UPS investing big in Eindhoven; young entrepreneurs build Vention

(Editor’s note: The Eindhoven Business Briefing is part of Dispatches’ Tech Tuesday series covering technology and global management in Europe and Asia. Also, this post has been updated with additional information.)


There’s an American business axiom that says “build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door.”

Well, Dutch rapid-prototyping startup Vention made that better mousetrap a reality for a client. That includes everything down to the app that not only sends out an alert the mouse has indeed been apprehended but exactly where the unfortunate rodent is in the building.

Founded as FRANS Prototyping three years ago, in its brief history Vention has become the backbone for Eindhoven’s surging startup scene.

“We design and build the products our clients imagine,” said co-founder Frank Poort. Vention can take an idea through all the development stages from prototyping to mass production.

Vention has a relatively large space – though not large enough for this fast-growing company –  in the HighTechXL Plaza accelerator cluster on High Tech Campus Eindhoven. Vention has a 16-person team including electrical engineer graduates and mechanical engineers from Technical University of Eindhoven.

Without Vention, many of the other startups at HighTechXL Plaza wouldn’t have easy access to a one-stop high tech shop as they race to get products to market. And indeed, Vention has collaborated with a number of HIghTechXL startups including Usono and Hugsy as well as indies such as Plasmacure and Xignal, the company that makes that smart mousetrap.

This is one of the more interesting Dispatches has discovered in Eindhoven’s seemingly boundless scene – and one that fills an important niche in this high-tech hardware Mecca.

The CEO, Job Nijenhuis, is 23 years old and already has a lot of experience at several startups including Amber Mobility and Vention.

Just as importantly, Vention symbolizes a new “just do it” mindset in the Netherlands entrepreneurial scene, and there’s considerable cross-pollination as Vention team members also work with Amber Mobility, an autonomous car project.

Vention’s young co-founders Hans de Penning and Poort taught themselves to be “entrepreneurial whizz kids” – and they want to help other kids learn new skills and mindsets, said Yama Saraj, Vention’s marketing guru and the elder statesman at 32 years old.

There are a lot of 2 a.m. days as they push to complete clients’ projects on time, Saraj said: “We don’t do 9-to-5.”

Vention has Eymert van Rooy, their principal manager, to balance out the youth. Van Rooy has 20 years experience including stops at electronics pioneer Philips and TNO, an independent economic-development effort.

“It’s great to have senior mentors like Eymert around,” Saraj said. Scaling up brings challenges that might require changes in leadership structure, he added.

“We would like to maintain the flexible and flat structure and culture that has led to the growth of this company,” Saraj said. “But it may have to give way to a more defined leadership tree as we grow.”

Poort said Vention started “with a little private capital, all proudly funded by ourselves – we’re lucky to be in a position to make all decisions ourselves.”

The goal is to grow Vention into a major development company with expanded capabilities including embedded systems, Industry 4.0, robotics and IoT, Poort said.

They’re also working on their own project, Crowdlux, a sensor technology system using connected tags and beacons to localize reference points within 5-10 centimeters’ accuracy. Crowdlux is designed for tracking and analyzing everything from machinery moving around a factory to cows moving from pasture to pasture.

Vention is past the startup stage, Poort said. “We’re now at the start of the scale-up phase. We know what we’re good at. We know we’re on the go! We have to grow our business.

“We need more development, more people.”

UPS investing big in Eindhoven, Europe

This is big news to us at Dispatches because we have a foot in the United States and a foot in Eindhoven.

Atlanta-based global logistics/shipping giant UPS is investing $130 million in a new packing and sorting operation here, an operation that will create 200 new jobs by Q4 of 2018.

From the UPS release announcing the project:

Eindhoven is a strategic location in a region which is home to a number of industries including high tech and healthcare. The facility is a transit hub for goods traveling through the region and helps ensure the fast and reliable flow of goods to Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany.

“This is the largest facility investment in our company’s history in the Netherlands and one of the largest UPS investments in Europe,” said Tim Helsen, country manager, UPS Netherlands. “This state-of-the-art facility is a game-changer, allowing us to serve the Netherlands, a growing European export economy and a key player and logistical hub in today’s global economy.”

The Eindhoven facility will have:

• more than 27,000 square meters with a sorting rate of up to 29,000 packages per hour. That sorting capacity can increase to more than 50,000 packages per hour when warranted.

• more than 100 loading and unloading bays, about 100 parking positions for UPS delivery trucks and UPS’s automated package sorting technology.

The Eindhoven expansion is part of a $2 billion investment in Europe, “a key growth engine of UPS,” stated Nando Cesarone, president of UPS Europe. “We’re bullish on Europe’s future and with more small and medium businesses looking to ship cross-border, we have been speeding up our network across Europe. We’re helping our customers to go faster, grow their business and connect to opportunities all over the world.”

UPS entered the Netherlands in 1985 and has 16 facilities across the country including healthcare product-focused facilities with temperature controls in Venlo and Roermond.


High Tech Peak Awards

Last week, we were fortunate enough to be invited to the third year of E52’s High Tech Peak (Piek, in Dutch) Awards, and it was – in the Eindhoven style – an awesome party at Rabobank’s new offices near Kennedyplein, the city’s financial district.

The awards close out each year by recognizing the innovators who contribute to this white-hot regional tech ecosystem. The Peak is a special award for the individual who’s done the most to advance technology here.

For 2017, the Peak winner was Maarten Steinbuch, an inventor and a professor at Technical University Eindhoven.

From the award recognition:

“Distinguished Professor Maarten Steinbuch has been the ’embodiment’ of what this region strives to be for many years already. Whether it’s robots, smart mobility, the student teams he assists where possible, his medical-technological entrepreneurship or his many dozens of PhD students, Maarten Steinbuch is where the developments are most powerful. And he knows how to play the media with his story.”

Steinbuch does indeed. He was one of the first Eindhoven innovators we read about when we were sizing up cities for Dispatches’ headquarters. Were we impressed? Well, we’re here.

Steinbuch has fingers in many, many pies, from robots that can operate on the inside of eyeballs to smart mobility and solar cars. There is probably no better representative of a city that is both futuristic, and grounded in reality.

What stood out for us was the insane depth of talent recognized at just one event:

• Researcher Marcel Pelgrom, formerly with Philips and NXP, was a consulting professor at Stanford University when he came up with Pelgrom’s Law, a formula makes it possible for the microprocessor/semiconductor industry to manufacture increasingly smaller microchips.

• Carmen van Vilsteren is an engineer, entrepreneur and CEO of MicroSure, a TU/e spin-off that produces the “super-human accuracy” technology that makes microsurgical robots possible.

• Rick Scholte, a young engineer who developed sound-camera technology that Stanford University has adopted. He’s the founder of Sorama, which has monetized that research.

Bert-Jan Woertman, TU/e’s commercial director, and Merien ten Houten, founder of news website and an investor in several startups, were the hosts.

The first Peak award winner was Guus Frericks, founder of HighTechXL startup accelerator. Last year, outgoing Eindhoven mayor and tech advocate Rob van Gijzel was the winner.

Quick hit:

Siemens-backed venture capital firm next47 is working to connect Munich’s auto industry with Eindhoven’s tech innovation. More as we know more.

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