Still, the mood is changing fast, with investors and founders bullish about the prospects of Amsterdam producing the next big thing. They point to the success of Adyen, a Dutch payment services company that recently became the country's first unicorn - a company with a valuation of $1 billion.
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"Success breeds success and if you have people building successful companies and making sure money goes back into the ecosystem, that is where you have that culture of money attracting money and I see that happening," Oscar Kneppers, founder of the Rockstart accelerator, told CNBC in an interview.
Major U.S. companies, such as Netflix and Uber, have also opened their European headquarters in Amsterdam, and founders hope this will give the city credibility as a tech hub and draw in much-needed developer talent.
Ultimately, Amsterdam's success will be judged on whether it can attract investors to pour money into its burgeoning start-up scene. Adyen raised $250 million at a $1.5 billion valuation in December, and Dutch venture capitalists said they had no doubt that more international investors would start to come.
"If more companies raise big rounds, the ambition level of all entrepreneurs will be affected by that and more money will come," Sake Bosch, managing partner at Prime Ventures, told CNBC by phone.