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🤔 Thoughts on Don’t Look up and what it means for the Tech industry
Good evening Upscalers’ followers.
Time to bring you the 14th edition of our weekly journal. This week, I’ll give you my Thoughts on Don’t Look up and what it means for the Tech industry💡
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💡 Thoughts on Don’t Look up and what it means for the Tech industry
Warnings: there might be some spoilers in there.
On December 2021, Don’t Look up - the new Adam McKay movie was released on Netflix. Adam McKay is well know for being the director of The Big Short (2015).
Ever since the release, I keep on reading / hearing very divergent opinions about the movie, and seeing people fighting over whether it is a masterpiece or a complete disaster. You all know how balanced debate can be nowadays...
I am not a movie critic and don’t intend to be. Plus, I fully agree with the movie’s message on climate change. But there is much to say about how the Tech question is dealt with. So I figured I’d give you my thoughts about it.
Here we go ⬇️
1. A necessary critique
For those who didn’t see it yet, Don’t Look up is a critique of the inaction of our leaders and societies on climate change, and of the influence of Big Tech in discrediting scientific narrative.
The movie is the story of Dr. Mindy (Di Caprio) and his student Lawrence Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence), respected scientists, trying to convince the world that a huge asteroid is about to wipe out all life on Earth. From there, an acerbic critique of our modern societies starts, where basically everyone is taken a shot at:
Politicians, represented by US President Orlean (Meryl Streep), who are too concerned about reelection to hear scientific facts and act upon them.
Big Tech guys, represented by Peter Isherwell (a Jobs x Musk x Page kind of guy), who are only driven by their company’s profit, and who completely discredit scientific discourse to the people.
The media, which is too concerned about audience and readership to listen to bad scientific news and share them seriously
People, who are completely diverted by new technologies and the media and defy scientific facts to the point that they can’t think by themselves anymore.
Are they forgetting someone?
I have little to say about the thinly-veiled caricature the movie draws, except that I mostly agree with it. Take the asteroid out and replace it by climate change and you’ve got a pretty accurate picture of what is going on today. But the success of the movie (remaining the top movie on Netflix so far), has triggered a heated debate within the movie-lovers community and resulted in a pretty bizarre narrative.
The general idea is that if critics didn’t like the movie (or part of it), they must hate its message, which is that climate change is a clear and present danger to our planet, or simply don’t understand it ⬇️
Obviously, criticising a movie doesn’t mean you disagree with its message. I repeat: I do agree with the message. But I will below intend to give my thoughts on what the movie truly means for the Tech industry. And I might throw some critics along the way.
So please, dO nOt BeLiEve I bELOnG tO thE rOboT cAtEgOry 😉
2. Grossly opposing Tech and climate action
As mentioned above, the whole Tech industry is represented by Peter Isherwell, an eccentric Tech mogul whose pretended altruism does little to hide his profound desire for company profit. Peter Isherwell manages to convince the US government and the people that technology can deflect the astroid from hitting the Earth, despite scientific warnings that he won’t manage (spoiler altert: he doesn’t).
The main criticism that is thrown at Isherwell by the scientific community is that the technology is not “peer reviewed”, which might sound like a weak counter, but is actually a very profound and powerful one. Though I believe that this is the main takeaway that Tech should get from the movie (I’ll get back to this in a minute), I fear that the message will be misunderstood due to gross caricature. By elevating the Isherwell character as the unique representative of “Tech”, the movie completely fails to grasp the complexity of the ecosystem.
Big Tech is not all Tech. All startups are not GAFAs. There is a lot small startups and tech entrepreneurs can do to contribute to the fight against climate change.
Some time ago, Jean-Marc Jancovici, a famous French climate scientist, published a great tribune, depicting a world with two sciences:
The first, which leads to great scientific discoveries (including vaccines, transports, payments methods etc.) but which (too) often has a bad impact on the Climate. This is basically what we call “Tech”.
