Oct 5, 2016 | By Alec

Up-and-coming disruptive technologies tend to sound fantastic on paper, but when is it the right time to invest? If you have the right feel for that, you could be a billionaire. In that respect, it’s hardly surprising that many investors follow the lead of a few pioneers like Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing. The 88-year-old is known for being able to sniff out tech successes, and was one of the leading early investors for Siri, Facebook and several other huge breakthrough platforms. It is therefore very telling that he is now eyeing two new disruptive technologies: artificial intelligence and the 3D printing of cars. Could these be the next two breakthroughs that will take over the tech market?

That could very well be the case, as Li Ka-shing tends to know what he’s talking about. Often called one of the richest and most powerful men in Asia, he earned billions through clever investments and as owner of telecommunications-to-infrastructure giant CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd. However, he is also one of Asia’s biggest philanthropists, and a keen investor in tech startups. Among his other investment successes you can find names such as Spotify Ltd., Airbnb Inc. and Google’s DeepMind. In 2014, Modern Meadow, a developer of novel biomaterials, secured $10 million in Series A funding led by Horizons Ventures, the Hong Kong-based firm of Li Ka-shing. Biomedical startup Perfect Day, which has been 3D bioprinting DNA strands for animal-free milk products, also received multi-million dollar backing from the Hong Kong billionaire.

But now it seems as though 3D printed cars, artificial intelligence, big data and high-tech food (such as meatless burgers) have become his prime targets. As the director of the Li Ka-shing Foundation Frank Sixt revealed to Bloomberg, the charity has been used to make investments in the 3D printing of cars, among others. “Trying to understand what investments have the potential to be very disruptive, but also in a very good way, to sort of transform the way we all live our lives in the future is a big theme in choosing investments,” Sixt said. During the day, Sixt is also the finance director at CK Hutchison.

What’s more, artificial intelligence has been on Li’s mind for a long time, and Li has been mentioning it in several interviews. While a part of science fiction for decades, the recent surge in computing power and the vast amount of memory that has become available (even though costs are falling), have led to what Sixt calls a “rebirth in every type of artificial intelligence endeavor”. And Li Ka-shing will be a part of it. Sixt further said that they believe that things like customer services will be taken over by AI within the next decade.

The LM3D by Local Motors.

Although providing seed money is just a very small part of Li’s business empire, it highlights the interests and the personal business acumen of the richest man in Hong Kong – who is known as ‘Superman’ in local media. And if he believes that 3D printed vehicles are about to become a disruptive technological and economic force, that could very well be the case. We have already been seeing a surge in the amount of startups working on 3D printed vehicles, with the Arizona-based Local Motors and their world’s first road-ready 3D printed car leading the way. But just last month, we highlighted two dozen other companies that are working on 3D printed vehicles as well. While it hasn’t been revealed which startup received backing from Li, most of them have the potential to disrupt transportation as we know it.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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