Joining the Randstad Innovation Fund

I haven’t written a new post for a while, and this is for  a reason. Since the beginning of October I took the next step in my career and joined the Randstad Innovation Fund (RIF). RIF is the Corporate Venture Capital fund of Randstad. With a capital of up to 50m euro, the fund intends to invest in the most innovative HRTech companies that want to shape the world of work.

The first days in the new role have been very busy and very exciting at the same time. New sector, therefore a lot to learn and a lot to catch up. If you have any suggestions on innovative HRTech companies, feel free to drop me a line.

Reg. a description of the fund, I am actually going to repost an article that TechCrunch wrote on RIF yesterday, after having a phone interview with Natasha Lomas. You can find the original article here.

TC front page


Randstad’s VC Fund Has $60M To Invest In HR Tech Startups Showing Early Traction

A strategic corporate VC fund set up this April by global HR services giant Randstad is looking to invest in startups working on the hard problem of matching people to jobs, and jobs to people, as well as coming up with more effective ways for employers to communicate with and motivate their existing workforce.

With so much digital data online there are more ways than ever for companies to track down potential candidates, which means ample opportunities for startups to think creatively about better ways to match positions and talent. While the rise of mobile devices offers the potential for far more effective employee outreach. All these are areas of interest for the Randstad Innovation Fund.

The size of the fund is around €50 million, and it’s making four to five investments per year, between the seed and Series A/B stage — usually with a co-investor and investing on the same terms as that co-investor. Its investments are typically sized between €1 million and €5 million. Specific areas of interest within its HR/recruitment target include social sourcing, online platforms, mobile solutions, gamification and big data analytics, it tells TechCrunch.

“People are not only on LinkedIn or have a resume but they are everywhere right now, so how can you access those people and get the data of those people who are blogging or on Facebook or on LinkedIn, so social sourcing is a very interesting area for us — how can you get access to and get information on these people,” said Randstad Innovation Fund managing partner Ilonka Jankovich.

Reaching out to candidates via mobile is also a hot area. “We have 500,000 people on the payroll every day as a company and we have to connect with them, with have to engage with them and mobile is very important in that. And that’s developing very quickly,” she added.

So far the fund has made four investments, two apiece in the U.S. and Europe. These four portfolio companies are mobile workforce management tools maker Gigwalk, and employee referral platform Rolepoint in the U.S.; and in Europe: Twago (Germany), a marketplace for freelance work; and recruitment platform provider VONQ/ (the Netherlands).

“We invested in two online platforms because it automates a part of our services — so it’s interesting what kind of services can you add on online platforms,” noted Jankovich.

She said the fund works closely with the startups it invests in, both to contribute to their growth and to learn from their ideas — trialling their technology within its own business before it makes an investment decision.

It’s possible Randstad may acquire some of the startups it invests in but Jankovich said it expects to do so for only a small proportion. “We really invest as a financial investor so we don’t ask for any extra rights in the future, so we don’t have the right of first refusal or anything,” she added.

In terms of where the best HR startups are being built, there are of course lots of interesting candidates in Silicon Valley but Jankovich said Randstad’s global reach gives it the ability to track down what she dubbed the “small diamonds” in local markets.

“We try to map the markets and see what kind of companies are out there and which are providing the best technical solution, best service because it’s always a combination of technology and the offering,” she added.

So what is Randstad looking for in a startup? A great team is inevitably top of the list for this HR giant, along with a firm idea that’s already powering a growing business. So nothingtoo early stage.

“We always look for the best people, that’s very obvious because we are in the people business that’s the first thing we concentrate on and that also makes a venture successful or not. Then we also look at the technology of course. And before we consider investing we also pilot the product or service within our organisation, which is of enormous value,” said Jankovich.

“We have a few investment criteria. It should be growing rapidly. There should be revenue… Because we are such a large organization then if you want to work with us you have to know what you are offering. There has to be some traction, there should be some client cases, where clients give references… It doesn’t have to be perfect, because nothing is perfect, but at least it has great potential.”

‘Revenue’ what? How Startupbootcamp Pitch Days are Different

Latest article published at startupbootcamp blog with a lot of help by Sophia Kirova.

We recently guided you through the scenario of a Pitch Day, its prologue, plot and feel, culmination, epilogue, and why you shouldn’t miss out to become a protagonist in one. And since we like to keep your thrilled, it’s time we revealed the moral of the story.

