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California and the Netherlands Share Focus on Innovation and Sustainability

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Read Marco de Vries' blog on Invest in Holland about California and the Netherlands and their shared focus on innovation and sustainability. Marco de Vries is Deputy Executive Director Americas & Head NFIA San Francisco. 

Highlighting mutual innovative thinking between San Francisco and Holland

When overlooking the San Francisco Bay during one of my runs along the Embarcadero, I often think about how lucky I am to live and work in San Francisco. It’s a city so much like Amsterdam, where I grew up in the Netherlands. Both are of similar scale with iconic buildings and a limited number of high-rises surrounded by water with a high quality of life, abundant opportunities, and many young, open-minded people from all over the world who not only want to be successful, but also want to have a meaningful impact.

Historic canal houses in Amsterdam and Painted Ladies in San Francisco

Because of all these similarities between the Netherlands and San Francisco, my brain often runs through lists of companies, headquartered in Silicon Valley and beyond, that seem ready for international expansion and for who the Dutch investment climate would be beneficial. Every time I see a company logo, I wonder: could there be a win-win collaboration with the Netherlands? That is my job.

I can’t help it that I keep making these links. As the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency (NFIA), we are the central point of contact on behalf of the Dutch government for current and potential investors in the Netherlands. It’s a dedicated team of seven, based in San Francisco, serves the West Coast and as far east as Denver. We proactively reach out to companies offering expertise, consultancy and assistance regarding their global footprint and specifically European expansion.

While NFIA San Francisco has helped countless well-established California companies such as Google, Microsoft, Palo Alto Networks, Cisco and Netflix expand and establish operations in the Netherlands, we also assist promising companies that are scaling up.

Bird, the electric scooter company, is one of the companies we helped to set up its international headquarters in Amsterdam. The company came to us when they were still a small team, but they had a clear vision and experienced executives, who really knew what they were doing. Today, Bird has a valuation of about $2 billion according to a January 2019 report by Bloomberg and continues to expand its global footprint from their two main hubs in California and the Netherlands. It’s been fun to be part of that “earthy-friendly ride”, to use their tagline.

Erasmus Bridge in Rotterdam and Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco

Innovation and sustainability focus

Bird is a great example of the focus on innovation and sustainability that the Netherlands shares with California. NFIA closely collaborates with the team of three Innovation Attachés and the Attaché for Infrastructure and the Environment in San Francisco, as well as our sector specialists in the Hague, utilizing their deep knowledge of industry ecosystems. Together, we are proactively working on innovative and sustainable projects in four key areas:

  • Smart and E-Mobility: The Netherlands is Tesla’s European center of gravity, with its headquarters in Amsterdam and assembly and distribution center in Tilburg close to the Port of Rotterdam. ChargePoint, Uber and Remix also have their European hubs in the Netherlands, tapping into our country’s network of electronic engineering, materials manufacturing, smart traffic innovation and autonomous vehicle development.
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI): Although most of our AI projects are still in a confidential stage (something we take very seriously at NFIA), there has been keen interest in tapping into the Netherlands know-how as a result of top universities with AI-specific studies, AI research hubs and AI startup accelerators. All the pieces are in place for companies to join the likes of Amazon, Qualcomm and Google already doing AI work in the Netherlands.
  • Quantum Computing: Microsoft is just one example of companies breaking new ground in quantum computing with Dutch King Willem Alexander helping to open the new Microsoft Quantum Lab on the campus of TU Delft, which ranks among the world’s best universities in quantum research. Intel Corporation also has a collaborative relationship with TU Delft and TNO, the Dutch Organization for Applied Research, and is investing $50 million to accelerate advancements in quantum computing.
  • Cyber Security: One of the most wired nations in the world with excellent digital infrastructure, the Netherlands has become a cyber security hot spot, Palo Alto Networks, McAfee, Symantec and Forescout are among the Silicon Valley companies that have set up shop there to take advantage of the ecosystems. In the Hague alone, more than 300 public and private organizations are working together to accelerate cyber security solutions.

Self driving six-person WEpod van in the Netherlands and Holland Hurricane in San Francisco

Highly educated talent

Just like California, the Netherlands provides companies highly educated and skilled talent. But the cost of talent is much lower as a result of the affordable cost of living. Paired with excellent quality of life and our Highly Skilled Migrant Visa, it is also very easy to attract international talent from all over the world to work for you in the Netherlands. This provides a multicultural and multilingual workforce.

Silicon Valley is obviously unique when it comes to entrepreneurship and innovation. However, a great Dutch example is Eindhoven, nicknamed “Brainport” because it has the world’s highest patent density per capita and is considered the world’s smartest region.

A promising year

With many new establishments and new projects, 2019 is off to a promising start. I see busy days ahead for NFIA San Francisco with more clarity regarding Brexit expected. Our strategic location in Western Europe in the center of the three largest European markets, pro-business government, R&D incentives and international business being part of the Dutch DNA, perfectly position the Netherlands to facilitate more California companies to succeed in Europe.

After 13 years in various roles within the Invest in Holland network, I continue to truly enjoy all the unique conversations with American executives to understand their goals and ambitions. Even for the most seasoned executives, establishing European operations is not something they do every day. We use our expertise and experience, gained by helping many others before them, to assist with efficiently and successfully establishing operations in Europe.



Want to know more about the similarities and the opportunities the Netherlands can provide? Please contact our San Francisco office at +1 415-291-2060 or email me at to start the conversation regarding your international ambitions. 

Source: Invest in Holland

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