Amsterdam-based AI startups Lalaland and Syntho sweep Philips’ Innovation and Rough Diamond League awards



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The Philips Innovation Award is the largest student-entrepreneur award in The Netherlands that is organised for students, by students. It is a platform that’s not only meant to be beneficial for winners, but where each participant can profit. The 2020 leg of the award has concluded and the Amsterdam-based AI startup Lalaland has won the 15th Philips Innovation Award. In addition, another Amsterdam-based AI startup Syntho bagged the Rough Diamond Awards. 

Amsterdam-based AI startups steal the show

The winning startup, Lalaland, leverages neural networks for creating images of artificial humans. Founded by Michael Musandu and Ugnius Rimsa in 2019, the company aims to let brands save operational costs and reduce returns and changes as shoppers can personalise what they see on the screen depending on their sizes and preferences.

In an exclusive interview with Silicon Canals, one of the startups’ founders — Michael Musandu says, “Lalaland redefines the future of eCommerce for the fashion and apparel industry. With its next-generation generative AI solutions, we embrace diversity and inclusion by offering a diverse library of AI-generated human models.”

On the other hand, the Rough Diamond awards winner Syntho employs deep learning software. Without raising privacy and GDPR concerns, the software is capable of generating synthetic data that can be shared without any concerns. The company’s co-founder Wim Kees Janssen told Silicon Canals, “We enable organisations to boost data-driven innovation in a privacy-preserving manner through our AI software for generating – as good as real – synthetic data. The idea is that you use synthetic data as if it is real data, but without privacy restrictions.”

Proving their mettle, both the startups walked away with not only prizes worth thousands of euros, but also a lot more. Lalaland received a prize worth €50,000 and has won the title to call itself the most innovative student startup of the Netherlands. Syntho took home a prize worth €10,000. 

“The Philips Innovation Award has already helped many participants take their first steps as an entrepreneur,” says Frans van Houten, CEO of Royal Philips, and chairman of the jury. “In these testing times, it is more important than ever to stimulate innovation and entrepreneurship in the Netherlands and encourage the leaders of tomorrow to realise their ideas.”

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Lalaland’s sensational achievement and its future plans

Winning the Philips Innovator Awards is akin to receiving a big boost in terms of launching a successful startup. Along with the cash prize, the winning company receives assistance in registering patents, creative services, consulting advice and more. Speaking more on winning the award, Musandu says, “We are honoured and delighted that we were announced as the winner of the Philips Innovation Award 2020! It’s a sensational achievement to have been recognised amongst other incredible innovative startup companies, deliberated by an expert jury consisting of top entrepreneurs and captains of industry.”

As for its future plans, the company is ready to disrupt the e-commerce and fashion industry with its innovation. “We are delighted that the award and the support of the partners will help us pull this off. We believe that winning this award will help our company gain recognition and credibility, boost employee morale, attract talent and grow our business,” adds Musandu.

In a recent development, the Dutch startup, Lalaland secured pre-seed funding from ASIF Ventures, which is an Amsterdam-based venture capital fund focused on students and recent graduates. Lalaland took part in last year’s UtrechtInc’s summer 2019 program and it is an alumni of the ACE Incubator program that started in late 2019, where it was introduced to ASIF Ventures. Notably, the VC firm also invested in a 2018 alumni of ACE Incubator, Dyme, which is another fast-growing fintech app that lets users manage their expenses.

Syntho’s synthetic data paves the way!

In order to answer the currently prevalent data security issue, the startup Syntho has come up with an ingenious solution. The company uses its Syntho Engine, which is trained on original data, and generates completely anonymous synthetic dataset. Janssen says, “Applying AI to capture the value of the original data is what makes us unique. The bottom line is, our synthetic data can be used as if it is real data, but without any privacy risk. This is the preferred solution when compromises on both data quality and privacy protection are not desired.”

Syntho’s service draws from the company’s mission, which is to enable an open data economy for free sharing and use of data while preserving people’s privacy. “What if we don’t need to choose between privacy and data innovation? We offer a solution to this dilemma. We ensure that your innovation manager and compliance officer will become best friends.” adds Janssen. 

Syntho was founded in early 2020 by Marijn Vonk, Wim Kees Janssen and Simon Brouwer. The three friends know each other from the University of Groningen all were active with data-driven innovation. The three decided to start Syntho because of how privacy posed challenges for them. 

Winning the Rough Diamond Award and future plans 

Even though it was founded recently, Syntho managed to accomplish a lot in such a short span of time. “Our Syntho Engine works, we have 3 successful pilots and we started in an incubator program. All realised in a few months with no need for external resources. Now, on top of this, we also won the Philips Innovation Award 2020!” remarks company’s co-founder Janssen. 

As for how it feels winning the prestigious Rough Diamond Awards, Janssen says it is “Amazing.” “It feels like the rocket was just launched! To win at such a great event is an honour and privilege, and we are taking this as a step forward in our mission to solve the data privacy dilemma and boost data-driven innovation.” 

Syntho’s future plans include launching a Software As A Service solution. This move is expected to benefit anyone who is inclined to use the service and to realise this, the company is exploring collaboration with an external investor. “The journey of participating in the Philips Innovation Award already brought us valuable coaching and feedback, which helped us strengthen our business model and proposition. Winning the award is bound to accelerate our proposition in the market. This will enable our synthetic data solution to help numerous organisations in solving their data privacy dilemmas.” 

This article is produced in collaboration with StartupAmsterdam. Read more about our partnering opportunities.


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Shubham Sharma

Grew up reading tech magazines and comic books. I binge on books, manga, movies, anime, and everything in between. Nothing makes my day like an innovative idea and a good tech story. You can reach him via [email protected]

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