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


Revolutionizing the robotics industry

Machines and in particular robots are increasingly aiding – if not even substituting – people with their work. Yet, those machines often lack the strength and precision necessary to create real impact. Or at least that was the case until IMSystems came around.

Led by scientist Jack Schorsch, a team of four – including Matthew Corvers, Thibaud Verschoor and Rory Deen – are working on the Archimedes drive: an invention in mechanical power transmission that can make any electrical engine simultaneously stronger, more precise and more efficient than anything currently on the market.

The idea behind the Archimedes drive had been evolving in Jack’s mind for years, during which he did research in the fields of prosthetics and exoskeleton design. In his work, he often faced the challenge of making those wearables small, lightweight and easy to use.

The Archimedes drive is a compact gearbox that uses friction instead of gear teeth, allowing it to make electrical engines – and the machines they power – lighter, stronger and faster than ever before. Yet, it wasn’t until Matthew and a team of fellow TU Delft students took part in a Master’s course, that Jack’s invention came on the radar as a business case.

“We took part in a course aimed at turning technology into a business,” Matthew recalls, where they were given a patent by a TU Delft researcher, without knowing the exact application of the invention. “We had to brainstorm it ourselves, because inventions can often be used for much more than their original application.”

A few brief months later, Jack’s Archimedes drive had proven to have a market fit, and so the team set out to launch IMSystems.

IMSystems’ product is the first drive to use friction instead of gear teeth as a means of powering electrical engines – and it seems to come with a list of advantages. “We can get to about half the size and a quarter of the weight of our competitors’ drives,” Matthew explains. “What’s more, we are not limited by the gear ratios and how strong we can make an electrical engine.”

With multiple subsidies and a loan already secured, IMSystems has been able to develop their first metal prototype with a gear ratio of 500:1, which is about three times more than what most drives on the market can currently achieve.

The team’s progress, they say, hasn’t been without the help of YES!Delft and the Incubation Program, which Matthew describes as fantastic. “You’re here with about 80 other companies; there are always people who have been at the point where you are, so you can just walk up to their office and discuss how they did things. Having this network is very useful.”

From this point on, IMSystems is looking forward to growing. They have already signed their first two clients, and are working towards adding more to their portfolio. Expanding the team is, thus, certainly among their next steps to be able to deliver timely and quality results.

One thing is for certain: We will sure be hearing more from IMSystems in the future.

January 2015 – The team came together for the Master’s course (turning technology into a business)
February 2016 – Admission to YES!Delft’s Incubation Program
June 2016 – Founded company
August 2016 – First client signed


Enabling the circular economy

Recycling is the most critical step in achieving a sustainable, circular economy. Simply put: bringing products back to their building blocks is the way to prevent wasting valuable materials. Yet, while recycling has been gaining popularity over the years, there is still a lot of knowledge that is simply missing.

For Mesbah Sabur and Jordi de Vos, founders of Circularise, the problem is obvious – there is a communications barrier between product manufacturers, end users and recyclers – that prevents materials from being disposed of as efficiently as possible. The two have, thus, created a software platform that aims to break down that barrier and give people a space to collaborate.


Mesbah and Jordi first got to know the potential of the circular economy during their Master’s studies at the TU Delft. What caught their attention was the concept of ‘Critical Raw Materials’, which the European Commission describes as the raw materials that are crucial to Europe’s development and quality of life.

So how does Europe, as a large economy, make sure that it always has those raw materials at hand? – they asked themselves. One answer stood out: “By recycling the materials that we already have in our products,” Mesbah says.

While recycling has become a priority for state authorities across Europe, Mesbah and Jordi quickly managed to identify one major problem that persists throughout the entire value chain: the lack of communication. The organizations mining the materials don’t communicate with those manufacturing the products, who, in turn, don’t communicate with the ones responsible for recycling.

“Our goal is to solve these communication barriers in the value chain and enable a circular economy,” both Mesbah and Jordi explain.


