"The capital markets are signalling hard by giving incredibly big market valuations to companies that are profitable businesses, that also deliver sustainability-oriented innovation. The world's financial markets now recognize that unless businesses do something good for this planet, that this planet may not exist - and that there are investable companies that can be part of the solution."
"We're currently in the fifth wave of technology evolution - an era driven by data and AI, which are accelerating the number of applications that can disrupt every industry due to the timely availability of actionable data-driven insights. This year’s XTC winners, applying AI, blockchain, deep analytics and more across our seven categories, strongly show how this fifth wave can make the world a radically better place."
"The world’s largest startup competition for entrepreneurs addressing the globe’s most serious challenges."
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The bad news is that we have a global pandemic and shut down businesses. The good news is that entrepreneurs can lead us out of this period. Entrepreneurs are the ones who create value and jobs in our economy. This is your opportunity as an entrepreneur right now to take the big risks. This is your time. The world is counting on you to lead them to a better place. People are looking to leaders like you for guidance. In this crisis, you have the opportunity to lead the world to your destination, to inspire your employees and to show what you are made of.
Go-to-market fit is the formula for unlocking growth. The experience of finding go-to-market fit is like going from paddling to surfing. Paddling is so tiring. You are burning a huge amount of energy to go a very short distance. It’s like burning a lot of cash to generate a little bit of growth. On the other hand, when you catch the wave, what you feel is momentum. You feel like you can go very far without expending energy.
I like to get to know the founding team anywhere from 12 to 24 months before actually investing. Building that relationship over time, getting to know each other, and seeing the progress, that makes things much easier when the time is right to invest.
Even though, with corporate venture capital, you are dealing with big companies, it always comes down to the people and the personal relationships you build. Finding the right person within the corporation you want to work with makes a big difference.
We are balancing between the challenges of economic damage versus potential public health damage. This will define our generation depending on how we deal with it and how agile we can be. I think it’s clear that innovation will come out of necessity.
Some people are worried that when a corporate investor comes in, they will start controlling your roadmap. When I ran my startup, I didn’t find that. Nobody controlled our roadmap or asked us to do things unnatural to us. And if they asked us to do things we didn’t want to do, we just said no. The investor wants you to succeed. They are not there to make sure you only succeed for them, because they are also financial investors.
Some people call it persistence, some call it resilience. There will be some people who will be challenged in the post-Covid environment. There will be some business that will not be able to continue. And there will be some that will find new opportunities. My only request is please keep your head above the water. Please keep swimming. There are cheerleaders and supporters like me. Maybe there will be areas where we can fund you or partner with you.
We live in extraordinary times, but they are also times of great hope. As a global startup, you have to think about how the world is changing today. How have consumers changed? For example, people around the world are clearly not traveling as much or staying in hotels. They are not going to the theater or movies. What’s clear is that consumers have shifted those dollars to other areas and to digital consumption within the home. It’s important to think how trillion-dollar industries are digitally transforming themselves because of Covid-19. If you are a startup, you need to think about how you can ride these waves of change. History shows that every time there is a downturn, that is exactly the time when great companies are founded.
Going forward, telemedicine will expand into many more healthcare verticals. Many of these telemedicine platforms are pretty generic today. That means there is a lot of room for even newer and better solutions. For instance, a surgeon now uses the same telemedicine tool as an endocrinologist. Think about what a surgeon would need to explain things to patients that an endocrinologist wouldn’t. There are also opportunities in making sure that telemedicine is not worsening disparities, and that these solutions work just as well for your parents and grandparents as they do for you. Let’s make sure our solutions work for them too and are not worsening disparities, whether digital, racial, ethnic, or age-based.
I encourage startup CEOs to look not just for corporate investors, but for good corporate investors. As a startup, you want access to capital as well as to investors who can help you with follow-on rounds, with hiring, and with access to management talent. And you also want the strategic advantage of having investors who really understand your space and have experience developing technology and products. When working with corporate investors, you really get the benefit of this operating culture that you don’t quite get when working with financial investors.
Investors don’t like surprises. They don’t want to learn something from someone else that they should have learned directly from the entrepreneur. My advice is to always be transparent. Building trust and transparency starts with setting expectations. For example, the CEO of one company I invested in informed me that, in two years, he would need to move to the U.S for personal reasons. Two years later, he did just that and it was fine because he was clear about his intentions from the beginning.
