New funding for tech startups boosts Hague’s ‘Impact City’ brand

The growth of 4impact, a new Hague-based fund, is helping the small Dutch metropolis live up to its ‘Impact City’ brand, as locals sing the praises of a hugely mixed city with international ties.

Dutch tech for good startups were promised a €6m boost yesterday, as one of the few social impact funds based in The Hague announced a significant increase thanks to government funding.

The additional capital means 4impact, which invests in Netherlands-based, young tech startups doing good for people or planet, now has €14m available, with the latest top-up coming from a seed fund set up by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy.  

The announcement was made at yesterday’s Impact Fest in The Hague, billed Europe’s 'largest impact meetup' – and was celebrated by the event’s organisers as a further signal of the city’s success in attracting both impact ventures and those wanting to back them. 

City authorities and its partners are pushing hard to market The Hague as an ‘ImpactCity’, with funding, physical spaces and competitions designed to attract and nurture social startups.

Locals appear to agree with the reasoning behind the slick branding.

Alex Taillandier, community and communications lead at The Hague Humanity Hub, a community of around 90 innovators set up early last year, said the ImpactCity brand would not work if that wasn’t also backed up by the infrastructure. The city also offers “a really unique ecosystem” given the mix of people and organisations it attracts, he said.

In particular he highlighted the recent shift of the annual event from ‘Impact Startup Fest’, to Impact Fest as representative of its wider scope. Gathering not just entrepreneurs but also established firms, NGOs, funders and other innovators was a “big step forward”, said Taillandier. Organisers said 1,600 people had registered to attend the Impact Fest this year, including several hundred impact investors.

A local fund

4impact co-founder Ali Najafbagy highlighted the city’s “massive investment” in technology infrastructure, its ideal size and the fact that living costs are lower than nearby Amsterdam as pull factors for entrepreneurs. The kind of startups his fund will seek – Netherlands-based, but looking to work internationally – will also benefit from the city’s international links: it hosts the International Court of Justice, Europol and the International Criminal Court, and is home to more than 200 international organisations and research institutes, as well as being the seat of the Dutch government.

4impact, which is looking to raise a total of €20m, has already invested in Envision, which uses artificial intelligence to support blind people in 60+ countries; and in Solar Monkey, which leads the Dutch market in B2B software for solar panel fitters. Its future investments (equity and convertible loans) are expected to be in the range of €100,000-€500,000 in the first round with the majority of the fund reserved for follow-on rounds.

The 4impact fund made a conscious decision to be based in The Hague, and Najafbagy told Pioneers Post there was a “real shortage of funds” in the city. While distances between cities in the Netherlands are relatively short, people tended not to easily move between them, he said. As a funder he considers it important to be close to investees.

One of the other funds headquartered the city is the early-stage investor and startup accelerator World Startup Factory, which yesterday announced it had become a B Corp. Created in 2015 to support early-stage ventures from around the world (in some cases bringing them to The Hague), it is now expanding its network with offices in Asia, Africa and the US, and aims to have 300 new startups in its portfolio by the end of 2022. 

Founder and COO Mathijs Koper said Europe in general offered an attractive market for impact-focused businesses, thanks to its many “conscious consumers”.

But he also credited the significant effort of the city authorities to create an “innovation ecosystem” and highlighted the unusual mixing of two different “blood groups” of the NGO world and the for-profit world. “They have a lot to offer each other.”

The reporter’s travel costs were part-covered by ImpactCity. Photo credit: © Henriëtte Guest / ImpactCity

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