HighTechXL: Robotics, medtech and red hot chili peppers triumph at Eindhoven’s tech accelerator

(Editor’s note: The original version of this post contained incorrect information about Recath and has been updated.)

How bad do you want it? That’s the question put to 18 startup teams yesterday during HighTechXL’s Impact Finals in the new atrium at ASML’s Eindhoven headquarters.

Those startups were vying for the right to enter the seventh cohort of the five-year-old HighTechXL incubator, an incubator that’s shaped 56 teams – soon to be 66 – and helped those companies raise about 41 million euros in early-stage funding.


Ten teams had the right answers and will enter the program starting 9 April.

A 9:30 a.m. intro by HighTechXL CEO Anique Soetermeer-Gabriels began an intense 10 hours that included opening 1-minute pitches, followed by eight rounds of probing interviews and feedback from HighTechXL staffers, mentors and industry experts.

At about 7 p.m., Soetermeer-Gabriels revealed the selected teams. She rated the new HighTechXL Class of ’18 “a very diverse batch, with some very early-stage startups, and some later stage firms. And it’s a very international batch again.”

When it comes to startups, the Eindhoven model is not so different from The Valley Model: Ultimately, it’s not so much about the tech as it about the people, Soetermeer-Gabriels said.

“It’s all about how enthusiastic these people are,” she said. “How well can we coach them? Can we coach them in areas where we’re most knowledgeable? Do they have the network to help them further in their journey of building a business?”

Here are the 10 teams who made it:

  1. AirBliss+: Based in the United Kingdom, AirBliss+ created a smart air pollution breathing mask. AirBliss+ emphasizes excellent user-experiences such as fit, ease of cleaning and ease in breathing, eliminating heat and humidity.
  2. UBIK Solutions: UBIK, from Estonia, has developed an all-in-one device that helps solar-panel owners in residential areas increase solar efficiency.
  3. MiniFab3D: From Mexico, Mini Fab3D designs and manufactures high-end 3D printers, robotic arms, computer numerical control devices and laser cutters. Their goal is to develop new technology including bringing a high-resolution stereolithography printer to market at an accessible price.
  4. Applied BioTech: Their core technology is a sustainable enzymatic process for the production of capsaicinoids, the spicy molecules from chili peppers. That’s right, hot peppers. In turn, those capsaicinoids are used as organic pest repellants, coatings, in making pharmaceuticals and, of course, pepper sprays for self-defense. The team is from Mexico.
  5. Tusti: Tusti is a high-tech recycling company, founded in 2015 by the cooperation of Technical University of Eindhoven, Holding and Stiphout (Stiphout Industries, Stip Recycling and Stiphout Plastics). Among other innovations, Tusti has developed a cleaning process to remove frying oil from high-density polyethylene, a polyethylene thermoplastic made from petroleum, making it easier to recycle.
  6. Hipermotion: From Eindhoven, Hipermotion developed a new medical rehabilitation and training machine, the MaxDFM, using patented dynamic force modulation technology.
  7. Recath: From Eindhoven Medical Robotics, Recath has developed a minimally invasive robotic catheterization technology. The steerable device utilizes Bluetooth.
  8. Flow  Matters: Flow Matters is from the Technical University of Eindhoven in the Netherlands. Flow Matters offers consultancy services and software for fluid dynamics simulations to help engineers at high-tech companies design products effectively with state-of-the-art numerical models translated from fundamental and applied research into the industrial practice.
  9. StormRam 4: From the University of Twente in the Netherlands, StormRam 4 is the world’s smallest and most accurate 3D-printed biopsy robot. Driven by air pressure, the plastic 3D printed StormRam 4 can be used in MRI machines, which increases the accuracy of the procedures.
  10. MindYour Pass: MindYour Pass from the Netherlands is a security startup that has developed a system allowing people to access all digital accounts with one password while still maintaining security. Their slogan is: “No more difficult passwords to remember, yet all your external accounts secured with a strong password.”

Soetermeer-Gabriels noted that other startups might join the cohort, but there are “details to be worked out.”

The focus for the cohort was to get medtech robots. “We got a few in that area. But much more in different areas” including mechatronics, precision engineering, medtech and embedded software.

HighTechXL drew candidates for this cohort drew from three sources:

• The Netherlands’ three technical schools – Eindhoven, Twente and Delft.

Get in the Ring, a Rotterdam-based foundation that uses a global network to link startups to startup organizations, goverments and corporations.

• HighTechXL’s global network.

One panelist told Dispatches the teams she interviewed had solid ideas, but many were in their infancy. Most of the teams were strong in engineering, but lacked soft skills such as sales and marketing. But, she added, “that’s why they’re coming to an accelerator – for business knowledge.”

The future is now

The day-long Impact Finals included several presentations including a look into the future with legendary TU/e Professor Maarten Steinbuch, a pioneer in surgical robotics.

Steinbuch presented a vision of the future where not only do autonomous cars negotiate who goes first in intersections, but no one drives … and where robots perform surgery.

Steinbuch has founded two surgical robotics companies, Preceyes and Medical Robotics Technology. His focus has been on using robotics to eliminate the slight hand tremors even skilled surgeons have to optimize accuracy.

In the Ring

In the Ring sessions require team leaders to “fight” in boxing style rounds to explain their visions, business strategies and tactics while one-upping the competition. Winners go on to international funding competitions and other innovation centers. Last year, the final global competition was in Singapore. This year’s event will be held in Lisbon.

Yesterday, Tusti co-founder and CTO Jan Kolijn duked it out with Applied BioTech’s Alejandro Torres-Gavilán. Kolijn was declared the winner by a panel of judges that included Steinbuch and executives from Philips, NTS and ASML.

Kolijn said he thought enthusiasm won it for him: “I am convinced our team can do this.”

“This” is rounding up enough customers. Tusti already is doing 4,000 tons of plastic recycling now. Kolijn added that “because we know what we’re talking about,” it builds confidence in his pitch.

His goal is to get “investor ready, as they call it. That’s the most important thing that will happen. That, and getting a feeling for political lobbying and the game that surrounds plastic recycling on the Netherlands level, on the European level and even on the global level.”

Burning plastic waste is banned in the Netherlands and increasingly across Europe. “That’s the game that will change.”

Here’s what selected HighTechXL teams get:

• A 3-month result-oriented program run by the experienced HighTechXL Team with focus on customer traction and funding.

• Hundreds of hours of expert support from not only ASML, Philips and NTS, but also specialists from EY, ABN AMRO Bank and other partners in sales, engineering, manufacturing, IP, supply chain, finance, legal, internationalization and investment.

• Pilots with partnering companies.

• Support from hundreds of mentors formally connected to HighTechXL.

• Access to potential customers, partners and suppliers.

• Professional workspace at the High Tech Campus Eindhoven, the prime tech campus in Europe, where 160 companies and institutes are based.

• €15.000 cash contribution

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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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