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To reach this goal, the two entrepreneurs decided to develop a platform where relevant stakeholders would come together and have direct access to any information on raw materials they might need. While the initial idea was to establish a link between product manufacturers and recyclers, Mesbah and Jordi soon found out that was no easy task.

Talking to a variety of companies, they realized that brands are not necessarily interested in having a direct communication line with recyclers, mainly due to their reluctance to share IP-sensitive information.

With the help of YES!Delft’s LaunchLab program and the expertise of its mentors, Mesbah and Jordi kept on validating until they discovered how to provide a value-add to all stakeholders involved. While manufacturers may not be likely to communicate directly with recyclers, they are interested in getting information about their products – where and to whom they get sold, and how they’re being used. By purchasing the Circularise label that they can put on their products, brands are sure to get the data they are most interested in.

Users, in turn, get a unified customer experience across different brands and a digital passport for all their products – everything from interactive user manuals to warranty tracking.

Most importantly, though, manufacturers have access to a platform where they can log in details about the materials they use in their products, and lock that data in time, without sharing it with third parties. “We are building the system with blockchain technology combined with zero knowledge, so […] everyone in the value chain can communicate about products without having to share sensitive information.”


With a current team of thirteen, Circularise is looking to hit several ambitious milestones over the next months: from finishing their MVP to establishing an industry standard.

They’re already doing pilots with several producers and recyclers, and they’re hoping those projects will be a stepping stone to ever-larger opportunities.

For the time being, the team is focusing on consumer electronics as one of their main markets, because “this is the fastest growing waste stream in Europe,” Jordi says. “It’s also the most complicated one, with devices becoming smaller and more complex,” Mesbah adds. The founders are certainly not shying away from challenge, yet a grand vision needs grand ambition, too.



June 2016
– Concluded ‘Ready to start up’ course
– Founded company
– Received EIT Raw Materials grant
– Joined YES!Delft’s LaunchLab program

– Started first pilot project with a recycler in Italy
– Joined YES!Delft’s Incubation program and signed first two customers
– Launched beta version of consumer app
– Received H2020 grant

– Expanded team and advisory board
– Signed more partnerships and customers


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Ear defender system for the heavy industries

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 EarTex.

Working in the heavy industries comes with a certain number of challenges, among which the need to balance health, safety and efficiency on the job. Yet, in an environment where there is excessive noise, a balance between those three is not always possible. Or at least it wasn’t until David Greenberg founded EarTex, a London-based startup developing intelligent ear defenders – originally ear-worn computers, now larger headsets – for workers in the heavy industries.

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

Ever since the age of 18, David Greenberg, now 31, has been working towards the goal of starting his own company one day. That day came in November 2015. With extensive background – both scientific and clinical, in hearing technology, he founded EarTex with the mission to help workers in the heavy industries protect their hearing, without having to compromise on workplace efficiency and communication.

“I started off working as a clinician in a hospital with people who had lost their hearing,” David says. There were two main reasons why people, who cam e to see me, had lost their hearing: They had either gotten old, or they had worked in very noisy environments when they were younger, or even currently.”

Getting to know many such stories, David realized that instead of producing something that attempts to fix a person’s hearing once they have lost it, like hearing aids, it would be better to try and prevent the hearing loss in the first place. And while hearing loss prevention products do exist, they often make it difficult for workers to communicate and even stay aware of their surroundings.

“There’s this conflict between health and safety regulations and the realities of working in a noisy environment,” David explains. “[That’s why] we’ve created a technology that allows for communication, hearing protection and monitoring of exposures. It’s an integrated solution.”

For David, starting EarTex was a gradual and well-planned process. While doing his Ph.D in audio engineering science, followed by a teaching and research fellowship, he made sure to simultaneously learn about running a business, building a team, prototyping and raising money.

Around the time he founded the company, David started looking for the core team, as until then, it had only been him. He is the kind of guy who comes up with solutions. He describes himself as an “ideas type of person. I’ve been a clinician, an academic, and now I’m an entrepreneur. I’m always trying to do different things and I have a natural desire to solve problems.”

Helping him and his team along the way has been EIT Health, whose LaunchLab program led them to their first customer in late 2016. While many startups look to the LaunchLab as a path to validation, David and EarTex had already passed that stage. “We already knew that we were dealing with a real problem and that we had a real solution. Our number-one objective was to secure a launching customer.”

Their first purchase came in December 2016 from none other than marine giant Van Oord. Since then, they have been in talks with a number of other international companies and have done a pilot project with French electric utility company Engie.

With a current team of 11, EarTex has grown quickly in just over a year, and they are looking to do so in the months to come as well. “Our next big goal is to scale up our manufacturing,” David says. “The idea is that as soon as one of our potential customers turns into a big one, with purchase orders in the hundreds or thousands, we want to be ready to execute and deliver quickly.”

Getting a big order is what David believes will push EarTex away from being a startup and closer to being an established player on the market. Based on their current growth, that may well happen sooner rather than later.

November 2015 – Company founded
May 2016 – First round of seed funding raised
July 2016 – Start of EIT Health LaunchLab
August 2016 – First prototype ready
December 2016 – First purchase from launching customer Van Oord


Harnessing the power of wind

Wind is one of the cleanest sources of energy around us, but learning to harness its power is no easy task. Sander and Eline Mertens know all about it. They say the key is to really understand how wind works. As founders of Windchallenge, they’re developing innovative wind energy solutions – among which a wind turbine called The Windleaf – for customers in the Netherlands and abroad.

For Sander, wind has always been somewhat of a special interest. Already in his early school years, he designed and built his very own wind turbine. At university, he studied Physics and Aerospace Engineering, eventually earning a PhD in Wind Energy in the Built Environment. Today – together with Eline, his partner in business and in life – he runs Windchallenge and makes sure that wind energy is harnessed as efficiently as possible.

Sander and Eline’s joint journey towards Windchallenge started back in 2007 when they founded Ingreenious, a consultancy focused on helping organizations reduce their carbon footprint.

“We weren’t the youngest of entrepreneurs when we started out,” Eline laughs. “We already had kids and a house, so we needed to make sure we had a steady source of income.” The consultancy was a stepping stone towards launching their own social venture.

Windchallenge Holland officially came into existence in May 2013, after Sander and Eline spent nearly four years researching and designing a state-of-the-art wind turbine. The Windleaf, currently their core product, is innovative in that it is stormproof, as well as easy to mount on anything from building rooftops to street light poles.

As of late 2016, the technology behind it has been patented in both Europe and the U.S. “The patent is for the pitching system of the wind turbine,” Eline explains. The idea is that with high wind speeds, the blades are able to adjust their position to optimize performance and avoid possible damage.

The years leading up to the creation of Windchallenge were years of hard work and preparations to introduce a full-blown product onto the market. “We started with our design, but didn’t communicate any of our progress until we were ready for sales,” Eline remembers. “We didn’t want to lose our focus.”

Getting to the point where they were sales-ready, however, wasn’t without the help of experts and the business support of YES!Delft, they say. Sander and Eline joined the incubator at a very early stage of their idea’s development, and they see that as a good thing.

“YES!Delft was a very nice environment for us,” Eline says, referring in particular to the fact that they were working side by side with other innovative companies. Apart from having a dedicated working space for assembling their wind turbine, they were also able to install it on YES!Delft’s rooftop. “We used that opportunity for testing our product, but also as a showroom experience for our customers.”

Since then, a lot has changed for Windchallenge. With a long-term investor onboard and a team of more than 10 people, the company now operates out of its office in Rotterdam and is looking towards a year of international expansion. After securing multiple customers in the Netherlands, Windchallenge is currently looking towards Denmark, Norway and Sweden.

And they don’t plan to stop there. In five years time, they want to be international market leaders.

What is perhaps even more important, though, is that offering customers an innovative product is not the only thing that Sander, Eline and their team want to achieve. They want to make people increasingly aware of the advantages of green energy, and help contribute to a more self-aware future.

For a team with such a strong connection to nature, that shouldn’t really be a problem.

2009 – Admission into YES!Delft
May 2013 – Founded Windchallenge Holland
August 2015 – Moved to new office in Rotterdam
October 2015 – New investor onboard
November 2016 – Kick-off of redesigned wind turbine
Q4 2016 – Secured wind turbine patent for Europe and the U.S.


Lighting the future

For Chintan, not wasting energy is not just in his genes anymore. Today, it is also part of his entrepreneurial endeavor that goes by the name of Tvilight – a Netherlands based company that provides cities with intelligent lighting solutions in order to optimize energy use and cut down on light pollution. In short: Chintan is working towards the future of Smart Cities.

As a former engineer for an oil and gas company Chintan used to spend hours and hours on flights across Europe. The idea for Tvilight was born exactly on one of his evening flights. A look out the window made him notice “this amazing number of lights […] From above you can see whether there are people in the streets, which made me wonder how come so many lights are burning even when no one’s around.” Some initial research presented him with a number of curious findings. “There are over 300 million street lights around the world resulting in street light infrastructure costs of over 10 billion euros. And that’s only the cost of energy, maintenance excluded.”

This is the point where I thought we should do something about this. I understand that, for safety purposes, we need light, but we only need it when there are people around. So then I had the idea: to develop sensors, which would regulate the light intensity based on human presence.” The result would be up to 80% of energy saved.

His next move was to go to his alma mater, TU Delft, where a professor was quick to believe in the potential of his idea. The experience was eye-opening: “People are willing to help you if they see a passion in you. They are ready to open a door for you, if you ask for it – and in my case, that’s all I needed. The rest was up to me.”

Via the university, Chintan received first financing for his project as well as the help of eight students from different TU Delft faculties. They launched a pilot version of the connected lighting system on campus in 2011 and were able to prove that it saves up to 80% of energy.

The success of this initial project attracted media attention, leading Chintan to receive customer requests from several municipalities in the Netherlands. Three of them agreed to give him a year to develop a commercial version of the system. Discussions with investors, banks and subsidy providers, in turn, helped him secure much-needed financing that gave him the stability and confidence to found Tvilight in early 2012.

In the spirit of working with professionals willing to help each other, Tvilight applied for – and got accepted into – YES!Delft’s Incubation Program in 2013. “In this entrepreneurial environment, I have been able to find like-minded people to work and exchange ideas with, as well as to help and learn from. Entrepreneurs constantly face challenges with technology, with finding resources, with financing. [At YES!Delft], we’re all in the same boat – and although our paths are different, the destination is similar, because we all want to fulfill our dream.”

In addition to being in direct contact with fellow entrepreneurs, Chintan has also taken plenty away from YES!Delft’s close ties to the university. Access to the labs and the right kind of talent has been an invaluable contribution to the development of Tvilight.

Today, Tvilight has a team of 35, and the company wants to expand globally in the years to come. So far, the team runs more than 100 projects in over 10 countries, including a large one on the Dutch island of Texel. What’s more, with a recent investment by lighting industry giant OSRAM, Tvilight is looking to scale exponentially.

“I think this is the beginning of a new journey. It’s the beginning of Tvilight 2.0, where we want to make a product that will last long [and will go] beyond lighting.”

The company already offers several Smart City and Internet of Things (IoT) applications like traffic heat maps, among others. For Chintan, the future of Tvilight is to continue on that path, yet on a much bigger, more prominent scale.

