(Editor’s note: Dispatches Europe tracks the tech scene – startups, scale-ups and mature companies – because so many of our highly skilled internationals are engineers, physicists and developers. This post on the most interesting startups is part of our Tech Tuesday series. If we left off your startup, pitch us at: [email protected] and we’ll consider adding you to our list.)
Since we founded Dispatches Media in 2015, we’ve seen hundreds of pitches in Amsterdam, Maastricht, Rotterdam and Eindhoven. At accelerator demo days, at venture builders, including HighTechXL and LUMO Labs, at special pitch contests on High Tech Campus Eindhoven and at government-sponsored events. They tend to run together, too often starting with some puzzling business proposition and a solution no one needs or wants: “Europe has a tech-talent crisis … there isn’t enough of it. But imagine if you could teach monkeys to write code. Well, with MonkeyWare, now you can!”
Wait, that’s actually a good idea.
Anyway, every so often, a startup impresses with a potentially revolutionary idea and a team that can actually pull it off. So, we’ve made a list of the most interesting efforts we’ve seen lately.
Define “interesting,” right? Well, our list runs the gamut from prosaic (but potentially profitable) to the futuristic.
They just check the boxes on:
That doesn’t mean there won’t be teams on the list who won’t go off the rails. It’s just that we see the potential ….
The majority of these are all fairly sophisticated tech, or deep-tech, which takes a while to get to market. But the potential is limitless when it does and not easily copied. And with global semiconductor giants ASML and NXP as models, the future of the Netherlands depends of creating dominant tech companies.
To be clear, we have no insider info about these teams, though we talk regularly with most of the startups on this list or they were recommended to us by trusted experts in our ecosystem.
So, here’s our list in alphabetical order:
Aircision – This is a particularly ambitious concept out of Eindhoven-based venture builder HighTechXL. Aircision uses lasers as a 5G communication link. With physicists, engineers and management types on the team, Eindhoven-based Aircision could be on the cusp of doing great things. And they’re on their way to Silicon Valley after co-winning the Draper’s Silicon Fall Pitch Prize on 5 July, which includes Draper University’s Hero Training program this fall.
Alphabeats – We’ve been watching Alphabeats progress for years since they started at HighTechXL, then, after securing an investment from LUMO Labs Fund II, entered their two-year venture builder program. A short journey across High Tech Campus Eindhoven but to a different way of doing business. Alphabeats uses Philips biofeedback technology that combines with users’ music to reduce stress, which is a universal. Also, this is software, which is far easier and faster to scale the hardware …. though there is a hardware component in the link between the user’s phone and the application.
Axelera Ai – We first saw CEO Fabrizio Del Maffeo pitch (virtually) in late 2021 at the High Tech Campus Eindhoven’s “Back to Business: AI Edition” webinar. The team’s depth of talent (23 PhDs), concept and progress impressed us, to say the least. They’re developing both the hardware and the software platform founders say will move AI beyond the big corporations with the resources to exploit AI. A few months later, Axelera debuted its first chip, the Thetis Core, this past May, while raising a 20 million euro A Series round. That’s crazy fast progress. Axelera raised a $12 million seed round in 2021. Along with Bit Fury, investors include the creme de la creme of research institutions, such as Leuven-based research center imec and early stage VCs, including Amsterdam-based Innovation Industries. At the one-year mark, Axelera is already a scale-up.
Carbyon – We visited the Carbyon lab recently on High Tech Campus Eindhoven, and we were impressed with the sophistication of the testing equipment and scientific approach. The tech, which was developed at Dutch research center TNO by founder Hans De Neve, extracts CO2 out of the atmosphere. The Carbyon approach is so sound the team won $1 million from LA-based non-profit XPRIZE Foundation, with this specific prize category funded by Elon Musk.
CityLegends – We’re really sticking our necks out here. This is not deep-tech, and we’re not even sure we see a business plan, but we get it. We see a concept that a lot of American cities will embrace … a platform bringing together unconventional people involved in unconventional sports, such as parkour and skateboarding. We also see this evolving into an alternative sports series with competitions, broadcasts, sponsorships, branding and global marketing.
