HighTechXL: XL Day mixes startup pitches with buzz about Eindhoven’s ecosystem

Going to a big tech startup event in Eindhoven just to hear the pitches is like buying a Ferrari because it’s red. There’s so much more to the experience.

The HighTechXL XL Day yesterday wasn’t just demo day pitches from the accelerator’s startups and corporate innovation teams. Oh, no … it included visitors from The Valley, the debut of what promises to be a revolutionary MBA program and announcements about significant additions to Eindhoven’s startup ecosystem.


To continue our high-performance analogy, if you’re part of Eindhoven’s high-octane startup scene, you’re starting to see new faces, and not just from the Brabant region here in southern Netherlands.

People are coming to Eindhoven and HighTechXL from Silicon Valley, China, Amsterdam, South Korea, Japan, the United States, Italy, Ukraine and a dozen other countries.

Wednesday’s gathering of innovators, entrepreneurs and investors at the Klokgebouw event space in the Strijp-S section quite simply rocked ….

I was posting via my MacBook from a cocktail table while chatting with several Dutch tech entrepreneurs who shuttle back and forth between The Valley and Eindhoven.

XL Day featured speaker Sander Arts, who owns Orange Tulip Consultancy. Arts is the former CMO of Atmel Corporate (now Microchip), a mega-semiconductor player based in San Jose. He’s also the author of “Cut the Bullshit Marketing.”

In his opening dialog with HighTechXL founder and CEO Guus Frericks, Arts emphasized the differences between Silicon Valley and Eindhoven have more to do with branding than with tech talent or infrastructure, which are comparable.

“All the smartest people I’ve worked with were at (semiconductor company) NXP right here in Eindhoven,” Arts said.

What’s holding Eindhoven back is risk aversion (“Go place a bet … and do what the Americans do …. crash and learn.”) and the Dutch reluctance to move beyond pure expository statement of fact into actual marketing, he added.

Arts’ best quote of the day: “If the Dutch sold sushi, they would market it as ‘cold fish.’ ”

Overall, he said there are a “lot of treasure in this area, which is really under-marketed. We have to market ourselves back to The Valley.”

Robert van Hamersveld joined us briefly, and both agreed that Eindhoven increasingly has the ingredients to rival The Valley and every other tech center from Shanghai to Berlin.

Van Hamersveld is a Valley Veteran bringing investors from the United States to Eindhoven and is involved with both HighTechXL and Sport eXperience incubators here.

XL Day was a five-hour marathon of pitches, HighTechXL alumni updates and free-form discussions  … far too much to include in one post. So we’ll have a more in-depth post for our next Eindhoven Business Briefing in our Tech Tuesday slot.

Meanwhile, let’s bullet-point some XL Day highlights:

• There were seven startups and four corporates with five internal corporate teams. The amazing thing about an accelerator demo day in English in the Netherlands? Teams from Ukraine to Mexico were pitching to a crowd of about 900 in not their first language or even their second language, but in some cases their third!

All were surprisingly smooth after the three-month HighTechXL accelerator.

• HakkenENTERPRISE’s Su-Lin Casannova was the last to pitch. But she got everyone’s attention when she came out on stage and opened with, “Let’s talk about sex.” The Hakken team has developed a non-invasive test capable of detecting simultaneously both human papilloma virus (HPV) infection and cancer propensity (cervical or prostate), reaching both male and female populations to help prevent the most prevalent cancers.

After talking about sex, Casanova segued seamlessly into, “Now, let’s talk about money!”

LiquidWeb’s Tomasso Chiantini said his BrainControl technology is moving forward with regulatory approvals after clinical successes and is seeking to raise 1 million euros. BrainControl enables people with degenerative neuromuscular diseases such as ALS or traumatic brain injuries to communicate even after they’re “locked in” by disease. “But the real urgency is that we need your help to break (patients) out of their prisons today.”

Well said ….

Presto, an internal startup of DFE Pharma, made a strong case for its tailored excipients system that allows generic drug manufacturers to get new products to market faster with lower expense. (Excipients are crucial ingredients in making medicines.) Ten of the 11 companies in their product validation testing are ready to use Presto.

EY Ocean, an internal project of EY, worked Kim Jong Un into their pitch. EY Ocean is a scalable trade automation platform that can handle everything from vendor certification to trade-regulation compliance. So Bjorn Dubois opened his pitch with a shot of the North Korean dictator noting that you really want to make sure you don’t send advanced tech to him.

“This is not a one-time exercise,” Dubois said. Regs and requirements are constantly changing and it’s difficult to find expertise in the industry, he added.

• HeartIn’s Igor Voronkov announced a number of deals for his teams’ products in the U.S. HeartIn, based in the U.S. and Ukraine, has developed and launched its wearable heart monitor that connects to care providers, T-shirt-embedded devices can be used for clinical or fitness applications. The fitness product has already sold 250 units in the US. Larkin Community Hospital in Miami bought 20 fitness products for a medical pilot.

They signed a Dutch hospital for a pilot for the $300 medical device, which HeartIn sells directly to healthcare companies.

HeartIn’s projected first-year revenue is $600,000, with projected sales of $110 million by 2022.

Asked if he’s getting more comfortable standing in front of 1,000 people and pitching, Voronkov replied, “No definitely not! But it’s a great experience.”

There were also a number of big announcements for the Eindhoven startup ecosystem including:

• HighTech XL is coming together with Maastricht School of Management and High Tech Campus Eindhoven to create a new High Tech MBA program.

You can see more details here.

HighTechXL and Technical University of Eindhoven have agreed to join forces to accelerate TU/e’s tech startups. TU/e sets up or scales up as many as 70 companies per year. TU/e startups will now go through the HighTechXL incubator starting with 20 companies in 2018.

• There are plans in place to convert Building 27 on the High Tech Campus into an all-in-one innovation center for startups, mentors, MBA students, alumni companies, investors and others in the Eindhoven startup ecosystem.

We’ll have more details in the Eindhoven Business Briefing.

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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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