Many people from the Eindhoven technology industry know about the Brabant Development Agency (BOM). That organisation that scours new companies with a bag of government money, hoping for an opportunity where they can leave a part of that bag behind. But the BOM does more than that. As evidenced by the story of Liteq.
Liteq is a company that focuses on Advanced Packaging. That is a method to provide electronic chips of input and output contacts and wrapping them in plastic so that they are well protected. But that company once did something else, Jurgen van Eck says, Senior Investment Manager at the BOM.
“A few years ago, we invested in a new company. That company wanted to build their own Stepper, a machine that depicts small patterns for LEDs”, says Van Eck. The BOM thought it had done a good investment, but it was wrong.
The mother of the company in which they invested went bankrupt. Van Eck: “The possibilities for selling LED Steppers were vaporized by major investments in China.” Amounts with which the BOM could not compete.
So it’s not a success story so far, quite the contrary. But the investor from Brabant didn’t give up. “At that time we saved the assets from the bankruptcy and resold them to a Chinese company”, says Van Eck. Only the project manager and controller of the old company went along. “Together we started a new business.”
The beginning of Litew was a fact. The first challenge? Exploring the market and find out about needs and opportunities. The answer? Advances Packaging. “That is the only method to package the more advanced chips these days, the ones that go into mobile devices, for example”, says Van Eck about the technology.
Van Eck – originally a physicist – furthermore saw a potential competitive advantage: “For our machine, we wanted to use a laser in stead of a lamp. With that, we could theoretically produce twice as cheap as existing machines.” But if the light source changes, the whole machine changes. Many parts had to be reinvented.
A new partner with enough financial power was needed. The TOM has already been investing with a number of others from the beginning, including Sioux. But an investor with intimate knowledge of the matter was still missing. In 2014, Van Eck went to Veldhoven.
“ASML did want to invest, but not without proof of viability,” says Van Eck now. “At that time, me and someone from ASML visited potential customers and company fairs. Together we have repeatedly pitched the idea. The product definition became sharper.”
Eventually, ASML tacked. With a few extra millions and a lot of additional content, Liteq continued. Van Eck: “Possible mistakes were prevented by often consulting in Veldhoven.”
Economic Affairs also supported them. Altogether, Liteq received 10 million euros of investments. The BOM paid 2.5 million.
The team was complete and the idea was clear. It was now up to Liteq to actually start developing the product. But not too much later, the company was already sold.
“At one point a number of parties came to us”, says Van Eck about the sales. “We had the choice. Continue or sell?” It eventually became option two.
At that time, Liteq had only developed a prototype of their packaging machine. The further development of the beta machine, place that machine at a company and test it there, would require new investments. Van Eck: “We would have to get a lot more than the 10 million. And ASML had already decided not to invest anymore.”
Eventually, the company Kulicke&Soffa made a bid they could not refuse, according to Van Eck. “I won’t say what exactly they paid. But the involved investors have definitely made a profit. The BOM has earned its investment back several times.”
And that’s how the BOM helped to establish Liteq, it helped the investor with the development of a new product and then eventually sold it to Liteq, without even having made a euro of profit. When Liteq is actually entering the market, is unclear. “But their ambitious goal is to do this the second part of next year”, says Van Eck.
Meanwhile, Van Eck is strolling through Eindhoven and the rest of North Brabant again. His bag of money is just a little heavier than a few years ago. But especially with a lot more experience in developing a company.