Technology is all around and so much so, in fact, that most of us are dependent on the internet or our mobile devices to stay connected with the world around us. On the one hand, that’s great – it brings all of us closer together in ways that were previously unthought of. On the other, though, it can also be a source of major distraction. This is what Tim Smits and Jorn Rigter, co-founders of YES!Delft startup Unpluq, realized while at university and they took it upon themselves to create a solution.
Tim and Jorn have always thought that it would be cool to start something together. “While studying Industrial Design Engineering at the TU Delft, we noticed that we were easily distracted by all the apps we had on our smartphones. And that’s a problem that a lot of other students have nowadays, too,” Tim says. The two of them, thus, saw this as an opportunity to create a new type of solution that would make smartphones less of a distraction.
And so, their entrepreneurial journey began.
“We first took part in a six-month program at the university called Build Your Startup and during that time, we interviewed a lot of people on how they interacted with their smartphones and if they found them to be a distraction.” Needless to say, a lot of them did.
The true value of the Build Your Startup program was to help Tim and Jorn validate their idea and understand the depth of the problem they were trying to solve. “Of course, there were already existing solutions to minimize distraction, like setting reminders and limitations on the phone itself,” Tim says. Yet, what they wanted to achieve was a more lasting solution; something that would keep the smartphone and its user away from distraction in a more tangible way.
So, what they came up with was a physical key that would remove distracting apps from the user’s smartphone. In other words, plug in this physical key and you have access to your distracting apps. Take it out and your phone is stripped down to just its “normal” functions.
Important to understand about the concept of Unpluq is that everyone can define for themselves what distracting apps really are. While the team offers a preselection and a list of tips, it is up to each user to decide what these apps are – or should be. That way everyone can judge for themselves what they consider to be taking away from their productive time.
At the end of the program, Tim and Jorn launched a Kickstarter campaign with the goal of raising 10,000 euros. They describe it as their “first validation moment”, especially as they reached their target. Most of their customers are millennials and Generation Z users and while most physical keys have been sold within the Netherlands, Unpluq has also had interest from abroad.
Since then, though, their business model has taken a new turn. “While we started out with a hardware solution, we have since moved mostly to software,” Tim says. “Hardware tends to limit growth, software is more scalable. We willmay introduce a mixed model soonlater on, where the Unpluq app is the basis and the hardware product is an add-on that users can choose to buy.”
In order for the software solution to work as well as the physical key, Tim and Jorn have identified, what they call, “distraction barriers” as a key feature. Since all apps – distracting or not – would now be one the user’s phone, there need to be barriers to getting into the distracting apps too easily. By introducing distraction barriers, Unpluq would require users to shake their phone until a meter is filled or scan a QR codemove to have their apps unlocked, to name a few.
“Our physical key was what made us unique and now so are our distraction barriers. They are not the same as simply blocking apps,” Tim says.
To date, the team has raised close to 1400,000 euros and are currently raising another round on leapfunder. After that they are aiming for a larger round of investment, which would help them expand to the US – their next big market, as they see it. That would also allow them to hire their first full-time employee and further grow their team.
Unpluq is also looking to branch out to new customer segments and approach employers with their solutions. “We want to start selling to companies that want to offer our tool as an option to their employees. It is very relevant in the time of remote working when it’s easier to get distracted.”
Tim and Jorn currently have a team of interns who help them in a number of different aspects of the startup’s development. The two co-founders have also benefited from the expert network of YES!Delft and even have fellow entrepreneurs from the community as their advisors. “Having such a strong support network has been very valuable for us starting out,” Tim says.
And it’s only up from here. Going forward, the team will be working towards the iPhone version of Unpluq and further developing their software, diversifying their customer portfolio in the Netherlands and raising funds to expand internationally.
Almost 1 million plastic bottles are sold every minute. In one year, that number goes as high as 480 billion. This is what a report found back in 2019 and those numbers are likely to keep increasing in the future. Finding alternatives to single-use plastics, and in particular water bottles, has thus become a priority embraced by governments as well as businesses.
Aquablu, a Dutch startup from the YES!Delft ecosystem, is one of those companies working towards a more plastic-free future. With their smart water purifying technology, the team have set themselves the ambitious goal to eliminate 1 billion bottles by 2030.
A few years back, co-founder Marnix Stokvis was on a trip to South Africa when he got the idea for what is now known as Aquablu. “I was in Cape Town, surfing, when I encountered the plastic problem South Africa was facing,” he says. “Plastic pollution was very evident there, and especially so in the water. It got me thinking about water accessibility and what could be done to minimize the use of plastic bottles.”
Marnix reached out to his friend and soon to be fellow co-founder Marc van Zuylen and the two turned his initial idea into a business concept. They founded Aquablu at the end of 2016 and started developing their first water purification system. Yet, their ambition went way beyond a single product.
“We came together around one core mission and that was to enable a plastic-free world,” Marc says.
In working towards that mission, Marc and Marnix knew that their solution would also be an ambitious one. They set off to develop a smart purification system that would not only provide clean drinking water, but also feed its users a wide range of data about the quality of the water and the technical status of the system, among others. In the spirit of personalization, it also makes it possible for users to quantify their positive impact on the environment by knowing just how much water they have purified with their Aquablu system.
The smart technology behind the solution plays another important role, too. The fact that their technology can monitor how much water is being purified with their systems enables them to make very specific promises.
“Together with the Made Blue Foundation, an entrepreneurial charity in the Netherlands, we offer the Liter for Liter promise. That means for every liter of water that is purified with our systems, a liter of clean drinking water is donated to places where it is a scarcity,” Marnix says.
And while Aquablu has a global mission, the team has made the conscious choice to start at home before they expand far and wide. “Our initial idea was to sell internationally – and we did that. We delivered our system to 13 different countries,” Marc says. But with time, he and Marnix kept talking to people around them and realized that even in the Netherlands, where there is access to clean drinking tap water, many still buy single-use plastic bottles. “We decided to tackle the issue at home first.”
Since then, they have tweaked their business approach and are mostly focusing on the local B2B market with their Aquablu Refill solution, which transforms “ordinary tap water into purified mineral water.” Large offices and commercial buildings have been among their key customers. As of recently, they are also running a pilot project with supermarket chain Jumbo.
“We currently have our system at a Jumbo supermarket in Amsterdam, where customers can either refill their own bottle or buy an Aquablu bottle with purified water,” Marnix says. The goal for the future is to expand their offering to more supermarkets and become a feasible alternative to bottled water.
While already having its own revenue flow, the startup is still dependent on external funding – so far made available by family and an investor – in order to scale its R&D and production. Once they are well established in the Netherlands, the team will look to expand to the rest of Benelux, Germany and then further into Europe.
“In up to three years, we are aiming at total domination in Europe,” Marc and Marnix laugh but they sure mean it. “After Europe, we will expand towards either the US or Asia. It depends where the need is greater and where we find reliable partners first.”
The plan ahead of the two co-founders and their team is big but after all, their goal is to eliminate 1 billion bottles by 2030. Ambitious as they are, “we think we can even exceed it.”
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For people who use prosthetic feet, a comfortable fit and a wide range of functionality are key. From walking and going about everyday life, to running and doing sports, a prosthesis would ideally accommodate various activities requiring various intensity. And as this is not the norm in the market just yet, Gyromotics – a startup from the YES!Delft ecosystem – has made it their mission to change that.
The beginnings of Gyromotics come from a personal story. Guido Hendriks, one of the two co-founders, has first-hand experience with finding just the right prosthetic feet. His son, Olivier, now 18 years old, was born with a congenital limb deficiency and has been using prostheses ever since he was a child.
“It wasn’t until Olivier was about 6 years old that we got him on small blades instead of his everyday prostheses,” Guido remembers. “That’s when we understood how restricted he had been by his prostheses at the time. Adults tend to underestimate that.”
All Olivier wanted as a child was to be able to play on the playground and run with the other kids. As soon as he got on running blades, he was able to move a lot more – and faster – and started playing football.
“He played football until he was around 12, at which point he was scouted for the Dutch running team,” Guido says. “It was obvious that he was moving quite fast. My wife and I always wanted him to be able to run – and that’s exactly what he is doing now.”
As one of his latest achievements, Olivier won a silver medal at the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo in the 400m sprint.
Over the years, Guido has done extensive research on what prostheses are available on the market. His conclusion: there are no prosthetic feet yet, which people can use both for day-to-day activities and sports. That is what he and his co-founder Jaap Roggeveen set out to change.
