Old Billingsgate in London, formerly the site of the world’s largest fish market, was the perhaps unlikely location for ‘Tech Day’, the city’s biggest event for start-ups. Your author, along with roughly 7,000 other visitors attended last Friday, meeting with around 200 start-ups. While the event was significantly smaller in scale than the comparable offering in New York which we visited last year (Los Angeles also hosts a similar tech day), it still provided a valuable opportunity to take the pulse of the industry.
In summary, while we were impressed by the vibrant nature of start-up culture in London, much of the ‘innovation’ on show seemed to be concentrated on already-popular areas. That We Work was one of the event’s main sponsors was perhaps a sign of the times. We struggled to get excited about entrepreneurs discussing ‘smart’ apps or ‘cloud native’ offerings, particularly those within the fintech or VR/AR space.
Nonetheless, boundaries continue to get pushed. Consider the following three examples. First, we met a company (Karakuri) claiming to be the world’s first fully customisable food preparation system combining robotics, automation and machine learning. The idea behind the business is to leverage technology to conceive of a world where meals can potentially be individually customised but mass produced; where freshly-made food could be as convenient as fast-food. Given the increased interest in healthy eating and food provenance as well as a growing prevalence of food allergies, this seems a logical area on which to focus. Also on the topic of food, the vision embodied by urbanagric is a potentially compelling one. We discussed earlier this year the case for agtech and bringing innovation to the farming industry by – in this instance – vertical indoor crop growth monitored remotely via intelligent sensors seems an area in which investment will only likely grow.
In a totally different area, CircaGene is a business that touches on two different important future trends: molecular diagnostics and cybersecurity. Understanding our DNA may impact what, for example, we choose to eat, but almost more crucial than deciphering our genes is making sure that the information we receive is stored securely and not compromised. The encryption of genetic data is therefore logical. Aggregating and anonymising it for broader insights represents a further opportunity. Expect more innovation in this area.
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