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Eindhoven: incubator of start-ups. But which ones should you really keep an eye on? e52 is figuring that out for you. On 9 July, we will name the Top 10 Start-ups to Watch. In anticipation of this event, e52 is speaking to a number of people who know the Eindhoven start-up scene inside out. Today: Piet van der Wielen (Brainport Development). Just how important are these start-ups?

Screen Shot 2015-06-23 at 10.10.07 AMLook at Brainport Development on the map of the Netherlands and life seems just as incredibly uncluttered. Seaport, airport, brainport. Of course, Eindhoven is the harbour master of the brainport. How do you ensure such a position on the map? A good climate for start-ups seems essential. “They give the city an indispensable dynamic”.

And that was also noted last week by Forbes. The American magazine called Eindhoven one of the five places in Europe where all things innovatively high tech were happening.

“Eindhoven has become renowned as a centre for hardware design and high-tech innovation.”

The article gave Shapeways [expand title=””]Shapeways is an online marketplace for 3D-printed products. The company started 8 years ago out of a Philips incubator programme. The headquarters is in New York, but there is still an office in Eindhoven.[/expand]and Gynzy[expand title=” “]Gynzy was founded in 2009. The company makes software for school digiboards.[/expand]as innovative start-ups from Eindhoven.

Piet van der Wielen knows these companies like no other. He leads the programme that helps start-ups find their way, among other things, in Eindhoven from Brainport Screen Shot 2015-06-23 at 9.57.47 AMDevelopment[expand title=””]Stichting Brainport is a collaboration of companies, knowledge institutes and governments in the Brainport Region with the aim of achieving an internationally established name in the areas of high-tech and innovation. Brainport Development is responsible for carrying out the foundation’s strategy.[/expand]

Because they are so very important for the city. Not so much for the immediate economic growth or jobs. Those will come later. But the innovative ideas bring with them a dynamic that is also important for the established multinationals and small and medium-sized businesses here.

Seeking: Patient financiers

Van der Wielen advises start-ups to find partners in the region. Eindhoven has its fair share of places filled with emerging companies. From the High Tech Campus to the TU/e campus and Strijp-S. Here you can find accelerators, incubators and bootcamps for young, innovative entrepreneurs building their companies from the ground up. One focuses on high-tech products, while others are a haven for designers or creatives. (Here is an overview of all the programmes in the region for start-ups and emerging businesses.)

Van der Wielen is also looking for a collaboration with banks and other financiers. “Start-ups in Eindhoven often make complex products with a long development time. That requires large investments and a lot of patience.” And so it takes a bit of extra effort to attract financial backers. Once a month they all come to together to create the ‘bank table’. “Financiers share their knowledge, expertise and network to help the companies move forward with concrete cases that are difficult to finance.”

Huge piles of applications

The money is one thing. OK, it’s essential to move forwards. But once the ball starts rolling, Van der Wielen sees many emerging companies running into other issues. HR problems, for instance. “The group of friends that started off small needs other expertise at a given moment. A marketing adviser or a communications officer. Where do you find them? And how do you manage that new member of staff?” He calls is “parenting”. For that reason, the larger small and medium-sized businesses temporarily take start-ups under their wing: to share their experience in the areas of management and organisation. And vice versa: for the larger companies to learn from the innovative strength of the start-ups. A parenting pilot programme will soon start with a number of larger small and medium-sized businesses from the region.

In any case, Van der Wielen calls for collaboration between large and small players in the city. “We have a number of companies in Eindhoven that have to shift huge piles of applications.” He is referring to companies like ASML, which receive countless open applications every month. “It’s a crime not to use all of those qualified job seekers. Pass the letters on to the emerging start-ups that are just waiting to take off.”

A peek into the future? Brainport Development will target thousands of start-ups in the region by 2020. The figure is already at several hundred. The brainport is opening the floodgates. “You need maybe ten thousand ideas to get a thousand start-ups.”


On 9 July, e52 presents the Top 10 Startups to Watch, in the presence of various start-ups, mentors and many others who are helping the Eindhoven start-up scene to grow. Want to join? There are still places available for the Startup barbecue on 9 July.

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