ScaleUp DNA

What are the scale-up success factors?

The world needs more enterprises that deliver innovative solutions to improve people’s lives or protect the planet while making a healthy profit. Meeting these objectives is a challenging task and requires visionary leadership, risk-taking and entrepreneurship. Only those that scale will move the needle, and the road to scaling is long and tough: only about half a percent of surviving enterprises reach significant scale.



This project aims to investigate the success factors of scale-ups with ‘triple bottom line’ impact. Scale-ups are young (<10 years old), innovative companies that have more than 15 FTEs and are growing rapidly. They have innovative products, services and business models, and have potential for large societal impact and customer value creation. Think of solutions in sustainable energy, new mobility and healthtech.

The Netherlands has traditionally been a real ‘scale-up country’

Traditionally, the Netherlands has always been a ‘scale-up country’. The number of large international companies of Dutch origin is relatively large. These include ASML, TomTom, Adyen, and Endemol. Over the last decade, however, the number of companies that has been able to make this leap in the Netherlands has lagged behind compared to the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel or Sweden. It’s time to turn the tide.

The Netherlands needs more scale-ups as well: companies that grow into a significant size contribute on a larger scale to employment opportunities and economic growth. These fast-growing companies form a vehicle for the Dutch job market.

How can we recognize a potential scale-up and what improves its ability to scale?

Previous research by THNK and Deloitte has shown that ‘scale-up’ is not a phase after ‘start-up’, but an essentially different type of enterprise (see Scale Up: the Experience Game). ‘Scale-ups’ are founded by experienced teams of entrepreneurs and designed to scale from the start.

In this research project, ScaleUpNation aim to further test and validate the factors for success of ‘scale-ups’. The project consists of a scientific literature study and extensive field research among 100+ Dutch scale-ups.

Scale Up: the Experience Game


What are the characteristics of the scale-up founding team? Are these led by creative leaders? How does founder experience affect scale-up potential?


What are the characteristics of a scalable business model? How do scale-ups leverage their distinctive edge? What is the organizational structure to catalyse scale? How does leadership empower their team?


What are the practices of successful scale-ups? Are scale-ups risk-taking? What role does serendipity and resilience play? What are their scaling methods?

The end product is a validated model of Scale Up Success Factors. All results and insights will be made publicly available through newspaper articles, academic publications, articles and blogs.

Most scientific research until now has been limited to one or two variables or has been focused on start-ups, rather than scale-ups. Research in the public sector is mostly focused on macro-level conditions needed to create an innovative ecosystem. Instead, this research takes focuses on a holistic view of those dimensions which are within a scale-up’s control.

The results of the research project will have a direct impact on the ventures supported by ScaleUpNation in their Runway and Flight programs designed to help high-potential ventures scale. alongside this project, the parties involved will also explore the potential for a fully-fledged ScaleUpLab – the leading institution on research into Scale-up dynamics, practices and performance which will publish insights on this internationally relevant topic.

The project is carried out by ScaleUpNation, which offers support programs for young companies with convincing scale-up potential. The University of Twente, Utrecht University and the University of Groningen serve as an academic advisory group that provided guidance.


Mr. Menno van Dijk Co-Founder & Managing Director of THNK