Startup incubator Rockstart closing offices amid Covid-19 uncertainty
Business accelerator Rockstart has canceled its lease at its co-working office space in Amsterdam, opting to move its operations online instead, the company announced on Tuesday. The move comes amid growing concern over a rocky future for the city's startup ecosystem in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak in the Netherlands.
Information emerged last week that the startup incubator was setting itself up to leave its 2,800 square meter main location on the Rigakade in the Houthavens neighborhood. During an interview with startup magazine Sprout on Monday, CEO Rune Theill confirmed that the company was indeed planning throw in the towel on its physical office space and go remote altogether. The decision was officially confirmed in a blog post the following day.
"For Rockstart the lockdown changed the company’s strategy to move to a remote-first company," the startup incubator wrote, adding that they will encourage employees to "travel less and optimize for remote meetings to minimize environmental impact."
While the post made little mention of how services for the company's startup partners are expected to change as a result of the move, sources told NL Times that Rockstart began telling startup businesses that it would no longer offer office space or co-working for companies that are not participating in their accelerator programs. It was unclear if the organization would open a new space in Amsterdam for its program members.
Rockstart's move to the online world comes amid growing concern over how Covid-19 will impact startup businesses in the Netherlands and as part of a changing investment strategy for the company itself. Since its launch in 2012, the business incubator said it has worked with 150 startups to raise around 87 million euros and create at least 700 jobs. From later this year, the company will add investments up until Series B to its existing model of seed-stage funding and acceleration programs in a bid to offer longer-term support for businesses, according to startup magazine EU-Startups.
Claiming that its online move had been in the running even prior to the outbreak of Covid-19, Theill told Sprout that Rockstart's co-working space had never been a core part of its business. "Virtually all of the co-working offices you speak to will tell you that there has been a drop in activity for a longer period of time," he explained.
"Moreover, there is a lot of uncertainty about the future: what will happen when people return to the office? Will they do that at all? The prospects for this are uncertain," added Theill.