We don’t want to build just any kind of startup. We build impactful, purpose-driven ventures that lead to substantial societal change. In fact, all founders or startups looking to enter our program must develop deep-tech hardware that addresses one of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Period. No matter how much Unicorn potential it brings, if the venture doesn’t focus on producing great change, it won’t make the cut.
“We will give them a nice cup of coffee and then, we will say ‘No, thank you,’” says John Bell, HighTechXL’s CEO. “For us, it’s very simple. We want to help solve huge challenges. If you ask us to build a venture that has high potential on the financial side but no impact on society, we will pass.”
Combining deep-tech inventions with impactful value propositions is the number one goal at HighTechXL. Whether it is cleantech, telecommunications, healthcare or one of many other industries, meaningful change must be the focus.
“We think globally. We are global and we think global because societal changes are everywhere, not just in one city or one country,” said Bell.
It helps that HighTechXL is located in the middle of one of the best deep-tech ecosystems in the world. And HighTechXL leverages the knowledge and skills in the Brainport region, getting support by mobilizing the ecosystem.
“Important societal and environmental challenges cannot be solved by things that we already have. You need to go to the edge of science and combine multiple disciplines to solve them,” Bell says. “Unfortunately, you cannot do it with an app. A SaaS solution will not solve the CO2 problem or the plastic soup in the ocean. If you want to solve some of the big challenges, you need deep-tech hardware.”
The team at HighTechXL follows this guiding principle not only in how we select technology but also in how we recruit co-founders, support them in finding like-minded team members and help them shape their companies.
Since HighTechXL builds startups from scratch, it has the unique ability to help each team create a company with a strong foundation in sustainability, morality and maximum influence. This includes everything from company identity, fairness for employees, environmental impact, diversity, equity and inclusion.
“We stimulate people to think differently and we help our startups to think in a stewardship model,” says Bell.
HighTechXL also works hard to connect its ventures with investors focused on these same principles. Not just any investor will be a good fit for deep-tech ventures.
“It’s a challenge. If you are solving these problems, you need deep tech. However, it will take a long time before you get your first customer. You need patience and you need investors with that same perspective,” explains Bell.
“Luckily, there are more and more impact investors. I’m seeing a shift, although it’s a slow shift.”
The investors that back deep-tech ventures must have a long-term perspective as well as a healthy risk appetite. Bell is convinced investors can still achieve large returns by backing companies focused on these big challenges, but it’s not a fast or easy journey.
Creating this impact is not just talk for HighTechXL. Its many successful alumni show proof of this mission statement. Carbyon, Incooling and Alphabeats are three such startups pursuing challenges plaguing society.
Carbyon removes CO2 from the air and turns it into components used for other applications. The solution may sound simple, but it’s very complicated to do, incorporating nanotechnology, material science, thermodynamics and mechatronics. The company achieves the result for a fraction of the cost of similar solutions on the market and as further testament, the team received a $1 million grant from Elon Musk’s XPRIZE competition in 2022.
Incooling is developing a proprietary cooling solution for servers using technology out of CERN. The company’s tagline is “cooling down the planet one server at a time” because its solution could save data centers up to 50% of their energy usage while increasing the performance of the CPUs.
Alphabeats improves mental performance by modulating a person’s brainwaves and by listening to their own personal music. The solution uses neurofeedback technology, an EEG device and a patented algorithm to guide a person into a “flow state” with alpha brainwaves. Alphabeats is now focused on elite athletes and is running pilot programs with two professional Dutch sports clubs.
“Spectacular results happen when you help people focus on maximum impact and motivate them to work together. The results have been astonishing,” boasts Bell.
HighTechXL is changing the way people define the success of a company. Its team is building each and every venture with a strong foundation of sustainability and impact.
“We are building companies that have an impact on the world instead of companies that make significant profits at the expense of the earth.”