Keeping birds away from commercial exploitations

Birds flying high, it can be a real danger – and costly hassle – around airports or on oil platforms, for example. Well, it’s a new dawn in bird control. An animal and ‘hertz’ friendly solution, that makes birds and humans feel good. Bird Control Group has developed a laser that keeps birds away from commercial exploitations, saving major companies millions in damage each year.


Founder Steinar Henskes is more entrepreneur than an academic. In 2010, after dropping out of university, he started selling ready-made laser technology. With an interest in lasers and technology, this smart golden boy started developing his own products. He experimented with one of his lasers in a field and noticed that birds flew away. After that, Steinar perfected the technology and took it to market: each year there is over 25 million euro worth of damage done by geese in the agricultural field.

Bird Control Group started selling handheld lasers to farmers.

Yet, Steinar has always had a wish for developing a technology that could serve the aviation industry. So he just wrote an e-mail to someone he thought was important at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, got himself a deal with one of the biggest airports in Europe, and perfected his technology once again.


Steinar is not a bird watcher, nor is he an environmental activist. He wants to do something good for the world with his technology. So he applied to YES!Delft in 2013, because he wanted his company and small team of engineers to grow and serve more industries. The tech incubator was, according to Steinar, an obvious choice being a high-tech company serving the B2B market.

Without YES!Delft’s network, partners and reputation, Bird Control Group would not have the authority they do now within their market. But, “you are responsible for your own success”, Steinar underlines. At YES!Delft he felt challenged by the other startups – his peers – to just get his company to a higher altitude.


Bird Control Group is now the market leader in developing and manufacturing automated laser bird repellents. There are conventional methods, but these are noisy, unfriendly to birds and only ‘treat the symptoms’. The challenge for Bird Control Group is to make companies aware of their alternatives. Their ambition is to solve more issues in bird control that could not be solved before.

And that’s also Steinar’s personal ambition as an entrepreneur.

Bird Control Group still resides happily in the YES!Delft building. Steinar describes their workplace as “somewhere where you can actually get some work done”; he likes the functionality of the YES! offices and space. It’s a melting pot of (cultural) backgrounds with English as a common language.

What’s more, Bird Control Group opened their North American office a few years ago. The company solves bird issues all over the world at farms, industrial warehouses, refineries, feedlots, airports, and many more applications.


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  • July 2013 – laser installation at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport
  • September 2014 – contract with Total E&P Nederland
  • November 2014 – the launch of Agrilaser Autonomic
  • December 2015 – adaption of a resolution by the Dutch Parliament to stimulate the use of Bird Control Group lasers
  • March 2016 – take-over of U.S. based distributor

Startup Story: Scoozy

Imagine you have difficulty walking and you need to get from A to B in a fast, safe and convenient way. No problem. You can do that, and you can do it in style, too. Dutch startup Scoozy is developing a mobility scooter that is easy to use, has intuitive steering and braking and is good-looking, and caters to people – old and young alike – with a walking difficulty.


Job van de Kieft, founder of Scoozy, had known for years that one day he would start his own company in the field of electric driving. Yet it wasn’t until 2014 that he refined his focus: “There’s one group that’s been driving electrically for over 40 years, and those are people with difficulty walking,” he says. They’ve been doing so with mobility scooters.

Yet, mobility scooters nowadays are far from being flawless. On the one hand, people perceive mobility scooters as very stigmatizing because they are designed as an helping aid instead of a way of transport. On the other, they are often quite unsafe: “There were 28 deaths in the Netherlands last year, and 75% of the accidents are one-sided, caused by the people driving the scooters.”

Job and co-founder Jan Willem van Gent are on a mission to change that. With their team, they are working to develop a mobility scooter that serves as a way of transport, and not as a crutch. They see it as the “Tesla of mobility scooters”, and want to make it “so cool that anyone would drive one – even if they don’t have any difficulty walking.” To do so, the startup is focusing on a design that is nice and slick, as well as on creating a vehicle that is intelligent, connected and safe, with a low point of gravity and intuitive steering.


Thus far, the startup has a preproduction model of the product and the is now working on production of the first series, expected to be revealed in January 2019. With a busy schedule ahead of them, the team is happy to have YES!Delft guiding them along the way.

