A couple of years ago, no-one could have imagined how much and how quickly our cities could transform. Bushfires, a deadly pandemic and political unrest are pointing towards new social priorities and a critical need for innovation. In this fast-changing environment, future technology thinkers are pushing the limits of what seems possible.
Two entrepreneurs from different sides of the world are pioneering crucial technology that addresses our biggest problem: climate change. And they’re meeting giants such as Amazon and Tesla where they are.
Meet Tim Kentley Klay and Grace Sai at our Visiting Entrepreneur Program from 22 June to 1 July. The thinkers will share their wisdom on critical issues today and how they’ve set up disruptive technologies set to address these problems and shape our future.
Innovation comes from white spaces
Tim Kentley Klay, whose company HYPR develops mobility systems that improve as they move, has built a career from imagining a possibility. In just 4 years, he built Zoox, an autonomous car company valued at $3.2 billion that has now been acquired by Amazon.
This ability to imagine what isn’t yet conceivable also led Grace Sai to co-found her software enterprise Unravel Carbon. Recognising that companies rather than individuals account for the biggest carbon outputs, Singapore-based Grace created a way for organisations to track, reduce and report their emissions.
“I always observe what’s needed in the world for the next 20 to 30 years and ask ‘what’s missing’,” Grace said.
If there is a white space that hasn’t been served and you can uniquely serve it, that is a propelling opportunity for you to create a long-lasting legacy and impact.
Creative thinking sees characters in robots
As a kid, Tim collected hard rubbish because he wanted to build a rocket ship. His teenage ingenuity led him to capitalise on a simple 2 colour printer to make university IDs. As a graduate, Tim saw the opportunity in the emergent Apple Mac’s ability to democratise animation and post-production, so he founded an animation studio.
This creative background brought Tim into robotics.
“I saw an article on Google X that featured a Lexus that could drive itself down a freeway. When I saw that I said, this is it,” Tim said.
“I could see the car was about to become a character, a robot, as it was going to be animated. And if that's true, this is as big a change as going from the horse and carriage to the car.
“Creating artificial intelligence systems is very stimulating because it is the full realisation of what it means to do animation. I spent the next year in my studio, researching and designing autonomous vehicles without human driven controls and forward windshields.”
Tim, who is based in San Francisco, sees autonomous vehicles as key to reducing the stresses of dense urban environments and improving road safety.
Carbon footprint data in seconds
Grace took a sharp strategic approach.
“When the Paris climate agreement came out in 2015, it was suggested that we had 8 years to cut carbon emissions. But the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report says it’s already too late,” Grace said.
“I found out that there are around 400 million companies in the world and only 10,000 have measured their carbon emissions with even fewer reducing. The sector is an alphabet soup, overwhelming to some and confusing to most, often requiring the hiring of costly consultants to help unravel things.”
So, Grace founded a company that converts company accounting data into carbon data in seconds, given that a company’s accounting data is often its richest source of truth, and every dollar spent by a company has a carbon footprint attached to it. Grace said: “With rigorous data science and methodologies aligned with the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, we are able to show a company’s carbon footprint through that.”
From invention to innovation
In her experience as an investor, Grace has gained important perspective for entrepreneurs. Grace said the difference between invention and innovation is the courage to take your idea out to the market to get feedback.
Tim’s secret to running 4 successful businesses is being able to explain convincingly how his intervention works. Similarly to Grace, who stresses the importance of taking the time to find the right co-founders, Tim said: “You’re gonna get a lot of people say ‘that's crazy’.”
You're also going to get a few people say, ‘that makes sense to me, let's work together’ – and then you go as a team.
The meaning of intelligence
As a society today, we are discussing and debunking approaches to running cities, healthcare systems, climate management, online networks and more. So, what constitutes intelligent thinking?
“To me, intelligence means having the ability to recognise patterns and acting in a way that changes those to your advantage,” Tim said.
“The right vision involves seeing the architecture of society and systems and shifting these in a novel way.”
Meet the experts
Meet with Tim and Grace at our annual Visiting Entrepreneur Program, running from 22 June to 1 July 2022.
Hear Tim and Grace at the launch event: Future TBD: How is technology shaping a better future? – Wednesday 22 June
Tim will also share his knowledge at:
- The power of nature + human ingenuity = Shaping our future? – Wednesday 29 June
- What's next in a future TBD? – Friday 1 July
Grace will offer insights at:
- Lessons for our future: How to accelerate climate-tech? – Thursday 23 June
- Smart cities: Can technology make them sustainable? – Friday 24 June
- Travel guide to decarbonisation: How do we get there? – Thursday 30 June
We will question everything, covering the future possibilities of the metaverse, cancer research, smart cities, synthetic biology, web 3.0 and more.
The Visiting Entrepreneur Program is a series of free events where global and local experts explore the latest technological breakthroughs and innovations. It’s produced by the City of Sydney with partner organisations from the local startup ecosystem. The 2022 edition is kindly supported by Tech Central and the Greater Cities Commission. See the full program.