2020 edition: Europe’s best incubators, accelerators and venture builders, Pt. 1

(Editor’s note: Dispatches covers the startup/scale-up world – incubators, accelerators and venture builders – because no innovation happens in Europe without highly skilled internationals. Stay tuned for a list of the major VCs and private equity investors that have come to Europe, because this is where the talent is.)

We’ll be honest … we were worried the pandemic would disrupt the disrupters. But that doesn’t seem to be the case. In fact, many of Europe’s top incubators, accelerators and venture builders are stronger than ever.

As a matter of fact, there’s so much going on we can’t cram it all into one post, so this will be the first of several. We’re going to start off with the firms that have events coming up soon.

HighTechXL, Eindhoven

The digital doors (and borders) are wide open for the next crop of deep-tech co-founders. HighTechXL’s assessment process begins now for CEOs, CTOs and CBOs, a process that culminates in everyone coming together for FasTrackathon on 16 September. (You can pre-register here.) More info about the technologies to be presented is coming soon in a separate post.

In Eindhoven, nothing – not even a pandemic – is going to stall the startup scene. In July, six deep-tech startups debuted from the most recent cohort at a hybrid live/virtual event at High Tech Campus Eindhoven. The teams completed phase one of the nine-month venture building program.

Now, it’s time to do it all over again.

The list of notable HTXL alums is long and includes a number of companies such as Accerion and Sustonable that have grown into global businesses. Several of the companies that came out of the 2018 pivot to deep tech have gone on to attract talent and capital from around the world including Incooling.

Here’s how it works:

• HighTechXL curates the best technology from a number of the world’s top tech companies and research centers including CERN, the European Space Agencies, TNO and Philips, then builds teams around that tech.

• HighTechXL takes a 20-percent equity stake. Teams are eligible for a 30,000 euro investment after they complete the program and meet all requirements.

• Startups get space in Building 27 on High Tech Campus Eindhoven, part of the largest startup complex in the Netherlands. They also get mentoring from top tech executives as well as coaching on everything from business building to pitching.

This is a very serious effort, the Netherlands’ premier deep-tech accelerator. HighTechXL is an initiative of the Eindhoven Startup Alliance with ASML, Philips, NTS Group, High Tech Campus Eindhoven, ABN AMRO Bank, Brabantse Ontwikkelings Maatschappij (BOM) and EY/HVG as its founding members.

Read more about HighTechXL here on Dispatches.

Foundry, Paris

We just got a gentle reminder from business developer Vongai Ruzive – applications to Foundry’s program in Paris are open and due by 21 August, and the next cohort commences in September.

Based at IFA Paris fashion school in the 19th Arrondissement, The Startup Program at the Foundry Powered by IFA Paris is Paris’s first fashion-tech innovation lab/incubator.

The six-month startup program provides a place for fashion tech ideas and businesses to grow through a co-working space, new technologies and mentorship.

“We are looking for pre-seed/seed-level startups from anywhere in the world looking to disrupt the fashion industry with a technological solution,” Vongai stated in her email. Applications can be submitted here by 21 August for the September cohort.

One of the candidates will win the IBM Fashion Tech Innovation Award covering the full cost of the program along with mentorship from IBM Studios Paris, a tour at their headquarters to meet the directors and a demonstration of how client presentations/pitches are delivered.

This is NOT an incubator in the conventional sense because you pay them.

BUT in return you get:

• a fixed desk in the co-working space

• mentorship from industry specialists

• access to machinery/3D design (including 3D printers, laser cutters, Oculus Quest VR design, body scanner and pattern software

• access to demo space for presentations/workshops

• meeting room/areas for private business meetings

• access to Foundry partners including IBM, Cos, Coty, Lectra and LVMH

• a slot to pitch to investors at the end of the program during the demo day and much more.

Read more about Foundry here on Dispatches.

EuraTechnologies, Lille

Thomas Soetemondt pinged us from EuraTechnologies, an innovation hub based in in Lille, France. And if you’re thinking, “Lille?” the reason this effort exists is EuraTechnologies is located in a huge abandoned textile factory, and French officials are working to rebuild the local economy. Judging by the number of exits, this approach is working.

This is a public-private partnership backed by the municipality of Lille, the Paris-based financial corporations Crédit Agricole Nord de France, Lille-based insurer/banks Crédit Mutuel Nord and Caisse d ‘Hauts-de-France

Euratech Venture is an investment subsidiary with about 40 million euros. 