There is indeed something more about pitch days you need to know. That one special touch that makes Startupbootcamp pitch events so different.

We actually take quite some pride in our approach and we definitively want to share with you how we do it and why we do it.

We Serious

The Problem with most Pitch Days

“How many people are on your team? ‘What is your most recent milestone?’ ‘How much money do you want to raise?’ ‘How much revenue do you have so far?”

This sort of ear-bashing coming from the audience of ‘experts’ is a pretty common ending to a pitch presentation. I regularly attend quite a few events where entrepreneurs are invited to pitch, and I keep on surprising myself every time the Q&A session starts. I am surprised to once more hear the same 5-10 well-rehearsed questions thrown back to the presenters by the panel of ‘experts’. I ask myself ‘How didn’t anyone care to ask something different?’

The problem with all these ‘smart’ questions is that they don’t add a lot to the entrepreneur’s understanding whether they’re on the right track. It’s a sheer waste of time, since 1. The time planned for Q&A is too limited to get to the real point of a startup’s plan to monetize and grow and 2. the ‘experts’ will stay for a few minutes after the end of the event, usually to network with other panelists and then leave. Why? Because they usually happen to be random people.

What a Pitch Day Should Really be About

Well, banal, but yes, it should be about adding value. Value to startups, to entrepreneurs, to investors, and to entire local ecosystems. The value for us, of course, is that pitch days help us attract the best companies from various regions. We know that you get what you give, and therefore we are committed to the startup scene per se. We want to see you much better off. So we strive to help you in every way we can.

I’m a big fan of the approach we at Startupbootcamp developed, because it can’t compare to any other similar event and because we care. I’m a humble man, don’t get me wrong, but I am also a Venture Capitalist, so I tend to appreciate time well-spent.

Serious mentoring here

To make sure each and every participant ends the day having gained something, this is what we do:

1.       Closed-doors. Always.

We stand for handpicking. We only allow the mentors, participating startups and selected journalists to attend the event. We prefer that entrepreneurs who are not invited to pitch do not join the event in the audience. The reason is very simple. We want to make sure participating companies have 100% of mentor attention and are asked only relevant questions.

2.       A balanced mentor panel

Members of the investment team of Startupbootcamp HighTechXL mix up with people from the local ecosystem. We strive to invite local investors, successful entrepreneurs, executives of technology organizations, and high profile people. People of a variety of backgrounds who can actually advise you decently and provide more varied feedback, focusing on multiple verticals of your business.

3.       The 5/15 minute format

Teams have 5 minutes to pitch their venture. Countdown 3…2…1, time’s up, the bell rings. No questions are allowed after the pitch. After all 10 companies have taken their turn presenting, thementorship sessions start.

Every company spends 15 minutes with each and every mentor. We implement a rotating system principle, resembling speed-dating. After 15 minutes with one mentor, every company shifts table with a different mentor. In the end of the day every company will have spent 15minutes X 6 mentors (on average) = more than 1 hour of discussions with only relevant people. You can’t find that in a typical startup event.

4.       Honest=Honest

It is about creating a safe environment, where you will be neither denied nor judged, but rather get ideas on how to improve.

5        Immediate results

It is not a rare event that some companies are offered a place at the accelerator’s final selection days on the spo

I, Nick, Believe that:

A pitch day can catalyze a lot of creative potential. What’s more, it brings all these people together, physically, so they can meet, exchange knowledge, encourage one another, and eventually create trust=collaboration. That’s why it’s so important to have only the right people on pitch days. It’s that simple.

And the feedback we are getting from entrepreneurs is always extremely positive. It’s just so rewarding.

I’d love to hear your comments or questions at @kalliagk. In the meanwhile, check out how our first Pitch Day in Eindhoven went>

Pitch day – HighTechXL Weekly ( 25/09/2014 ) fromStartupbootcampTV on Vimeo.

Building a High Tech Startup from Scratch: Sapiens

This is an excellent blog post from Sophia Kirova of Startupbootcamp HighTechXL. She had the change to interview Sjaak Deckers, co-founder of Sapiens, which was recently acquired for 200M.

I had the chance to meet Sjaak during the Setting the Deal event that was organized in January 2013 in Eindhoven. Sjaak was participating with the role of the entrepreneur and I was moderating the event.