“To be able to have only one type of prosthesis for multiple activities and different shoes at the same time, it would need to adjust at the ankle. Our users are in control and decide what shoes they wear during the day and how they use them. Gyromotics’ users change from work to sports with the heel just off the floor to high heels at a party – all with the same foot,” Guido explains. “Our solution is the only prosthesis on the market that allows you to stand on the toes of your shoes and so combines a daily foot and a running blade in one product.”
What makes Gyromotics’s prosthesis smart is exactly the fact that it provides the user flexibility to be able to perform different activities with the same foot, such as walking and running. Also, the bottom is made up of two halves that are separated to offer more stability in case the person steps sideways.
“Since we started, we have proven the concept and in the last year, we have been working on improving the design and the looks based on customer feedback. In the near future, we will start working with two big companies that make sockets for prosthetic feet and we’ll become part of their standardized assortment.”
At the moment, Gyromotics is only offering feet for adults. Yet, since it all started with the goal to make it easier for young children to move around, they are soon going to expand their offering.
“We recently won a project with SportInnovator, the programme for sport innovation and research by the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport,” Guido says. “As part of it, and together with the TU Delft and Team Para Atletiek, we will develop a prosthesis for kids. That way we can finally come a full circle.”
Along the way, they have been getting help from the experts and community of YES!Delft and that is something Guido considers very valuable. It has not only increased their credibility with potential investors and partners, but it has taught them how to run a company as a small team. This is knowledge that will surely propel Gyromotics on their way to success.
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Flying pests in greenhouses are surely one of the main challenges that growers face in their day-to-day work. Moths, in particular, pose a few difficulties: They are active at night, they can lay hundreds of caterpillars in a short period of time, and they rarely fall for conventional traps. Having the right tools to control such pests is, therefore, crucial. With their innovative technology, PATS Drones, a startup from the YES!Delft ecosystem, can not only monitor insects in crops, but also help eradicate them.
Automating the pest monitoring process
Interestingly enough, the idea for PATS did not originate from horticulture. It all started with a personal annoyance – mosquitos buzzing around the heads of Sjoerd Tijmons and Kevin van Hecke, two of the founders, in the middle of the night. That got them thinking of ways to control – if not eradicate – flying pests. With their backgrounds in autonomous flying vehicles, they figured they could turn to drone technology to help intersect flying insects.
It was this simple idea that later laid the foundation of PATS. While the mosquitos were eventually left alone, it did get Sjoerd and his brother Bram to think about the potential of small drones in controlling flying insects. Together with Kevin, they turned to horticulture as a market with large potential for such technology.
“Pests can be fierce,” says Bram, “and the use of insecticides in greenhouses are becoming stricter and stricter regulated. With our smart drone solutions, we help growers monitor and control the pest population in their greenhouses while limiting the use of chemicals.”
The startup is currently focusing on moths, an insect that can create quite some damage to crops. Because moths can reproduce quickly, it is crucial that growers have the tools to detect them as soon as possible. The PATS-C system that the team has developed is essentially a “real-time scouting solution for pests”. It enables early detection and tracking of harmful populations, without the need for growers to do any manual work.
All that is needed is for the system to be mounted on the greenhouse leg, from where its camera can capture images of the moth population. As moths are active at night, that’s when the detection takes place and, in the morning, growers get a dashboard overview of the presence of the insects. This makes it possible to identify the moths early on, so growers can take action in time.
“With our technology, we can detect moth presence weeks before conventional tools, and early detection is crucial for effective pest management,” Bram says. “By automating this process, we help growers save both time and costs. PATS-C also helps them understand the trends in their greenhouse, and predict – with a high level of precision – the lifecycle the moths are in.”
New partnerships and next steps
Acknowledging the potential of the startup’s solution are the tens of growers that are currently using the early detection and pest population tracking system. In September, PATS also signed an agreement with Royal Brinkman, one of the largest suppliers for horticulture in the Netherlands, to provide them with their PATS-C system.
“Royal Brinkman are a great partner to have and learn from,” Bram says. “They sell PATS-C as part of their crop protection portfolio. Together, we help growers in tracking pests early and accurately, so that Royal Brinkman can advise them proactively on taking countermeasures.”
As of more recently, the startup has also been positioning its PATS-X solution on the market. It enables fully automated and effective insect control with the help of very small drones , and without the use of insecticides. “We now have our autonomous system ready, and we will be rolling it out in early 2022.”
Going forward, the team of now 8 will be looking to grow with specialists in the fields of sales, marketing and development, among others. In addition to launching their drone systems, they also want to further scale their monitoring solution in the market.
“We are going to focus on this geographic area for now to show that we are ready to go global,” Bram says. “To do so, we will gradually be adding more insects to our solutions to gain market relevance. One insect type is good, two is much better and with three we would already be very relevant to most growers.”
Bram and his team surely have their plan ready. From now on, it’s a matter of more hard work, making the right connections and scaling.
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The ComplexTech startup is expanding abroad! To better serve their customers and be present in the heart of the German automotive industry, they are taking their first step towards internationalization by opening a new office in Munich. From there, they will service and expand its customer base in Germany and Austria.
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What is the impact of the Internet of Things on the environment? And will 5G help or hinder Britain’s target of net-zero emissions by 2050? As the implementation of 5G is projected to consume nine times more power than 4G the Accelerator alumnus’ power harvesting solution might be the way forward.
The Robotics startup is continuing their upward trajectory: the Somnox sleep robot is now available in the world-famous Harrods flagship store in London. Moreover, the UK national newspaper The Telegraph put the robot to the test to cure insomnia. Curious to see how Somnox fared?
IJsbrand de Lange, the founder of the MedTech startup, received the Inspirational Award 2019. The EIT Health Validation Lab and Accelerator alumnus is developing a brace that tackles tremors or uncontrollable rhythmic movements, common in Parkinsons patients. IJsbrand received the award at the opening ceremony of the TU Delft academic year.
The AI and EdTech startup Feedback Fruits and the CleanTech startup Solar Monkey are nominated by Deloitte in the category Technology Fast 50. The nomination recognizes the fastest growing technology companies which were founded no more than four years ago. Moreover, the nominees will compete in Amsterdam in October for the Rising Star 2019 award.
Starting a new business in the Netherlands might be a challenge, but the FWDpay team is taking on two challenges. They have joined the ranks of our Digital Hub YES!Delft The Hague. This startup is grasping the opportunity that Open Banking offers: by enabling customers to simply create SMART contracts and thus control money flow. Moreover, the founders have also kicked off Project.BB. Together with students from TU Delft Robotics Minor and Haagse Hogeschool Blockchain Minor, they are developing a beach cleaning robot!
The Validation Lab alumnus has been selected as a finalist for this year’s HealthTech Challenge. This is the European leg of the worldwide Women Startup Challenge, organized by Women Who Tech. The finalists will compete for a $50,000 cash grant on October 7 in Paris. Meds²Go develops innovative cooling containers for people who use temperature-sensitive medicines.
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Envision, Solar Monkey and Urbandine, three of our startups located in our Digital Hub YES!Delft The Hague were selected to join the Web Summit this November in Lisbon. They all pitched at the Fast Forward competition at The Hague Tech earlier this month. Ultimately, the jury was so impressed by the quality of the startups, they selected ten winners instead of six.
The MedTech startup STIL and the Robotics/AI startup Mythronics kicked off the Digital Entrepreneurship course for 70 students at the Delft Center for Entrepreneurship. During the course, they presented challenges, problems, and issues that come with tech entrepreneurship. Students then could try their hand at being an entrepreneur by pitching their ideas.
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The ComplexTech startup and Accelerator alumnus is participating in the Antwerp Port XL program. They are matched to the DEME Group to do a use case with the aim of getting a paid contract. Additionally, they announced a new partnership with Maxon Benelux. Together they aim to develop a new generation of haptic ship controls.
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Not too long ago we celebrated Hardt Hyperloop for their grand achievement of the first functional hyperloop in Europe. But summer is not slowing down the Validation Lab and Accelerator alumnus: CEO Tim Houter has been nominated by EIT for the Innovators Award.
This AI/Blockchain Validation Lab alumnus just launched the first phase of their decentralized AI platform. Consequently, data science teams can upload their vast quantities of data – for example for a chatbot. Finally, ambassadors around the world then structure, enrich and annotated it. In this aspect, it works similarly to Mechanical Turk.