As we researched this effort, it appears this is mostly intended for French-speaking entrepreneurs, though there are communications both in English and French.



Founded in 2009, EuraTechnologies has a pre-incubator for single aspiring entrepreneurs; 80-day incubator to take startups to a MVP; 9-month accelerator program; office space for growing companies


E-commerce/retailtech; FinTech, AssurTech, legal tech and cybersecurity, AgTech, robotics and PropTech.

Some of the notable exits:

Virtual employee canteen/delivery service Dejbox was acquired by French supermarket giant Carrefour earlier this year.

French energy multinational Total acquired WayKonect, a digital fleet management startup, in 2017.

Global consultant/outsourcing firm Capgemini acquired Itelios, a connected commerce startup in 2017.

You can apply here.

LUMO Lab founders Sven Bakkes, left, and Andy Lürling

LUMO Labs, Eindhoven

LUMO Labs is the Y Combinator for good, a unique hybrid that’s its own category – a two-year angel-funded startup master class.  LUMO Labs is both a fund and a venture builder that dates to 2016.

The fund is 20 million euros, with a three-year investment period. LUMO Labs initially invests between 300,000 and 500,000 euros in each startup, then can add another 1 million for up to 1.5 million euros.

LUMO Labs, which is on High Tech Campus Eindhoven, invests in next-gen technology startups that touch at least one of the following Sustainable Development Goals defined by the United Nations:

• Sustainable cities

• Health and well-being

• Quality education

• Big data/deep learning and AI

LUMO Labs portfolio companies include:

• GO EU creates e-commerce B2C logistics software for a shop-and-ship experience in Europe where all shipping costs, duties and taxes are prepaid during checkout. The solution includes its own e-commerce platform enabling non-European web shops to manage their European e-commerce shipments.

• Alternative Investor is creating blockchain token technology that will secure information on any asset-backed security via a private or public ledger. Alternative Investor has merged withLos Angeles-based Verses.

• BikeClip is bike rack technology created by entrepreneur Maurice Paulssen that will hold any type of bicycle … clearly a Dutch priority.

• PWXR – formerly Pillow’s Willow – is a VR studio that creates active e-Sport games with rotational motion tracking and orientation and positioning tracking VR hardware.

You can pitch your idea to LUMO Labs here.

Read more about LUMO Labs here on Dispatches.

Antler, global

First things first. Antler has a virtual demo day coming up on 2 September, so you can join and check out the Amsterdam teams, at least. You can sign up here.

Okay, Antler is possibly the most ambitious effort that’s (sort of) come out of Europe. Founder Magnus Grimeland is a Norway native and Harvard grad who sold his business to the Samwer Brothers at Rocket Internet, then went rogue with Antler starting in 2017 in Singapore. Since then, he’s added Amsterdam, Stockholm, London, Oslo, Sydney, Nairobi and last month India. So, this is not an effort built on Dutch humility.

First and foremost, Grimeland and Antler are all about building great companies while mitigating risk for investors. To that end, rather than funding random teams, Antler builds teams around entrepreneurs with good ideas, seed-funding them with about 105,000 euros for 10 percent of the company while taking them through a six-month accelerator.



Each Antler location has a 30 million euro fund, coming in early at low valuations, and forty percent of the initial investment covers fees and initial costs.

Who they’re looking for:

Antler is looking for three types of founders: product builders, industry experts and people with operational and sales skills.

Antler’s play is industry-agnostic and diverse including medtech, sharing economy, food tech and fintech. “What we really care about is getting the best talent,” Grimeland told Dispatches in 2019. “If that talent is in the food technology and they’re passionate about that, we know it’s a big enough (sector) to build great businesses, and we do that for them.”

How it works:

As Amsterdam operations launched, staffers sent out 6,000 emails to people in their LinkedIn database “who have the interesting traits to become great founders,” Grimeland told Dispatches in 2019. That generated 1,500 applicants who were interviewed first by Antler staff, then by partners.

You can apply to the Antler program here.

You can read more about Antler here on Dispatches.


You can see our 2018 lists here and here, and more on incubators and accelerators here.

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Co-CEO of Dispatches Europe. A former military reporter, I'm a serial expat who has lived in France, Turkey, Germany and the Netherlands.

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