Q2 2011 – First demo ready
Q4 2011 – Arranged first angel investments
End of 2011 – First paying customers interested in Tvilight
January 2012 – Company founded
April 2013 – Series A investment secured
November 2016 – Osram invests in Tvilight


A new horizon in fuel efficiency for ships

In this day and age, where we are conscious about our natural resources and aware of our carbon footprint, we are using everything within our brainpower to make cargo vessels more fuel efficient, right? Well, guess again. It’s an industry of lucky assumptions when it comes to – even the knowledge of – fuel consumption. Start-up We4Sea is the first to develop the tools to generate the substantiated data and provide the simulations you would expect to monitor and adapt fuel efficiency. And, considering the size of the industry, it’s bound to have a huge impact.

Dan and Michiel are about a decade older than the average start-up founder at YES!Delft. Prior to founding We4Sea they had steady careers at research institute TNO. Although they worked in different departments, Dan and Michiel were both awakened by a particular calculation tool TNO developed in the nineties to design a fully electric powered ship. The report was literally put in a drawer, but Dan and Michiel saw potential in the methodology for use in the commercial cargo vessel industry. They had the opportunity to pitch their envisioned tool in the TNO VentureScan (an internal program of TNO for employees with ideas). They won and a ticket to YES!Delft’s Launch Lab / Port Innovation Lab came with the price.

Dan and Michiel could enrol in LaunchLab the day after their winning pitch. It was also the moment where ‘hey, maybe we are onto something’ first crossed their minds. In their case having ‘a day off work’ to completely focus on the idea was exactly what they needed. “There was a healthy competition between start-ups on who was able to speak with the most potential clients. Those conversations have been vital for us to test our assumptions. In over 40 meetings we confirmed that fuel efficiency is a problem and companies have no idea on how to work on this”. Dan and Michiel learned to position their tool within the market and who their clients are. After winning LaunchLab they knew they were definitely onto something. The next step was almost inevitable. They both resigned from TNO and enrolled in YES!Delft’s incubator program fulltime to redevelop and market the tool from scratch. They enjoy the cooperative culture at YES!Delft. “We have secretly become an IT company and at YES!Delft there are so many bright minds from fellow start-ups around that are eager help us. And whenever someone that could be important to We4Sea, like an executive from the Port of Rotterdam is visiting YES!Delft we get the memo.”

By 2019, We4Sea aims to monitor over 500 vessels to help to save over 100 million ton of CO2 annually. And they are well on their way. All anchors aweigh, as a captain would say.

August 2015: winner of TNO’s VentureScan
December 2015: winner of YES!Delft’s Launch Lab
March 2016: enrolling in YES!Delft incubator
April 2016: demo ready
May 2016: first data from launching customer Flinter


Serial entrepreneurs in the heavy industries

When MOCS was founded in the early days of 2012, Peter Madlener and Wouter Riedijk were determined to hit the market with their signature joining technique for large composite structures. Soon, however, they found out that the technique would take some years to develop, but that they did the right thing by starting a company. By doing engineering projects, they started building a team and analyzing the market’s greatest needs. MOCS became the entity to launch new products in the heavy industries, three of which are now realized: FWD, CODURE and Viktor.

Peter’s idea to create the signature joining technique behind MOCS came about in the early days of 2012. With a background in Maritime Engineering, a degree both Peter and Wouter earned at the TU Delft, the two entrepreneurs were determined to make composite structures more lightweight and durable, and their production — more affordable.

It was an innovative concept, yet, making it happen turned out to be a time-consuming task. “Soon after we started, we found out that our original idea was very fundamental, and it wasn’t ready to go to market straight away,” Wouter remembers.

While the two founders continued to develop the concept in the background, they focused on offering a wider variety of products and services. On the one hand, they provided customers with engineering services, which are, to date, an important source of revenues. On the other, they developed and launched a completely new product, FWD (as in Forward), making bridges out of fibre-reinforced plastic. It was their first spin-off, and it was a successful one. In early 2016, they managed to sell it, and with the money, launched two new projects: Viktor and CODURE.

