With ‘Beyond,’ HighTechXL brings tech-conference pitch format, global experts to Eindhoven

(Editor’s note: The Eindhoven Business Briefing is part of Dispatches’ Tech Tuesday series. We created the Eindhoven Business Briefing last year because there’s simply more news in our headquarters city than we could cover post-by-post.)

We just got back from the HighTechXL Beyond event, and here’s our No. 1 takeaway: the new, fast-paced tech conference format is the way to go. And it also proved to us that Eindhoven is ready to host a major tech conference.

The Beyond event last Thursday was a dramatic departure from the Eindhoven-based startup accelerator’s past six demo days in that it combined pitches and multiple marquee subject-matter experts giving expert sessions including:


Marleen Vogelaar, co-founder of Shapeways and now CEO and founder of Zielwear, a revolutionary B2B apparel company that makes limited-edition runs of workout/athletic gear for social-media influencers.

Vogelaar, now based in New York, was back in Eindhoven, where 3D printing company Shapeways was founded before the company left for New York City and more funding.

Vogelaar talked at length about the nitty-gritty of starting Zielwear including:

  • the two years she spent studying the apparel industry after she left Shapeways
  • how she learned to scale up quickly as orders came in. She discussed all facets of the on-demand, B2B apparel business down to and including load-balancing factories
  • how Zielwear flourished after starting out small, going from “the small yoga store on the corner in Soho” that sold four items a day to retailers selling thousands of pieces.

Vogelaar’s “Lesson No. 1”: It’s all about supply chain redundancies.

At one point, when she didn’t have the volume to sign vendors, or the vendors who wanted her business didn’t have the flexibility to fill Ziel-brand orders quickly, she went out and bought a bunch of sewing machines, then recruited a woman from the Philippines with an MBA and experience in the garment industry to run the captive vendor.

Vogelaar left the audience with two contradictory impressions – one of a traditional Dutch woman with a crazy sense of humor and a dedication to family, and one of an American-style entrepreneur deadly serious and focused, with an incredibly broad and deep set of skills.

MAARTEN STEINBUCH AT BEYOND (Photo by Quetzi Navarro/HighTechXL !X)

Maarten Steinbuch, serial entrepreneur and Technical University of Eindhoven (TU/e) professor on the future of medical robotics. He’s built several medical robotics companies, but with Eindhoven Medical RoboticsSteinbuch is building a company with an Amazon-like 20-year vision … an enduring business that could redefine this Dutch semiconductor center while revolutionizing the medical world. And he’s hiring with the goal of building a 1,000-person company.

You an see an expanded post on Steinbuch’s work and ambitions here.

There were also matchmaking sessions throughout the day between startups and investors, and corporates and startups.

Of course, the pitches were what everyone came for and again, the method was a big departure from what HighTechXL had done in the past. Instead of just the current cohort of five startups from the accelerator, there were dozens of startups, all vying to get to the main stage for the final pitch competition and a trip to Shanghai, where HighTechXL has operations.

Judges were HighTechXL founder Guus Frericks, Dominic Rowsell, EY Global Pursuit leader, author and consultant, and Eindhoven-based entrepreneur Krishna Sreerambhatla.


The five finalists were:

CytoSMART. CytoSMART developed software and hardware to create an electronic microscope system used in monitoring cell cultures for medical testing. CytoSMART technology uses cloud servers instead of servers, which takes incredible storage capacity to collect the data. CEO Joffry Maltha said the startup is raising 5 million euros on a 15 million euro valuation.

FreshStrips, a startup that uses liquid crystal technology in a packaging strip that indicates whether food has been exposed to heat. FreshStrips, a spinout from TU/e, is about to launch its first pilot. Marios Chryssolouis, an EY alum, gave the detailed pitch. His team includes Koen Nickmans, CTO; Franny Tsiorni, a Ph.D and head of applications; Danielle van der Heijden, research; Alexander Matthiessen, CFO from EY; and Marianna Giannoglou, quality, another Ph.D.

Delft Circuits, a startup that makes cabling for the quantum computing hardware industry. That’s not just any kind of Radio Shack cabling. Delft Circuits is developing ultra-low thermal conductance and massively scalable cryogenic cabling for, among other uses, quantum computing.

Co-founder Daan Kuitenbrouwer gave the pitch, saying his startup wants to become “the Bosch of quantum computing.”

MiniFab 3D, a startup from Mexico and part of the current HighTechXL cohort, MiniFab3D is focused on giving dental practices the ability to fabricate crowns, prosthetics and orthodontics. Dr. Paola Dulanto Acevedo, the CEO who’s an actual dentist, gave the pitch. She said noted dental procedures can be “traumatic.” MiniFab 3D can provide crowns and other dental products instantly so patients only experience procedures once instead of returning.

MiniFab 3D already has sales in Mexico. She’s raising 500,000 euros to fabricate the first batch of printers and to purchase resin needed for fabricating the dental products.

Arion is a wearable for runners. But before you say, “Nooo, not another one,” Arion is several stages beyond most, with patented tech that collects biometric data. That data can help runners change their style and mechanics on the way to improving times and avoiding injury, said co-founder and CEO Andrew Stratham, who has a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering. Arion has sold about 1,000 units so far and won the Yahoo Sports Tech Award. Dream clients range from everyday runners to marathoners.

Arion is currently raising 1 million euros to “revolutionize running wearable forever.”

