The Long Game: Deep Tech’s Transformative Impact

Elaine Stead
June 12, 2024

Deep tech is a marathon, not a sprint. And by deep tech, I mean tech born from science and engineering, the type of white coat (or jeans and T-shirt!) stuff that takes years, if not decades, of extreme R&D brainpower to nurture from the lab into the real world.

It’s tech at the absolute bleeding edge. AI, quantum computing, robotics, advanced materials, biotechnology — all the mind-bending, seemingly ‘science-fiction’ stuff that really isn’t so fiction-like after all. Technologies so new and complex that just getting them to technically work is a herculean challenge before you even think about how to turn it into a useful product people want or need.

That’s where the traditional VC mindset falls short. The “we are looking for an exit in 3-5 years” goal might work for software plays today, but it’s often not compatible with deep tech. These moonshots need patient capital — investors who have the vision, investment horizons and fortitude to double down for the long haul.

So, why are investors like Main Sequence and our LPs willing to be patient? Beyond the potential for solid returns long term, we see (and understand) the truly transformative benefits for our planet. Investing in deep tech helps create jobs, build new industries, and ensure national competitiveness for decades to come. 

Because here’s the thing — building tech that fundamentally reshapes entire industries from the ground up and attempts to solve humanity’s most pressing problems doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time. A truckload of it - 7 to 10 years, or sometimes longer just to get that cutting-edge science into a commercially viable product ready for primetime. 

But when deep tech does eventually stick the landing after that gruelling marathon? Well, the upside is pretty miraculous. The potential is planet-scale impact and an economic payload that makes it worthwhile. Properly nailing technologies like CRISPR, Wi-Fi, fusion energy or brain-computer interfaces throws open frontiers of wealth and progress that make past tech revolutions look like, well, low tech. 

The software play we talked about earlier, well today that takes minimal capital to get from idea to product, and it’s possible to translate that into a world-leading company within a decade, but two decades ago that was the deep tech. Time,  smart humans, patient capital and Moore’s law has seen that deep tech turn into an accessible technology (did somebody say ‘No-code’?) that is a daily engine for human productivity and launched millions of companies.  

That’s why we invest in deep tech.

To ensure that the science-fiction technology of today gets to be something we think nothing of using in our regular day (did someone say ‘Google’?). We need partners and investors along the way who are willing to go the distance and give these world-changing technologies the runway and support to realise their potential through perseverance, human ingenuity and calculated risks. To fund the countless cycles of experimentation, refinement and evolution it takes to transform science projects into world-denting products and businesses. 

Within Main Sequence’s portfolio, we witness the convergence of visionary deep tech catalysing paradigm shifts across multiple industries. Samsara Eco, for instance, has seamlessly transitioned its enzymatic plastic recycling technology from a concept to a tangible impact. In a short span, the company has forged a symbiotic partnership with iconic global fashion brand Lululemon, heralding a revolution in sustainable textiles. But this is only one example. 

Wi-Fi, smartphones, mRNA vaccines — all those ubiquitous world-changers were once fringe deep tech that required patience to birth into being. So while there is a place for shorter-term wins, our strategy is to go long. Whether it’s tackling climate change, curing disease or exploring other such cosmic challenges, deep tech demands patient pockets steadfast enough to see the journey through to its full universe-denting potential. 

It’s a marathon, not a sprint — and we believe those willing to be the “true believers” and patient investors in an emerging field are rewarded for their foresight.

Written by

Elaine Stead

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