You can originaly find the blog of Sophia here.



————-Copied from Startupbootcamp HighTechXL website———————————————-

I sat down with Sjaak Deckers, COO and Co-founder of Sapiens Steering Brain Stimulation — the startup which was recently acquired by Medtronic
for 200M dollars — to talk about life and entrepreneurship. After 21 years at Philips, Sjaak left only to spin out a technology intended to alleviate symptoms of patients with Parkinson’s disease. This is his journey and the lessons learned which he wants to share with you.

Prepare your favourite drink, take your time, and let’s dive together into the story.

Sjaak Deckers

‘You only get one chance, so you have to be damn sure that you’ll be successful with your first milestone.’


The Spinout

‘When I moved from Philips Healthcare to Philips Research seven years ago, I was asked to take responsibility for those healthcare research projects for which Philips had no immediate future plans. It would have been a waste of talent to just stop and end the activities. So, out of a portfolio of about 20-30 projects, we were able to keep, spin out or sell around 10 of them. The last and most exciting one was brain stimulation. This one I wanted to continue myself!’


An Unexpected Shift in Technology

‘My co-founders, Michel Decré and Hubert Martens, had discovered that there was not much ongoing innovation in the field of Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS). Medtronic had been a market leader, a monopolist, for 20 years.’

Philips had developed a technology that originated from flexible displays. Michel and Hubert came up with the idea to apply this to DBS leads. This lead technology was something  companies working in the field of DBS did not know yet, simply because it was developed in a completely different branch of industry. That’s the strength of a company like Philips, where such unusual combinations sometimes arise.


Flexible Display

I thought this innovative lead technology was very cool and embraced it for a number of reasons.

The Risk

I took a serious risk leaving Philips after 21 years, but you only live once, right? I thought I could spend another ten years in Philips, which I have enjoyed a lot during all these years, or… Sapiens was an opportunity you only get once in a lifetime.
I told most of the employees: “This is a startup, it can fail tomorrow. If it’s successful, you will rejoice its success. However, you need to have enough confidence in yourself, your capabilities and your strengths, since there is a chance that we fail next year. You should not be afraid of losing your jobs and finding new ones.”


These are the kind of people that you hire; the ones who are confident and want to participate in the fun of a startup.’


Money Talks

‘The first investment is always the most important and the most difficult one. If I look back on the first pitch now, the very first pitch we held… It contained 95 slides and it was really terrible. In 2010, Hubert, Michel, and I pitched to LSP (Life Science Partners) in Amsterdam. They watched all 95 slides with a grin, but at the end, they concluded: “Well, it’s very interesting, but perhaps a bit early for us.’


You have to convince people to believe in three things: the team, the market and the technology. I’ve interacted with 30 or 40 investors, and this is what they are continuously looking for.

The team: do they have enough confidence in the three of us behind the table; do they trust us enough to spend their money wisely? The technology: will it impact the industry, does it create a sustainable advantage? By sustainable advantage, I mean that it is protected by IP, or by know-how, so that it cannot be copied very easily. The market: is the targeted market large enough to create enough business value?

Finally, based on these three basic features, the question is: ‘Do the financials match?’ The correlation between how long it would take and how much money it would require, has to be reasonable and attractive for investors. Initially, some very credible investors reacted: ‘We’re very sorry, but the financials do not match. They simply don’t.’

What  turned the tides? We were fortunate enough to raise over 10M euros through subsidies and loans, so-called soft money. We were promised a 5M euros innovation loan from the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, provided we raised sufficient venture capital money. We also won a subsidy project in the Netherlands from Point One, and we were selected for a large grant from The Wellcome Trust in London. Now we could approach new investors and this time they liked us. Even LSP joined the initial syndicate.’

‘This was probably the greatest lesson that we learned from that early period.’

‘Take a fast decision and focus, focus, focus’

‘We managed to accomplish important milestones with the money that we had. 18 months after the Sapiens kick-off, we were able to include the first patient in our clinical study. It did not consist of a full DBS procedure, but only the lead implant; and we only temporarily inserted it into the head of an actual Parkinson patient.
However, it was sufficient to demonstrate that our lead showed a superior performance in comparison with existing ones. Later, we included seven additional patients during a very short period. So, within two years after starting Sapiens, we had finished our first clinical study.

