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On January 18 2022, the new VC-firm Curiosity officially launched its early-stage fund by announcing a €0.8 million investment in the Dutch ‘explainable AI’ startup Deeploy. The new investment fund focuses on early-stage AI-driven software startups in the fastest growing tech hubs of Northern-Europe to unlock the enormous growth potential.

Curiosity was founded by the experienced investors Herman Kienhuis, former managing director of KPN Ventures, and Maurice Beckand Verwee, founder of startup investor Crosspring, to carry out their mission to support European entrepreneurs in building the new generation of AI-driven software companies to serve the world. The investment fund specifically targets early-stage investments of tech companies in growing fields such as Enterprise software, Marketing/E-commerce, FinTech, Cyber Security, LegalTech, and PropTech. Thereby, focusing on Europe’s fastest-growing tech hubs: the Benelux, Scandinavia, and the Baltics. Curiosity has a unique community-driven approach and aims to grow towards a fund size of €50 million to invest in 20 software companies. By now, 35 investors – mostly entrepreneurs and family offices – have pronounced their commitment to the fund, including co-founders of BinckBank, Scoupy, Litebit, and SecurityMatters.

European technology sector and AI are booming, but seed funding is lacking

By focusing on the early-stage investments of AI startups located in the Benelux, Nordics, and Baltics, Curiosity aims to fill in the current gaps in the financial market. Europe, and especially Northern-Europe, has become one the fastest growing regions in the technology sector worldwide. However, this growth is entirely attributed to the financing of companies in later growth phases. In the Netherlands, the amount invested in the pre-seed and seed phases of startups has been hovering around €200 million for years now*. In 2021 this included merely 4% of the total investments, while market demand is growing rapidly. In addition, the AI software market shows enormous growth potential, with Europe leading the way in setting up regulations regarding responsible deployment of Artificial Intelligence. Curiosity focuses specifically on companies that align with these developments.

Software company Deeploy for AI transparency

Today, Curiosity officially launches its maiden fund by announcing the first investment of €0.8 million in Deeploy, a Dutch startup developing software for transparency, explainability, and traceable accountability for the use of AI. Together with the participation of the founders, a total of €1 million was raised. The funding will be used by Deeploy for further software development aimed at serving large enterprise customers, and building a professional sales organization to prepare for future international expansion. In the long term, Deeploy also aspires to further develop the current cloud-based software into a full SaaS solution. “More and more data is available and collected, combined with smarter technology and algorithms for data processing and machine learning. Therefore, AI is on the verge of its big breakthrough, and will soon be adding substantial value to countless industries. This also means there’s an increased focus on the transparency and accountability of the decisions made by algorithms, and The European Union is working on new regulations regarding the use of AI as we speak. Deeploy’s software fits in perfectly with these developments, and the four founders have the right expertise, execution power and to help companies with an effective product offering”, Herman Kienhuis, co-founder of Curiosity, states. “Besides the obvious fit with the fund’s focus areas, and two experienced investors in charge that combine practical and strategic expertise, for us the community focus of Curiosity adds enormous value. By making both entrepreneurs and advisors co-owners of the fund, a cross-fertilization of various expertise and knowledge is stimulated. This makes for a strong supporting network to create continuous growth for all companies in the portfolio”, says Bastiaan van de Rakt, co-founder of Deeploy.

A community-driven fund for growth

By targeting a portfolio size of 20 fast-growing startups, Curiosity offers investors an opportunity to seize the growth potential of this market while managing risk through diversification. Entrepreneurs that are backed by the fund, benefit from an active community of expert advisors, entrepreneurs, investors and service partners for support and knowledge sharing. Most distinctive about the investment fund is its community-driven approach. Entrepreneurs supported by Curiosity become co-owners of the fund, leading to an increased interest in portfolio growth, and encouragement of peer-to-peer knowledge sharing. In addition, the founders have gathered a group of experienced advisors to join the community, including established names such as Daniel Gebler (Picnic), Ulla Kruhse-Lehtonen (DAIN Studios), Patrick de Laive (TNW), Jan Kees de Jager (Easygenerator), Aik Deveneijns (Levelup), and Christina Caljé (Autheos). These advisors will also become co-owners of the fund and will invest their time and expertise to support the fund management and companies within its portfolio. Curiosity emphasizes the importance of corporate social responsibility. The fund specifically focuses on funding software companies that aim for the responsible deployment of AI, and will assist the entrepreneurs in developing a strong AI ethics policy, in line with European values and regulations. In addition, Curiosity has joined the #Fundright movement, and is therefore actively set on building a diverse team, community and portfolio, offering equal access to opportunity.

