Author: Mina Nacheva

Nature’s Principles: Driving sustainable lactic acid production – and contributing to the circularity of Europe’s economy

“We are an impact company and want to contribute to the European goals for becoming more sustainable and circular. We want to have a positive impact on the economy.” Jules Rombouts is CTO of Nature’s Principles, a startup from the YES!Delft ecosystem, and together with fellow CEO Jan Pieter van Tilburg, he’s working hard on a technology that would revolutionize the way new chemicals are produced. The goal? To develop and implement fermentation-based production technologies that would replace oil-based chemicals and create improvement in terms of emitted CO2, water and arable land usage.

Market validation and the potential of sustainable lactic acid

For Jules, it all started in May 2019 when he and his previous co-founder joined YES!Delft’s Validation Lab to test the main assumptions of their technology. “We did a lot of customer interviews to understand the potential of the market. Our technology is an innovative one and is able to make lactic acid, among other chemicals in the future, from biomass.” 

The technology behind Nature’s Principles is indeed unique in that it uses biomass, or in this case sugar beet, to produce lactic acid with a much lower carbon footprint. Sugar beet, compared to sugar cane, which is what traditional technologies are currently based on, requires less water for irrigation as well as less land usage. 

“Our goal is to increase the use of bio-based resources in order to create carbon-neutral chemicals in the long run,” Jules says. 

For Jan Pieter, in turn, getting to know Jules and the idea behind Nature’s Principles was a welcome next step in his career. Having worked for years for an oil major in Brazil, he was determined to move away from the industry. “I wanted to make a positive impact on the world,” he says.  

“I was looking for technology with the potential to get involved in and I liked the drive behind Jules’ idea. We decided to team up for three months as a trial, at the end of which we realized that we wanted to continue working together.” 

The rest is history.  

Since Jan Pieter officially joined Nature’s Principles, the team has been scaling up their efforts to choose the right applications for their technology as well as the first customers to help them make the first move into the market. 

“The technology has many applications,” Jan Pieter says. “Lactic acid is a good antibacterial so it can be used in food preservatives, and it is also a potent descaling agent, making it suitable for cleaning products. The biggest market is bioplastics, but that will take more time to develop. That’s our end game.”

About 60% of conventional plastics can be replaced by polylactic acids (PLA), he says, yet producing PLA plastics is still far from being a price competitive alternative for all possible uses. This is something Nature’s Principles are determined to change – and they are well on their way to do so.

A growing team and an expanding technology

Just a few months ago, the team announced securing their first investors and a total amount of 500,000 euros. The funds are being used to expand the team and test a larger scale production in a pilot project in Balk, Friesland. As part of it, the startup will convert European sugar beets into lactic acid, validating its patented fermentation process at a 1,000x larger scale. 

 “Our current team of seven will be working to make this pilot a success and we will be looking to grow to at least 10 people by the end of this year,” Jan Pieter says. This will be necessary if they are to meet the ambitious goals they have set themselves for the future. 

The next step following the pilot in Balk would be to build a commercial plant for their technology, “probably in the Netherlands and definitely in Europe.” Both Jules and Jan Pieter are strongly committed to contributing to the European economy and its transition towards circularity, so local production is something that is very important to them.

While they have now launched their technology with a focus on creating lactic acid in a more sustainable manner, there are other biochemicals that can be produced and that hold great potential, too. They will be part of the team’s expansion strategy in the future. 

For now, Jan Pieter and Jules are looking to continue validating their technology, build key partnerships and encourage other entrepreneurs to step up and develop more sustainable technologies. 

“We want to encourage people to start businesses that make an impact, especially bioengineering businesses,” Jules says. “We need more people that want to make a difference.”

Flux Medical Systems: Alleviating the pains of administrative work for healthcare professionals

If you ever thought the workday of a healthcare professional was a busy and hectic one, you were, well, absolutely right. Add to that the fact that there are ever-higher numbers of patients for fewer healthcare professionals available and the workload continues to grow. One main challenge for workers in the sector is the amount of administration that comes with each new case or patient. Flux Medical Systems, a startup from the YES!Delft ecosystem was created to lessen this administrative strain and let healthcare professionals focus on what really matters – spending as much time as possible with their patients.

Less time spent on admin, more time spent with patients

Maja van Dijk, a co-founder of Flux, knows just how time-consuming administrative work can be in the healthcare sector. As a physical therapist herself – and the owner of a clinic – she is no stranger to long workdays. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that she decided to take matters into her own hands and create a solution to this problem. 

“As healthcare professionals, we are already busy and we also have to do all the administrative work,” she says. “Quite often, I’ve had to finalize my paperwork on weekends.” 

This is not what Maja and many of her fellow colleagues want to be spending their time on. “Admin should never take away from doctors’ time to treat patients,” she is convinced. “With Flux, we want to alleviate the pains of administrative work for healthcare professionals.” 

Launched at the end of 2019, Flux has seen a number of milestones in just over two years. Together with her co-founders Thomas Schiet, a mathematician, and Jan Ferdinand Henseler, a medical doctor, Maja developed a solution that she could already test in her own day-to-day work. 

“Since I’ve been using Flux in my own work, I have had 30% more time,” she says. “Each professional can choose how to spend this extra time, but for me, it is about spending it with patients.”

The first step that Maja and her team took was to create a solution that can automate the revenue cycle, as bookkeeping and financial administration is a rather time-consuming endeavor for healthcare professionals and small clinics. Then they continued on to optimizing other processes, too.

“Our goal is for businesses in the healthcare sector to gain insights into their work through process optimization,” Veerle de Brouwer, Customer Engagement, Sales & Marketing Developer at Flux, explains further. “Next to lowering the manual effort that goes into administrative tasks, our solution can also facilitate the exchange of information so professionals can securely access patient information and grow their business in the way they want to.” 

At the moment, Flux is targeting mainly physiotherapy and dental hygiene professionals but has plans to expand to hospitals and perhaps even the pharma industry as well. The product is already fully compatible with the tools the Dutch healthcare system works with, so scaling it will only be a matter of time.

On to new milestones and further growth

Because of the need to make the healthcare system more efficient – and quickly so – Maja and her team have not wasted time rolling out their solution. They currently have several paid pilot projects underway, the benefits of which are two-fold. On the one hand, they provide initial revenues to the company, while on the other, they are a great way for the team to learn and improve their product.

“Pilots are great for collecting feedback and designing a solution that really works for healthcare professionals,” Maja says. 

Next to these initial revenues, Flux has also been funded by family and friends and a loan from InnovationQuarter. The team is also in discussions with other parties, so they sure have big plans ahead of them. 

While they want to establish themselves in the Netherlands first, they are already looking into the possibilities of expanding abroad. “Our commercialization plan is ready and once our solution has been embraced by the Dutch market, we will look to other countries with similar healthcare systems, such as Denmark, Germany, France, and the UK,” Veerle says. The platform is even available in multiple languages so when the time comes, it wouldn’t take long to roll it out. 

Of course, having progressed so quickly hasn’t been without the help of experts and fellow entrepreneurs from the YES!Delft community. Having been through a number of YES!Delft’s programs, including AI/Blockchain Validation Lab, the Accelerator, and the SocialTech program, the team of Flux has learned a lot about what it’s like to run an innovative business. 

“Perhaps the most important learning was to never stop validating,” Maja says. “We’ve learned to keep an open mind, accept new ideas and talk to our customers on a regular basis.” 

It has surely been an exciting journey for Maja, Veerle, and the rest of the team so far, and by the sound of their ambitious plans, they have plenty more to look forward to in the future.



Venturi Aviation: Building the future of electric commercial air travel

The energy transition is upon us and while it may still be in its early days, it is bound to happen. For Jan-Willem Heinen, that’s a no-brainer. And as an industrial engineer and entrepreneur, he is determined to leave his positive mark on the environment.  

With several entrepreneurial endeavors already behind him, Jan-Willem has been working on sustainable solutions for years now, yet it is perhaps the latest venture, co-founded with fellow entrepreneur and former aviation engineer Joost Dieben, that is set to make some real big impact. Together, they co-founded Venturi Aviation – with the ambitious goal to create the first electric commuter plane. 

And to avoid keeping their audience in the dark for too long, earlier this month they announced their plans and the concept of their first aircraft: Echelon 01. Last Thursday, they finally unveiled their all-electric, 44-passenger aircraft.

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An electric commuter aircraft – now more tangible than ever

The reveal of the Echelon One concept was a moment Jan-Willem, Joost and industry stakeholders had been looking forward to for some time. While small electric aircraft have been in development over the past years, none of them were actual passenger planes. The move of Venturi is a step forward not only in helping decarbonize aviation but also in setting a new technological standard in the industry.

Surely, this is not an overnight project, so Venturi aims to complete its first aircraft by 2029. “Our aircraft will drive the 100% sustainable transformation of today’s regional air travel industry. In its wake, Echelon 01 will also significantly reduce flight operating cost, maintenance cost and noise pollution,” Jan-Willem says. 

As Jan Willem grew up in an entrepreneurial family – his father founded his own company aimed at commercializing and integrating e-mobility solutions, it was only a matter of time for Jan-Willem and his co-fonder to embrace sustainability and create something of his own. 

After graduating from the TU Eindhoven in Industrial Design (BSc) and Innovation Management (MSc), he founded ViriCiti – a company that developed a monitoring system for fully electric buses. It became a European leader in its market and was eventually acquired by American electric vehicle infrastructure company ChargePoint.

Alongside this first venture, he founded a second one, too. Maxem, initially a SaaS energy management system, later made a pivot to a hardware and cloud solutions company that enables customers to install e-mobility and sustainable energy at scale. It was around that time that Joost joined the team and the two got to planning even bigger and better things. 

I felt like with Maxem I also had only limited success and I wanted to have more impact. And what makes more impact than creating an electric aircraft,” Jan-Willem says. With Joost’s background in aviation engineering, it didn’t take long for them to lay the foundation of Venturi Aviation.  

Embarking on a long and capital-intensive journey 

Designing and developing a new type of aircraft, especially based on some of the latest technology out there, is inspiring but it cannot possibly come without its fair share of challenges. 

“With Venturi, our initial plan was to create a commuter plane that could transport 50 people and have a range of 1,000km,” Jan-Willem says. “That was the estimate we made in August 2020.” Yet, because they are in the early stages of a long-term project, the two co-founders knew they needed to make very accurate estimates. 

“Batteries are heavy, but the aircraft needs to be light. We soon realized that the range of 1000km was impossible to make even with the technology of the near future, so we started to cut it down.” 

In the midst of this, Jan-Willem and Joost got in touch with Dutch Airliners and the input they gathered set them on the path they are now. With the expectation being that the number of people travelling by air will grow in the future, airliners main requirement for such a future aircraft was to hold the highest possible number of passengers.  

“A shorter flight range was not a concern for them,” Jan-Willem says, “as the batteries for a frequently operating electric aircraft would need to be replaced every 1.5-2 years, and the technology will be gradually improving in the meantime. The range will come.”

At the moment, the Echelon 01 is being designed to transport 44 people at a distance of up to 550km.

Running such a long-term business sure requires a strong vision. For the team, this translates to: Electrifying aviation and decreasing the industry’s burden on the environment. 

Of course, “it also requires planning, patience, cash and a great team,” as Jan-Willem puts it. It is a capital-intensive endeavor, and it also needs the right people backing it. “Our main challenge is getting people to believe this is possible.”

a group of people posing for a photo

To date, Jan-Willem and Joost have put a lot of their own finances to get the project going and they were later joined by several angel investors. At the start of 2022, they aim to close an investment round of 3.75 million euros that will allow them to move on to the next stage of the development: conceptual design. With that, they will also look to expand – and possibly double – their team. 

“Delivering an electric aircraft is hard,” Jan-Willem says, “but we are driven by the goal that we will make a polluting industry so much better.”


Art de Boo

Art de Boo: The Entrepreneur in Residence committed to growing innovative deep tech solutions

Art de Boo is one of YES!Delft’s Entrepreneurs in Residence and if there is someone who knows how to make deep tech startups a success, it would have to be him. With a background in corporate finance and over 10 years working at TNO, including in corporate venturing, he understands that complex technologies take not only a lot of time, but human and financial resources, too. Coaching current startups from the YES!Delft ecosystem is where he sees a great fit to pass on some of his knowledge. 

Seeing through the tech that takes 5-10 years to make an impact

Next to being a consultant and having worked in various management positions within TNO, Art has also had his fair share of entrepreneurial experiences, too. “In 2013, I got a piece of the action. I made a business plan and raised funding to carve out the fungal biotech department of TNO and created Dutch DNA Biotech.”

One of the key challenges in making the spin-off a success was to make sure that it had enough financial resources to sustain itself until the technology was ready for the market. 

“There is no blueprint for how to nurture and scale a high-tech startup,” Art says. “Each company, team, technology, market have their own challenges over time. Funding deep tech is one of them. Although it has been changing over the years, it’s still difficult to do so in the Netherlands and Europe. It is different from SaaS solutions that are easier to scale and have a shorter time-to-market.” 

In the case of Dutch DNA, Art found the solution in creating long-term strategic partnerships. “I aligned with strategic partners and reached out to them for their extended expertise to build the technology. They would invest a certain amount of money and own part of the technology / IP, but it was still developed under the umbrella of Dutch DNA. That’s how we financed our company.” 

In July 2021, Dutch DNA was sold to US bioengineering company Gingko Bioworks, becoming its first acquisition in Europe. 

“I have always been excited about applying technology to industry,” Art says. And while the company he founded was in industrial biotech, there is a much wider range of product-market combinations he can help grow. As long it is high tech and there is a click with the founders, Art is happy to reach out. 

Daphne Textiles, a startup from the YES!Delft community that participated in our Accelerator Program last year, is among the companies that Art has been advising over the past months. The team is working on innovative bio fabrication techniques that would allow the fashion industry to become more sustainable, yet their challenge is: How can they make the process of growing cell cultures as cheap and efficient as possible? 

“To help them with this, I connected them with industry experts and advised them on reaching out to strategic partners. Fundraising is a topic at the moment, so we discuss the way to deal with VCs,” Art says. 

In depth understanding and personal match 

Most of the time, Art starts off by having an in-depth talk with the founders to understand their dynamics, goals and the challenges they face. “Next to getting to know a bit of the dynamics of the company, these talks enable me to find out whether there is a cultural or personal match. There should be a good personal fit, preferably with a dose of humor, to talk about potential blind spots of the founder team.” 

If there is a match, Art helps the founders to validate or re-define the goals they set themselves. “The goals can and will change over time, of course, so it’s important to iterate periodically, if not continuously. From these goals, we back engineer what is needed in the here and now. What should be tomorrow’s priorities – recruitment, funding or strategic alliances, to name a few.” 

For Art, the most exciting part about coaching early-stage companies with deep tech solutions is that it’s always a combination of purpose and energy. 

“As there is no blueprint, you can start with only energy and a good idea. With a few sketches on the wall. Then you move on to manifesting those rough ideas and with the help of an energetic team, in 2-5 years you’re working with partners, VCs and more. You cannot find this in any corporate environment.” 

Essentially, it boils down to the right combination of passion, perseverance, patience and impatience, all in its proper timing, to develop an innovative technology into a company the world really needs. 



Unpluq team

Unpluq: The startup that makes your smartphone less of a distraction

Technology is all around and so much so, in fact, that most of us are dependent on the internet or our mobile devices to stay connected with the world around us. On the one hand, that’s great – it brings all of us closer together in ways that were previously unthought of. On the other, though, it can also be a source of major distraction. This is what Tim Smits and Jorn Rigter, co-founders of YES!Delft startup Unpluq, realized while at university and they took it upon themselves to create a solution. 

A personal frustration turns into a business 

Tim and Jorn have always thought that it would be cool to start something together. “While studying Industrial Design Engineering at the TU Delft, we noticed that we were easily distracted by all the apps we had on our smartphones. And that’s a problem that a lot of other students have nowadays, too,” Tim says. The two of them, thus, saw this as an opportunity to create a new type of solution that would make smartphones less of a distraction. 

And so, their entrepreneurial journey began. 

“We first took part in a six-month program at the university called Build Your Startup and during that time, we interviewed a lot of people on how they interacted with their smartphones and if they found them to be a distraction.” Needless to say, a lot of them did. 

The true value of the Build Your Startup program was to help Tim and Jorn validate their idea and understand the depth of the problem they were trying to solve. “Of course, there were already existing solutions to minimize distraction, like setting reminders and limitations on the phone itself,” Tim says. Yet, what they wanted to achieve was a more lasting solution; something that would keep the smartphone and its user away from distraction in a more tangible way.

So, what they came up with was a physical key that would remove distracting apps from the user’s smartphone. In other words, plug in this physical key and you have access to your distracting apps. Take it out and your phone is stripped down to just its “normal” functions. 

Important to understand about the concept of Unpluq is that everyone can define for themselves what distracting apps really are. While the team offers a preselection and a list of tips, it is up to each user to decide what these apps are – or should be. That way everyone can judge for themselves what they consider to be taking away from their productive time. 

Validating, pivoting and looking towards new markets

At the end of the program, Tim and Jorn launched a Kickstarter campaign with the goal of raising 10,000 euros. They describe it as their “first validation moment”, especially as they reached their target. Most of their customers are millennials and Generation Z users and while most physical keys have been sold within the Netherlands, Unpluq has also had interest from abroad. 

Since then, though, their business model has taken a new turn. “While we started out with a hardware solution, we have since moved mostly to software,” Tim says. “Hardware tends to limit growth, software is more scalable. We willmay introduce a mixed model soonlater on, where the Unpluq app is the basis and the hardware product is an add-on that users can choose to buy.” 

In order for the software solution to work as well as the physical key, Tim and Jorn have identified, what they call, “distraction barriers” as a key feature. Since all apps – distracting or not – would now be one the user’s phone, there need to be barriers to getting into the distracting apps too easily. By introducing distraction barriers, Unpluq would require users to shake their phone until a meter is filled or scan a QR codemove to have their apps unlocked, to name a few.

“Our physical key was what made us unique and now so are our distraction barriers. They are not the same as simply blocking apps,” Tim says.

Less distraction, more life

To date, the team has raised close to 1400,000 euros and are currently raising another round on leapfunder. After that they are aiming for a larger round of investment, which would help them expand to the US – their next big market, as they see it. That would also allow them to hire their first full-time employee and further grow their team. 

Unpluq is also looking to branch out to new customer segments and approach employers with their solutions. “We want to start selling to companies that want to offer our tool as an option to their employees. It is very relevant in the time of remote working when it’s easier to get distracted.”

Tim and Jorn currently have a team of interns who help them in a number of different aspects of the startup’s development. The two co-founders have also benefited from the expert network of YES!Delft and even have fellow entrepreneurs from the community as their advisors. “Having such a strong support network has been very valuable for us starting out,” Tim says. 

And it’s only up from here. Going forward, the team will be working towards the iPhone version of Unpluq and further developing their software, diversifying their customer portfolio in the Netherlands and raising funds to expand internationally. 


Are you inspired by this entrepreneurial journey and interested to give your startup a boost? Then join one of the programs we offer at YES!Delft; Validation lab or Accelerator Program. If you would like to work at a startup in our ecosystem, check out the vacancies on our homepage!

Rolf Rijkmans

Rolf Rijkmans: A great startup needs a great team – and you need to start building one ASAP

Rolf Rijkmans is an Entrepreneur in Residence at YES!Delft and he thoroughly enjoys his role as mentor for a diverse group of founders. With a strong commercial and HR background and having worked with a number of tech companies over the years, Rolf brings a wide range of expertise to early-stage startups. He also works with private equity organizations and advises them on whether their portfolio companies are ready for the future. If not, he is the guy who helps them with it. 

 At YES!Delft, he doesn’t have a focus area per se, which is what makes his job that much more exciting. “I work with startups developing all kinds of technology – anything from drone to medical tech,” he says. 

 Building a strong HR & Organizational foundation

As an Entrepreneur in Residence for about four years now, Rolf channels his knowledge and experience to help founders prepare their companies for future growth. “I advise startups mostly on HR-related topics such as defining their vision and mission statement, core values, as well as their recruitment strategy and processes.”  

He works with startups within the YES!Delft Accelerator program, but he also advises startups on an individual basis and participates in half-yearly check-ins to discuss progress and strategic challenges. In other words, he gets to build strong relationships with the teams he advises. 

 “When introduced to a new startup, I always start by getting to know them better and putting myself in their shoes. I try to get a feeling for what they do and how they do it. They appreciate this approach.”

In the Accelerator program teams are usually made up of between two and 12 people, which Rolf describes as quite small. But that is exactly when they need the most direction. Being the HR expert he is, Rolf believes these early stages are key to shaping up a strong and dedicated team. 

“Think of it this way,” he says. “When you are only two founders and you hire a third person, you are essentially increasing your team by 50%. One person may not seem like a lot, but it is. And if it’s not the right one, it can cost you a lot of energy and frustration.” 

Therefore, growing your team wisely from the start can optimize your resources and speed up your growth, too.

But how do you hire the right people?

Rolf has a good idea of how to answer this question – with an example. 

Not too long ago, he worked together with the CEO of a startup that found himself in a situation where he needed to grow his team fast. “Up to that point, the founders had been recruiting people mostly via their network. And that’s great, it works for a while. But then they got a one-million-euro financing round and needed to scale.” 

 So, they went to Rolf to ask how.

“It all starts with the basics,” he answered. “I asked them what they want to stand for and achieve with their business. I advised them to define their core values, vision and mission.” Once they had that figured out, it would also be easier to define what characteristics they want to see in their future team members. 

“My advice is to start by spending just a few hours around the topics of vision, mission and values. Have a brainstorm and let the outcome sink in. Then pick it up later and build on it as you go.”  

It is a simple exercise that many early-stage companies tend to skip as seemingly more pressing topics arise. At YES!Delft, however – and with the help of experts like Rolf, they are put on the agenda from the beginning so founders have the chance to build the best teams they possibly can. 

“What I love most about working with startups is that I get to learn new things all the time. I learn about new markets and industries, what startups need, and how we can best work together.”

“As Entrepreneurs in Residence, we are here to give founders a mirror – show them what they have and what they still need to reach their goals.” 


Aquablu: Eliminating single-use plastics, one water bottle at a time

Almost 1 million plastic bottles are sold every minute. In one year, that number goes as high as 480 billion. This is what a report found back in 2019 and those numbers are likely to keep increasing in the future. Finding alternatives to single-use plastics, and in particular water bottles, has thus become a priority embraced by governments as well as businesses.

Aquablu, a Dutch startup from the YES!Delft ecosystem, is one of those companies working towards a more plastic-free future. With their smart water purifying technology, the team have set themselves the ambitious goal to eliminate 1 billion bottles by 2030. 

But how did it all start?

A few years back, co-founder Marnix Stokvis was on a trip to South Africa when he got the idea for what is now known as Aquablu. “I was in Cape Town, surfing, when I encountered the plastic problem South Africa was facing,” he says. “Plastic pollution was very evident there, and especially so in the water. It got me thinking about water accessibility and what could be done to minimize the use of plastic bottles.”  

Marnix reached out to his friend and soon to be fellow co-founder Marc van Zuylen and the two turned his initial idea into a business concept. They founded Aquablu at the end of 2016 and started developing their first water purification system. Yet, their ambition went way beyond a single product. 

“We came together around one core mission and that was to enable a plastic-free world,” Marc says. 

In working towards that mission, Marc and Marnix knew that their solution would also be an ambitious one. They set off to develop a smart purification system that would not only provide clean drinking water, but also feed its users a wide range of data about the quality of the water and the technical status of the system, among others. In the spirit of personalization, it also makes it possible for users to quantify their positive impact on the environment by knowing just how much water they have purified with their Aquablu system. 

The smart technology behind the solution plays another important role, too. The fact that their technology can monitor how much water is being purified with their systems enables them to make very specific promises. 

“Together with the Made Blue Foundation, an entrepreneurial charity in the Netherlands, we offer the Liter for Liter promise. That means for every liter of water that is purified with our systems, a liter of clean drinking water is donated to places where it is a scarcity,” Marnix says. 

Purifying water – at home and abroad

And while Aquablu has a global mission, the team has made the conscious choice to start at home before they expand far and wide. “Our  initial idea was to sell internationally – and we did that. We delivered our system to 13 different countries,” Marc says. But with time, he and Marnix kept talking to people around them and realized that even in the Netherlands, where there is access to clean drinking tap water, many still buy single-use plastic bottles. “We decided to tackle the issue at home first.”

Since then, they have tweaked their business approach and are mostly focusing on the local B2B market with their Aquablu Refill solution, which transforms “ordinary tap water into purified mineral water.” Large offices and commercial buildings have been among their key customers. As of recently, they are also running a pilot project with supermarket chain Jumbo. 

“We currently have our system at a Jumbo supermarket in Amsterdam, where customers can either refill their own bottle or buy an Aquablu bottle with purified water,” Marnix says. The goal for the future is to expand their offering to more supermarkets and become a feasible alternative to bottled water. 

While already having its own revenue flow, the startup is still dependent on external funding – so far made available by family and an investor – in order to scale its R&D and production. Once they are well established in the Netherlands, the team will look to expand to the rest of Benelux, Germany and then further into Europe. 

“In up to three years, we are aiming at total domination in Europe,” Marc and Marnix laugh but they sure mean it. “After Europe, we will expand towards either the US or Asia. It depends where the need is greater and where we find reliable partners first.” 

The plan ahead of the two co-founders and their team is big but after all, their goal is to eliminate 1 billion bottles by 2030. Ambitious as they are, “we think we can even exceed it.”

Are you inspired by this story and would you like to boost your business and become part of the YES!Delft ecosystem as well? Sign up for our accelerator program!

If you would like to work for a startup like Aquablu check out our vacancies and become visible to more than 300 startups in the YES!Delft ecosystem.


Gyromotics prosthetic foot

Gyromotics: The go-to prosthesis for active people

For people who use prosthetic feet, a comfortable fit and a wide range of functionality are key. From walking and going about everyday life, to running and doing sports, a prosthesis would ideally accommodate various activities requiring various intensity. And as this is not the norm in the market just yet, Gyromotics – a startup from the YES!Delft ecosystem – has made it their mission to change that.  

A personal story leads to a business

The beginnings of Gyromotics come from a personal story. Guido Hendriks, one of the two co-founders, has first-hand experience with finding just the right prosthetic feet. His son, Olivier, now 18 years old, was born with a congenital limb deficiency and has been using prostheses ever since he was a child. 

“It wasn’t until Olivier was about 6 years old that we got him on small blades instead of his everyday prostheses,” Guido remembers. “That’s when we understood how restricted he had been by his prostheses at the time. Adults tend to underestimate that.” 

All Olivier wanted as a child was to be able to play on the playground and run with the other kids. As soon as he got on running blades, he was able to move a lot more – and faster – and started playing football. 

“He played football until he was around 12, at which point he was scouted for the Dutch running team,” Guido says. “It was obvious that he was moving quite fast. My wife and I always wanted him to be able to run – and that’s exactly what he is doing now.”

As one of his latest achievements, Olivier won a silver medal at the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo in the 400m sprint

Silver medal Paralympics     

Striving to create the most functional prosthesis out there

Over the years, Guido has done extensive research on what prostheses are available on the market. His conclusion: there are no prosthetic feet yet, which people can use both for day-to-day activities and sports. That is what he and his co-founder Jaap Roggeveen set out to change. 

Guido and Jaap founders of Gyromotics“To be able to have only one type of prosthesis for multiple activities and different shoes at the same time, it would need to adjust at the ankle. Our users are in control and decide what shoes they wear during the day and how they use them. Gyromotics’ users change from work to sports with the heel just off the floor to high heels at a party – all with the same foot,” Guido explains. “Our solution is the only prosthesis on the market that allows you to stand on the toes of your shoes and so combines a daily foot and a running blade in one product.” 

Gyromotics prosthetic footWhat makes Gyromotics’s prosthesis smart is exactly the fact that it provides the user flexibility to be able to perform different activities with the same foot, such as walking and running. Also, the bottom is made up of two halves that are separated to offer more stability in case the person steps sideways.

 “Since we started, we have proven the concept and in the last year, we have been working on improving the design and the looks based on customer feedback. In the near future, we will start working with two big companies that make sockets for prosthetic feet and we’ll become part of their standardized assortment.” 

At the moment, Gyromotics is only offering feet for adults. Yet, since it all started with the goal to make it easier for young children to move around, they are soon going to expand their offering.

“We recently won a project with SportInnovator, the programme for sport innovation and research by the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport,” Guido says. “As part of it, and together with the TU Delft and Team Para Atletiek, we will develop a prosthesis for kids. That way we can finally come a full circle.”

Along the way, they have been getting help from the experts and community of YES!Delft and that is something Guido considers very valuable. It has not only increased their credibility with potential investors and partners, but it has taught them how to run a company as a small team. This is knowledge that will surely propel Gyromotics on their way to success. 


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PATS Drones: The innovative technology that helps monitor and control flying pests in greenhouses

Flying pests in greenhouses are surely one of the main challenges that growers face in their day-to-day work. Moths, in particular, pose a few difficulties: They are active at night, they can lay hundreds of caterpillars in a short period of time, and they rarely fall for conventional traps. Having the right tools to control such pests is, therefore, crucial. With their innovative technology, PATS Drones, a startup from the YES!Delft ecosystem, can not only monitor insects in crops, but also help eradicate them.


Automating the pest monitoring process

Interestingly enough, the idea for PATS did not originate from horticulture. It all started with a personal annoyance – mosquitos buzzing around the heads of Sjoerd Tijmons and Kevin van Hecke, two of the founders, in the middle of the night. That got them thinking of ways to control – if not eradicate – flying pests. With their backgrounds in autonomous flying vehicles, they figured they could turn to drone technology to help intersect flying insects.

It was this simple idea that later laid the foundation of PATS. While the mosquitos were eventually left alone, it did get Sjoerd and his brother Bram to think about the potential of small drones in controlling flying insects. Together with Kevin, they turned to horticulture as a market with large potential for such technology. 

“Pests can be fierce,” says Bram, “and the use of insecticides in greenhouses are becoming stricter and stricter regulated. With our smart drone solutions, we help growers monitor and control the pest population in their greenhouses while limiting the use of chemicals.” 

The startup is currently focusing on moths, an insect that can create quite some damage to crops. Because moths can reproduce quickly, it is crucial that growers have the tools to detect them as soon as possible. The PATS-C system that the team has developed is essentially a “real-time scouting solution for pests”. It enables early detection and tracking of harmful populations, without the need for growers to do any manual work. 

All that is needed is for the system to be mounted on the greenhouse leg, from where its camera can capture images of the moth population. As moths are active at night, that’s when the detection takes place and, in the morning, growers get a dashboard overview of the presence of the insects. This makes it possible to identify the moths early on, so growers can take action in time.

“With our technology, we can detect moth presence weeks before conventional tools, and early detection is crucial for effective pest management,” Bram says. “By automating this process, we help growers save both time and costs. PATS-C also helps them understand the trends in their greenhouse, and predict – with a high level of precision – the lifecycle the moths are in.”

New partnerships and next steps

Acknowledging the potential of the startup’s solution are the tens of growers that are currently using the early detection and pest population tracking system. In September, PATS also signed an agreement with Royal Brinkman, one of the largest suppliers for horticulture in the Netherlands, to provide them with their PATS-C system. 

 “Royal Brinkman are a great partner to have and learn from,” Bram says. “They sell PATS-C as part of their crop protection portfolio. Together, we help growers in tracking pests early and accurately, so that Royal Brinkman can advise them proactively on taking countermeasures.”

As of more recently, the startup has also been positioning its PATS-X solution on the market. It enables fully automated and effective insect control with the help of very small drones , and without the use of insecticides. “We now have our autonomous system ready, and we will be rolling it out in early 2022.”

Going forward, the team of now 8 will be looking to grow with specialists in the fields of sales, marketing and development, among others. In addition to launching their drone systems, they also want to further scale their monitoring solution in the market. 