“[The Incubation Program] is about not making the same mistakes that other startups have made before you,” Job says. “It is so important not to have the simple things go wrong at the start of your company, and that is what’s great about YES!Delft: You know that, [with their help] the base of your startup will be fine.”

In addition, due to the competitive selection process, being part of the Incubation Program gives the startup a “quality stamp”, which Job is sure will be important in the months to come.

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Today, Scoozy has a core team of 5 people. Together with strategic partners for development and production they are working hard towards their next set of milestones. With a demo already out there, the startup is about to launch a marketing campaign to highlight market introduction at early 2019.

Now that the first series is almost ready, the team’s focus is shifting to the scaling phase. The team has already received  1.3M funding and sold out the first series. They are now working towards a  second round of funding for growth. Securing a B2B partnership is another main priority, which will help the startup create a distribution channel.

There’s certainly a lot coming up for team Scoozy, with the Tesla of mobility scooters awaiting at the end of the road.


March 2016 – Company founded

September 2016 – First loan secured

September 2016 – Admission to YES!Delft’s Incubation Program

September 2017 – First round of investment secured

November 2016 – Demo finalized

November 2018 – Start of production first series

Early 2019 – Launch first series

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The sky is not the limit

Sending a rocket into space is no easy task – and understandably so. It becomes even more complicated, though, when that rocket is supposed to reach an area above the Earth’s surface that has, so far, been only poorly studied. The ‘ignorosphere’ – often jokingly called so by scientists – is at an altitude of about 120km and is particularly difficult to access, as it is too high for balloons and too low for orbital satellites. Delft-based startup T-minus, however, has a solution. With the DART, their sounding rocket now almost complete, they are soon to make this area more accessible to scientists and researchers.



For founders Mark Uitendaal, Roel Eerkens, Hein Olthof and Eric Smit, it all started in 2009 when they were members of the student rocketry society DARE at the TU Delft. In their time there, Mark came up with the idea to break the European altitude record for student-built rockets, and soon took the lead on the project. Needless to say, they did break the record.

Yet, that was only part of their initial success. “After breaking the record, we discovered that the sounding rocket — a rocket used for scientific research — we had designed was kind of state-of-the-art,” Roel remembers. In many respects, it was better than what was commercially available at the time, which led the team to the idea of starting their own company.

Ever since, the four engineers have been working long hours to develop their signature rocket, the T-minus DART, which customers can use for doing research in the upper layers of the atmosphere. It is specifically designed to reach the area of around 120km above the Earth, and help research institutes and organizations conduct their explorations. “We do full-service from design and manufacturing to launch, and also assist our customers with preparing their scientific payload,” Roel explains.



The T-minus team has been developing the DART for several years now, and in order to finance their own R&D, they have had to work on the side as engineering consultants on multiple projects. Those include the NASA Insight project, in collaboration with the German Aerospace Institute, for the development of a scientific mole that would sample the Marsian soil. The project recently officially launched (on May 5th 2018), and the rocket is currently making its way through space.

“YES!Delft has been a major player in the team’s growth over the years,” Roel says. “The connections, workshops and events at YES!Delft has taught us a lot about the business side of entrepreneurship. The best way to learn is by talking to fellow entrepreneurs, who can advise you on how to avoid the mistakes they have made in the past.”

Learn more about YES!Delft’s startup programs hereb


With a strong support system behind them, the four co-founders have completed the DART. They’ve also already signed a contract with the European Space Agency to perform a number of demonstration flights. This means that the DART is currently commercially available. Moreover, the team is close to setting up a manufacturing plant in Deventer, in the near future. Lastly, the two big players DLR MORABA and Andoya Space Center have both expressed interest in placing the first order.

While the team has secured several grants to support their R&D, most of their capital has been coming from their consultancy projects with NASA, ESA and the TU Delft, among others. The
company is currently owned by the four co-founders, but they do not exclude the possibility of taking an investor onboard in the near future.

Team T-minus may be busy juggling various tasks, yet, they are well on their way to success. The NASA Insight rocket is expected to land on Mars in November, which means that T-minus will have hardware on Mars by the end of the year!

All there’s left to say is: May the countdown begin.

