Five Luxembourg startups using tech for the greater good
uxembourg is well known as an established business hub, with banking and finance accounting for the majority of its economic output. But it’s also home to a rich entrepreneurial scene, which is supported by dedicated government initiatives and corporate collaborations.
Informed by volume two of Startup Guide Luxembourg, here are some of the innovative Luxembourg startups using technology to improve lives.
While studying the impact of rain on satellite communication systems as part of his PhD at the University of Luxembourg, Ahmad Gharanjik realized there was a high correlation between weather conditions and the quality of satellite signals. He began to wonder whether it was possible to develop an algorithm to extract more precise details about the cause of these fluctuations, which in the satellite industry are known as rain fade.
“In time, I developed a machine-learning algorithm that takes data from satellite signals and returns precise, minute-by-minute data about rainfall,” Ahmad says. This innovation increases potential rainfall-data collection points in Europe from under 3,000 to over 200,000, all using existing infrastructure.
Databourg Systems is currently working on commercializing its unique patent-pending proprietary products, which include a rainfall-measurement system and a flash-flood warning system.
“We want to find a way to provide public weather services and emergency-response teams with severe localized-rain-event notifications on a nonprofit basis, and we want to provide specific businesses with data optimized for their use cases,” Ahmad explains. Those use cases include logistics, agriculture, construction, insurance and more.
When F4A CEO Ilana Devillers was studying for her master’s in law in Strasbourg in 2016, a friend invited her over for dinner. Rather than the usual cheap student fare, the meal was unusually varied, fresh and tasty.
Ilana was surprised to discover that her friend had dumpster dived for most of the ingredients and after getting over her initial shock of eating food that had been thrown away, she realized that supermarkets were wasting tons of perfectly good food each day simply because it had reached its best-before date. This was the start of her journey to launch F4A, a software company focused on reducing food waste and offering cheaper sources of quality food by matching consumers to food in supermarkets that is close to reaching its expiry date.
In October 2018, F4A launched with an app that allows consumers to monitor supermarket stock levels in real time. Users can then buy surplus food from the supermarkets at cheaper prices. The company now also offers an app directly to supermarkets, which allows them to better assess supply and demand and avoid buying excess stock.
“For our clients, we have actually managed to sell eighty percent of surplus stock, and usually, without using our apps, they sell only around fifteen percent, so it’s a very effective process,” Ilana says.
Organizations are increasingly moving toward digital workplaces, but security, privacy and compliance requirements can make complete digital transformation impractical and sometimes impossible.
Founded in 2015, with early investment from famed National Security Agency hacker Ron Gula, HighSide addresses these challenges with a software suite powered by SecureOS, a distributed cryptographic encryption-management system. HighSide’s business applications help organizations address data security, privacy and access-control concerns, which is especially useful as people work more from home.
HighSide’s ironclad security traces back to founder and CSO Aaron Turner’s experience in distributed cryptography and tackling nation-state adversaries for organizations including Microsoft and the US Drug Enforcement Administration.
Prior to taking the lead, Aaron had built a location-based cybersecurity company called Hotshot on top of HighSide’s protocol – written by original founders Jonathan Warren, Brendan Diaz and Andy Johnson – and had pitched it in Luxembourg. In late 2019, Hotshot and HighSide merged, leading to the current platform.
“We wanted to create a communication system that was resilient to even the most sophisticated surveillance teams,” says Aaron. Every interaction on HighSide is protected by the sender’s private key, the receiver’s private key and its own ephemeral, asymmetric 256-bit key. That’s 512 bits of entropy on either side of the conversation, and 256 bits per message. “They call it post-quantum crypto,” Aaron says.
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Bonding and modifying different types of surfaces in manufacturing and other processes can be extremely challenging, and traditional solutions often involve highly toxic chemicals. Molecular Plasma Group (MPG) provides an environmentally friendly alternative to these chemicals by using its proprietary plasma technology to graft organic chemicals at a thickness of between ten and one hundred nanometers to the surfaces of a variety of materials.
“The technology enables us to bond organic chemistry onto any surface,” says CEO Marc Jacobs. “The bonding, chemically speaking, is a covalent bond, so that chemistry is permanently there. We call this surface functionalization.”
The company offers its research and development services to the automotive, aerospace, electronics, healthcare, packaging, technical textile and other sectors. “Most of the time, we start with the unique problem a customer brings and we sell application development services,” Marc says. “Then we scale that up all the way to a robust industrial implementation, and we build, sell and service the machines for that implementation.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, MPG rapidly pivoted to developing a process to bond an organic virucidal coating that is innocuous to humans to personal protective equipment. The coating achieves 99.9 percent deactivation of COVID-19 within minutes.
MyMedBot’s founder and CEO Jacob Arnould can trace the company’s origin to a phone call to his college friend Greg Janota, now MyMedBot’s COO. Jacob has type 1 diabetes, and one day, Jacob’s father called Greg to tell him that Jacob’s blood sugar was dipping dangerously low. This high-stress situation prompted Jacob to think about how communication could be improved in similar scenarios.
“At the time, existing technologies were not fit for purpose for communicating during medical emergencies,” Jacob says. He founded MyMedBot in 2018 and Greg joined a year later.
In March 2020, MyMedBot pivoted from developing general health-emergency apps to creating one that would help schools and businesses better communicate during the COVID-19 pandemic. The resulting tool, developed for ease of use and efficiency, helps organizations communicate their COVID-19 protocols based on data from their communities. This is especially useful in countries such as the US where there is no national plan or platform.
“We empower organizations to have an understanding of the health status of their community,” says Jacob. MyMedBot has helped many schools and businesses screen for COVID-19, avoid potential spread of the virus and shut down efficiently as needed. In the future, the team hopes to bring its life-saving solution to more types of organizations, such as retirement homes.
[Read more: Nine of the hottest startups in Luxembourg]
Inspired by these Luxembourg startups? Order your copy of Startup Guide Luxembourg now to learn about more innovative companies.
Written by Catarina Aleixo, Ciaran Daly and Lester Isaac Simon.
Repackaged by Hazel Boydell.