As we announced on social media last month, Foregen was invited to attend Hello Tomorrow, a global summit for science entrepreneurs held each year in Paris. As one of the Top 500 startups selected for the event, Foregen spent two days in the company of giants of science and industry. Like our own organisation, Hello Tomorrow was founded as a non-profit, and with a single goal in mind: to bridge the gap between early, pioneering scientific ventures (like ours!) and the industrial support that can ensure their success. For two days, the “perfect storm of good things” takes hold in Paris, where young startups, maturing businesses, daring scientists, academics, and experienced investors, ready with laminated name tags, unlimited espresso, and a seamless weaving of French and English, come together to support the truly innovative in science.
The crowd awaiting the closing events.
This invitation came as an unprecedented opportunity for our company, which I’m happy to volunteer for. So far, my work consists of my own small projects on behalf of the team. This spring, when I read that the Hello Tomorrow foundation was accepting applications for this year’s startup challenge, I knew what my next project would be, but it wouldn’t be small like usual: I would convince the panel of judges, sponsored by the French Ministry of the Economy, that Foregen was on track to solve “humanity’s big challenges”. And months later, they said yes. This was a yes to our team, my work, and our ambitions. This invitation also meant that during these two days, I would be the man representing our team at the year’s biggest entrepreneur event in France. My time with Foregen teaches me, without fail, that there is a first time for everything, and that I’m not as bashful as I once thought.
A quick photo opportunity.
The conference was so well programmed that for most of the two days, I wanted to be at two stages at once. Many of the summit’s showcases celebrated the accomplishments of established science companies. On the main stage, we were graced with a presentation from Oxford Nanopore, the company that’s bringing radically compact, pocket-sized DNA-sequencing devices to the market, and another from Unity Biotechnology, developing what might prove to be a cure for age-induced osteoarthritis. Celebration, however, is the ending of a journey that began long before; in service of this idea, the other presentations offered frank discussion about what must be done to support scientific innovation, and about the responsibilities it entails. Among these were a conversation between the former mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, and recent French Minister of Finance (and just-confirmed 2017 presidential candidate), Emmanuel Macron, and more speculative panels dedicated to envisioning the challenges of artificial-intelligence technology and the future of medicine. The “breakout sessions,” presented in smaller settings, brought the Top 500 together with industry leaders and investors to share advice and answer questions about the management of untested startups.
A fantastic concert from Zoot Collectif.
The program left room for fun in between the planned activities, with plenty of expos, music performances, cocktail hours, and a closing party that lasted until dawn. Most of the attendees were connected digitally though a custom Hello Tomorrow phone app, which allowed one-on-one meetings to be scheduled within seconds. These sorts of meetings tested my abilities the most as the unquestionable amateur of the invited startup representatives. With only two days at my disposal, I had to shed this label fast. So this “amateur” ended up mingling with some improbable company: packed in a bar with another member of the Top 500, I pitched our organisation at the top of my voice, within earshot of the president of CERN and other guests. My other meetings helped me to make contacts I’m still in touch with today, as I continue to expand the reach of our organisation.
I thank the event organisers from the Hello Tomorrow nonprofit for creating such a great event, as well as the participants of the summit for their eagerness to engage, learn and discuss. The following is the message Hello Tomorrow had to share with us and the other startups, which I’ll pass on to you our supporters:
“You’re not alone on this journey. Together, we will build a better tomorrow.
And together we will make it happen, with science.”
Keep up the good fight.