Author: Mina Nacheva

SocialTech: the way forward in solving the health and societal challenges of tomorrow

The past year has posed challenges that many of us had never even thought about. Challenges to our health, to the way we interact with each other, and to the way we go about our day-to-day lives.

Yet, with new challenges come new solutions, and the Dutch innovation ecosystem has not fallen short of that. SocialTech has gained vital importance, with entrepreneurs looking for smart solutions to today’s most pressing societal issues.

To clarify why we need SocialTech, our program manager Noortje van Sambeek and our partners explain more about the rise and potential of this new domain, and look into its role in the future healthcare system.

The rise of SocialTech

Over the past year, two main trends have come to the fore with regards to smart social tech solutions. One is focused on directly tackling the health and societal challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, while the other is more focused on prevention, ensuring that health and societal challenges do not become an issue in the future.

Both trends have played a significant role, and arguably, the prevention aspect may become even more crucial as we move forward.

For Peter Hulsen, Advisor and Changemaker at the Nederlands Centrum Jeugdgezondheid (NCJ) – the Dutch Center for Youth Health – the prevention of health problems is crucial, and it starts at a very early stage in one’s life.  

“We see a great urgency to tackle health issues in young children as early as possible in their lives. It is crucial to give them a strong foundation to grow up on so there is no need for interventions later on.”

And it is not just about health, he adds. “It is about how our cities and villages are organised and spatially arranged. How much space there is for children and young people to move around.” Fostering a healthy and nurturing environment both in and outside of one’s home is not just a nice-to-have. It is a necessity.

The potential of SocialTech

SocialTech has the potential to transform our communities to make us more resilient, and as a result, stronger, too.

For sure, technology and innovation can help bring positive change to society, but it is important to remember that it’s not all about tech itself. It is also about the context, identifying the gaps in our community and finding ways to close them using innovative technology. 

This is also the motivation behind launching the SocialTech Validation Lab, a program developed by YES!Delft in partnership with Erasmus University Rotterdam.

A new program for new challenges, says Noortje. “Our goal with this Validation Lab is to make innovation happen that can help society. We are bringing together people from many different backgrounds to create the best teams and the best solutions.”

The challenges we face today are global, but the solutions are to be found locally.

This is confirmed by Ed Brinksma, President of the Executive Board of Erasmus University Rotterdam. “The province of South Holland, particularly the Rotterdam region, is a rich breeding ground in terms of diversity and entrepreneurship. A multidisciplinary approach is vital for innovation and especially for solving the social issues in this region. In this way, together, we can advance inspiring SocialTech ideas and make a tangible contribution to a resilient and healthy society. “

Organisations such as EUR, NCJ, Social Impact Fonds Rotterdam and Health Holland are among the partners that would support the selected startups in developing the solutions that society needs the most.

There is a great relationship of trust between YES!Delft and its partners.“The past performance of YES!Delft and their recently started SocialTech Validation Lab both provide the essential moral trust and intellectual support for social technology entrepreneurs that strive to create positive impact,” said Nico van Meeteren, Executive Director and Secretary-General at Health Holland.


The SocialTech Validation Lab is currently accepting applications until April 7.


Towards the healthcare system of tomorrow

A lot has changed concerning how our healthcare systems work. 

We are at the start of the transformation of healthcare, says Noortje. “We see it moving more and more towards people’s homes. Smart technology is making it possible to move towards the social domain and developing solutions that can make it more efficient.”

Today it’s clear that the pandemic has accelerated healthcare’s move in that direction.  

In the past year of having COVID-19 among us, we have learned that people don’t always need to interact directly with a healthcare professional. They are a lot more open to the idea of relying on websites and chatbots for information. This is a positive development given the fact that our healthcare system has been squeezed for resources during the pandemic,” Peter says.

In other words, innovation can help create solutions that take away some of the more repetitive and simple tasks that are still part of the day-to-day of medical professionals and instead help them focus on the cases that they are most needed for.  

There is still a lot that technology can bring to the medical domain.

“This past year we’ve had to leapfrog when it comes to the digital evolution of healthcare,” says Noortje. “There is a lot more potential to be discovered, and we want to create the right environment and ecosystem for that to take place.

The SocialTech Validation Lab is looking for promising startups that want to bring innovation to society. The program will help these entrepreneurs find their product-solution fit and develop the business case around their idea.

Apply before April 7 for a chance to join the program!









Praxa Sense: Leveraging smart technology to better monitor heart disease

What does it take for two product designers to create a medical device that may well be the future of monitoring cardiac arrhythmias? For one, it takes a lot of hard work, especially in times of uncertainty. It also takes commitment to develop a device that can detect possible heart problems with high accuracy.

Meet Leonard Moonen and Liselotte Stolk, the initial co-founders of Delft-based startup Praxa Sense and the two product designers from the paragraph above. With little business experience of their own (at least initially), they have managed to not only develop a product the medical industry needs but also find their fit in just the right market. 

The wearable that detects cardiac arrhythmia

Detecting cardiac arrhythmias can be somewhat of a challenge and new technologies are always welcome in making the process more hassle-free. At the moment, it requires a patient to undergo a thorough monitoring procedure, which may not even yield accurate results as arrhythmias often happen sporadically. 

