Behind Hello Tomorrow
“Hello Tomorrow” as a concept actually began in 2011. It was born out of the frustration of a handful of early career scientists who knew they had world-changing technologies on their hands but they had no easy way to commercialise them. Eight years later, thousands of start-ups now bid for a chance to be among the golden few chosen to present and pitch to mainstream investors at the conference. Chris Smith went behind the scenes, to talk to Sarah Pedroza and Arnaud de la Tour, two of the key people who make it happen...
Arnaud - I'm Arnaud de la Tour, CEO of Hello Tomorrow…
Sarah - ...And I'm Sarah Pedroza and I'm the co-Managing Director of Hello Tomorrow.
Arnaud - We were doing our PhDs and we were a bit frustrated because all the money, all the hype, was going to digital platforms; what is the next Uber of anything? And we were seeing so many great inventions and technologies in the lab but we needed the mindsets, the business, to pay attention to this. So that's why we created Hello Tomorrow and the conference and the start-up competition.
Chris - How long's it been going?
Sarah - Arnaud funded Hello Tomorrow in 2011 and I remember it quite well. And Demis Hassabis was on stage, it was actually the actual CEO of Deep Mind and nobody knew him.
Chris - I know Demis - we've had him on our programme - because he was at Queens' College, in Cambridge, where I am. He came on the programme because he went on to do a PhD in neuroscience after his degree and used his computer knowhow to solve a lot of neuroscience problems on the brain and then went back and founded Deep Mind. So you got him!?
Sarah - Yes we got him! He wasn't that well-known at this time and I was absolutely amazed to be honest. I was one of the volunteers at this time and I thought, okay so if these bunch of students and volunteers comprising of Hello Tomorrow is able to bring these brilliant minds it has a very strong potential.
Chris - I've been watching this morning a succession of extremely good pitches because you're bringing in companies which are nascent and they're really early technology and you've brought an enormous number of them to Paris. They're presenting what they have in mind, the problem of trying to solve, how they're going to solve it and why someone should invest in it. I've never seen anything like this in the sort of volume that you've got going through here. Where do you find all these companies and how do you get them here?
Arnaud - We have so many startups coming because we establish lots of relations with universities, incubators, accelerators all over the world; America and North America and Europe and Asia. Everywhere! At the beginning, the reason why they applied was because we were giving them a prize money of 100 000. But today the reason why they come is because they get some visibility. We got 4,500 applications and the 500 best, they are called the top 500, and people contact them immediately when they get the award. It's life changing for the company. It's more visibility and definitely also the connections. Yesterday, we organised what we call the “Investor Day”. We had 150 investors and almost 300 startups and they had more than 1000 meetings in the whole days. And for them meeting this crowd of people who understand their projects the technology behind it. It's quite unique. That's why they come from all over the world for this event.
Chris - Having done this for a little while now, have you got evidence that this is leading to investment?
Sarah - Yes. Actually the first winner we had, I remember Grégoire Courtine pitching on stage as a spinoff from EPFL. He found his CEO at the Hello Tomorrow global summit which means that he found the person who was able to raise funding and to help him out and they - if I'm not wrong - raised more than 35 million after the summit. We also have Lilium Aviation who was the winner two years ago and basically they raised more than 100 million after. So I think we have a good track record. But let's be clear, we help, we are the right platform but they are the amazing projects. So let's let's not take too much credit.
Chris - Indeed but are you unique? Is anyone else doing this and the way you're doing it?
Sarah - I don't think so. I think a lot of organisations are positioning themselves to do so. The thing is that Hello Tomorrow has been funded by science entrepreneurs. We understand them and they feel that they are into the right community. They find their own tribe and this is something that’s quite unique, I think, about what we do.