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About

CDL Super Session Explores the Impact of AI and Fosters Collaboration

The recent CDL Super Session held in Toronto brought together around 1,200 participants, including startups, mentors, researchers, and academics, marking the first in-person gathering in four years. The event delved into intense discussions on various topics, with a particular focus on artificial intelligence (AI), geopolitical shifts in innovation, and the advancement of humanlike intelligence. HEC Paris, known for its growing involvement in the CDL program, sent a strong delegation to engage in these important conversations.

HEC CDL Paris team with CDL Founder Ajay Agrawal. Left to right: Daniel Brown, Anne Vansteelent (CDL Global), Jean-Rémi Gratadour, Maxime Borrel, Olivier Perquel, Inge Kerkloh Dervif, Ajay Agrawal, Aymeric Perven and Sebastian Becker © CDL Toronto

HEC CDL Paris team with CDL Founder Ajay Agrawal. Left to right: Daniel Brown, Anne Vansteelent (CDL Global), Jean-Rémi Gratadour, Maxime Borrel, Olivier Perquel, Inge Kerkloh Dervif, Ajay Agrawal, Aymeric Perven and Sebastian Becker © CDL Toronto

The historic Toronto Event Centre, originally built for horticulture activities, provided an ideal setting for startups to showcase their ventures after their rigorous nine-month CDL program. Under the crystal dome, delegates from the 12 CDL global sites participated in high-quality debates, exchanging ideas on their latest ventures, research, and deeptech programs. Out of the 675 companies that began the program in October, a little over a hundred graduated into the CDL family by the fifth and final session.

Sebastian Becker, the HEC Academic lead, emphasized the significance of this community-building event for venture founders. It allowed them to meet investors and fellow startuppers from other CDL sites, supercharging the CDL method by facilitating investment opportunities and enabling discussions on new technologies and solutions. “In a way, it’s supercharging the CDL method, allowing people to find investment, but also to discuss new technology and new solutions,” he said after the June 13-14 event ended.

CDL’s Deep Commitment to AI

CDL Founder Ajay Agrawal expressed his satisfaction with the event, highlighting its unique aspects. Firstly, it marked the return of in-person exchanges after a prolonged absence due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Secondly, the CDL network has expanded from six to 12 sites worldwide, making the Toronto gathering particularly special. “Lastly,” he confided, “CDL has had a long-standing commitment to working on Artificial Intelligence and, with the advent of ChatGPT last November, there’s been so much focus on this issue and such rapid advances in the last six months, it was primordial to debate its ramifications. These two days allowed us to dig deeply into both the technology and socio-economic implications and from the feedback I’m getting, I feel a lot of important conversations have been stimulated by this meeting.”

One of the notable debates at the Super Session featured economist Daron Acemoglu, co-author of "Power and Progress: The Social and Political Consequences of Technology," engaging with CDL mentors on his approach to AI. Acemoglu acknowledged the potential benefits of AI but cautioned against its misuse. The discussion shed light on important questions surrounding AI, including its toxic components, regulatory considerations, and governance. “We didn’t agree with everything,” Acemoglu said shortly after publicly debating the issues with a dozen CDL mentors, “but I thought the general perspectives were very constructive and positive – and that’s coming from an audience that normally leans more towards being optimistic about technology.”

Olivier Perquel, an HEC Paris mentor and business angel, observed that the debates mirrored the ongoing discussions in Europe, emphasizing the complexity of reaching a consensus on these matters. “This Super Session provided a platform for participants to explore these complex issues and work toward finding consensus,” he said with a smile. “But, at the end of the day, they are very unlikely to reach such a consensus anytime soon.”

Vital CDL Link Between Researchers and Builders

The CDL Super Session highlighted how the program serves as a bridge between academic researchers and entrepreneurs, fostering collaboration and bringing research discoveries into society. Professor Agrawal emphasized the importance of connecting researchers, startup builders, and investors to accelerate progress. CDL not only involves MBA students in the acceleration of fledgling companies but also provides a platform for them to observe and contribute to the deep tech venture process, offering valuable learning opportunities. A point in case is the news that CDL Paris is to introduce a CDL AI stream alongside its existing Climate and Space programs, further expanding its engagement. The inaugural session for the AI stream is scheduled for October and will be guided by Jean-Rémi Gratadour, HEC Executive Director in charge of program development at the school’s Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center.

Long-term CDL Impact

The discussions during the Super Session signaled a shift in mindset, with participants reevaluating the implications of technology and emphasizing responsible innovation. The event served as a catalyst for knowledge sharing, relationship building, and the exploration of emerging technologies. As CDL enters a new phase of growth and expansion, its commitment to bridging the gap between academia, entrepreneurship, and investment remains unwavering.

In conclusion, the CDL Super Session in Toronto showcased the power of collaboration and the potential for groundbreaking breakthroughs in science and technology. By facilitating discussions, fostering collaboration, and encouraging responsible innovation, CDL continues to drive transformative change in the world of AI and beyond.

Listen to the Breakthrough podcast special on the 2023 Super Session