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Decile Summit 2023

Pablos Holman on Implementing Science Fiction

Pablos Holman on harnessing deep tech for global challenges: A venture capital perspective on sustainable energy innovation and bringing science fiction to reality

Summary of Pablos Presenting at Decile Summit 2023

Venture capital catalyzes technological advancements by transforming novel ideas into marketable realities. In the realm of deep technology, or “deep tech,” this transformation is particularly crucial. Deep tech encompasses scientific and engineering innovations that have the potential to revolutionize industries and address pressing global challenges.

Harnessing Deep Tech

Deep tech ventures often stem from groundbreaking scientific discoveries that offer solutions to complex problems, such as sustainable energy production. The role of venture capital in this sector is to identify, fund, and support the translation of these high-potential innovations from concept to commercialization.

Venture Capital and Innovation

The synergy between venture capital and innovation is the cornerstone of modern technological progress. Venture capitalists are not just financiers; they are pivotal players in shaping the future of technology. By backing deep tech initiatives, they invest in the potential for profound societal impact and substantial economic returns.

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The Potential of Deep Tech

Deep tech represents the frontier of innovation where scientific breakthroughs meet practical applications. In his presentation, Pablos Holman elucidates the untapped potential of deep tech in addressing global issues, with a focus on sustainable energy—a sector ripe for revolutionary change.

  • Sustainable Energy Production: The demand for clean, renewable energy sources is escalating as the world confronts climate change and resource depletion. Deep tech offers avenues to not only improve existing energy solutions but also to conceptualize entirely new methods of production that are environmentally benign and economically viable.
  • Technological Leapfrogs: In the energy domain, deep tech can lead to technological leapfrogs, bypassing incremental improvements and achieving significant advancements in a relatively short time frame. Such breakthroughs could alter the global energy landscape and mitigate the effects of climate change.

Investment Considerations

For venture capital professionals, investing in deep tech startups is fraught with unique challenges and opportunities.

  • Risk Assessment: The inherent risks are higher due to the unproven nature of the technologies and the longer timelines required for development and market penetration. Holman suggests a careful yet bold approach to risk assessment, favoring transformative potential over immediate returns.
  • Market Dynamics: Understanding the market dynamics is crucial for venture capital firms considering deep tech investments. They must evaluate not only the potential market size but also the regulatory landscape, adoption barriers, and the readiness of the industry to embrace new technologies.

“Deep tech ventures pivot on the axis of innovation and practicality, with the power to redefine energy paradigms and reshape our environmental future.”

Pablos Holman, 2023

Venture Capital’s Role

Venture capital stands as a beacon for deep tech startups, providing not just funding but also strategic guidance and access to networks that are vital for growth and success.

  • Strategic Guidance: Venture capitalists contribute more than just capital; they bring industry insights, mentorship, and operational expertise to the table. This holistic support system is often the linchpin for startups navigating the treacherous waters of bringing a scientific concept to market.
  • Network Access: Holman emphasizes the importance of the extensive networks that venture capitalists offer. These networks can connect startups with potential customers, partners, and even future team members who are essential for scaling the business.

Navigating Market Entry

The path to market entry for deep tech ventures is typically laden with obstacles, from regulatory hurdles to market education. Venture capitalists play a crucial role in crafting go-to-market strategies that are as innovative as the technologies themselves.

  • Regulatory Landscape: Deep tech often disrupts not only markets but also existing regulatory frameworks. Venture capitalists must assist startups in navigating this complex terrain, ensuring compliance while advocating for conducive regulatory changes.
  • Market Education: For technologies that create new markets, education is paramount. Holman points out that venture capitalists should work with startups to educate potential customers and stakeholders about the value and applications of the new technology.

Balancing Patience and Progress

Investing in deep tech requires a balance of patience and the drive for progress. The long development cycles of deep tech products necessitate a long-term vision and the willingness to support sustained research and development efforts.

  • Long-term Vision: The transformative potential of deep tech ventures often demands a longer horizon for return on investment. Holman stresses the importance of a vision that aligns with the extended timeframes inherent in deep tech development.
  • Sustained R&D Support: Continuous research and development are the lifeblood of deep tech. Venture capitalists need to be prepared to fund multiple rounds of R&D to overcome technical challenges and achieve breakthrough innovations.

“Venture capital not only ignites the spark of deep tech ventures but also fans the flames of continuous innovation and market creation.”

Pablos Holman, 2023

Next, we’ll explore the strategic imperatives for venture capital firms when dealing with deep tech investments and the impact of such investments on the venture capital landscape itself.

Strategic Imperatives for Venture Capital

Venture capitalists face a set of strategic imperatives when engaging with deep tech startups. These imperatives define their approach to investment and support, shaping the trajectory of the startups they fund.

  • Due Diligence: Given the complexity of deep tech propositions, due diligence goes beyond financials and market analysis. It extends into understanding the underlying science, the feasibility of the technology, and the capability of the team to deliver on their vision.
  • Collaborative Approach: The deep tech ecosystem thrives on collaboration. Venture capitalists are encouraged to foster relationships between startups and academia, industry, and even government entities to facilitate the kind of cross-pollination that drives innovation forward.

Impact on Venture Capital Landscape

The influx of deep tech ventures has a transformative impact on the venture capital landscape itself.

  • Specialization of Funds: As the deep tech sector matures, there is a trend towards the specialization of venture capital funds. Holman notes that this allows for a more focused investment strategy and the development of in-depth expertise in specific domains.
  • Evolution of Investment Models: The unique demands of deep tech startups have led to the evolution of investment models. Traditional milestones and metrics may not always apply, and venture capital firms must adapt their models to accommodate the extended timelines and scale of investment required for deep tech.

“Venture capitalists must navigate the deep waters of high-tech innovation with a compass calibrated for scientific rigor, market foresight, and strategic collaboration.”

Pablos Holman, 2023

The Future Landscape

Looking ahead, the impact of deep tech on our society and the planet is poised to be profound.

  • Societal Impact: Deep tech startups stand at the vanguard of solving some of the most pressing social issues, from healthcare to environmental sustainability. The role of venture capital in this is not merely as a funding source but as a critical enabler of progress.
  • Environmental Stewardship: With an increasing focus on sustainable technologies, deep tech presents an opportunity for venture capital to contribute to environmental stewardship. Investments in this area not only have the potential for financial return but also for significant positive impact on the planet.

Final Thoughts

In his presentation, Pablos Holman offers a compelling vision of a future where deep tech and venture capital converge to bring about change that once seemed confined to the realm of science fiction. For venture capital professionals, the message is clear: the opportunities in deep tech are vast, but they require a nuanced approach that balances risk, innovation, and long-term strategic thinking.

“Investing in deep tech is not just investing in technology; it’s investing in the future of our world, with venture capital serving as the bridge between today’s science fiction and tomorrow’s science fact.”

Pablos Holman, 2023

As we look towards a future shaped by these disruptive technologies, the partnership between visionary entrepreneurs and forward-thinking investors will undoubtedly be the cornerstone of our collective progress.