Investing in science based startups in Leiden
Libertatis Ergo Holding B.V. (LEH) is an independent, wholly owned subsidiary of Leiden University which creates, supports and invests in startup and spinout companies related to Leiden University’s activities, many of which are located on the Leiden Bio Science Park.
LEH currently supports about 40 startup and spinout companies aimed at increasing the impact of Leiden University. LEH holds the patent portfolio of the University, and patent management services are outsourced to the Luris, the technology transfer office of Leiden University.
LEH works across Leiden University and with many external organizations, incubators, foundations and investors to guide, structure, finance and develop entrepreneurship activities and startups.
The History of LEH
LEH was founded in 1996 at a time when Dutch Government spending cuts were combined with ideas to promote market driven strategies. It was believed that universities should be able to earn considerable income from the private sector, which would offset public funding. Archol B.V. was the first creation under LEH, fulfilling large research orders for archeologists and it still provides services to this day. Several academic service companies followed such as CWTS and PLATO. There was also an ambition to generate income from founder shares in research spinout companies such as Crucel; one such successful example, which was floated on the stock market in 2000, and later bought by Janssen (now part of J&J).
In 2005, these private income-generating ideas were largely abandoned. The costs and risks involved in technology startups were high and difficult to manage from within a university. At the same time, internationalization in education provided the university with new income. Instead, Leiden University followed the new government’s ambition to foster new business in technologically advanced sectors through collaborative work programs with benefits to society in a more general sense. Leiden started collaborating with governments, regional development offices as well as private venture capital investment funds, which would selectively assess and invest in potentially valuable spinouts. Revenues for LEH remained relatively modest. Gradual growth in capital from the original service activities allowed LEH to directly invest in some scientific spinouts again from about 2018.
From 2020 a new dedicated investment team joined LEH, to actively support and invest in startups and spinouts in Leiden, dramatically increasing the activities. LEH has grown quickly in scale, impact and value over the last few years.
The Supervisory Board of Libertatis Ergo Holding B.V. will be put in place in 2023 to play a crucial role in guiding and overseeing LEH’s growing activities. The Board will be made up of experienced investment fund managers and industry professionals.
Rob Mayfield, Managing Director
Rob Mayfield has 20 years’ experience in technology and impact investment, negotiation and deal making at many levels; as an investor, CEO, Board member, entrepreneur and fund manager in various different countries and industries. Rob is the managing director of LEH and the ELF Pre-seed fund, is a Board member of PLNT and UNIIQ, as well as a number of portfolio companies.