Cathay Forum 2023 Highlights
October 27, 2023
Cathay Forum 2023 | 10th Edition | Paris
At Cathay Capital, learning from others, sharing knowledge and collaboration is in our DNA. It is in this spirit that each year, we have the pleasure of bringing together our entire community at our annual LP meeting and Cathay Forum. This meeting is essential for us— it allows us to put forward our work, our global presence, network, ideas and insights towards the success of our valued partners and larger ecosystem while finding paths to sustainable growth and economic transformation.
This year marked the 10th edition of Cathay Forum, which took place in our hometown of Paris where we brought together our ecosystem from investors to startups, established companies, and some of the largest corporations leading industries today.
Below, we share highlights from our speakers that dug into the ever-evolving landscape of Private Equity and Venture Capital along with some of the brightest minds in industries and topics that span AI and fintech to climate change, energy & mobility, electric vehicles, healthcare, biotech and beyond.
“Once a farmer, always a farmer”. It is with this mindset that Mingpo Cai has made sure Cathay operates in each of its locations around the world. To act as a solution provider in different businesses and geographies, it is essential to be close to the identity of each territory, to embrace the soil you are working on in order to understand it better, just like a farmer would do. With that in mind, Cathay has been drawing on the local ecosystems and its specificities for the last 17 years to help new innovative businesses grow. This approach is based on two essential pillars: human qualities and the idea of being useful. The human qualities of both Cathay’s teams and 26 partners, and the entrepreneurs Cathay chooses to support are thus essential. And usefulness is the key to establish a presence in local ecosystems as “you’re always accepted somewhere if you’re useful”.
Keynote – AI Revolution in Europe
Rayid Ghani (Carnegie Mellon University, Professor of Machine Learning), introduced by Bruno Delahaye, Partner at Cathay Innovation
As AI raises many fears such as the threat it could pose to certain jobs, or its ever-expanding limits, it is important to remember that AI is only what we want it to be and will only perform the tasks that we order it to perform. In fact, AI is as lazy as people are! However, there are plenty of concrete examples of AI being used to create a better future and solving problems: preventing and anticipating roof collapses by collecting and processing satellite data; reducing air pollution by identifying sources of pollution; or anticipating mental health issues by using a pattern generated by data from thousands of patients. These examples should convince us that data still matters, and that AI is not “one-size-fits-all”: AI doesn’t learn on its own, so we need to feed it with lots of data to guide its artificial reasoning and get the maximum benefit for as many people as possible depending on our defined goals. But we also have to ask ourselves which kind of AI we want to create: one that is going to help the world? Or one that is going to increase productivity & profit?
Panel – Brands Navigating the New AI & Data Era: Insights from Leading Brands and Technology Partners
At a time when the integration of AI into work processes and employees’ daily lives is raising questions, the speakers explained how their companies are integrating this new technology. For Valéry Gerfaud (M6), it is important to keep cost constraints in mind when it comes to integrating AI, but also to take the time to do it properly : the idea is to learn by doing with increasingly complex use cases. According to Samantha Etienne (L’Oréal), AI will be a huge enhancer in the beauty field as it will help companies make better decisions about the products to use and develop for each skin and hair type, by cross-referencing biological data with AI capabilities. Florian Tiebaut (Artefact) and Andrew Yang (MogicAI) particularly insisted on the need to customize AI for each project, to personalize it because there is no “one-size-fits-all” AI. The importance of building bridges internally and upskilling the entire organization has to be taken into account, because AI is all about people.
Panel – Fintech: Future of Financial Services
The last ten years have seen the arrival of new payment players, competing with traditional banks or in some cases, complementing their offerings. Even traditional currencies are having to face up to this phenomenon with the arrival of cryptos, whose growing adoption and uses are constantly evolving. Paying in multiple stages with Alma’s “Buy Now Pay Later” strategy to structure loans as simply as possible; “Market Making as a Service” through digital assets & cryptocurrencies services provided by Flowdesk ; insuring brokers and their customers against climate risks through the parametric insurance strategy of the Insurtech Descartes…financial services are undergoing an exciting transformation. A huge playground for investment funds looking to unearth the next gem or the financial service of the future!
