Eindhoven Business Briefing: We celebrate 2021 as Eindhoven’s breakout year … finally

(Editor’s note: Dispatches Europe tracks the tech scene – startups, scale-ups and mature companies – in Eindhoven because so many of our highly skilled internationals are engineers, physicists and developersThis 2021 year in review is part of our Tuesday Tech series.)

Eindhoven has never had a year like 2021. And no, we’re not talking about the pandemic and the lockdowns. We went back through 12 months of Eindhoven Business Briefings and with each post, it became clearer that 2021 – pandemic or no pandemic – was a breakout year for Eindhoven’s overall business ecosystem, from real estate to tech.

There’s a flip side to all of this success. The only thing holding back Eindhoven from taking over the tech world is that the global semiconductor industry can’t build factories fast enough to meet demand for computer chips and hardware. Companies can’t find enough talent to fill all the jobs at all the new facilities they’ve built. And if they could, there’s no housing for them.

But on all fronts, Eindhoven is figuring it out as we enter 2022.

Photo by Terry Boyd for Dispatches

Oaktree acquires High Tech Campus Eindhoven

The story of the year, no matter how you feel about it, was the surprise acquisition of High Tech Campus Eindhoven by LA-based Oaktree Capital Management. It’s a story that will keep on giving because no one outside of Oaktree co-founder Howard Marks and his management team knows where this is headed. New campus manager Hermann Dambach has stated in interviews that Oaktree will develop the land acquired by the previous owners, the investor group headed by Marcel Boekhoorn, for expansion. But will HTCE add more deep-tech research companies or life sciences companies? Will American companies join Shimano and other non-Dutch tenants on what started as Philips’ R&D campus? Will there be more initiatives like the Most Sustainable Campus? Will there be more cutting-edge centers such as the new AI Innovation Center and the 5G Hub?

As we’ve said before, an American asset management company of the size and influence of Oaktree buying High Tech Campus is a major endorsement of the potential of Eindhoven and the Brainport region. And with $160 billion under management, Oaktree has the capital to do pretty much anything they want.

You can read what we really think here on Innovation Origins.

The world figures out ASML is the new new thing

Author Michael Lewis dissected über entrepreneur Jim Clark (Netscape, Silicon Graphics) in “The New New Thing.” Lewis chose the title because Clark knows there’s always something new coming in tech, something everyone wants a part of. Last year, it was ASML, which of course wasn’t new at all, spun out from Philips in 1984. It’s just that the global media had figured out there was a compelling story in how an Eindhoven-based tech company went from an unknown photolithography company to being on the verge of becoming the most valuable company in Europe.

Not the most valuable tech company; the most valuable company, period.

The New York Times had a post about “the most important company you never heard of.” The Wall Street journal had at least three major posts, including this one.

Even after decades of being the headquarters city for dominant global companies such as ASML, Philips and NXP, Eindhoven still has an identity problem. It has zero name recognition around the world. But its foundational tech company, ASML, is changing that. Get ready, because it’s going to be a hell of a ride.

AI Innovation Center

Speaking of High Tech Campus, the AI Innovation Center opened last April in Building 5 on High Tech Campus. The goal is to catalyze the ecosystem and make Eindhoven the center of AI innovation in the Netherlands.

So far, that’s coming together quickly.

From the HTCE website:

  • More than 140 people representing 100-plus organizations are engaged in the AI Innovation Center Community platform.
  • 13 companies are now in the AI Innovation Center and the plan is to double that number this year.
  • More than 20 AI events have taken place at the Center and 25 groups of companies, governmental institutions and students visited the Center.

One of the best talks we heard this year was by Axelera AI CEO and co-founder Fabrizio Del Maffeo. Axelera’s founders plan to scale up to 100 people by the end of 2022. Plans include raising $100 million as they grow to 150 people and reach profitability.

Axelera raised a $12 million seed round in September. Along with Bit Fury, investors include the creme de la creme of research institutions such as Leuven-based research center Imec and early stage VCs, including Amsterdam-based Innovation Industries.

AI vision at the edge (the servers closest to the data source) for B2B, Del Maffeo said. They want to make affordable AI hardware and software available to companies, packages that can be integrated quickly and easily into existing infrastructure and compatible with drones, robotics, etc. for field deployment.

Also landing last year at the AI Innovation Center is GrAI Matter Labs from Paris, which also makes AI-systems-on-a-chip technology.

Strijp-S looks more like lower Manhattan than Eindhoven (Photo by Terry Boyd for Dispatches)

New Housing

No housing, no talent attraction. Eindhoven has an edge over other innovation centers in that there are new – some proposed, some funded – projects totaling almost 17,000 units into 2040 to help alleviate the pressure on housing and 2021 was a breakout year for construction in Eindhoven. Construction wrapped up on the Trudo Tower in Strijp-S. This urban forest by famed Italian architect Stefano Boeri, is all social housing, but hey, any housing for anyone is vital in Eindhoven.

Demolition preceding construction has finally started on Nieuw Bergen, the ambitious redevelopment of the north side of Centrum we’ve been writing about for years but never thought would actually happen. The full plan would create 238 homes in five buildings, including two large towers.

Demolition began early last month on the former Campina milk production plan just east of the centrum on Kanaaldijk-Zuid-Breitnerstraat. The plan here is for 700 homes in five buildings. This is just the beginning, and we’ll have a post early this year with a complete overview.

HighTechXL and LUMO Labs collaborate

This is the sort of thing that makes ecosystems stronger. AlphaBeats was created in HighTechXL‘s venture building program back in 2020. The AlphaBeats team went though that business accelerator, which has produced standout scale-ups including Accerion, Sustonable and Onera. Then, AlphaBeats joined LUMO Labs’ two-year accelerator program last April.

Last summer, AlphaBeats participated in Silicon Valley VC Tim Draper’s pitch challenge. In the fall, LUMO Labs was named regional partner for Extreme Tech Challenge, the largest pitch competition for impact startups addressing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

And now HighTechXL is working with LUMO Labs and other partners to promote the regional pitch competition in the Netherlands and Belgium.

With a finite universe of talent, the two venture builders – both based at High Tech Campus – could be rivals, but instead are happy to collaborate and build the ecosystem.

Eindhoven-based startups/scale-ups raise an estimated 500 million euros

Finally, let’s talk about money. Because no one has all the data, we don’t know how good this year has been, but we checked back to when we arrived in 2016, and there were no years with multiple large capital raises in Eindhoven. So, 500 million euros sounds impressive, right?

Standout startups include:

• streaming enterprise video platform JW Player raising $100 million in June

• Sendcloud, which makes e-commerce shipping software, raised $177 million last September.

• solar car company Lightyear raised 110 million euros, also in September.

AI chipmaker Axelera raised $12 million in September.

Other significant raises include 11 million euros by PhotonFirst and 4 million euros by LionVolt.

Yes, it was good year … until you realized one Amsterdam-based startup, MessageBird, raised 800 million euros. By our calculations, Amsterdam-based companies raised about 3 billion euros during 2021. So, Eindhoven, we have a benchmark to strive for and surpass.

Amsterdam? Never heard of it … is that near Eindhoven?

Read more about innovation in Eindhoven here in our EBB archives.

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