(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. Eindhoven is way more than just another tech hub … it’s one of the most liveable innovation centers in Europe. The future really is being invented here. Send your news to: [email protected])
Now this is unexpectedly cool: Funky spaces, gathering places and historic traces. A building with exposed steel girders and an industrial feel so prized – and pricey – in the United States startup culture. Tall ceilings with miles of glass so startup teams can enjoy the calming effects of gazing out on trees and meadows on the fringes of High Tech Campus. A combination of open workspaces and more conventional offices arranged around a central events center which includes a glass house for private meetings.
High Tech Plaza, the Netherlands’ largest startup center, is officially open.
About 300 people packed into the center events space in Building 27 on High Tech Campus Eindhoven for a Monday, 17 December event that – in the Eindhoven style – was half-party/networking, half-official ceremony and all celebratory. The opening of High Tech Plaza marked another milestone in the mission to make Eindhoven known globally as the top destination for young companies.
That effort started in 2016 with Building 12, which volunteers turned into HighTechXL Plaza as a startup center. Two years later, High Tech Plaza is now the largest and most integrated Dutch startup hub. The new center encompasses more than 10,000 m2, or about 108,000 square feet in three contiguous buildings on this giant research campus on the western edge of Eindhoven. New facilities house offices and labs for startups, scales-ups and the companies that support them such as HighTechXL, the Netherlands’ premier deep-tech accelerator.
One of those instrumental in creating that first startup office space is Hans Meeske, managing director at Holland Innovative, a consulting firm headquartered on HTC. Meeske noted the effort to turn Building 12 into a startup center for HighTechXL alumni came in considerably below estimates: “We did it for a quarter of the proposed budget and after six months, it was completely booked.”
The kernel for what would become HighTechXL formed in 2013 after he returned to Eindhoven from working abroad for 10 years including in Japan, China and The Valley, said co-founder and CEO Guus Frericks, a former top Philips executive. Overseas, he’d witnessed how quickly new technology can conquer markets, Frericks said.
Eindhoven had a deep talent base in precision engineering, mechatronics, photonics and embedded software. But in order to stay relevant, the city had to actively develop new tech companies in open collaboration: “I said, ‘There must be a way to mobilize the community … to help these young tech companies.'”
The Startup Factory, housed in EY offices in downtown Eindhoven, was born. Frericks credited Bert-Jan Woertman, then an HTC marketing executive, for convincing him to move the Startup Factory to High Tech Campus where it became HighTechXL, “and he was right.
“The way I look at it … I don’t know any space like this in the world where you have such a density of incredibly smart people working together on the technology of the future.” Frericks said. “If you’re a young tech company, it’s pretty awesome to literally – in five minutes’ walking distance – have access to state-of-the-art lab facilities, to find potential development partners, potential lead customers, access to research.”
After the success of HighTechXL Plaza, campus executives decided to commit two more buildings to expand the startup ecosystem, Paul van Son, High Tech Campus marketing director, told the assembled.
“It meant we had to think about how to connect three buildings into one concept, which is not very easy. But if you look at the buildings, they all have their own architecture, their own style.”
High Tech Campus is owned by a group of investors headed up by Dutch billionaire entrepreneur Marcel Boekhoorn, who before Monday night is famous for rarely giving interviews. At the opening of the new hub, Boekhoorn made an exception, conducting a back-and-forth with event emcee Anique Soetermeer, HighTechXL co-founder.
While the rest of the event was in English, Boekhoorn spoke Dutch, talking about his investment philosophy. “I see a lot of deals, and they always come down to the people,” he said. “A good (concept) with bad people will never be a success.”
Speaking of people, HTC officials told Dispatches that the employee count on campus is expected to rise to about 13,500 from 11,000 at the 170 companies now over the next two years as more companies arrive. Several tech executives toured offices in Building 27 after the event, and HTC executives told us that companies are trying to lease space faster than it’s becoming available.
Son, Frericks and Meeske all noted that advancing the new tech hub from concept to reality has been a community effort from Day One.
“What I’ll remember is that when we announced this concept a half a year ago, I got 40 emails saying, ‘Hey Paul, I want to do something with startups,’ ” van Son said. “I want to coach them. I want to help them with my experience.
