Former Commissioner Neelie Kroes lands job attracting startups to the Netherlands

Retiring is not an option for Kroes, who said life is just beginning after leaving Brussels

Proving that there is life after the European Commission even if you are 73 years old, Dutch former Commissioner Neelie Kroes is to take on a role as special envoy for the startup scene in the Netherlands.

After 10 years as a European Commissioner, Kroes will devote the next 18 months to strengthening the international position of startups in the Netherlands and persuading innovative foreign startups to move their businesses there. Her job is to establish the Netherlands as the best country in Europe to start up a business, the Ministry of Economic Affairs who appointed her announced on Monday.

In true startup fashion, she and her team will set up shop at an old naval site currently under development near the center of Amsterdam. There, she should benefit from the city's international atmosphere which is appealing to young people and innovative businesses, the ministry said.

As a special envoy, Kroes will lead an initiative from the ministry which aims to help businesses grow and develop quickly by providing funding, appropriate regulation, and a new entry scheme for ambitious startups from outside Europe.

Called StartupDelta, the initiative is a collaboration of government bodies, knowledge institutes, startups, financiers and businesses. StartupDelta will collaborate with existing startup hubs in the Netherlands, such as the High Tech Campus in Eindhoven and Kennispark Twente as well as with leading international hubs around the world.

Kroes, who's 5-year term as European Commissioner for the Digital Agenda ended on Nov. 1, said on Twitter that she was very pleased with her new role promising her passion will remain the same.

In her five years as digital commissioner she was supportive of startups, calling them essential to the EU's economic future. She created the Startup Europe Leaders Club, an independent group of founders of tech companies who provide guidance on strengthening the business environment for Web entrepreneurs in Europe.

She also worked on the Startup Manifesto, which aims to stimulate digital skills and excellence in the EU starting in schools, and traveled around the EU in a 'startup tour' to spread the message of the important roles startups play.

While she has become a big supporter of the tech scene, Kroes was also known for handing out some of the biggest antitrust fines in EU history to tech companies in her previous five-year stint as Competition Commissioner.

Under her leadership Intel was fined €1.06bn in 2009 for abuse of its dominant market position by excluding competitors from the market for x86 chips. She also imposed an €899 million fine on Microsoft in 2008 for its failure to comply with an earlier decision requiring it to disclose complete and accurate interoperability information to developers of work group server operating systems.

In her Commission farewell blog post Kroes said digital issues will remain close to her heart. "You can rest assured I will not be tending the roses in my retirement," she said.

Last month, she already hinted at her new role during a TEDx talk in Amsterdam where she recounted one of her weekly Skype sessions with her 6-year-old granddaughter who lives in San Francisco. The granddaughter asked Kroes what her age was. "And I said, at that time: I'm 72. And she said: 'You are still alive? Well, I can assure you life just started," Kroes told the audience.

According to Kroes, the Netherlands is the gateway to Europe which gives opportunities for startups. There is enough money in Europe to fund startups Kroes said, adding that startups should combine their efforts with those of potential investors to make Amsterdam as important to the tech world as Silicon Valley and other startup hotbeds like London and Dublin around the world.

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, online payment issues as well as EU technology policy and regulation for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to

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Loek Essers

IDG News Service
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