Visiting Tech Humans Of Dublin # 30: Neelie Kroes And Sigrid Johannisse

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Neelie Kroes

Mapping Dublin’s tech ecosystem, one human at a time.

NC (pictured, left): I was asked by the Dutch government – the Prime Minister and the Minister of Economic Affairs – to be the Special Envoy for Startups in the Netherlands. And Sigrid is the Director of Startup Activity in the Netherlands. We’re a team. StartUpDelta is the name. And we do have a year and a half to deliver. We are at full speed. And we are excited to be in Dublin because your startups are delivering here, too.
SJ (pictured, right): What we have learned from your approach with Europe is a couple of things that we use now. First of all – you use the dynamics, like with your digital ambassadors. You can create a lot of things within Europe or within your country without using the government. You use the energy. And that was your other message: don’t try to copy Silicon Valley. Look at your own strengths. So that’s what we did for the Netherlands. What are the strengths within our ecosystem? How can we make the best decisions based on that strength? I think of that when I look at Ireland.

SJ: Everyone keeps asking, “Why are you coming to Dublin?” We have friends here. It was a very conscious reason. You’ve got the Web Summit. We know Paddy Cosgrave very well. He’s part of your circle of influence. You’re one of the first countries which has managed to get pension funds involved in startups. Then there’s what you do with CoderDojo and coding – there’s a lot of activity going on.
NC: Startups in Ireland are facing the same challenges as startups in the Netherlands. Tax issues. Education. How can you push coding and entrepreneurship and a digital technology mindset and employ it in an early phase of education? But also talking about the big tech companies – they have to be aware that that it is a big help for everybody to work together with startups on launching, acquiring customers and so-forth. So there are so many issues that are not, per se, a problem of any one country. I hope we can work together to find solutions.
DJ: One of the things we want to accomplish with a Dutch EU presidency is an EU startup visa. We’re trying to create this coalition of the willing, which right now is the member states who have startup visas like Italy and Ireland. And so we want to develop the concept within and then present that during the Dutch EU presidency as something that should be created. Canada has one. The US is working on one. We need one.
NC: It’s good business. But it’s also about attracting even more talent. I’m a strong believer that if talent is meeting talent, the outcome is more than the two.

NC: What do I like about Dublin? There’s an amazing amount of energy and talent all in one city.
SJ: To me it’s the openness of people – very willing to share, very much interested in what we’re doing. And this openness immediately creates a bond that you want to work together. And that’s a quality of Ireland that should be much more in our currency. That, and not being modest.


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