The last time I was in Jerusalem for the Our Crowd Summit was February 2020, and the world changed on the way home. We got rerouted through Korea to avoid Hong Kong where the first Covid-19 cases had just been detected, but then found ourselves as early home isolators after someone on our flight to Korea tested positive – who knew then what the next few years were going to deliver!
This week was the first time the Summit has been held since then, and while some aspects of life have changed forever, the incredible pace and energy of the Summit was reassuringly familiar. The mood was overwhelmingly positive, despite the financial world coming off the worst year in a very long time as a 40 year cycle of low interest rates came to an end.
The sentiment was that we are in the dawn of a new innovation cycle, driven by AI, and that this will likely see the creation of a new era of businesses that will ultimately rival in size and scale the tech behemoths that were born in the last innovation cycle.
Shlomo Dovrat gave a fascinating presentation outlining how the last innovation cycle changed consumer lives and behaviours, but not industry, and his view that this new cycle will see an AI driven industrial revolution that will disrupt while collar jobs in the way that previous industrial revolutions disrupted blue collar jobs.
Alec Ellison posed the question as to whether we would see a roaring 20’s driven by AI to rival the roaring 1920’s driven by electrification, and the view that we have reached the tipping point where the long held promise of AI is realised and ready for deployment at scale. The references to AI in nearly every presentation certainly suggested that to be the case!
One of my favorite sessions at the Summit each year is the Top Ten Tech Trends, so as I’ve done in past years I’ll share them again here.
Fusion Gets 150 Million Degrees Hot
With a Summit theme of Start Ups Saving the Planet, there were a lot of sessions and references to energy transformation options and opportunities, and the topic of nuclear fusion systems as a solution to the end of fossil fuels came up on more than one occasion.
Space is Becoming Crowded
We’re well and truly past the days of old where governments were the drivers of space technology and exploration, with private companies now firmly leading the sector. In news that will surprise no one I went to the session focused on space tech, where the discussion focused on what was driving space revenue – it’s communications and remote sensors, with a whopping 75% of revenues today coming from communication satellites. Of the circa 8500 operating satellites half of them were launched in the past year, and if you take insurance as a measure of industry maturity only about 300 of them are insured, so we’re still definitely in frontier land.
A fascinating question posed was ‘what is a space company, one that launches the satellites or one that is dependent on space technology for it’s operations’?
Innovation Puts the Equity Into Healthcare
When more than half of the world’s population still lack access to basic health services, does technology provide the answer? I had the great privilege of MC’ing the Start Ups Saving Lives session at the Summit, and one of the portfolio company’s highlighted was Tytocare, whose remote device and clinician dashboard was deployed by Israel’s Sheba Medical Centre in a field hospital in Ukraine to serve refugees and locals.
The session also highlighted Our Crowd’s new Global Health Equity Fund, set up in partnership with WHO Foundation. The fund has an accompanying access pledge, which requires portfolio companies to ensure that their solutions are available, accessible and affordable for populations experiencing inequality.
The Carbon Rush is On – Who Will Sell the Picks and Shovels?
Moving the needle on carbon capture and storage is a key element of combatting climate change, and there were a number of innovative solutions presented. I was really interested in the work BlueGreen Water Technologies are doing, which sees them not only rehabilitating aquatic ecosystems but also providing massive carbon capture capabilities.
FoodTech Parity is on the Way
With food production contributing significant to the climate challenge, the race is on to find alternative options. Consumers have voted with their palates, and the previous crazy growth of meat alternatives has slowed dramatically. Now there is a new era of products emerging, where company’s like ReMilk are producing dairy products that are identical at a protein level to dairy from cows, but without a single cow in sight. Cost parity is still a challenge in allowing these new generation proteins to go mainstream, but ultimately that will resolve.
The Next Frontier in Energy is Storage
Current fossil fuel alternative energy sources such as solar and wind still see significant variability in their generation capabilities, so innovative storage solutions are required to even out supply.
The Era of Specialized Silicon has Arrived
We’re all aware of the challenges that the disruption of the silicon chip supply chain has created for so many industries, but as always crisis creates opportunities and a range of companies are working on alternative products that if successful will not only insure against future disruptions, but also provide greater geo-equality in the chip production game.
Generative AI – from Serious Chat to Visual Breakthrough
While ChatGPT is definitely the flavour of the month – I lost count of how many sessions I went to which featured content produced by ChatGPT – generative AI is far more than just text or computer code. As Jon Medved kicked off the Summit in a range of AI generated personas to reflect the diversity of the 81 nations in attendance, it highlighted how the accessibility and affordability of AI is going to disrupt creative industries at a speed we’ve never seen before.
As always there’s a dark side to new tech that is advancing so rapidly, the cybersecurity session I went to gave voice to how the already alarming level of financial fraud driven by social engineering – 60 million adults were phone scammed in the US last year alone – is going to escalate exponentially when those calls asking you to transfer money are made in your partner or your mothers voice….
The Metaverse – Is it Game On or Game Over?
While the Metaverse hasn’t quite found it’s way out of its original gaming applications yet, more and more businesses are realising the potential that exists. Expect to see more instances of the instruction manual being replaced with a virtual headset enabled version, and we saw a brilliant illustration of this in the Start Ups Saving Lives session, where Alon Zuckerman, President of Surgical Theater, took us a through a case study of how a 10 year old boy with Ewing’s sarcoma was able to have his pelvic tumour removed and return to full health and mobility. Itai, the 10 year old in question entered the stage running around and kicking his soccer ball, which already had the audience cheering, but when he revealed that he was also Alon’s son, the cheers turned to tears as the impact was felt by the thousands in the auditorium.
We Need a Trillion New Trees – Fast!
With so much of the world’s forest lost, replanting at a magnitude never previously envisaged is necessary to prevent further loss of critical ecosystems. Drones are able to assist, with companies like Flash Forest able to accelerate the rate of reforestation to combat this crisis.
This is just a snapshot of the companies and topics that were on display this week, and as always I’m leaving Israel excited and energised by the scope and depth of innovative thinking on display. Will all of the identified trends pan out and create game changing companies and industry shifts? Most probably not, and you can search this website for the top ten trends of previous Summits to do an analysis, but undoubtedly a good number of them will, and even the ones that don’t will have moved technology and business thinking a step forward during their life cycle.
Thanks for having me Our Crowd, it’s been great to be back!