How to validate your tech startup idea

validating your tech startup idea do’s and don’ts


  • Find (potential) customers with a pain
  • Understand the context around that pain
  • Assess if your technology can ease that pain
  • Find out what the costs related to the pain
  • Assess if your technology has benefits for the potential customer
  • Create quick build-measure-learn cycles and go through them often


  • Push your tech startup onto your customers
  • Ask them what they would like to pay for it
  • Spend all your time and money on product development
  • Create slow build-measure-learn cycles and go through them only twice per year


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You’re a team of engineers and you’ve developed this great technology. It’s so great, in fact, that you’ve decided to turn it into a tech startup. But before anything, you need to make sure that there is indeed a market for it. You need to validate your business.

So, how do you validate a business? What processes are there to follow, and what pitfalls are there to avoid? As Program Manager at YES!Delft, Robert Jan van Vugt is the person to go to, if you want to know everything about finding your market-product fit. For this Expert Interview, he shared his thoughts and some much sought-after advice.


Finding a market for your technology

Finding a market for a tech idea or product is not nearly the same as finding a technology to solve a customers’ problem. Non-technology businesses often start by solving a problem for the customer.

“Tech ideas, on the other hand, start with the technology. Most entrepreneurs choose the technology based on their own interests and background [mostly engineering], and not on its business feasibility,” Robert Jan says.

The number-one reason for tech startups to fail is their inability to find a market for their technology. So nailing that product-market fit early on is crucial.

Say, you’ve developed a blockchain-related technology whose goal is to solve money transfer problems in Africa. Now, as noble as that may be, it may simply be too ambitious to start with. “Start easier,” Robert Jan advises. “Instead of focusing on Africa right away, start with a market that you have direct access to, and where the pain is just as high. Test your technology, make some sales, and then think of the next step. The number-two reason why startups fail is a lack of cash, so sales are key!


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Contact Emma

This smaller market may be your neighborhood, your town or your country. It may not be what you had imagined originally. But with an easy access to this market, you’ll be quick to find out the real business potential of your startup idea. Who is it for, how well does it solve a specific problem, and what are customers willing to pay for it? Go out and talk about it, to find out the answers. Get that down, so you can move on to your next step.

“In that sense, it’s not so much about finding a product-market fit, but rather about finding a market-product fit,” Robert Jan says. Look for a market until you have found one that fits the possible application(s) of your technology – instead of trying to change your product to fit a certain market.


Build, measure, and learn

Hanging on to this previous thought, your fastest way to market is by following a three-step process: build, measure, learn. As a tech company, you are tempted to start with a technology, build on it, measure the response, learn from it, and build again.

However, building hightech prototypes takes both time and money. It’s much more efficient if you build your market instead: work on assumptions, experiments, landing pages – everything to test, measure and learn from. Start building real prototypes only when you are sure about the market-product fit.

“The first step is to find the people with a pain, and talk to them,” Robert Jan says. “Why is this pain there, and (how) can your technology ease it?”

The key to identifying your future customers is to really understand their situation. Grasp the context around it. To what extent are their pains influencing their daily lives? What are they costing them, and what are they willing to spend to minimize them? Be able to match those pains with the gains your product can provide.


Test, measure, learn. Then repeat.

Gathering insights continuously will not only help you learn more about your target audience, but also find out if there is a real need for your technology. In the end, it will also help you understand if your startup idea is indeed scalable towards your dream market.


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(The nuance of) focus is essential for all startups

One of the main challenges for startups is the need to keep several balls in the air at the same time.

From obtaining customer insights and building a product, to hiring people and designing a legal structure. I see lots of entrepreneurs juggling. And consequently spending precious time on the wrong things. That’s why I advise them to focus.

Eh, but Arthur, weren’t you the guy who recently told us that ‘Focus is bad for early stage startups’? I did! And I did not change my mind about that previous blog. I however want to show the nuance of focus. And thereby the nuance and difficulty of every piece of advice that startups get.

During my (former) career as a startup entrepreneur, I often asked three different experts to advise me on the same matter. All three would give different answers and leave me puzzled. Years later and wiser I realized that all of them were both right and wrong in different ways. As a startup you should try to listen to the nuance in every advice. And figure out how to combine all of those nuances.

Focus your activities

So for example, when I advised that focus is bad for early stage startups, the nuance is that the focus should be on your activities. For startups it’s often logical to work on customer validation, technology, raising money, hiring people, fixing legal stuff and determining your market strategy all at once. And then they get an email from a potential investor and drop everything.