“What makes this community so strong is that everyone wants to help each other. That’s amazing.”
• Building 12 Startups will remain the destination for early stage startups. But the building, which once housed Phillips’ first linear particle accelerator, will be renovated. Tenants include Usono, byFlow, Vention and PlasmaCure. One company, Amber Mobility, has grown to the point that it’s relocated to Strijp-T.
• Building 27 Support is suited for acceleration and support. Tenants include HighTechXL and Design Thinking Center Nextview, based in Amsterdam.
• Building 29 Scale-up already has several tenants, with Bambi Medical the first to move in.
High Tech Campus overall has several million square feet of buildings, a mix of current and former Philips research centers and offices and new, more modern buildings that house some of the Netherlands’s most advanced companies including semiconductor giants NXP and ASML, as well as the European headquarters for Shimano, the Osaka-based bicycle component and outdoor equipment maker.
Marcel Boekhoorn is legendary in the Netherlands for his deals, acquiring Dutch mobile operator Telfort from the Dutch national rail system for 300 million euros, then selling it nine months later to Rotterdam-based telecom KPN for 1.2 billion euros. His acquisition of High Tech Campus from Philips after the electronics giant shifted its headquarters to Amsterdam, is still one of the largest real estate deals in the history of the Netherlands.
For the record, High Tech Campus Eindhoven is just one piece of Boekhoorn’s empire, and part of Ramphastos Investments, which recently brought Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin to HTC.
Finally, before we forget, music was provided by Dispatches Europe and may we say that “Hollywood” by Gorillaz and Snoop sounded awesome in the HighTechXL event space.
Nextview Design opens new Design Thinking Center in Eindhoven
The Design Thinking Center is a major Building 27 tenant, and Huub Waterval, CEO of Amsterdam-based Nextview, was on hand for the High Tech Plaza opening.
Waterval said the 9-year-old, 100-employee Nextview consulting and design firm applies “design thinking” expertise to consumer-facing companies. “Design thinking is about solving wicked problems. The problems behind the problems. Answering the questions behind the questions,” he said.
Clients are as diverse as retailers who need to figure out how to centralize data processing and analysis to utility companies needing more efficient and less disruptive IT systems implementation.
Nextview’s first office was in Amsterdam.
TicTag lands 500k
Speaking of startups, HighTechXL alone has, in a brief time, accelerated a phenomenal number of successes including:
• AmberMobility, an on-demand car service that’s also working on autonomous vehicles. You can read more about Amber Mobility here.
(Amber just relocated to Strijp-T offices from Building 12.)
• Bambi Medical, a scale-up that has developed a skin friendly and wireless vital sign monitoring device for babies in hospital CPUs. The company has raised more than 6 million euros.
• Sustonable, a Dutch/Swiss startup, has technology that takes Polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, waste (plastic bottles and other packaging) and turns it into the next generation of composite stone.
• Ulu, a scaleup which makes applications for the automotive mobility sector.
Combined, HighTech XL startups/scale-ups have raised more than 52 million euros from investors.
Now another HighTechXL alum just landed 500,000 euros in a combination of capital and development assistance. And they tagged us on their LinkedIn announcement:
GREAT NEWS – Yesterday TicTag signed a new funding deal that secures the finalization of the 2.0 Smart Tag and the further commercialisation together with our partners. We are happy to welcome Arjan Grootenboer and Willem Akkersdijk as new investors and are looking forward to our cooperation. We are sure their network and expertise will give a boost to TicTag’s growth.
Give Back Monday details
HighTechXL put on its first Give Back Monday, an open-door outreach for startups last month. It was a success, with 16 people representing 10 startup teams showing up for advice and encouragement.
The next Give Back Monday is scheduled for 21 January 2019 from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at our the office at High Tech Plaza, Building 27, on High Tech Campus Eindhoven.
You’re free to bounce ideas and brainstorm with expert pools to get detailed feedback about where you are in the process of building your company. Roundtables are set up with experts on finance, IP, team building, business plans and other topics, and teams rotate through the evening.
The event is free, but you are asked to register in advance.
You can ping us directly for details at: [email protected]