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Recently, the Dutch Startup Association (DSA) was officially launched in an attempt to be the voice for Netherlands-based startups. The sole purpose of DSA is to make the voice heard of startups and scaleups to local and international politicians, government and the media. The DSA will lobby for startup-friendly legislation towards European, national and regional governmental bodies.
Today, Silicon Canals got a chance to interview Roland Sars, Chairman and Founding Member of DSA to find out the problems faced by startups, future of DSA and much more. Do give it a read.
Silicon Canals (SC): Can you explain a little bit about the history of DSA?
Roland Sars (RS): Yeah, sure! We officially launched DSA in February 2018, however, we started the work in summers of 2017, when a few entrepreneurs joined forces.. Nobody really knows what’s going on in such companies or what their pains are and how to help them to strive further in our economy. We started talking to startups and scale-ups in the Netherlands and that’s how we found close to 20 founding fathers, founding partners, as we call it and that gave us enough ground to actually launch the Dutch Startup Association in February this year.
SC: Can you name few of those founding partners?
RS: We have two founding partners — Google and Messagebird. And of the founding fathers, we have Bux, Moneybird, Mollie, Ace & Tate, Peerby and many more.
SC: How many members you have currently?
RS: We are close to 100 at the moment.
SC: Talking about success, can you share your achievements in half a year?
RS: Yes! We have a few. One of them is actually, we were in the parliament a few weeks ago and we gave some feedback to Dutch parliament about (Investor Now) which is a new initiative from the Dutch government like an investments vehicle. We informed that Dutch government should be less risk-averse when it comes to spending because the way it is constructed right now the funds will not go to companies that need such funding more, which are startups.
SC: So where is this money going then?
RS: Well, one of the criteria for getting those funding should be that the company should be healthy and have a good, solid background, as per definition, not startups. Like a typical example of what goes wrong in the Hague is that they are talking about startups, but when it really comes to regulations they don’t understand what the real pain is. So that’s one.
Secondly, if you might know 30% ruling has been cut down, the plans are to cut down on expats from 8 years, back to 5 years. Well, that’s got a big impact. It has an impact on people in the Netherlands already. We actually signed the letter to get many CEOs of companies like Booking, Picnic, Adyen and many others, where we actually pleaded for soft transition regime. Because this is not friendly for expats that are already here, we also think its a bad signal for the expats who want to come to the Netherlands. We should really be and remain a country where expats want to come, to work and live.
SC: So in the near future, can you exemplify what is your goal?
RS: First of all, we as an organization want to grow bigger and we aim to have around 200 members by the end of this year. We have few interesting topics, where the most important one is the ability for companies to pay their personal in stock instead of money. Especially those startups when they don’t have that money. In the Netherlands, it’s quite unexpected right now to pay them in stocks, because it is actually taxed as a salary, so its progressive and very high taxed. Also Internationally, to attract more people, towards the Netherlands in that way and I think the majority of that all we do is around 3 topics. First is access to the talented people is access to funds and growth then attractive rules and regulations.
SC: So can you name some rules and regulations that need to change right now?
RS: Well, first is the cookie law, that was introduced a few years ago. It has a lot of impacts on all companies in general and also startups are very much affected, where they need to adjust their website and all kind of communications. It’s kind of outdated already, so this should be changed or made a bit lighter.
Second is GDPR regulation that was recently introduced on May 25th last month, which has quite some impact on the startup industry. It has some uncertainty, vagueness around it, where everybody started panicking. In fact I personally received over hundreds of newsletters around the same time asking me to stay as a customer. We think it should get more clear on what it does and does not, for startups. That’s what we aim for.
SC:How does DSA looks like in next 5 years? Are you still there or are you already redundant, because you achieved all your goals?
RS: I think we will still be there because our work is never done. We aim to be a lot larger than we are today and really want to be the organization, where politicians and civil servants come to, when they have questions or want to listen to the challenges faced by startup community, whether its policies or regulations.
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