BAD decision. If you have decided that validation is your most important activity (or building, or whatever you chose) don’t get distracted. It will ruin your effectivity. In this case focus on your most important activities is exactly what you need.

Then again (early stage) startups should not focus on their market strategies too early, because they will miss out on important market opportunities, as I stated in my previous post. Many startups told me they really liked this statement. One startup shared that they chose the wrong market themselves, and only realized this a year after the launch of their product. They would have loved to make that pivot much earlier and could have done so by losing some of their focus.

‘funding mode’

Should you ignore that email from the VC then? Definitely not! It’s good to build relationships with investors. But don’t make a fuss. Reply that you can meet, but preferably at your office, since you’re in validation (or another) mode. Have a meeting of one hour max, tell them that you will call back when you are in ‘funding mode’. Put them on your list of investors and get back to your focus activity.

Focus is always your main point of attention. It’s not the only point, but the main. It’s 80% of your activities. Sometimes 95%. Sounds easy, but it’s really easy to get distracted, also by all the advice that is given to you by advisors like me.

One experienced entrepreneur told me he liked my previous article, mainly because he’s fed up with all those one-sentence-mantras that are advised to startups. I fully agree. Oneliners sound great, but they mostly miss the nuance of reality.

Arthur Tolsma is a (freelance) startup coach, contact him via


The SMART, electrical caravan providing you with real-time information

Whereas 10 years back towing a caravan wasn’t much of a hassle, things are quite different today. Cars are smaller, lighter, and more sustainable than ever before. Great news, without a doubt, except for the fact that many of them are unable to tow a proper caravan.

To solve that problem, the team behind E-Trailer is on a mission: to create an electrical caravan that helps the car in pulling it. On the road to making that a reality, they have found ways to roll out other innovative solutions, too.

Founders Boy Trip and Rick Lenssen met over a year ago to find out that they had very similar entrepreneurial ambitions: “We both wanted to start a company, and we both had the same vision,” Boy remembers. While he had been gaining business experience as part of YES!Delft’s students board, among others, Rick was working on his (electrical) engineering skills as a member of the Nuon Solar Team. When they put their heads together, they saw the appeal of assisting cars and their owners by developing an electrically propelled caravan.

A course on the basics of starting up helped them identify a potential target market and develop a business plan. Yet, that was only the beginning. The duo soon found out that developing the technology, and even more so implementing, is nothing short of a challenge. “Developing an electric trailer is very difficult and comes with certain restraints. According to the law, a caravan is a towed, non-propelled vehicle. We need to create a new regulation to get the electrically propelled trailer road legal. This will take a while, so building a full-fledged electric trailer is a goal of the distant future.”

In the meantime Boy, Rick and their team have channelled their energy towards developing individual components of the potential electric trailer into marketable products.

They already have a working prototype of, what they call, the SMART Trailer – a system that connects the users’ smartphone or tablet to their caravan and provides real-time information about the condition of the caravan, including levelling, tyre pressure and brake temperature. To date, they have pre-sold 550 pieces of the system, and are planning to start delivering them in March 2017.

Coming this far in the little time since founding their company in November 2015, hasn’t been without the help of YES!Delft, they say. “The main reason we joined the incubator is because of its coaching program: you get a coach who is experienced in starting companies and [all things] entrepreneurial”. The knowledge that they can derive from the program is, thus, considered invaluable. In addition, Boy emphasizes the benefit of working alongside other entrepreneurs as they can all learn from each other’s mistakes and successes.

In the months to come, the team of E-Trailer has a lot to look forward to. Their number one priority is to deliver the 550 presold pieces of the SMART Trailer system: “It’s the biggest thing we’re working on.” In addition, they have also finalized a proof of concept for their E-Brake product, which will aim to replace the mechanical braking systems of caravans, bringing advantages such as shorter braking distance and reduced swaying motion, among others. And last but certainly not least, E-Trailer will be seeking new funding opportunities to add to their existing portfolio of subsidies and awards.

From the looks of it, things are only going to speed up for team E-Trailer in the year to come.

November 2015 – Company founded
September 2016
– SMART Trailer proof of concept ready
– Admission to YES!Delft’s Incubation Program
October 2016 – E-Brake proof of concept ready
March 2017 – SMART Trailer prototype ready

Ans Delft

Innovating, creating and simplifying online learning

Benjamin Wols and Kerim Haccou started their entrepreneurial quest a few years back when they both worked as teaching assistants for programming courses at the TU Delft.

