A picture of the skyline of Rotterdam, a major city in the Netherlands. Photographed by Frédéric Paulussen and found on Unsplash.

Working at a startup in the Netherlands: The Basics

6 MIN READ | 2021-08-31

Are you on a hunt to find startup jobs in the Netherlands? If your answer is yes, then this guide is for you. 

The process to find work at a Dutch startup might be easier than you imagine. Although it’s relatively difficult to land a job at companies that consist of a team with five members, the continuous innovation and development of Dutch startups increase your chances of getting hired. 

Find out about the fundamentals of startups, why you should choose the Netherlands, what cities to work in, and what the startup lifestyle looks like. 

Fundamentals 

If you want to work at a startup in the Netherlands, or anywhere in the world, there is one key component that helps you improve your chances: network

Meeting people and building connections online and in person is extremely important for startups. When entrepreneurs look for new people to hire, they tend to reach out to their close connections, recommendations, and people they meet at events.  

Here are a few networking tips to increase your chances of securing a job at a startup:

  1. Attend start-up events. Look for networking opportunities in events hosted by entrepreneurs, networking groups, innovation labs, and mentoring programmes.
  2. Connect on LinkedIn. Reach out to start-up people by asking for available positions, the company, etc. Find potential recruiters through your connections.
  3. Target specific start-ups. Spend time shortlisting potential startup companies in your area that you would like to work for. Research the history of the company, their values, their purpose, greatest accomplishments, etc. Reach out to the people who work there and show your interest in the company. Startup people admire passionate individuals who exhibit the same interest in their company and its values.

Types of startups

Startups come in many types and sizes. The six most dominant kind are the following. 

Lifestyle Startups

Lifestyle startups are for the self-employed. These entrepreneurs live their lives and work on their businesses for the sake of providing themselves with a sustainable income. They enjoy a particular lifestyle while working for none but themselves. 

Small Business Startups

Small businesses can be stores, local markets, bakeries, travel agents, etc. They are not designed to scale, as they primarily work to feed the family and sustain their business which is primarily local most of the time. 

Scalable Startups

Unlike small businesses, scalable startups are born to grow exponentially on an international scale. Scalable startups are companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc. founders of scalable startups dream big, as they aim to change the world. 

Buyable Startups

Startups that are built to be bought tend to offer Web and mobile app solutions. They do not aim at becoming the next Google, but they rather prefer to be sold by a bigger company for good money. 

Large Company Startups

Large companies innovate constantly (or try to) to protect themselves from imminent bankruptcy. They seek to make constant changes in customer preferences, new technologies, products, and services. As they are continuously pressured by newcomer competitors, they seek out innovation.

Social Startups

Social startups are driven by their mission to make an impact rather than make a profit. They seek to make social changes with issues regarding the environment, racial injustice, gender inequality, and more.

Types of industries

Startups are found in a wide variety of industries. The most common industries for startups include:

  • Advertising & Marketing
  • Blockchain and cryptocurrencies
  • Computer Hardware
  • Education
  • Environmental & Energy
  • Financial
  • Healthcare
  • IT
  • Management
  • Retail & E-commerce
  • Software

Major startup roles

Different startups may offer different roles based on their products and services. However, there are certain job roles within every startup that you can look out for. Some of the major startup job roles are the following:

  1. Engineer: The person behind the construction of projects. They build the products and services of the company. 
  2. Product Manager: The person managing projects, prototyping, and analysing traffic. 
  3. Salesperson: The one who knows how to sell the product or service to customers and clients strategically. 
  4. Business Development: The individual who knows how to build relationships and make good deals with clients. 
  5. Marketing: The person who knows how to tell a compelling story and promote the brand and its values. 
  6. Customer Service: The one who is naturally good at working with clients and helping them meet their needs. 
  7. Office Manager: The one who ensures that the office space where everyone works runs smoothly. 

Why the Netherlands

Did you know? Dutch startups are the biggest job growth engine in the Netherlands. 

Research has shown some impressive data that determine the importance of dutch startups. Notably, Dutch startups made up 109,000 jobs in 2020. They exhibited an impressive 8% growth every year for the last three years — 25,000 jobs were created within that short timeframe alone. Startups have proven to be the fastest sector to create jobs. During COVID-19, the startup job growth remained at the top as it persevered with a +4% increase. 

The innovative spirit renders the country the perfect hub to grow your business and be part of the business sector. Some also describe the country as the Silicon Valley of Europe. Specifically, there are important factors that contribute to the success of Dutch startups. 

Innovation

The Netherlands is popular due to the innovative plans that constantly consider the unpredictable future and prepare accordingly for it. The Dutch government invests greatly in the tech sector of the country, specifically in business innovation with available funds such as the Innovation Credit for startups. 

Top talent

A startup with the vision to grow as a scaleup should take advantage of international talent. The Netherlands is home to such diverse talent with internationals coming from top educational institutions. One million international workers find their home in the Dutch country, and many of them are holders of the Highly Skilled Migrant Visa. The permit allows companies to hire international talent for five years. 

Ease of business

Another reason why dutch startups thrive is the ease with which business is being done. Foreign nationals are encouraged to engage in the country’s collaborative efforts to build and grow businesses that contribute to the Dutch tech ecosystem. The open culture, the English-speaking workplace environment, the infrastructure, and the digital connectivity enable globalized success for the country’s economy. 

Moreover, the specialized startup visa permit allows foreign entrepreneurs to integrate faster. Alongside funds like the Innovation Credit, the country also offers initiatives like Techleap that connect international entrepreneurs to the Dutch resources they need. Such resources can be talent, markets, or capital. 

