Expats and tech: How highly skilled internationals are redefining global capitalism


(Editor’s note: Dispatches covers technology, startups and innovation centers because that’s where our highly skilled internationals tend to work. That includes HighTechXL, where expat team members and staffers represent at least a dozen countries. If you’d like to join a team, email Nikki : [email protected])

The big news here in Eindhoven is that deep-tech venture builder HighTechXL just inked a deal to work with the Paris-based European Space Agency and will introduce new ESA technologies later this year at FasTrackathon.

One step in the venture-building process is the Unleash Your Entrepreneur Info Session, which is going on as I write this. The Info Session is basically an extended briefing about HighTechXL’s nine-month venture-building process where tech and talent go in and full-blown companies come out.

The next event, FasTrackathon, is scheduled for 25 March, when the talent meets the tech. And that talent – like the technology – comes from across the globe.

United Nations of Talent

While we can’t reveal names and personal details, we can state broadly that the 60-plus people who signed up for today’s Info Session represent about 20 countries of origin outside the Netherlands including Estonia, Greece, India, Iraq, France, China, Italy, Zimbabwe, Ukraine and Turkey.

Dispatches Europe is all about expats, so we’re hardly objective observers when it comes to highly skilled internationals and their role in economies across Europe. Still, we feel vindicated when we collect and analyze the empirical data. which proves that without English-speaking expats, Europe would be far less competitive.

In our expat world, we believe in synchronicity, symbiotic relationships and above all, the global mobility of talent … that in the end, it all connects in a virtuous circle. Highly skilled internationals bring their tech talents to Europe, where there simply isn’t enough talent. Expats contribute to building ecosystems and wildly successful new companies that spread wealth and innovation to the four corners of the earth.

In turn, those wildly successful economies need more tech talent.

Bringing together talent and tech

No place illustrates that better than HighTechXL at High Tech Campus Eindhoven, a meeting point where global tech and global talent create the Netherlands’ fastest-growing startups.

Dispatches is a partner with HighTechXL, and we assist in marketing and communications. That includes reaching out to expats across Europe to find the best and brightest tech and management talent for HighTechXL’s venture-building efforts.

Here’s the cool part: HIghTechXL has tech-transfer partnerships with the top research centers and corporations in the world to take their latest innovations to market.

In addition to ESA, they include:

• CERN, the Swiss research effort famous for proving the existence of the Higgs boson, better known as the God Particle, the elementary atomic particle

• Philips, the 128-year-old Dutch electronics giant

• TNO, the Netherlands Organization for applied scientific research

I saved the most remarkable part for last: HighTechXL only pivoted in mid-2018 to a deep-tech venture building approach from a high-tech accelerator. In slightly more than 18 months, the venture-building effort has produced several rapidly growing companies. So, let’s look at the companies and their respective number of expats.

Incooling uses CERN-inspired technology to cool computer chips. They just returned to Eindhoven from CES in Las Vegas where they announced a collaboration with GIGABYTE, one of the largest computer hardware companies in the world. The Incooling team includes talent from Mexico, Iran, Guatemala and Latvia in addition to the Netherlands.

Aircision, which uses CERN structured laser beam technology in communications, has team members from Scotland, Portugal and the United States in addition to Dutch talent.

Dynaxion, which uses CERN particle accelerator technology to detect illicit materials, won a large grant from the U.S Department of Homeland Security and other agencies when they were named finalists in the Opioid Detection Challenge last year. In addition to Dutch team members, they have a British physicist.

Carbyon, which uses TNO technology for CO2 capture in producing carbon-neutral fuels and other products, has two Belgians on its 7-person team. Carbyon just got a significant investment round, which we’ll post about later.

The current rise in nationalism, including Brexit, is alarming, but European leaders know building walls and closing borders is a sure way to wreck an economy. Just ask the North Koreans.

Just after Brexit happened, the Brits came to their senses and passed legislation opening the United Kingdom to highly skilled internationals.

While Donald Trump may rant about “America First,” highly skilled internationals now run the largest American tech companies including Satya Nadella at Microsoft and Sundar Pichai at Facebook, both of whom were born in India.

Marx said, “Capital recreates the world in its own image.” Here’s Terry’s addendum … “and highly skilled internationals from around the world are the image of capitalism.”

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Co-CEO of Dispatches Europe. A former military reporter, I'm a serial expat who has lived in France, Turkey, Germany and the Netherlands.

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