“Atrial fibrillation is the most common sign of cardiac arrhythmia but detecting it is not always that easy,” says Leonard. “In fact, there are a lot of people out there that don’t even know they have it.” Because it doesn’t occur consistently, atrial fibrillation can sometimes be overlooked – unintentionally of course – by current monitoring methods. People with this condition are also five times more likely to have a cerebral stroke, Leonard adds. 

That is how he first came up with the idea of a wearable that would monitor heart rhythm in a simple and non-intrusive way. 

“We’ve developed Afi, a small, user-friendly device that can detect heart rhythm disorders with high accuracy. It requires little to no manual effort and extends the time frame, in which a patient can be monitored.” If worn continuously, it can essentially monitor a patient 24/7 without interruption.

From a university project to a business venture

For Leonard, it all started during his studies of Integrated Product Design at TU Delft. There, as part of CardioLab – an initiative by the university and de Hartstichting focused on using smart technologies to detect cardiovascular diseases, he designed the first prototype of what would later become Afi. 

He saw the business potential of the solution, but he knew that a good idea and a nice design were not going to be enough to run a company. “I knew I had to learn more about startup life,” Leonard says. “I also knew that I would need a co-founder and I had just the right person in mind.” 

It didn’t take much convincing to bring Liselotte on board. And so, the two of them were ready to experience what having a startup would be like. 

Almost immediately, they signed up for the EIT Health Validation Lab in Dublin and went through eight weeks of market validation and meeting potential clients across Europe. “It was an intense program but it really helped us understand what it’s like to run a company and match its offering to the needs of customers.” 

One of the stops was YES!Delft and Leonard remembers how nice it felt to be so close to home. It shouldn’t come as a surprise then that Liselotte and himself later became a part of YES!Delft’s Accelerator Program. That was also the time when they were joined by Pourya Omidi, who became the third co-founder of Praxa Sense.

Positioning Afi where it’s most needed – in hospitals

One of the key lessons that the co-founders have learned along the way is that being a part of a strong network is invaluable. 

“The community that we have around us at YES! is a great asset,” Leonard says. “If I have an industry-related question, I can go downstairs and just have a cup of coffee with the founders of Momo Medical, another MedTech startup. Or if I need advice on strategy or funding, I could walk up to the team of YES!Funded. It’s really that easy.”

Today, Praxa Sense is a team of eight and they are about to launch their first clinical trial in the Netherlands. This is a big next step, as their solution will make its way to Reinier de Graaf Gasthuis hospital in Delft and be used to monitor patients. 

As the year progresses, the team will continue to iterate their product, especially as they receive feedback from the trial, and will work to set up more pilot projects. Hospitals are on top of their list as potential clients, followed closely by e-health companies. 

So far, Praxa Sense has grown steadily, including during the past year with COVID-19 around. With their first clinical trial coming up, they are about to gain more insight into the potential and application of their product. It is only a matter of time for them to implement it and further improve it.

  • October 2017: Leonard Moonen graduated from Delft Cardiolab with first prototype of Afi
  • October 2017: Leonard showcased Afi at Dutch Design Week 2017
  • April 2018: Praxa Sense B.V. was founded
  • June 2018: EIT Health Validation Lab in Dublin, Liselotte joined as co-founder
  • November 2018: YES!Delft Accelerator Program, Pourya joined as co-founder
  • May 2020: Received Innovation Loan from Rabobank and funding from ZonMw
  • October 2020: Funding from Innovation Quarter for R&D of Afi
  • September 2020: Expanded team from three to eight
  • January 2020: A larger new corner office at YES!Delft

Smart-Ship: Control levers that help you make informed decisions in real-time

Ships experience a lot of forces sailing through head waves on the open sea. Information systems onboard monitor those forces and notify the crew about changes in their surroundings, yet there seems to be a problem. “The information from the automation systems is transferred in such a way that the human operator doesn’t understand what to act upon,” says Brent Kok, co-founder of Delft-based startup Smart-Ship. To ensure that vessels operate as best as possible, the company is developing a smart solution that can feed the captain real-time data on the performance and state of the ship so they can make informed decisions in the moment. 


It was a couple of years back when Brent’s brother Roy came up with the idea for Smart-Ship and decided to turn it into a business. He had just graduated from his studies in Biomechanical Engineering and Maritime Technology at the TU Delft and had built a throttle lever for small fast ships that could warn the captain if he was sailing too fast through head waves. 

Roy saw potential in the product and was looking to join YES!Delft and take his first step to becoming an entrepreneur. “Roy called me one day and said that he wanted to start a company, but YES!Delft had advised him to find a co-founder,” Brent remembers. “He wanted to know if I could recommend someone in my network, which would be mostly fellow finance professionals. I had a person in mind straight away. Me.” 

And so their journey began. 

It all started with the two of them trying to make it easier for captains to keep track of what’s going on with their ship at all times and respond quickly to any unexpected developments. 

“Currently, a lot of information from the ship is being transmitted to the captain through audio and visuals, which can become overwhelming next to everything else he is doing,” Brent says. “Vessels have a lot of systems that provide useful information, but if the captain cannot process it at the right time, it doesn’t really work.” 

To tackle this challenge, Smart-Ship has so far developed several haptic levers that send valuable real-time data to the captain and warn him in case he needs to change course or adjust speed. The levers have both a hardware and a software element to them, so they can analyze the performance of the ship and send the captain a physical signal – in the form of a vibration, for example – if he needs to take action. They can also be used to make sure that the vessel is sailing as environmentally-friendly as possible.


