Regional report: Eindhoven, Netherlands

Eindhoven spotlight after inaugural summit.

One presentation at the Global Government Venturing Summit 2015 for non-natives to the Netherlands sums up the country as having three ports: an airport by Amsterdam, a seaport at Rotterdam and ‘Brainport’ in the south by its second-largest city of Eindhoven.

But after the troubles and then departure of its two largest local employers, DAF trucks and conglomerate Philips over the past 20 years, the Brainport region’s search for a use for its talented residents has increasingly looked at how entrepreneurialism could recreate the next generation of employers.

This search has been aided by the spin-outs,venture investments and break-up of Philips, with a host of companies formed out of the ideas and businesses, such as ASML, NXP and Shapeways, it had contained.

The High-Tech Campus in Eindhoven was Philips’ former research laboratory and its sale created an opportunity for an accelerator, StartupbootcampXL, to be formed on the site. But the biggest transformation was the opening of it to outside ideas.

The Philips research centre went from having a double hedge and locks to keep third-party eyes out to removing the hedges and inviting ideas in. This was a development encouraged by the realization of Philips executives on visiting Silicon Valley that while their company was working on many of the same ideas as they were in California there was greater freedom to try and fund them in the US which carried a potential competitive advantage in funding levels and time to market.

Now, Eindhoven has started to click. After being unable to find European venture investors to support its three-dimension manufacturing process, Shapeways moved its headquarters to the US to tap financiers Union Square and then Andreessen Horowitz.

But it has recently chosen Eindhoven as the site for its European manufacturing operation and a founder has apparently privately funded the Eindhoven Startups network run by Victoria Martinez to invigorate the local entrepreneurs.

And deals have started to flow. While the first cohort of graduates from StartupbootcampXL last year had some funding success, including healthcare company Mint, the second Demo day following the Summit saw more “big successes,” according to Eric van den Eijnden, its CEO.

He said: “We had 1,000 visitors turning our Demo day into a Las Vegas setting. A Chinese investor decided on the spot, on stage, to invest in two companies while yesterday [8 February] he invested in another four.”

These entrepreneurs are looking to reap similar successful exits as the local Sapiens Steering Brain Stimulation, which sold to medical device maker Medtronic for $200m, but will retain Eindhoven as the research centre for this type of technology to stimulate brains.

More importantly, the investors for Sapiens included local venture capitalists, such as Janke Dittmer, partner at Gilde Healthcare Partners who is partly based at the High Tech Campus, who has since 2011 become a serial investor in companies selling for at least nine figures, including two last summer.

As he said by email before the Summit: “It wasintense as I lead the negotiations from the sellers side during the final phase. With both M&A processes at Sapiens and [Germany-based] Definiens going on in parallel over the summer I had to take 21 board calls during my vacation...

“The outcome is very gratifying though in terms of getting personalized therapies to patients in the fastest possible way.”

Rob van Gijzel (pictured), mayor of Eindhoven, in his key-note speech at the Summit, summed it up as:“Knowledge and ambition are here; Brainport is the most innovative region.” 

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