As we head into the home stretch of our 10th year of operations, it’s invigorating to witness the energy, enthusiasm, and innovation – it’s as strong today as when we began.
To Our CDL Community,
We are rapidly approaching the kick-off to our eleventh year of operations. Our mission today is exactly the same as when we launched CDL in the fall of 2012: to enhance the commercialization of science for the betterment of humankind.
We seek to achieve “betterment” via enhanced productivity. Productivity is a measure of output for a given amount of input. For example, if an innovation allows us to treat more patients with the same level of input (cost of time and materials), then that innovation has delivered an increase in productivity.
Over a decade ago, we noticed that many potentially productivity-enhancing inventions were being reported in scientific, peer-reviewed journals read by a small number of experts, but never developed into products and services that benefit humankind. Today, every element of our program is designed to address this problem.
Over the past two years, Covid restricted our ability to do our work in the way we were used to. Recently, I visited CDL-Paris, CDL-Rockies, and CDL-Atlantic, all of which conducted their first in-person sessions in over two years. The rooms were electric. Everyone was thrilled to be back together in person again. It became clear: although we focus on technology, we thrive on humanity.
It felt like the Covid clouds had finally started to lift. Then, dark clouds gathered again. Sequoia Capital delivered a “Crucible Moment” presentation to their portfolio companies predicated on the observation “Capital was free. Now it’s expensive.” YC advised their companies to “plan for the worst.” Elon Musk confessed to having a “super bad feeling” about the economy.
Heading into next year, how do we plan for this? We stay laser focused on our mission. Capital markets will rise and fall. Their movements are driven by fear and greed. Productivity is not a function of fear or greed. Innovation that enhances productivity enables us to produce more output with a given amount of input. Enhanced productivity benefits humankind, regardless of capital markets.
This year, we will launch a new program focused on innovation in cancer treatments in collaboration with the Canadian Cancer Society. We will launch another on carbon capture solutions in collaboration with the XPRIZE Foundation. We also will launch one focused on innovation in regenerative medicine in collaboration with CCRM. In each case, our focus is on productivity. More cancer therapies, more carbon capture, more gene therapies for a given level of input. Although capital markets may make it harder to capitalize these projects in the short term, our focus is on the long term – for the betterment of humankind.
So, as we look back on the past year and prepare for the new one, I offer my thanks to everyone who made it happen. To our mentors – Fellows, Associates, Scientists, Economists, Investigators – you provided guidance and inspiration to the entrepreneurs during Covid when they needed it most. Thank you. To our Corporate and Government Partners, despite the economic uncertainty during the pandemic, not a single one of you ceased or even diminished your support for CDL. We appreciate your confidence in and commitment to our work. Thank you. To our Founding Partners, you took the greatest leap of faith by supporting each of your CDL sites before they established their track record of success. We have long memories and will not forget your leadership when we needed it most. Thank you.
To the founders in our program and alum from prior years, I congratulate you on your perseverance and commitment to mission success for your companies during especially challenging times. While each of you is rightly focused on your individual businesses, collectively you represent the forward motion that will enhance the collective wellbeing of society.
Finally, to our CDL team. You work so hard to facilitate an inspiring and efficient environment for our mentors and founders to do their work. You do your work backstage, while others are celebrated in the spotlight for their ingenuity, technical genius, and business acumen. Yet, none of this would work without your tireless effort, attention to detail, thoughtfulness on the subject matter, relentless commitment to excellence, and your cleverness at making the right connections at the right time for the right people. Only very experienced operators will truly appreciate the excellence of your work. They will recognize that only superstars could deliver what you do without being noticed. To the average person, it just seems like magic. I am proud of many aspects of CDL, but none more than you. Well done. And thank you.
Founder, Creative Destruction Lab
Professor, University of Toronto
At the core of the innovation that CDL supports is a strong sense of community. Over the last two years, the pandemic has challenged how connected we feel to each other. And while we have been physically apart, our mentors, scientists, students, partners, and team members have made tremendous efforts to show up for one another.
Mentors in particular demonstrated their sustained dedication to supporting early-stage founders while navigating their own pandemic-specific challenges, and without any of the fun we have in person at our university sites. This proved that it isn’t solely about being in front of one another, it is how much we care about each other, and our belief that no one gets there alone — a supportive community is critical to activating imaginative founders. The result of this dedication in a time of crisis is that Creative Destruction Lab is more mission-driven than ever.
Over the last year, we expanded CDL programming in response to the wide range of innovations happening around the world. Our health portfolio includes new streams like Computational Health at CDL-Seattle, Health and Wellness at CDL-Wisconsin, and the Neuro stream at CDL-Toronto. CDL-Oxford doubled their program offerings, adding a Climate stream and our first FinTech stream at the University of Oxford. CDL-Atlantic finally hosted a session in St. John’s, Newfoundland at Signal Hill, a globally historic innovation site. CDL-Rockies continued to build the Alberta ecosystem through its strong collaboration between the University of Calgary and University of Alberta. We welcomed the University of Washington into our network, with the CDL-Seattle team and ecosystem bringing incredible energy and insight in one short program year. And in March 2022, we partnered with the Material Change Institute, using CDL Sessions as an immersive learning experience for investment professionals from underrepresented backgrounds.
Through the Delta and Omicron waves, we scaled the CDL Rapid Screening Consortium (CDL RSC) program to support more than 2,000 companies across Canada, capturing over 2,000,000 data points on workplace rapid antigen screening, inspiring two research papers (Journal of American Medical Association; Science Advances), with more to follow. What catalyzed the growth and innovation within the CDL RSC program? The organic growth of participants — each company contributed “pay-it-forward” time to mentor other companies to help make their workplaces safer.
We’re now taking the collaborative spirit we have cultivated during the pandemic, and integrating into the future of our program. CDL Space will double in size as CDL-Toronto expands the stream into a partnership with CDL-Atlanta and CDL-Paris. We are pleased to have kicked off our partnership with the Canadian Cancer Society to deliver the CDL Cancer program, which will run across all of our health streams at CDL-Toronto and CDL-Vancouver. And finally, the entire network is thrilled to welcome the University of Tartu to the CDL Family. CDL-Estonia is launching our first-ever Digital Society stream, and as the world’s most digitally-advanced government, we will be paying close attention to the lessons that we can inject across our global network.
Thank you to our incredible CDL team for being responsive, caring, and committed to the evolution of our organization. It is an honour to work alongside you to bring value to ambitious founders, students, mentors, and partners. It is your curiosity, enthusiasm, and ability to deliver with excellence that has allowed our network to flourish.
Wishing you a safe and healthy summer,
Executive Director, Creative Destruction Lab
Executive Director, CDL Rapid Screening Consortium