Starting their company with the YES!Delft community around them has been of great value for Roy and Brent. “We first entered the Validation Lab and looking back, it has been the most useful program so far. It forced us to go out there. We learned that it’s not just about having nice technology but that you need to find the people willing to pay for it.” 

In just over two years, the two brothers have brought a third co-founder onboard, Jelle Tiemensma, and have built a small team around them. They also took part in the YES!Delft Accelerator program, which is when Brent says “things really kicked off.” 

With their technology validated, it was only a matter of time for them to find the right clients. 


When they first started out, Roy and Brent were focused on getting the attention of the small fast ship market. They knew there was potential there, but they also knew it wasn’t big enough to build an entire company on it. 

“The small fast ship market is very specific so, soon enough, we had to start exploring the needs of other stakeholders in the industry,” Brent remembers. They got interest from tug boat and dredging companies, and today they have pilot projects with clients such as the Royal Netherlands Navy, DEME Group and VSTEP Simulation.

Alongside the four levers that the team has developed, they are also working on a haptic joystick to be used by crane operators. The key to Smart-Ship’s products is that they can be used to control a ship, crane or other asset, while at the same as a medium to transfer information. “The maritime sector is quite conservative so we are offering a product that looks traditional, but the tech underneath it is revolutionary,” Brent says. 

With several pilots already on the way and a first investment round from early-stage innovation fund UNIIQ, Smart-Ship is looking forward to its next milestones. 

“Our goal for 2021 is to get on the water,” Brent says. “All of our projects so far have been in simulation and we feel it’s time to test our technology on an actual vessel.” And with that, they are getting ready to take the next step of their entrepreneurial journey. 

  • Installing Smart-Ship tech on several vessels (tug boat, small fast ship, inland ship and dredger) – Q4 2021
  • Setting up partnerships with renowned maritime integrators and shipyards – Q2 2021
  • Successful implementation of new haptic joystick – Q3 2021
  • Successful implementation of most recent product, maritime dashboard logging all user data providing useful insights for operators, fleet managers and insurance companies – Q3 4 2021


Bi/ond: Taking the step towards personalized medicine

“Our mission is to create a world where personalized medicine will be made available to everyone. We want to achieve this by merging microelectronics with biology.”

Nikolas Gaio is the CTO of MedTech startup Bi/ond and together with his co-founders Cinzia Silvestri and William F. G. Solano, he is looking to bring innovation to the medical field.

“Microelectronics is being used in a lot of markets but in biology, it has still not been utilized to its full potential,” Nikolas says. “We want to take advantage of that and make a difference.”  


The idea behind Bi/ond evolved as a result of years-long Ph.D. research at the TU Delft. The three co-founders were fascinated by the possibilities that personalized medicine had to offer but were struggling with the little progress that was being made in that field. So they took things in their hands.

“At the moment, medicines and pharmaceutical products are developed based on middle-aged white men, so people from other ethnicities and women are rarely taken into consideration during these development processes,” Nikolas says. “The number of genetic differences plays an important role in how medicines affect different ethnicities, age, and sex.”

The reason why there is not enough progress in the field, he believes, is because current technology is not accurate enough to handle the complexity of the differences between people. Bi/ond hopes to change that.

What the startup is working on is a technology for more accurate drug testing and simulations of any tissue type. “We’ve developed a computer chip with a small blood vessel that can nourish, stimulate and monitor cells. For example, it can stimulate cells in the heart to keep it beating or in the lungs to help them keep expanding,” Nikolas says.


Supporting the team along the way has been YES!Delft and their community of mentors and experts. One of the biggest challenges for Nikolas and his co-founders has been turning Bi/ond from a research project into a business.  

“We were and still are engineers, so YES!Delft have helped us a lot in improving our technology while also teaching us how to build a company. They took us out of our engineering bubble and showed us what it’s like to run a business,” Nikolas says.

They learned the importance of validating their technology with potential customers and talked to tens of medical professionals to gain insights into their needs and challenges. Currently, Bi/ond is supplying its product to three academic hospitals across Europe and is mostly focusing on its cardiac application.

“Together with our customers, we are now mostly looking into cardiac toxicity,” Nikolas says, “which essentially means that we are trying to find out if a medication is affecting the heart in the wrong way.”


While the startup does have competitors on the market, Nikolas believes that Bi/ond has a unique advantage. It is the only company currently that combines microelectronics with biology, making it possible to stimulate cells and “bring what is inside the body outside of it,” he adds.  

The hospitals that they are currently working with are different in their approach of using Bi/ond’s technology. Some of them are interested in only buying the chips, while others are also happy to work together with the startup and help develop the technology further.

A little bit further down the line, the team will aim to add biotech companies to its customer base, alongside hospitals. “Our goal is to strike partnerships with such companies later on and establish our credibility in the field.”

Today, Bi/ond is a team of seven and they are well equipped to tackle the challenges that lie ahead. So far, they have been financed via local and international grants as well as a first round of funding from UNIIQ, the proof-of-concept fund of South Holland. Going into 2021, they will be looking at a second, bigger investment.

Nikolas and the team have surely gained momentum over the past year and are moving closer to their mission of making medicine more personalized in the future.

