6 min read

Entrepreneurship in the Deep Tech Era

"We believe that building technology startups will become the ‘default’ career path for the world’s most ambitious people." - Matt Clifford, Entrepreneur First

We've been guilty of assuming technology as the solution for anything and everything. Now, we'd like to believe we stand corrected as we see technology as a powerful tool that could be leveraged to transform the behaviour, culture, and economics of individuals, systems, and institutions.  Nicholas Naseem Taleb stated in his book Antifragile:

“We notice what varies and changes more than what plays a larger role but doesn’t change. We rely more on water than on cell phones, but because water does not change and cell phones do, we are prone to thinking that cell phones play a larger role than they do.”

You better be drinking enough water. No, not contradicting oneself. Listen, water is more important than technology but technology enables deliver clean water at scale. The point being technology will continue to change and continued innovations will help create powerful technologies. We believe there are three main broad objectives of technology:

  1. To extend capabilities of humans i.e help us leverage tools to maximize our productivity
  2. To make products that are cheaper, faster, and better i.e make things more accessible, affordable and of high quality
  3. To help solve problems and accelerate innovation i.e advance civilization by pushing our frontiers

Ambition, Talent and Leverage

As Matt Clifford describes it amazingly well in his article, the most ambitious people, historically, have leveraged tools and institutions around them to drive change and create impact. We shamelessly stole a lot of content from him and we don’t give a rat’s ass about reproducing it here because it is such an interesting storyline:

In the middle ages, literacy and art were the most powerful tools. They were leveraged by ambitious people to communicate ideas across towns and villages.

In pre-modern history, military and trade were tools that served ambitious people. Once leveraged, these tools gave them the power to impact a whole empire.

In recent history, finance and software industries became powerful technology tools. They helped ambitious people reach across national boundaries. A cheque written in London or a code written in San Fransisco could reverberate across the world.

In the present day, cutting-edge innovations are driven by deep technologies built by ambitious and talented people. These unique technological innovations could be scaled across the globe. A deep technology solution created in Berlin or Nairobi could be licensed or transferred to Bengaluru or New York.

Deep tech and Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship is the creation or extraction of value and deep tech solutions provide opportunities to create huge value. Deep technology solutions are leveraged best at the intersection of cutting-edge research and commercialization of innovations. Talented individuals at the research end combined with market knowledge are now best suited to build global companies built on deep-tech solutions.

The potential to transform industries using deep technologies is huge. The market for deep tech is young and vibrant with growing investors and entrepreneurs entering the ecosystem. As a reminder again, we hope we are better prepared to mitigate the risks posed by these technologies while benefiting from the rewards that seem to be in store.

We wrote about deep technologies in general but what technologies fall under the umbrella of deep technology? Sure, a lot of them sound like buzzwords and we’re going to run you through some of them. Hold the door, hold door…...Hodor:

Source: Jerome Glenn

1. Artificial Intelligence(AI) is a software designed to make intelligent decisions or accurate predictions in some problem domain. AI makes it possible for machines to learn from experience, cater to new inputs and perform tasks that match or better humans. Machine Learning, the subfield under AI is defined by 2 segments:

  1. Learning — To obtain a model, given a set of inputs, by building an algorithm trained on the data
  2. Inference — To predict things based on the understanding of the data that is trained

AI applications span across industries:

Healthcare: To manage medical information, speed up the discovery of new treatments as well as drugs and also detect and predict disease in advance.

Finances: To manage high intensive data and transactions, discover spending trends, build trading algorithms, and even predict as well as manage risks.

Autonomous Systems: To enable driver-less cars, aid robotic systems in the production process and even perform tasks beyond human capability.

2. Blockchain is a distributed ledger technology (DLT), based on Peer-to-Peer technology(P2P) that allows data to be stored globally on thousands of servers. The entire transaction history is made accessible in near real-time making it difficult for anyone to game or control the network and thereby removing the need to trust any central authority(bank, corporation etc.).Blockchains have the potential to replace networks with markets where compensation is on their own coins, cryptocurrencies.

Network: A set of people/computers/things connected together in order to transfer data/information/knowledge.