There are a couple of important aspects which I’d like to emphasize. One is: you have to focus on the first steps. Researchers tend to diverge and see opportunities everywhere. In actual business, one needs to draw the line: “Ok, guys, there’s a lot beyond the horizon, but let’s get our first product out and focus, focus, focus on the most important aspects.”

Second is: your business case. I found out that investors are not so interested and a very detailed 10-year out business plan. What they are most interested in, however, is: do you have a credible understanding of your costs during the first years.

You will have to continuously scrutinize whether you are doing as much as possible with the least resources possible and achieve short-term successes, one step at a time. You only get one chance, so you have to be damn sure that you’ll be successful with your first milestone and then you can go on to the next. Make sure you walk small steps that can prove your credibility.


Building credibility and community

‘For a startup like us, it makes no sense to invest in advertising. What we did instead, was gradually build up confidence and a relationship with clinicians. They are the people that will grow your reputation among their colleagues and the entire community.

Hubert and Michel started discussions with neurosurgeons already back in 2006.

Dr Schuurman in the Amsterdam Medical Center (AMC) was our first clinical connection. He and his team gave us feedback and guidance on the prototype, and in return he performed the first study with patients, which was recently published in the Neurology journal.

Also, we visited a number of physicians in the US very early on. Prof Okun, a Neurology professor in Florida, proposed to set up a medical advisory board for us. He invited his colleagues to discuss the future of DBS and provide feedback to us.

They are a very important part of our business chain. We gained credibility – we showed doctors that we’ve listened to them, because we actually implemented their feedback in the development of the prototype. We created a relationship with all these physicians, a good recommendation for all medical startups.

‘MedTech is Where my Heart is’

There is nothing more rewarding than the consciousness that what you are doing improves the lives of people. I have a couple of friends with Parkinson’s disease, so my personal motivation underlies the path of my choice that I’ve been walking.

Here at Sapiens, we have regular meetings at which doctors or patients share their stories with our team. One of the patients was a former colleague of mine. He kept a diary of how he had deteriorated over the past seven years. He came to us a week before he would undergo his DBS operation, and two weeks after the procedure, he came back to show us how well it worked for him. A year later, they unfortunately discovered that it had some side effects, and that’s exactly what we are working on at Sapiens – to reduce the side effects.
A number of engineers who had never seen a Parkinson’s disease person before, got emotionally involved in the patient’s struggle. They were deeply touched by his story, and it was a very motivating event for them.


Three years and three months

‘It’s a success story in several ways: we picked the right people, we chose the right market, and developed the right technology and this was recognized by the DBS market leader.
I am very happy to have been acquired by Medtronic, for two reasons:

1. For patients: they will have access to the best possible solution for their condition.

2. For the team: with the acquisition, Medtronic not only acknowledges the technology but also the strength of our team.

‘I am very proud of what I pulled off together with my co-founders, and that it worked. For the time being, Sapiens certainly is the cherry on my career cake. It also whets my appetite for more. Perhaps in a couple of years, I might take on another opportunity like this.’

Pitch day in Istanbul

September is the last month of the hunting period for Startupbootcamp HighTechXL. Therefore this means some traveling, in various cities, organizing pitch days and meeting companies in their home country. More details on what a pitch day entails are in another post. But since I am sitting in a plane going back to The Netherlands from Istanbul as I am writing these lines, I wanted to share the most important points after the pitch day in Istanbul.


  • There is a great interest from the Dutch government to help companies move to The Netherlands. The pitch day was hosted in the beautiful building of the General Consulate of The Netherlands in Istanbul. Furthermore we received a lot of help from the Embassy in Ankara and from the Technology Office.
  • There are many interesting hardware companies in Turkey. Compared to last year we see a lot more entrepreneurs focusing on hardware solutions. The Internet of Things is really kicking in!
  • There are not that many high-tech startups. With exception of medtech, we only found a few entrepreneurs focusing on core science and be at a startup or early stage level.
  • There were multiple last minute cancelations. 24 hours before the pitch day a lot of people canceled their participation. This was the only negative point from the whole journey, since we had to reject multiple companies who were interested to pitch because we had a limited number of spots. Therefore by canceling last minute, other, more motivated entrepreneurs lost their chance to be present.
  • There is a relatively high level of pitching skills. We see literally hundreds of companies pitching each year. And I must admit that I was amazed by the level of the pitches we saw in Istanbul. Far from perfect, but still at a great level considering the stage of the companies. Clear, with clean slides and to the point.

