There was glitz. There was glamour. And there were some of the world's top scientists, entrepreneurs and entertainers all under one roof when this year’s Breakthrough Prize awards were given out at a star-studded event in California. The seventh annual “Oscars of science” was an inspirational evening—and Generation T took a delegation of honourees from across Asia on a three-day trip to be a part it.
The awards ceremony was the centrepiece of the excursion, but the honourees also enjoyed a packed programme while they were in Silicon Valley, including brunch with Breakthrough founders Yuri and Julia Milner, as well as tours of the headquarters of Facebook, YouTube and plant-based "meat" maker Impossible Foods. They also attended a panel discussion that featured a talk from Breakthrough Prize laureate Jocelyn Bell Burnell, who discovered pulsars.
Tamara Lamunière, Head of Generation T Asia, said: “We came face-to-face with, and learned from, some of the most important figures of our time. We celebrated intellectual achievement and the power of curiosity. We pushed the boundaries of our imaginations.” Here's what the nine Gen.T honourees took from the experience.
Name Terence Kwok
Location Hong Kong
Founder of hospitality tech startup Tink Labs
“It was truly humbling to realise that there are so many brilliant minds out there working on answering questions on such a galactic scale. The event was an amazing experience that I will never forget.”
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience to see people from all walks of life—scientists, technologists, entrepreneurs—and to see that we all share the same values of imagination and curiosity. My highlight, however, was the people on the trip. We only knew each other for a few days but the friendships I formed with my fellow Generation T honourees was the beginning of something special.”
Name Aaron Lee
Location Hong Kong
Founder of property and travel-tech companies Dash Serviced Suites and BlackDoors
"I diversified my knowledge and perspectives on life. How many have us have actually asked what we can do for humanity? I was privileged to celebrate the achievements of those physicists, mathematicians and scientists who are pursuing solutions to terminal illnesses, sustainability and colonising other planets. They're creating solutions that the next generation will benefit from."
A New Way To Pitch
"One thing Pat Brown from Impossible Foods and Yuri Milner had in common was the way they pitched what they were doing. In the work I do, there are a lot of elevator pitches. We’re always discussing how to pitch our businesses, because how we pitch shapes how we think. Both Pat Brown and Yuri Milner structured their pitches around three premises: first, state the depth and importance of the problem and the opportunity; second, present a clear, irrefutable strategy to solve the problem; third, make it clear that no one can do it better than you and your company. The clarity this structure provides makes it superior to an elevator pitch. It’s like a three-hit combo—every punch lands."
A Better Understanding Of Gen.T's Mission
"Yuri Milner and those behind the prize are making science sexy again by including celebrities and tech entrepreneurs. I also really see the Generation T vision now. In California, many people are talking about the Asian market as if it’s a market they have the first rights to. But they don’t. We have first rights. And if we can do what they're doing and think about the crazy science-fiction future, then I think Silicon Valley will need to watch its back.”
The Realisation We Can All Do More
"The sky is the limit. We can each do so much more individually and collectively to promote individuals who are truly making a difference to the world."
"How we spend our time reflects who we are. Sometimes entrepreneurs, myself included, get impatient and try to pivot, but it just takes time to do something well. On this trip, I realised that the people I admire spent a lot of time working on one particular area. Breakthrough laureate Jocelyn Bell Burnell, who discovered pulsars in 1967, is still spending time talking about her field of study. Breakthrough was a reminder to not be impatient, and to persevere in trying to be good at what you do.”
“It was very interesting to see the line between technology and science. We are tech entrepreneurs and think of ourselves as pushing the boundaries of humankind and all that, but we are so far from actual science. It’s easy to think of scientists as being detached, with their lab coats and microscopes, and not having the heart. At Breakthrough, I saw it was the other way around. These scientists are the guys with the heart. They’re really doing it for the passion and the love. On the business side of things, maybe we can learn that from them.”
A Lesson To Always Be Curious
"The Generation T Breakthrough trip was an eye-opening experience. It was particularly inspiring to meet so many fellow mission-driven individuals from all industries. It takes persistence to follow your beliefs, whether it's disrupting the environment-harming meat industry or finding life in space. It's thanks to those believers in the worlds of technology, entertainment, culture and science that we were so inspired. And it's thanks to platforms like Generation T that we have access to finding out more about those who are making a difference. But I think the thing that will stay with me longest was the theme of this year's Breakthrough Prize, which was inspired by a quote from the late Stephen Hawking: 'Be curious.'"
Quotes have been edited for brevity and clarity.