How the power of ‘voice’ can help Aussie deep tech startups fix global problems

deep tech

v2food's plant-based burgers. v2food is a Main Sequence portfolio Source: Supplied.

An invention that can change the world is no good if no one knows about it.

Globally, science-driven founders are finding solutions to some of our most significant problems and though successful in their own right, it is rarely their first instinct to step into the limelight and make a show of their successes. That, or they don’t know how to communicate their findings in a way that the general public can grasp. 

Either way, an opportunity presents itself to leverage celebrity voices to amplify their findings and get the world on board. After all, ‘voice’ is its own unique capital.

Celebrities looking to invest in the ‘next big thing’ is nothing new. At first, this involved angel investors like Ashton Kutcher realising that early investment in technology could deliver lucrative returns. Through early-stage investing in the likes of Spotify, Airbnb and Uber, his ventures have gone on to revolutionise industries. 

What we’re seeing today is a second wave of investors, who are more acutely aware of the opportunity they have to influence the positive change they’d like to see in the world. And they’re putting their money where their mouth is. 

The power of ‘voice’ in practice 

For tennis superstar Serena Williams, this meant raising US$111 million ($149 million) toward capital investment in female-led companies and founders from underrepresented backgrounds. Looking specifically at deep tech, accelerating decarbonisation and reaching humanity scale healthcare are among the most critical advancements we can make for future generations. They’re also among the ideas that need the most amplification — and sooner rather than later.

Voices like Katy Perry and Robert Downey Jr. have emerged as champions for planetary investment. From Perry’s investment in Apeel Sciences, which uses technology to reduce food waste by making fruit last longer, to RDJ’s FootPrint Coalition, which combines VC investment and storytelling to encourage investments in sustainability and decarbonisation technologies — there is a rising celebrity consciousness around the state of our planet. 

They have come to realise that science is what we need to fix global problems. 

The opportunity for Aussie ingenuity

While this second wave is only just reaching Australian shores, the reputation of our science and research capability means there is a huge opportunity to connect this type of investing with voice capital. 

Through Neil Perry investing in alternative protein through v2food, and Tennis Australia partnering with Samsara on infinite recycling, both Main Sequence portfolio companies, we’re certainly accelerating the growth of meaningful investment into science-forward Aussie startups. But how do we take this to the world stage?

Australia has birthed some of the world’s most significant advances. From CSIRO’s invention of WiFi to pioneering the cochlear impact, we have boundless ingenuity to offer and the opportunity for market proliferation is huge. 

So far we’ve seen the greatest interest in sustainability-focused startups — alternative proteins, tackling plastic, reducing emissions — but it would be remiss to not acknowledge the significant opportunity for investment in new technologies that will improve quality of life for millions of people.

Bye bye bystander

Like many of us, celebrities often leverage social channels to raise awareness of issues related to plastic, food waste and rising ocean temperatures. Eventually momentum stalls, we hit bystander apathy and wait for someone else to step up to the plate. The reality is that both voice and capital are needed to truly drive change.

Australian startups must think about who can be the “voice” to take their idea to the world. Gone are the days of the transactional celebrity ambassador as we usher in a richer, more impact-led era of conscious investing. 

It’s natural to shy away from deep tech because people might not understand the technology process at hand, but by amplifying voice to share the impact of these technologies, we can break down silos and truly transform the way we live.

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