(Editor’s note: We started the Eindhoven Business Briefing in 2017, because we had more news in our headquarters city – which has a huge expat population – than we could possibly post. The future really is being invented here. Send your news to: [email protected], the first version of this post misspelled Nick Nedelchuck’s name.)
Is business global or what?
We met Nick Nedelchuk, a native of Ukraine based in Den Haag, at a recent HighTechXL Give Back Monday event in Eindhoven. Nick and fellow Russian business partner Sergey Chebykin – an IT executive working for Walmart in the United States – are developing Localie, an AI-powered app that matches travelers with hosts who speak their language … and much more.
The Localie experience “is like you’re visiting friends in any city in the world,” Nick says. Their first market is their native Russia.
So think about that … a Ukraian entrepreneur with a U.S.-based Russian tech guy building a Dutch startup, and entering the Russian market.
We get around, so we knew the new, new thing in travel apps is AI-enhansed suggestions for destinations combined with personal guides combined with à la carte choices including room and board, all part of what Nick calls “the experience economy.”
Localie’s first market on the 300-million strong Russian-speaking market: “We’re focusing a lot on Ukraine as well with its 45 million inhabitants who have recently got a visa-free regime with EU countries and international tourism is rapidly growing over there,” Nick said. Localie also is focusing on Belarus, Kazakhstan and the Baltics; all Russian speaking markets.
The idea is to start with matches based on languages, then add AI-refined matching to the type of travel people are looking for – adventure travel, chilling in cafes or whatever.
For us, what separates Localie from the pack is that it has pretty strong sales revenue 10 months after going live – $32,000 and climbing from the launch in March 2018 to January 2019 – even as Nick is still working as an IT project leader for IKEA. Also, the team has managed to attract 300-plus hosts in 110 cities.
“We’ve doubled monthly sales with Localie – January to December, our growth record so far,” he said. “Travelers keep showing us that we’re building a great and in-demand service, filling us up with enough energy to make it happen.”
Localie went from selling three tours in March 2018 to 77 tours in January, according to their pitch deck. “Further on, we’ll set up the algorithm that will use AI in the matching process,” Nick said. Also coming are three more languages including English.
For us, the best slide in the Localie pitchdeck states:
This is what we’ve achieved without any funding, almost zero marketing investment; working overnight and through weekends in parallel with our full-time jobs. Imagine what we can achieve with your support.
Russia is not the biggest market, but because of the political situation, there are Russians everywhere, Nick says. Which is great for his business: “We even have people in Chile.”
The trick is finding the balance between users and hosts.
Localie currently is using social media to recruit both guides/hosts and travelers.
Nick says SM has its limits:
But you know, social media was not as effective as articles … collaboration with the media. Collaboration with the bloggers. So when someone is referring to you, referring your service to readers, that’s another story. Then we get more people. Online advertising doesn’t work perfectly.
For the moment, there are lots of challenges including finding the right accelerator. Nick is talking with Rockstart in Amsterdam but having scheduling conflicts. Entering Founders Factory in London is an option.
By now, most of the business is focused on Russian speakers, “so Eastern European funds are interested in us, a Ukranian fund,” Nick said.
Localie got its first offer from the Internet Initiatives Development Fund. “They call themselves the largest capital fund in Europe. But some media call it ‘Putin’s Fund,’ a state-owned fund initiative and they require you to register your business in Russia,” Nick said. IIDF offered Localie 35,000 euros and offices in the middle of Moscow plus mentoring.
“But it’s not the best place to scale internationally,” he said. “The key thing here is, I’d rather have a partnership with someone from Western Europe or the United States who can help us more.”
Nick foresees partnerships with airlines, with easyJet one of the Founders Fund investors.
Most of all, he wants to jump into the business full-time “and show people what we can do.” If you’re interested in talking with Nick, ping us at: [email protected] and we’ll connect you.
The bullet points:
• Localie is an Integrated business: whatever people want, Localie can give it to them including a place to stay,
• Just book the tour with Localie, 69 euros for a half day, “which is nothing …. the price of one dinner,” Nick said.