  • Collaboration with a complementary biotech company for the development of a Heart-on-Chip model;
  • Integration of electrodes and sensors inside the Bi/ond’s product to guarantee “more-than-imaging” to our customers;
  • Deal with a pharmaceutical company.

Manometric: The 3D-printed braces that make a difference in people’s lives

Tailor-made hand braces and orthoses are expensive and not fully tailored to the needs of the person using them. Not to mention, they are not the most beautiful pieces out there. Pieter Smakman came across this problem during his graduation project at the TU Delft and together with his friend and colleague, Robin Jones, took on 3D scanning and printing technology to design and create braces that people love to wear. 

It didn’t take long until the two of them founded Manometric, a Delft-based startup looking to make the above possible for people who need a brace. 


“We believe that braces are a consumer product and the experience of wearing them is more comparable to wearing a watch than a bandaid,” Pieter says. “It enables you to work again and perform your job. A piece of plastic can make a huge difference to someone’s life so it needs to fit the person him- or herself.”

During his Master’s in Integrated Product Design, Pieter came up with the idea of using 3D technology to create 360-scans of a hand and based on them, design a brace that is fully tailored to the person who needs it. The first version of the scanner was far from perfect, but it bore the potential of what it could become. 

“The first time we tried to scan a hand was not easy at all,” Pieter remembers. “Someone had to put their hand up and sit on a turning plateau in front of the 3D scanner so we could capture every angle. You can imagine how hard it is to keep a hand in a steady position even for a couple of seconds, so this was definitely not a very viable solution to collect information.”

Today, close to four years after founding Manometric, Pieter, Robin and their team have made leaps both in terms of their technology and in running a successful business. They are accredited as an orthopedic company, which enables them to see patients and work directly with health insurers. Even during COVID-19 times, they have been able to continue doing that – under strict measures, of course – and it is something that gives the team not only new insights for their research and development, but also a lot of positive energy. 


Supporting them along the way has been the community of experts at YES!Delft and their international network. Manometric joined the YES!Delft Accelerator Program in September 2017 and quickly learned what it’s like to run a business. 

“The first thing we had to get into our system was to stop being so busy with our technology and instead focus on validating our product. We had to find out if there was a market for it before we spent more resources and effort developing it,” Pieter says.

Their mentor wasted no time in throwing them into the deep. “We were advised to organize a demo day, promote it on Facebook and see if people were willing to participate and pay for it. We went for it, but we were terrified,” Pieter remembers. “It just didn’t feel natural to promote a product that was not fully developed yet.” 

And while the two co-founders were surely outside of their comfort zone, they quickly saw the benefits of approaching their target market early on. They communicated their demo day to a large group of patients and were surprised to receive more than 150 responses overnight. Eventually, about 20 people signed up and traveled from all over the Netherlands to experience Manometric’s technology 

 “That meant a lot to us and it was the point where we knew we were onto something,” Pieter says. 

Those initial insights were what they needed to continue developing their technology. Today, the startup has a 3D scanner that can perform a 360 scan in a hundredth of a second, a software that can automate the production of orthoses and works together with hospitals, clinics, health insurers and other orthopedic companies. 


Starting out, Pieter and Robin’s goal was to leverage technology in such a way that they could provide patients with the best-fitting hand braces possible, which look good too. At the same time, they also wanted to make the design and creation of those braces more efficient and less labor-intensive. 

“If you look at the traditional patient journey, there is a lot of time from intake to delivering the final product. With our 3D technology, we can achieve results much faster.”

Manometric has been working together with Gerald Kraan, an orthopedic surgeon from Reinier de Graaf hospital in Delft, who has helped them immensely over the past years. With his support, they have been able to develop their software and algorithms, and to make sure that the braces they create perform as well as traditional ones, if not even better.

The startup’s goal going forward is to have their scanners placed in hospitals all over the Netherlands. “Our solution is scalable and we can’t wait to distribute this widely,” Pieter says. 

The process may take some time, but the team has already proven that there is great potential for their technology, across the country and beyond. 

Having been able to disrupt (in a good way) such a traditional industry has certainly brought Pieter, Robin and their team the feeling that they can change people’s lives with their work. What makes it all even more worthwhile, though, is actually seeing the impact of their technology. 

“Not too long ago, one of our patients brought her saxophone to our office, sat down and started playing,” Pieter says. “It was the hand brace that we made for her that enabled her to play her instrument again. You can imagine the surprise on all of our faces.

It is those moments that count the most. It is those moments that remind us of the impact we can make.” 

Milestones of 2020


  • A doubling of the team (now 11) with highly talented and experienced people
  • More than tripled the revenue of 2019
  • Accredited as official Orthopedic Company
  • CE Certification for the ManoX 3D Scanner
  • Contracts with all Dutch health insurers


Don’t forget to apply for our next Accelerator Program, the application deadline is on the 31st of January.

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Voyc: Turning customer call analysis into a superpower, with the help of AI

Customer support has always been key to successful business strategies and plans, yet it is not always without misunderstandings. Startup Voyc is tackling this problem by ensuring that both customers and companies are treated fairly during verbal exchange. How? Voyc’s artificial intelligence (AI) software enables companies to gain deeper understanding of their customers’ needs and problems, and resolve issues as efficiently and fairly as possible.


Call monitoring is essential in identifying potential risks, improving agent performance and enhancing the overall customer experience.

In their venture to ensure understanding between companies and customers, Matthew Westaway and his co-founder, Lethabo Motsoaledi, developed an AI-based solution that adds value to customer service. “We hope that one day everyone will feel trusted and that their voices will be heard,” says Matthew.

Currently focused on the insurance sector, the startup is working with more than 10 companies, enabling them to maintain strong and positive relationships with their customers.

The Quality Assurance (QA) team plays a key role. It is in charge of recording and analyzing all calls that take place, and providing insurance companies with relevant information that allows them to handle clients’ requests fairly and reliably. Voyc’s AI-driven software is able to transcribe and analyze calls within minutes, and deliver data-packed reports to the team. 

“We basically give our QA Team superpowers to protect both the company and the customer,” says Matthew. “That way we can ensure that there are no issues between them.”


Delft-based incubator YES!Delft and their professional network of experts have been a part of Voyc’s entrepreneurial journey so far. As one of the startups in its Accelerator program, Voyc has enjoyed the wide range of expertise they have had access to and the good connections they have been able to make. 

“YES!Delft’s strong network has been very valuable for our company, especially in the early days,” Matthew says. “It employs amazing people that are ready to help and that want you to do well.”

Today, two years after being founded, Voyc has a team of 10 who share the same passion and energy for establishing equal relations between companies and their clients.


During this journey, the startup has gone through periods of trial and error that have expanded its understanding of the potential risks that both companies and their customers have to bear in the business world. 

“Most of the issues usually come up on service calls when customers are just extremely unhappy”, Matthew says. “It is often the case that customers misunderstand what service they are being offered and end up receiving something they never asked for.”

He makes another point that while customers could misjudge some of the information they are offered, misinterpretation on the company’s side is also a possibility. 

“Our clients, mostly insurance companies, generally have a lot at stake so being able to analyze their customer service calls is crucial for them,” Matthew says. “On the other hand, their customers can also end up largely affected should it come to a misunderstanding.” 

In a way, both sides have a lot to gain from a solution like that of Voyc.

The past two years of running their company has taught Matthew and his co-founder a lot not just about entrepreneurship but about their industry as well. For the coming months, they have locked their sights on expanding to the UK and establishing a foothold in the market there. 

With a few investments from accelerators such as Techstars and several Dutch angel investors, Voyc is certainly on the right path. From this point on, the team will be venturing onto even bigger and better business opportunities, both in the Netherlands and abroad. 


Mar 2018: Founded company

Sep 2018: Joined Techstars SAP.iO Berlin

Nov 2019: Signed first large insurance company

Jan 2020: Hired 5th Team Member

Feb 2020: Setup HQ in the Netherlands

Mar 2020: Joined YES!Delft

Nov 2020: Signed 4th large insurance company

Dec 2020: Hired 10th Team Member

Dec 2020: Monitored the call of 100 000’th end-customer

Give your 2021 a kick start and sign up for our Accelerator Program! 

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Villari develops wireless sensors to monitor aging infrastructure

Aging infrastructure is a growing concern for authorities across Europe, requiring them to look for more innovative monitoring tools as time goes by. Moving steel structures, in particular, ask for regular inspections and, increasingly so, maintenance. Monitoring those manually can be a challenge, so Olivier Baas and Hugo Romer, co-founders of Villari, took it upon themselves to create a solution that automates at least part of the process. 


Villari’s mission is rather straightforward – develop sensors and wireless monitoring systems that provide users with a 24/7 view of their assets and notify them of any possible structural problems.

“We build sensor systems that are able to monitor steel structures,” Olivier says. “If you have a steel structure that moves even a little bit – a bridge, ship, or an offshore platform, at one point it starts to crack and it becomes a problem. We can apply our systems to critical locations on such structures and monitor their state.” 

As a result, operators gain a clear overview and insights into the state of their structures and are able to easily plan (and foresee) maintenance work. 

Olivier and Hugo’s entrepreneurial journey started in late 2018 and goes back to their days at the TU Delft. They both did Offshore Engineering as a Master’s degree and graduated under the same professor. It was their professor, in fact, who had come up with the idea for the wireless monitoring sensors and as soon as all the academic research around it was finished, Olivier thought it might be a good idea to try and turn it into a business. 

He reached out to Hugo, who was then in China for work, and the two quickly agreed to do this together. “I called Hugo and he immediately said we should do it. He just needed a bit of time to figure a few things out first,” Olivier says. “Of the two of us, Hugo has always been the one to think things through. I usually tend to dive in headfirst,” he laughs and Hugo agrees with a nod. 

So, in early 2019 and with Hugo back from his project abroad, the two started thinking on how to turn an idea into a business success. 


With both of them coming from a technical background, Olivier and Hugo were looking to learn more about what it’s like to run a company. In May 2019, they joined the YES!Delft Validation Lab and it all started rolling from there. 

“The Validation Lab was a real pressure-cooker,” Hugo remembers. “It’s a ten-week program of identifying your potential clients and finding your product-market fit. We went in Olivier’s little car, driving around and doing interviews all around the Netherlands. It was intense but it was a great way to validate the potential of our idea.” 

They often had as many as six interviews in a day, which left them with a lot of information to process day in and day out. Soon after finishing the Validation Lab, the two co-founders applied and were accepted into the YES!Delft Accelerator Program, which has helped them gain valuable connections and introduce their technology to the market. 


If they need to point out one challenge that they have struggled with along the way, Olivier and Hugo would have to say it was the decision which market segment to focus on. They have come to learn that there are simply a lot of applications for their solution. For a startup, that is a good problem to have but it can also make it difficult to stay on track. 

“For now, we’ve decided to focus on bridges,” Olivier says. “They are easily accessible – especially compared to offshore platforms, have a lot of cracks, and need constant monitoring.” It is a good market for them to enter and test their solution in.  

“Most of our (potential) clients there are public companies and with our sensors, we are looking to make their work more time- and cost-efficient.” 

The startup is currently working with Rijkswaterstaat and is setting up more pilot projects. Expanding their portfolio is essentially what they want to achieve in the months to come. “By the end of the year, we will have a second prototype of our wireless sensor,” Hugo says. “We want to set up 4-5 new pilot projects next year with different clients and convert those into commercial projects. We are looking forward to getting our first bit of revenue with our technology.”

Olivier and Hugo have set themselves clear goals for 2021 and they seem to be on the right track to reach them. They’ve found their product-market fit and are ready to roll up their sleeves and go further into the market. 


July 2019: Completed the YES!Delft Validation Lab

Dec 2019: Received €40.000 grant by NWO

Dec 2019: Company established

Mar 2020: Started the YES!Delft Accelerator Program 

Apr 2020: Raised € 350.000 funding by the Dutch Enterprise Agency (RvO)

Jun 2020: Received first sensor prototypes

Jul 2020: Successful laboratory trials showing above-expectation results 

Oct 2020: First field trials on a Rijkswaterstaat-owned bridge, successful

Dec 2020: Received the second series of prototypes to be deployed in several pilot projects throughout 2021

getting funds

Gradyent and YES!Funded: The importance of getting the rights funds at the right time

A good click is key to every startup-advisor relationship out there. In their early days, in particular, startups need specialized support to steer their business in the right direction and they need the right advisor to help them do that. This is exactly the case with Gradyent, a startup developing an artificial intelligence (AI) cloud platform for making district heating networks more efficient, and YES!Funded, a service launched by YES!Delft to support startups getting funds. 

From 0 to 2 funding rounds in just over a year

A lot of startups tend to take their time in validating their idea, finding their product-market fit and signing their first customer. Gradyent is not one of those startups. On the contrary, they hit the ground running.  

It was early 2019 when four serial entrepreneurs – Hervé Huisman, Robert Vrancken, Freek Smelt and Pieter Broekema – got together to found an innovative company that would tackle the inefficiencies that district energy networks often struggle with. With their combined experience in building successful businesses and scaling analytics technologies in the energy industry, this new venture was just the right fit for them. 

“We started out knowing that there is a problem to solve when it comes to making district heating networks more efficient,” says Hervé. “Many of them have old and even outdated control systems, which has them lagging behind in terms of digitization.” The solution they had in mind was an AI platform in the cloud that can help network owners reduce energy losses and improve efficiency. 

It was the start of Gradyent.

Winning their first customer soon after they launched the company was proof of the potential of their solution. Yet, as with any young company looking to grow fast, potential and an initial success weren’t going to be enough. They needed extra funds. Knowing this, the team reached out to YES!Funded to help them find the right financing tools and connections, and grow even further from there. 

“We started YES!Funded about a year ago because we found out that startups don’t have much knowledge on how to structure their company or make it financially viable,” says Jan Geert van Hall, Investment Director at YES!Delft. “When it comes to raising their first rounds of funding, they often don’t even know where to start.” 

With the help of YES!Funded, this is no longer a problem. In only a few months of working alongside Jan Geert, Hervé and the team of Gradyent had their first round of financing in the bag. It came from henQ, a venture capital (VC) firm supporting B2B software startups.

“It was a small first round, but it helped us accelerate our product development, connect new customers and gain traction,” says Hervé. It was a stepping stone towards increasing their valuation and going for a much more prominent second round later on. 

Needless to say, the team didn’t sit around waiting for that second round to come. They rolled up their sleeves and spoke to more than 20 potential investors in just a few months. With the help of Jan Geert, his network and financial expertise, they identified the most suitable candidates and eventually signed with three European investors for the sum of 1.9 million euros. Those include Dutch energy innovation fund ENERGIIQ, and VCs Capricorn Venture Partners from Belgium and Helen Ventures from Finland. 

Addressing the right opportunities at the right time

Gradyent secured their second round of funding in June 2020 and are already using it to further develop their AI solution and expand their network beyond the Netherlands. 

“We are happy to have these three investors onboard, as each of them brings something valuable and different to the table,” says Hervé. “Capricorn is an experienced VC fund with a strong track record, which adds credibility to our company. ENERGIIQ brings us their regional network in South Holland and expertise in the field, with Helen Ventures providing us with an opportunity to enter the Scandinavian market, which is the most advanced district heating market globally.”  

It all sounds like Gradyent have found the right partners at just the right time. Yet, that doesn’t mean their journey hasn’t had its ups and downs.

