As Constantine Demetriou wraps up his 1-minute pitch for his brand new startup Hologaming, HighTechXL CEO Guus Frericks moves toward the impromptu stage and says, “Okay, commitment … are you in?”
Demetriou instantly says “Yes” … says it so quickly Frericks doesn’t realize he’s answered. So, Frericks says, “Will you move this concept forward?”
Demetriou is taken aback a bit but repeats his answer without hesitation: “Yes.”
Congratulations, Mr. Demetriou, you’re in business. Which was the whole point of the first FasTrackathon.
Fifty-six aspiring entrepreneurs and tech talents turned out 27 March at High Tech Campus Eindhoven for HighTechXL’s venture-building event. The 4-hour event matched talent to new deep technology from CERN, Nikhef and TNO. Unusually for a tech event, the crowd was split 50/50 between women and men. But there was nothing usual about FasTrackathon, which is best understood as a reverse-hackathon, where teams are given the latest in tech, then invited to form ad-hoc companies.
The ideas from FasTrackathon with potential and interest will go through a series of team meetings to determine which enter HighTechXL’s 9-month Venture Builder program 16 April. More information will be announced 11 April at Beyond Tech, the biggest tech conference of the year. (And by the way, you can still join. Please see details below.)
Yes, this is the messy part of the startup world, with lots of ideas flying around and sticky notes on those big business plan and customer canvasses. It’s way too early to predict how many startups will emerge from FasTrackathon. But there were concrete ideas and commitments for forming several new teams.
Out of 56 people on teams, all but four committed to continuing the process, Frericks said.
Frericks opened FasTrackathon with background on HighTechXL, the Netherlands’ preeminent deep tech accelerator and its partnership with CERN and other research centers.
Out of those partnerships have come three companies – Aircision, Incooling and Dynaxion. All three came out of a similar event last September but already have MVPs and early-stage funding. Frericks noted that HighTechXL CTO Martijn Boerkamp joined the Aircision team, built experimental equipment and got pre-seed funding from the Eindhoven Startup Alliance “all in six months.”
“All this happening in six months is not something I’m used to,” Martijn added. “And I’ve been in a startup before.”
Several technologies were available to the teams at FasTrackathon:
• CO2 cooling and long-distance structure laser beam technology from CERN
• Holographic emitter technology from National Institute for Subatomic Physics, or Nikhef. Martin Fransen, a physics and electronics researcher at Nikhef brought to FasTrackathon his holographic emitter technology. Though it has no moving parts, Fransen said, his technology can create more detailed, higher-resolution holograms that require less computing power.
Fransen’s emitter has applications in 3D printing, LIDAR, 3D lithography 3D model viewing, entertainment and gaming.
• CO2 capture and conversion technology from TNO.
Hans de Neve, a senior scientist at independent research firm TNO, has developed a lower-cost technology to extract CO2 from the air using a 100-micron-thick membrane. The technology accomplishes two things – it reduces global warming by removing the CO2, then uses the renewable hydrocarbons to provide an affordable alternative to fossil hydrocarbons.
De Neve estimates the potential market of 10 billion euros from selling captured CO2 to petrochemical companies who need renewable fuels. De Neve came to FasTrackathon to recruit team members and needs mechanical engineers, machine builders and people with VC experience. He also needs to raise 2 million euros in capital over the next 18 months to build the MVP.
Frericks’ final instructions: “Go Fast.” And they did.
After two hours of brainstorming sessions with the actual engineers who’d created some of the technology, ideas for products, market applications and business plans came together.
At the end of the four-hour event, nine ad-hoc teams were ready to make 1-minute pitches.
This was one of two companies using Martin Fransen’s Nikhef holographic technology, with Hologaming emerging from the event as a candidate to go into HighTechXL’s accelerator.
Constantine Demetriou noted that online games generate bigger box office than movies. But drawbacks include bulky hardware with not-great screen resolution and limits on how many people can view the game.
“With Hologaming, you will have a more real-life experience. As a gamer, you’ll be more immersed ….” Demetriou added. For software companies focused on gaming, that will translate into bigger sales, he said.
3D Healer uses Fransen’s Nikhef-developed holographic technology to help clinicians make easier and more accurate diagnosis of diseases and medical conditions, said team member Renelo Fernandes, who gave the 1-minute pitch.
STAY COOL – STAY HEALTHY
Georgios Konstantinou gave the pitch for his company, which proposes using CERN CO2 cooling technology to cool medical equipment such as CAT and PET scanners.
CTS Life on Earth
Eric Broekhuizen, who is also HighTechXL’s COO, gave the pitch for CTS Life on Earth, a company that uses de Neve’s CO2 capture to create fuels for heavy fuel use industries such as transportation, especially aircraft. That solves two problems, Broekhuizen said – it provides a green fuel and it removes CO2 from the atmosphere.
“We’re committed to life on earth,” Eric said. “If you like life on earth, you can join us and help bring this technology to life.”
John Reid gave the pitch for Prefect Beam, which uses CERN’s laser technology – adapted by Aircision – for advanced micro-machining. Existing HighTechXL startup Aircision has developed a new form of laser profile called a structured laser beam. This CERN-developed technology increases the accuracy in laser interferometry while simplifying current interferometric systems.
The target industry is high-end semiconductor processes that need extreme accuracy, Reid said.
The team slogan: “Accuracy through perfection.” “We’re the perfect team to create the Perfect Beam,” he said.
The majority of people at FasTrackathon were from tech backgrounds including engineers and scientists. But the skills were across the spectrum from healthcare to management.
On his CTS Life on Earth team is TNO researcher de Neve, HighTechXL COO Eric Broekhuizen, “a pharmacist, an IT guy, a pure business guy and a grad student,” said Koen van Weezel, who has a background in tech, sales and business. “So, it was a mixed team.”
“I think this is for real … if we address the right partners in this, we can make it work,” van Weezel said. “We can really make a change in the world … and make money.”
Now, the FasTrackathon attendees who committed to forming new companies are meeting regularly as they work out the details and perfect the technology on the way to the HighTechXL Venture Builder Program. During this period, everything can change including who’s on each team.
Even though FasTrackathon is over, can I still join a team?
Absolutely. The next FasTrackathon information session is Tuesday, April 9, 16:00-18:00 at HighTechXL, building 27, High Tech Campus. For more information, contact Martijn at: [email protected]
HighTechXL is the Netherlands’ premier accelerator and is focused on deep tech. HighTechXL is an initiative of the Eindhoven Startup Alliance with ASML, Philips, NTS Group, High Tech Campus Eindhoven, ABN AMRO Bank, Brabantse Ontwikkelings Maatschappij (BOM), Brainport Development and EY as its members.
HighTechXL works with some of the smartest people in the world with some of the boldest projects. Currently, CERN. HighTechXL teams are working with CERN, the world-famous particle research effort in Switzerland to take cutting-edge CERN technology to market. You can read more about that here.
Since its founding in 2013, HighTechXL startups have an incredible survival rate of 73 percent and have raised more than 60 million euros.
Co-CEO of Dispatches Europe. A former military reporter, I'm a serial expat who has lived in France, Turkey, Germany and the Netherlands.