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Academic Startup Competition winners learn how to do business in Silicon Valley

From 9 February to 5 March 2021, ten Dutch startups – founded by students and staff of Dutch universities and university medical centres – will take part in the Digital Mission West Coast USA. The West Coast region is home to the leading universities Stanford and Berkeley, as well as startup valhalla Silicon Valley. During the mission, the startups will learn about the latest developments in their specialist field and be shown the ropes of doing business and pitching in the United States by experienced entrepreneurs. 

The mission was one of the prizes for winning the Academic Startup Competition 2020. The 10 winners were announced in November 2020. The Digital Mission is being made possible by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy and the Dutch consulate-general in San Francisco. Economic state secretary Mona Keijzer announced the Digital Mission today at the Impact 2021 online event.

‘Our universities and university medical centres are producing so many fantastic ideas and great innovations,’ said Mona Keijzer. ‘But that’s just the first step. How do you get your idea out into society and onto the market? I want to encourage our bright minds to do business the Silicon Valley way. So they can conquer the world from the Netherlands with their products or services and, in doing so, create economic growth and jobs for our country.’

Digital Mission West Coast USA
Specially selected mentors and Silicon Valley experts are helping the 10 winners prepare for the mission, by organising pitch training for them for example. During the mission itself, the winners will meet virtually with investors, entrepreneurs and other experts who will give them advice and help them expand their network. The consulate-general will also ensure that they are introduced to leading academics at Stanford and Berkeley. Finally, they will virtually visit prominent companies to explore opportunities for collaboration.

Academic Startup Competition
The Academic Startup Competition is an initiative of the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU), the Netherlands Academy of Technology and Innovation (AcTI), the Netherlands Federation of University Medical Centres (NFU) and, and is supported by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy. The competition’s organisers wanted to highlight the importance of valorisation as one of the core tasks of the academic world. In addition to the Digital Mission, the winners will be offered an introduction to the academic ecosystem, an introduction to the network of Dutch entrepreneurs, investors and businesses, and a coaching programme by local and international mentors. They will also hold the title ‘Best Academic Startup of 2020’ for a year.

Holland in the Valley
The Dutch consulate-general in San Francisco supports Dutch entrepreneurs in a variety of ways to help them get a foothold in Silicon Valley. The Holland in the Valley programme promotes collaboration between leading Dutch companies, students, and the region’s innovative ecosystem. The programme aims to develop Dutch entrepreneurial talent and enable Dutch startups to grow faster and more sustainably in Silicon Valley. This is achieved not only through the Academic Startup Competition but also via NL Growth Labs, an initiative that helps Dutch startups scale up internationally, for example by linking them to Dutch scaleups that are experienced in doing business in the US.