About a year ago, without yet the support of Jan Geert, Hervé and the team took it upon themselves to manage their fundraising. One of their first moves was to approach UNIIQ, the proof-of-concept fund of Innovation Quarter (IQ), focusing on early-stage innovative companies from the West Holland region. Although they were a great match, what the team didn’t realize is that they already had too much traction for what the fund was looking for. 

Timing, they learned, is everything.

“From experience we know that the most challenging period for a startup is finding their first investor and getting the deal done,” says Jan Geert. “For each step of your customer traction or product development, you need to have a funding plan. In each step, the opportunities will be different and perhaps even diverse.” 

Both Hervé and Jan Geert agree that not approaching UNIIQ on time was a missed opportunity. Yet, the strong team and business proposition of Gradyent made an impression and they were soon in negotiations with ENERGIIQ, another fund of IQ. With Jan Geert’s timely advice, they were soon able to seal the deal. 

“It is crucial for startups to use the right instruments of financing,” Jan Geert continues. “The bad news is VCs don’t often look at early-stage companies. The good news, though, is that there is a wide range of other instruments that you can combine to get to the target of your round.” 

Jan Geert is the person with the overview of those instruments and the knowledge of when to use which one. In fact, advising Gradyent on the timing for each investment round and approaching the right funds or VCs has been one of Jan Geert’s main contributions to the success of the team so far. He has supported them on a strategic as well as a more practical level by introducing them to investors, steering the due diligence procedures and establishing necessary shareholder agreements. 

In essence, he has helped create a structure that Hervé and his team can follow each time they go for a next investment. “Securing our first round of funding was complicated because there was no foundation for us to step on,” says Hervé. “The second one was a whole different story and that is largely because of the support of YES!Funded.” 

With a committed team, a strong advisor and the right approach, Gradyent is well on its way to success. Their next big milestone may be just around the corner. 

Would you like to follow in the footsteps of Gradyent and secure investments yourself? Apply for our Investor Readiness Program now and get the help you need!

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Noise pollution

Delft startup DeNoize on its way to tackle noise pollution

Noise pollution is nothing new to people living and working in big cities, yet what many may not be aware of is that it is also a major health risk. Delft-based startup DeNoize knows all about it and has made it its mission to tackle the challenges of noise pollution and enable a healthier living environment. How? By installing its active noise cancellation technology – similar to that in noise-cancelling headphones – into the frame of windows, drowning out the noise of the busy streets underneath and the large planes flying overhead.


During his studies, Aman was looking into how to design airplanes to be less noisy and more efficient, and had a strong interest in mitigating aviation noise. “There is a lot of potential in finding a way to make airplanes less noisy,” says Aman, “but if I were to turn that into an impactful solution business, it would have taken years and years.”

Instead, he wanted to create something here and now, so he focused on putting a new spin to his research and findings. “I started looking at the problem from a different angle and decided to tackle noise issues on the receiver’s end instead of its source,” says Aman. He joined the incubator program of Deep Science Ventures, a six-month pressure cooker for entrepreneurs who want to solve key societal problems, to help him kickstart his venture.

“That’s where the whole idea came together. I decided to develop a solution that can be integrated into the facade of a building and isolate it from the outdoor noise.” In a nutshell, he made a plan to create a new generation of smart windows.

With active noise cancellation at the heart of it, a very specific type of technology in itself, Aman saw the need to look for a co-founder. He found that co-founder in the face of Olivier Schevin, a fellow entrepreneur based in France, with years of experience in exactly this field.


With the Deep Science Ventures program behind him and a round of financing that he got at the end of it, Aman moved back to the Netherlands to continue working on the DeNoize technology. In December 2018, he and Olivier got accepted into YES!Delft’s Accelerator Program, which gave them the know-how and network they needed to take the startup to the next phase.

“YES!Delft is a specialized incubator that gave us the stamp of approval we needed in the market,” Aman says. “When we joined, we were also paired with a mentor, who has quite some experience in the glass industry, and that has been of great value to us.”

The community of startups that YES!Delft has built over the years has also proven to be beneficial to Aman and DeNoize.

“There are startups in different stages of their development so there is always someone who has been in your shoes and can advise you when you’re facing a challenge. Physee, for example, is working in the same market as us and it is always good to spar with them,” Aman adds.


Today, in only two years’ time, DeNoize has grown from one man with an innovative idea to a team of over 20. Olivier is still based in France, with four students and an intern working alongside him. In the Netherlands, the startup has two full-time employees and three groups of students working on various design projects for it.

So far, the technology is in the prototyping stage and on its way to being converted into a product. “We’re working together with a glass manufacturer to make sure that our technology can fit into their products,” says Aman. “And based on recent tests, it looks good.”

While glass manufacturers could be a key customer segment for DeNoize, at this point they see them as their closest partners – working together on prototyping and knowledge-sharing. The product that will eventually be integrated in the frames of windows is planned to be ready within a year from now.

Keeping them going until then are several financing opportunities that the team has secured, including a loan from Rabobank, a round of funding from UNIIQ and grants from the government.

Perhaps one of the most notable achievements of the team so far is their collaboration with the Royal Schiphol Group, which they announced recently. The agreement between the two companies is for studying the effects of noise pollution on people who live in close proximity to Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport.

The research is planned to start in October 2020 for a duration of one month. The goal will be to understand the effects of noise on residents’ well-being and investigate how DeNoize can play a role in improving the quality of life of those living close to major noise sources like airports, highways, and train stations.