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We are very proud to share the 2021 edition of our market map of the AI startup and scaleup ecosystem for the province of Zuid-Holland. Last year our market map included almost 100 startups. This number has grown to almost 150 startups this year. This is about a quarter of all AI startups in the Netherlands.

Tim Franken, Senior Business Developer Digital Technology at InnovationQuarter: “I am very excited by the results of our yearly AI ecosystem analysis. We have noticed a steady growth in both the number and size of startups and scale-ups, contributing to the development and application of Data Science and AI. It is remarkable how many of these companies address societal challenges, both in The Netherlands and beyond. They solve complex logistical challenges in the world’s largest port areas, contribute to the energy transition, improve medical care and help to solve global food supply issues.”

We have seen more and more companies reaching the scale-up phase, attracting serious investment and expanding their teams. A couple of notable investment deals this year include: Doculayer, Spotr.ai, Samotics, EnVision, UbiOps, Gradyent, Fizyr, Focus and Orchest.

Ras Lalmy, Managing Director at Yes!Delft The Hague confirms the growing ecosystem of AI startups. “At Yes!Delft The Hague we work hard to guide early-stage digital startups and to develop the ecosystem supporting them. In our validation labs, we welcome a growing number of high potential AI startups. In the coming year, we see this region developing into a leading AI ecosystem where startups and scale-ups can thrive.”

From our research, we learned that Zuid-Holland has a particularly high concentration of startups with applications in the fields of Life Sciences & Health, Port, Maritime & Logistics, Energy & Sutainability, Agri/Horticulture & Food, Security and Manufacturing (Smart Industry). Our region is well-positioned to generate great impact in these domains. Also, there is a very substantial pool of companies with more general (supporting) AI services.

Anita Lieverdink, chair of the working group Startups & scale-ups of the Netherlands AI Coalition (NL AIC): “It’s great to see such substantial growth in the number of startups and scale-ups in this region. The NL AIC supports these young tech companies, as we collaborate on a national level to break down their barriers for growth. I am very pleased with this overview created by InnovationQuarter, and look forward to scaling this landscape on a national and EU level.”

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QuantWare has secured a €650,000 investment from proof-of-concept fund UNIIQ, investment fund FORWARD.one and angel investors. With investments of Rabobank and Quantum Delta NL, and having been granted both a regional and a European subsidy, the company has over 1 million Euro to spend on its development. QuantWare will use the investment to further develop its technology, which significantly increases the computational power of quantum processors, and to produce and deliver their standardized quantum processors with exceptionally short delivery times. By making quantum processors more readily available to quantum researchers and start-ups, quantum research can be accelerated. This brings commercialisation of the quantum computer another step closer to reality. The UNIIQ-investment was announced via video by Freeke Heijman from Quantum Delta NL and Kees Eijkel from Delft University of Technology.

QuantWare founders Matthijs (L) and Alessandro (R) – Photo by Rebekka Mell

The power of quantum computers

Quantum computing is regarded as the holy grail of solving problems that regular computers cannot solve. The race is therefore on to deliver the first commercial quantum computer. The ‘heart’ of the quantum computer consists of the quantum processor, which computes with quantum-bits or qubits. In contrast to the bits of a regular computer, qubits can simultaneously have a value of 1 and 0. This means that quantum computers can perform calculations beyond the realm of their traditional counterparts and could take mere minutes to solve problems that would take regular computers millions of years. They would be ideal for conducting research into new medicines or materials, for example.

Quantum hardware not yet sufficiently available or self-produced

There are still hurdles to overcome before quantum computers can be commercialised. Access to certain hardware is essential for advancing quantum research, specifically quantum processors and related technology. However, hardware is still insufficiently available and has to be supplied by ‘friendly’ research facilities, or researchers have to learn the skills to produce it themselves. Delivery times and learning curves of six months or longer are not uncommon, which eats up valuable time in this rapidly evolving field. In addition, the computational power of current processors is limited and a solution has not yet been found to sufficiently increase the capacity for use in a commercial quantum computer.

A “Soprano” QPU from QuantWare

QuantWare’s standardised and scalable quantum processors

QuantWare originated at QuTech, the quantum research facility founded by Delft University of Technology and the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO). Possessing extensive experience in quantum research, the QuantWare team has specialised in the development of quantum hardware that is scalable and rapidly deliverable while meeting customers’ (often researchers) needs. The company’s primary focus is to deliver standardised quantum processors so that research can be reproduced by multiple parties, thereby accelerating progress in the field as a whole. As part of the ImpaQT-consortium, a collaboration between 6 private parties, QuantWare contributes by supplying their quantum processors, to ultimately have a so-called NISQ-computer ready to pilot by the end of this year. This brings quantum computing another step closer to commercialisation.

