Speech by Prime Minister Mark Rutte at the Investors’ Dinner, San Francisco, Monday 1 February 2016

Prime Minister Mark Rutte is visiting the Silicon Valley area in California from 31 January to 2 February 2016. This speech was held on Monday 1 February at the Investors’ Dinner, San Francisco. 

Ladies and gentlemen,

I’m actually a week too early. It would have been great to combine this visit with the 50th Super Bowl next week! In fact, I see a clear parallel between the Super Bowl and enterprise in Silicon Valley. Because both involve playing at the highest possible level. Everyone I’ve talked to in the past two days is at the top of their game. I find their energy contagious.

Our meeting today is all about the digital economy. Which is changing our lives, whether it’s Big Data, online payment services or 3D printers. And that means enormous opportunities for entrepreneurs – from the biggest multinationals to the smallest start-ups. In business – like sport – the challenge is not only to get to the top, but also to stay at the top. So when big advances are being made, you always try to be at the forefront. That’s a mind-set that Silicon Valley and the Netherlands share.

And like top sport, it’s crucial to invest in the right team. In that one outstanding quarterback. In that one programmer who can build the app that makes all the difference. In that one marketeer who can sense what the market wants. And in that one partner – perhaps from the Netherlands, almost 6,000 miles away – who can add that little detail that makes your service unique.

And the great thing is: in 2016 it doesn’t matter if you’re 6,000 miles apart. Silicon Valley and the Netherlands are more connected than ever. We might be a small country, but for years we’ve been one of the top-five investors in the US. And the US is the biggest investor in the Netherlands – creating 200,000 jobs, many of them in IT.

Take the massive new data centre that Google is currently building in the Netherlands, which will cost over 600 million dollars. Google is doing that because we are fast becoming the IT capital of the world. Amsterdam is one of the world’s biggest internet hubs. Of the fifteen submarine cables that connect the US and Europe, eleven enter the continent through the Netherlands. So we are the digital gateway to Europe.

And as a result, the Dutch Startup Delta initiative is really taking off. The Netherlands is a European hotspot for entrepreneurs that stand up, start up and then scale up. They’re all looking for opportunities and a chance to partner with other top players, like here in Silicon Valley.

Many such partnerships already exist, I’m happy to say. Many digital products and innovations have Dutch origins. Almost all computer chip makers use machines built by the Dutch firm ASML. In fact, ASML and Cymer of San Diego are now working on the next generation of chips, using extreme ultraviolet light. And the Dutch connection doesn’t stop there. The ‘Father of Wi-Fi’, is a Dutchman; his name is Vic Hayes. And thanks to clients like AirBnB, Facebook and Uber, the Dutch online payment service Adyen has already become Silicon Valley’s ‘cyber wallet’.

Our strong position isn’t something we can take for granted. The Netherlands needs to work to maintain and reinforce that position. And that’s exactly what we’re doing. We are home to leading technology clusters, with world-class R&D in the fields of agri-food, life sciences & health, chemicals and high-tech. Business, academia and government work together in these clusters in a truly unique way, creating a climate for innovation at home and abroad. And we have a workforce with an open, international and pro-business mentality. So with everything we do, we strive to be fit for the future.

Ladies and gentlemen,

From GoPro to Google and from Cymer to Cisco, for all players in the digital economy the sky’s the limit. The world is demanding smart ideas and innovations.
Silicon Valley and the Netherlands are responding to that demand, with an open mind and an enterprising spirit. We have three things in common: accessibility, openness and constant innovation. We are both curious. Not only about what’s next, but also about who’s who. In short, we have all the ingredients for the best mutual investment climate. So it’s good we have a chance to get to know each other better this evening.

I look forward to hearing your experiences and ideas. My colleagues from the NFIA, our special envoy for the Dutch Startup Delta initiative, Neelie Kroes, and I will listen carefully to what you need to keep your business booming, especially in the Netherlands. So that we can provide a pro-business investment climate and maintain our leading position. Together we can be the digital quarterbacks that dominate the game in this new economy!

Thank you.