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State of the deep tech industry, from start-up to venture capital

A report from (Hello) Tomorrow

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The industry of deep tech is a ferocious beast, prowling the shadows of innovation with intense hunger. It’s an exciting adventure, filled with many risks & rewards, where the only law is to keep advancing technology & make a global impact to enhance humanity. It’s a world of high stakes, played with cutting-edge technology, where the madness of deep technology genius meets the genius of entrepreneurship madness.

I have been immersed in this world of deep technology for ten years learning lessons from successes and failures in the lab and start-ups. Long before the phrase “deep technology” was coined there was this weird mix of startups in hardware/hard tech, 3D printing, 3D bioprinting, tissue engineering, synthetic biology, bioelectronics, biomaterials, implantable devices, biotechnology, semiconductor, future energy, artificial intelligence, & quantum computing. Deep technologies were so advanced for multiple sectors that they created their own industries with unicorns. Hello Tomorrow is the highly anticipated event of the year that summons the big players in the deep technology start-up and venture capital world.

A visual representation of how deep technology has innovated other sectors. This can be achieved with the use of deep technology in cultivated meat or the ending of pregnant animal slaughter to create and ingredient for cell culture biomanufacturing.

“Investing in deeptech means getting to work with entrepreneurs who are solving problems in the real world. Companies that give us greener energy, cleaner food, or better working conditions meaningfully improve all of our lives. The pace of change is accelerating — which is good news for all of us,” Brad Pruente, Partner at Prime Movers Lab

“We are happy to be deeptech investors and help finance and support our startups with solving real problems; for example in challenges such as the energy transition, robotics for safer work or medical technology to reduce healthcare costs. The Hello Tomorrow event is a great place for networking and meeting deep tech co-investors, follow-on investors, deeptech startups and like-minded people. Europe can strengthen its deeptech ecosystem by organizing more events like Hello Tomorrow and focus on more VC syndication and cooperation,” said Alain le Loux, MBA, General Partner, Cottonwood Technology Fund.

Amidst the clamor of this year’s event, I would hear a recurring comment that “DeepTech” is a very broad term, with some VCs having their own niche in DeepTech. In truth, the overarching term “DeepTech ” was desperately needed a decade ago. An umbrella term would have really helped when I was grappling with robotic arms, hollow fiber bioreactors, & open-source 3D bioprinters, or bioelectric field technologies. Alongside DeepTech founders of other companies toiling away at Imperial College London like Lab Genius in synthetic biology, we were missing a sense of identity and direction.

Back then we were adrift in a sea of uncertainty when it came to defining our sectors. It wasn’t purely a hardware issue and it didn’t fit fully under biotechnology. Now we have a sector of focus under the umbrella of DeepTech with so many new innovative companies appearing on an annual basis. I had the honor of spending time with some great deeptech founders in this industry alongside some influential VCs such as Prime Movers Lab, Cottonwood Technology Fund, Big Idea Ventures, Beast Ventures, SOSVentures, Innovation Industries, Invest NL, Soffinova and many more.

Founders take the stage Hello Tomorrow 2023. Credit: Hello Tomorrow marketing team.

Feeding on tomorrow

“The global food industry is going through historic, seismic transformations today,” says Andrew D Ive, Founding Partner of Big Idea Ventures. “Resources are being stretched and we all recognize we need to be less wasteful. Governments realize the innovations NuoBio and others are bringing to the world in cultivated meat can provide for their people while protecting the planet in the short, medium and long term. Teams of innovators around the world, in food and cell technology, deep tech, and food science, are breaking through the barriers that held us back from scaling meat production and moving the trillion-dollar meat industry toward a sustainable future. This is not another promise of ‘soon’ or ‘in just a few years’, the time is now. We can do it today.“

This year my heart filled with excitement to see a surge of AgriFoodTech companies starting to infiltrate the DeepTech sector. Over the past few years advanced bioengineering, tissue engineering, robotics, and regenerative medicine deep technologies have started to enter the FoodTech game. Why? You ask. It’s elementary, my dear reader: the industry of cultivated meat necessitates decades of experience from the DeepTech sector of regenerative medicine that gave birth to cultivated meat. Novel cellular technologies, full serum replacements with all 300 proteins, synthetic biology growth factors, new hardware, faster biofabrication technologies, hollow fiber bioreactor technology, and other future deep technology.

Big Idea Ventures is one VC that has invested in Samad and me as founders of NouBio Inc using our portfolio of market-ready products that drop production costs by 95% with no animals harmed. Long term our plans are to utilize internal robotic deep technologies to unlock the entire industry with business partners, dropping the costs of cultivated meat to $12/kg, and lower CO2 & energy consumption, whilst allowing for full scalability with hundreds of thousands of kgs of cultivated meat. Big Idea Ventures have officially become the world’s foremost investor in AgriFoodTech in a report by FoodHack, they are also one of the leading follow-on investors for start-ups. FoodTech will leave a permanent mark on the world of DeepTech, as we advance cultivated meat we will start to see more innovations that penetrate all industries associated with cell culture-based biomanufacturing: drug development, drug discovery, high throughput human tissue biomanufacturing, biocomputers, vaccine development, cell and gene therapy.

Big Idea Ventures was the #1 top dedicated #AgriFoodTech investor in 2022.

“Deep technology and regenerative medicine hold great potential for the development and advancement of cultivated meat,” explained Samad Ahadian, Ph.D., Founder and Director at NouBio Inc. “Deep technology can be utilized to optimize the culturing process, allowing for greater control and precision in the production of meat products. This can lead to improvements in the taste, texture, and nutritional value of cultivated meat, making it more comparable to traditional meat products. With these cutting-edge technologies currently under research and development at NouBio Inc., cultivated meat has the potential to become a more sustainable and ethical alternative to traditional animal agriculture, revolutionizing the way we produce and consume meat.”

“Cultimate is dedicated to developing scalable solutions for the production of high-quality cultivated fats for the food industry. Our approach involves not only creating innovative bioprocesses but also addressing fundamental biological challenges. We recognize that collaboration is essential to achieving our goals, and we strive to work closely with neighboring deep tech companies and industries. By partnering with other deep tech players, we can leverage synergies and tap into technological advancements existing in industries outside of food.”George Zheleznyi, Founder & CEO of Cultimate Foods.

Hello venture capital

Far too often we fixate on the founder’s journey in the deep technology ecosystem but Hello Tomorrow really opens up the world of deep technology venture capital. I’ve noticed the sheer dedication, determination and hard work that goes into the support and building of some of the most innovative companies alongside the experience that VCs gain from fundraising themselves. The ultimate goal is to build scalable businesses that can impact and revolutionize the world as we know it for the benefit of humanity. Founders often overlook the fact that it’s the VCs that put capital on the line under high-risk scenarios. They are the ones that take the leap of faith in early-stage deep technology founders to build the next generation of energy, health, food, and space. I always try to remind myself of a wise quote: It’s not about the money in venture capital, it’s who the money comes to drive your revolutionary DeepTech innovation.

“The pandemic, increased geopolitical multipolarity and conflict, and the huge challenges presented by climate change make deeptech investment more critical than at any period in the past three decades. Though this is a very challenging period for startups and VCs, we must persevere and ensure that the next generation of energy, food, health and security startups are capitalized and have the means to grow. Right now all VCs need to be deep tech VCs”, commented Patrick Schneider-Sikorsky, Founding Partner of Beast Ventures.

Centre stage at Hello Tomorrow 2023. Image credit: Hello Tomorrow marketing team

Jeff Crusey, Founding Partner of Farpoint VC, confirmed, “Technological advantage is one of the ways we achieve stability and resilience globally. Governments and investors alike around the world are waking up to the fact that we’ve severely underinvested in deep technology and competitors have consumed supply chains. In an effort to reorganize and reinvest in the hard technologies that will provide us a more stable future, we are seeing unprecedented levels of funding coming online to alleviate the bias created by software eating the world,”

The state of the deep tech industry, from start-up to venture capital. An exclusive report from Hello Tomorrow 2023
Prince Constantijn Van Orange, special envoy for techleap.nl panel discussion on deep technology at Hello Tomorrow.

The shining star of the show this year for me was TechLeap led by the illustrious TechLeap special envoy Prince Constantijn Van Orange with incredibly attentive staff, and a booth adorned with tattooed oranges, lilies, and stroopwafels. I will admit I’m already biased towards the Netherlands (in breaking news, the NATO Innovation Fund for DeepTech is establishing it’s headquarters in the Netherlands) based on my experiences in the ecosystem and passion for its DeepTech innovation & infrastructure (mention Utrecht and I’m all ears). If you were lucky enough to attend the TechLeap top-secret Dutch DeepTech event you know why. With a waiting list for tickets of over 50 people, it was one of the highlights of the entire 3-day Hello Tomorrow event. Picture a room brimming with start-ups, VCs, and LPs talking openly about their insights into DeepTech, start-ups exchanging war stories of their journeys, and most importantly everyone in the room supporting each other and giving advice. Tales of high-risk investments for brain implants now in multiple clinical trials (unlike Neuralink’s recent setback with the FDA), semiconductors & quantum computing technology. I had many conversations about the potential of biocomputers and quantum biology which I believe we will see more of with some experts believing that merging human tissue and bioelectronics as the future of artificial intelligence. The best thing about DeepTech VCs is that many of the top-notch VCs and start-ups work closely with academic experts.