It’s a very humbling experience when people who where superstars at one stage of the company unfortunately struggle and fail at the next stage. The reason for this is that, as the company grows, the role you play also changes, even if your title may not. People have to change or be changed. Being a VP of sales with five reps is very different than being a VP of sales with 5,000 reps, even though the title is the same.
The best time for startups to engage with VCs is when you don’t need to raise money. There are a couple of benefits. It removes the pressure of having to get to a yes or no decision in a short period of time. The second benefit is that if VCs are interested, they will push the discussion. If they are not, they will hopefully tell you what they want to see to get interested. That leads to the third benefit of getting to know the investor better and understanding that you can work with this person over a long period of time.
I’ve always invested in people who have a background in disruptive technology. I like to identify the most talented people with the most relevant experience. That is always the starting point. Once you have the right leadership, then you can build a team around those people. The other thing I look for is culture. You can’t learn that. Entrepreneurs have to be able to inspire others to build something great over the long term. And they must foster a team culture rather than an individual culture.
For private companies, I look for board members that can truly add value through their network or know-how in a particular sector. For public companies, I look for more functional requirements, such as an auditing or financial management background. And, of course, I look for diversity in board members. Also, board members are typically very busy, so I also want people who are willing to take the time to truly help and mentor the company.
Don’t be distraught if you miss the wave. Technology advances very quickly. Moore’s Law says that the capabilities of technology double every 18 months. If that’s the case, if you miss one wave, you will see another one come 18 months later, and that wave will be twice a powerful. That means you can catch an even bigger wave. This is more true than ever. We are about to see a massive wave where the best startups won’t just be worth billions of dollars, but trillions of dollars.
A lot of entrepreneurs are trying to figure out how to get their business funded. They just want money. But I often tell entrepreneurs what they really need is the right amount of money from the right VCs for the right business plan. You need to unpack each of those elements. Don’t raise more money than you need. Find a VC that is passionate about what you are doing and can really add value. And finally, if people listen to your plan, and you get hundreds of “no’s,” maybe you have take that to heart and make some changes. Because a few small changes in that plan can turn a very tough business into something that can really pop.
My investment thesis is very simple. Since 2012, I’ve believed we are just at the beginning of data-enabled businesses that will disrupt and transform the mainstream. We have invested in companies like Zoom, but we also invested in deep tech companies, everything from space tech to AI and Robotics. Looking toward the future, I feel that this is the century of biology. As digital and life sciences come together, we are starting to invest in some of those businesses as well. I believe that if you combine a bioinformatics expert with a big data scientist, magic can happen there.
Be thoughtful about what it is your building and who you are looking to serve. Then ask yourself, does your team represent your customers? We found that diversity drives innovation. You need a broad range of voices and perspectives to chip away at the biases that still exist in the workforce. And that will make your products even better.
Telemedicine and telepathology are here to stay in a post-Covid world. It’s clear that patients have wanted this to happen. We have gone from near zero telemedicine usage at the beginning of the year to now, where 40% of our encounters are completed with telemedicine. At one point in the crisis, we had more telemedicine appointments than face-to-face appointments.
Culture will always be a work in progress. At Microsoft, we are never done. We keep asking questions, we keep listening, and we keep modifying and fine tuning. Culture is something that requires intention as well as attention. As you build your companies, you need to really foster the environment that you are looking to create. You will reap greater dividends by investing in culture early and often.
Using technology to solve global problem is a factor in our investment decisions. We do focus on areas that relate to sustainability and community. We have a focused area on healthcare. We have seen that a lot of our companies have been useful in the Covid-19 situation. One that has gotten exposure recently is Medical Informatics Corps, which now has a customized monitoring solution for Covid patients.
For almost any company today, if you want to succeed, you have to stand for sustainability. Capital markets have a way of signally what the future needs. Take Tesla or Beyond Meat. The public capital markets are shouting that they want to fund projects like this because they will have a meaningful impact on our future. There are many sustainable companies in many different segments that are now viable because, rather than relying on subsidies as the driving force, there is increasing consumer demand. If, as a brand, you don’t stand for a better world, people aren’t interested in your product anymore, whether it’s ice cream or cars or anything else.
