrepreneurial mind to rest, recharging batteries for inspiration. With a population under one million, you could say it's rather small in size but big in ambition. An ambition which is illustrated by the nation's famous struggle against the sea. It has a community feeling with a metropolitan mindset, a view that my co-writer Roger immediately agrees on.
My quest for the cool and whats-what remains as always, 'which cool, new companies do we need to know in Amsterdam?'
Let's dive in! Here's Mattermark's Top 50:
(#1) Syndy (MS:1071): Syndy says it "is a product content distribution platform that delivers high-impact product content to online retailers. Our platform allows suppliers to list their products across any webshop in the world, optimising the impact of their products across the digital shelf and ultimately maximising sales. We are backed by top tier venture capitalists and we are growing quickly."
Mattermark doesn't actually show this venture capitalist backing. Also, the company was founded in September 2014. AngelList tells me that the platform is created with globalization in mind straight from the start: already they import data from key markets across the globe, predominantly Europe, Asia and the US. In other words, as a young company the future will tell how much scaling will be done. But they do have big brands, such as Spar, under their wing. I'll be keeping my eye on them.
(#2) 3D Hubs (MS: 909): In all fairness, it's easier making waves and getting noticed by Mattermark if you make a business out of making a lot of deals with different companies to distribute their content, which is what Syndy does. That's bound to spike at least one of Mattermarks datapoints to get you a nice rating. 3D Hubs, the runner up on this list perhaps has a somewhat more difficult time getting the audience, but deserves all of the traction it's getting and more! 
3D Hubs is a company that Roger (a former 3D printing entrepreneur) simply can't get enough of. 3D Hubs is making the revolutionary technology of 3D printing accessable to everyone by connecting you to (at the time of writing) 23,392 3D printing services globally! Design or find your 3D design (on a platform like Thingiverse or Autodesk*123), upload to the website, choose a print location and pick up your product or get it shipped. So easy, you almost forget the industry disrupting implications of this concept.
Born in 2013, having acquired 4,5M in investments and with a team of 35 located in New York and Amsterdam, this is one company to watch.
(#5) NLTimes (MS: 739): NLTimes is the perfect example to illustrate the cultural diversity of this small nation and demand for English written Dutch news. NLTimes has found a profitable niche in providing Dutch news to English speaking residents. A niche that apparently gets you high on the list.
Founded in 2013, this company is staffed by 4 (including the managing editor) and based in Amsterdam's tourist centre: the Warmoesstraat. You were perhaps wondering why such a small company with so few employees and such a simple business model is on top of the list? Well, Mattermark tells us they're currently receiving over 140K unique visitors per month in a country that estimates it gives home to only 200K expats. That's why.
By the way, they have no known funding.
(#7) BlockTrail (MS: 671): I feel the Bitcoin hype has somehow died out a little, in the media I mean. Not too long ago, everybody was talking about it. Now I notice that it has taken hold on some who use it regularly, but others seem to have forgotten what it is. Upon asking, people answer me that they don't really understand what it does. So perhaps it's better to watch this video first, courtesy of weusecoins.com:
In summary, Bitcoin empowers you to send and receive payments without trust or permission from any third-party. BlockTrail's unique selling point is that they never have access to your Bitcoin, keeping you true to Bitcoin's core values, and giving you the security, privacy, and power to own your wealth.
BlockTrail is doing great for a company that has only been up and running since 2014. +250K unique visitors per month and 500K in funding from the Dutch Bitcoin research outfit BlockCorp, who's basically mothered the succesful startup, has led to a #3 ranking in Mattermark's list. An interview with BlockCorp in Gigacom back in August 2014 states that they'll invest more once the product is off the ground. Which is now. So maybe it's time to start thinking about decentralized digital currency again?
(#12) WeTransfer (MS: 528): WeTransfer is the easiest way to share big files. Free up to 2G and WeTransfer Plus for 10 Euros per month. Launched in 2009 by Bas Beerens and Nalden, WeTransfer was born out of a simple need to provide a solution for people to send large files easily. The service now has 70 million users and prides itself on its simplicity. The founders’ desire of producing “something their parents could use” has led the WeTransfer team to a service without the complications of logins, signup forms, data capture and banner advertising." And really, my mother uses it.
Instead of plastering the site with intrusive ads, WeTransfer has created a backdrop of curated wallpapers, originally invented on Nalden's famous blog nalden.net (which sadly is now no longer online), provided by a wide community of artists, illustrators, brands, filmmakers, photographers and events. The result is an enriched user experience to a backdrop of beautiful images.
The company is doing great, because the are. They've received 25M in funding by Highland Capital Partners Europe about 8 months ago and you can see that apart from a little dip in May 2014, they've been keeping steady as the highflyers of the Mattermark Amsterdam list. Another cool fact: they get a around 9M unique visitors per month. Last but not least, they've got a killer app! Send photes, zips, etc from your phone while enjoying beautiful wallpapers. Suddenly, you stop looking at it as 'loading time'.
(#19) The Next Web (MS: 459): The Next Web is one of the world's largest online publications that delivers an international perspective on the latest news about Internet technology, business and culture. Sign up for their newsletter, it's a nice way to end your busy/business day. Browse through the news to get your daily dose of knowledge, penned in nonchalant craftmanship. Join them, and you'll be along the other 6M unique visitors they get this month.
(#23) Ticketswap (MS: 440): TicketSwap is a safe place to buy and sell your e-tickets. Buyers receive their tickets, sellers receive their money, guaranteed. Buyers pay online and receive their tickets directly by e-mail. You can share through Social Media to announce that you're selling, or you can search yourself on the website or app. Ticketswap is huge in Holland and they've now rolled out the product in also on Belgium, Germany and France. According to Mattermark, they've got no known funding and currently receive around 400K monthly uniques. This could explain why their Mindshare Score is faltering.  Roger can't emphasize enough how popular they are. So perhaps they need some extra firepower?
To conclude:
Since the eighties, the Dutch government has made it a key point in every policy issue to transit to a 'knowledge economy'. A move that makes a lot of sense if you look at the size of the nation. It's hard to increase the size of export if you literally have to make new land in order to build an industry. Knowledge however knows no boundaries and almost as if they had predicted the coming of the internet, that is how fluently and logically they've transitioned their Dutch tradership's image online. And it shows. All of the mentioned companies are either tech or publishers (another thing the nation is historically known for).
Dutch companies do seem to lack a general investor athmosphere. Many of the other companies I looked at seem to be yerning for a similar thing: funding. Is lack of money holding Amsterdam down? If so, that would be a great shame. I wonder how much more interesting and innovative startup would exist if investors all around found their way to Amsterdam more often. To invest that is. I'm sure they've all been there.
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