Small teams tackling global problems

Stoic VC

Could start-ups save the world?
There has been some fascinating use of technology lately to solve big problems in business.
Australian tech start up Reask is using machine learning to model climate risk for insurance companies and helping them price it. It is an interesting and exciting use of big data in the finance space. It comes alongside other perhaps more obvious use cases for AI modelling, such as in US fintech disruptor Upstart, who have made significant inroads into the payments/credit and merchant servicing world using non-traditional variables to ‘credit check’ new customers in an efficient and effective way.
While start-up neo-bank Volt went bust recently, the above examples show the financial services sector is potentially fertile ground for AI start-ups to get off the ground. Institutions have deep pockets, innovation is key to winning in (or breaking into) the highly competitive and highly regulated sector, so they have open doors to new ideas.
The big players in the resource and energy sectors are funding development of renewable hydrogen and other ‘green molecules’. The likes of Andrew Forrest and gas pipeline giant APA Group, supported by universities and government co-investment, are focused on whether producing these ‘potentially green’ energy sources is possible and cost effective on an industrial scale. These gases may be produced using existing fossil fuel forms of generation but the next step is to prove it can be done using solar power, which would make it carbon neutral or even negative. Resources and energy giants are conscious that they need to do something to ensure they don’t become ‘stranded assets’, so are buying into the future.
There is a question here about how society makes sure that these innovations don’t just stay ‘where the profits are’ if they have a wider, more important, use case. What if climate modelling could help us ‘save’ the world, not just help insurance companies predict the end of it? What if we discovered that the better use case for green molecule production was small scale ‘pods’ that could power remote dwellings, water treatment, agriculture or medical facilities across developing nations?
Tomorrow is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed.