Deeptech Companies — the Startup Diamonds in the Rough
What exactly is ‘deeptech’ and why is it a double-edged sword? (PART I)
Aside from being a hot buzzword on the tip of the (techies’) tongue, ‘deeptech’ is a term for a category engulfed in ambiguity. It’s surprisingly hard to find a concrete definition of what exactly constitutes deeptech, even after diligently scouring the internet for hard facts and features. I once attended a panel on investments in the deeptech space, and even the VCs on stage had difficulty explaining which startups can be filed into the ‘deeptech’ category and which ones can not.
The general consensus is that it’s a blanket term used to describe technologies born from doctoral theses, years of scientific research at university labs or research institutes. Per Wikipedia:
Deep tech, or deep technology startup companies are based on substantial scientific advances and high tech engineering innovation. They require lengthy R&D, may take a long time to reach commercial application, and often require large investments to achieve commercial success.
Deeptech startups will have at least one, usually several, PhDs on the team, and more often than not, will have gone through the process of filing a patent once or twice. They’re not the average startup. Their technology is very unique and hard to reproduce. This is both a competitive advantage in the market, and a deterrent for clients & investors alike because their business potential is extremely difficult to calculate without having an expert in the field scrutinize the technology and verify the claims. Most VCs won’t even go through the trouble of trying to find a niche expert in the technical haystack — everyone’s wary of backing another Theranos.
Deep(tech) in the Nordics
When my colleague Steffi and I attended Slush conference in Helsinki, we went there with the specific purpose of meeting with as many (relevant) deeptech startups as we could fit into the two-day conference.
We wanted to explore potential collaboration opportunities with MHP and also find out the biggest hurdles for these startups to get funding and attention from potential clients. After all, it is our mission to find the perfect match between startups and corporates.
Here are some of those deeptech diamonds that we discovered:
3D digital twin of the physical world
NOMOKO is creating ‘Mirror World’- a digital replica of the physical world — and making it accessible to both machines and humans by using accurate 3D models of urban environments, with a layer of application programming interfaces (API) and Mirror World applications built on top of it. Within the Mirror World, users are able to stream spatial data and build custom applications with game engine-ready, fully segmented digital twins of entire cities. The Mirror World will become the digital infrastructure to enable a variety of industries and technologies — from the simulation of autonomous systems, augmented reality, smart city applications, and much more.
USP: Their ability to generate extremely detailed 3D models at large scale and the creation of a universal spatial data infrastructure.
Navigation through virtual rails for all-weather autonomous drive
Autonomous driving in its current form is expensive and unreliable in adverse weather conditions. BaseTracK enables simple, reliable, and affordable all-weather automated driving. Their technology enables a car to drive within a road lane without visual recognition of the road marking, while reaching speeds up to 130 km/h in adverse weather conditions, like rain, snow, etc. These “virtual railways” are digital spatial lanes that include all information about the upcoming route, so vehicles know in advance how to drive themselves.
The ADAS software and hardware can be retrofitted onto any vehicle. They use contractors to do aerial scanning of an area and apply an AI algorithm to the generated data. The hybrid navigation approach means no extra cameras, radar, or LiDAR are required.
USP: Patented technology, high-precision navigation for any vehicle, “virtual railways.”
Real-time hand tracking & gesture recognition tool for AR/VR
The human hand has evolved over a million years to become the single greatest tool we have as a species. ManoMotion figured out how to use it in the digital world. In fact, ManoMotion became a leading company in hand tracking and gesture analysis in 3D-space by finding a way of using a standard RGB camera and proprietary AI-based software package that can run on any smart device. They brought unparalleled intuition in human-computer interaction (HCI), refined through 10 years of research and development in gesture technology wrapped in a neat package of an easy-to-integrate SDK. AR/VR-glasses, as well as AR software in smartphones and other gadgets, are lacking true 3D gesture control for innovative applications — a huge market space of which Manomotion is leading the development.
USP: Patented technology; accurate, nuanced, real-time hand tracking and gesture recognition with low processing expenditure and requiring only an RGB camera.
Cloud-based video recognition for object & human behavior analysis
Valossa’s vision is to develop an AI that understands video as a human would. They’re working toward this goal with their comprehensive video recognition and a content intelligence platform for business clients. Valossa AI recognizes people, objects, sounds, styles, video structure, speech keywords, and can monitor brands and highlight inappropriate content. Use cases for this technology in Automotive are facial recognition & emotion analysis (e.g. behavior and attention tracking). Other use cases in Manufacturing are the detection and tracking of people, vehicles, and machinery to ensure effective and efficient flow management.
USP: Combines human profiling with objects; comprehensiveness of platform; technology can be brought on-device
What Nomoko, BasetracK, ManoMotion, and Valossa all have in common is that they used scientific discoveries to develop really cool technologies as a better solution than what is currently available in the B2B market. And they have the traction to prove that the market is interested.
So why do I argue the need to involve an IT Consulting firm? Where would it come into play?
I’ll cover the many arguments in favor of these partnerships in Part II: Romcoms Explain 7 Reasons Why Deeptech & Consulting are Perfect Together
Stay tuned :)