QuantWare will use the investment to scale up production of quantum processors and related hardware, such as amplifiers, and to further develop its innovative technologies which exponentially boost computational power of their processors.

Alessandro Bruno, co-founder of QuantWare, is delighted with the capital injection and says: “The support from UNIIQ, FORWARD.One, Quantum Delta NL and Rabobank will help us bring our quantum processors to market. This will make quantum technology accessible to many more parties, resulting in a crucial contribution to the Dutch quantum ecosystem.”

Hans Dreijklufft, UNIIQ fund manager, notes: “Quantum technology has enormous potential to solve problems that have been insurmountable so far. We are incredibly proud that this investment in QuantWare will enable us to again stimulate a company originating from the strong regional QuTech-Quantum Delft ecosystem, and are delighted that on a national level, Quantum Delta shows support by investing in QuantWare from their Lightspeed fund. Our investment and the support of the quantum ecosystem allows QuantWare to develop at a high pace, thereby indirectly supporting the broader quantum research field in further developing quantum technologies.”

Paul Pruijmboom, partner FORWARD.one: “We’re impressed with the QuantWare team and the company’s innovative technology. The market for quantum computing shows huge potential, and QuantWare delivers a crucial element to speed up development of this market. We are pleased to support QuantWare and the development of high tech in the Netherlands in general from our new €100m investment fund”.

Suzanne Kroeze

Investment Manager UNIIQ
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Qblox

Many private parties are working, largely individually, on quantumcomputing. Delft is doing something unique. Here six private parties are working together to get a quantum computer with high-quality equipment up and running: the so-called ImpaQT project. If successful, this will give the region a unique position worldwide as a supplier of quantum equipment. Individual parties, such as large corporates, focus primarily on the greatest possible computing power (qubits). However, they do so with components that are not actually developed for quantumtech, such as relatively large coaxial cables. This will get you a long way, but real upscaling is impossible. The 6 parties each focus on a separate component and make them suitable for large-scale quantum computers. Within the ImpaQT project the partners are working together to connect the components properly. This will enable them to bring about a significant acceleration in quantum technology. InnovationQuarter brought the ImpaQT parties into contact with large end users; MRDH, Quantum Delta NL and the companies are now jointly investing more than € 600,000 to get the so-called NISQ computer up and running with high-quality equipment. The pilot phase will start in November.

Qblox

© Verkijk.nl

“It’s like trying to manufacture a car, while you only have the parts of a bicycle. You get a long way, but getting out on the highway gets tricky. That’s how a lot of large parties get started with quantum as a matter of necessity,” says Daan Kuitenbrouwer of Delft Circuits. “They are building a huge computer, but with ‘components from other industries’. Those parties are going fast now, but eventually they will run into a wall. A party like Google does not have 25 people working full-time on cabling only. The six ImpaQT parties therefore work together within the Quantum Delft hub on real, scalable ‘quantum equipment’. This ranges from cabling to control electronics and rapidly deliverable quantum processors. All parties are very innovative and good within their field. And thanks to this collaboration, we can now move even faster.”

Delft offers the total package: every possible type of quantum equiptment 

Participants in the consortium are Qu&Co, OrangeQS, Qblox, Delft Circuits, QuantWare and Demcon. “Within quantum, we can take a global position here in South Holland. To compare: ASML makes equipment to be able to make chips for computers. That is a relatively niche area within a huge market. But within quantum computing we make áll state-of-the-art equipment here,” says Jacqueline Schardijn (InnovationQuarter) who involved three major end users in the project. “We not only make the computer here, but also the keyboard, the mouse and the software, as it were. And on all those parts we are the best. We now want to demonstrate with this project that you can link these state-of-the-art products together and do experiments with them quickly. Then Delft offers a ‘one-stop-shop’ for major players worldwide. In terms of software applications, this is therefore the time for major industry players to get on board.”

InnovationQuarter supports the quantum ecosystem not only from a business development perspective, but also participates in two participating companies – Quantware and Qblox – through the early-stage fund UNIIQ.

The project is now in the design phase, with the installation and test phase taking place in November. The MRDH is investing €200,000 in the ImpaQT project. Quantum Delta NL is also investing. Bas Vollebregt, portfolio holder for Knowledge & Innovation within the MRDH: “We are world leaders in quantum and we want to remain so. We are pleased that our investment makes this unique collaboration possible.”