Leadership is a privilege. That’s means it comes with tremendous responsibility. What I’ve learned as a leader is that mindset is as important as skillset. You are responsible for setting the tone for those around you. And they will look to you for that clarity. Leadership is about listening and learning. Let a learn-it-all mindset—rather than a know-it-all mindset—guide you as you build your company culture.
Diversity has to be part of your culture and process. Creating a diverse team from the beginning will create a better product. At Microsoft, the more diverse teams we have working on our solutions, the better our products have been.
If your business is a technology-born business, then you are in good hands. The disruption is in front of us. The question is how do you convert it into opportunity? If you chose to disrupt, if you chose to scale up, this is your day. This is the time to prioritize. This is what will make you successful on this bumpy ride.
XTC - Tech for Purpose
XTC is a non-profit organization supported by leading corporations, VCs, foundations, policymakers, universities and tech conferences.
Opportunity for Investment
Top finalists will receive an opportunity to pitch to a panel of investors, subject to compliance with all applicable local laws, rules, and regulations.
The United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals that serve as the framework.
Empowering Startups to Innovate in 10 Key Categories inspired by the 17 SDGs
Extreme Tech Challenge 2021
Global Finals Judges
Chairman of the Board, HARMAN International
Founding Managing Partner, Walden Catalyst
Co-Founder, Extreme Tech Challenge
Extreme Tech Challenge
Charles River Ventures
President and CEO,
Chief Technology Officer & Executive Vice President,
AME Cloud Ventures
Co-founder & Former CEO,
2020 Global Finalists
Neteera’s human sensing platform provides contactless and precise monitoring of vital signs from a distance through clothing or furniture, while being reliable under motion. Its applications range from remote patient monitoring, to IoT, to child and elder care, and much more.
Pioneers of microsatellite technology advancing the frontiers of space business, reimagining traditional ways of using space, and creating a society where everyone on our planet can make space part of their life.
SPRK’s mission is to make the global food supply chain food-waste-free by turning millions of tons of surplus food into a sustainable impact venture. SPRK's AI-powered online distribution platform matches food oversupply with local demand, reducing food disposal costs and CO2 emissions while making more food available in cities.
AID:Tech develops identity-focused solutions that enable people to own, control and manage their own data. They hope to improve global challenges such as legal identity, financial inclusion, anti-corruption, and more.
Decomer develops environmentally friendly, water-soluble, and edible packaging material, as a replacement to plastic and other non-biodegradable materials.
Lilu builds tech enabled products to empower new moms, starting with a suite of products to make breastfeeding more comfortable and efficient. Our first product, the Lilu Massage Bra, is the first pumping bra with automated breast massage to help moms pump more milk, hands-free.
Bearing is at the forefront of bringing AI to the maritime shipping industry. Their technology platform combines real-world data with deep learning to streamline many aspects of shipping operations — from reducing fuel consumption to optimizing market opportunities.
HALA System’s Sentry platform uses IoT, AI, remote sensing, and distributed ledger to mitigate social challenges in the most dangerous places on Earth -- civilian casualties; documenting war crimes; emergency response; ceasefire monitoring; and disinformation.
90 million people in the world need, but cannot purchase, prosthetics & orthotics. An unprecedented 3D-CAD, 3D printing and machine learning (AI) technology creates an affordable and high-quality 3D printed prosthetics & orthotics delivered to the door, for individuals of all income levels.
Most cancers are currently detected in the late stages resulting in poor treatment outcome. Lucence’s precision medical-testing technology detects cancer signals in blood more quickly, accurately and cost-effectively. It’s time to end avoidable deaths caused by cancer.
swIDch is a cybersecurity startup that helps businesses to identify its users through our patented algorithm, one-time authentication code that generates in a networkless environment, to tackle problems of identity theft and CNP frauds
Simusolar provides and finances accessible, affordable, and energy-efficient appliances designed for off-grid homes and businesses in Sub-Saharan Africa. They envision communities that don’t have to migrate to find better work and quality of life, and companies that profit while improving the environment in which they operate.
K-12 teachers can create awesome interactive classes to engage students remotely or in-person, even without classroom internet. Annual subscribers get a free device that enables the classroom with internet connection simulation, artificial vision for grading in-paper exams automatically, and turns any wall into a smartboard.
Driving the first Smart City concept in Indonesia, Qlue has helped reduce potential flood points by 94%, improved government performance by 61.4%, and increased public trust to the government by 47%.
