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Eindhoven Business Briefing (updated): Highlights from our first Tech Sister Cities event and more

(Editor’s noteWe 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. To that point, we just added news about PlasmaCure just getting an A round! The future really is being invented here. Send your news to: terry@dispatcheseurope.com)

Well, THAT was fun!

Dispatches Europe just had its first big event under our Tech Sister Cities flag and we have to say, it was amazing.

On 12 and 13 September, American investor Jonathan Blue, founder and chairman of Blue Equity, met just about everyone in Eindhoven’s tech and entrepreneurial communities. Jonathan also took time for individual meetings with startup founders and others in Eindhoven’s ecosystems.

And that was the idea – to bring the expertise of his 20-plus years in American private equity to an ecosystem where early-stage startups often have trouble finding sufficient capital.

The main event, Eyes Wide Open, last Wednesday, brought everyone together at High Tech Campus’ Conference Center for two hours of what was essentially a masters class on investing, capital and what American investors expect to see with the startups in which they’re considering investing.

Guus Frericks, co-founder and CEO of HighTechXL, the Netherlands’ premier high tech hardware startup accelerator, led the discussions along with panel members:

• Maarten Steinbuch, founder and CEO of Eindhoven Medical Robotics and a professor at Technical University of Eindhoven

• Menke Steenbergen, founder of IPOS, a startup that’s bringing digital technology to the equestrian industry

• Qurein Biewenga CFO and co-founder of Lightyear, the first solar-car company

• Krishna Sreerambhatla, co-founder, former entrepreneur-in-residence and mentor at HighTechXL

• Betsy Lindsey, Manager, Investor Relations, HighTechXL

Jonathan’s presentation included a granular look at how his firm assesses deals and teams.

There were multiple takeaways:

• One of the biggest differences between the U.S. and the Netherlands is that here, failure can be career-ending. But Jonathan told the audience the American perspective is, “Failing is good. You learn from it.” Just don’t do it a lot, he added. But turn failure into a positive about what you learned.

He illustrated a point with one of Blue Equity’s rare failures with a nursing startup in the U.S. in which his firm failed to do sufficient due diligence about the premium hospital administrators would pay to relieve their nursing shortages. It turned out the amount was zero.

Lack of due diligence was the culprit. “You can never do enough due diligence,” Jonathan said more than once.

• The world is awash in capital right now. Look for investors who can bring value to your startup in the form of industry expertise, advice, contacts and exposure.

• Startup teams should always be developing access both to investors and to the larger companies you’ll need as customers.

• Always begin by developing a scenario for an exit even if you never intend to sell your company.

Big no-nos include:

• lack of focus. You can only manage one startup at a time.

• being careless with pitch decks and other materials used in pitching to prospective investors. If he sees misspellings and incorrect grammar in pitches, he automatically rejects them.

While this was mostly about business, Jonathan also drew back the curtain on some of the more sensational aspects of startup culture including those shows you see on TV where startups wow Jonathan’s friend and billionaire Mark Cuban with their pitches and walk off the show with hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“Kill the ‘Shark Tank’ myth,” he said. “A lot of due diligence goes into these deals after the show, an exhausting process. Every stone will be uncovered.”

Eyes Wide Open drew attendees from all corners of the Eindhoven ecosystem –  from startups to government officials to academia and beyond including entrepreneurs from Amsterdam and Utrecht.

Notable attendees included Johan Feenstra, founder of Liquavista, who sold the electrowetting technology for displays to Amazon and Rob Solomons, senior policy advisor state aid and highly skilled migrants at the Netherlands’ Ministry of Economic Affairs. Also there were Rob Gordon and Mariam Frosi from Eindhoven’s city council.

Will there be deals that follow? Too soon to tell. But what we can tell you is Jonathan left talking about a project that could lead to big news down the line.

Finally, we’d like to thank our sponsors:

The U.S. Embassy in The Hague

HighTechXL

High Tech Campus Eindhoven

Pullman Hotel Eindhoven (which went above and beyond to accommodate Jonathan)

VisitBrabant Convention Bureau

Eindhoven Airport

With this level of support, Eyes Wide Open is just the beginning.

TechTrek

And for our next trick ….

Dispatches Europe is working with Eindhoven Airport on TechTrek, a unique effort to connect one of Europe’s premier innovation centers to highly skilled internationals in other parts of Europe.

We’re still crafting the details. But Eindhoven Airport officials are playing a crucial role in the Brainport region’s economic development effort. TechTrek will bring talent to this tech center, where growth hinges on attracting the best and the brightest. The airport connects Eindhoven to more than 75 destinations including innovations hubs such as Lisbon, Rome, Cluj, Tel Aviv, Sofia, Dublin, Stockholm and Barcelona.