Key technologies

One of the reasons behind the innovative success of the country is technology. Dutch startups make good use of their resources with companies constantly in search for new technologies that will help them improve and progress. The forward-thinking and competitive spirit of the Dutch government supports technologies such as quantum technology, 3D printing, artificial intelligence (AI), and software development. Companies make use of benefits such as funds, machine learning startups, and the overall rich ecosystem of the country.  

Partnerships 

The global success of the Dutch startup ecosystem further relies on partnerships and collaborations. Such partnerships develop between businesses, with the government, or with educational institutions. Native and foreign companies benefit from working together, as they innovate and grow alongside one another. Currently, there are more than 300 public-private partnerships flourishing in the Netherlands, just within the life sciences sector. 

Cities to work in

Dutch cities all over the country offer different startup opportunities in various fields. The five major cities listed below give you a general taste of what to expect from them. Based on the industry that you find yourself fitting the most in, you can choose accordingly by looking at what each city offers.

Amsterdam

Amsterdam is the most active capital in Europe. Its close proximity to one of the largest airports worldwide allows people to travel or commute for work with ease. In addition, the Dutch capital is home to international companies like Nike, IKEA, Tesla Motors, etc., with creative and marketing jobs making up the majority of available job opportunities and vacancies. The English language is spoken by approximately 93% of the Dutch in Amsterdam, and companies don’t require knowledge of Dutch from their employees. Finding a job and, more specifically, a startup to work at is much easier to find in the capital. 

Rotterdam

Rotterdam is the second-largest Dutch city in the Netherlands and a magnet for foreign nationals and young people from all over the world. Its uniquely modern architecture gives an entirely different view of the Netherlands that is more sophisticated, less touristic, and more business-oriented. Due to its large port, the city thrives in the shipping and trade industries. Additionally, Rotterdam always welcomes engineers or other highly educated individuals that build machinery. Another popular sector is logistics and medicine for English speakers. 

The Hague

Known as the city of peace and justice, The Hague is popular for its cultural and metropolitan character. The Hague is home to several embassies and international organizations, making it an ideal place for English-speaking employees seeking job opportunities in an embassy or in the field of justice. The city prides itself on The Hague Security Delta Campus which is home to many startups on cybersecurity. Thus, The Hague is always in search of highly skilled computer engineers.

Utrecht

Utrecht is a dynamic, car-unfriendly city that is surrounded by lakes and nature all around. Its sustainable involvement constantly develops renewable energy solutions. Moreover, people tend to find jobs in the healthcare sector, in research, and in education fields. 

Eindhoven

From a small village to a large industrial site, Eindhoven adopted a charming and unique style after Philips company established its main factories and headquarters there. Eindhoven is a go-to place for engineers or IT experts, as tech companies and startups from all over the world find opportunities to explore their innovative talents there. 

Defining your career path

Working at a startup requires you to be flexible and adaptable with little structure and lots of changes. By defining this fast-paced lifestyle, you allow yourself to take control of your career goals and be the agent of your own path.  

Set goals 

Setting goals for yourself allows you to define your career path and ensure your career success at a startup. When you have a plan, you know what projects you need to prioritize, what to look forward to, and what to expect. Here are a few tips on how to set your goals:

  • Look for projects with your most desired outcome such as learning new skills, management, etc.
  • Watch out for projects with deadlines
  • Consult your manager about what you want to achieve to give you the proper guidance and tools
  • Set up personal objectives & key results (OKRs)
  • Resist accepting opportunities that do not help you achieve your goals
  • Set clear expectations that enable you to decline any work that is outside of your scope
  • Establish deadlines and predetermined transition dates
  • Be transparent from the beginning to maintain your career progression

Adapt to the startup lifestyle 

When you work at a startup, your work-life balance can easily be disrupted without realising. You can get lost in all the workload, work for even 90 hours at a time, constantly think about finishing projects and tasks before a deadline, and find yourself unable to catch a break. Your work ethic may be admirable, but it won’t remain productive for very long unless you keep a healthy lifestyle.  

Below you will find some useful tips to help you maintain a proper balance between your life and your work.  

  1. Spend time with friends and family. Try giving yourself room to breathe by focusing on other important factors that make you happy such as your relationships. Your close friends and family are the ideal refreshing scene you need to get energized and more prepared to tackle tasks. Once you allocate enough time for your social circle, make sure to do the same for yourself. 
  2. Spend time with yourself. Taking the day off and doing nothing but relaxing can be beneficial for you. Don’t think that it’s a waste of time if you spent the entire week working. Give yourself the break your mind and body need to restart.  
  3. Acknowledge your limits. Avoid risking burnout by overworking constantly. Try having a long lunch break to help increase your concentration and productivity. If you cannot do that, perhaps more frequent, shorter breaks might work better for you.  
  4. Get active. A 30-minute walk every day can do wonders. Physical exercise does not only keep your body healthy, but it keeps your happiness and energy levels up.  Improve your quality of life by maintaining a healthy routine with proper, healthy meals. 
  5. Go offline. If you can, avoid responding to emails outside office hours, using your office phone, or opening apps that are exclusively used for your work (i.e. Slack). Removing work email or apps from your phone may be a good option if you are not the type of person who can resist checking in. Always take some time for yourself after a long day.

Create your career path

Once you start working at a startup, you must focus on paving the path of your career by establishing yourself within the company. Your name and job role have a voice that can empower the team and the company itself. Take responsibility, voice your views, offer feedback, make suggestions, and make use of all the tools at your disposal to bring the best results. Empowerment is what enables startups to grow and thrive. Make sure you contribute to that by leaving a footprint within the startup that you work for so hard.