The theme of Startupbootcamp HightechXL’s Demo Day this November was “3xStronger”, and strong it certainly was. The Klokgebouw provided a perfect venue for the event. Just big enough to host the nearly 1,000 people who attended, but not big enough to feel lost among the rooms.

To me, the atmosphere that day felt charged – I noticed my pulse quickening as I made my way into the main hall and found a seat in front of the huge stage. Judging by the Twitter posts that were popping up from the audience, I was not the only one who was feeling the anticipation.

The lights finally dimmed and the introduction video by Kimon Kodossis started rolling and the voice of Startupbootcamp HightechXL CEO Guus Frericks echoed through the hall.

“There is a special breed of people who push boundaries, fight for causes, and move other people. They inspire. They disrupt industries. This is the type of people we have had the privilege to work with for the last three years. Three programs and 30 startups have shown us what it takes to be successful. Together with them, we’ve grown bigger, braver, and bolder in our ambitions. Together, we are three times stronger.”

The music swelled as people flying in wingsuits rushed across the screen. The film ended by introducing the nine startups presenting at Demo Day. (You can watch the video here:

Then Guus took the stage to give the opening address.

“Hardware is the new COOL!” he exclaimed. “We’ve seen sky-high investment in high-tech hardware startups in recent years”. The hardware revolution is happening.

The nine startups representing the hardware revolution in Eindhoven then stood up to make their “pitches”. The first one surprised us all with their innovative way of presenting. Ram Dušić from Pel3o performed part of his pitch as a rap, with the audience providing the beat.

Other highlights from the startup pitches included the award-winning wastewater desalination technology presented by Dimitris from Sealeau, the 3D printer from 3D By Flow that can even print in chocolate (“What else?”), and Gotoky’s heartwarming presentation about their mobile phone add-on device that can keep people connected even when the network fails.

After the startup pitches, Anne and Kavitha were asked to come to the stage to receive the award for “Most Valuable Partner”! It came as a complete surprise, and we were honored and happy to receive it. But afterwards, Kavitha remained on stage, because we had a surprise of our own to offer. She shared the story of Expat Spouses Initiative and how it has grown over the past year, and then announced that ESI will be partnering with USG People to provide recruitment services to the job-seekers in the ESI community. What exciting news! Even though I knew she would be making the announcement, as soon as it was said, I could hardly decide if I wanted to clap, cheer, take photos, or post on Twitter. In the end I did all four.

DD Award team photo

ESI is proud of how far we’ve come, and grateful for the time and energy that so many others have given to the cause so far. We’re excited about our plans for the future, and can’t wait to see what 2016 brings!