I’ve been asked about the moat that we will sustain at Nanoneuro Systems. What does it look like? How would I build it?

I used to think that our moat was being one of the first data center and chip startups working with both silicon and biology. Traditional silicon fabs have the tools needed for silicon processing - wet etch equipment, beamers, and whatnot. Traditional biology labs have the tools needed for bioprocessing - cell culture, microfluidic environments, and whatnot.

By starting off with the combination of the two, it would make existing silicon chip companies harder to chase our idea, as they would invest years of time and billions of dollars to catch up.

With that in mind, let’s analyze Nvidia.

Nvidia currently does not hire any bioengineers or neuroscientists, so we can safely assume they neither have the talent needed for neuromorphic engineering nor the facilities needed for neuromorphic engineering (we have a knowledge derived moat). Once we’ve demoed our first MVP, it would be too late for them to catch up (the moat of uncertainty likely prevents them from developing biological semiconductors until their value is proven). They would need billions of dollars to be invested in new biological facilities and years spent trying to recruit top neuroscientists. And by the time they’re ready, we’ll be years ahead.

That was what I thought our moat would be.

Two problems. The first is that our moats, as I defined above, are temporary. Only sustainable in the short run. We don’t have a scaling or system based moat.

Second, while we’ll be years ahead in the neuromorphic engineering department, we’ll also be years behind in the software department. Nvidia’s moat isn’t their chips. It’s their software. It’s the ease of using CUDA among all fields that allows their chips to actually be utilized effectively.

Nvidia also holds a scaling based moat (network moat) and a system based moat: the million-strong community of CUDA developers, the trust in their industry-leading chips, and the widespread and scaled use of their CUDA software.

We won’t have these to start.

And so, while the billions of investments that would be poured into their neuromorphic engineering department would have slow outcomes, the amount of outcomes they can produce from new science will vastly outnumber the experiments we could ever run at scale. Probabilistically, if even 1% of these outcomes succeed, we’ll simply be taken over.

So now, I’m worried. What is our moat? What realistically makes us able to compete early on?

I’m an avid reader. And I read the stories of the emergence of the recent unicorns: Airbnb, Spotify, Palantir, or any other successful company. What was their moat when they were just getting started?

I think it’s one thing. It’s the ability to boldly proclaim how the world should look like.

Let’s dive into Spotify.

People were content with listening to music at the time. People had Apple Music. People had YouTube Music. People even had all kinds of pirating websites. Everybody already had the world’s music at their fingertips. I would argue that most were happy with their music listening experience. And so, no one imagined it could get better until Daniel Ek did.

Although nobody was complaining about the current state of music, he dared to imagine an even better experience. Building a company in an industry where the vast majority is happy with what they currently have requires astonishing vision and blinding determination.1

And in the world, there are always millions of bold statements waiting to be realized. It just takes a brave and stupidly naive individual to look around themselves, to look at non-obvious places where things can get 100, 1000, or even 10000 times better than the status quo.

When I pitched Nanoneuro Systems at the 2024 BioLabs Investor Day and spoke about my vision - building a future where climate sustainability and future AI developments can mutually coexist - half of the feedback I received was to get my head out of the clouds.

This was a pitch event for extremely talented and smart PhD individuals. This was a gathering of people who all pitched a new way of designing some nanoscale therapeutic molecule to target some newly discovered receptor for cancer suppression - or something along those lines.

The science around neuromorphic computing is sound. From a first principles perspective, neurons compute. Neurons are efficient. The only challenge we face is being able to interface with these neurons. Yet, that is something that seems to be more daunting than nanoscale tumor killing robots.

I think, in part, people don’t believe in our bold future because we are young. We are first-years at college. They may scoff at us and keep us down, but they look past our drive, our belief in making a change for a better future, like they are too.

And they think of our young naiveness, think of our optimism as stupid, think of us as mere dreamers, but I say that our determination combined with our stupid naiveness gives us an advantage. Because we are stupid and naive enough to realize the boldness of our vision and brave enough to realize it - an energy-efficient chip that can get 100, 1000, or even 10000 times better than what we have now.

And that a small-scale data center of biological chips would offer not only state derived moats (regulation against Chinese manufacturing and resource sourcing), knowledge derived moats (the only venture pursuing biological data centers), but also scaling based moats (decreased cost per compute hour, increasing speed of compute per compute hour, and enabling compute as the availability of data drives towards zero) and system based moats (gravitation of consumer psychology towards protecting the climate).

But I am self-aware.

To be open-minded to help. To recognize that I have a lot of learning ahead of me in an area that I’m excited about.

I’m self-aware enough to expect myself, with a 99% chance, to look back upon this post and wish that I would’ve spent my time elsewhere that would’ve been easier to pursue. Maybe enjoy college. Get some extra sleep. But that 1% chance of turning my dream into a reality keeps me awake at night.2

Footnotes

  1. See Building What People Want.

  2. When Should You Trust Your Gut?