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Start-ups 28 Nov 2017

What is 'deep tech'?

When technologists and scientists work together on a corporate goal, the result is deep tech.

Technology is everywhere – so much so that almost any startup presents itself as a tech startup. However, a company selling a traditional product or service applying existing technology (like Uber or Cabify) is not the equivalent of actual technological and scientific progress with corporate implications. To distinguish one phenomenon from the other, the term “deep tech” was coined.

Swati Chaturvedi, co-founder and CEO of the investment firm Propel(x) coined the term in 2014. Dissatisfied with some of the financial commitments she had made, she decided to focus instead on other projects she called deep tech, which were also more socially relevant in principle. According to her definition, deep tech refers to “companies founded on a scientific discovery or meaningful engineering innovation” and which also seek to make the world a better place.

Deep tech companies promise solutions in a wide range of fields, using techniques such as big data, artificial intelligence or deep learning, with a more scientific approach than is typically seen in the tech companies covered by the media. They aren’t the digital companies that have grown the most in recent years (such as Facebook or Spotify), and they aren’t based on innovative business models (like Airbnb). Instead, they solve problems through meaningful scientific or technological developments.

In addition to their goal of changing the world, deep tech companies are an attractive investment opportunity. “Deep tech investments still carry risk and sometimes face longer roads to liquidity, but their low valuations can provide for significant returns,” Propel(x) maintains.

The following are 10 examples of deep tech startups that want to change the world.

DeepMind

This artificial intelligence (AI) company created a neural network that imitates the way the human brain works and learns to play video games. It also created a neuronal Turing machine that is capable of accessing an external memory. In 2014, Google bought it and in 2016, its program Alpha Go beat the world champion of the ancient Chinese board game Go (the first time that AI beat the player). Its new version, Alpha Go Zero is capable of learning on its own, without any human interventions.

Lilium Aviation

This aviation startup wants to completely change the way people travel. It is developing the world’s first fully electric jet with vertical take-off and landing (VTOL). Lightweight, silent and environmentally-friendly, the plane seeks to eliminate congestion and pollution from cities, and offer inter-city travel that is faster than public transportation.

Lilium-avion-futuro-BBVA

Recreation of Lilium's jet model. - Lilium Aviation

Gel-e Life Sciences

This company develops medical products that stop bleeding in a fast, clean and safe manner. It uses biomaterials and designs treatments for wounds with a wide range of uses. Stephen Hawking is one of the biggest proponents of its potential.

Aromyx

Aromyx is taking taste and scent to the digital world. To do so it has created a platform that captures, indexes and searches for data on scents and flavors. J. Bruce German, chemist and Professor at the University of California in Davis calls it the “Google Maps for taste and scent” – something very useful for companies working in the food, consumer goods, chemicals or agricultural industries.

Neurence

This software company that uses an intelligent cloud-based recognition engine. It promises to get machine learning to better understand human beings.

Dark Trace

This company applies machine learning to cyberdefense. It uses artificial intelligence to stop cybercrimes “before they occur.” Founded by mathematicians from the , University of Cambridge, the company uses algorithms inspired by the human immune system to create defense systems for the corporate world’s computer networks.

Sophia Genetics

Dedicated to data-driven medicine, this company’s technology helps healthcare professionals better diagnose and treat patients. According to the company, “democratizing data-driven medicine is helping save lives.”

Luminance

Luminance is an artificial intelligence platform for the legal sector. Its technology analyzes large volumes of legal texts at high speed, saving firms in this field time and money.

Digital Masterpieces

This startup has created an image and video processing platform that combines machine learning and big data analysis. Its creative mobile apps Clip2Comic and BeCasso, which allow users to create digital works of art, are based on this platform.

MessageBird

This Dutch company created a cloud-based communication platform with its own infrastructure of telecom operators. It allows global companies to communicate via text message, voice, chat or video in a direct, fast and secure manner.

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