Whether very early-stage or more established, innovative companies are constantly on the lookout for new customers, trusted partners and key investors. For a strong network, both at home and abroad. For relevant knowledge and expertise. If they could find that in one place, too, then all the better.
In South Holland, they can, as one organization aims to be the gateway to all of the above. That organization goes by the name of InnovationQuarter.
The ‘lifecycle investor’
“InnovationQuarter is a development organization for the province of South Holland with the goal to support and strengthen the innovation potential of the region,” says Liduina Hammer, Fund Manager of UNIIQ, a proof-of-concept investment fund.
The organization acts as a facilitator in the region’s innovation scene by bringing relevant stakeholders together, including startups, corporates and government players, as well as helping foreign companies set foot on the Dutch market. Above all, it is an investor providing what Liduina calls “lifecycle funding” – or funding for companies in every stage of development.
InnovationQuarter has three funds under management: UNIIQ, which focuses on innovative companies in the proof-of-concept phase; ENERGIIQ, which makes investments in the energy sector; and IQCapital, which invests in companies that have reached the proof-of-concept stage, as well as in more established ones.
Since 2014, IQCapital has made 27 investments totaling around €25 million, including one of their latest – a €4.5-million funding round with venture capital investor Holland Venture in Rotterdam-based medtech company Quantib.
“Every time we invest, we make sure it’s in a company that brings real innovation to the table,” Liduina says. Quantib is the perfect example, as it allows physicians and researchers to make more efficient and accurate diagnoses with the help of advanced medical imaging.
Of the three funds, UNIIQ is the odd one in the pack, as it is established in collaboration with the three universities in the region: the University of Leiden, Erasmus MC and TU Delft. It’s the kind of collaboration that Liduina says is key to fostering innovation in the region.
Believing in startups, early on
What’s different about UNIIQ is that it invests at a phase where there’s no proof of concept yet. It’s a phase where most other investors would be reluctant to step in because of the high risk.
Liduina and the team of UNIIQ, however, are willing to take that risk. They invest up to €300,000 per startup and have already backed 17 companies since the launch of the fund in June 2016.
Of course, the startups that receive funding from UNIIQ – or any of the other two InnovationQuarter funds – need to be up to par. “Because we have very high standards, many see us as a cornerstone investor,” Liduina says. “Other early-stage investors are increasingly willing to step in because we invest.”
Thus, when UNIIQ decided to invest in Semiotic Labs, a startup working on predictive maintenance and machine learning technologies, energy and technology giant ENGIE joined the round. Or when UNIIQ made an investment in Hardt Hyperloop, a company developing an innovative travel capsule, the NS Innovation Fund pitched in, too.
What Liduina would still like to see happen in the innovation scene in the Netherlands is for more startups to become scale-ups, and for their founders to gradually become investors, too. After all, investing is about money just as much as it is about bringing experience and new knowledge to the table.
“When we [at InnovationQuarter] invest, we contribute a lot more than just money,” Liduina says. “We help startups find other investors and secure follow-on funding, as well as gain access to customers, partners and a wide pool of experts.” In other words, investing is a package: It’s about providing financial support and expertise as much as it is about building a network, connecting entrepreneurs, and driving the innovation ecosystem forward.
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Photographer: Raymond de Vries photography
Copywriter: Mina Nacheva