The second one, which does not aim at creating or improving a technique or a process, but at depecting the world as it is and raising concern where needed.
The first one, according to Jancovici, receives all the political favours and is well-funded. The second one is heavily criticised, its results are unfairly contested and the concerns its raises always come as a late priority.
I agree that not enough is being done to give credit to the scientific discourse (Science 2) on the regulatory scene, in the media and in civil society. But the hierarchy between the two sciences is progressively (not fast enough though) being reversed. We see more and more innovations aiming at “creating or improving” something to help protect the environment. And more funding being granted to them, because it progressively make perfect economic AND environmental sense.
I already talked a lot about Climate Tech, so I can only encourage you to read the past edition of this newsletter on the topic.
➡️ To the past edition on Climate Tech
I feel that Don’t Look Up is too much of a caricature, opposing Climate Action with Tech as whole under the banner of “Big Tech”. Seeing the world with binary lenses won’t lead us anywhere.
3. Useful learnings for the Tech industry
Despite this shortcut, the movie is offering valuable takeaways for the Tech industry in general, which lie in its critic of the process for introducing new innovations in Tech. Namely: the demos.
The movie has three moments that point out exactly what can be wrong about the way we do demos in Tech today.
The first one is when Isherwell introduces his new smartphone software, which basically reads users emotions and pacify them through content. Anything familiar? 🤔
The second one is when Isherwell demonstrates, in a very technically impressive way, how he intends to use technology to deflect the asteroid that is coming right at Earth.
The last one is when Isherwell shows how his tech robots can dismantle the asteroid. Again, the demonstration is super impressive, but not backed up by any real-life performance.
These parts of the movie are actually pretty accurate in depicting what demo days or keynotes can look like today: fabricated scenarii where the actual performance of the technology or startup in question is completely hidden from the audience.
Think of it like this: this is exactly why many investors today pour tremendous amounts of money on nothing more than a pitch deck. They are sold an ideal story to believe in. And they buy it.
Hence the importance of due dilligence and expert review in the process.
So, want to watch the movie? 😉
🌍 All eyes on the EU... and elsewhere
European funding in January 🇪🇺
Crazy, crazy European crazy week 🇪🇺
It has been one of the craziest weeks of European funding we’ve ever lived.
Checkout.com London-based online payment solutions provider announced it had secured a $1B Series D round, that values the company at $40B.
Bolt (ex Taxify) 🇪🇪 raised a €628M Series F, valuing the company €7.4M. Bolt started as a ride-hailing app and has been rolling out various services since, including car-sharing and micro-mobility options, as well as food delivery services.
Wolt, the Helsinki-based online ordering and delivery company, announced it has raised $530 million in new funding.
On Monday, Ankorstore announced it had reached unicorn status (€2B valuation) with a €250M Series C round. 25th French unicorn. Here we go! 🇫🇷
On Wednesday, Qonto, the Paris-based fintech for SMEs and freelancers, became the most valued company in the French ecosystem (€4.4B), announcing a €486M Series D funding.
But, only a few hours later, Back Market the French refurbished electronics marketplace announced a new $335M Series E round, reaching a $5.7B valuation and stealing the record from Qonto 😱
On top of that:
GoStudent, the first European EdTech unicorn, raised another €300M Series D round.
TravelPerk 🇪🇸 announced a $115M addition to their $160M Series D round making it to the unicorn club.
Dublin-based Flipdish raised $100M Series C, reaching unicorn status too.
Now that makes me wonder… what happened during Christmas holidays for all these rounds to be announced early this year? 😱
Y-combinator announcing a new standard deal 🇺🇸
Okay, YC wants to kill the game. This week, the San Francisco based company announced that they will know invest a total $500,000 for every company that is accepted to the bi-annual YC batch program. How?
They still invest $125,000 for 7% and now also invest an additional $375,000 on an uncapped safe with an MFN.
Crazy isn’t it?
Let’s deep dive into the topic in next week’s newsletter.
Thanks again for reading guys
See you next week 👋