With almost 800 students who had to submit an assignment every week, reviewing all of them was virtually impossible for the one teacher and four teaching assistants involved. Because of that, all submitted assignments received a ‘pass’ by default, with only the final one being reviewed and graded. As a result, the students got no feedback along the way, yet they thought “they were on the right track, because they got a pass every week”, Benjamin explains.


Benjamin and Kerim had an idea of how to do this differently: “We have developed a program that automatically takes a look at your codes and gives you some feedback.” The two founders knew they had a good case as more and more teachers started requesting it for their own classes. “That’s when we thought,” Benjamin recalls, “why not start a company and license [our platform] to the university.”

In August 2014, the duo founded Ans Delft, and focused on broadening the functionalities of their platform to become attractive to a wider range of universities and high schools. They came up with the idea to automate the administrative tasks that come with grading exams, because after all, “every school has exams.”


Since their first pilot project in May 2015, their platform has been used by around 30 teachers from a number of different faculties at the TU Delft, resulting in the digitizing of more than 7,000 exams and the automatic grading of 25,000 coding assignments.

They are now part of YES!Delft’s Incubation Program, working hard to further improve their product, expanding their market and finding new clients. “At YES!Delft, they try to push you” Benjamin says “and that is very good.” In addition, the incubator’s events have led them to meet a number of prominent experts, as well as get free working hours with (legal) advisors, and in general “people that you don’t get in touch with very easily.”

Today, Ans Delft is a team of seven: the two co-founders working full time, and five part-time students.


While there are currently about 30 teachers using their platform, the team makes sure that they increase that number every semester. Perhaps what is even more important is that “we haven’t had any teacher leaving the system, so we have a retention rate of 100%.”

While they started at their very own TU Delft, the team is now talking with multiple universities and high schools in the Netherlands to launch a pilot project. And that is precisely what is ahead of them in the months to come – more negotiations, more interest in their product and more sales. And more satisfied students and teachers.

August 2014 – Founded Ans Delft
May 2016 – Joined YES!Delft’s Incubation Program
October 2016 – Processed 7,000 exams and automatically graded 25,000 programming assignments


Supporting your next step

EIT Health Bootcamp is an annual LaunchLab created by YES!Delft and EIT Health Partners and is designed to facilitate business-case development. One of the successful startups that came out of EIT Health LaunchLab in 2016 is Xabian.

Ben Hayward and the team at Xabian are committed to making the lives of lower limb amputees as comfortable as possible, and that starts with a perfectly-fitting prosthetic leg. Without question, creating a socket that helps attach a prosthetic to a person’s leg smoothly and seamlessly is no easy task. The team of Xabian, however, have come up with a solution in the shape of a cutting-edge computer formula.

Application deadline for EIT Health Bootcamp LaunchLab 2017 is July 17. For more info click here.

For the past few years, Ben has been focused on an ambitious goal: leverage technology to help people with disabilities lead a healthy life. As founder of Xabian, he now gets to do this every day.

It all started in mid-2015 when Ben was still studying at Warwick University. One day, as he was waiting for the bus to go home, he saw a blind student trying to get around the campus. “He was struggling quite a lot,” Ben remembers. “It amazed me that we have all this great technology and it doesn’t seem to be used a lot for people with disabilities. I thought surely we could be doing more for blind people than just giving them a white stick.”

Finding a way to use technology for improving the life of people with disabilities became an important drive for Ben. He started brainstorming and soon came to the idea of helping amputees by developing a prosthetic leg. About a year later, he and a team of two fellow colleagues from university already had a first version of the product.

Yet, they were only scratching the surface. Ben and his team kept working on their concept when they found that a different business case in the same field would be more lucrative.

“We realized that the issue wasn’t so much with the prosthetic legs, it was with attaching those legs to the body. It’s really hard to get that connection point between the skin and the prosthetic. To get that right is often very uncomfortable for the amputee,” Ben explains.

Developing the perfect prosthetic socket is no easy task, which is why the team decided to focus on developing software that could predict how soft and how hard the leg is in different places, thus creating a socket that fits the amputee to the slightest detail. Today, Xabian operates as a cloud-based service that uses generative technology to create the most fitting and comfortable prosthetic socket for every lower limb amputee.