The idea is to bring startups, entrepreneurs, investors and developers to see the Brainport ecosystem, which includes High Tech Campus, Brainport Industries Campus and the city itself. And of course, TechTrek will take our talent to see what’s going on in the world.

Stay tuned … more details about the first TechTrek are coming next EBB.

Mystery

What happened to Arjen Kamphuis, who was last seen checking out of a hotel in northern Norway? The Dutch cybersecurity expert with an Eindhoven connection has disappeared under some very, very mysterious circumstances.

We met Arjen in 2017 during Open Doors Day at High Tech Campus, where he was the cybersecurity expert in residence at Brunel.

We didn’t identify Kamphuis by name in our post, because we felt some of the information he was discussing was sensitive, and frankly, we’re just not in that business with Dispatches, which is an expat lifestyles company.

Here’s an excerpt from that post:

So, we’re standing in the impressive yet understated lobby of Brunel Foundation building at Eindhoven’s High Tech Campus, chatting with one of the most in-demand cybersecurity experts in the world.

The guy, who we’ll just call “Mr. Ethical Hacker,” roams the world helping companies and even countries fight off foreign spies and digital sabotage. Amsterdam-based Brunel – one of 150 companies on the HTC campus – is a global provider of engineering, IT, aerospace, financial talent to clients, especially in the oil and gas industry.

We discussed encryption and digital security issues with Arjen in the aftermath of ransomware cyber attacks earlier when he told us stories about industrial spies attempting to breach campus security to steal secrets!

We hope he’s safe and we look forward to hearing more from him about his adventures!

China investors

If you have a startup with high potential – and a high burn rate – you need to know this. Eindhoven is suddenly on the radar of the Chinese investors, who are arriving almost weekly from Shanghai, Hong Kong and Guangzhou, looking for promising companies. Conversely, Dutch investors are also looking at expansion opportunities in China.

There have been several groups from China in the city, with several invitation-only events this week including HighTech Connect China with HighTechXL.

Also, there’s China Business Week, a multi-city program to connect Dutch companies to Dutch diplomatic representatives who can help business executives understand Chinese markets in:

• Agro-food / Horticulture
• E-Commerce
• High Tech Systems & Materials (HTSM)
• Life Sciences & Health (LSH) / E-health
• Logistics / Belt and Road Initiative (De Nieuwe Zijderoute)
• Manufacturing
• Water and environmental technology
• Urban Development

China Business Week will be in:

September 24: Tilburg
September 25: Zaandam
September 26: Arnhem
September 27: Rotterdam

Briefs:

• Both Microsoft’s Bill Gates and rocker/Broadway phenom Bruce Springsteen are vying for the same 30 million euro Eindhoven mansion. De Wielewaal Estate used to belong to the late Frits Philips, who built Philips into a global electronics empire. Sources tell Dispatches that Gates’ Gulfstream was on the ground at Eindhoven Airport for a week in August. And Springsteen is in and out of Eindhoven regularly because his daughter Jessica has a horse farm nearby in Valkenswaard. Apparently, this is about two very wealthy men – both of whom have daughters with equestrian ambitions – trying to acquire the same estate amid Eindhoven’s horse country.

Maker Faire Eindhoven is coming up 29 & 30 September. This is one of the first and largest maker faires in Europe, with 50,000 people expected to attend over those two days.

• We just got an email from PlasmaCure’s Tamara Pharadashvilli letting us know that the company just raised their Series A round. The capital came from private investors, NextGen Ventures and East Netherlands Development Agency, according to a news release.  NextGen Ventures is is funded primarily by healthcare insurers Menzis and Friesland Zorgverzekeraar.

PlasmaCure has pretty amazing technology in that they use plasma – the fourth state of matter along with solid, gas and liquid – to treat slow-to-hear sores related to diabetes or chronic wounds that won’t respond to other treatments. (We got a tour last week with Jonathan Blue – see above.) Like so much treat technology in Eindhoven, this is a spinoff from Technical University of Eindhoven, and Bas Zeper is founder and CEO.

“This funding is very important for us, because it will enable us to bring the device to the market, to the people, who need it and for whom there is no real help at this moment,” Zeper stated in the release. “We realize that we can really start helping these people and this feels great!”

Liquidweb, a HighTechXL alumnus, just raised 2.5 Million euros from RedSeed Ventures in Italy. Liquidweb developed BrainControl, a brain/computer Interface that allows “locked in” patients with ALS and other diseases to communicate. Liquidweb is based in Siena, Italy.

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