Education Vision Technologies
EVT uses AI to autonomously generate online courses which enable efficient learning, supports diverse learners, and provides a 100x cost reduction for creating digital learning. EVT can rapidly transition entire universities' catalogs online while generating high quality online courses. The EVT device autonomously generates notes from board writing, transcribes everything spoken, converts a presentation into categorized video segments, and connects all material together for an efficient and engaging learning experience.
Around 30% of the global food supply is pollinated by bees, but 40% of bees die every year worldwide (and not from natural causes). Beewise.ai uses AI, robotics, and computer vision to offer an autonomous beehive that enables bees to thrive, for the benefit of the bees and the world's food supply.
Industrial processes that involved chemical separation account for up to 15% of the planet's entire energy consumption. SEPPURE’s nano-filtration technology to separate chemical mixtures at a molecular level is a green alternative with world-changing potential.
Amai cures the food system one protein at a time. The first focus is the heaviest health challenge of sugar over-consumption. Coupling computational protein design to precision fermentation Amai's hypersweet protein is the first healthy, tasty, affordable, and sustainable sweetener.
Swap Energi created a sustainable refueling platform for electric motorcycles through swappable batteries and automatic shared battery stations within a city.
Stonestep is a Swiss-based insurtech firm that is changing how insurance is delivered in emerging markets. Its ‘Microinsurance as a Service’ platform makes it easy for consumer-facing digital companies to work with local insurers to address the needs of first-generation insurance customers.
An AI-based cognitive therapeutic app with the world’s largest volume of content to diagnose and provide interventions for developmentally delayed children. Recently authorized by the Korean and US governments to provide for children unable to attend special-needs programs during COVID lockdown.
Nurochek is a portable brain assessment device that measure’s the brain’s electrical activity and sends the results to a smartphone for analysis and the cloud for secure storage. It is deigned to take the uncertainty, and controversy, out of the assessment of 10 million brain injuries annually.
Project Etopia provides an all-in-one solution to house building with smart technology integration, especially in the developing world. Simultaneously, Project Etopia innovations strive to work with in conjunction with the planet rather than against it.
Vexi provides secure 1st-credit-card experiences for the underbanked population in Mexico and throughout Latin America. Their technology promotes access to credit for all.
Medusoil turns soil into stone, which provides solutions to mainstream construction and environmental problems such as soil erosion, landslide risk mitigation and soil consolidation.
Rewire boosts economic growth and financial independence in developing countries through a digital banking platform that is designed to serve the unique needs of migrants wherever they are. Led by ideals of social good, Rewire offers complete transparency, equal opportunity, and a fair banking system that’s available to everyone.
NovoNutrients makes food and feed from carbon capture. They are the protein behind the protein, using 250x less water than soy cultivation and 1500x less than raising beef cattle.
Tyto Care provides a complete telehealth solution that delivers easy, affordable, high quality telehealth visits, complete with medical exams of the heart, lungs, ears, throat, skin and temperature. Their technology can turn any location into a comprehensive telehealth clinic.
Millimeter-wave, radar-based, touchless sensing mixed with AI. Unlike vision technology, it does not invade personal information, and unlike voice technology, existing UI services can be expanded by replacing the problem of language complexity with intuitive gestures.
Advanced Animal Diagnostics
Advanced Animal Diagnostics aims to minimize antibiotics, meet consumer needs for a safe, abundant supply of animal protein, and ensure profitability of livestock production. Treat The Cow, Not The Herd.
Growing cities need to transport more people with fewer vehicles. Fleet orchestration technology enables the demand-responsive transit solutions smart cities need to reduce congestion and pollution. Mobility providers use Bestmile to offer innovative autonomous and human-driven mobility services using any vehicle brand, deploying coordinated fleets that meet operator efficiency and passenger convenience requirements.
Blood loss is the leading cause of preventable death both for civilians and the military. Cayuga Biotech seeks to commercialize innovative platelet-like nanoparticles to accelerate the body’s natural coagulation process.
FarmSense’s patented FlightSensor technology enables real-time monitoring of pest insects on farms. This unique insect data transmitted concurrently with weather information provides more accurate crop impact analysis which reduces pesticide use and increase crop yields.
Genecis converts food waste into biodegradable plastics and other high value materials. They use a scalable platform to reprogram bacteria to make high performance materials from low-value organic waste streams, while significantly reducing GHG emissions.
