The Amsterdam Center for Entrepreneurship (ACE) is planning to launch a €150mn fund later this year to further expand its support to startups spinning out of academia.
Established in 2008, ACE is the city’s university incubator with four academic stakeholders: the University of Amsterdam, the Vrije Universiteit, the University of Applied Sciences, and Amsterdam UMC.
Its mission is to help students and academics build a company. For this reason, ACE offers two types of programmes: the Explore Programme, which provides the business and entrepreneurship fundamentals; and the Incubator Programme, which targets early-stage startups that are ready to grow their businesses and need the tools to do that.
“Explore is sort of like PhD students playing with the basic ingredients of entrepreneurship,” Oscar Kneppers, CEO of ACE, explained in the latest episode of the TNW Podcast.
“In the best scenario, those people would say at some point, ‘Hey, I want to build a company,’ and they would come to the Incubator.”
But why is such an initiative needed for Amsterdam’s ecosystem?
According to Kneppers, there are thousands of researchers but very few companies that are created by them.
“We have the smartest people in one city, working on so many different beautiful subjects, and solving so many problems,” he said. What was lacking was a system to bring all this knowledge and talent to market.
For this reason, ACE is moving to a new chapter and is rebranding itself as Cæmpus, with “æ” standing for “academic entrepreneurs.” Kneppers’ vision is to bring all the different initiatives of the four universities together under one umbrella brand.
“It’s about building an integrated entrepreneurship programme on all locations, all campuses in Amsterdam under the Cæmpus brand,” he explained.
At the moment ACE isn’t investing in the startups it’s helping to build, nor is it a shareholder. But Kneppers plans to introduce a €150mn fund to invest in these startups both as Amsterdam, as an ecosystem, and as Cæmpus .
The capital is also as an evergreen fund. “If we make money with it, it flows back to the next generation and it’s also giving back to the city,” he said, adding that he has seen the system work already for Stanford University and MIT.
“My goal is to make it attractive for people to even consider building a company,” Kneppers noted.
If you’d like to hear more about ACE and its future plans, you can listen to the full interview here.