Office Hours #8: Investment and funding opportunities for startups 

As expected the coronavirus pandemic has brought with it a huge element of financial uncertainty for most businesses. That rings even truer when talking about start-and-scaleups.   In this episode of Office Hours, we welcome Mona Keijzer, Secretary of State for Economic Affairs and Climate Policy and Wouter Bos, CEO of Invest-NL, to explain new initiatives designed to tackle those financial worries.

1 - Corona Bridging Loan (COL)

Mona shed light on the new COL scheme; a €100,000,000 government bridge fund, dedicated to helping start-and-scaleups get through this period. 

“The government is keen on helping, we have several instruments that businesses can apply for to help them through these difficult times. That is why we have now allocated the first tranche of funding of €100,000,000 especially for startups and scaleups.”

  • Temporary Bridging Loan Program

Wouter also detailed a new funding programme of €100,000,000 made available through Invest-NL, which opens up fast-tracked investment opportunities.

“Our main focus is on innovative start-and-scaleups, because we believe that’s where the future of the Dutch economy is. We therefore introduce our TOPSS programme; a loan which will help startups to continue developing their products.”

“We provide this loan based on standard conditions, in terms of pricing and in terms of conversion rights. Because we use standard conditions, we can do all of this very quickly and promise to the market, within 3-5 weeks of application, we’ll be able to close the deal.”

2 - Is it enough?

Naturally, it’s a question those most affected will be asking. Mona expresses her view that the government is already anticipating for more aid when and if it is needed. 

“It’s better to look into the numbers and what lies underneath them. This first €100,000,000 is just part of the package. We also have the temporary emergency bridging measure for sustained employment - and this is only for the first three months. We are now discussing the next package, so it doesn’t stop here.”

“We’re constantly considering doing more, as we said when we launched the first package, this is not the end of the discussion. We will be looking into the economy and when more is needed, we can do more. We’re in a very lucky position in the Netherlands, we’ve got a good budget, we don’t have big financial problems and that makes it possible to do the things which are needed. We’re now looking into what is needed from June 1.”

3 - How are businesses’ funding requests assessed?

Both schemes have slightly different criteria, Wouter says TOPPS will be implemented largely on a first-come-first-served basis, though exceptions can be made for certain cases. 

“We work on the basis of first-come-first-served, with one exception; if investors come to us with financing applications and they can make a case on impact in terms of possible co2 reduction, possible increase of R&D expenditures, or possible creation of jobs, they will move to the front of the queue.” 

“We look at the quality of management, the quality of the business plan, we only want to invest in what we consider to be healthy companies. We want our investment to be used as fresh money, we don’t supply the money to be paid to other investors - we supply the money to enable the entrepreneur to continue developing their business. It’s the usual conditions you apply when you appraise a financing request, it’s just done a lot quicker.” 

Wouter also explained that businesses who may not be desperate for the money right now would still be considered. However, he also highlighted that Invest-NL is still operating as normal, so you could seek investment through normal procedures. 

The COL scheme, on the other hand, doesn’t operate on a first-come basis, rather Regional Development Agencies (ROMs) will be tasked with selecting the start-and-scaleups they feel are in the most urgent need of funding.

“The reason why we give this €100,000,000 to the ROMs, is because they know the ecosystem in their part of the country, they know the promising startups and they will try to find the right startups to make sure the money is served best,” Mona explains. 

It’s worth noting that businesses already on the NOW scheme, can still apply for the newly-announced COL scheme, as the two don’t exclude each other.

While there is no denying that these are incredibly uncertain times for businesses, we’ve heard throughout this series, that opportunities do arise even in the toughest circumstances. Strong ideas can still receive the financial backing they need to flourish and it’s never been more clear that start-and-scaleups are vital to the future of the Dutch economy. 

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