5 Dutch start-ups that give us hope for the future

… and also happen to be our neighbours!

Dutch ingenuity is all around us — especially at the PLNT Start-Up Hub in Leiden, where DutchReview has its cosy little office. But this article is not about us; it’s about our fabulous neighbours, whose amazing inventions are changing the world. 

From rapid STI tests to a sustainable protein for animal feed, let me introduce you to five of the most promising Leiden-based start-ups.

Whispp: giving those who need it their voice back 🗣

We use our voice daily, from ordering our koffietje in the morning to saying goodnight to our loved ones in the evening. 

But thousands of people in the world can’t comfortably do that, and Whispp CEO Joris Casterman can relate.

Inspired by his struggles with stuttering, he developed an app to help those facing similar challenges — and that’s how Whispp was born.

WHISPP-Co-founders-Akash Raj-and-Joris-Castermans
Whispp co-founders Akash Raj (left) and Joris Castermans (right). Image: Whispp Press Kit

Whispp is an app that uses Artificial Intelligence technologies to convert whispered or affected speech into a clear and natural-sounding voice. 

Its technology is especially helpful for individuals who have lost their voice due to illness, trauma, or disability and may face difficulty in performing simple tasks like making phone calls.

Among other things, Whispp recently won the CES Innovation Award for Accessibility in Las Vegas, where the team also had the chance to present their product to the CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella. 👏

In restoring confidence and enabling communication, Whispp has a profound impact on individuals with speech impairment — and we love to see it. 🧡 

Rapidemic: sexual healthcare made accessible 🩺

Remember COVID-19 self-tests? Sorry for the traumatic flashbacks — but Rapidemic’s product is quite similar to this blast from the past.

The company, led by Violette Defourt, develops molecular point-of-care tests for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) to speed up and make diagnostics more accessible. 

“Rapidemic was born out of the idea that we should bring laboratory diagnostics closer to the patient,” Violet tells me. 

What started as a student project is now a 7-person team! Image: Rapidemic/Supplied

With this, the company addresses a major global health issue — with millions of new sexually transmitted infections reported daily and many more cases going unreported.

In 2023, Rapidemic was awarded the WomenTechEU grant, giving them access to top-notch mentoring and unlocking fabulous new opportunities for their venture. 

Currently focused specifically on chlamydia and gonorrhoea, Rapidemic plans to expand to other pathogens in the future — and have an even bigger impact on sexual healthcare around the world.

Deep Branch: for a more sustainable food system 🌱

The production and consumption of meat are recognised as some of the biggest contributors to carbon emissions and global warming today. 

Deep Branch, a biotech company focused on revolutionising the food system, is fighting this by creating an environmentally friendly source of protein for animal feed “to make a more sustainable food system,” as CEO Pete Rowe explains. 

READ MORE | Farming for the future: why the Netherlands is one of the largest food exporters in the world

To do so, Deep Branch uses a fermentation process to convert CO2 into protein, which is then used in animal feed. 

The result? Animal products with a significantly lower carbon footprint — thanks to reduced water and land usage.

Backed by the municipality of Rotterdam, the British Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the European Innovation Council, Deep Branch continues to address critical global challenges like climate change and food security by offering an innovative and environmentally friendly solution. 💪 

SeraNovo: enabling new new drug therapies 💊

SeraNovo was founded by Niall Hodgins during his Master’s studies — and it’s another student project that has become remarkably successful. 🌟

Meet Niall! Image: DutchReview

Strap in for a biology lesson here because you need your thinking caps to truly understand the amazing feat that SeraNovo has achieved. Niall explains to me that:

“The vast majority of medicines that are developed don’t get absorbed well by our bodies. We can have amazing cures for cancer, infectious diseases or neurodegenerative diseases — but if they don’t get absorbed by the body, they’re effectively useless.”

READ MORE | 7 great Dutch inventions you never knew were Dutch

And that’s exactly where SeraNovo comes in: “For every one of these medications, SeraNovo creates a type of liquid for the drug to go into. That liquid goes into a capsule, which humans can take. Then, the drug can be absorbed by the body.”

Now working with pharma giants such as Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca, SeraNovo has an enormous impact on the healthcare industry, enabling drug therapies that otherwise wouldn’t have been possible. 

Smartnotation: meeting minutes, made simple 💻

CEO Ken Ramroochsingh’s vision for a “keyboardless future” led to the development of Smartnotation, a collaboration app that simplifies meeting workflows by transcribing real-time meeting discussions with its voice-to-text tool.

With various tools and features, Smartnotation makes meeting preparation, note-taking, and task management easy as appeltaart

It also allows instant and secure sharing of outcomes with team members and external attendees. 

READ MORE | 17 ideas that make the Dutch sustainability super-heroes

With a global presence, including billboards in Times Square and Silicon Valley, it’s clear that Smartnotation is already making a difference in the lives of many. But that’s far from it. 

In the future, the company aims to lead the Dutch market in meeting organisation software solutions through ongoing product improvement and client engagement. ⚡️

Whether Dutch or international, all these fabulous start-up CEOs have two things in common: their bright minds and their humble beginnings at PLNT Leiden!

We’re eager to see where the future will take them next. Succes allemaal!

Which of these start-ups are you most interested in? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Feature Image:Freepik
Lyna Meyrer 🇱🇺
Lyna Meyrer 🇱🇺
Say 'hoi' to Lyna, our Senior Writer at DutchReview! Fueled by a love for writing, social media, and all things Dutch, she joined the DR family in 2022. Since making the Netherlands her home in 2018, she has collected a BA in English Literature & Society (Hons.) and an RMA in Arts, Literature and Media (Hons.). Even though she grew up just a few hours away from the Netherlands, Lyna remains captivated by the guttural language, quirky culture, and questionable foods that make the Netherlands so wonderfully Dutch.

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