Tedx Amsterdam 2014 was being held November 28th in the Stadsschouwburg in Amsterdam. This year’s theme was ‘United in Time’. Neelie Kroes, European commissioner from 2004 until last month, was one of the speakers. She pre-announced a new startup initiative for the whole of the Netherlands, based in Amsterdam.
For those who do not know Neelie Kroes, she already had a very successful career in Dutch politics before she went to the European commission. In Europe she worked hard on improving the European business climate: by fighting monopolies, opening up markets such as telecom while lowering roaming costs for consumers. After that she was responsible for the digital agenda. Already in this function she had a preference for startups as a source of future growth: “Entrepreneurs create growth, not politicians” as she said in a previous interview on StartupJuncture. At TEDx she announced that she is working on a new initiative, a ‘startup of her own’ that will be based in Amsterdam but for the whole of the Netherlands. Not many actual details were revealed about the exact initiative, so it is more of a pre-announcement than an announcement. Nevertheless it is an encouraging signal (following just after the startup visa approval) that The Netherlands is seriously working on improving the business climate.
Neelie Kroes starts her talk with acknowledging she is much older than most startup founders: She starts with a story about her 6-year old granddaughter. While talking on Skype, the girl asked her grandma about her age. Finding out that her age was 72 (at the time), the girl was amazed that her grandma was still alive at such an old age! Neelie, currently 73, does not consider herself old though. She is just as active as she was before and is even getting involved in a new startup initiative. She continues with an anecdote. 94-year old Italian woman Lea Mina Ralli, also known as Nonna Lea is her role model. This October Neelie paid a visit to this woman, a very active blogger, who lives at home with the help of a robot (built by EU-funded startup GiraffPlus).
Neelie Kroes then pre-announces that a new startup initiative will be formed by her, to be located at the former navy terrain at Amsterdam Kattenburg: a very central location near Amsterdam central station. Since TEDx was held in Amsterdam she of course had to mention the advantages of Amsterdam: It has a recognizable name and is part of a cluster of cities, together with Rotterdam, Eindhoven, Utrecht and Delft, and is right in the middle of the most happening part of Europe. The rest of The Netherlands is however nearby: “If you look out of a window in Amsterdam, you are already looking outside Amsterdam”.
Neelie asks people under 25 in the audience to ask their questions. One of the question is from Daniel Haven, founder of procterexam (formerly procwise). He asks about her opinion on rules and regulations. Should a startups really have to spend so much time with lawyers, due to all the rules and regulations? Neelie answers that startups are the solution to unemployment in Europe, so it should be easy to expand across borders. You should’t need the help of a lawyer to expand to another country within the EU.
Another question from the audience mentions that she is a role model for many young people, especially young women, and asks about the key to her success. Her advice, not just to young women, is very entrepreneurial: “Don’t take no for an answer. And follow your heart.”.
Image credit Neelie Kroes: European parliament