Working together for a better tomorrow

“The last two days have shown us that deep technologies have become incremental drivers of our planet’s development and that their positive impact on all layers of our societies is no longer in question. Deep tech is sustainable by design, and in the context of the climate crisis, is fuelling real, fundamental change and influencing investment trends across industries. The determination of founders across the world, combined with the engagement of industry leaders is sustaining this change, and it will continue to be our mission to identify these projects and strengthen the ecosystem that allows them to flourish,” said Arnaud de La Tour, Co-Founder & CEO of Hello Tomorrow.

The state of the deep tech industry, from start-up to venture capital. An exclusive report from Hello Tomorrow 2023
Previous Deep Technology Pioneers 2021: Founder & CEO John Zandbergen with founder & CMO Doris Zoric of Ourobionics BV.

The air was electric at Hello Tomorrow this year and it was the first year that Arnaud went above and beyond by involving LPs and GPs (those that invest in the VC industry). You could feel the palpable energy in the room on investors’ day and during the first day of the event. Passionate founders and VCs exchange pitches and feedback like hot potatoes and most importantly speak about their own love or interests in deep technology. Hello Tomorrow was where the action was this year for DeepTech. This event was such a success that I have a hunch for how big 2023 will be for Hello Tomorrow. I have also been fortunate to be nominated as a previous deep technology pioneer as a founder of Ourobionics BV [Deep technology that enables high throughput human tissue/organs to become cyborganic with self-healing bioelectronics and biosensors to speed up drug discovery, drop costs of pharma R&D, with a vision of regenerative human-machine interfaces for enhancing human longevity], led by the experienced management team of CEO John Zandbergen CMO Doris Zoric, CSO Prof. Suwan Jayasinghe, & CTO Prof. Alireza Dolatshahi Pirouz, CDO Patrick Yopp, CIO Prof. Alvaro Mata.

“The US and EU have set 2035 as a target date to eliminate animal testing. Current alternatives are limited and gigantic steps and efforts are needed to come even close to making the set goal. Being able to merge different deep technologies to create more complex tissues and embed them with biosensors and bioelectronics, provides the opportunity to not only generate more data but also enhance the standardization of this data output. Bringing these cyborganic tissues inside the human body could further contribute to the challenges we are facing within regenerative medicine and contribute to enhancing human longevity,” pointed out John Zandbergen, Founder & CEO of Ourobionics BV [DeepTech Pioneer 2021].

State of the deep tech industry, from start-up to venture capital, a report from Hello Tomorrow 2023
Deep Tech pioneer founder and managing director, Mandy Hon, speaking about impacfat and their cellular fat innovation during hello Tomorrow’s panel discussion.

“ImpacFat is a cultivated fish fat company based in Singapore. While we are working hard in Singapore, we know that there are many other deep tech startups like NouBio also working hard in this sector. Hello Tomorrow is very important for us to connect our research findings and technology with others so we grow and strive together. Sustainable effort should be done together as a whole in the industry instead of individually, and I deeply believe that only through connections and collaborations with other startups can we create a bigger impact on the world, said Mandy Hon, Founder & Managing Director of ImpacFat [DeepTech Pioneer 2023].

Don’t listen to the naysayers and doubters in the industry when it comes to the state of deep technology from everything I experienced at Hello Tomorrow the industry is not just alive, it’s thriving. I have seen it with my own eyes and I’m very excited about the future of the DeepTech industry.

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Dr. Stephen G. Gray

Dr. Stephen G. Gray is a serial entrepreneur with 10+ years of experience in deep technology from use of bioengineering & robotic arm bioelectro-fabrication for regenerative medicine & longevity to cultivated meat & cell-based biomanufacturing. He is a founder & co-director (COO) of NouBio Inc: Market ready products that drop cultivated meat production costs by 95% and internal robotic DeepTech to unlock all of cell-based biomanufacturing. He is a co-founder of Ourobionics BV: DeepTech that enables human tissue to become high throughput (with 4D enabling bioelectro-fabrication) & cyborganic (with self-healing bioelectronics/biosensors) to speed up drug discovery with a vision of human-machine interfaces to enhance human longevity. He has co-founded & advised multiple DeepTech start-ups: Cartallum Blockchain, Cybosense, GutsBV, OuroFoods, & Nukaryo. The first start-up he co-founded, Ourobotics Ltd, was voted amongst the Top 10 3D bioprinters in 2015 & they open-sourced basic extrusion 3D bioprinting to the masses in 2016. He lives in Utrecht, the Netherlands and his writing style "Ouro Journalism" has a focus on insights from the sector of deep technology.

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