The change in direction for the startup was largely the result of the market research done during their participation in the EIT Health LaunchLab program in Delft, and the guidance that the team received in that time. “I’m not sure if we would have made it to this point without the LaunchLab,” Ben says. “Because the cohort is so small, you get the attention that you won’t get anywhere else.”

In the short time since the EIT Health LaunchLab, the team of now four have been able to build their software product and patent it. The next step is to start clinical trials with rehabilitation centers in the Netherlands and abroad, and get the necessary certification. “We expect to have the certification towards the end of the year, so we can start our early-access program in December or January,” Ben says.

While they don’t have any signed customers yet, the potential ones are already lining up. “We spoke to close to 30 rehabilitation centers during LaunchLab,” says Ben, which gave them a rather solid feel for their target market.

And they’re not stopping there. The team’s recent admission into YES!Delft’s Incubation Program is about to propel them not only towards that market, but into it, too.

June 2015 – Idea to create prosthetic ankle
March 2016 – First prototype of ankle
April 2016 – Pivot: Automating socket design and manufacturing by analyzing the shape of the residual limb
July 2016 – Beginning of EIT Health LaunchLab
November 2016 – First software prototype
February 2017 – First product tests with amputees
April 2017 – Technology filed as patent
May 2017 – Clinical trials designed


The masters of airborne wind energy

Wind is all around us and leveraging it as a clean energy source has become increasingly wide-spread in recent years. Especially in a country like the Netherlands, wind turbines are a major part of the landscape. Yet, what if there was another – both innovative and cost-effective – means of generating wind power? Actually, there is. German-born Johannes Peschel, co-founder of Kitepower, and his team have developed a system that uses high-performance kites to leverage the energy of the wind and generate electricity.

For Johannes, laying the foundation of Kitepower was a logical step in both his personal and professional life. “I love kites,” he says. “I love them so much that I decided to make them my profession.”

As a passionate kite surfer himself, Johannes has always been interested in the power of the wind. After he found out that an idea he had – using a kite to generate electricity – was already being researched at TU Delft’s faculty of aerospace engineering, he didn’t waste time moving to the Netherlands.

While the concept of kite power was first researched by Wubbo Ockels, best known as the first Dutch astronaut in space, it is now being carried out by academics at the university as well as Johannes and his team. The Kitepower system came about largely as a result of this research.

As for the system itself, it is certainly an invention of a kind. Johannes points out that it’s compact in size and easy to install and maintain. “We have a generator on the ground, a kite in the air and a kite control unit that controls the kite. The airborne part has a line connected to the generator on the ground,” he explains. “The kite flies in a pattern of eight and pulls out the line, which, in turn, rotates the drum in the ground station and generates electricity.”

Among the advantages of Kitepower’s system is the fact that it uses a lot less material while being twice as efficient as existing technology, Johannes says. What’s more, it is able to leverage high-altitude winds, which are often much stronger and more persistent than the winds closer to the ground.

And these advantages have not gone unnoticed. Today, the team is part of YES!Delft’s Incubation Program, after successfully rounding up the LaunchLab and winning its audience vote.

“The programs at YES!Delft have given us access to a wide network of contacts and to a wide variety of knowledge and expertise from the master classes,” Johannes says. In fact, in the one year (and a few months) since the official company launch, the current core team of five has been able to secure two launching customers and a rather sizable grant of 3.7 million euros.

As a result, the future looks bright for Kitepower. The grant they received was part of the EU’s Horizon 2020 initiative and is going to keep them warm until the end of 2019. The team was last year’s winner of the Dutch Defense Competition 2016, adding another 200,000 euros to their finances.

With these resources, they are developing their system for the commercial market and expect to have it ready for pre-sales in early 2018, and for delivery – at the end of the same year. They now work with the Dutch military to finish the technical details of the product, as well as more locally with projects like the ICOON Afsluitdijk.

“The system is for use in remote locations, where diesel is currently in place,” Johannes says. “We sell this as an add-on to reduce the diesel consumption.”

At the end of the day, their vision is quite ambitious: “We want to make renewable energy affordable for everyone, and when it comes to wind, I believe this is only possible with kite power and airborne wind,” Johannes says passionately. From the looks of it, he and his team know exactly how to get to those heights.

