(Editor’s note: This installment of the Eindhoven Business Briefing is part of our Tech Tuesday series. Dispatches Europe tracks the tech scene – startups, scale-ups and mature companies – in our headquarters city of Eindhoven because so many of our highly skilled internationals are engineers, physicists and developers. Nobody is actually working during the August vacation break, but we were bored and decided to crank out a post even though no one will read it. Their loss, right?)
For a company hardly anyone outside the semiconductor industry knew existed a couple of years ago, suddenly ASML is like IBM or Microsoft back in the day … it can move not just markets but entire economies across the globe as every industry demands ever smaller, faster and efficient chips. Which kind of works on your head because Eindhoven just doesn’t give off the vibe of an international power center.
But it is.
Which is apparently the theme for NPO2’s new documentary on ASML that debuts 10 September as part of its Backlight series. On 10 September, public television network NPO2 will start broadcasting “The Secret of ASML.” This doc is in Dutch, and you can see the times here.
The teaser for the doc states (via Google Translate):
Without the general public realizing it, Veldhoven in Brabant is home to the most important company for technological progress in the world. ASML. An ordinary consumer has no business there, but the door is being trampled by ministers and heads of state and by CEOs of large tech companies.
That’s because ASML makes the extreme UV light-based photolithography equipment that allows chipmakers such as TSMC and Intel to make the most advanced computer chips. According to Monique Mols, ASML’s director of communication, the documentary includes interviews with ASML employees about the technology. But Mols states on her LinkedIn page that even she hasn’t seen the finished product: “Ben zelf ook heel benieuwd naar het eindresultaat.” (“I myself am curious to see the final results.”)
If you want to see the best English doc on ASML, MSNBC sent a crew to Eindhoven earlier this year, and they have mind-blowing details including about the next-gen photolithography machine that will sell for $300 million per copy.
So far this year, the only thing holding back ASML is that the supply chain can’t keep up with demand for its room-sized, 100 million euro-plus photolithography machines, though compounding that issue is a growing shortfall of semiconductor engineers, according to Bloomberg.
ASML Q3 revenue of 5.43 billion euros ($5.6 billion) was slightly ahead of estimates even after the company adjusted downward revenue projections at the beginning of the year. ASML’s third-quarter guidance is almost 20 percent below analyst estimates and the company halved full-year growth outlook to 10 percent.
Betting against ASML
On a different note, hedge fund legend Ray Dalio has placed what appears to be a $1 billion euro bet against ASML, among other European companies, taking a short position on the stock. (Which means, essentially, Dalio is betting ASML stock price will fall.) Dalio’s Westport, Conn.-based Bridgewater Associates, has about $150 billion under management which makes it the largest such fund in the world and incredibly influential as hedge funds go. Hedge funds are, as the name implies, how investors hedge against market disruptions. But for comparison, alternative asset management firms such as Manhattan-based Blackstone and Chicago-based Oaktree, which owns High Tech Campus Eindhoven, are far larger.
Still, Dalio is regarded as one of the smartest fund managers and is nobody’s fool. Is the short position part of a separate hedge? Is it because Dalio thinks inflation will stymie business? Supply chain issues? A European bear market similar to the United States? He ain’t talkin’.
One of the many, many things about ASML that blows our minds is that it’s both the most crucial semiconductor company in the world, yet one of the smallest in terms of top-line revenue compared to the giants. Part of that is, it only has five customers, and to meet global demand, it would have to build a plant the size of Eindhoven.
ASML reported total 2022 revenue of about $22 billion. By comparison, Intel booked $79 billion and is, of course, one of five ASML customer. So are Korea’s Samsung ($78 billion just from the semiconductor business out a total top-line revenue of $218 billion) and Taiwan-based TSMC ($57 billion), both of which dwarf ASML … for the moment. But that tells you that ASML has a lot of runway for growth.
