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Strengthening the impact ecosystem

May 5, 2023

A visit to the Greater Washington D.C.‘s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

As a leading impact ecosystem in Europe, ImpactCity is often invited to visit other entrepreneurial ecosystems in the world. This time, our program manager Coos Santing had the honour to tell the ImpactCity story in the Greater Washington D.C. area and in turn, get inspired by the local entrepreneurial ecosystem. In this article, we’ll share the ins and outs of our visit overseas. 

This article is particularly relevant if:

  • You are an impact entrepreneur based in The Hague and interested to enter the US market;
  • You are an impact entrepreneur working on a solution for city flooding or better access to food for low-income areas.

Meeting crucial players

At an invitation from the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in the USA, ImpactCity’s program manager Coos Santing visited the Greater Washington D.C. region in April. Together with a delegate of InnovationQuarter, he spent the week meeting crucial players in the local entrepreneurial ecosystem: economic partners, city representatives, ecosystem support organisations (such as accelerators), innovation hubs, impact entrepreneurs, and last but not least, investors. Their impression was surprising and compelling: this area has a very like-minded ecosystem, one we can learn from in The Hague, and contribute to. 

Similarities between the cities

The economic activities in the region are related to the governmental agencies (that is, the Federal government), much like in The Hague. The economic profiles of The Hague, expressed in (digital) Security, Impact Economy, and GovTech are also of significant importance here, just like comparable economic activities such as life sciences and Quantum Technology. Regional economic partners ConnectedDMV, Fairfax County Economic Development Agency, Arlington County Economic Development Agency, Baltimore Development Corporation, and Maryland Department of Commerce gave an excellent overview of the regional economy.

Entrepreneurs from abroad are experiencing the Greater Washington region as an excellent region to enter the US market. InnovationQuarter signed an agreement (MoU) with the State of Maryland. Part of this agreement is an attractive Global Softlanding program, which is also open now for companies from The Hague who want to enter the US market. Because of the similar sector focus, the fact that this is not the most expensive region of the country, and the existence of some of the best public schools in the US, this could be an interesting spot to start your journey in the US. 

Source: DMV in a box

Inspiring Innovation Hubs and Accelerators

Several innovation hubs and accelerators were visited during the trip. The cybersecurity accelerator March37 for example, and the GovTech accelerators DCode and FedTech. They all play a crucial role in the ecosystem for local entrepreneurs. The Federal government works more with startups and scale-ups than the Dutch government. ImpactCity was welcomed to send more Dutch companies to these programs to enroll for big federal projects from the Department of Energy, Defence, and the Airforce.

In Baltimore, ImpactCity and InnovationQuarter stopped by the vibrant Impact Hub Baltimore where it felt like coming home. This hub focuses on impact startups, just like the ImpactCity home base: Apollo14. Two guides showed the building and an impressive exposition on the effects of redlining. Redlining is a discriminatory practice in which services are withheld from potential customers who reside in neighborhoods classified as “hazardous” to investment; these neighborhoods have significantly high numbers of racial and ethnic minorities, and low-income residents (source).

Coos also connected with the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology in Baltimore, which is all about the protection and restoration of coastal marine systems and their watersheds; the sustainable use of natural resources; and the improvement of human health. You can understand how this is relevant for ImpactCity, as The Hague is the only large city in The Netherlands with a whopping 11 kilometers coastline.

The founder of The Cube Cowork, a coworking space that helps moms launch impact businesses, shared her inspiring success story. After that, another visit was planned to the Open Gov Hub, which works together with The Hague Humanity Hub, followed by a visit to the Halcyon House. Impact entrepreneurs from the entire world live here together in a gorgeous setting that belonged to the first Secretary of the Navy.

Global Urban Challenges

At the invitation of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, ImpactCity joined the first ‘Urban Dialogues’ session. Cities are places where major worldwide challenges manifest themselves. Using an innovative format, American and Dutch experts gathered for the first time in the City of Baltimore.

The City of Baltimore has two challenges that were discussed in the urban dialogues. The city is prone to flooding from a number of different sources. The second topic that was discussed is access to food. This is a challenge for low-income residents in Baltimore, like in many other American cities. Some places without access to food are called “Food deserts”.

In The Hague and in the rest of our country, we have a lot of expertise on both topics. But naturally, we also face challenges. According to research in The Hague, 25% of the families living in low-income neighborhoods do not always have access to food (source). And we are very much aware of the threats posed by climate change, which will bring The Netherlands unprecedented challenges in terms of floods.

At ImpactCity, we believe that impact entrepreneurs can play a vital role in developing global solutions for these major challenges cities face. If you are an entrepreneur working on one of these topics and willing to join the conversation, please contact us.