Commercial Director Jaap Hoogland received the prestigious Red Dot Design Award for the design of the Skelex360. The design for the exoskeleton with its high ergonomic wearability was made in collaboration with Van Berlo. Above all, The Red Dot jury praised the way the Skelex360 supports wearers without limiting their freedom of movement.
Opened its doors for the GESTE summer school, which aims to make tech accessible to everyone. The Validation Lab and Accelerator alumnus believes age, nationality, gender or education systems shouldn’t be limiting factors of learning. Therefore, they welcomed twenty children between the ages of 10 and 12 during the summer school program, and help them get enthusiastic about tech! Gemeente Delft, TNO, YES!Delft, TU Delft, Designathon Works & Kids Akademie support this inaugural edition.
Last year’s EIT Health Validation Lab winners — AidX Medical got the chance to pitch on national radio, in BNR Zakendoen. Co-founder Mirte Vendel represented the MedTech startup and impressed the jury of entrepreneurs with her pitch. Their product makes malaria detection cheaper, faster, accessible to all and more reliable. Finally, their goal is to enable malaria diagnoses to be executed without the need for medical expertise, to be implemented in rural areas.
Four YES!Delft startups, Physee, Envision, CloudCuddle, and Kitepower, have been nominated in the Innovation top 100 by the KVK (Dutch Chamber of Commerce). Finally, the exact raking will be presented by the jury on September 25. Moreover, Robotics startup Somnox and CleanTech startup Qlayers were featured in the KVK YouTube series Beyond Business.
On the 25th of June YES!Delft The Hague was proud to host Startup Tuesday! This weekly event is a collaboration between the innovative hubs in The Hague with the aim to strengthen connections and support impact-driven entrepreneurship. Certainly, it’s the perfect occasion to learn from experienced startup founders! Therefore, YES!Delft The Hague had local AI startups Envision and Dutch Analytics to pitch to the visitors. Startup Tuesday is a collaboration between The Hague Tech, Impact City, The Hague Humanity Hub, Apollo 14, and World Startup Factory.
The CleanTech startup operates in 19 countries worldwide already, but now they have broken new ground with their brand new HyPump. This second-generation hydro-powered irrigation-pump is stationary and specially designed for large volumes of irrigation. Furthermore, HyPump in Lliria (Spain) is estimated to pump 6 liters of water per second. So that comes to 500m3 per day up to the height of 35 meters or to a distance of 3.5 km, all without any fuel or electricity.
INSEAD Summer Start-Up Tour (‘SSUP!) is a discovery tour of the top entrepreneurial hot-spots around Europe and Asia. They interview entrepreneurs, angels, and VCs – and on their stop in the Netherlands they, of course, visited YES!Delft. Therefore, our startup trainer Ruben Kranendonk took them on a tour of our incubator, and introduced them to Nowi and VSParticle, who for them exemplify inspired (deep) tech solutions at YES!Delft.
More good news from the NanoTech startup! They welcomed the EU Science, research and Innovation in Petten as a new customer. Therefore, the new customer will use VSParticle’s equipment to study the behavior of nanoparticles under ion and neutron bombardment, in view of radioisotope production studies.
Summer is not slowing YES!Delft startups, what about yours? Tip our PR Coordinator Nan de Bruin on firstname.lastname@example.org for the next top 10 tech startup success stories.
Not only has AI startup Envision made the move to the brand new YES!Delft the Hague Digital Hub, at its grand opening they celebrated having successfully raised 250 000 EUR seed investment. Of course, they did so in traditional YES!Delft style; sabering champagne like pros!
At Get in the Ring 2019, EdTech/AI startup Warp Industries wowed the 16 judges and came out on top in their battle. Out of 87 participants, this startup pitched their way to the top! This means they will be attending Global Meetup 2019 in Berlin, a huge networking event with other startups, investors, and innovation professionals.
Since 2016 the team has been developing intuitive and user-friendly applications that make complex sound and vibration levels analysis accessible. Now VIBES.technology have launched DIRAC, the first software of its kind and a breakthrough application for test-based modeling. DIRAC ensures traceability of results and indicates the quality of the measurement.
