What’s going on in the Dutch startup scene?

I find something very intriguing about members of a royal family working to further the startup scene for a particular country.

In a magnificently frank conversation, I spoke with HRH Prince Constantijn, fourth in line to the throne of the Netherlands, at CES earlier this month. We discussed the Dutch ecosystem, the role of government in stimulating innovation and the challenges the country is facing in helping companies to go from startup to scale-up.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

TechCrunch: Why are you here at CES? 

HRH Prince Constantijn: I think I can help. I want to continue to build a relationship with the CTA [the Consumer Technology Association, which organizes CES] and help some of these companies by introducing them to corporates.

“[The Netherlands] is a country that wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for innovation. About a third of the country is underwater, and it innovated itself into existence.” HRH Prince Constantijn

And some of the companies meet with me just for the selfies. That makes me think, “Maybe cut the crap; I know what you want, so let’s just take the photo and get over it.”

On the whole, I’m here to support companies. In the Netherlands, we have support programs for scaleups or companies that are a bit further along, so a lot of what we do is to build connections, introducing them to founders or investors in the Bay Area, supporting them in as many ways as I can. And [CES] is just one of those outlets.

Why is CES important to the Netherlands in general? 

The Netherlands is a small market, and Europe is quite fragmented. The U.S. is an important market. Most companies — depending on the sector — have to go to the U.S. at some point in time. The U.S. is the biggest health market, for example, so for most of those companies, it’s important to get there early and build some relationships. The U.S. is probably the biggest automotive market, too. CES is relevant to us because it is so big and brings together a lot of different industries. Most of the big players are here.

CES is not a bullseye for some of the companies we have, especially the software companies, but there’s such a density of tech companies here that you find relevant contacts are really high. So that’s most important.

You seem to have taken an interest in the Dutch startup ecosystem. Why is that a focus for you?

What’s going on in the Dutch startup scene? by Haje Jan Kamps originally published on TechCrunch

Demanding employees turn on their webcams is a human rights violation, Dutch Court rules

When Florida-based Chetu hired a telemarketer in the Netherlands, the company demanded the employee turn on his webcam. The employee wasn’t happy with being monitored “for 9 hours per day,” in a program that included screen-sharing and streaming his webcam. When he refused, he was fired, according to public court documents (in Dutch), for what the company stated was ‘refusal to work’ and ‘insubordination.’ The Dutch court didn’t agree, however, and ruled that “instructions to keep the webcam turned on is in conflict with the respect for the privacy of the workers’. In its verdict, the court goes so far as to suggest that demanding webcam surveillance is a human rights violation.

“I don’t feel comfortable being monitored for 9 hours a day by a camera. This is an invasion of my privacy and makes me feel really uncomfortable. That is the reason why my camera is not on,” the court document quotes the anonymous employee’s communication to Chetu. The employee suggests that the company was already monitoring him, “You can already monitor all activities on my laptop and I am sharing my screen.”

According to the court documents, the company’s response to that message was to fire the employee. That might have worked in an at-will state such as Chetu’s home state Florida, but it turns out that labor laws work a little differently in other parts of the world. The employee took Chetu to court for unfair dismissal, and the court found in his favor, which includes paying for the employee’s court costs, back wages, a fine of $50,000, and an order to remove the employee’s non-compete clause. The court ruled that the company needs to pay the employee’s wages, unused vacation days, and a number of other costs as well.

“Tracking via camera for 8 hours per day is disproportionate and not permitted in the Netherlands,” the court found in its verdict, and further rams home the point that this monitoring is against the employee’s human rights, quoting from the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms; “(…) video surveillance of an employee in the workplace, be it covert or not, must be considered as a considerable intrusion into the employee’s private life (…), and hence [the court] considers that it constitutes an interference within the meaning of Article 8 [Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms].”

Chetu, in turn, was apparently a no-show for the court case.

Via NL Times

Demanding employees turn on their webcams is a human rights violation, Dutch Court rules by Haje Jan Kamps originally published on TechCrunch

Creative Fabrica, a platform for digital crafting resources, lands $7 million Series A

Roemie Hillenaar and Anca Stefan, the co-founders of Creative Fabrica

Roemie Hillenaar and Anca Stefan, the co-founders of Creative Fabrica

Creative Fabrica is best known as a marketplace for digital files, like fonts, graphics and machine embroidery designs, created for crafters. Now the Amsterdam-based startup is planning to expand into new verticals, including yarn crafts and projects for kids, with a $7 million Series A round led by Felix Capital. FJ Labs and returning investor Peak Capital also participated.

The new funding brings Creative Fabrica’s total raised to about $7.6 million, including its 2019 seed round.

Before launching Creative Fabrica in 2016, co-founders Anca Stefan and Roemie Hillenaar ran a digital agency. The startup was created to make finding digital files for creative projects easier. It started as a marketplace, but now also includes a showcase for finished projects, tools for creating fonts and word art, and a subscription service called the Craft Club. The company currently claims more than one million users around the world, with about 60% located in the United States and 20% in the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia.

Creative Fabrica’s sellers make money in a couple of ways. If their digital assets are purchased individually, they get 50% of revenue. Files downloaded through the subscription service are assigned points, with creators receiving revenue at the end of the subscription period based on the number of points they accumulate.

Hillenaar, the company’s chief executive officer, told TechCrunch that Creative Fabrica launches new verticals based on what they see users sharing on their platform. For example, its designs are often used for die-cutting, and it recently launched POD (print on demand) files and digital embroidery verticals based on user interest.

Many of the files sold on Creative Fabrica include a commercial license and about 35% of its users actively sell the crafts they make. There are several other marketplaces that offers digital downloads for crafters and designers, including Etsy and Creative Market. Hillenaar said Creative Fabrica’s automated curation gives it more control over copyright infringement than Etsy, which means its users have more assurance that they can sell things made with its files without running into issues. While Creative Market also sells fonts, vector graphics and other files, it is mostly targeted toward publishers and website designers. Creative Fabrica’s focus on crafters means it files are designed to work with home equipment like Silhouette, a die-cutting machine.

Creative Fabrica also focuses on the entire creative process of a crafter or the “full funnel,” Hillenaar added. For example, someone who wants to make decorations for a birthday party can look through projects shared to the platform for inspiration, download digital materials and then start crafting using Creative Fabrica’s tutorials. Since many of Creative Fabrica’s crafts involve equipment like desktop die-cutting machines or sewing and embroidery machines, the platform offers a series of comprehensive tutorials to help crafters get started.

As Creative Fabrica expands into verticals like yarn crafts (it already offers knitting and crochet patterns) and kids projects, it’ll compete more directly with site likes Ravelry, which many yarn crafters rely on for patterns and services like Kiwi Crate that supply materials and instructions for children. Hillenaar said Creative Fabrica’s value proposition is focusing on the many people who take part in several different kinds of crafts.

According to a report from the Association for Creative Industries, about 63% of American households are involved with some form of craft. Out of that number, most partake in multiple kinds of projects.

“Somebody who is knitting is also likely to do die-cutting or woodworking, or another type of craft,” he said. “We believe that with our holistic view on this market we can cater to your whole creative crafting side instead of focusing on just one niche.”