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How One Aussie Startup Pitched to the King of Spain

Picture of Gera Kazakov
Gera Kazakov
// Cortical Labs — operating out of Brunswick, Melbourne — was one of five startups globally handpicked by the King to pitch to him.

Melbourne-based startup Cortical Labs and its founder and CEO, Dr Hon Weng Chong, had a once-in-a-lifetime experience at the 2024 GSMA Mobile World Conference in Barcelona. They pitched their tech to the King of Spain Felipe IV.

Dr Chong described pitching Cortical Labs’ biological computers to the King as a thrill and an honour, with the King not only showing an interest in their tech, but also asking him plenty of well-informed questions, too.

“To be one of only five startups globally, hand-picked by him, at MWC — an event that attracted over 2,000 exhibitors — was a huge indictment of the work we’re doing and the potential it has,” he says.

Dr Chong says the technology that was pitched was developed in-house at the Cortical Labs Brunswick office and is a world-first innovation.

“We’re essentially creating a more powerful, sustainable form of AI that has huge implications in both technology and medical sciences,” he says.

“While digital AI models try to emulate the human brain, Cortical Labs is beginning with it.”

“Human neurons are a new and untapped resource with the potential to be far better than any digital AI model for Generalised Intelligence.”

“They are the result of four billion years of evolution: self-programming and infinitely flexible.”

Dr Chong says their tech holds enormous possibilities for early disease detection and personalised medicine.

How One Aussie Startup Pitched to the King of Spain
The Cortical Labs team at GWC Barcelona 2024.

“Our CL-1 system is capable of growing, adapting, and learning at a faster rate than purely silicon-based AI when limited to training in real-time constraints,” he says.  

“It also requires far less energy consumption, which is significant. In fact, the first cohort of our neurons learnt to play Pong!”

Dr Chong says while the technology is still in its early stages, the company hopes that it will one day offer an energy-efficient AI alternative which can help in the fight against neurodegenerative diseases.

“On the technology front, it has huge potential to reduce energy consumption — a key criticism of AI — and can allow for greater automation and advances in natural language processing,” he says.

“We believe it can one day be used to test treatments for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, it can also eradicate the need to test and research drugs and treatments on animals and humans.”

The GSMA MWC Barcelona was held at the end of February and attracted over 100,000 attendees.

Running from February 26th to 29th, there were 205 different countries represented, with representatives present from more than 28,000 organisations learning from over 2,700 exhibitors, according to the MWC24 post-event report.

GSMA CEO John Hoffman thanked all who attended the event, and says the event embodies the energy and vibrancy of the mobile ecosystem.

“We are honoured to host this special event which once again has delivered an exceptional four days of debate, thought, leadership, inspiration, and deal making,” he says.

“Barcelona has delivered again!”

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Picture of Gera Kazakov

Gera Kazakov

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