Funding the Future: How the Rabo Innovatielening can help your startup grow 

In a startup's journey, securing the right kind of funding at the crucial early stages can significantly determine its path to innovation and market success. Do you choose for a subsidy, VC investment, loan, or a mix? The Rabo Innovatielening (RIL) is a loan specifically for startups. But how can a bank give out a loan to a high-risk endeavor like a startup? Let's dive into this with RIL receiving startups Ter Bron (Drenthe) and Protyon (Groningen), G-Force Capital fund manager Niek Huizenga and the Rabobank themselves!

First of: the nitty-gritty
For startups, the appeal of the Rabo Innovatielening lies in its targeted support for innovation. It's specifically designed for companies in the early stages of bringing a new product or service to market. The loan is aimed at companies that do not yet qualify for traditional bank loans due to the absence of paying customers and sales revenue.

So, why do startups choose the Rabo Innovatielening*?

  • Subordinated Nature: The loan is subordinated, lowering the risk for other investors and facilitating additional funding.
  • Amount: Offers €25,000 to €150,000.
  • Non-dilutive Capital: Provides capital without equity dilution, preserving founder control. You keep your shares and this keeps it interesting for future investors.
  • Deferred Repayment Terms: Allows for a temporary repayment deferment, supporting startups' growth and development focus. This gives you breathing room to work on your business.
  • Validation and Credibility: Can act as a quality mark and increase attractiveness for further investors.
  • Access to Networks and Expertise: Offers more than financial support, including valuable introductions and insights.

The Startup Perspective: Pioneering with Support

Björn Poort founded Ter Bron, a company at the forefront of environmental technology. Ter Bron has developed a solution for well closing and repurposing processes, focusing on efficiency, sustainability, and safety. Their innovative machinery and methods are designed to improve the traditional approaches, offering a greener and more cost-effective solution. The support from the Rabo Innovatielening (together with other investments) enabled Ter Bron to conduct a pilot project, proving the efficacy of their MVP and paving the way for broader market adoption.

Björn Poort on the Quick Support from the Rabo Innovatielening:

“The innovation loan was not just a financial boost; it was an encouragement which was pivotal at a time when we were transitioning from concept to actual field-testing” according to Björn. "Securing the innovation loan accelerated our journey significantly. It was instrumental in enabling us to conduct our first successful pilot project, which was a critical milestone for Ter Bron. The support from Rabobank went beyond finances; it was a vote of confidence in our technology and vision" he continues. 

Similarly, Hoang Nguyen's journey with Protyon, a spin-off from RUG-UMCG, highlights the loan's impact. Focused on optimizing personalized treatments through molecular modeling, Protyon represents the cutting edge of medical technology. The innovation loan enabled them to further develop their AI-driven software, illustrating how targeted financial support propels startups toward realizing their potential and beyond. "The process of securing the Rabo Innovatielening was surprisingly swift, which was crucial for us. It allowed us to accelerate our development phase significantly, underscoring the importance of such financial instruments for startups like Protyon" according to Hoang.

Strategic Co-Investment Opportunities for Investors

Niek Huizenga, fund manager at G-Force Capital, has multiple startups in his portfolio with the Rabo Innovatielening. It's a great form of capital in addition to one of his investments.

Huizenga explains the financial advantages for startups and co-investors alike: "The loan's structure, deferring immediate repayment obligations, allows startups to allocate their capital towards growth and development. For investors, this is particularly attractive as it ensures that the company has a more robust financial runway, minimizing the pressure of short-term debt repayment."

He emphasizes the strategic value of the innovation loan, stating, "When a startup secures this type of financing, it not only benefits from the financial boost but also gains an invaluable stamp from a reputable institution in the Netherlands. This validation makes the startup a much more appealing investment opportunity for us and other potential investors."

Interesting moves for a bank

Normally, a loan like the Rabo Innovatielening would be far too risky for a bank. No revenue, no customers, means no money for most banks. Director Cooperative Rabobank Carlo Ezinga and Rabobank Startup & Scale-up Banker Harjan van der Linde why their bank can offer this capital.

"The decision to provide this loan stems from our core belief in doing good for society. Unlike our regular banking operations, this initiative is financed through our cooperative dividends, which are dedicated to societal benefits. Only because the Rabobank is a cooperative, we can offer this loan. That's why we're the only bank in the Netherlands who does this" According to Harjan.

Carlo explains, "This is not just about financial support; it's about making a substantial difference in the startup ecosystem and, by extension, the broader economy. We see this as an investment in future technologies and business models that can drive positive change."

Moreover, they highlight the unique position of the bank in taking on higher risks to support early-stage innovations. Harjan states: "We acknowledge the higher risk profile associated with funding startups. However, it's a calculated move to support ventures that we believe can offer significant societal benefits eventually."

In offering the innovation loan, Rabobank aims not only to provide financial assistance, but also to leverage its network and expertise to guide startups towards sustainable growth and success. "It's more than just money; we offer our network and knowledge, connecting startups with potential partners and customers" Ezinga concludes.

In Conclusion
The Rabo Innovatielening represents a cornerstone of support for startups in the north. Its structure is designed to alleviate the common financial challenges startups face, providing a foundation not just for growth but for sustainable development and market penetration. For startups navigating the complex path from ideation to market success, the innovation loan offers more than capital; it provides a launching pad for transformative innovation. Learn more about the Rabo Innovatielening - Rabobank or contact Harjan van der Linde at