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Active Matchmaking Event: Digital Start Ups from the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.

“It is not about making plans. They never work out anyway. Follow your guts!”
- Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten, serial Internet entrepreneur, blogger, speaker and founder of the NextWeb

“Dare to let go. Have a moment of nothingness and then build something completely new.”
- Raimo van der Klein, Co-founder and CEO, Layar

“If you want to make money quickly, rob a bank. Go to a casino.”
- Guido van Nispen, Managing Director, V-Ventures

“Don’t focus on one thing. Don’t stick to the knitting. If you do, you’ll die.”
- Jeff Coghlan, Founder and CEO, Matmi

“Patient capital is the game.”
- Jenny Tooth, Co-founder and Director, Angel Capital Group

PICNIC helped bring together 25 of the hottest Dutch and British digital startups in the UK and the Netherlands in Amsterdam on February 21 and 22 to share experiences, gain a better understanding of the investment and tax environment in both countries, and jumpstart business collaborations. Companies active in augmented reality, gaming, social networking, digital content production, advertising, commerce and software development shared experiences and took the first steps in developing bilateral business opportunities.

Organized by The Creative Industries KTN in partnership with PICNIC, Waag Society, Syntens and the UK Science & Innovation Network, this active matchmaking event at the Waag.

Click here for photos of the event. 

Creative Industries in the UK and the Netherlands

The event started with an overview of the dynamic creative industries in both the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.

Frank Boyd, Director of the Creative Industries Knowledge Transfer Network (CIKTN), mentioned that the Technology Strategy Board has earmarked two billion pounds for industry-led R&D. CIKTN is advising the Board on where to fund this R&D in the digital arena, namely connected TV, the Internet of Things and hyper local media. Fifty million pounds will be spent on establishing major R&D centers focused on the digital economy in the UK.

According to Mark Leaver, another UK expert and the event’s coordinator, the UK’s creative economy represents 6% of the country’s GDP, equivalent to its financial industries. Approximately 2.3 million people are employed in the country’s creative industries, with London being a key creative hub, along with Bristol, Manchester, Cardiff, Brighton, Glasgow and Newcastle. The major sectors are TV, games, mobile, design and social media.

The UK’s competitive advantage is a combination of its skills base, creative excellence, access to finance, international profile and geography as a gateway into Europe.

Marleen Stikker, PICNIC’s co-founder and Board Chair, spoke about the fundamental changes taking place around the Dutch creative industries. She talked about the shift from a focus based on ‘how many people have jobs and create business opportunities in the creative sector’ to ‘what is the value of creation in terms of using creativity, innovation and technology to solve the big challenges facing society and business?’

She also outlined the TopSector strategy of the Dutch government (focus on strategic sectors, including the creative industries), the CLICK research program and mentioned the creation of a Dutch Creative Council, the first of its kind which will be launched in the Netherlands in a few months.

Straight, No Chaser from Digital Entrepreneurs

Matmi: Jeff Coghlan, CEO and founder of Matmi, advised the crowd to “diversify or die”, drawing on his company’s experience as game developer turned ‘Best Digital Agency UK 2011’. Matmi is in the process of shifting from a project-based model to a focus on IP creation and licensing. The company is also creating different divisions to streamline its operations and strengthen its R&D.

Angel Capital Group: Jenny Tooth of Angel Capital Group talked about the importance of the 16,000 angel investors in the UK who invest approximately one billion euros. She spoke about important recent developments, including the new £50 million Angel Co-Investment Fund and changes in the tax breaks that UK angel investors will receive. She laid it out for participants, stating that angels want proof of concept, not great ideas, they are looking for 10X return and they want exits in order to get their money, and profits out.

NextWeb: Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten, serial Internet entrepreneur, blogger, speaker and founder of the NextWeb, spoke about the challenging entrepreneurship landscape in Europe where big companies don’t tend to buy smaller companies, despite the fact that European entrepreneurs usually build stronger businesses. He advised the audience to follow their guts as plans don’t work out most of the time and to be very opportunistic in business development.

Endemol Games: Jurian van der Meer, Managing Director at Endemol Games, explained the company’s strategy engage the television consumer at home. He explained that the strongest formats are those that allow the consumer to real time play along with live television game shows. This includes offering people at home the same questions and “ticking clocks” as the candidates on the show. Jurian explained that Endemol works closely with small, technology companies that develop the technology behind all these applications, enabling Endemol staff to do what they do best: designing succesful television formats.

A new second-screen concept will be launched in a few months by Endemol. Jurian could not yet elaborate but he promised that it would be addictive.

Layar: Raimo van der Klein, Layar’s CEO, shared the experience of launching a super successful, media darling tech company which rode the augmented reality wave to stardom. He spoke about launching the company with two other founders, all from marketing, not technical backgrounds. They took an unconventional approach, focusing on creating a compelling story around the company, taking advantage of the hype around augmented reality, and distancing themselves from other start ups to stand out.

Layar launched in 2009 and in three days, The New York Times published a story about the company. The rest is history. Three rounds of financing, the latest being ten million euros in venture capital in November 2010. Layar is staying true to its focus on building a platform, watching its developers make millions while it has not yet turned a profit but understanding that user uptake is key to building a successful, sustainable business. Stay tuned for two exciting developments: an ‘off the shelf’ solution that makes it easy for people who are not programmers or developers to augment everything, including ads, books, newspaper and magazine content, etc. and product development focused on computer vision, rather than geo.

V-Ventures: Guido van Nispen, V-Ventures MD, offered practical advice from the investor’s perspective on how digital start-ups can attract investment. (He was also brave enough to admit that V-Ventures had the chance to invest in Layar but did not, with Raimo sitting beside him smiling.) He talked about V-Ventures main selection criteria: having a simple plan that his company can understand, having or being able to put together a great team which can execute quickly and having administration, finances and infrastructure in place and transparent. He broke it down by speaking about the importance of charm and ‘clicks’ between investors and the founders of start-ups whose passion, energy and conviction is contagious.

A whole lot more went on at the event, especially during the one-on-one matchmaking sessions. The atmosphere of excitement and buzz was energizing. If you missed it, make sure to be there next time! More UK/Netherlands collaboration will happen during the PICNIC Innovation Mash Up and the PICNIC Festival in September 2012. Stay tuned!  

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