Talent spotting the next startup teams

Science writer Jonathan Marks has been discovering the work of a clever new initiative in the South of the Netherlands, with potential to go national.

Tapping into international expertise already here

“Smart people are the best at spotting other smart people” says Guus Frericks, CEO of HighTechXL. “And as our next accelerator program prepares to launch a new program at High Tech Campus Eindhoven, we’re delighted to have found an excellent partner in our global search for brilliant teams.”

“In the course of my career, I’ve spent several years abroad. I know what can mean for the partners of expats. My wife is well qualified, yet it is never as easy for a partner to find employment in a foreign country. We realised that it’s the same situation here in the South-Eastern part of the Netherlands. There are over 9000 internationals in this region alone, many of whom have a partner. So we’ve teamed up with an excellent new initiative called the Expats Spouses Initiative run by Anne Theiss-Yanni and Kavitha Varathan.”

Founders Kavitha Varathan & Anne Theiss-Yanni

“A team of local expat spouses is helping us hunt for outstanding teams in the field of new materials and high-tech hardware. They turn out to be chemists, scientists, engineers and mathematicians who are perfectly qualified to reach out to find new startup ventures. They come from all over the world — we realized that together they command over 20 languages. Our searches benefit the spouses because they get a clearer picture of the regional job market. They get introduced to the local community in a different way. Several members of our first team have already landed a job. They also bring with them their international network which is some cases is already very extensive.”

“Our pilot scheme was recently extended to include 50 expat spouses, as we start a new round of scouting for the world’s best teams. Most come from areas in the world with innovative talent. They not only act as an ambassador for our accelerator program HighTechXL, they also tap into their own international network to build useful and trusted relations.”

Why this idea is working

Kavitha Varathan

Kavitha Varathan is one of the co-founders who saw an important opportunity. “I co-founded the Expat Spouses Initiative because I believe in activating the untapped potential of my expat colleagues. Partners in the Eindhoven area need help in matching their knowledge skills to the great career opportunities to be found in the Brainport region. I have been amazed at the exponential growth in active membership. We believe the initiative should scale up to other innovative hubs in this country and beyond.”

“It has quickly grown into a pro-active network of professionals helping women and men to start their own business, find a job that more closely matches their qualifications as well as collaborating on regional, national and international assignments. Activities include training & briefing sessions to make it easier to (re)-start a career in the Southern part of the Netherlands. And start-ups, in particular, are always looking for skilled talent as they expand.”

Anne Theiss-Yanni

Cofounder Anne Theiss-Yanni originally comes from Germany. “I enjoy collaborating with others. I am not scared of thinking out of the box — and disruptive thinking is part of my personal DNA. So that makes our work with startups especially interesting. I enjoy spotting the talents of others and connecting like-minded people to my network of business professionals. “ “The Eindhoven metropolitan area has one of the highest concentrations of expats in the Netherlands. Apart from being tremendously diverse, this workforce is also very well educated, as about one in five of the city’s residents holds a graduate or professional degree. This highly qualified labour force is one of this region’s most valuable resources, essential for the international success of both established corporates like ASML, DSM and Philips and local high-tech startups who want to scale up.”


Arati is an active member of the expat spouse initiative. “It has been interesting to compare the welcome we’ve received here with other parts of Europe” she explains. “Originally from Mumbai, India I have a PhD in Mathematics. I’ve been based in Munich and my partner and I only moved to Eindhoven quite recently. As an English speaker, I’ve found it easier to converse with Dutch entrepreneurs and businesses. And there is clearly much less hierarchy to deal with here than in Germany, even in the larger corporations. People seem more relaxed and open. I’m finding this new challenge to be very interesting and the network that the expat-spouses initiative builds is just the right idea at the right moment. It’s turning into a win-win for everyone.”