Eindhoven Business Briefing: The ‘ch-ch-changes’ edition

(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.)

We’re in the information delivery business, but we only deliver the news that’s double-verified. Which means we walk around with a lot of insider information that’s not ready to be released to the public. But that, as Hyman Roth said, “is the business we have chosen.”

Knowing what we know, we can confidentially say that over the course of 2022, Eindhoven is going to see some dramatic changes in the tech sector including photonics, real estate and almost everywhere else. In fact, we’re confident enough to stick with our prediction from a few months ago: In the next 10 years, Eindhoven will become the Netherlands’ largest city by the American definition of a metropolitan statistical area, an MSA stretching from Roermond to ‘s-Hertogenbosch.

Now, as we’ve asked before, is Eindhoven ready? Full disclosure – it doesn’t matter because this is going to happen whether government leaders are ready or not. (In our experience, they never are.) But a lot is going to have to change, starting with housing and extending to the university system.

There simply aren’t enough places to put everyone as companies such as NXP and ASML try to recruit talent. We know this from personal experience because we have an intern who has to live in Rotterdam because she can’t find a place here.

Another big change is going to require Dutch schools to stop trying to claim the IP of their professors and students. That’s stupid. University officials should encourage students and professors to be entrepreneurial like MIT. They also need to open the closed university system to outside funding. Yes, it would create unequal schools because the unis producing the talent that start huge companies benefit directly in the Harvard/Stanford/MIT model. But it would motivate everyone to think bigger. Did you know when Google went public in 2004, Stanford cashed in its holdings in the search engine to the tune of about $336 million?

Moreover, if alumni loved their schools instead of loathing them, they could show that love in endowments to specific programs. The Harvards of the world use endowments to create scholarships, attract the best talent and constantly upgrade facilities. Which helps them attract the best students.

Which benefits everyone.

Change is hard, Eindhoven. Be the change.

Axelera debuts Thetis Core chip

Will Axelera be Eindhoven’s next big break-out company since ASML all those years ago?

We told you about Axelera AI a few months ago as one of the most exciting AI startups in Eindhoven. They’re developing both the hardware and the software platform founders say will move AI beyond the big corporations that have the resources to exploit AI. And that integrated approach is what makes the concept so potent. That, and they’ve already raised significant capital (a $12 million seed round) and recruited a standout team.

Now, only one year after they started, their beta is about to hit the market.

Axelera AI has successfully tested and validated its first chip, the Thetis Core. The Thetis Core is a test vehicle demonstrating the high performance and efficiency of the in-memory computing technology developed by Axelera AI, according to a very technical media release. But we’ll try to break it down into layman terms.

The potentially game-changing hardware and software platform will concentrate the AI computational power of an entire server into a single chip. A single chip with far lower power consumption and price than current AI hardware. The Axelera AI software stack allows customers to run their neural networks and applications without the need to retrain teams on new AI frameworks. Axelera AI cloud and marketplace will also offer off-the-shelf AI solutions for software and hardware developers who need a fast integration of AI in their products.

The Thetis Core in-memory computing engine delivers 39.3 tera (billion) operations per second (TOP/s) with an efficiency of 14.1 TOPs/W at an INT8 precision in less than 9 square millimetres.

For context, we found this on VentureBeat:

Apple’s A14 Bionic brings 11 TOPS of “machine learning performance” to the new iPad Air tablet, while Qualcomm’s smartphone-ready Snapdragon 865 claims a faster AI processing speed of 15 TOPS.

So, this looks to us like the old “how many bits are you running?” contest for GPUs in video gaming consoles.

There are a lot more specs in the release:

• peak energy efficiency reaches 33 TOPs/W. Overclocking results in peak throughput reaching 48.16 TOPs.
• The Thetis chip is smaller than a standard USB-C metal connector. Multiple enhanced versions of the in-memory computing engine will be integrated inside the company’s first product, which will be announced later this year and will be available in early 2023.

To make all this happen, the founders have recruited a team of more than 50 senior engineers and developers from world-class AI companies and research centers, including Intel, Qualcomm, IBM and imec. “Thetis Core is an important milestone for Axelera AI. It demonstrates that our in-memory
computing technology can deliver extremely high throughput, high precision and efficiency in
an extremely compact footprint,” said Axelera AI CEO and co-founder Fabrizio del Maffeo in the release.

In an email to Dispatches, del Maffeo wrote that Axelera has:

  • expanded the team to 53 people, including 25 PhDs
  • taped-out the first chip – internal testing vehicle –  and got “very positive” final results
  • are now raising more than 20 million euros in a Series A funding round

Based in the AI Innovation Center of the High Tech Campus in Eindhoven, the company has
R&D offices throughout Europe in Leuven, Belgium, in Zurich and a presence in Germany,
Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Romania.

“The breakthrough performance of Thetis manifests the efficacy of Axelera’s in-memory computing approach. Such a novel computing paradigm (shift) is perfectly timed to meet the stringent operational requirements of the AI applications at the edge,” Axelera AI co-founder and CTO Evangelos Eleftheriou stated in the release. “The high-energy efficiency together with the high precision and the versatile software stack will address the user pain points of AI application development at the edge.”

The company’s groundbreaking solutions will empower thousands of applications of AI at the edge, making the use of AI more efficient and accessible than ever before. Axelera AI’s products will be fully integrated with the leading open-sourced AI frameworks when it is launched to select customers and partners in early 2023.

Del Maffeo will share more details about the Thetis Core chip at imec’s flagship event on nanoelectronics advances and deep-tech solutions, the 2022 Future Summit. Details on his fireside conversation, scheduled for 18 May, can be found here.

