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Eindhoven Business Briefing: The opportunities amid the crisis edition

Boy, that was unpleasant. This is our first EBB since March because we – like everyone else – have been sheltering at home instead of out on the streets networking, gathering tips and news.

But for a global pandemic, there’s sure a lot of business getting done in Eindhoven, and a lot of tech companies are finding their products essential to the new “normal.”

Let’s look at Philips spinout Signify, which is in an interesting position because they make lighting including UV-C lamps that can disinfect equipment, if not people.

As President Trump so famously recommended, just take a ultra-violet light, put inside you and presto! No coronavirus. No human either since UV strong enough to kill a virus will also kill the human. But hey … technically Trump is right.

Signify UV-C devices are small enough to, for example, fit in water storage units in appliances such as refrigerators and coffee machines. Or they can be big enough to use in institutions.

This is from Signify’s website:

Hospitals, other healthcare institutions and public spaces, including schools (during nights or after closing when no persons are in the room) can design UV-C installations and/or cleaning schedules for using UV-C radiation that can help in neutralizing viruses. It will also eliminate any other virus that could complicate the recovery of patients, both now and in the future.”

So the right product at the right time for every market across the globe.

Signify’s largest market segment is actually in IoT-connected smart lighting for offices, stadiums and other large facilities, according to their financial filings. But the company, which has its HQ and most of its R&D on High Tech Campus Eindhoven, is into all kinds of things. For instance, Dispatches and Eindhoven Airport teamed up to take a group of visitors to their HTC building, GrowWise Center, where researchers perfect lighting products to make vegetables and herbs grow faster and produce more nutrients.

Signify made significant acquisitions just as the pandemic set in inclulding Atlanta-based Cooper Lighting for $1.4 billion in cash. Sort of. Signify turned around and sold 1.3 billion euros of debt. But those bonds yield less than 3 percent … relatively cheap money in a time of negative interest rates.

Cooper Lighting reported 1.48 billion euros in 2019 sales, mostly to industrial and commercial clients.

Dutch race to save startups

Startups are fragile flowers, vulnerable to the vagaries of the marketplace and financial woes in the best of time and sitting ducks in global crises. But the Netherlands and other countries in Europe are taking extraordinary measures to keep the most promising alive.

The Netherlands has multiple loan programs that include low-interest bridge loans, with the money divvied out from the the federal government to regional development agencies including Brainport Eindhoven. Here in Brabant, there’s 100 million euros available in bridge loans, with apparently another 100 million coming from Den Haag. Loan amounts range from 50,000 euros to 2 million euros. Loans above 250k require shareholders and/or outside investors to match at 25 percent.

Techleap, which is part of the program, states that depending on the size of the loan request, the government will turn around the applications in record time … from four working days to three weeks. Which itself is amazing.

Those programs include the NOW program, which is open until 31 May. Under this program, startups might be awarded funds to cover up to 90 percent of wages depending on how much revenue a startup is projected to lose.

Just make sure you read the fine print on the terms, which can include liquidation preferences … which means even if your startup fails, you still have to pay back the government loan.

The Eindhovens Dagblad has a post (in Dutch) that mentions some of the startups we work with at HighTechXL including Incooling and AlphaBeats. There are literally dozens of Dutch programs to help startups and entrepreneurs and you can see them all here.

HighTechXL cranking out next-gen startups

Speaking of HighTechXL, Eindhoven’s deep-tech venture builder isn’t missing a beat in the pandemic. There’s a new cohort of seven teams hustling to get past a gate moment and continue the nine-month venture building program … the accelerator that’s produced Incooling, the much-ballyhooed startup working with GIGABYTE and other global companies, developing technology to cool chips.

All but one of these teams formed only on 25 March at the first virtual FasTrackathon around technology from the European Space Agency, Philips, CERN and TNO.

NESTEGG

They include, Nestegg, which is more mature … an established business. There is a core team of five and five additional mentors/members. They have a system to automat labs. The founders are American lads from Alabama who came to NL in 2015 and actually went through Startupbootcamp before HTXL became HTXL. 

PHOTONOIC GYROSCOPE

There are two teams using technology developed by European Space Agency and Politecnico di Bari. 

AQUAPACER

This is technology developed at Philips. AquaPacer has a sensor worn on the abdomen which measures fluid in the bladder and can be used by athletes to measure hydration levels.

GIMOD

Graphene Interferometric MOdultator Display, or GIMOD for short. Display that can be used in VR and e-paper display markets. The inventor is on the team as CTO.

