Royal House opens doors for Dutch IT startup

The startup had already had contact with a care home in California through an earlier private visit by one of the members of the management team, where there was interest in the app. Especially because the funding of health care in the US is much more individually arranged, people there are very keen to live at home longer in order to save costs.

This is how contact was established with the American Institute on Aging, which was interested in becoming a partner through a three-party collaboration with Amulet and TimeSteps BV. “Then you enter – certainly in the US – a process that lasts for months with lawyers”, explains Jeroen van Geelen, co-founder of Amulet. “When I was able to report that we would be in California in September with a heavy delegation of ministers and that perhaps the king or queen could be at the signing moment, we were out in two days. That turns out to be quite impressive.”

Delegation has a lot of contact with each other

Van Geelen did not have a lot of interaction with other American companies that gave presentations. He finds it a pity that his program did not offer space for this. On the other hand, working closely with the members of the delegation was very valuable to him. “The ministers traveling with them were very accessible and interested. I was also able to speak extensively with the mayor of Utrecht, who would like to establish the city as a startup municipality.”

The intensive contact in an informal setting within the delegation is also what Frits Grotenhuis, director of the ICT Top Sector refers to as an important part of the mission. “Of the ten top sectors in the Netherlands, directors from three were present: logistics, health and ICT. “It was very useful to talk to them in different settings about collaboration. You can see that ICT is playing an increasingly important role. You talk about problems such as data sharing and data infrastructures. There are generic components, in addition to domain-specific components. How do you organize that with a view to privacy and ethics? That was very useful for the network. And also to talk to startups in that context.”

Austin new breeding ground

How to best stimulate the creation and growth of innovative start-ups is always an important theme during these types of visits to the United States. Part of the trip was a visit to Austin in Texas, which has certainly experienced enormous growth as a result of the corona pandemic as an ‘upcoming hub at the intersection of creativity and tech’, as Grotenhuis describes it. “The prices there are much lower than in ‘the Valley’ and working from home has made distances less of a problem. Moreover, many large companies have opened their headquarters or a branch there. Around such a core, a breeding ground with incubators, start-ups, spin-offs and spin-outs.” He sees a comparison with the Brainport region around Eindhoven.

In Austin – including during a panel session at Capital Factory, the most important startup community in Austin – he signaled interest in how the collaboration between different hubs is organized at national and regional level in the Netherlands, for example with the Dutch AI Coalition on artificial intelligence as a of the five key technologies.

During the part of the trip that continued to Los Angeles, Van Geelen also had interesting conversations about a financing model that he himself set up with his partners from the IGNE (Latin for ‘with passion and fire’) holding, of which Amulet is a part. For example, they help start-ups to develop at cost price in exchange for a participation in these often young companies. “It was exciting to be able to talk about that model with American investors.”

EU sets agenda for ethics and social aspects

Grotenhuis also noticed that the American attendees are very interested in the development of the ELSA (Ethical, Legal and Social Aspects) labs. “In the US, the Netherlands is viewed as one of the frontrunners in Europe in the field of ICT, especially in AI and the attention to how you can include the human dimension – i.e. the ELSA aspects – at the front of the development of algorithms. Why do you do that and how? People like that.”

Europe is at the forefront of the world when it comes to safeguarding privacy and ethics. Because eventually the rest of the world will also have to deal with it. Americans are also realizing this since they also have to take the effects of the European GDPR directive into account. In the Netherlands, this has been implemented via the AVG. Grotenhuis: “Europe is a very important player on the world stage, people sometimes underestimate that. It is mainly due to the collective nature of the European Union and the European Commission as the board of directors, which sets standards and determines frameworks. Not only within the EU but also on international trade and exchange.”

Physical gathering stimulates online collaboration

The journey therefore does not end for both van Geelen and Grotenhuis after their return. “You now have much easier access through the consulates to organizations that deal with Alzheimer’s and age-related diseases,” says Van Geelen. Grotenhuis sees that the consulates and representatives from other tech hubs in the United States each have an extensive network. “In my role, I don’t need to be in contact with all the organizations in those hubs, because those consulates are the spiders in those webs. We have learned that a lot can be done online, but for making first contacts, for scanning and for inspiration and creativity, it’s good to get together informally every now and then.”

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