Open Day at High Tech Campus Eindhoven

Dispatches is honored to be part of the Open Day at High Tech Campus Eindhoven, which is just getting bigger. We’re up to 50 companies and that includes all the major campus companies including NXP, which is opening its new interactive experience to the public for the first time. Many others including Philips, Signify, Shimano and TMC will have demos and presentations.

We’re filling up the AI Innovation Center in HTC 5 with Campus startups, so that in and of itself is the reason to come. And there’s more … so much more!

Highlights of Open Day 2022 include:

• Eindhoven’s fabled football/soccer team, PSV, will put on football clinics. The PSV team bus will provide hop-on/hop-off shuttle service. And the PSV championship cup will be on display for an hour during the day.

• There will be Formula-E race cars on display

• AI workshops and mini-coding sessions courtesy of BAIKE and IBM, featuring Casper the robot. 

• There will be a mini-career day event on the first floor (second floor, to Americans) in the Campus Conference Center.

• High Tech Campus has the largest startup/scale-up complex in the Netherlands. But you can sample HTCE’s newest companies at the Startup Hub in the new AI Innovation Center in HTC 5.

• This is the Greenest campus in Europe, if not the world, and you can visit the sheep that keep the grass cut during the summer and see other environmentally friendly innovations at the Campus farm.

• You can also join a mini-safari guided by campus urban ecologist Nuno Curado, as well as visit the campus garden.

• You can test your nautical skills in a rowboat on the lake in the center of Campus.

• There will be food trucks, music and an international festival-within-a-festival.

Open Day is part of the High Tech Discovery Route, kicking off the Dutch Technology Festival

Date: Saturday, 11 June 2022

Time: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

There will be four information points around the campus directing you to various attractions.

Entry is free. Please park in the P0 parking garage.

Click here for a map of the campus.

Robert van Tankeren, CEO of inPhocal, drew a crowd during Casting Day

Casting Day at HighTechXL

We’re in a global War for Talent. In Eindhoven, this is especially a big concern.

HighTechXL’s Casting Day on 12 May proved they’re out there if you work to find them. The idea of casting day is to both introduce newly formed teams to talent and to attract talent to mature teams. About 35 people showed up at HighTechXL’s offices in Building 27 on High Tech Campus Eindhoven, and they were largely the right people – many with backgrounds in tech and management.

That includes American architect Kristie Tate Moolenaar, an MIT-trained architect who grew up in Silicon Valley and has project management experience. Stephanie Savalos Segura from Mexico has multiple degrees, including a doctorate in applied physics and engineering. “She has exactly the talents we need,” said Pascal van Bakel, co-founder of HighTechXL green hydrogen startup AVOXT.

Both Moolenaar and Segura talked with Carbyon, Dynaxion, inPhocal and other HighTechXL alumni. Will see where they end up.

Groot Hartje

More housing, please

We cover housing because it’s a basic need, and there’s not enough of it in any innovation center in Europe. That includes Eindhoven, though the situation here is – believe it or not – not as dire as in London, Berlin or Amsterdam. And it helps to keep in mind that a lot of housing is under construction here or on the planning boards into the mid-2020s.

• Construction of Groot Hartje (Big Heart) has started next to PSV Stadium. SDK Vastgoed and Amvest are building 264 homes in three buildings designed by LEVS. The project is on schedule to be complete by 2024.

The 264 apartments in Groot Hartje include:

  • 201 rental apartments; mainly medium and expensive rent ranging from about 40 to 100 m²
  • 59 owner-occupied apartments at market prices, and varying in size from approximately 50 to 100 m²
  • 4 land-bound owner-occupied homes; prices are not yet known, varying in size from approximately 109 to 145 m²

Wheels is a development designed to be a car-free, bicycle-centric community in the middle of Eindhoven. This will have 139 homes, with 2023 the completion date.

These are both part of the vast portfolio of SDK Vastgoed, the major regional developer, which has projects in Eindhoven, ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Roermond and Tilburg. And both are a go.

* The demolition is done, so construction of residential towers in the old Campina site near Eindhoven Centrum has started. Developer BPD plans two buildings on the property with a total of 280 rental units.

This is part of De Caai, a completely new community to be built on the site, where a large milk factory used to be. There will be space for a total of 700 homes, according to Studio040.

The problem is, a number of projects are tied up in red tape, with opposition to a number of residential towers planned on the basis that Eindhoven is becoming a city of high-rises.

It’s not all puppies and rainbows

With our Tier1 Tech Talent subsidiary, we try to counsel startups about finance. The one point we’ve made over and over during the last six months is, don’t wait to go for funding because capital markets can degrade quickly.

No one really listened because most people in startups have never really experienced a recession.

Now, the ground is shifting in investment as illustrated by this post in Sifted. The tech sector in particular has been beaten up pretty badly as inflation, China’s COVID lockdown and rising nationalism, rising interest rates, an economic slowdown and the global supply shocks caused by the war in Ukraine have increased what investor types euphemistically call “volatility.” Which means share prices can yo-yo, earnings reports go into the red and a whole lot of capital that would been invested in your startup disappears into the ether.

Benchmark venture capitalist Bill Gurley is a major Debbie Downer, saying an entire generation of entrepreneurs and tech investors are going to have to “unlearn” the past 13-year bull market. Gurley added entrepreneurs might be shocked that investors will want to value companies based on free cashflow and earnings. Which means people with only a great idea and no actual company are going to be at the back of the line.

Imagine that.

Quick hits:

You just knew this was coming. TU/e researchers are developing an actual brain computer … a computer that combines cultured brain tissue and silicon chips. You can read the post here. Where is Mary Shelley when you need her?

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