As a brand, Brooklyn, or at least the idea of it, couldn’t be hotter. The global interest in all things Kings County goes beyond the Brooklyn-themed restaurants and boutiques springing up in Tokyo and Stockholm, or the Brooklyn-themed shirts and beer sold around the world. New York City’s most populous borough is also emerging as a desirable place to do business. Brooklyn’s culture is attractive enough to outsiders that the Dutch government has gone all-in on its efforts to gain a foothold there.
This week the Dutch government will have a large presence at Brooklyn’s Northside Festival, a four-day event featuring indie music, indie film, and a startup business conference in the hip North Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg. In addition to sponsoring the festival, the Dutch Embassy and Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency will run a pitch session to showcase eleven Dutch startups. The effort is part of the Dutch government’s plan to work more with Brooklyn. Recently, the Mayer of Amsterdam and a group of Dutch businesses sat down with Brooklyn Borough President Eric. L. Adams to commit to working together more.
The idea is to bring Brooklyn businesses to Holland and vice versa. The Dutch government recognizes that Amsterdam has some competition with London and Berlin for American startup headquarters, but believes that culturally, Amsterdam is very similar to Brooklyn. There’s also the historical connection; Brooklyn is named after the Dutch town of Breukelen.
“I heard Brooklyn is becoming the new Manhattan,” says Rob de Vos, Consul General. “We as a consulate look at trends and would like to identify and be the first to be there where the changes are, or where innovation is taking place.” According to the Dutch government, that’s happening in Brooklyn.
To be sure, the large players in New York’s startup scene have largely remained in Manhattan. But Brooklyn has become known around the world as a center for fringe innovations, such as the maker movement inspired by craft goods marketplace Etsy, based in Dumbo, and the indie hardware movement driven by Makerbot, the 3D printing company based in downtown Brooklyn, and Kickstarter, the crowdfunding company based in Greenpoint. These large tentpole companies have created an identity for innovation in Brooklyn that’s very different from Manhattan startups.
In addition to the cool-factor, there’s the wealth creation factor. Cities around the world eager to mimic the success of Silicon Valley. They want it so badly that hundreds of them have coined names like Silicon Shire, Silicon Shore, Silicon Mill or Silicon Mall. Even Brooklyn has something called “Silicon Beach,” which no one actually says. The only difference with The Netherlands — and, in particular, Amsterdam — is that the Dutch want to export their most successful startups to America.
The hope in spawning successful startups which move to the US, is that successful American startups will in turn consider Amsterdam as an attractive place for their European headquarters. Already Uber and and Liveperson have a European headquarters there. And Shapeways, the 3D printing company which started in the Netherlands, has opened a massive factory in Long Island City, Queens.
It’s early days, but The Netherlands is hoping its efforts will result in increased bridge-building, and ultimately, some of the innovation that Brooklyn is becoming known for.