INPHOCAL

inPhocal uses a structured laser beam technology developed at CERN. Same technology as Aircision but a different application area: laser marking. This team formed after the CERN hackathon but was put on hold and reintroduced at the March FasTrackathon. Martijn Boerkamp, former HTXL CTO, is now focusing on this full-time. I’m pretty sure he could use some engineering help.

INNOFLEX

InnoFlex is developing a mass production system for thin film nano materials.

Here are some of the stars startups that have come out of HighTechXL’s previous cohorts:

Aircision

A CERN spin-off company using laser beam technology in the telecommunications field. 

Dynaxion

Using CERN particle accelerator technology to scan parcels for illicit materials such as explosives and drugs.

Carbyon

Hans de Neve developed technology while at TNO that closes the CO2 cycle by capturing CO2 from the ambient air. Hans left TNO and is the founder and CEO of Carbyon.

Deep-tech job opportunities

If you want to jump into the deep end of the deep-tech world, there are plenty of opportunities:

Optify

Optify uses electronic inspection technology built on research from CERN, Nikhef and HighTechXL to measure radiation. 

They have several positions open, though no engineering jobs. Optify is looking for talent to strengthen their deep-tech startup. As they enter the third and final phase of HighTechXL’s venture building program, they are looking to expand their team with a nuclear physicist/radiation dosimetry expert.

Does this sound like a role for you? Please send an email with your CV to info@optifytech.com.

AquaPACER

Deep tech venture AquaPacer is working with technology developed at Philips, is based on MEMS ultrasound and features a patch placed on the abdomen. The sensor monitors bladder volume and notifies users when they need to hydrate and how much fluid they need.

They are expanding their team and are looking for four key team members to work on projects involving:

• Hardware-level FPGA (Verilog) and ASIC

• Signal Processing

• Software level Application Programming Interface (API)

• UI applications for End Users (Android, iOS, …)

• Wireless Sensors Network Click the links to the HighTechXL Careers page to read more about each job opening:

Hardware Engineer

• Software Engineer:

Mechanical Engineer

Test Engineer

Send your motivation letter and CV to Namrata Dutta Mazumdar: namrata.dutta@tmc.nl

Real estate is still strong

We’re hearing from people on both the demand side and supply side that real estate in Eindhoven has not slowed down at all. We’re not sure how they do it with the pandemic restrictions, but we know people who are viewing houses to purchase. We also noticed that Strijp R has sold out. These are not inexpensive homes, starting at about 500,000 euros.

Two years ago, as we were writing about the expat community of Meerhoven, people there were telling us Blixembosch is the next expat hotspot. That’s still true with with 180 homes planned, according to Eindhovens Dagblad.

City councillor, Yasin Torunoglu, who is Eindhoven’s point man on housing, said Eindhoven urgently needs more homes “even in this time of uncertainty,” according to Studio040.

Dirk-Jan Boenenkamp is a real estate agent with Interhouse in Eindhoven specializing in expats, and he tells Dispatches there hasn’t been a lot of change since we interviewed him in February. There is still a shortage of homes and people are buying, “but the number of visits per listing is lower and less overbidding. So this might actually be a good time to buy,” Dirk-Jan said.

For rentals, the market is changed:

At this moment most expats choose to stay where they are, so less demand. But prices are not falling for now, because most landlords still assume the economy will pick up soon (especially in tech, the crisis might actually increase opportunities.)

Dirk-Jan did cite recent Dutch media reports stating that there are now more properties for rent compared to last year, an increase of 16 percent, though that’s unlikely to last as the pandemic recedes.

This is all a good thing and counteracts the notion the economy is going to collapse. Because real estate is a pretty good indicator of the overall health of an economy even if the current situation looks dire. If you start to see lots of vacant homes, empty apartments and falling home sales and rental rates, then it really could be 2009 all over again.

Briefs:

• One thing that’s not a terribly good indicator of economic strength is the retail/restaurant sector. Cologne-based Italian food chain Vapiano has entered bancrupcy protection. The Eindhoven location is one of our favorite places, so we hope a company with cash on their balance sheet sees this as an opportunity.

FasTrackathon: Life After Corona is coming up, a hackathon that will form teams around what we’re leaning from the pandemic. We’ll have a full post later. FasTrackathon: Life After Corona is set for 20 May from 13:00-17:00 and you can learn more and register here: lac.hightechxl.com

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