Amsterdam one of the best for tech, but diversity is lacking

Photo: TNW

The Amsterdam region remains the third-best European ecosystem for tech companies, according to the latest Global Startup Ecosystem Report, which was unveiled at The Next Web conference in Zaandam on Thursday. 

Across the globe, VC funding fell 35% year on year and the tech sector is experiencing a major slowdown, the report showed. But the Amsterdam region was able to retain its 13th place in the global ranking thanks to an increase in exits worth over $50 million, its early-stage deal count, and the number of unicorns. Fintech remains the driving force in Amsterdam but health and transport in particular are catching up. 

At the two-day conference, themes included ’embracing neurodiversity and accessibility in tech’, the potential of AI, the future of crypocurrencies and trends such as virtual reality, digital possessions known as NFTs and blockchain, and the role of tech in cities. Highlights included sessions with Sir Martin Sorrell, founder of WPP advertising agency, Pernod Ricard chief digital officer Pierre-Yves Calloc’h and virtual world Second Life’s founder Philip Rosedale.

Murad Ahmed, technology news editor of the FT – which owns the TNW brand – said on Friday: “It has been a fascinating two days of discovery. There are plenty of people in the crypto industries who still want to be working for them, while there’s hope for generative AI to transform industry and power our lives in the future.”

Rudolf van EE, founder of the Blockchain Netherlands Foundation, a partner to the festival and organiser of the opening event, said that what started as a networking meet-up for the Netherlands has retained a close-knit spirit. “It’s one of the biggest tech initiatives or festivals in Europe,” he told Dutch News. “Europe needs it: a lot of parties look to America or Asia but here it’s about having connections and less about money. The networking element is very strong. But this is also a kind of business party.”

Niels van Meurs, founder of Mailsociety email app, was particularly enthusiastic about an initiative to invite 500 people under 30 working in tech, supporting them and helping them network. “The Web Summit Lisbon is so full, you have to have an agenda to make appointments,” he said. “Here, it’s spontaneous.”

The conference has over the years increased its trade element and some people whose companies ran stalls were positive about the opportunity. AJ Gleser, lead CX designer at Mach49, a company that helps large firms develop internal start-up ventures, said: “There were more people that we expected interested in corporate venture building: it’s not just start-ups. But some of the talks could be diving deeper.”

While the conference appeared to have a healthy mix of men and women, a second report on the Dutch tech sector this week suggested that diversity and inclusion remain major issues in the local tech ecosystem. 

The benchmark report, backed by the economic affairs ministry and, showed a decline in the position of women in tech since last year.

For example, the number of women in the tech workforce fell from 21% last year to 19%. Women also account for just 13% of senior roles, down from 22% in 2022.

The survey also showed that 75% of leadership positions at Dutch tech companies are held by Dutchmen even though non-Dutch nationals account for 52% of the total workforce.

And just 26% of tech company bosses say diversity and inclusion objectives are now included in their performance measurements, compared with 36% last year.

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