A LUMO Labs startup, CL already has 10,000 users in Europe and significant revenue from selling their services and data to multiple Dutch municipalities, including Den Haag and Breda.
Healthplus.ai – Amsterdam-based Healthplus.ai uses artificial intelligence and existing electronic health record data to accurately predict the risk of infection for individual patients. Founders say this technology can be extended to other post-surgical complications. LUMO Labs recently invested. The team is already multi-market and multi-national, active in the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark and Norway. Healthplus.ai recently received a REACT EU grant of about 1 million euros.
inPhocal – Another HighTechXL alumnus, we’ve watched this team go from nearly dying to having a device that could change multiple industries. The device uses laser technology developed by founder Martijn Boerkamp, who’s a physicist. inPhocal’s laser can be used to print on curved surfaces such as cans and bottles, cut computer wafers or precision trim those sideburns. (Kidding about that last one, but who knows?) We saw their lab in Waddinxveen near Den Haag and we know the tech works as advertised.
LionVolt – LionVolt 3D, based at High Tech Campus Eindhoven, just raised 4 million euros from a syndicate that includes Innovation Industries and BOM, the regional economic development agency. LionVolt comes out of seven years of battery design R&D at TNO. The goal is to develop a 3-D solid-state lithium-ion battery that is more efficient and sustainable than anything currently on the market. These batteries will “transform the energy sector in terms of safety, energy density and performance,” as co-founder Sandeep Unnikrishnan puts it. Unnikrishnan has both a business background and an engineering background, so this is a company you’ll be hearing a lot more about as the world transitions to electric vehicles.
Maaind – Neurotechnology startup Maaind’s proposition is based on neuroadaptive machine learning and AI-enabled platform integrations for everyday products and services. Maaind’s algorithms measure the emotional and stress state via speech analysis, wearables and the environment, then use the data to offer suggestions and recommendations for users tailored to their psychological or physical state.
For example, the platform can improve the mood or energy level of drivers and passengers in cars, providing music recommendations or breathing exercises. Maaind was founded in London in 2019 by Dr. Martin Dinov and Dzera Kaytati, raising pre-seed funding from Entrepreneur First and angel investors from the UK and the U.S. This is another recent LUMO Labs investment, and the startup is now part of their program on High Tech Campus Eindhoven. So they’re technically Dutch.
Onera – Onera came out of HighTechXL’s 2017 cohort and has been growing ever since. In five years, the team – led by co-founders Soukaina Adnane and Ruben de Francisco – has been perfecting next-gen medical-grade sleep diagnostics. This is a spin-off company of Leuven, Belgium-based R&D hub imec and Holst Centre, TNO’s R&D operations on High Tech Campus Eindhoven.
Onera raised 10.5 million euros in a Series B round last year.
ShanX Medtech – Founded by Dr. Eriola-Sophia Shanko, this Eindhoven-based startup can take simple urine samples and tell physicians whether an antibiotic will be effective or ineffective with that specific patient. Shanko recently won an InspiringFifty Deep Tech award.
QuiX Quantum – Enschede-based QuiX just raised 5.5 million euros, the first investment by PhotonDelta from the 1.1 billion euro fund to make the Netherlands the dominant power in photonics. Photonics and quantum computing are the new, new thing, and QuiX is building the world’s most powerful photonic quantum processors in the race to introduce a new generation of super-powerful computers. So, yeah, this is kinda cool.
Sustonable – We saw Sustonable pitch way back in 2017, a pitch which included getting an investment on stage during the HighTechXL Demo day. The scale-up uses technology developed by Royal Dutch Shell to turn PET plastic waste into engineered stone used for kitchen counters, bathroom surfaces and other applications.
Now based in Amsterdam, Sustonable has a new factory in Turkey and supplier deals brewing with big DIY companies and retailers.
Techbinder – We saw Rotterdam-based Techbinder’s Bram van den Boom pitch at the 5G Innovation Challenge earlier this month, sponsored by the 5G Hub at High Tech Campus Eindhoven. The Rotterdam-based team came out of the PortXL accelerator. Techbinder technology – the Smart Vessel Optimizer – collects data from ships in real time, telling operators not just where they are but how efficiently they’re operating. We can see this concept could be applied to any transportation/logistics operation on land, sea or in the air.