(Editor’s note: The Eindhoven Business Briefing is part of our Tech Tuesdays series. Dispatches covers tech across Europe because so many of our highly skilled internationals are engineers, physicists and entrepreneurs.)
Faltering economies and foundering stock prices are having a strange effect on American tech behemoths such as Microsoft, Apple and Meta. These dominant multinationals have so much cash on hand that they’ve started trying to buy their way out of tough times by acquiring the tech they need for future innovations or just because valuations are down and everything is a bargain. Especially if you’re Meta, with $50 billion in cash on your balance sheet.
And so, it begins. That sucking sound you hear is ravenous American tech companies acquiring American startups and scale-ups. In multi-billion dollar deals, Infosys acquired BASE and Microsoft has been buying everything including Activision Blizzard.
You have to wonder how long it will be till they run out of deals and turn their attention to Europe. Specifically, to the Netherlands. And specifically, Eindhoven.
Well, you might not have long to wait. One of the biggest whales of them all just swallowed an Eindhoven minnow.
At the end of December, Meta acquired High Tech Campus Eindhoven-based Luxexcel, the first Eindhoven-based tech company to be acquired by a huge American tech company since Medtronic acquired Sapiens for $200 million back in 2014. (Okay, Medtronic technically is based in Dublin, Republic of Ireland, but its executive headquarters is in Minneapolis.)
Luxexcel was first in the 3D-printed prescription lens space, and the business media is speculating Facebook/Instagram parent company Meta wants Luxexcel for the next generation of smart glasses on the way to creating the Metaverse. Luxexcel’s smart lenses are used in LCD displays and holographic film.
This deal has received shockingly little coverage in Europe and neither party has revealed how much money changed hands. But the fact that Meta is the fourth-largest tech company by capitalization in the U.S. means somebody, including investor Innovation Industries, did okay.
Founded in 2009 by Richard van de Vrie, Luxexcel remains the only company in the world that can 3D-print ophthalmic lenses. Innovation Industries invested 4 million euros in Luxexcel back in 2017, so we’re thinking the Amsterdam-based VC had a very nice exit.
This sort of acquisition is the logical outcome for most startups and scale-ups. Founders typically don’t go into projects thinking, “I’m going to spend the rest of my life building the next Philips or ASML.” Moreover, European startups have to go to American venture capitalists or private equity players early in the game to get the funding unavailable here. See JW Player and Shapeways for reference.
In 2023, the technology coming out of Eindhoven is increasingly sophisticated. Companies such as EFFECT Photonics, Axelera AI, Maaind, Salvia and Ambagon Therapeutics are more quickly reaching the point they need serious funding than previous enterprise software startups such as Sendcloud or mobility companies such as Amber Mobility, now part of The Sharing Group.
To be sure, a lot of acquisitions have fizzled in the past few years, including Qualcomm’s failed grab for NXP back in 2016, though ASML has quietly made lots of acquisitions over the years. So, it will be interesting to see if this is win, lose or draw for Eindhoven. But one thing is certain … it will be the American VCs and investment bankers who really reap the rewards.
BOM wants to introduce your MedTech company to Minnesota
The MedTech Minnesota trade delegation is taking up to 15 companies to Minneapolis, America’s No. 1 city for medical innovation. MedTech Minnesota is a project of Brabant Development Agency, or BOM, LIOF, Oost NL and the Dutch Consulate General in Chicago.
Minneapolis is home to Medtronic and 3M, and Philips Healthcare has a major presence there. The MedTech Minnesota mission is to introduce Dutch startups and SMEs in MedTech to investors and new customers in the U.S. market, the biggest in the world.
Why should you join?
• The U.S. is one of the most important MedTech markets in the world in terms of market size, R&D investment and foreign investment. The American demand for innovative Dutch solutions is high.
• Commercialization. Dutch companies learn how to pitch successfully to the American market.
• Minnesota has a specific focus and expertise on medical devices.
• Strong collaboration with local Minnesota partners such as Minnesota’s Medical Alley
This isn’t inexpensive. The fee is 950 euros for each participating company and you have to pay your own transportation and accommodations. But you get instant entrée into one of America’s Top 3 premier MedTech innovation centers along with Boston and the Valley. And you get to work with American startup veterans who’ll help you get your pitch and pitch deck up to American standards.
This mission is part of a long-term program to build a lasting relationship with Minnesota to strengthen MedTech clusters in both countries over the next two years. You can see more details here on the LIOF website.
Dispatches wins Piek Award
No one was more shocked when we got the call we had been selected for a “Star” award at the High Tech Piek Awards, one of 10 given out this past Thursday. The IO Piek Awards, sponsored by Innovation Origins, recognize the people who contribute to Eindhoven’s tech ecosystem. And they decided that includes us.
There was a certain karma at work here. The High Tech Piek Awards was the first big tech event we attended when we arrived in Eindhoven way back in 2016. Since then, we’ve used Dispatches and our other companies to raise Eindhoven’s profile in the United States and Europe.
These are the other winners of the 2022 High Tech Piek Awards:
Stars: Four people recognized for their contributions to the high tech and startup scene in and around Eindhoven during the past year.
•Johan van Erp, Eindhoven’s Startup Director.
• Ingelou Stol, communications manager at High Tech Campus Eindhoven and co-founder of Fe+male Tech Heroes
• Andy Lürling, founding partner at LUMO Labs
Knaller: Four people from whom much can be expected in the coming year.
Piek Award: One person year after year has made – and hopefully continues to make – a structural contribution to the Eindhoven ecosystem that deserves a lifetime award.
We’re not used to being in the spotlight ourselves; we’re the ones telling the stories of clients and other stakeholders through Dispatches Europe and client channels. Indeed, we were there to receive our own award but also to take photos of Ingelou Stol and Andy Lürling, clients who also won awards. We were more excited to applaud their efforts than our own.
Unlike Terry, I do not win awards, so this one was extra-special. It’s nice to be recognized for our efforts to catapult what I call the center of the high tech universe – Eindhoven – to the world. To quote Patrick Swayze in “Dirty Dancing,” “Nobody puts baby in a corner.”
In the day, I won my share of journalism awards, including a Scripps Howard First Amendment award and a Military Reporters and Editors award for reporting from Iraq. But this is a bigger honor because it recognizes our efforts to promote the Eindhoven startup ecosystem, which we believe is the most underrated in the world and Europe’s most important. The High Tech Piek Awards also recognize a tangible contribution to the community, which is something to be proud of.
Incooling signs 3.5 million euro deal with Rheinmetall
Incooling, a HighTechXL alumnus founded in 2018, has closed a 3.5-million-euro investment round with the Germany-based Pierburg Pump Technology, a division of Rheinmetall RHMG. Rheinmetall has acquired an undisclosed stake in Incooling B.V, the German arms maker announced on Monday.
Incooling custom-builds servers for data centers with a proprietary, 2-phase cooling system. The servers’ superior thermal management lets data centers achieve high-efficiency standards while wasting less energy.
The acquisition of the stake is, among others, a step in Rheinmetall’s transformation of its Sensors and Actuators division in the field of digitalization, according to a media release.
This is the second deal for Rhienmetall in recent days. The conglomerate acquired 40-percent of high-tech software firm blackned GmbH.
Fontys officials want to double enrollment in the school’s IT and technology segment, to 1,400 from 700, according to Studio040. While Technical University of Eindhoven has a full engineering program, Fontys is more like the equivalent of an American technical school. The Netherlands, like most advanced economies, cannot produce enough tech talent to keep companies advancing.
Eindhoven’s housing market is finally cooling, with fewer homes sold and transaction values declining.