Discovery: How We Stay Close to New Tech

Our approach to staying close to new tech: Discovery, our internal hackathon & conference. How it works and why it gives us room to develop without pressure.

June 2021
min read
Noah Linnenbrügger
Fund Operations Spacewalk VC
Strategy Motius GmbH
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Because those are internal projects we do just for fun. During Motius Discovery. Discovery is how we innovate, stay close to the newest technologies, and foster self-development. But before we tell you more about it, let us tell you why we do it.

Why Motius Discovery?

At Motius, we believe that the urge to explore, discover and learn is inherent in every human being. This urge helps to develop new skills, think outside the box and stretch abilities. And it perfectly aligns with the R in R&D.

As a tech company, we use Discovery as one of our internal innovation management methods. To be more specific, it is how we gather tech expertise and stay close to the newest technologies. During Discovery, we provide time, space, and resources apart from customer projects and operative tasks to just focus on our own internal projects.

How Does Motius Discovery Work?

We run Motius Discovery three times a year and it is separated into three parts: ideation, working slot, and conference.

Discovery Ideation consists of open workshops where the participants themselves identify exciting topics they want to work on. For that, participants first have to propose topics that have to meet three criteria to enable exploring, discovering and learning:

  1. New technology –  i.e. a corresponding paper was just released, an Open Source tool was just published, etc.
  2. Usefulness – i.e. by applying the learnings in our projects or by developing our own products out of it.
  3. Feasibility – is it realistic that we draw an informed conclusion about the discovered technology within the given time?

Afterwards, we gather project teams around the chosen topics and then get to work.  

Discovery working slots are 4-day long Hackathons in which the project teams “do the science”. They research, experiment, write, code, build and develop to push their project forward and follow their goal.  

Discovery conference is dedicated to the teams and their projects as they present the outcomes of their work. They explain their technology, share their learnings, and demonstrate what they built. Out of all three parts, this is the biggest event. It is not just open for Motees but also for clients and the public. We also record it on video and spread it throughout our channels.

The Essence of Discovery

As we said, Discovery stands for the R in R&D. It is our way to build deep tech expertise, stay close to the newest technologies and foster the growth mindset. But just to make this clear: not every Discovery project ends up being a success. At least not in the way that people usually would define success (to fully realize the project’s ideas). But that’s okay as long as we learn from it. Sometimes, new technologies are not that easy to implement — even for us.

If that happens, we make sure that we keep track of the things we discovered and why it failed so that we can assess our work. If we choose to dig deeper into that technology at a later point, we already know some of the challenges in advance. Whether or not Discovery projects work out, they are always a great access point for new knowledge, ideas, and technologies. All of this directly becomes a part of our toolbox and then influences our partners and customers.

For instance, we once got our hands on Google’s Soli sensor, gathered valuable experience and expertise with this technology and soon thereafter it entered the market. So basically, we’re already one step ahead of all those who weren’t able to play around with it. Is there a better way to take a company to the next level?

Apart from all of the above, Discovery represents our company culture, our core values, and the growth mindset.

All in all, Discovery provides endless opportunities for self-development. In a company’s scope, it further allows us to encourage team building, interdisciplinarity, and overall a lot of fun. So all of this explains why we do Discovery: it doesn’t just allow individual self-development, but a shared growth mindset.

In the aftermath, Discovery takes our whole company to another level because it enables us to constantly stay close to the newest technologies and develop deep tech expertise. And as we said in the beginning, that is what it is about.

What We Have Done at Discovery in 2021 So Far

Here some of the topics we worked on during the Discovery Round in Q1 of 2021:

  • Jan and Katrine explored use cases for Deep Reinforcement Learning, which is considered to be the holy grail on the road to Artificial General Intelligence. It is based on artificial neural networks with a reinforcement learning architecture that learns through a trial-and-error approach.
  • Niklas deployed ML directly on a microcontroller to detect voice and gestures using EdgeML.  
  • Fabian explored how to use FPGAs in different ways and how to combine them with other technologies. Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) have been around for a while, but their relevance has increased lately. Tech companies are investing heavily to use them in new areas.
  • Stuart, Bünyamin, Furqan, Sagar, and Nicola got hands-on with a Solid Web App. Solid aims to radically change the way Web applications work today, resulting in true data ownership as well as improved privacy. It is a new technology for organizing data, applications, and identities on the web.​

We love tech. We are curious. We believe in the growth mindset. We work heart. We play heart (yes, we love bad puns). Discovery is a format that gives us room to develop without pressure.

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