Creative Destruction Lab (CDL) has topped off a successful year with five days of lively discussion at its first virtual Super Session. Ventures graduating from CDL’s 16 streams, which were delivered at nine sites around the world, came together to network and hear from world-class industry leaders. There were over 1500 attendees and 174 ventures present.
CDL’s world-leading experts started every day with an executive summary, touching on some of the most daunting problems facing humanity — and the biggest opportunities for science and tech to play a positive role.
Watch their full presentations here, or keep reading for a glimpse into each of their speeches.
Yoshua Bengio, a world-leading expert on deep learning, bestselling author, and scientist with CDL’s AI stream in Montreal, said participants would be smart to keep their eyes on two areas: the challenges posed by out-of-distribution utilization and the regulation of AI. Out-of-distribution utilization refers to machine learning applications that are trained on data coming from one environment but will be deployed in a different environment. “The field is moving fast, so I encourage you to keep an eye on this,” he said.
Olivier Raybaud, the founder and managing partner of Blue Oceans Partners and associate at CDL-Atlantic in the Oceans stream, explained the role of oceans as the “heart and lungs” of our planet, as well as the damage being done to them by pollution and exploitation, and the potential of the green economy. “If we follow this [current] trend,” he said, “there will be more plastic than fishes in the ocean by 2050.”
Christine Tovee, a fellow at CDL’s locations in Toronto and Paris in the streams of Blockchain, Space and Climate, celebrated recent advancements in space exploration and discussed the opportunities space exploration presents for other industries and other CDL streams. “Every CDL stream has a home in space,” she said. “Space is an opportunity, due to its unfamiliarity, its harshness, to challenge both technology and humanity to reimagine and reinvent itself.”
Louis Roy, the CEO of Certified B Corporation Optel Group LLC and fellow at CDL’s Supply Chain stream in Montreal, spoke about why he believes the biggest business opportunities are tied to solving challenges faced by humanity. “Technology on its own does not serve a purpose. The purpose has to be controlled by humans that have the right behaviour and values.”
Loren Padelford, the CRO of Shopify and associate at CDL’s Commerce and Space streams in Atlanta and Toronto, provided proof of just how much the COVID-19 pandemic has changed business, especially the e-commerce market. Padelford called the pandemic “a time machine” that brought 2030 to 2020. “Change or die. That’s where we exist.”
We’re in the early stages of a monetary revolution, according to Ethan Buchman, CEO of Informal Systems and associate at CDL’s Blockchain stream in Toronto. He spoke about the opportunities and risks of new technology like decentralized finance and non-fungible tokens (NFTs), and discussed the questions this moment is posing to society. “While there’s many new commercial opportunities, the things that are really most exciting to me are about real world systems to enable local communities to trade and build wealth independent of the ebbs and flows of the global financial system,” he said.
The CEO and president of Zymeworks, Ali Tehrani, who is also a fellow at CDL-Vancouver in the Health stream, spoke about a paradigm shift he sees taking place in biotech. “I believe … tech is going to push bio to new possibilities.” He said the change will bring personalized, precision medicine and safer drugs with fewer side effects. Tehrani also described how CDL’s communities of entrepreneurs and investors can play a role.
Andrew Thompson, CEO of Proteus Health and an associate in CDL’s Health streams in Oxford and Toronto, spoke about how technologies like AI can transform life sciences and the delivery of health care. He highlighted five CDL companies that he believes are great opportunities: Okko Health, Figur8, Nostos Genomics, DeepSpin and AgenT.
Start-ups got practical advice from Ingmar Posner, a professor of engineering science at Oxford and scientist with CDL Oxford’s AI stream. He said that deep learning has a data problem, which is actually an “excellent thing” for the CDL audience, because it means that deep learning can be improved and that it’s “given rise to a tried and tested model for start-up success.”
Nathan Kundtz, CEO of Rendered.AI and associate at CDL’s Space stream in Toronto, explained two emerging trends in space and how these apply to ventures like those scaling at CDL. Kundtz said the cost of accessing low-Earth orbit is down to nearly a tenth of what it was 10 years ago; he also explained why fixed satellites could change the game for wireless communications.
Roger Melko is the scientific lead for CDL’s Quantum stream and a professor at the University of Waterloo and associate faculty at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. He celebrated the way that CDL has led the “second quantum revolution” by developing companies that create second-generation quantum hardware all the way up to full stack quantum computers.
Sacha Mann, an entrepreneur in residence at Novateur Ventures and associate at CDL-Vancouver in the Health stream, discussed how different technology areas can help cure more diseases, including the mRNA technology that’s used for the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. “We’re in a biotech renaissance, with so many new ways to develop treatments and cure more diseases than ever before,” she said. “The mRNA vaccines, I think, are just the tip of the iceberg of how we can use mRNA to develop new technologies.”
Sarah Applebaum, partner at Pangaea Ventures, introduced CDL’s new Matter stream, which assists entrepreneurs who are building their ventures around material science breakthroughs. She said that these types of companies haven’t necessarily had the eye-popping valuations that companies in fields like biotech have — but change is afoot. “This year’s cohort of CDL Matter companies are emerging leaders in energy storage, plastics recycling, circular economy, decarbonization, and more.”
Joy Romero, VP of technology and innovation at Canadian Natural Resources Limited and partner at CDL-Rockies, talked about how Canada leads other oil-exporting nations in environmental, social and governance (ESG) rankings. She said that fossil fuels will be part of any future and that companies at CDL can be a part of separating the production and use of fossil fuels from greenhouse gas emissions.
Alison Sunstrum, a founding partner at CDL-Rockies in the Ag stream and CEO and founder of CNSRV-X Inc., shed light on the problem of food insecurity, which she said will get even more challenging as the global population grows over the next decades. “There is no question that to do more with less, and to do so equitably and sustainably, will require creative disruption,” she said. “Along with immense challenges comes massive opportunity.”
CDL-Paris Climate fellow Gaëtan Bonhomme, who is also a partner at Breakthrough Energy, talked about the fact that renewable energies like solar and wind have decreased in price to the point that they are competitive without subsidies. “That’s completely changing the way that we think of ‘How are we going to be able to get there by 2030, by 2040, by 2050?’” he said.