“Amsterdam is a global city—with a population of less than 1 million,” says Ferdinand Goetzen, CEO of Amsterdam-based digital customer-insight business, Reveall. That, in a nutshell, is how Amsterdam has become a tech powerhouse, boasting unicorns such as Booking.com and Adyen, and an impressive crop of sustainability-focused startups. The city has the benefits of being medium sized—efficient public services, bikeability, and a tight-knit business community—but in the same breath, is instinctively outward-looking, dynamic, and business-friendly.
Amsterdam’s residents speak flawless English, its Schiphol Airport is the third-busiest in the EU, and, starting in 2020, the city gained a direct Eurostar link to London. As part of a business cluster known as the Randstad—which also includes Utrecht, the Hague, and Rotterdam, and is Europe’s third region by productivity—it is unsurprising that Amsterdam’s startup scene is thriving; it’s tech companies are worth a total value of $230 billion as of July 2022, according to Dealroom. That some of European tech’s main rainmakers—chief among them conference-cum-coworking-space brand The Next Web—call the city home, also doesn’t hurt. Let’s get to know Amsterdam’s movers and shakers.
TestGorilla thinks that CVs are dead, or at least they should be. Founded in 2019 by former Bain & Company consultants Wouter Durville and Otto Verhage, the company runs a platform providing businesses with skill-based tests designed to streamline hiring by surfacing the cream of job applicants. “We have a full test-development team in-house, and we also rely on subject matter experts,” explains TestGorilla’s head of international development Claudia Baijens. “But we think you don’t need to only look at job-specific skills, but also test cognitive abilities—like logics and math. The outcome of that combination of tests is the best prediction of whether someone is going to be successful in the job.” The company has a headcount of 70 (100 more hires are in the pipeline—all of them to be hired through TestGorilla’s own tests, says Baijens), and it caters to 5,000 customers in 120 countries. Investors have also shown interest; in June, TestGorilla raised $70 million in a Series A round led by Atomico and Balderton Capital, which, according to Crunchbase, brought its total funding to $81.2 million. testgorilla.com
Founded in 2019 by Joost Kamermans and Jorn Eiting van Liempt, Seenons is a platform that matches businesses who want to get rid of waste materials with people who can make use of them—aka, the circular economy—which, in these times of trade disruptions and climate crisis, is much better than landfills or incinerators. “Companies open our app and tell us, ‘I have this type of waste,’” Kamermans explains. “Depending on location, volume, and type of waste, we select the best solution for transport. Then we match them with whoever can use their waste as an input for their production process.” Users pay Seenons a subscription fee, but for certain materials they can earn money back from buyers. Seenons’s 50-strong team is constantly looking for companies which have a use for niche junk—orange peels are used to make liquors, and avocado pits can dye fabrics. The biggest unsolved challenge? Hospitals’ human waste. “So we cut off your leg, right? Currently, that leg gets burned,” says Kamermans. “But there must be better things to do with it.” seenons.com
Funded in late 2018 by Indra den Bakker and Anniek Schouten, Overstory keeps a watchful eye on trees, blending satellite imagery and machine learning to monitor deforestation, prevent wildfires, and prevent damage from falling trees to infrastructures and power grids. To teach its AI to recognize and assess a myriad of types of trees at various stages of growth and health conditions, Overstory initially relied on its own customers’ data. “The forest industry has a lot of data on trees that they’ve been collecting for years, even centuries. And we got it from them to train our algorithms,” says den Bakker. “Over time, we also started to collect our own data. Now we have our own arborists doing field work, we even have customers doing field work.” Overstory’s team has grown to 34 staff members scattered throughout Europe and North America, and the company has so far raised $5.9 million in funding. overstory.com
Launched in 2018 by Kerry Murphy, Amber Slooten, and Adriana Hoppenbrouwer-Pereira, The Fabricant was early to the metaverse party. The company styles itself as a fashion house designing “digital-only clothes” to be worn by avatars online. In 2021, the company made its meta-pivot clear with the launch of The Fabricant Studio, a platform where users can customize virtual garments and mint them as NFTs on the gaming blockchain Flow. The goal is to help people build their “wardrobe for the metaverse.” The company has so far raised $14 million in funding, most of it in a Series A round in April 2022 led by actor-turned-VC Ashton Kutcher. thefabricant.com
Founded in 2021 by Salar al Khafaji and Sebastiaan Visser, both coming from stints at Palantir after it acquired their previous startup, Silk, Terraform aims to disrupt construction through robotics and software. The idea is to create smart machines able to fully automate on-site construction, thus bringing down costs. This should usher in an era of affordable housing without compromising on aesthetics (robots would produce intricate designs at no additional expense), while improving on efficiency, safety (there would be no human workers getting hurt), and sustainability. Amid a flood of remote-first startups, Terraform makes a point of having its staff work from its central Amsterdam office full-time. terraform.ai
Fiberplane founder Micha Hernandez van Leuffen has a successful track record in the tech industry, having sold his previous startup to Oracle in 2017. Three years later, he launched a new company focused on creating remote, collaborative work tools geared to IT professionals solving technical incidents, such as online outages or application bugs. As of late 2021, the company had 13 employees working from its Amsterdam office as well as from the UK, Germany, Denmark, and the United States. In September 2021, Fiberplane raised an $8.8 million seed round co-led by Crane Venture Partners and Notion Capital. fiberplane.dev
A notable survivor of the 2017 initial coin offering (ICO) craze, SingularityNET wants to use crypto’s decentralized structure to democratize artificial intelligence and make sure that the AI singularity happens on a people-owned network, not in a tech giant’s lab. Created by AI developer and thinker Ben Goertzel and robotics entrepreneur David Hanson, the company has created an “AI marketplace” where developers can build AI apps that leverage decentralized blockchain technology. Besides the funds raised in its ICO—$36 million in the ether cryptocurrency—SingularityNET and its sister organization SingularityDAO also secured $25 million from alternative investment firm LDA Capital in May 2022. singularitynet.io
Launched in 2021 by a quartet of cybersecurity experts—Roger Fischer, Olivier Beg, Tijl Van Vliet, and Maurice Clin—Hadrian is a security company that has adopted a “hacker’s eye” approach when helping customers spot and address vulnerabilities in their IT systems. Rather than focusing on what a client company thinks are its weak spots, Hadrian’s six-strong hacking team starts scouring for entry points from the outside in, as an actual attacker would do. The company raised a $2.6 million pre-seed round from early-stage venture capital outfit Village Global in 2021, and a $10 million seed round from Germany’s HV Capital in June 2022. hadrian.io
One of the most successful European micro-mobility companies, Dott was founded in 2018 by French-born entrepreneurs Maxim Romain and Henri Moissinac, both previously of Chinese bike-sharing giant Ofo. Today, Dott runs a fleet of 40,000 scooters and 10,000 electric bikes in 17 cities across Europe, and it has offices in 12 countries. The company prides itself on both sustainability (it powers all its vehicles with renewable energy) and its ability to win over regulators, having secured hard-to-get licenses to operate in London and Paris. It has also raised $210.8 million in funding so far. ridedott.com
An online grocery store focused on high-quality, seasonal fresh produce, Crisp was launched in 2018 by Eric Klaassen, Michiel Roodenburg, and Tom Peeters. Available in the Netherlands and Belgium, the company’s business model is predicated on a marriage of quality and convenience underpinned by partnerships with local food producers (over 600 just in the Netherlands—but striking deals across Europe is the larger plan). Crisp is also committed to sustainability, aiming for zero food waste and using an electric fleet for its deliveries. To date, the company has raised $46 million in four funding rounds. crisp.nl