Constantijn van Oranje, Level-Up 2023 Evoluon Eindhoven © Bram Saeys
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The 1,500 or so start-ups now active in Brabant show that a vibrant ecosystem is emerging. “That is certainly worth a compliment,” said Constantijn van Oranje at the launch of Level Up at the Evoluon in Eindhoven. “But much more is possible. If you look at the situation in North and South Holland and the proximity to Flanders, where a lot is happening now, you have to conclude that Brabant is far from having reached its limit.”

But what is needed to grow further? Constantijn has some ideas about that, too. “To begin with, there are the general principles. Dreaming big helps tremendously. It offers no guarantees, but those who dream small are sure to stay small. Meanwhile, stay realistic; a solid plan remains necessary.”

Specifically for Brabant, Constantijn sees excellent developments in the involvement of large companies such as ASML and Philips. “Brabant used to be all about those companies themselves, but now they see that a flourishing start-up ecosystem is also important for themselves. That has set a lot in motion, but more needs to be done. Investors could be a little less cautious, as we now know. In addition, governments could become more founder-oriented. After all, that’s what it’s all about.”

Constantijn says the same is true for his organization Techleap. “You could say that we had a down-round last summer because the government started giving us less money. But that only made us more aware of the choices we have to make. We understand even better now that we are a community for founders. A certain defragmentation is part of that, which Brabant also needs. Focus on the start-up founders’ needs, and don’t limit yourself to the local environment. By throwing open your borders, Brabant can only really become that magnet for the world.”

The whole country

Co-organizers of Level Up Brigit van Dijk (BOM) and Jeroen van Woerden (The Gate) immediately reflected on Constantijn’s thoughts, together with provincial delegate Martijn van Gruijthuijsen. “It’s not just about Brabant,” said Jeroen van Woerden. “We are looking at the whole of the Netherlands and beyond because that is the only way to organize the right value proposition, the best team, and good financing. Then you can grow and create impact.”

Martijn van Gruijthuijsen © Bram Saeys
Martijn van Gruijthuijsen © Bram Saeys Level-Up 2023 Evoluon Eindhoven

BOM can also help with that, Brigit van Dijk stressed. “We do that through supporting events like Level Up, but also more broadly. We roll out the red carpet for start-ups with what they need: knowledge, network, capital.” Ultimately, all of that should lead to the solutions that move our world forward, added Martijn van Gruijthuijsen: “Start-ups can offer us the solutions that other companies don’t have. Specifically for Brabant, this is visible in a huge maker culture and an atmosphere of collaboration. As a government, we want to stimulate those two things. Together, we ensure those start-ups can successfully develop to the next level.”

Jeroen van Woerden, Brigit van Dijk, © Bram Saeys
Jeroen van Woerden, Brigit van Dijk, © Bram Saeys Level-Up 2023 Evoluon Eindhoven