Viktor, a web-based software program, evolved out of the need of clients to automate various engineering processes. CODURE, in turn, was created to continue the development of the entrepreneurs’ original idea. “After five years, our initial concept is finally finished,” Wouter says. “It is a beautiful niche product with a worldwide market, and now we can start selling it!”

Since its early beginnings, the company has not only grown its product base, but also its team. With 12 full-time employees and a number of part-timers and freelancers, there are now more than 20 people working on the MOCS mission.

Yet, achieving this growth hasn’t been without the help of experts: Soon after founding the company, Wouter and Peter joined YES!Delft’s Incubation Program.

“YES!Delft’s network has contributed greatly to our development,” Wouter says. “That is both the network with other entrepreneurs in the building as well as the network around the incubator — including investors, experts and potential new clients.”

And the results are there: As of March 2017, Wouter and the team are happy to announce a successful funding round from Innovation Quarter.

With a number of milestones already checked off, the team behind MOCS is now ready for new heights. The fresh capital provided by Innovation Quarter, in particular, will play an important role in bringing the two spin-offs, Viktor and CODURE, onto the international market.

“Both projects are currently focused on the market in the Netherlands, but we want to start selling worldwide,” Wouter says. “This money will help us get to a stage where we can start our international scale-up.”

In the meantime, a part of the team will continue to work on its existing engineering projects. “These are critical for building relationships and learning more about the market. What’s more, they provide a basic income.” For MOCS, it has always been important that the company is self-sufficient and not necessarily dependent on grants or any other outside funding.

With the progress they have achieved in just over five years, it’s fair to say that has been a mission accomplished. As for the first mission that is.

January 2012 – Company founded and first engineering client secured
August 2012 – Admission into YES!Delft’s Incubation Program
June 2013 – Winners of New Venture 2013
August 2014 – First composite bridge project (Later FWD)
February 2015 – Founding of FWD
May 2015 – First commercial automation project (Later Viktor)
August 2015 – First pilot-project of Joining Technique (Later CODURE)
March 2016 – Sale of first spin-off FWD
June 2016 – Founding of CODURE
March 2017 – Funding from Innovation Quarter secured


The future masters of high-speed travel

Amsterdam and Paris are more than 500 kilometers away from each other, and it’s certainly a few-hour time investment to get from one city to the other. But what if we told you that, somewhere in the future, you could make it in no more than 35 minutes? Really.

The team behind this ambitious project goes by the name of Hardt. They’re developing a travel capsule that combines the speed of a plane with the comfort and convenience of a train.

The roots of this grand idea go back to mid-2013 when none other than Elon Musk himself released a white paper on a new kind of high-speed ground transport system called the Hyperloop. Essentially, it would enable capsules to travel in high speeds inside of a large tube.

For Tim Houter, Team Captain of Hardt, the potential of such a system is great: “Our ultimate goal is to realize Hyperloop networks all around the world and diminish our environmental impact.”

While such a goal would take years, even decades, to fulfill, it is nothing short of realistic. Since June 2015, Tim and his team of 30 TU Delft students have been part of the Hyperloop Pod Competition initiated by Musk’s SpaceX company. And they’re already enjoying successes along the way.

The competition started out with about 2000 applicants which formed 360 official teams, Tim explains. The first round was focused on developing a preliminary design, and just a few months after the start of the competition, teams had to face the first cut: Only 124 of them were selected for the next round. Guess who was one of them.

In the months that followed, teams continued to work on their design and presented a finalized version of it in Texas. Here, Tim and his team were awarded the prestigious Pod Innovation Award. “That’s something we’re very proud of,” he says. Today, Hardt is among the remaining 20+ teams, and has already developed a physical prototype. Presenting it to the wider public was “the best day of my life”, he adds.

But things didn’t stop here for the Delft-based team.

Since then, they have checked off even more milestones. The founders of Hardt started a company for further development, and got accepted into YES!Delft’s Incubation Program, where they continue to accumulate knowledge every day. “YES!Delft has a very large network of entrepreneurs, who are in a similar stage as us,” Tim says. “It is an opportunity to learn from each other, and not make the mistakes that other people have made before us.”