“We are going to focus on this geographic area for now to show that we are ready to go global,” Bram says. “To do so, we will gradually be adding more insects to our solutions to gain market relevance. One insect type is good, two is much better and with three we would already be very relevant to most growers.”  

Bram and his team surely have their plan ready. From now on, it’s a matter of more hard work, making the right connections and scaling. 

Would you like to read more about PATS and their technology? Read this article from TU Delft Campus and watch this video!

Are you inspired by this story and would you like to boost your business and become part of the YES!Delft ecosystem as well? Sign up for our accelerator program!

If you would like to work for a startup like PATS check out our vacancies and become visible to more than 300 startups in the YES!Delft ecosystem.


Momo Medical’s smart bed sensor helps nurses provide the tailored care their residents need

Being at the right place at the right time is something that care staff in nursing homes know all about. Attending to each and every resident when they most need them is what defines their work. Yet, that doesn’t mean it’s easy work to do. On the contrary, keeping an overview of an entire floor of residents is bound to become overwhelming at some point. That’s where Momo Medical comes in. 

The startup, part of the YES!Delft ecosystem, has developed a technology that gives nurses a tool to know who needs their help at which time. Designed specifically for care staff working the night shift, Momo Medical has been able to save them precious time and make their work more effective. 

Pivoting to address the right market needs

Founded in 2017, the startup has gone through a journey of defining and redefining its proposition to best suit the needs of nursing home staff. In its earlier days, Momo Medical’s technology was there to provide healthcare professionals with relevant and accurate data about resident mobility in order to help reduce the occurrence of pressure ulcers. 

“The initial idea was to indeed focus on the prevention of pressure ulcers,” says Jorien de Jonge, Marketing & Implementation Lead at Momo Medical. “It is a major issue, but the solution we had at the time was to give night shift nurses a reminder to reposition a resident. We soon found out that that was not what they needed.” 

The fact is that nurses are well aware of the need to reposition residents, but doing so at scheduled times during the day and night was not always feasible. “There are times when they are either very busy or the resident is sleeping and repositioning them would only disturb their rest,” Jorien says. “So, we asked ourselves: What does the night shift nurse really need?”

To find the answer to that question, the team tagged along with night shift nurses on quite a few occasions to find out what would make their work easier and more pleasant. The struggle was evident: Nurses wanted (and needed) to have an overview of the entire floor or unit, and know who is safe in their bed without having to open the door. 

The team took that with themselves and ended up creating the BedSense – a smart bed sensor that provides nurses with the information they need to be at the right place at the right time.

Finding and nurturing the right partnerships

The startup is currently focused on providing their solution to memory care and psychogeriatric nursing homes. “The BedSense is now available at a care unit for people with dementia,” Jorien says. “Residents with dementia have a hard time expressing what they need and our tool helps nurses understand their mobility and movement patterns. For example, if a person is turning a lot in bed, that may mean that they need more comfort.” 

A recent milestone, and perhaps one of the team’s most important ones to date, has been their partnership with the tanteLouise nursing home in the Netherlands. It has not only proven the importance of their solution but has also meant working together with one of the leading nursing homes in the country. 

“tanteLouise is a pioneer of innovation,” Jorien says. “For us, it’s great to be working with them, also because a lot of other nursing homes follow their lead when it comes to adopting new technologies.” 

They have been working together for almost a year now and the nursing staff has been very enthusiastic about how well it supports the night shift. Momo Medical will be providing its BedSense to all residents with dementia in the nursing home. 

Each BedSense is assembled in-house, Jorien says. “We have a production room at YES!Delft, which is very convenient. At the moment, we have more than 1,000 pieces of the BedSense in the field and all of them have been made at YES!Delft.”

For the team, this means a lot of hard work and if that weren’t enough, they are also expanding to the US. CEO Menno Gravemaker has been doing field research and tagging along with night shift nurses in San Francisco to understand what their needs are and how they differ from those of nursing staff in the Netherlands. The company already has its first local contract and is working with a nursing home as of August. Further defining their proposition for the US market is a key next step on their agenda.

Expanding to the US happens to coincide with Momo Medical’s participation in the Y Combinator accelerator program, which – next to investing in the startup – is also helping it scale its technology. “Y Combinator helps you set very extreme targets and get you to prove that there is a market for your solution,” Jorien says. Demo Day is scheduled for the last week of August and it will allow Momo Medical to present to a large audience of investors and media, and make the right connections. 

Going forward, the team is looking to expand its presence in the US and further meet the needs of local nursing staff. Various markets in Europe are also on their list to expand to, Jorien says. With the current shortage of nursing home staff globally, the BedSense is a very much needed solution. At the end of the day, Momo Medical wants to provide as much value as possible to nursing home staff – and that is what drives them day in and day out.

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