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FAQ: Creative Destruction Lab and the new risk stream

July 30, 2020

Here are some frequently-asked questions about Creative Destruction Lab and the new partnership with UW–Madison and American Family Insurance:

What is “CDL”?

Creative Destruction Lab (CDL) is a nonprofit organization that delivers an objectives-based program for massively scalable, seed-stage, science- and technology-based companies. 

What is the “CDL program”?

The nine-month program employs an objectives-based mentoring process to enhance the performance of technical founders who learn from the insights of experienced entrepreneurs, with the goal of maximizing equity-value creation. The program combines 5 elements to help companies transition from science projects to scalable and financeable companies:

  1. An emphasis on objective-setting, helping companies focus on what’s most important to their business
  2. Focused mentorship from experienced entrepreneurs who have founded, led, and sold significant tech companies
  3. Technical advice from world-leading scientists, engineers, and economists
  4. Hands-on support from top business students, who embed within the company to provide business support
  5. Opportunities to raise capital, including angels and VCs from Europe and North America

The successful commercialization of cutting-edge science and technology achieved through the program has led to the creation of over $6.7 billion in equity value. Since 2012, over 2800 founders representing more than 1200 companies have participated in the CDL program. CDL alumni companies include North (Waterloo), Atomwise (San Francisco), Kyndi (Palo Alto), Xanadu (Toronto), BenchSci (Toronto), Kheiron Medical (London), and Roadbotics (Pittsburgh).

Where is CDL located?

    • Toronto – Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto
    • Oxford – Saïd Business School, University of Oxford
    • Paris – HEC Paris
    • Atlanta – Scheller College of Business, Georgia Institute of Technology
    • Vancouver – Sauder School of Business, University of British Columbia
    • Montreal – HEC Montréal
    • Calgary – Haskayne School of Business, University of Calgary
    • Halifax – Rowe School of Business, Dalhousie University


  • NEW: Wisconsin – University of Wisconsin–Madison, Wisconsin School of Business


What are the CDL streams?

Specialization/focus areas of the CDL program:

    • Ag – For founders building solutions applicable throughout the entire Ag value chain—from producer to plate.
    • Artificial Intelligence – For founders pursuing commercial opportunities predicated on the application of machine learning.
    • Blockchain – For founders pursuing commercial opportunities that benefit from exploiting a combination of blockchain and machine learning technologies.
    • Climate – For founders developing high impact and scalable solutions to help preserve and protect the natural world.
    • Commerce – For founders developing technologies that will transform the retail and CPG industries.
    • Energy – For founders developing transformational technologies for the energy industry.
    • Health – For founders pursuing commercial opportunities predicated on translational science and technology innovations that improve human health and wellness.
    • Matter – For founders pursuing commercial applications based on the discovery and development of materials with superior performance over conventional alternatives.
    • Oceans – For founders focused on disrupting the ocean economy with digital technologies and sustainable solutions.
    • Prime (General Technology) – For founders pursuing state of the art technological innovations across diverse industries.
    • Quantum – For founders pursuing commercial opportunities in the nascent domain of quantum computing, machine learning, optimization, sensing and other applications of quantum technologies.


  • NEW: Risk – For founders developing transformational technologies in Risk Management.


  • Space – For founders pursuing commercial opportunities that exploit the recent drop in the cost of accessing space.
  • Supply Chain – For founders applying artificial intelligence to supply chain visibility, optimization and improvement.

What is CDL’s mission?

The mission of the CDL is to enhance the prosperity of humankind through the rapid scaling of science-based companies and a new approach to business education that combines economic theory and learning-by-doing to nurture an entrepreneurial mindset.

What is the “market for judgment”?

CDL creates the marketplace for judgment.

  • On the demand side, ventures need entrepreneurial judgment.  
  • On the supply side, entrepreneurs who have already built high impact businesses have high-quality judgment.  

CDL creates the marketplace for judgment via a highly structured, objectives-focused mentorship process. 

“A market for judgment is a nexus between science and technology. By science, I mean the kind of knowledge that is produced in academic institutions and research labs. By technology, I mean the commercial application of that knowledge. A market for judgment is a place, like CDL, where the producers of knowledge meet and mingle with businesspeople and investors.” says Professor Joshua Gans, chief economist of Creative Destruction Lab. Read more.

Why CDL-Wisconsin?

Based in Madison, Wisconsin, CDL-Wisconsin is a partnership with American Family Insurance and the University of Wisconsin–Madison. CDL-Wisconsin will work with startups focused on risk management across society, launching a new CDL Risk stream. The partnership leverages academic expertise and knowledge in the top-ranked risk and insurance program at the UW–Madison School of Business and as well as the technical prowess and long tradition of departments in the School of Computing, Data and Information Sciences to seed tech entrepreneurship.

What is CDL Risk?

The Risk Stream at CDL-Wisconsin operates from the leading university for risk management in the United States, the University of Wisconsin Madison. 

This Stream brings together experienced entrepreneurs, investors, leading scientists, and insurance executives active in risk management. The Risk cohort focuses on emerging technologies related to identifying, assessing, preventing, mitigating, and transferring risk.

CDL Risk’s mission is to transform society’s ability to manage risk. This mission includes a wide variety of subject matter; from how organizations identify, assess and manage risk, to the insurance value chain, and beyond. Ventures targeting agents/brokers, MGAs/MGUs, program administrators, self-insureds, carriers, and reinsurers will be considered. Ventures with innovative software applications, AI/ML (or any form of machine intelligence) and data solutions, intelligent process automation are only a few examples of technology that can help society transform its ability to manage risk; and ventures who should apply.