“We are doing research on people’s perception of noise with regard to their comfort, stress levels and mood. We then want to simulate how our technology can improve their acoustic environment,” Aman says.

While the technology is not market-ready yet, Aman and his team are already talking to potential customers to make sure they have them lined up when the time comes. DeNoize is mostly focusing on real estate developers such as Schiphol Real Estate and Heijmans, who can increase the value of their buildings by integrating the startup’s noise cancelling technology.

From this point on, DeNoize will be focusing on putting their technology on the market and getting the right partners and customers onboard. Working together with a partner like Schiphol Group is sure to boost the startup on its way to success.


March 2018: Aman started working on the DeNoize concept in London

May 2018: Founded DeNoize together with Olivier Schevin

July 2018: Raised £70,000 as pre-seed funding

August 2018: Built the first proof-of-concept prototype of DeNoize

October 2018: Joined the Get Started Program by ECE

February 2019: Joined the YES!Delft Accelerator Program

August 2019: 1st paid pilot with potential customers

October 2019: Raised €150,000 from Rabobank

December 2019: Set up a collaboration with a major airport

January 2020: Expanded the DeNoize team

With DeNoize set on a path of growth, the team is currently looking for programmers. Do you know someone or are you one? Get in touch with them now!

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Blue Sparrows: The medtech investment fund made by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs

Incubators and communities like YES!Delft are there to offer startups the support and know-how they need to start their innovative businesses and grow. They introduce them to a network of fellow innovators that they can draw resources and inspiration from. And every so often, that network yields some pretty interesting collaborations. This time focused on medtech

Bo Wiesman is a seasoned entrepreneur and the CEO of NewCompliance, an innovative company that offers predictive dashboarding and analytics solutions to hospitals. As of a few years ago, he is also the co-founder of Blue Sparrows, an investment fund for early-stage medtech companies.

Bo started Blue Sparrows together with six fellow medtech entrepreneurs and as a group, they are an example of what networking at YES!Delft can lead to. 

“We are all entrepreneurs from YES!Delft and this is where it all started back in 2014,” says Bo. “Because we were such a strong group of entrepreneurs, we got many requests from other medtech founders to provide advice or coaching, so we came up with the idea of setting up our own investment fund.” 

It took Bo and the rest of the team about four years to set the fund up and get it to do what it was meant to do – invest in high-potential medtech companies from across the country. Today, it also has two experienced fund managers onboard, whose expertise complements the entrepreneurial experience of the rest of the team.

An investment fund run by entrepreneurs

What makes Blue Sparrows different from other funds is that while it does have people with an investment background onboard, it is first of all run by entrepreneurs. 

Having built – and some even sold – their own business in the medtech sector, Bo and the rest of the team know what it takes to create a company from scratch. They have been through the ups and downs of being an early-stage company and can guide current startups to success, while avoiding the mistakes that they had once made. 

“We can help startups on a very operational level – from validating their idea or already existing product, to creating a business model that works, to clinical validation and medical certification,” says Bo. As a team, they believe that adding actionable knowledge and experience to a company early on can significantly increase their chance of success. They also look beyond the financials and at the potential that a startup holds. 

“We are entrepreneurs and not fund managers, so we can determine from our own experience whether a specific proposition has the potential to be successful. And because we are entrepreneurs, we can determine that way more clearly than fund managers can. They look mainly at the financial aspects, while we look at the product, the business model and the team – and help make adjustments where necessary.” 

Focusing on early-stage medtech startups – a conscious choice

A lot of people might think that investing in an early-stage, innovative company is risky business. And they wouldn’t be wrong. Yet, for Bo and the rest of Blue Sparrows, it was very clear why they should focus on that specific group. Making one wrong step early on in a business can be detrimental, so getting the right knowledge and advice at the right time is crucial. The team of Blue Sparrows is, therefore, of the opinion that they should only invest in companies that they can add real value to. 

“We tend to invest in the areas that we know extremely well, and that is medical technology,” says Bo. “It is not only about the money we invest, but also about the knowledge and coaching we can offer. That, too, has to be on a high level.” 

To date, they have made five investments in startups that they believe have the potential to develop a solution, which creates value for both patients and doctors. In the initial stage, Blue Sparrows invests typically between 200,000-250,000 euros per startup, and mentorship and coaching come as part of the package. The fund subsequently continues to invest as the company grows and achieves new milestones.

One of their most recent and also successful investments has been in a startup called UV Smart, which has developed an innovative solution based on UV light that helps disinfect medical instruments and devices within seconds. “We invested in UV Smart about 18 months ago, as we recognized that they have a great team and an advanced technology,” says Bo. 

As with all medical technologies, though, certification takes a long time and first revenues do not come in overnight. The current COVID-19 situation, however, has created an urgency for a solution like the one of UV Smart. “Normally they wouldn’t be selling yet, but due to the circumstances, they have had  their product medically certified last  month,” adds Bo, whose team has been advising the startup in the process. 

It is surely of great value for a young medtech company to have experienced advisors – with the right business and industry knowledge – supporting them. Especially in times of uncertainty. 

Blue Sparrows have found just the right niche to focus on. From here on out, they are looking to add new companies to their portfolio and later raise a second fund to continue investing in early-stage medtech startups. In the end, the only way to add value to the sector is to keep supporting its rising stars. 

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