(Editor’s note: Dispatches covers technology, startups and innovation centers because that’s where our highly skilled internationals tend to work. That includes HighTechXL, where expat team members and staffers represent at least a dozen countries. Find out more about FasTrackathon and venture building here.)
Coming up on 25 March is your next chance to join a deep-tech startup at HightechXL. That’s the date for FasTrackathon, the reverse-hackathon where HighTechXL reveals the next group of technologies from deep-tech research centers such as the European Space Agency and CERN.
So, what’s it like jumping into a new venture?
For CEO Rudie Verweij and the Incooling team, the trajectory has been straight up after blasting off at the 2018 HighTechXL FasTrackathon.
Incooling, which uses CERN-inspired technology to cool computer chips, just announced a collaboration at CES in Las Vegas with GIGABYTE, the Taipei-based hardware maker that’s dominant in gaming and other applications. Incooling is using GIGABYTE’s R161 Series server platform as the test-bed and prototyping model for a new class of high-performance servers for the high-frequency trading market.
SELLING THE SIZZLE, NOT THE STEAK
Of course, Incooling didn’t come out of the FasTrackathon with a next-gen nano cooling system. It’s taken time (including nine months in the HighTechXL accelerator), talent, testing and capital to develop the technology.
On 21 February, we sat in on a one-hour Experience Lab at HighTechXL during which Rudie Verweij and CMO Helena Samodurova talked about the never-boring journey.
So in the earliest days – remember, this was just 17 months ago – Incooling was selling the idea built on CO2 cooling research from CERN. And because everyone wants faster computers and data centers that are more energy-efficient, they immediately got traction.
If you can leverage the fact you’re novel and innovative AND you bring something new, that is very interesting even to the largest companies.
Founded in September 2018, CEO Rudie Verweij was on the phone during the HighTechXL Christmas party a few weeks later with executives at one of the world’s largest tech companies who were interested in what Incooling was up to. Not interested enough to strike a deal, but interested. “They were just hearing us out … just trying to figure out ‘how does work? How do we do this ourselves?,’ basically.
“Luckily, we didn’t have anything … we were a couple of months in. We didn’t know anything.”
But the team, which includes physicists and engineers, quickly developed a phase-change cooling system that circulates refrigerant to cool chips, CPUs and GPUs.
Recent tests with the Taipei-based hardware giant GIGABYTE showed Incooling’s approach lowered core CPU temperatures up to 20-degrees Centigrade, resulting in a 10-percent increase in boosted clock-speed while lowering power consumption dramatically.
By the end of 2019 Incooling had:
• announced at the Beyond Tech conference they had raised 630,000 euros, 30,000 of it from the Eindhoven Startup Alliance and the rest from undisclosed private investors.
• was chosen to attend Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) in The Hague.
• won the “wild card” to pitch at the Get in the Ring Global Meetup in Berlin.
• won Innovation Origin’s Gerard and Anton Award and 10 Startups to Watch in 2019
• won third place in the Elektor Magazine Startup Games, Best Startup in Benelux
• along with ASML, won the first CoSta award for best innovative collaboration between a corporate and a startup.
• won the pitch competition at VentureCafe Rotterdam, claiming the grand prize: a plane ticket to InnoVEX in Taiwan. Garage+ selected Incooling to go to Computex (InnoVEX is a part of Computex) so they had booths at InnoVEX and Computex.
This was a pivotal moment, which resulted in two extended trips to Taipei and that partnership with GIGABYTE.
It’s about the relationships
By August 2019, they’d narrowed down their list of potential partners to two or three, one of them being GIGABYTE, which turned out to be the first partner.
So while Computex required a lot of time and effort, it is a great customer tool. “But the question becomes, how can you maintain your relationship?” Rudie said at the Experience Lab session.
They had two main challenges:
• While engineers at potential partners got what they were doing, management often was reluctant to commit assets to back a young team – average age 25 – and an unproven technology. But, it was the confidence of the engineers that got them a hearing with management and ultimately won the day at GIGABYTE.
• The most promising discussions were happening in Taiwan, but no one on the Incooling team spoke Mandarin. So, they hired thermal engineer Rony Sian who speaks Chinese. Which provided some interesting moments when Rudie said he didn’t know what was going on. “Turned out they already said yes (to a collaboration), but I didn’t know. It was in Chinese.”
In the earliest days, team members were “a bit timid on the technology side, trying to learn as much as we could. Now, we are coming out of shells, converting what we learned into reality,” Rudie said at the Experience Lab session.
“If I would give myself advice, I would say do that earlier.”
If the Incooling adventure sounds like fun and you want to jump into a deep-tech startup, come to the next FasTrackathon. Click here to register. We’ll have a full post later about the technologies that will debut. We can tell you that so far, they include technology for the European Space Agency and Philips.
The full Incooling team includes:
Rudie Verweij, Helēna Samodurova, Rony Sian, Hejran Mehrtak, Hossein Beikaii, Karen Magaña, and Guus Frericks. The team members are from the Netherlands, Latvia, Guatemala, Mexico and Iran.
About HighTechXL/Eindhoven Startup Alliance:
HightechXL is the Netherlands’ premier deep-tech venture -builder and 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.
Co-CEO of Dispatches Europe. A former military reporter, I'm a serial expat who has lived in France, Turkey, Germany and the Netherlands.