Panel – The Rise of Chinese Electric Vehicles (EVs) & Supply Chains
The Chinese electric vehicle sector has been undergoing a major transformation, and is slowly opening itself to new markets. On the one hand, the idea that consumers have of personal vehicles has changed radically with the advent of intelligent cars: similar to the transformation of the mobile phone into a smartphone, personal cars are now set to incorporate new services for motorists in the coming years. Once simple objects of transportation, these vehicles are becoming intelligent terminals, reshaping consumer expectations in the Chinese market. On the other hand, manufacturers in the Chinese market are interconnected, whether as competitors, partners or customers, relying on the synergies created by the various projects on the market and each other’s skills. This ecosystem therefore maintains complex relations between Chinese automotive players whose objective is now internationalisation, particularly with growing exports to the European market in the coming years.
Keynote – ESG: How Can AI Fight Climate Change?
While VC investments are slowing down in most sectors, Climate Tech investments are growing fast. In fact, ¾ of technology and innovation in this sector are yet to be created, and need to be financed in order to better predict the effects of climate change, and also to better respond to them. Kayrros is one of these Climate Tech companies which uses AI to fight climate change’s consequences, by using it to predict future wildfires based on a wide range of criteria, in the US or Canada, but also to detect “Super-Emitters” and quantify invisible GHG emissions. On the industry side, Pyrowave’s mission is twofold: (1) electrifying the chemical industry, by replacing fuel by electricity in the cement sector for instance, cutting carbon emissions by 40% thanks to this process; (2) responding to the plastic crisis issue through nano-purification & microwave pyrolysis.
Panel – Energy / Mobility: The Technologies Driving EU’s Energy Transition
The European energy consumption model is currently undergoing a shift from global production to a decentralised system. The example of Holaluz is particularly instructive, as it puts individuals at the heart of the energy production system by making the most of the thousands of hours of sun exposure on Spain’s tens of millions of roofs. The next stage in this approach would be to bring greater flexibility to the energy system by managing to store energy in batteries, and thus defer its use, but also by putting power trading systems in place which is Enspired’s mission. This requires financing, and this is where investment funds have a role to play in the EU’s energy transition. Public funding also has a big responsibility in that field, as highlighted in the France 2030 plan, which grants €54 billion to the energy transition, as pointed out by Mr Drozdowski-Strehl of the Institut Photovoltaïque d’Île-de-France.
Medical Innovation in the AI Age: Invention, Impact and Partnering with Corporates
All the speakers during this final roundtable agreed on the following point: success comes from the human capital invested behind each project. This obviously applies to healthcare: new standards are certainly expected by patients and professionals in this sector, but how can these new standards be democratised to the greatest possible number? What’s more, while every innovation has the potential to save lives, it’s important to identify the most promising ones by asking the right questions through the entire value chain: can you make it? Can you make it at scale?… And in the end, can you get the doctor trained to use the new product? If a new healthcare innovation meets all these criteria, it can then be democratised and deployed on a larger scale, which will take several years. Indeed, when it comes to health, the idea is not to go too fast, but to make sure things are done properly, because lives are at stake.
Closing Remarks by Mingpo Cai
Yet again, this year’s edition of Cathay Forum was marked by high quality speakers and guests, demonstrating how human capital plays a key role in Cathay Capital’s success over the last 17 years. With the support of an extensive network of investors, entrepreneurs, management teams, executives, and innovators of all kinds — Cathay has been able to embed and build out local ecosystems on three continents in our key business sectors, with the goal of being useful, capable and closer to our stakeholders. Thanks to the deep expertise across the Cathay team, we’re at the cutting edge of the major technological changes of our decade — including the AI wave which is now sweeping across all industries!