This is how it started

December 2021

Inventing, developing and applying innovations at companies and governments. It was the ‘core business’ of Martine van de Gaar, Maarten Everts and Pieter Verhagen at TNO. Until they did a groundbreaking project in healthcare where parties such as hospitals and insurers could share and analyze data together without revealing privacy-sensitive information. It became the start of their company Linksight, that wants to realize this application in many more places in healthcare and beyond.

The basis of their activities was years of research into privacy-enhancing technologies: secure multiparty computation and homomorphic encryption. That makes it possible to set up data collaboration that gives parties new insights while the underlying data is invisible to them. In this way, new forms of cooperation are possible, making healthcare much more cost efficient. In concrete terms: better healthcare nearby.


“That was exactly what drove the three of us to take this approach further in our own company,” says co-founder and CEO Martine. “We want to apply this in as many places as possible to make healthcare, but also other domains, better. There is far too little collaboration due to cold feet because privacy would be at stake. We were the first in the Netherlands to show that you can do joint analysis on fully encrypted patient data to extract new insights that concretely improve healthcare.”

Unique data collaboration

That first was a project in which TNO, CBS, health insurer CZ and the Limburg hospital Zuyderland joined forces. It demonstrated in practice that data from different sources can be analyzed without sharing it. Co-founder and CTO Maarten made the technology Secure MultiParty Computation (MPC), already known in academia, suitable for this application. The unique data collaboration between diverse parties proved to be not only technically possible, but also a strong way to comply with personal data protection laws and regulations.

“We proved that it is possible and allowed,” Martine sums up the project. “That was unprecedented. The data analyses based on data from a few thousand patients provided new insights about the effectiveness of using an eHealth app and other interventions. This allows the hospital to improve patient care in a very targeted way.”


Pieter Verhagen adds: “such a breakthrough does not come out of the blue, of course. Years of research preceded it. But just as important here was the co-creation with parties from the healthcare market.” The first seed for the project from which Linksight eventually emerged as a company germinated in Limburg, in the Fieldlab Techruption of the Brightlands Smart Services Campus. There, parties from healthcare and government came together, and experimented with this kind of new technology. In co-creation, the first Proof-of-Principle was developed there. That gave the parties involved the confidence to keep daring to take the next step here, until eventually a pilot with real personal data, which in turn resulted in the company Linksight.

In the summer of 2021, the three of you jumped into the deep end from a secure job. What was that like?

“In the beginning very exciting. TNO encouraged and helped us to start for ourselves through the TechTransfer program. As founders, we complement each other nicely with knowledge of technology, management and market. We and TNO were confident that it would be a success. We won over impact-driven investors Lumo-Labs and the Regionale Ontwikkelmaatschappij Utrecht. We also built up a large network of market players and governments, and are now live with our software in a number of places. In one year we have grown from three to a team of nine great and driven people.

We started in the middle of the corona pandemic. That was an intense time to start a startup. Remote working is therefore in our DNA, which makes us very flexible now. We meet at least 1 day a week at our office at Vlampijpstraat in Utrecht. But we also have colleagues working in Belgium, Italy and Sweden. In this way, we will soon also be able to make our mark internationally.”

Optimizing across the chain

The three entrepreneurs are still struck by how little data-driven healthcare is organized. And that applies unreservedly to other social domains where a lot of community money is involved and where data collaboration has a lot to offer. They therefore see it as their mission to keep healthcare and the social domain accessible and affordable by making it easy for parties to set up data collaboration. This leads to new insights to organize the best care in the right place without overburdening our welfare state. Linksight makes it easy for parties to apply the complex technology behind this: data-driven, easy to use and secure.