• You get a guide, a place to stay, language matchup and all for one low, low price.
Speaking of startups, HighTechXL’s Beyond Tech, Eindhoven’s flagship startup event for 2019, is coming up 11 April at High Tech Campus Eindhoven.
Here are our five reason startups MUST attend Beyond Tech:
1 – $ € ¥ £
Money makes the world go ’round, and startups thrive. Matchmaking sessions will put you in front of potential investors and/or corporate partners, who might give you a shot at a joint venture.
2 – Pitch competition
Ten high-potential startups vie for great prizes from Impact Track ambassadors ASML, Philips, NTS Group, imec, TomTom, BOM, ABN AMRO, EY, DSM, Here, Accenture and IBM.
3 – Expert sessions
Hear about the adventures in The Valley of a Dutch startup at storied accelerator Y Combinator, Zielwear, the startup by a founder of Shapeways and the potential benefits of working with Dutch telecom giant KPN.
4 – It’s free … FREE!
Free is probably in your budget ….
5 – It’s all about the connections
As any investor will tell you, you’re only as good as your connections. Come meet the people you need to meet in the legendary Eindhoven startup ecosystem.
You can see all the details, then sign up here for Beyond Tech.
This is just one event on HighTechXL’s a busy spring schedule:
• March 15: Traineeship Casting Day
• March 18: Mentor Reconnect
• March 25: SmartConnect (formerly Give Back Monday)
• March 27: High Tech Hackathon
• April 11: Beyond Tech
More details as events come together.
ASML in the news
ASML, Eindhoven’s largest tech company, is a dominant player in the semiconductor industry, with an 85-share in photolithography, the process that etches nano-architecture circuitry on computer chips. It also has about 25,000 employees in 16 countries. And now it has a few hundred more.
• ASML has just acquired Mapper, based in Delft. Unlike ASML, which uses ultra-violet light, Mapper uses electron-beam technology to essentially burn circuits onto substrate. This is basically about the larger company pulling in Mapper’s substantial talent – 240 people – after the smaller company was declared insolvent late in 2019. At one point in 2018, ASML was hiring as many as 300 new employees each month, but our sources say that number is lower at the beginning of 2019.
“We have great respect for the experts at Mapper, who have shown great creativity and resourcefulness. ASML values their expertise, and we look forward to welcoming them into our organization,” ASML President and Chief Executive Officer Peter Wennink stated in a news release.
• Those former Mapper employees can look forward to going to school. ASML has plans to put hundreds of its engineers in Dutch classrooms to address the shortage of tech teachers, according to Bart Browers at Innovation Origins.
ASML will make hundreds of engineers available in order to address the deficit in technical education.
The Eindhoven Engine – Brainport Region’s new accelerator at Technical University of Eindhoven – is coming online.
The launch event is scheduled for Monday, 15 April at the main auditorium on the TU/e campus. The event is scheduled for 15:00 to 18:30.
The Eindhoven Engine is the brainchild of robotic surgery pioneer Maarten Steinbuch, who’s a professor at the university. This is not just another unfunded dream. Late last year, Brainport, the local economic-development agency, allocated 15 million euros to the accelerator. And just having Steinbuch’s clout behind it is worth a lot more.
The goal is to bring researchers and students together at TU/e’s Multimedia Pavillion to come up with next-gen companies.
Don’t miss the next Drinks and Demos
Drinks, Pitches & Demos returns 6 March to High Tech Campus in Building 27, the new High Tech Plaza.
Hosts Bert-Jan Woertman and Hans Meeske will have officials from the GES (Global Entrepreneurship Summit) 2019 on-hand with information about this international event and how to participate. And they are bringing pizza! (Note to self: Bring your own bottle opener.)
The start time – usually 17:00 – will be earlier. At 16:30, you can talk with GES officials, with the regular DP&D programming starting at 17:00.
It’s all free .. but if you want to pitch, you’re asked to register here so Bert-Jan, Hans and Karina can put you on the list.