Category: Innovation Infrastructure
“Being among the go-to experts in cybersecurity, that’s the value of being in The Hague, close to our policy makers”
The Dutch cybersecurity industry is highly reputable, and counts many globally operating companies. Today we have the privilege to discuss the Dutch cybersecurity landscape with Eward Driehuis, Senior Vice President of strategy at Cybersprint who has over 25 years of experience in tech and cybersecurity. He has top of mind six elements that are fundamental to the current state of the Dutch cybersecurity industry, its impressive size and excellent reputation. In his words:
“we – the Dutch – are exceptionally good at three things: water management, trade and cybersecurity.” Big words, you may say, but let’s hear him out.
1: Excellent digital infrastructure
“First of all”, Eward says, “our country sits on a very solid digital infrastructure. The Dutch government has steadily dedicated significant investments into the digital infrastructure, as it acknowledges our increasing dependency on digital data exchange. This has resulted in some impressive performance indicators: The AMS-IX is the world’s second largest international Internet Exchange Point and processes nearly half of the data going through Europe from the US and India. Also, our broadband is rated as fastest and most reliable in Europe and internet penetration in our country is a staggering 98%.”
This dependable infrastructure has been a true enabler for digital developments, which brings us to the second element that contributed to the growth of the cybersecurity sector in the Netherlands: Digitization in various industries, with banking at the forefront.
2: Market pull
“The Dutch banking sector was among the first in the world to digitalize its business and services, creating new demand for cybersecurity solutions. Often, the banks acted as launching customers and played a significant role in co-developing the products with cybersecurity companies. These conditions pulled the cybersecurity industry into maturity fast.”
But Eward suspects another factor played a part in the high quality of the Dutch cybersecurity industry as well. He points at the relatively conservative investment practices in the Netherlands, where it is difficult to attract investments at the early stages. This means many startups aim to become cash flow-positive at an early stage. Because of this, an early selection occurs, and while not every start-up gets there, the scale-ups are quite healthy. Combined with the market pull, this may very well lie at the foundation of the high quality of the Dutch cybersecurity industry.
“However, I do see the investment climate changing at the moment, which I think is healthy considering the strong position of the industry and its potential to grow much further. Two things are generating this change: accomplished founders who have left their successful companies are getting involved with new startups, both as investors and as coaches. They are forming a crucial accelerator for the Dutch startup ecosystem because of the impact they can make. In addition, investors on the global market are eyeing Dutch cybersecurity startups, attracted by their high success rate.” Says Eward.
3: Learning the hard way, and doing it fast
The high connectivity combined with the high knowledge density in the Netherlands has a downside. Cybercriminals laid their eye on our enthusiastic country early on: using the favorable conditions as a playground, exploring and developing different ways to interfere, exploit and control our systems. Nevertheless, as is Dutch nature, it taught us to defend ourselves at an even faster pace, turning the rules of the game and acting as an example for cybersecurity on the global scene. Now the world benefits from our high level of knowledge and skills.
Both our intelligence services and our police have played a crucial part in exposing cyber threats as well as international cybercrime networks many times over. This has not gone unnoticed, solidifying the reputation of the Dutch cybersecurity capabilities even further.
4: A close-knit community
The cybersecurity community in the Netherlands is highly connected, and pretty much everyone who matters in the industry knows one another. There are plenty of events and an open-door culture where the exchange of knowledge quite intense. “I once was working at an international company for a while, and when I returned I was stunned about the progress that had taken place within the community.” Says Eward.
Community, knowledge-sharing and collaboration is vital in an industry where the stakes are as high and developments go as fast as in the cybersecurity industry. The compactness of the community and the high level of expertise within it stow the industry forward.
And being located in the greater Rotterdam – The Hague region has the specific network effect of being near policy makers. The Netherlands is one of the only countries in the world where the government is seated elsewhere than in the capital; in the city of The Hague. Cybersecurity is an increasingly hot topic in government affairs, as awareness is rising of how vulnerable we are because of the dependency on digital systems. Industry experts are consulted by government officials on a very regular basis.
Initiatives like ‘Tech tegen corona’ (Tech against Corona)create meeting space for politicians and tech experts to interact. But interaction also occurs informally as politicians try to keep their knowledge at a critical level. That is necessary to make the right decisions to keep our society safe and secure in the midst of the digital transformation it is going through.
5: Research and education
At the foundation of our cybersecurity industry stands our excellent talent base and our research institutes. 644 students graduate from the 3 internationally renowned academic universities and universities of applied sciences annually. Cybersecurity is among the popular specializations for graduates and many land jobs within the cybersecurity space after graduation. The (cyber)security community in the greater Rotterdam – The Hague area alone counts 17,600 professionals.
The Netherlands ranks best in Europe when it comes to collaboration between industry and universities. To further stimulate this collaboration, various initiatives are available, providing coaching and subsidies for collaborative innovation projects between companies and research institutes. This ensures the applicability of conducted research and drives innovation within the cybersecurity industry.
6: Quality of life
Among the top reasons to live and work in the Netherlands, quality of life consistently holds an important role for business owners and talent alike.
“And what can I say! Our excellent work-life balance, easy climate, the compactness, which allows us to bike everywhere, the great healthcare and education system, the political and economic stability and favourable tax arrangements, all makes this country very attractive. As a father working in cybersecurity, I can’t imagine a better place for my boy to grow up. It may sound like a futile thing but more often than you would expect, it is determinative in relocation decisions.” Eward concludes.
Interested in joining the Cybersecurity community in greater Rotterdam – The Hague?
Please don’t hesitate to get in touch!