The Dutch startup ecosystem is praised worldwide for its enormous potential and open, dynamic nature. Yet only a handful of startups are led by women, with an even smaller proportion of women of color. Data on ethnicity and gender non-binary diversity hardly exists in Europe. Therefore, The Next Web asked female founders for their insights. TNW is also giving them access to TNW Conference, to support greater diversity in the startup ecosystem.
The Dutch startup landscape currently ranks fourth in Europe in terms of startup value creation - and among the top when it comes to the number of startups per capita. But according to Techleap.nl's State of Dutch Tech Report 2023, women-led startups account for just 5.2% of all VC deals and only 0.7% of funding raised.
In addition, due to legal restrictions, the Netherlands - like the rest of Europe - has little to no data on female founders of color; from how many are represented in the ecosystem to how much funding they receive. In a country trying to attract tech talent from abroad, this is quite a challenge. Because if you can't prove there's a problem, how can you address it?
Christina Caljé, former Executive Director at Goldman Sachs, former startup founder and now advisor, mentor and angel investor for pre-seed startups, with a special focus on investing in female founders and founders of color: "Europe, and the Netherlands in particular, are five to 10 years behind the U.S. in the conversation about ethnic diversity, partly because of the lack of data. Data is really what underlies the strengthening of our startup ecosystem, because ultimately more diversity makes for better products and more creative business models."
VC bias and lack of diversity
Many female founders encounter prejudice when trying to raise funding in the Netherlands. Micky Chen, co-founder Minite, was even told by a VC that having a man on the founding team would help attract investment. According to Chen, then, one of the biggest problems for female founders in the Netherlands is the lack of diversity among investors.
Layla Li, co-founder of KOSA, with a remote team spread across the Netherlands, Kenya, India, Ethiopia, North Macedonia and South Korea, also mentions the lack of women of color in the Dutch tech industry: "I have never met a woman of color in a leadership position in the Dutch tech ecosystem. We need more female decision makers who understand and solve the problems of other female entrepreneurs."
TNW supports female founders
"We want to see more diversity and inclusion in the Dutch ecosystem in general, not just for International Women's Day. One way we as TNW can contribute to greater representation of female founders is to make sure they and their companies are represented at TNW Conference," said Myrthe van der Erve, CEO of TNW.
To put its money where its mouth is, TNW is offering all female founders who have shared their insights a free startup pass to its annual conference in June 2023 in Amsterdam. This includes 3 business passes, AI driven matchmaking with investors and buyers, access to exclusive mentoring hours from tech and industry leaders and a trade show booth. In addition, all women and anyone who identifies as a woman can claim a Women-in-Tech Business Pass for access at a greatly reduced rate.
The TNW Conference itself (June 15/16, 2023 in Amsterdam), as every year, aims for at least 40% female speakers and historically has an even turnout: 50% of all attendees are women. This is unique compared to other tech conferences.