The Dutch Consulate General in Atlanta has launched an online platform to connect emerging startups in the Netherlands with mentors here who can help them make the leap into the U.S. market.
OrangeXchangeUSA started as an answer to COVID-19, which halted transatlantic travel just as the consulate was set to host a delegation of fintech companies this spring.
Pivoting to a digital solution, the consulate has now vetted six young Dutch companies that are open to partnerships, ready to expand internationally and innovative in their product and service offering.
This initial cohort will be listed what amounts to a LinkedIn-like social intranet, where established mentors recruited from the metro Atlanta fintech ecosystem can connect with the startups to explore avenues for collaboration.
Both sides can track the progress of their interactions using built-in tools, and the portal will also serve as an information clearinghouse.
“Since we opened, we identified fintech as a focus sector. We’ve been building out that network over the last year and a half. So we were lucky enough to have that community kind of already in place,” said Esther Smith, senior economic officer at the consulate.
The goal now is to encourage the Dutch firms to explore Atlanta as a gateway to the U.S., which doesn’t always happen naturally.
“Atlanta is a major fintech hub. But it’s not always that well-known to the Dutch,” Ms. Smith said. “And that’s no fault of Atlanta. The Dutch are just still kind of tethered to New York and Silicon Valley. But we think there’s a lot of opportunity here, and in many ways makes more sense for companies to look here before one of those places.”
Grant Wainscott, vice president of ecosystem industry expansion at the Metro Atlanta Chamber, said the city is increasingly learning how to add specific value for companies rather than just pitching the city’s charms.
“It’s more about being that open ecosystem where people feel they know they’re going to be welcome,” he said, adding that the mentorship angle — curating real innovators within Atlanta’s fintech sector — will send the accelerate the process of building productive relationships.
“That network we’re going to have in the Netherlands we would never get with a hundred trips and a hundred Zoom calls,” he said.
The launch of OrangeXchangeUSA — a nod to Amsterdam hosting the first stock market in 1602 and Atlanta’s present role in the financial world — comes just a week before a newly virtualized Fintech South conference, where Dutch financial player Rabobank and startup Backbase will represent the country as the consulate joins an all-day international stage on Oct. 6.
Mr. Wainscott said both the conference and the platform are examples of how the travails of the pandemic can be transformed into an “equalizer” for promoting Atlanta globally and rethinking cross-border collaboration.
“It’s such a unique platform. Out of all the years we’ve been traveling and working and having great relationships with our international partners, this is a a completely different level. What the Dutch have put together isn’t just about what we do in times of COVID to keep business flowing; this is as new and deeper way to engage.”
But there’s a catch: It only works when you have an established partner that is open and willing to innovate around the process and commit to two-way connectivity.
OrangeXchangeUSA shows that the Netherlands understands helping its companies grow abroad will also enable them to expand at home, an ethos espoused by the Atlanta chamber through its export initiatives.
“When you have a partner like we have with the Netherlands, you can’t take that for granted,” Mr. Wainscott said.
Indeed, the latest initiative is the outgrowth of about five years of steady progress, starting with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s visit to the city on a trade mission that focused on three sectors: logistics, cyber security and financial technology.
The Dutch consulate then launched in 2019, explicitly focusing on the economic collaboration and espousing a collaborative approach from the outset. Read more: Netherlands Consulate Unveiled With Focus on Georgia Job Creation