(Editor’s note: This post on LUMO Labs is part of Dispatches’ Tech Tuesday series covering startups that includes the Eindhoven Business Briefings.)
With a foot in Los Angeles and a foot in Eindhoven, Andy Lürling is the ultimate Transatlantic startup mover and shaker, and the co-founder of LUMO Labs has a revealing illustration of how different those worlds are:
“Our deck there (in LA) … I’m announced as (big voice with an American accent), ‘Here’s THE next god of the Y Combinator for good, ANDY LÜRLING!’ In Eindhoven, it’s ‘Here’s this guy and he started a fund and it’s Andy.’ That’s the total difference.”
It would be easy to mistake Lürling for a low-key Dutch guy and he sort of is. Just one with bold and borderless ambitions, which means he’s in the right place at the right time, not to mention the right business.
For a small city no one has ever heard of, Eindhoven dominates multiple deep-tech sectors, including advanced HealthTech, photolithography, photonics and additive technology.
Now, Lürling wants to add AI, VR and other emerging technologies. To do that, he and co-founder Sven Bakkes have created LUMO Labs, housed in Building 6a on High Tech Campus Eindhoven. LUMO Labs also has a small office in LA. “We don’t invest in companies with a Dutch focus. We invest in companies with a global focus,” Lürling says. “With an office there, our startups have someone to represent them” in the U.S. ecosystem.
Both co-founders are tech startup veterans.
After working in The Valley, Bakkes was CMO at a subsidiary of Eneco, the Dutch Green energy company. He and Lürling founded iOpener in 2005. They raised the first 100,000 euros from the European Space Agency in 2006, then 4.2 million euros in 2008 from a German VC.
Those raises allowed Lürling, Bakkes and their team to quickly get traction with their IP, a high accuracy geo-location technology for fast-moving objects such as race cars and competition aircraft.
In mid- 2011, Lürling and Bakkes sold their shares of the company for an undisclosed amount. Since then, they’ve been advising and coaching startups. This “hobby” turned into LUMO Labs in 2016, when they also started investing in emerging SoftTech startups. The fact that iOpener was in both the ESA and the YES! Delft incubators influenced the way they’ve structured their venture-builder program, Lürling said
Their approach with LUMO Labs is unique, a hybrid that’s its own category – a two-year angel-funded startup master class. And as stated above, they do indeed see LUMO Labs as “the Y Combinator for good,” investing in startups with technology not only with the potential to yield returns but to change the world for the better.
Most technology today is designed to make users “lazy, dumb and addicted, and the computer will soon show more emotion than we do. That’s what we don’t want,” Lürling says, “We want to turn that around. We want technology to support us to to be human again.
“We are a typical fund but with a social impact element,” he adds. “That’s why we don’t want to be ‘an accelerator.’ “
The fund is 20 million euros, with a three-year investment period, and Lürling, Bakkes and their limited partners like to be first-in.
What’s not so typical is LUMO Labs’ two-year incubator/accelerator, though he uses the term “venture builder.” Most accelerators/venture builders in Europe run for, at most, nine months and invest between 12,000 euros and 50,000 euros in each startup. LUMO Labs invests up to 500,000 euros and lasts for two years so its mentors can guide them through financial mistakes so they survive.
LUMO Labs initially invests between 300,000 and 500,000 euros in each startup, then can add another 1 million for up to 1.5 million euros.
“We want the startup founders to have enough salary but not too much,” Lürling said. “They have to sleep at night, but they don’t have to get lazy.
“We don’t say ‘We give you more money.’ We say, ‘We give you more time but stay creative.’ “
In March, the 20 million euro LUMO Fund II was announced and is expected to close at the end of the year. LUMO Fund II is raising investment capital from angels, family offices and larger funds in the region: Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg.
LUMO Labs invests in next-gen technology startups that touch at least one of the following Sustainable Development Goals defined by the United Nations:
• Sustainable Cities
• Health and well-being
• Quality Education
• Big data/deep learning and AI
LUMO Labs portfolio companies include:
• GO EU creates e-commerce B2C logistics software for a shop-and-ship experience in Europe where all shipping costs, duties and taxes are prepaid during checkout. The solution includes its own e-commerce platform enabling non-European web shops to manage their European e-commerce shipments
• Alternative Investor is creating blockchain token technology that will secure information on any asset-backed security via a private or public ledger. Alternative Investor has merged with Los Angeles-based Verses.
• BikeClip is bike rack technology created by entrepreneur Maurice Paulssen that will hold any type of bicycle … clearly a Dutch priority.
• PWXR – formerly Pillow’s Willow – is a VR studio that creates active e-Sport games with rotational motion tracking and orientation and positioning tracking VR hardware.
• VRee Experiences creates the VR simulation software that allows VR gamers to physically compete from different locations in a “virtual arena.” The products are designed for the health, education and enterprise sectors.
Which startups are eligible to join?
LUMO Labs is open to all Europeans startups.
LUMO Lab draws its talent from a core triangle – RWTH Aachen to Ghent University to Radboud University Nijmegen. But that base of tech talent also includes universities in Tilburg and Leuven with connections to Technical University Delft and Technical University of Eindhoven
How many startups does LUMO Labs invest in?
“In theory, we do five investments per year, though it can be four or six, depending on the circumstances,” says Lürling. If they did 10 per year, that would be too many to give individual attention. “We believe it’s quality over quantity.”
Some are going to fail, he added, but with a select few, they won’t fail because of easy-to-avoid problems or neglect.
The teams have shared workspace in the LUMO Lab HQ on HTC. Do they collaborate?
LUMO Labs looks for potential synergy between the startups so they can work together, learn from each other and share resources.
Does LUMO Labs invest in hardware startups?
“We don’t invest in hardware, but, of course, software and hardware are related,” Lürling said. “The startups can use hardware, but we don’t invest in it.”
Do you have to have an MVP to apply to LUMO Labs?
You can pitch just a concept, but they like to see proof of concept and TRL 5 (technology validated in relevant environment) in the case of key enabling technologies.
Has LUMO Labs had any exits?
Fund I has no exits after only four years. But based on follow-on investments, they have a multiple of 4.5. That is, for every euro invested by the LUMO Labs fund, new investors have invested an additional 4.50 euros.
Read more here about Eindhoven’s tech scene.
Co-CEO of Dispatches Europe. A former military reporter, I'm a serial expat who has lived in France, Turkey, Germany and the Netherlands.