Not to be left out, Intel has a bid to acquire the latest ASML machine, the High NA, in 2025.
ASML currently has a market capitalization of 224 billion euros. That makes it one of the most valuable companies in Europe, more valuable than Royal Dutch Shell (158 billion euros) or Volkswagen (88 billion).
American policy makers are realizing they could start losing out to Asian and European chip makers. The Wall Street Journal has an in-depth look at the $77 billion in subsidies and tax credits to spur advanced production in the United States. You know, a billion here and a billion there and pretty soon you’re talking real money.
Speaking of ASML, it’s one of the investors in Eindhoven’s newest fund. Using the Silicon Valley three-legged stool model of university/tech giants/risk capital, Eindhoven has always been missing one leg of the three-legged stool – capital. That’s changing.
The big news so far in 2022 is that the Netherlands has a 100 million euro fund and ASML is a big part of it.
DeepTechXL is on High Tech Campus Eindhoven. This is the fund put together by HighTechXL founder Guus Frericks, with a goal of raising 100 million euros. The fund turned out to be oversubscribed, with limited partners including ASML, Philips, BOM, TNO and PME Pension Fund. Invest-NL is investing 15 million euros. The DeepTechXL general partners include Ronald Meersschaert from Dutch venture capital fund Ramphastos, which used to own High Tech Campus, and VC Ronald Maurer.
Frericks founded HighTechXL, then shifted to DeepTechXL because he’s always contended deep-tech is more in line with what Eindhoven does best. And his quest has always been to create “the next ASML, BSML and CSML,” as he puts it. So, this fund is dedicated to deep-tech startups, including photonics. And clearly photonics is the future of the semiconductor industry.
As we reported back in May, DeepTechXL Fund I general partners anticipate making about 20 early-stage seed investments and 15 follow-on investments and support throughout the lifecycle of promising deep-tech ventures. The DeepTechXL website says the fund will make seed investments in the 100,000 euro to the 2 million euro range. Series A investments typically average about 1 million euros.
But there’s more going on than just entrepreneurs such as Frericks starting small funds. Eindhoven and High Tech Campus are increasingly the center of next-gen centers including the AI Innovation Center and the 5G Hub. So far, the Eindhoven ecosystem hasn’t produced a Unicorn, but several have potential, including Sendcloud, Onward and SMART Photonics.
DeepTechXL hasn’t announced any investments as of August 2022, so they have a lot of undeployed capital. You can pitch them here.
A good example of High Tech Campus’s growing clout is the addition of impact investor/accelerator LUMO Labs back in 2019.
The fund has 20 million euros, with a three-year investment period, and in the Silicon Valley tradition, co-founders Andy Lürling and Sven Bakkes and their limited partners like to be first-in.
LUMO Labs invests in next-gen technology startups that touch at least one of the following Sustainable Development Goals defined by the United Nations:
• Sustainable cities & communities
• Health and well-being
• Quality Education
LUMO Labs partners have been particularly active lately, investing in several startups including:
• chunkx, a digital edtech platform
• Healthplus.ai, which uses artificial intelligence to predict post-operative infection
• Maaind, a next-generation concept using AI-enabled systems to monitor users’ mental states and give them more control and adaptive flexibility over everything from automobiles to smart homes.
Invest-NL isn’t new, exactly, dating back to 2020. But we find them investing more aggressively.
The fund – 250 million under management – is overseen by a private fund manager, but the capital comes from the Dutch government.
Just in the past few months, we’ve read about Invest-NL leading or participating in multiple deals, including:
• 17.5 million for Nearfield Instruments, a metrology company so advanced we’re not even sure what they do. (Just keeping up with technological advances is a full-time job in Eindhoven.)
We’re working on a list of new investment funds across Europe, including the Netherlands. But even post-Brexit, London is by far the place most big U.S.-based VCs go to enter Europe, with Paris and Berlin far behind. And Amsterdam not even on the list, according to PitchBook.