December 2015 – Secured grant of 3.7 million euros
March 2016 – Company founded
September 2016 – Validated business model with two major Diesel generator rental companies: Agrekko and Bredenoord.
November 2016 – Winners of the Dutch Defense Competition 2016
End of 2016 – Sucessfully finished Phase 1 of the Icoon Afsluitdijk project together with Studio Roosegaarde and Rijkswaterstaat
February 2017 – Admission into YES!Delft’s Incubation Program


Why you will be sleeping with a robot soon

EIT Health Bootcamp is an annual LaunchLab created by YES!Delft and EIT Health Partners and is designed to facilitate business-case development. One of the successful startups that came out of EIT Health LaunchLab in 2016 is Somnox.

Imagine a robot that can help you sleep better and wake up more energized. Now, imagine this was a reality. As a matter of fact, it soon will be. Julian Jagtenberg, founder of Somnox, and his team of fellow engineers-turned-entrepreneurs have developed a soft robotic that makes sure users end each day with a good night’s sleep.

Application deadline for EIT Health Bootcamp LaunchLab 2017 is July 17. For more info click here.

It all started in September 2015 when Julian and his co-founders, Job Engel, Stijn Antonisse and Wouter Kooyman van Guldener, got together to work on a class project with the goal to develop a robot: “We wanted to create a soft robotic – not the archetype robot that you would expect but one that would be cute and caring… We knew we wanted to build a robot that actually matters.”

The team started out by identifying the problem they could tackle, and after talking to people around them, including relatives, they came to realize that insomnia was the issue to focus on. “We’re all engineers, we’re kind of geeky, and since there was no proper solution out there, we decided to create a robot that can help people fall asleep and solve their insomnia problems,” Julian explains.

After considering their own experiences and reading up on pages and pages of academic literature, the team came to the conclusion that a slow and steady breathing rhythm is the key to people feeling peaceful at night. The main feature of their robot, thus, became its ability to register users’ breathing patterns and help them regulate those for a good night’s sleep.

For Julian and his teammates, developing the robot was initially just course work within the Robotics Institute of the TU Delft. They were unaware of their idea’s business potential until, after presenting their prototype at an open university event, they were featured in a local newspaper as one of the highlights of the day. “After that newspaper, a lot of other newspapers, even radio and TV, started talking about us.”

The coverage resulted in tens of emails from potential users who wanted to test the Somnox robot. It was this “surprising validation”, as Julian calls it, that encouraged the team of four to take some time off after finishing their Bachelors studies in the summer of 2016, and focus full time on starting a business.

They joined EIT Health’s LaunchLab, a program created by YES!Delft and EIT Health, where they spent several months developing their product and exploring the European market. “The EIT Health LaunchLab helped us transition from being engineers to being engineers and entrepreneurs at the same time,” Julian recalls.

They also got to meet relevant stakeholders from around Europe and see that there really was a market for their offering. “We got to speak to sleep disorder experts, [among others], and were able to define our customer base, value proposition and business model,” Julian says.

Since the LaunchLab, a lot has changed for Somnox. To start with, they are now a team of 12, including interns, graduates, part-timers and, of course, the original four co-founders. And the increase in manpower is certainly showing results.

Today, they have an official partnership with Dutch company Auping, which produces circular mattresses and beds of the highest quality, and in doing so, sells comfort and a good night’s sleep to its customers. Without a doubt, a perfect match for Somnox.

In addition, a 50.000-euro financing round from Rabobank’s Innovation Fund has supported the team in making iterations to their original prototypes and produce more for potential customers. In the past months, they have conducted tests with over 25 people, and especially for those with a stressful day-to-day, the Somnox robot has helped decrease their anxiety levels at night.

As a result, Julian and his team are planning a Kickstarter campaign for the end of the year, by which time they expect to have their manufacturing and distribution processes all set up. The goal for the first half of 2018 is 2,000 Somnox robots sold, which is both ambitious and sure to keep them busy.

As long as they get a good night’s sleep, though, staying busy should not really be a problem.

February 2016 – First working prototype ready
June 2016 – Team decides to commit full-time to developing Somnox
July 2016 – Admission to EIT Health LaunchLab and YES!Delft
October 2016 – Admission to Incubation Program of YES!Delft
February 2017 – Launched partnership with mattress producer Auping

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