Looking Back on the Tough Tech Summit

The Tough Tech movement is underway.

“We are in a time when the next generation of unicorn companies must be solving issues of water scarcity, feeding the planet, or curing diseases,” said Katie Rae, our CEO and Managing Partner, in her opening remarks. “As venture capitalists, we believe we can find world-changing Tough Tech companies that provide massive financial returns. It’s not a choice between impact or profit.”

At the Tough Tech Summit, we had the privilege of convening entrepreneurs, leaders in academia and business, investors, government and policy experts, and other key community members from across the world, all of whom are helping ignite the Tough Tech movement.

We heard from GE’s Chief Innovation Officer and CEO of Business Innovations, Sue Siegel on industrializing Tough Tech, Robotic Project Lead at X Hans Peter Brøndmo, Applied Invention Co-Founder Danny Hillis, and Mick Mountz of Kiva Systems (Amazon Robotics). We heard from investors like Dayna Grayson from New Enterprise Associates (NEA), Carmichael Roberts from from Breakthrough Energy Ventures, and Ilan Gur from Cyclotron Road. As well as academic leaders like MIT President Rafael Reif, who spoke about the role of academia as a convener of innovative minds and an enabler of Tough Tech development.

The next generation of Tough Tech companies were out in full force at the Summit. These teams are committed to solving urgent, world-changing problems through breakthrough science and technology. They’re working to provide clean, limitless energy using superconducting magnets; they’re delivering drugs to hard-to-reach tissues through ultrasound; they’re detecting poisonous substances in the air through the world’s biggest digital olfactory platform; and so much more.

We heard from founders from Tough Tech companies of all types and sizes. Like Nabiha Saklayen from Cellino, a startup that’s curing diseases by programming cells like computers. Or Natalya Bailey, who’s rewriting the rules for in-space propulsion at Accion Systems which recently notched $3M in a Boeing-led round. Like Jason Kelly from Ginkgo Bioworks, the “organism company” now valued over $1B. Or Ric Fulop, who’s founded six technology companies (including A123Systems) and is now remaking manufacturing through metal 3D printing at Desktop Metal.

Thank you to everyone who joined us at Tough Tech Summit 2018. We are thrilled to work together on the Tough Tech movement and look forward to seeing you at Tough Tech Summit 2019.