The ScaleNL Connect Chicago program offered 10 promising Dutch agri-food startups a unique opportunity for a warm intro to Chicago, the agri-food capital of the US. This comprehensive program, organized in collaboration with the Consulate General of the Netherlands in Chicago and local partners, provided a platform for the promising startups to prepare for their US market entry through purposeful connections. In this retrospective, we take a look at the ScaleNL Connect Chicago program, from the rigorous selection process to the exciting business trip to the vibrant city of Chicago.
Selection Phase: Paving the Way for Innovation
The journey began with the selection phase, where ScaleNL worked with startup networks in the Netherlands to solicit applications from promising tech startups. This phase was crucial in identifying startups with the potential to disrupt the agri-food industry and drive sustainability, efficiency and positive change. The selection committee evaluated the applications based on several factors, including US market potential, likelihood of success in the US market, and overall assessment of the startup’s business model. After this process, the carefully selected cohort consisted of innovative startups with the potential to disrupt the agri-food industry across the Atlantic and beyond.
Getting the Program Started: Building Foundations for Success
Once the cohort is selected, the ScaleNL Connect Chicago program kicks off with a series of preparatory sessions with workshops designed to equip the startups with the necessary tools and knowledge to make the most of the opportunities available to them in the US.
The first of the three sessions was hosted by Microsoft at their inspiring Amsterdam office, where the founders met for the first time and began the bonding process that is a fundamental part of the program. The second session was held online and focused on Chicago, where key players in the local ecosystem shared their knowledge and answered the startups’ burning questions. The final prep session of the Connect program took place at The Hoxton in Amsterdam, where we concluded with a dinner hosted by ScaleNL partner Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, giving the founders the opportunity to have an in-depth conversation with an industry expert about scaling and fundraising in the US.
Throughout the preparatory sessions, we focused on how to connect and engage with the US audience through pitching exercises and a series of expert speakers who shared their experiences and challenges of expanding into the US market. These sessions and networking events foster valuable connections and pave the way for potential collaborations and partnerships.
Flagship US Business Trip: Making Waves in Chicago
The culmination of the ScaleNL Connect Chicago program was the highly anticipated business trip to Chicago, the agri-food capital of the US. Armed with the knowledge and skills gained during the Dutch portion of the program, the founders embarked on a week of industry events, networking opportunities and a highlight pitch event.
During this week, the founders participated in the comprehensive IFT First expo, connecting with industry experts, investors, other experienced founders, company visits and potential partners. Throughout their time, the startups had the opportunity to engage in meaningful conversations with key stakeholders in the U.S. market through curated networking events organized for them by the team at the Consulate General of the Netherlands in Chicago.
The highlight pitch event played a crucial role during the business trip, allowing the startups to present their ideas, products and aspirations to a wide audience. The event, hosted by ScaleNL partner citizenM hotels, took place on the trendy terrace of their recently opened location in downtown Chicago. It provided the perfect platform for the startups to articulate their vision, demonstrate their market potential and attract potential investors and partners. The founders shared their growth plans and ambitions, leaving a lasting impression on the audience.
The grand finale of the program was an evening of baseball, an American favorite. ScaleNL’s valued partner, Rabobank, hosted the evening on a private rooftop overlooking the iconic Wrigley Field, where the startups and select guests shared a memorable Chicago night!
Closing Reflections: Celebrating Success and Looking Ahead
As the ScaleNL Connect Chicago program comes to a close, we reflect on the achievements and celebrate the success of the cohort. The startups have gained invaluable knowledge, expanded their networks, and established a strong foundation for entering the US market. The partnerships and connections made during the program will continue to support their growth and pave the way for future collaborations. The ScaleNL ecosystem on both sides of the Atlantic remains committed to supporting their growth and enabling them to create a sustainable and inclusive future for the agri-food sector.
Looking ahead, ScaleNL will continue its mission to strengthen Dutch tech scale-ups and facilitate their expansion into the US market. With the support of local partners and consulates in cities across the US, the journey continues and the ScaleNL ecosystem remains committed to fostering innovation, collaboration and success in the Dutch tech scene.
🚀If you’re interested or know someone who would benefit from our US market entry programs, applications are now open for the ScaleNL West Coast Accelerator program, help spread the word!🚀
– The ScaleNL Team