DSC_0229                              DSC_0239


Long story short, it was a great pitch day. Considering applications, Istanbul followed the general trend that we observe globally. A lower quantity of applications but a much higher quality compared to last year.


European Pirate Summit 2014

During the past days we visited with Startupbootcamp HighTechXL the European Pirate Summit in Cologne. I can say that this is by far the most “startup like” conference I have attended the past years. The atmosphere is unique, as the Summit is hosted in a special place which resembles an old factory. Entrepreneurs and investors all mingle together, wearing pirate eye patches and outfits.

EPS blog 1

In the Pirate Summit you can actually find most of Europe’s investors, especially the ones operating in continental Europe. Most of the entrepreneurs mentioned that they consider this event to be the one where it is easiest to approach investors.EPS 2

After spending two days in the festival, these are the main points that I kept as a conclusion:

  • Most of the entrepreneurs attending and pitching in the event were really early stage entrepreneurs, most of the times with minimal or absent customer traction.
  • There is still a huge lack of hardware entrepreneurs. I would say that the percentage of hardware companies was less than 5%.
  • High-Tech (science) entrepreneurs continue to be totally absent from these events.
  • There is a large percentage of entrepreneurs targeting Enterprise Software.
  • The majority of VCs are interested in networking with other VCs, as most of the startups are too early for them.
  • Events like these are the “playground” for accelerators, as they can recruit the new companies.
  • Big multinationals are devoting larger and larger amounts of their marketing budgets for sponsoring similar events, in order to appear more innovative. Still, I think it takes more than a generous sponsorship.
  • Corporate Venture Capital is booming again. Companies with large balance sheets find it easy to set up Corporate VC units in order to offer entrepreneurs both financing and strategic connections.

WP_20140903_043 EPS 3

All in all the whole event was a really nice experience. Hope to see everybody again there next year.


Tech Scene in Berlin

Last week I traveled to Berlin for Tech Open Air 2014 (#TOA14). A great event organized in a nice location in the city center. Having also a great weather, participants of the event could be inside the building listening to some insightful discussions, or outside in order to network with each other and exchange thoughts and ideas. After spending 2 days in Berlin, these are my top observations.

  1. Hardware is the new sexy.

Nowadays everybody is talking about hardware. Not necessarily high tech and science but hardware. Mixing software with hardware, creating cool devices that people will use, in parallel with their smartphones. Be it commercial electronics, small gadgets or sensors for developers, hardware is everywhere. In Berlin a new hardware startup (wannabe) can make its first steps relatively easily. In the city operates Fab Lab, a hackerspace providing all the necessary tools for someone to make the first steps and create functional prototypes. There you will be surrounded by other hardware hackers, exchange ideas and help each other. Berlin is also the home base of the newly launched, the hardware accelerator of Berlin. This is not the typical business accelerator, as it only lasts less than 2 weeks, provides no investment and requires no equity. Still, it is a great first step towards commercializing a prototype. Last but not least, after 2 days in the event I saw that Hardware gets the attention nowadays. Big corporates are ready to move and support hardware startups and techies are giving more and more importance to hardware. This explains why most of the hardware events of #TOA14 were full of people.


  1. 3D printing is everywhere

“3D printing is here to stay and will change the world as we know it”. Many people have made this statement and probably it is true. The ability to easily create physical objects, sharing a lot of the characteristics of the digital world can have unlimited applications. Hackerspaces are fully equipped with 3D printers in various sizes, to help hackers create the new devices. But also while walking within #TOA one could see 3D printers all over the place. The one that caught our attention was a massive 3D printer with dimensions 1mX 1m X 1m, printing furniture as an example.



  1. A Lot of women in the tech scene

I have been hearing lately that we need more women in tech and in the startup scene. I even know that certain tech media are making whole campaigns on that matter. I am not aware of the exact numbers, but for sure the Berlin tech scene doesn’t seem to have any issue on that matter. The whole event was full of women. Some of them were members of the teams, others co-founders or founders. Still I did not meet any female developer, but on the other hand this also might be due to the fact that I was looking for hardware/high-tech startups and therefore paying less attention to traditional software companies.


  1. Berlin is an amazing city to live

Except from a developing startup scene, Berlin is the German capital and as such a great city to live. The city is multicultural and you hear English being spoken a lot. The city has great restaurants, numerous bars and many beautiful neighborhoods.