Currently in our Accelerator Program, Smart-Ship continues to make waves! Their ambitious goal of autonomous shipping has landed the team a feature in Maritime Delta. Their innovative technology aims for a harmonious collaboration between man and machine to minimize human error in the shipping industry.
The Dutch Semiconductor innovator won first place at the 2019 IoT World Cup for its work on energy harvesting technology. NOWI technology enables companies to use the energy that is already readily available around the device. This can be light, heat, movement or even radio waves. There is energy all around us that can now be converted and used to power IoT devices.
This MedTech startup, developing a brace to help stabilize the hands of Parkinson’s patients, has received funding from the Rabobank Innovation Fund. Moreover, Rabobank and STIL have joined forces so that the anti-tremor brace can be tested in a Clinical Study.
This robotics tech startup dream team has landed (another!) feature by the BBC. Moreover, the first sleeping robots are on their way to the earliest backers of the startup! The first sleep robots started to reach their Kickstarter backers this week! A dream come true!
Big round of applause: BI/OND, one of our MedTech startups, has made it to the final of the Philips Innovation Award! On May 6, BI/OND are pitching against 4 other startups in the Innovator Award category grand final. And they’re not the only YES!Delft startup! DeNoize, part of the Accelerator Program, is in the final as well. The main prize is 50 000 EUR cash. Fingers crossed for both of these amazing startups!
Yesterday, the Semi-Final & Innovation Market took place in het Drijvend Paviljoen in Rotterdam. It was a day full of…
The startup, whose innovative software maps the yield of solar panels, has raised 1M in funding. The money will be used to speed up the rollout, and breaking through in the international market!
We visited the Hello Tomorrow Summit in Paris, where we met many familiar faces! Rob Bedeuker, DSM Investment Director and one of the mentors from our upcoming BioTech Validation Lab, was a speaker in the summit. He talked during an investment panel focused on BioTech. Moreover, we were delighted to see some of our startups in attendance!
Nowi, incubated at YES!Delft, pitched in the Industry 4.0 track.
The startup is implementing their innovative technology, the Agrilaser Autonomic, with great success in Belgium to protect crops from bird damage. This solution has now proven to completely prevent the loss of crops, and moreover has built-in safety features to prevent harm to humans and wildlife. Scaling globally is one step away!
They have been constructing their largest kite yet, a whopping 60m²! These kites are mobile airborne wind energy system that produces clean energy cost-effectively, making green electricity affordable for everyone! Fun cleantech innovations? YES!
This startup is making waves – the video of their hydro pump Barsha in action is going viral! The pump uses energy from flowing water and so does not require fuel or any other energy source to function, meaning it had zero operating costs and is pollution free.
And their sleep robot have been selected for the second stage of the RobotUnion Acceleration program! In this Product Acceleration Phase, they will receive 120 000 EUR in financing and assistance from Robotic specialists and a Technical Mentor to help perfect the development of their sleeping robot. They are really onto sweet dreams!
This growing team and their solar-powered windows are featured in a deep dive by ScaleUpNation, reflecting on their journey through last year’s Runway Program and their mastering of the art of scaling.
The off-shore startup received funding from ENERGIIQ, the energy innovation fund for South Holland to help realize the ambition to help save 1 million tons of CO2 in the maritime industry by 2020. We4Sea offers a unique solution in analyzing and reporting fuel consumption and the associated CO2 emissions of seagoing vessels based on a unique Digital Twin concept.
The startup was not only prominently featured in NRC, but now co-founder Aaike van Vugt landed a spot on the Forbes 30 under 30 for Europe in Manufacturing and Industry! Our tech incubator has been attracting ambitious youngsters since 2005!
This team has been on an upward trajectory and recently they landed a well-deserved spot on the list 25 European IoT and hardware startups to watch in 2019.
The group welcomed ABN AMRO Energy Transition Fund as their new shareholder, taking a majority stake in the group. This new shareholder structure and the additional funding will accelerate growth for the group. Eternal Sun Group is one of the first startups incubated at YES!Delft! Joining a tech incubator in the early stage of your startup pays off like this!
The startup unveiled their innovative IntelLeg Knee (ILK), a powered knee prosthesis, that enables amputees to walk more symmetrically and also climb stairs in the natural step-over-step manner.
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