Behind CIC Rotterdam’s Rise as a Leading European Start-up Hub

CIC Rotterdam Team Photo

A Q&A with CIC Rotterdam General Manager, Joyce Kornet-Vreugdenhil

CIC Rotterdam has secured a prestigious position among the Leading European Start-up Hubs, as recognized by the Financial Times, a testament to its pivotal role in the region’s innovation landscape. Concurrently, Joyce Kornet-Vreugdenhil, General Manager of CIC Rotterdam, has been nominated for Rotterdam Business Woman of the Year 2024, marking an exciting time of recognition and growth in the European innovation ecosystem. 

This article delves into the significance of these achievements for the local, regional, and global innovation community, exploring why nearly 950 clients have chosen CIC Rotterdam as their home since its establishment in 2016.

Q: Can you tell us about the growing role Rotterdam plays in the European innovation landscape and why this recognition matters?

Rotterdam has emerged as a dynamic force in the European innovation scene, boasting a vibrant ecosystem that fosters entrepreneurship and creativity. As Europe’s best-connected large city and the second-largest Metropole Region in The Netherlands, Rotterdam is home to over 1,400 startups, reflecting its status as a burgeoning hub of innovation, according to Sifted. The city’s strategic location and world-class educational institutions, including Erasmus University Rotterdam and Delft University of Technology, make it an attractive destination for entrepreneurs seeking to realize their vision. 

CIC chose to establish its first European location in Rotterdam due to these compelling factors, leveraging the city’s international focus and collaborative spirit. Moreover, a recent report highlighting the employment contribution of startups and scaleups in Rotterdam and The Hague underscores the city’s economic significance and global impact. This recognition not only reaffirms Rotterdam’s position as a leading innovation hub but also highlights the invaluable contributions of organizations like CIC Rotterdam in driving this momentum forward.

Q: How is CIC Rotterdam contributing to the growth in the entrepreneurial community in the region?

I’m proud to say that CIC Rotterdam has been instrumental in catalyzing the growth of the entrepreneurial community in the region, both locally and globally. With over 2,900 full-time equivalent jobs created by our community, we have made a substantial contribution to employment opportunities and economic growth in the region. Additionally, initiatives like CIC and Venture Café Rotterdam becoming an SDG House for the Netherlands have provided a platform for organizations aligned with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals to collaborate and innovate. 

The impact of CIC Rotterdam on our clients’ growth is evident, with 30% experiencing growth since joining, and 62% accelerating their businesses in 2023, raising €12.6 million in funding in 2023. 

Furthermore, our team is committed to diversity and we work hard to make the innovation ecosystem as inclusive as possible. Today, 20% of our clients are female entrepreneurs and diverse founders, and we are excited for that number to grow as we focus on fostering a supportive environment. By actively supporting local initiatives and organizations and offering office and event spaces to influential groups, we work to ensure that CIC Rotterdam serves as a leader in this space. 

Q: With CIC Rotterdam consistently averaging nearly full occupancy rates, how do you plan to expand your reach among the community?

I am passionate about expanding CIC Rotterdam reach and impact within the local, regional and global innovation ecosystems. CIC as a whole is exploring for opportunities to expand our physical space to better serve our community, and find opportunities to integrate with our other global hubs. Beyond providing physical space, at CIC Rotterdam we host local events and partners with accelerators and incubators to foster collaboration and knowledge sharing. As a Startup Visa Facilitator and soft landing spot for entrepreneurs, we aim to support entrepreneurs beyond office space, providing them with the resources and support they need to thrive in Europe’s dynamic innovation landscape.

Q: As a dynamic leader who has propelled CIC Rotterdam to a leader in Europe helping hundreds of startups along the way, what advice do you have for entrepreneurs and startups looking to grow in Europe and beyond?

For entrepreneurs and startups looking to grow in Europe and beyond, I emphasize the importance of community and connection. Understanding diverse markets and cultures is crucial, as European countries differ in laws and customs. Building the right network and team around you is essential for success. Most importantly, think big and aim to make a positive impact. Never be afraid to seek support from experts who have done this before. Programs like CIC’s soft landing are designed to support entrepreneurs on their journey, providing them with the guidance and resources they need to thrive in the competitive landscape of Europe’s innovation ecosystem.


CIC Rotterdam’s journey to becoming a leader in Europe’s innovation landscape is a testament to its commitment to fostering innovation and collaboration. The recognition it has received is a testament to the dedication and hard work of the community, partners, and team. As CIC Rotterdam continues to grow and evolve, stakeholders are invited to engage with its vibrant ecosystem, driving innovation and growth for years to come.

From CIC General Rotterdam