Deeptech Labs’ spring cohort earn their spurs on media day
The six companies in the current Deeptech Labs cohort were introduced to the public last week, in an online event ahead of the demo day for investors on June 21.
Deeptech Labs is an accelerator programme and VC fund founded in 2020 by Arm, Cambridge Innovation Capital, Martlet Capital, Ewan Kirk (CEO and co-founder of Cantab Capital Partners) and the University of Cambridge. The accelerator supports deeptech entrepreneurs as they move from prototype and proof of concept to scalable products and services, and connects them to Deeptech Labs’ extensive network of deeptech investors – deeptech being a sector with the expressed objective of providing technology solutions based on substantial scientific or engineering challenges.
Deeptech Labs was founded to fill a gap in the European venture market and accelerate the growth of promising early-stage deeptech companies. Deeptech Labs supports its cohort companies through a specially-designed 13- week accelerator programme, connecting founders with a global network of more than 50 world-leading deeptech entrepreneurs, technology experts and investors. It is also an investor in its own right.
The event was hosted by CEO Miles Kirby.
“The cohort for spring 2022 was narrowed down from 1,927 companies to six,” Miles said in his introduction. “These are the very very top companies in Europe.
“The community consists of 39 fellows, 75 speakers and experts, more than 2,000 hours spent with investors, including founders from Arm, executives from Microsoft... there’s 120 venture capitalists signed up to the demo day.”
Following Miles was Tomide Adesanmi, CEO and co-founder of CircuitMind – “software that automatically generates board designs” – and a previous Deeptech Labs participant.
“Deeptech Labs helped us get the direction right and you should always make time for that,” Tomide said.
Jem Davies, former fellow, VP and general manager of Arm’s machine learning and media processing groups, followed. Jem’s role is finding the oyster on the beach. When Arm decided to buy and/or augment companies Jem “was lucky to look at hundreds of companies” and invested in five – and the skills he developed are now being put to use at Deeptech Labs.
“You can dismiss a start-up very quickly or you can say, ‘There’s something there, they need some help’,” he said. “Some of the questions they have frankly leave me floundering but the good thing is, you’re on a panel with other people who can help. It leaves me in awe sometimes.”
The six companies in the spring 2022 cohort, in order of appearance, were:
Toposense: Toposense is the world’s only ultrasonic sensing technology for advanced collision avoidance. The Munich-based company uses echolocation and signal processing algorithms to make vehicles in the robotics and automotive industry smarter and safer.
“We provide next-level robotic safety with next-generation technology – ultrasonic sensing,” CEO and co-founder Tobias Bahnemann told the audience of colleagues, networkers, possible investors and other stakeholders.
Anaphite: Bristol-based Anaphite incorporates graphene into battery materials to enable the creation of super-fast charge, long-range batteries.
“Our novel coating takes 30 per cent less battery space,” said COO and co-founder Alex Hewitt.
SonicEdge: Leveraging ultrasound, SonicEdge has developed the world’s smallest speaker-in-chip. The Israeli company’s speaker-in-chip solution to distorted sounds in AirPods/earphones transforms the audio experience. CEO Moti Margalit said speaker-in-a-chip technology is delivered “using semiconductor manufacturing processes”.
Cambridge-based iKVA is an early-stage AI knowledge management company creating solutions for organisations to discover data and intelligently and proactively provide it to users when they need it, enabling better business insights.
“Our vision is to use AI to make the right decisions, initially for the engineering and science sectors,” said iKVA CEO Jon Horden.
Guildford-based Inovo Robotics is democratising robotics with capable, modular and low-cost “cobots” that open up completely new opportunities for safe, flexible automation.
Co-founder and co-CEO Henry Wood said “end users need to be able to install robots/cobots themselves”: the company is looking for “several” more pilot customers.
Paris-based Nestwave provides advanced, IoT geolocation solutions to IoT modem and DSP vendors. Its patented, hybrid-signal technology improves localisation accuracy in indoor and dense urban environments while greatly reducing power consumption and solution footprint.
CEO Ambrose Popper said that by “using software IP embedded in the cellular chip set”, tracking becomes cheaper and battery life is extended. He added that “1.7m packages are lost or stolen every day” wordlwide, from cars to pets to books.
The day after the webinar I visited Deeptech Labs’ new premises at School House above Cambridge Cookery School on Purbeck Road.
Miles’ enthusiasm for the cohort carries with it an appreciation of where they sit in their varying sectors.
Toposense: “We see automation in factories is growing exponentially... I loved their low-cost sensor.”
Anaphite: “The electrification of everything – bikes, cars, tools – requires batteries.”
SonicEdge: “The fundamentals of speakers haven’t changed – until now.”
ikVA: “When you look at Google, which is a first-generation search engine, they’ve worked out how to use a few words, but it’s very hard to search for complex data very quickly.”
Inovo: “Their solution is especially timely given the huge shortage of workers in factories.”
NestWave: “Tracking devices are a huge market, relatively untapped, and with a low-cost, low-power solution you have the next generation of tracking.”
The new 2,000 sq ft hub includes a conference room, a boardroom, a Zoom room and a main space, says Miles.
“We’ve been here since March,” he adds. “It’s part of Homerton College. There’s enough space for 30 people.”
The company has six full-time and one part-time on board.
“Yesterday was the first media day we’ve done,” Miles notes. “It’s an opportunity for access before the demo day on June 21.”
A total of more than 120 VCs and corporate representatives have previously attended its virtual demo days, demonstrating the significant and growing interest in the European deeptech sector. On June 21 four investors are from the West Coast alone, and of course half the cohort is from overseas.
“Yes,” Miles says. “We found a lot of these companies are saying ‘it’s great where we are but we want to get access to the Cambridge cluster, to academics, to venture capital funding’.
“All the way through we’re trying to figure out what the big issues are and how we can help address them.”