TQ Amsterdam: Where start-ups go to grow

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Tech Quarters (TQ) Amsterdam

On October 11, Tech Quarters (TQ) Amsterdam opened its doors. This new Tech Community will be the breeding ground where start-ups go to collaborate, develop and scale-up their propositions. And where collaboration happens, innovation follows. As a founding partner of TQ Amsterdam, ABN AMRO is preparing to contribute to the next-level development of promising (tech) start-ups.

We're going to jump in with both feet and prepare for all the possibilities. Jasper Verbeek Jasper Verbeek Innovation Manager Startups & FinTech

Strong foundations

Google for Entrepreneurs has already started similar Tech Communities in 40 cities around the world. The co-working spaces give start-ups a place to share talent, tools and trainings that help them grow from small-scale to full-scale. In Amsterdam, Google partnered with The Next Web. They recruited founding partners like ABN AMRO, KPMG and Booking.com. That way, start-ups have access to the knowledge, expertise and networks that will put growth into high gear.

‘When Google and The Next Web heard about our experience with start-ups at TSO, they approached us to collaborate with them at TQ,’ says Mike Todirijo, Start-up Marketeer at ABN AMRO. ‘We’d learned some very valuable lessons from our TSO days, and we’re going to keep working to give start-ups the service and support they’re looking for.’

Fresh starts

It’s definitely not ‘(bank) business as usual’ for Mike and his colleagues, Innovation Manager Jasper Verbeek and Partnership Consultant Lodi de Brauw. They know that to work with start-ups, ABN AMRO will have to shed the traditional ways of the past. ‘Banks aren’t exactly known for being technologically innovative,’ Jasper says. ‘But working side-by-side with start-ups, we can develop new products, services and business models that get to the heart of what start-ups want and need’.

You won’t see any bankers in suits strolling the halls of TQ, either. ABN AMRO has created a brand-new role, exclusively to support start-ups. The Start-up Liaison was deliberately hired from outside the bank, and has equal measures of corporate and start-up experience. The Start-up Liaison will be a single point of contact, through which start-ups gain access to all the knowledge and expertise within ABN AMRO’s walls.

Direct access

The Start-up Liaison will directly address start-ups’ financial questions, problems and frustrations, and will actively seek solutions. Whether through traditional banking channels, ad-hoc add-ons, or entirely new products and services.

‘At TSO, we learned that the bank’s regular “Relationship Managers” didn’t speak the start-up language. There was too much of a gap between traditional banking and the fast-paced, innovative start-up world. So this time, we hired someone who can offer a fresh new perspective, sit at the table, and be a true collaborative partner for start-ups.’

Active participation

But it doesn’t stop there. ABN AMRO will also host a wide variety of events to stimulate start-up collaboration and growth. With hackathons, innovation challenges, traction programmes and more, ABN will offer start-ups plenty of opportunities to come together to address their biggest challenges in a collaborative working environment. Every member of TQ has something to teach, and something to learn. ‘Start-ups are, by their nature, true innovators,’ Jasper says. ‘When they work together, the possibilities for advancement are almost endless.’

Quid pro quo

Of course, ABN AMRO’s participation in TQ isn’t completely altruistic. There are serious benefits for the bank, as well. Beginning with the improvement of their service offering. ‘The needs and frustrations start-ups experience are unique today,’ Mike says. ‘But tomorrow, they will be completely mainstream. We’ve got a lot to learn from start-ups about the best way to serve this growing and important customer group.’ The team intends to work with start-ups to develop entirely new propositions and create new case teams.

There are technological benefits to score, as well. ‘Digitisation is becoming more and more important for ABN AMRO,’ Jasper says. ‘We’re increasingly becoming a more tech-driven organisation. So we need a strong network of technology partners with whom to work. Our collaborations at TQ will give us access to new technology. We can learn from tech companies, sense trends and help grow technology in the financial sector.’ Jasper says that discovering interesting FinTech partners and uncovering talent are two more reasons why the collaboration is win-win.

And of course, there’s competitive edge to consider. As banking regulations intensify and technological advancements change the landscape, ABN AMRO intends to use its connection to the most innovative FinTechs in the country to keep ahead of the competition. After all, the market is changing faster than ever before. Every connection can stimulate powerful progress.

Opportunities galore

Mike says that working with TQ’s founding partners also offers great opportunities. ‘When you get a chance to work side-by-side with Google for Entrepreneurs and The Next Web, you don’t say “no”,’ he says. ‘We can learn so much from these giants of the start-up world, and put those lessons into practice within the bank,’ he says.

And learn, they will. Although it’s too early to tell exactly where the collaboration will take the bank, the Start-up Team fully intends to enjoy the ride. ‘We’re going to jump in with both feet and prepare for all the possibilities,’ Mike says. ‘Start-ups often work with a “build, measure, learn, repeat” methodology, and so will we. We certainly can’t claim to have all the answers yet, but we’re fully prepared to do the work to get there.’

Although quite different from each other, leading corporations and innovative start-ups complement each other perfectly. The strengths of one serve the needs of the other. ‘TQ is the place where the bank world and the start-up world will come together,’ Jasper says. ‘And when they do, they make each other stronger, and accelerate each other’s growth.’

For more information about TQ Amsterdam, please send a mail to startups@nl.abnamro.com.

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