Falling Walls Venture impression 4
The Falling Walls Venture Competition provides a unique snapshot of the global science and technology start-up scene. With 22 fledgling companies from nine countries, the rapid-fire pitches reveal the priamry focus areas seizing the attention of today’s entrepreneurs. 21 men and one woman (a gender imbalance typical of most start-up scenes) pitched the 18 assembled jury members, who are tasked with evaluating the companies’ transformational potential. Perhaps most striking was the lack of consumer-facing technological applications – the stereotypical fodder of Silicon Valley that has launched some of the world’s largest companies over the last decade. Rather, most of today’s presentations focused on problems of physical infrastructure or human health. “Most of the conferences I go to,” reflected moderator Magith Noohukhan, “are usually about Tinder and dating, but here we’re seeing companies looking to solve real-world problems. It’s very exciting.”
Three categories of work were most prominent. Several companies sought to solve energy problems, using algae or coordinated microbiological processes to mobilize scalable, self-repairing “bags of enzymes” for biofuel production. Healthcare efforts, usign engineered antibodies, amino acid chains, or tissue engineering to address longstanding cancer, diabetes, or vision ailments. The transportation sector also received attention, from the likes of Intelligence on Wheels and Lilium, whose vertical lift-off aerial vehicles wowed the audience in the day’s first presentation.
For most of these companies, much of the technical work has been done: the tests have been run, the patents have been filed, and the C-suite has been populated. Moving into rounds of finance and scale-up represents an entirely different challenge as technologies begin their difficult march from the lab to the real world.