Startup-Climate Reports and What Do They Mean to You

This post is written by Sophia Kirova and firstly appeared at the Startupbootcamp HighTechXL blog.


As an entrepreneur, there is probably one question that keeps coming to your mind – what is the best place to base your business? Everyone tries to establish the most fruitful soil for their product and many realise “home” might not be it.

Some regions have certainly gained the fame of being startup Meccas and righteously so. Just think of Sillicon Valley, the industrial powerhouse of the world with the strongest drive to experiment with new technology, Seattle, Los Angeles, New York City, Boston, Tel Aviv, to name the veterans. But, hey, we are living in entrepreneurial-boom times, so the USA list-toppers are constantly being challenged by their runner-ups and the newly emerging hubs.

There is a lot of discussion and research going on on on this topic. In 2012 Startup Genome issued a substantial report, listing the top 20 startup ecosystems. In 2013 Forbes classified the 15 most inventive cities, Wired pinned some 10 hot startup capitals in Europe, and Fortune – some 7 worldwide. This year the London Financial times published their “European Cities and Regions of the Future” report, according to which London, Helsinky, and Eindhoven lead the progress. It’s a lot of data, stats, numbers and jargon, all supposed to help you get the bigger picture. It’s a blast of relevant information to consider but also to take with a pinch of salt.

Thing is, all these index different factors to make the final ranking. For example, Startup Genome used eight criteria – startup output, funding, performance, entrepreneurial mindset, trendsetting, support, talent, and differentiation. Forbes digged only into patent density, whereas Financial Times considered more than 15 investment indicators.  Many times such reports lack data on specific regions, the result being that serious competitors such as Asia in general or Russia, with the exception of Moscow, are left out.

Compared to this report from 2012 when only 4 European cities entered top 20 – Moscow, London, Berlin, and Paris, now there is more and more attention being placed on the Netherlands, and in particular Amsterdam and Eindhoven, on Istanbul in Turkey, and the so-called Eastern Europe region where startups such as the Latvian and the Bulgarian Flipps pulled in investments of nearly 2 million.

Before you get lost in all the statistics and charts, we suggest you to always look for these 9 factors:


  1. Legal freedoms – mostly covered in the annual Competitiveness Index  report by the World Economic Forum. It’s essential that host country’s regulations allow you to develop your business growth. In the Netherlands for example, there is a startup visa proposal to be passed on soon.
  2. Economic stability  – indications are mostly the GDP, on the one hand, and the Direct foreign investment (DFI) in a country, on the other.
  3. Economic stability  – indications are mostly the GDP, on the one hand, and the Direct foreign investment (DFI) in a country, on the other.Permeability of the ecosystem – this is to say how well you will be received in the business circles that you are interested in, how willing people will be to share their knowledge, insights and good practices, and introduce you to their network. This might count more than the entrepreneurial mindset.
  4. Private investment – in case you do not find it in a report, make sure to do your homework on the available funds, active VC’s, and Angel networks. They will be crucial for your take-off.
  5. Fiscal regime – when all of the above are secured, take taxation into consideration. Countries such as the Netherlands for instance, are considered tax-friendly for startups.
  6. Culture – if the nation is open-minded, outward-looking, multi-culti, and innovative, chances are that if they find your product worthy, the rest of Europe will too.
  7. Resources – consider factors closely related to your business such as labour force, logistics, telecommunications, quality of life and purchase power, test and research facilities. If you are a hardware startup, make sure to check the supply chain possibilities – import rates, harbours, airports, etc.
  8. Lifestyle – you cannot make it there unless you like it! It’s something you will never find in a report but at least you can check things like unemployment, climate, leisure, food, happiness rates and anything that makes you pack your bags and leave.

Infographics and quotes by EY.

We hope to have cleared the horizon a bit. We’d love to hear your comments and suggentions here to expand the discussion. Cheers! @Sophia


10 reasons to apply to Startupbootcamp HighTechXL

This article originally appeared at the blog of Startupbootcamp HighTechXL. You can find it here.