C88 Financial Technologies Group helps millions of emerging customers in Indonesia and the Philippines manage credit, price and persistency, with the aim to spread credit responsibly and equitably in society.
Turtle Tree Labs
TurtleTree Labs is the first biotech company in the world with the ability to create milk from all mammals. To maximise impact, the team will work with industry leaders to adopt their sustainable and safe methods to create milk. TurtleTree Labs is able to have a 98% reduction in carbon footprint and as a result will help to save the world by replacing dairy cows in the future.
Over 1 billion live without reliable electricity. Using mobile payments, modular grid design and remote monitoring, Okra Solar provides utility companies with a low-cost, data-driven solution to operating solar networks in hard-to-reach places.
Geofast Rumah 3D
Where construction requires fast-setting cement, Geofast Rumah 3D product is greener than ordinary options because there is no carbon emission, recycling nickel slag and nickel industry waste.
Blue Planet’s technology aims to create economically sustainable carbon capture. They use C02 as a raw material in the production of synthetic limestone without expensive purification steps, which can then be used in place of natural limestone rock mined from quarries.
Swoop Aero integrates small autonomous aircraft into the health supply chain to deliver essential supplies and pathology samples, on-demand. Operations have taken place in Vanuatu, DR Congo, Malawi, and soon Mozambique.
Elucidata’s mission is to break barriers to using biomedical data to discover better drugs, faster. We want to create a future in which data and information transform and accelerate biomedical discovery and improve health and health care. A critical element of this future creation, we believe, is to make more biomedical data/computational tools/protocols findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable. We will enable the invention of tools and services to turn this F.A.I.R. data and information into knowledge and insight. Polly, our AI-enabled cloud-based platform provides teams with access to structured biomedical data in a ready-to-use form to generate actionable insights.
FreshoKartz optimizes agricultural practices through AI and machine learning. Integrating farms, farmers, service providers, banks, government, and corporate buyers in a single platform at the village level.
Green Dot Bioplastics
Green Dot Bioplastics use renewable and sustainable raw materials instead of petroleum based raw materials to create plastics, aiming to advance the unique characteristics of bioplastics to help designers and manufacturers create inspired products that empower consumers to contribute to a more sustainable world.
Saathi’s platform technology enables 100% compostable and biodegradable sanitary pads from banana tree fiber. Compared to conventional wood pulp or cotton, this approach saves on land usage, contains no bleach nor chemicals, and decomposes faster.
HARA connects rural smallholder farmers with banks, insurance companies and input producers by collecting and sharing data that is usually hard to obtain. Their mission is to promote inclusive sustainable growth and contribute to the economic prosperity of people in rural communities through the exchange of valuable data.
Bridging the gap between the needs of a culturally diverse low-literate population from rural and semi-urban India and services that would be otherwise out of reach. Navana Technology has created a new interface that speaks and listens to the users in their native Indian languages.
Two billion children are ingesting unsafe level of toxic heavy metals like arsenic through dietary consumption. MicroGen Biotech develops Natural Functional Microbiomes to reduce heavy metals in crops to protect the health of all mankind while improving the health of soils, 3 billion global acres of which are contaminated by heavy metals.
Over a billion people are financially and socially excluded, because they can’t prove their identity. Digizen offers a transformative solution based on NFC smart cards, which can be issued and read, even offline, via standard Android phones.
Reading science meets AI. Amira is the first intelligent reading assistant that recommends appropriately challenging stories, listens as a student reads aloud, and intervenes when helpful. The software assesses oral reading fluency and analyzes errors to pinpoint strengths and weaknesses. Amira accelerates reading mastery.
Nexford is a next-generation university leveraging technology to deliver affordable, effective education, 100% online. Nexford aims to enable greater social and economic mobility across the world by providing learners access to high-quality, affordable, dynamic online education that prepares them for the global workplace.
CropX’s AgAnalytics platform revolutionizes the farm and the decision-making process, by integrating above-ground data sets with real-time soil data measured by proprietary sensors, to provide insights & automations that help farmers grow more food, using less resources and causing less environmental damage.
Drishti’s computer vision AI digitizes human activities in the factory and allows manufacturers to benefit from human analytics for the first time. Drishti aims to use technology to augment people, not displace them.