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Climate change is a problem of a magnitude that we have never faced before. More than 10% of the world’s economy is tied to fossil fuel sources and all of that needs to be changed. We need to do a full overhaul of the entire energy system. It is a challenge on the one hand, but on the other hand, it is a multibillion-dollar business opportunity.

To address climate change, we need great people. Trump recently practically eliminated the ability to get a work visa for immigrants, making it very hard for US tech companies to hire international talent. It’s tragic for businesses in the US, but it offers a way to get Europe in the pole position for this climate change business opportunity.

Campaign to target highly skilled workers

The Brainport region in the southern province over North Brabant, The Netherlands, launched a campaign this week to target non-US highly skilled workers and entice them to come to the Netherlands. I really like the campaign and the fact that the opportunity is being seized because those talents are very much needed in order to ensure the strength of our economy now, and in the future.

But, having said that: The motto ‘’Stop waiting for the American dream, come to where the magic happens’’, could be improved. By phrasing it like this, we are actively putting ourselves in second place, behind America. It even looks a bit like we are trying to make ourselves look good by downgrading America as a good workplace, although that’s not the case. Effectively nothing has changed there, people just aren’t allowed in. We need to respect the fact that America has built some great tech hubs while at the same time being able to distinguish ourselves from the US, not place ourselves behind it.

The Netherlands has a thriving start-up and tech scene which offers a lot of opportunities to work in places where the future is being created. Great talent is of vital importance to the success of these start-ups on the worldwide stage. Companies do not exist without their employees and a good idea is nothing without a team. No unicorn was created without a great team who are able to deliver something unprecedented. Diversity and highly skilled immigrants are a must in order to become successful.

Severe drawback

In relation to seizing the opportunity when it comes to recruiting from this great pool of talent for the Dutch ecosystem, I’d like to point out one severe drawback within the current rules for hiring highly-skilled workers from abroad. To protect our internal market, the Dutch government dictates that when hiring highly-skilled non-EU workers, a specified minimum wage applies along with an age restriction. This makes sense; we don’t want to have jobless graduates because our corporations are trying to minimize their wage expenditure by hiring cheaper skilled workers from abroad.

I hereby call for action from the Dutch government to reassess these rules for start-ups in particular. The Netherlands really needs that great talent in order to deliver the next start-up unicorns.

For start-ups, however, these rules are completely disproportionate. It means that if we want to hire someone from a non-EU country who is older than 30, we need to pay this person a minimum of €4612 (gross) a month. That would mean a junior engineer would get paid more than 80% of our company’s employees. Accepting the higher wage is something that would not be justified within a start-up situation like ours. We have successfully advocated for a lower salary for a founder (otherwise a higher salary is obligated by Dutch law ) over the past year so that we can keep the internal salaries in line with the compensations and benefits within our start-up.

At Lightyear a large section of all our applicants is non-EU. I am not sure if the Dutch government is even aware of the counterproductive effects of this legislation on our start-up ecosystem. I hereby call for action from the Dutch government to reassess these rules for start-ups in particular. The Netherlands really needs that great talent in order to deliver the next start-up unicorns.

France is leading the efforts

Our country is in urgent need of highly skilled immigrant workers and I firmly believe that start-ups are able to increase this influx more than what corporations can. Albeit, if we are able to pay them. France is leading the efforts to make their country attractive for talent from abroad with very generous 4-year visas for start-up founders and employees. Not only would this help our tech start-ups thrive and make our economy more resilient, but immigrant workers would also acquire a great track record themselves by becoming founders. In the US, 55% of the billion-dollar start-ups have an immigrant founder. Consider Sergey Brin (Google) or Elon Musk (Tesla).

If you look at the world’s Top 100 most valuable companies ranked in terms of market capitalization, you will find that there’s not even one European tech company on that list. Next to our investment climate, we also tend to make sure that we are able to attract the right talent. If we really want to seize the opportunity here, we need to amend the rules quickly to make sure start-ups like Lightyear will be able to hire the next Jeff Bezos.

About this column

In a weekly column, alternately written by Buster Franken, Eveline van Zeeland, Jan Wouters, Katleen Gabriels, Mary Fiers, Tessie Hartjes, and Auke Hoekstra, Innovation Origins tries to find out what the future will look like. These columnists, occasionally supplemented with guest bloggers, are all working in their own way on solutions for the problems of our time. So tomorrow will be good. Here are all the previous episodes.