Market: A market is one of the many varieties of systems, institutions, procedures, social relations and infrastructures whereby parties engage in exchange with value.

Blockchain applications:

Energy and Environment: To trade power via micro-grids, recording every transaction made with a localized utility and to tokenize carbon credits.

Economy: To incentivize circular economy and track supply chains by enabling secure and transparent information of a product life-cycle.

Finance: To enable trust in financial transactions without third party interference by reducing complexity, fees and time.

3. Biotechnology: Synthetic Biology and Genomics are interdisciplinary fields that (re)design and (re)fabricate biological entities and systems that do not already exist in their natural state. This involves building artificial biological systems from tools and techniques in the natural biological systems such as genome-editing through CRISPR tools, re-designing existing natural protein functions and engineering microbes to produce biological products

Synthetic Biology and Genomics applications:

Supply chain: To enable a bio-based economy by harnessing the natural power of enzymes to build products and materials that are sustainable.

Food Industry: To produce meat from culture food products from in-vitro cells in the lab and to enable a shift that is both sustainable and ethical.

Healthcare: To use CRISPR technology by providing medicines through genome-editing that treat microbial diseases.

4. Robotics, at the intersection of engineering and computer science, involves the conception, design and operation of intelligent machines to assist humans.

The basic applications are in manufacturing and construction replacing humans where complexity, efficiency, safety, and speed matter. Other applications include human assistance at home and surgical robots in complex procedures with more precision, flexibility, and control.

Unmanned autonomous systems, aerial drones or underwater vehicles, are some of the most advanced robotic systems that have applications ranging from mapping and collecting data of land and ocean to planting seeds for agriculture or trees for ecological restoration.

Bionics, the intersection of biology, engineering and computing systems that replace or enhance organs or other body parts by mimicking the original functions or advancing them.

5. Quantum Computing: Current computers manipulate individual bits, which store information as binary 0 and 1 states. Millions of bits work in a sequential order to process and display information. This requires enormous computation resources. Quantum computers leverage different physical phenomena — superposition, entanglement, and interference — to manipulate information and store information as a probability between 0 and 1 as well as perform millions of operations simultaneously.

Quantum computing applications:

To simulate molecules and molecular processes, enabling drug discovery and advanced materials.

To compute algorithms to quickly direct resources such as ambulances and autonomous cars and build financial strategies

To upend cybersecurity over conducting everyday communications, processing credit card transactions, storing data, and securing connections to websites

You see, the potential is huge. And that’s it for today. I’m signing off with my recommendations and I hope they haunt you enough.

Recommendations:

  1. Book: Sapiens, A book well-known in recent times and stocked up even by non-avid readers. The premise of the book underlines the fact that human beings have been able to co-operate as a species and sustain progress by constructing imaginative realities such as religion, money, nation and corporation. While the book narrates the progress of humans in a beautiful way, it also incorporates a largely pessimistic view of the author on how the consequences of human progress have left us with little tlo be proud of.
  1. Deep Tech Ecosystem: Entrepreneur First is the first company builder to invest in talent before ideas. Its unique methodology is something that fascinates me. With a focus on deep-technology, the company helps ambitious people to become entrepreneurs. EF works on the framework it developed called Edge as explained by co-founder Alice here to find an individual’s most valuable skill, or area of expertise, either technical or domain.
  1. Deep Tech Startup:Meatable - History is unfortunately judged through the lens of the present. No amount of empathy will let us look back at slavery, racism or barbaric man slaughtering and avoid condemning them. Neither will our descendants when they judge us as primitives for the present-day ethical and environmental issues surrounding animal slaughtering for meat production. Beyond the positive ethical and environmental implications, lab-grown meat, if made affordable, sustainable as well as healthy,  has the potential to also solve large scale hunger problems across the globe. Meatable is working towards solving critical challenges for the successful commercialization of lab-grown meat
  1. Random Recommendation: Wait but Why - If you absolutely love reading long-form articles that are written on first principles, you are no further to look. One of the most influential writers that have an amazing combination of skills in the form of wit, intellect and art(stick figures), Tim Urban can keep you hooked on any topic - from science to behaviour, politics to technology. Yes, his quantity has drastically dropped, but the existing quality can engage you for months to come.

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