From this point on, the main priority lying ahead of team Hardt is competing – and winning – the Hyperloop Pod Competition. The final round is planned for the end of January 2017.

“We already did a first test with our prototype in California, and it went really well. We’ll go back there in January for the grand finale,” Tim says. The challenge will be for teams to race their pods on the 1.2-kilometer-long test track, where their prototypes’ performance will be assessed based on speed, safety and efficiency, among others.

Winners or not, the team behind Hardt is determined to stay on track and achieve new heights. “Our goal for the future is to continue creating a full-scale hyperloop system.” The stakes are high, yet so is the startup’s potential.

June 2015 – Accepted into ‘Hyperloop Pod Competition’
January 2015 – Won the ‘Pod Innovation Award’
June 2016 – First prototype ready
September 2016 – Admission into YES!Delft’s Incubation Program
November 2016 – First tests performed with prototype


Helping engineers eliminate repetitive work

Reinier van Dijk and Max Baan, two co-founders of ParaPy, have an ambitious plan: to help automate repetitive and time-consuming design processes and give engineers more space to test creative iterations of their products. With an investor and Fokker Aerostructures as their first big customer already onboard, the two are definitely on the right track.

“Our vision is that, nowadays, engineers are a bit too much of an assistant to their computer. Many of them are sitting behind their screens, pressing buttons and doing repetitive work… We hope to reverse [this trend]: We want to make applications that become an assistant to the engineer again.”

Reinier and Max, both with a background in aerospace engineering, met a bit over a year ago and quickly bonded over their enthusiasm for building a software platform that would help engineers do their work faster and more easily. They developed ParaPy (short for Parametric Python), a platform consisting of source code libraries that developers use to make applications. These applications, in turn, “enable them automate design processes […] for complex products”, Reinier explains. Such products include “aircraft, boats and cars, where a lot of time is currently spent on repetitive work like 3D modeling and simulations.” While customers can use ParaPy’s libraries to single-handedly create applications that serve their own needs, they can also outsource the application development process to ParaPy’s team.

The goal of it all is to help engineers become more productive by doing things faster, and by testing multiple iterations in a process. “We envision that companies will easily be able to do tens of thousands of iterations to come up with the best products,” Reinier said.

After months of research and some initial prototyping, ParaPy was officially founded in April 2016, with Reinier, Max and their first investor onboard. Also in April, the team secured a three-month pilot project with aviation company Fokker, which has become one of their first big customers together with the TU Delft. Reinier and Max are looking forward to a one-year project with the company, during which they will work on developing applications.

Apart from that, the team has also negotiated a five-year deal with the TU Delft to use their technology for research on the one hand, and to teach a course in Knowledge-Based Engineering on the other hand.

Helping them along the way has been YES!Delft, whose Incubation Program the two co-founders describe as a one-of-a-kind learning experience.

“We learned a lot in a very small amount of time,” Max said, referring to the myriad of workshops on different topics that they have gone through. “Also, it has been a good reality check for us, to have [experts] critically look at our company – the team and the product – and get some assessments. Now we are better prepared for what’s coming.”

And what’s coming is actually a whole lot. As a main priority, Reinier and Max are looking to attract more projects in similar industries. “We have one good market fit, but that’s only for aerospace engineering,” Max said. “We’re curious to see if that’s also the case for the automotive industry or maritime, among others.”

In the meantime, the team will be working to improve their product and deliver exceptional quality to their first customer, Fokker, by creating applications that would offload engineers from a lot of their repetitive work.

At the end of the day, the mission is clear: Engineers should once again have the space to “ask the questions, come up with the ideas and then have the tools to help them in answering them quickly.”

April 2016
– Founded company
– First investor onboard
– Pilot project with Fokker

May 2016 – Admission to YES!Delft’s Incubation Program
November 2016 – First industrial customer (Fokker) signed

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