Thought Bites - Deep Technology Oliver Mack xm-instituteIn the thought bites series, we discuss short topics or terms that are worth thinking about. Today I would like to address the term „deep technology“.

In 1995 David Rothenberg wrote an article in wired about the term „Deep Technology“. Starting the idea of the term „deep ecology“, emphasizing the importance of nature and therefore the way we should run our human lives embedded in this valuable environment. „Deep Technology“ in this context is the idea of new technologies that bring us closer to nature, linking us better with nature.

A more business oriented approach was taken by Propel(x), an angel funding company, helping technology driven startups and searching for the next „unicorn“. They use the term for tech startups that are founded on a very specific type of idea or innovation. Generally, we can differentiate between many different ideas and innovations. „Deep Technology“ or just „deep tech“ means, that a company is founded on the basis of a scientific discovery or engineering innovation and not on other fields of innovations, like business model innovations or customer side innovations. For example AirBnB focus mainly on a new way of bringing travelers together with providers of accommodation. The model is based on existing technology of databases and web-frontends. The new thing in short is the disruptive idea of a virtual hotel without having own assets. In comparison to that „deep technology“ startups are based on a new technological discovery, trying to solve really big issues having very high impact on the surrounding and environment we are living in. In the past, many start ups in this field had difficulties getting appropriate funding, due to the higher risk and capital needs for more physical innovations than pure software driven business model solutions. In earlier days the funding of deep tech companies was mostly driven by individuals or companies, like Elon Musk with SolarCity or SpaceX or Google with GoogleX.

Challenging aspects of „deep tech“ companies can be often found in their history and character, as they are often based on an innovation or discovery from research work at universities or institutes. In most of the cases the founders are more researchers with a risk to emphasize technology over product. So it is very important to think about how to explain the benefits of the new technology based on specific applications in certain products.

Overall it seems much more challenging to start and run a „deep tech“ company in comparison to pure service and software driven web companies, as if hardware is involved, many more things can go wrong and cost and time estimations are more challenging. Many failed or at least delayed kickstarter campaigns of hardware companies show this problem for even small new product innovations. When it comes to exponential innovations, the risks and challenges grow exponentially. Nevertheless, funding for these kind of startups is available, as beside the risks also potential benefits and revenue expectations of deep technology are significant. Beside individuals, like Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Sergey Brin and other wealthy founders, there are angel money funds or institutional investors, like Propel(x) or Ycombinator or Lux Capital who are specialized in „deep tech“ investments or who are increasingly supporting those kind of companies.


Chaturvedi, S., So what exactly is ‚Deep Technology‘, linkedIn, received 08.09.2016,

Rothenberg, D., Deep Technology, Wired online, 10.01.1995, received 08.09.2016,

Farshchi, S., What deep-tech startups today are doing right, and what they can learn from their predecessors, 12.04.2016, received 08.09.2016,