If you like this post follow me on Twitter


Startupbootcamp HighTechXL is the best accelerator in Europe, focusing on High Tech companies. We are looking for startups and early stage companies active in the areas of advanced robotics, advanced materials, autonomous vehicles, medtech and healthtech, energy storage, clean tech and 3D printing. This is not a typical business accelerator, but rather an accelerator on steroids. In November we will announce the 10 companies that will participate to the second Startupbootcamp HighTechXL program. Below you can find a list of 10 reasons to apply for our program.

1. We are not the typical accelerator.

  • Hundreds of accelerators exist worldwide, focusing on software, media and web startups. We have a clear focus on High Tech hardware. We understand the differences and special issues that high tech companies our facing and bring a lot of relevant entrepreneurial and investment experience.

2. We can open any door, worldwide

  • Startupbootcamp has an excellent mentor network in place of relevant professionals. Investors, entrepreneurs and executives in the high tech industry. Our mentors have embraced the accelerator program so much that they are constantly willing to open up their personal network to the participating companies. With such exceptional people on board, we dare to say that we can open any door, worldwide.

3. We are located in Eindhoven, the most inventive city in the world.

  • Eindhoven was recently named by Forbes as “hands down the most inventive city in the world.”  This specific study was based on patent density; one of the most commonly used metrics for mapping the geography of innovation. According to OECD, Eindhoven produced 22.6 patents per 10,000 residents, surpassing by far San Diego, which took the second place with 8.9 patents per 10,000 residents

4. We are part of the greatest High Tech Ecosystem in Europe

  • Eindhoven is the High Tech capital of Europe. Home to Philips, NXP, ASML and Oce amongst others, it has a whole ecosystem evolving around the High Tech industry.

5. You will have an office in the High Tech Campus Eindhoven

  • The heart of the high tech ecosystem in Eindhoven beats in the High Tech Campus. Philips used to have here its R&D center. Today the campus is an ambassador of open innovation and has more than 135 companies, from startups to big multinationals like Intel, at a walking distance. Companies that have the potential to be your leading customer or supply chain partner.
  • For a period of 6 months you will have a free office space in the High Tech campus. But even after this period, you will have access to low cost office space, in the HighTechXL Plaza, the startup hub that High Tech Campus is developing.

6. You will have access to a great talent pool of engineers and managers

  • Having Philips, NXP, ASML and more global OEMs in the same neighborhood, Eindhoven is full of other Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers of these companies — and of course full of highly skilled engineers from all over the world, willing to join any innovative entrepreneurial initiative.

7. You will be based in the center of Europe

  • Startupbootcamp HighTechXL is based in the center of Europe. One can take the plane and be in an important meeting in London within an hour; take the train to Brussels, Paris, or Germany; or take the car to drive in any city in Europe.

8. We are the best accelerator in Europe

9. EY is a co-founder of the program.

  • EY (former Ernst&Young), the global leader in Professional Services is a co-founder of the program. Participating companies will have access to the professional support and network of EY. Throughout the program, EY will host open days, where its consultants and business professionals will be available to solve any organizational, legal or financial issue.
  • Having EY actively involved in the program, opens up an enormous business network in every industry.

10. Last but not least, you should apply to Startupbootcamp HighTechXL because it is great fun. We will start a journey together and the first three months will be only the beginning. It will feel like a climbing a mountain. There will be moments with disappointment and there will be moments with great satisfaction. It will feel like a roller coaster. But in the end, this is entrepreneurship.

Don’t wait any longer – Go to and Apply now for our accelerator!

The VC view on the CEO. The role that can make or break it..

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When VCs evaluate a prospective investment, the founding team is one of the most important considerations. Most VCs consider it the most relevant aspect, openly stating that they are willing to back up great teams with not so great ideas than great ideas with mediocre teams.


Although management teams can comprise of various people and roles, with the possible exception of the CTO, the CEO is the most important member of any given management team. VCs must feel comfortable that a particular CEO will make the venture fly. In general Venture Capitalists are looking for the following 5 skills when evaluating the CEO.

  1. Leadership.

Leader is a person who allows others to perform at the best of their abilities. And every start-up needs a great leader. The ability of the CEO to lead, motivate and manage his team is crucial. A startup feels like constantly being in a roller-coaster and without a strong leader many people might be scared and tempted to leave early. The strong leadership ability most of the times comes with experience. This is the reason why often, the most popular candidates for filling up a CEO position, among VCs at least, consist of executives of large, proven corporations.


  1. Decision making ability

The number of decisions any startup needs to take every single day is countless. The number of decisions any startup needs to take every single day is countless. The highest percentage of the important decisions at the early stage of a company are taken by the CEO. Therefore, VCs prefer to back CEOs with a strong decision making ability, people feeling comfortable of taking actions within a short period of time and with limited information available. As is often said, the best thing you can do is take the right decision, the second best thing you can do is to take the wrong decision and the worst thing you can do is to do nothing. Indecision may slow a large company, but it can prove to be fatal for a startup.


  1. Communication skills

Early stage CEOs must be great at communicating, since they are the face of their company. Startups often attend pitch competitions, events and therefore networking is a vital part of their existence. CEOs must have the ability to communicate effectively and efficiently to customers, investors, press and peers. Having a great vision is one thing, being able to sell it to others is another.


  1. Administrative skills

CEOs should also be able to manage their company from an administrative point of view. This includes various functions, like recruiting new people but also making sure a project management structure is in place. The CEOs that VCs are looking for are organized people, hith the ability and skills to recruit highly skilled, enthusiastic tea members.


  1. Open for coaching

While a CEO should feel comfortable taking decisions under uncertainty, he should also seek for the advice of other, more experienced people. According to Arthur Rock, pioneer of the Venture Capital industry, “an essential characteristic for the entrepreneur is to know whom to listen and when to listen. Some CEOs only listen to what they want to hear, because of fear of the truth; in other cases its because they are arrogant or because they are surrounding themselves with yes-men. A lot of managers simply will not accept criticism or suggestions from other people”. VCs are looking for CEOs who are open to criticism and are using feedback to improve.

Being a CEO of a startup requires a lot of different skills. It can be the most fun job on the planet and at the same time the most challenging one. And the quality of the CEO tends to be one of the most important criteria when deciding whether to back a team or not. In the end, the quality of the CEO has the highest correlation with the success or failure of a business.




A lot of the ideas discussed were taken by a great book by Justin Camp, called Venture Capital Due Dilligence, a Guide to making smart investment choices that I highly recommend to anyone wishing to get a better insight to the criteria used by VCs when assessing an investment opportunity.

3d printing is changing the world as we know it..

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Until now, 3D printing has largely been used by product designers and hobbyists and for a few select manufacturing applications. However, the performance of its machinery is improving and prices are rapidly declining, both for printers and materials.

With 3D printing, an idea has the potential to go directly from a digital design file to a physical product, skipping many traditional manufacturing steps and redefining the entire manufacturing process.

The interest of early adopters on 3D printers is overwhelming. Last April, only within 3 days, Micro $299 3D printer surpassed $2M on kickstarter. In total the project managed to raise $3.4M from almost 12,000 backers. The idea seems simple. A 3D printer designed for everyone, in order to turn ideas into life, offering a fantastic experience.

Entrepreneurs have been very creative in exploring the new possibilities opened by 3D printing. One month before Micro, Foodiny was on Kickstarter, with a goal of raising $100K. Although the company did not reach that goal (reached $80K) the whole idea is very interesting. A 3D food printer appliance. OF course Foodiny was not creating food, rather using fresh material imported into special capsules. TechCrunch was writing “Instead of forcing people to rely on highly processed convenience food that’s larded with additives and unhealthy levels of salt, as microwave meals generally are, they want Foodini to get more people cooking with fresh ingredients, rather than reaching for that pre-processed packet.”

More and more ideas of 3D printing have appeared on the world wide web. People found a way to 3D print guns, starting lengthy discussions on this technology. WIRED magazine writes in a recent article that those partially printed semi-automatic weapons are powerful, military-grade firearms, and because their lower receivers were printed, they are largely unregulated.

The implications of 3D printing are also huge in medicine. In January 2014 Dutch surgeons successfully placed an entire 3D printed skull dome over the brain of a 22 year old woman suffering from a rare bone disorder. According to the surgeon, “The patient has her sight back entirely, is symptom-free and back to work. It is almost impossible to see that she’s ever had surgery”. In another case, a 3D printed heart model saved the life of a young 14-month old boy with heart defects. The doctors used the 3D model to study the heart’s defects and save the boy.

3D printing is a disruptive technology and we are currently only experience its beginning. In the following years the technology is expected to mature and start showing the true implications to the human life. No one can be sure on the possibilities that this technology opens. But what is beyond any doubt is that it is already changing the world as we know it..


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