Is Europe ready to be the number one player in the Smart City domain?


Written by:
Antti Rantanen
Head of European Operations

For the last six months I’ve had the privilege to kick off Avanto Ventures European take over. After considering all the options, we decided to set up our first European office in the Netherlands. One of the main reasons was its proximity to other European countries and similar business culture to the Nordics. We also thought it was an upcoming startup ecosystem.

Boy were we wrong on the last point! It certainly isn’t up and coming, it’s fully matured and aiming to become the leading hub at least in Europe, if not in the world. The great thing is the Netherlands isn’t trying to copy the usual suspects like London, Silicon Valley or Berlin, it has created a completely own culture where different dutch cities have their own specific mini-ecosystems.

In my opinion one of the most important aspects of a healthy innovation ecosystem is how welcoming it is to foreign companies and capital. Our first touch to the Dutch ecosystem was at the Media Honeypot at IBC. After the event organisations like Startup Delta, Keadyn, B-Business, CIC, StartUpAmsterdam and Amsterdam Smart City have been overwhelmingly helping us to get a flying start in the ecosystem.

I’ve never in my 20 year career experienced such generosity, it almost feels like they’ve had a collective decision to make this a key selling point of Netherlands as an innovation hub. And I underline the term innovation, as I think we have moved on from the startup focused ecosystem into practice where startup and growth companies, investors and corporates work together to solve common challenges.

Collaboration is the key

Our main focus is on Smart City, which we think will be one of the areas where these three beasts have to find a way to work together. We also believe this domain is one of the biggest business opportunities in the next digital economy and crucial to our survival as a species. And I do tend to sometimes positively exaggerate things, but a lot smarter people than me seem to share my thoughts (for one, see Al Gore’s speech at Slush this year).

For the past years different ecosystems have tried to learn how others do things better or differently, but I think especially in Europe now is the time to break the barriers and start collaborating. We at Avanto Ventures have decided to start this journey between Finland and Netherlands encouraging all the players to make this a Europe wide movement.

We’ve been studying the European ecosystem a lot in the past year around the Smart City domain, and there are so many great initiatives happening in different cities.

Now is the time to start doing this together and create a movement that aims to solve some of the biggest challenges the world is facing in the coming decades. As a side effect, we will build new capabilities for Europe that makes us a key player in not only Smart Cities but in any theme we choose to tackle.


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