The Hague Business Agency – bringing innovative international companies to the EU market
The Hague Business Agency (THBA) are the leading organization in The Hague for expanding or relocating international businesses. During the COVID-19 pandemic, THBA started their new Digital Soft Landing Program (DSLP), designed to help overseas start-ups and scale-ups prepare their entry proposition for the EU market. Shortly after, Catalyze joined as a program partner delivering strategic guidance and funding expertise. To learn more about the DSLP and the partnership, we spoke with Anesh Kisoen, International Business Advisor Tech & India, and Neeltje Ramnath-Willems, Business Unit Manager Green & Sustainable Innovations at Catalyze.
Opening the city of The Hague to innovative business pioneers
Aiming to create a warm welcome for international companies, The Hague Business Agency (THBA) was founded 20 years ago to support The Hague in fulfilling its role as an Impact City – for entrepreneurs who want to build a better world.
THBA further this aim for the city through their Soft Landing Program, established in 2016, which is designed to ensure ambitious international start-ups or scale-ups are able to enter the European market, via The Hague. The program helps entrepreneurs tackle challenges in the critical setup phase, with a particular focus on validating European entry propositions in specific sectors, such as new energy, the impact economy, or agritech.
Anesh highlights the aims of the program:
”The program has been set up with the aim to help high quality international start-ups validate their European value proposition with local ecosystem players prior to their physical expansion process. By optimising their preparation for EU expansion, we hope that the chances of these start-ups finding success and growth in our local ecosystem increase through following our 4-step structured programmatic approach.”
The Digital Soft Landing Program: validating European entry propositions
During the pandemic travel restrictions prevented the normal operation of the Soft Landing Program, spurring THBA to respond with an adapted, Digital Soft Landing Program. Through adopting this new approach THBA ensured they could continue to provide overseas entrepreneurs with an opportunity to explore new markets in the local region, and more broadly the Netherlands and EU. Originally a temporary solution during the pandemic, the program now has a permanent place at THBA.
Anesh explains, “The DSLP is basically an intermediate step to prepare start-ups and scale-ups while they’re still in their domestic country. The idea was that as soon as the pandemic restrictions were lifted, these companies would have completed preparations to enter the EU market as soon as possible.
“However, we saw after the pilot that such a program actually really helps in terms of quality, because it aids in qualitatively preparing these companies to expand. That gave us the idea to continue with the digital soft landing program as a precursor to the ‘physical’ soft landing program.”
Identifying the need for a partner with funding expertise
The program is made up of a core consortium consisting of the necessary municipality or regional government required for the local ecosystem to open to the program, an accelerator that trains the start-ups to address their value propositions, and a knowledge partner providing expertise on each specific sector. In addition, there are program partners, such as Catalyze, providing more specialized insights to participants.
As Anesh explains, the need for Catalyze’s funding expertise was made clear after commencing the first round of the DSLP:
“During the first round of the DSLP I received feedback from participants that they were interested in learning more about the funding landscape. That is when I started searching my network for the right partner who has experience working with the Dutch government, is familiar with the RVO, has the right connection on the EU level, and is willing to partner in order to provide valuable insights to our companies.”
Neeltje adds, “We were ready to take-on the role of providing strategic funding expertise to the program. THBA are creating an excellent gateway into the region of The Hague for innovative companies across a range of high-impact sectors. The DSLP can go a long way to increasing their chances of success and we are thrilled to take on an active role in this growing ecosystem.”
Strategic partnership: The Hague Business Agency and Catalyze
As DSLP partner, Catalyze provides information sessions on the funding landscape, and specific subsidies available within each sector. Additionally, participants in the DSLP gain access to one-to-ones with Catalyze experts who provide tailored strategic funding advice.
Anesh emphasises, “That is highly valuable for all our clients that are innovative and willing to strengthen the innovative climate of the Hague region, the Netherlands, or the EU. Funding is always an important topic, and Catalyze fits perfectly with their services and their willingness to help these companies to succeed.”
Neeltje comments on Catalyze’s role in the DSLP: “Through our involvement in the DSLP, we aim to ensure that members of the program are equipped with a clear funding strategy for entry into the Dutch – and European – market. With our leading funding and financing expertise we will demystify the funding landscape and highlight the most appropriate programs to each start-up.”
Contributing to the growth of the innovation ecosystem around the Hague
Moreover, the partnership gives Catalyze and THBA the opportunity to collaboratively improve the offering given to the participants in the DSLP.
Anesh highlights how they can make the map clearer for DSLP participants to expand into Europe:
“Having access to the services of Catalyze gives us more tools to convert and work on quality start-ups and scale-ups, in order to convince them that the Netherlands and The Hague is a great place for these companies to start their business for the European market.
“Catalyze helps us to make the pitch better and more understandable for companies that would like to start the journey in Europe, from The Hague, with the entire funding landscape being being mapped out.”
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