ReCath, which has created a steerable catheter technology, is another spinout from TU/e. It’s part of Steinbuch’s Eindhoven Medical Robotics. The company takes the most promising research technology from TU/e and transforms it into viable medical products. ReCath wants to replace current catheter placement, done by hand by doctors, with a smaller catheter that can be steered from a distance, allowing for more intuitive steering. The technology reduces procedure times by more than an hour.

The envelope, please.

The winner is … Arion, with the team on its way to Shanghai in September. “Every time they were down, they kept on running,” Frericks said while announcing the winner.

Beyond was supposed to be a smaller, more intimate event than past XL Days, which typically attracted 1,000 attendees. And while Beyond was smaller, it wasn’t that much smaller, filling up the center hall of the Evoluon, Eindhoven’s iconic UFO-shaped convention center.

At the beginning and end of the Beyond event, Frericks extolled the virtues of connecting people and the power of the network to build startups and attract investors.

“We have three essential beliefs: One, the power of networking … you are as smart as your networks; two, the power of diversity and three, have fun.”

Beyond also confirmed our faith in the Global Mobility of Talent, with participants from Italy, Turkey, Scotland, Ireland, the UK, Greece, Mexico, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and the United States. Eindhoven truly is a global city.

Dispatches bringing a major private equity player to Eindhoven


Here’s where we get to plug our first Tech Sister Cities event. Dispatches Media is bringing Jonathan Blue, chairman of Blue Equity, to Eindhoven. Our main event will be 13 September, but we’re also planning a number of informal events.

Jonathan will talk in-depth about trends in American investing – early-stage, venture capital, private equity/mezzanine funding – with entrepreneurs in our Brabant ecosystem.

He’ll also share his insights into global investment trends, and he has a LOT of experience. And he might see an Eindhoven-based company or two that’s interesting. We’re putting the final touches on event details but we can tell you this … it will be free.

You don’t have to be based in Eindhoven to come. We’re putting together the guest lists and VIP lists and we’d like to know why you’d like to meet one of the top private equity players in the Midwest. Just shoot us an email at: [email protected]

Eindhoven Airport looking at a record year

Regional airports are growing more popular because  – let’s face it – getting in and out of international airports is not a lot of fun. We even created a list of regional alternatives to the Frankfurt Airports of the world. (Some of our nightmare memories are of panicky dashes terminal-to-terminal in Frankfurt with a baby – or two – and luggage.)

To prove our point, Eindhoven Airport is on a record pace for 2018, with 9-percent passenger growth compared to the first six months of 2017.

From January through June, about 3 million passengers used the airport, an increase of 252,000 passengers compared with the same period last year. Interestingly, airport officials tell us about 20 percent of that business came from business travelers, though Eindhoven is a gateway for regional travelers to get to Greece, Portugal, France and other vacation destinations.

Passenger growth is the result of an increase of more flights, a higher passenger load factor per flight as well as more destinations, according to an airport news release.

The busiest day until now was Friday, 29 June with 21,388 passengers (total arriving and departing). Airport officials anticipate the busiest day hasn’t happened yet, with August the main vacation month in Europe. For 2018 as a whole, Eindhoven Airport expects a total passenger growth of 10.5 percent, equaling about 6.3 million passengers.

At least part of that will be from Eindhoven’s new connection to Vienna via Wizz Air. Wizz Air commenced its first flights from Vienna to Eindhoven and Malaga at the beginning of the month. Wizz Air is flying Airbus A320 aircraft on the routes.

Also, Transavia just restarted its summer flights to Croatia.

Papa John’s coming to Eindhoven

What is it with the American fast-food giants? First, it was Taco Bell opening in Eindhoven in 2016. Then Five Guys arrived … and has pretty much stayed SRO since they opened last summer. Recently, Dunkin’ Donuts opened in front of the De Bijenkorf department store. Now, Louisville, Ky.-based Papa John’s International is looking for a franchisee in Eindhoven after starting Dutch operations in Amsterdam.

Papa John’s is similar to Detroit-based Dominos in that its business is mostly carry-out and delivery, so we’re not talking about true sit-down “restaurants” here like McDonald’s.

The way American fast-food franchises work, the franchisee – who must have fast-food systems experience – has to get the first store open, then is required to add at least four more stores, typically within five years. At the end of a fixed period, the fast food giants have the right to buy back the franchises. So it will be interesting to see if anyone bites. (That’s a pun.)

Dominos currently is the only American pizza chain in Eindhoven, with several locations.

We happen to actually know John Schnatter, who founded Papa John’s in his father’s bar in Jeffersonville, Ind. (not “Louisiana,” Dagblad reporters!) back in 1985. His is one of the more interesting stories, with dramatic ups and downs as he went public, then hired CEOs and fired CEOs the way the rest of us change our socks. But love him or hate him (and there’s no middle ground), in just a few years, Schnatter built Papa John’s into the U.S.’s No. 3 pizza chain – ranked by total stores – behind Pizza Hut (part of YUM! Brands, which owns KFC) and Dominos.

At the end of 2017, Schnatter was pretty much kicked out as CEO of his own company though he remains chairman of the board. (It’s a long story … one of many with him.) But he’ll be okay … he’s a billionaire (at least) who lives in a 3,700m2 house.

As for the pizza, it’s a matter of taste … though garlic butter and pepperoncini that come with PJ pizza is our one of our many, many guilty little pleasures.

Quick hit:

HighTechXL alumn Onera, just raised a seed round. The amount was undisclosed. The capital will help the company keep developing its wearable, fully disposable, medically graded sleep diagnostic device. The startup’s mission is to “bring gold standard sleep diagnostics from the sleep lab to the comfort of the patient’s home.”

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