EXPLORE 2.0 raised the game with its AIML (artificial intelligence machine learning) mission to San Francisco in February 2023. The programme, exclusive to Enterprise Hub Members, takes five deep tech founders on an international ecosystem-in-focus to scope out new startup markets.
This year, the mission brought together Anas Achouri (CEO and founder of DONAA), Dr Simon Baker (CTO and co-founder of Versed AI), Hami Bahraynian (CEO and co-founder of Wluper), Brittany Harris (CEO and co-founder of Qualis Flow) and Dr Atif Syed (CEO and founder of Wootzano Ltd). All five head companies leveraging AIML to deliver powerful tools that harvest data for areas as diverse as robotic e-skins to conversational AI.
The cohort was drawn from programmes old and new. Brittany joined after completing our previous programme, Launchpad, in 2019 and Hami from SME Leaders (now known as Shott Scale Up Accelerator). Atif was a graduate on an 1851 Royal Commission pace with Enterprise Fellowships back in 2018, whereas Anas transitioned almost directly from Regional Talent Engines last year into EXPLORE 2.0. Finally, Enterprise Fellowships was represented again by Simon, who completed the programme under lockdown in 2021.
In the run up to the trip, EXPLORE provided expert-led sessions by Mathys & Squire to lay the groundwork, as well as mentoring, coaching and a £25,000 equity-free grant. Naturally, the real focus was on the five-day mission to Silicon Valley, organised with the Academy’s connections in the area, in particular the British Consulate for San Francisco and Academy Fellows.
The consulate was the base on Day 1 for their introduction to the practicalities of doing business in Northern California, as well as tax and financial incentives. The afternoon continued with a corporate regulation session lead by Bay attorneys. The first day was rounded off with a networking dinner with Academy Fellows embedded in this ecosystem: Dr John Cioffi FREng (CEO, ASSIA Inc), Professor Mischa Dohler FREng (Chief Architect, Ericsson Inc, US), Dr Mallik Tatipamula FREng (CTO, Ericsson Silicon Valley), Professor Sergio Pellegrino FREng (California Institute of Technology) and Professor Kenichi Soga FREng (University of California, Berkeley). We are indebted to the Fellows for their generosity of time and advice over the whole five days, and for providing exclusive access to people and places in the deep tech ecosystem.
The trip got into its stride with visits to some of the most world-famous organisations in the startup scene, both in industry and academia. Ericsson invited the EXPLORE innovators to their labs and hosted a talk by Professor Stuart Evans (Carnegie Mellon University) on the startup ecosystem in San Francisco, which was followed by a trip to the Institute of Human-Centred AI at Stanford University. The next day began with a tour of a startup company, Scale AI, that provides end-to-end ML solutions. The afternoon was spent on the campuses of University of California, Berkeley, which included a stop at Berkeley Skydeck, an accelerator backed by the university and its partners, and the C3.ai Digital Transformation Institute, a research consortium working on AI, which draws leading scientists from across the world.
Day 4 brought the cohort to the Plug and Play Tech Center to get a sense of its scale of operations, which consists of a network of 50,000 startups and hundreds of VC firms. Finally, and certainly not least, the five founders had an afternoon at Google X’s Moonshot Factory, a place for radical invention to dream up technologies that solve the world’s toughest problems. We were privileged to receive a tour by Nick Kohli (Explorer of Moonshots) and a meeting with Benoit Schillings (CTO) from Google X. To round off the mission, Anas, Simon, Hami, Brittany and Atif took part in a special networking dinner hosted by the Academy and GBx, a private network of British entrepreneurs in the Bay Area, attended by more than a dozen founders and investors.
For media enquiries please contact: Chris Urquhart at the Royal Academy of Engineering on +44 207 766 0725 or by email: Chris.Urquhart@raeng.org.uk.