First purely private collaboration in quantum technology

The potential applications of quantum are many, but currently the greatest developments are taking place in three areas. First, quantum technology enables super-sensitive measurements of natural phenomena. Think of the measurement of light, electromagnetism, time and gravity. Second, a solid step is being taken in communication technology. Thanks to so-called point-to-point communication, a communication network can be built that is safe from intrusion. And finally, quantum technology makes super-fast calculations possible.

€ 615 million for quantum from Dutch national Growth Fund

With its QuTech campus, Delft is considered the epicentre of quantum technology worldwide. Last April, Quantum was the big surprise from the national Growth Fund monies: no less than €615 million was awarded by central Dutch government to Quantum Delta NL for the further development of quantum in the Netherlands. Among other things, a ‘House of Quantum’ will be established in Delft where researchers and entrepreneurs can meet.

In the first three months of this year, the ImpaQT consortium built a system with 1 qubit from off-the-shelf components of the various partners. This was a first because of its speed and a first purely private collaboration in this field. The sequel is a so-called NISQ computer of 5 qubits. “That’s not that much, but the value of this project is also not in the computing power, but in the knowledge and product development that this collaboration enables,” says Daan Kuitenbrouwer. “This is a project to get very excited about.”

Jacqueline Schardijn

Senior Business Developer Digital Technology
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AMS-IX (Amsterdam Internet Exchange), one of the world’s largest Internet hubs, is expanding its data centre footprint in the Netherlands with two new locations.  As of October, they will add a Points of Presence (PoP) in the data centres of Smartdc in Rotterdam and Greenhouse Data Centers in Naaldwijk. It is the first time in the history of the organization that AMS-IX adds PoPs outside the Amsterdam metro area to the exchange in Amsterdam.

According to the governmental body of the Metropolitan Region of Rotterdam The Hague, these latest expansions of AMS-IX are a great stimulus for the establishment of tech and enterprise companies in the region. Through AMS-IX, companies have direct connections with a multitude of networks regionally and globally and can therefore guarantee high quality and efficiency of digital services to be delivered. Many applications benefit from this enhanced connectivity, including live streaming, provisioning of business software, online gaming, the delivery of video calling services, or just facilitating an efficient set-up of extensive company networks.

AMS-IX is one of the largest Internet exchanges in the world and has more than 875 networks connected to the exchange in Amsterdam, including companies like ebay, Akamai, Vodafone, T-Mobile, Tele2, Worldstream, Leaseweb, GoDaddy, i3D.net, and many more.  The exchange in Amsterdam is hosted in fourteen data centres in and around Amsterdam. The data centres in South Holland will be the fifteenth and sixteenth physical locations of the node.

“The arrival of AMS-IX is of great importance for the growth of the economy in our region,” says Saskia Bruines, alderman for Economy in The Hague and also administrative leader of Digital Economy and 5G of the Metropolitan Region Rotterdam The Hague. “The Rotterdam The Hague Metropolitan Region is an attractive location for tech companies and has the ambition to host many more top-tier companies in the future.”

What does InnovationQuarter do in this field?

InnovationQuarter works to ensure that South-Holland remains one of the best connected regions in Europe. Therefore we facilitate the establishment of companies like AMS-IX and other internet exchanges, regional (small-scale) data centers and data carriers. In addition, InnovationQuarter supports companies that want to develop new products, services or business models that make use of this connectivity. An example is the program “5G innovation in Greater Rotterdam The Hague Area” in collaboration with the province of Zuid-Holland, Metropolitan Region Rotterdam Den Haag and TU Delft. Suppliers of technological solutions can already experiment with 5G technology, which will only be available on the market in two years’ time. This will give them a head start.

Rapid Growth

AMS-IX will start building the extension in South Holland this summer. “These should be ready in the fall,” says AMS-IX CEO Peter van Burgel. “These new locations are of great importance for our ambitions. The Rotterdam The Hague region has the potential to grow into a major tech hub, so it is important for us to have a presence here. Several large technology companies are already established in the Rotterdam The Hague region and there are no restrictions to facilitate rapid growth.”

“Smartdc pays close attention to optimizing its carrier ecosystem, offering an exceptional mix of in-house Tier-1 carriers and connectivity providers,” says Smartdc CEO Richard Boogaard. “With the expansion of a PoP from AMS-IX, Smartdc can offer a unique mix in terms of connectivity. At Smartdc, customers can directly pick up and connect local and international connections.”

“Greenhouse Datacenters is able to cost-effectively deliver lightning-fast, low-latency connections for customers’ hybrid IT ecosystem through telecom carriers, Internet exchanges, cloud and other connectivity providers,” said Guido Sip, Chief Commercial Officer of Greenhouse Datacenters. “Thanks to the establishment of this AMS-IX PoP in our data centres and the direct connection to the AMS-IX, our colocation customers now get a significant expansion of options to further optimize network costs and scalability for their hybrid IT environments regionally and internationally.”

Jos Maccabiani

Senior Business Developer Digital Technology
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Spotr.ai

Spotr.ai, the European market leader in automated building inspection, is expanding internationally. The company raised a € 2.5 million seed round from international investors Volta Ventures, InnovationQuarter, and Concrete Ventures to accelerate the growth to the UK market. With this new investment, Spotr.ai is taking a big leap forward in determining the quality and maintenance status of residential and commercial real estate with AI-powered image recognition.

With an ever-growing population, climate change, and growing compliance obligations globally, real estate is eager for better solutions. Spotr.ai monitors and inspects over 250.000 buildings in the Netherlands and recently launched in the UK with 10 prominent UK housing corporations that will start inspecting their real estate portfolios with Spotr’s software solution. Spotr.ai offers a platform for banks, insurance companies, large real-estate owners, and the government to monitor building characteristics in a fast, precise, and easily accessible platform. This contributes to optimizing their client’s portfolios and activities.

Spotr.ai 1

“It’s about knowing and understanding your portfolio,” says Dirk Huibers, CEO at Spotr.ai. “Think of the dimensions, quantities, and conditions of buildings and their specific components. This information is crucial to make smart decisions when achieving sustainability goals. But it’s also about asking yourself the basic questions. On which buildings can you place external wall insulation? How many floors does a building have? Can you still reach that high floor with a fire truck? Are there trees close to the gutters that could cause water damage? You need accurate data to make the right decisions for your portfolio and wallet. And that data simply doesn’t exist today.”

With only 8% of buildings currently being inspected every year due to budget and time constraints of building owners and facility managers, there’s much to gain. “It’s our ambition to inspect every building in the world every year,” says Huibers. “In the largest global sector in the world, a small deviation can have a major impact on maintenance costs and valuations.”

“Our smart software can make better, faster, and cheaper budget estimations than humans alone, which makes us a reliable and trustworthy partner.” – Dirk Huibers, CEO Spotr.ai

Concrete Ventures General Partner Arnaud van der Wyck quotes, ‘We are very excited about our investment in Spotr.ai, which falls firmly within our sweet spot of investing in technology software companies that make the built environment more efficient contributing to a more sustainable future. We expect this will deliver meaningful value to our partners Starwood, JLL, Nuveen, VINCI, Lockton, and Hammerson and we look forward to actively supporting the very talented team at Spotr.ai in bringing value to real estate partners.”

About Spotr.ai

Spotr.ai utilizes image recognition and artificial intelligence to gather and maintain asset management data. The result is a digital inspection product that aims to make building inspection and maintenance more efficient. The company uses image recognition on satellites, airplanes, drones, cars, and images made by inspectors and tenants to take measurements, perform condition surveys and find upgrade potential in real estate.

About Volta Ventures

Volta Ventures provides (pre)seed and early-stage financing for software & internet companies that originate in the Benelux. Sander Vonk is investing from its second fund and has € 100M under management. Next to capital, the fund’s team assists companies in growing from a startup to scale up. The Volta team aims to make a substantial contribution to the portfolio companies. They achieve this by working with founders and management to identify new markets and clients, attract talent, provide advice and support, and help raise follow-on financing.

About Concrete Ventures

Concrete Ventures is a leading European Proptech venture capital fund investing in Seed and Series A software companies. By working closely with world-class global real estate partners, they identify the key problems the sector is facing and find talented founders creating real solutions. Concrete Ventures is a hands-on value-added investor leveraging its global real estate and venture capital ecosystem. By doing so, they support the portfolio of companies to drive strategic revenue, support talent acquisition, assist with capital syndication and provide strategic product development support.

About InnovationQuarter

InnovationQuarter is the regional development agency for the greater Rotterdam – The Hague area. It invests in innovative, fast-growing local enterprises and helps transnational companies become established in this unique delta region. As a lifecycle financier, InnovationQuarter finances companies in different cycles of their business growth and draws its investments from four funds: IQCapital, UNIIQ, ENERGIIQ, and the Energy Transition Fund.