4 Years From Now, a new event focused on start-ups and taking place during Mobile World Congress, will host the Mobile Startup Competition, a contest that seeks to find three winners out of ten finalists based on creativity, originality, innovation and scalability.The finalists, picked from about 450 entries, will pitch to a judging panel that includes entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and telecommunications executives at 4YFN. (Informilo's Jennifer L. Schenker is one of the judges.)
The wining team takes home a package of prizes that includes €5,000 in legal services, one week immersion at the Silicon Valley Startup Embassy (valued at €1,500), four passes for this year’s MWC and a presence at next year’s MWC. The silver medalist will get €3,000 in legal services and the third-place €2,000. The other seven finalists each get €1,000 in legal services and all 10 start-ups get €500 in cash.
Almost half of the start-ups that applied are less than a year old and staffed by just the co-founders; only eight percent of companies that applied had more than ten employees. Five percent have annual sales of more than €500,000 and one percent have broken the €1 million barrier.
With its cylindrical Alima device that connects to smartphones and tablets, AirBoxLab aims to improve the health of its customers by monitoring indoor air pollution. Alima has six embedded sensors measuring organic compounds, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, temperature and humidity and uses data mining and pattern recognition to monitor pollution and provide warnings and recommendations so people can improve their indoor air quality.
“We use Internet of things technology to provide a service that makes it possible and affordable to improve our indoor air quality,” says CEO Jacques Touillon. “We are adding predictive analytics based on data mining to predict pollution evolution and provide actionable advice.”
AirBoxLab, founded in July last year, has a first batch of 150 beta Alima units and is about to launch a second batch of 200 units for experimentation. The final product will be available this summer. The company has raised $10,000 in an Indiegogo campaign.
Airfy is seeking to simplify public access to Wi-Fi with its sleek access point. Using a device installed in a public place, users can get an hour of free surfing after they watch a ten-second advertisement. Once a user signs onto an airfy access point, his smartphone or tablet will automatically connect with other airfy access points. Airfy can also be used in the home and allows guests to log on without having to know the owner’s personal password. Airfy combines beacon technology with its Wi-Fi access point to offer services to B2B and B2C customers.
The company, which has raised $78,000 in an Indiegogo campaign, also has a mobile payments system. The money from that campaign plus an angel round of funding, which raised €120,000 and valued the company at €1.5 million, are enough to get out of beta with the final version of the airfy access point due in September, says CEO Steffen Siewert.
Cell Buddy has come up with a way for cellphone users to avoid getting slapped with eye-watering bills when abroad. For a flat fee, still to be determined though the company says it will probably be $5 a day or $60 a year, Cell Buddy users can do unlimited calling and surfing on their cellphones overseas. The service currently works with most Android phones; iPhone and Blackberry are soon to follow.
When abroad, users replace their SIM card with a Cell Buddy SIM, which works by connecting to a company server that has SIM cards from countries around the world. When the service is launched in September it will be available in Europe, North America and China.
Cell Buddy, which was founded in 2011 and has raised $2.3 million from investors, is in pre-beta with 30 users testing the product; a full beta of 1,000-2,000 devices is scheduled to start in June.
Winning the contest “will help us raise enough money to go to market more quickly,” says CEO Yoram Nissenboim. “The technology works but we need hardware manufacturing and strong infrastructure since we plan on supporting millions of users.”
Fairwaves makes equipment to build mobile networks tailored to serve operators in low-income areas by using VoIP technology for calls and text messages. The company, which is moving its headquarters to Boston, says it can scale from a single base station to a country-wide network and costs a fraction of a traditional mobile network. Fairwaves sells the hardware cheaply and makes money on value-added services.
“Unlike many other start-ups, we’re solving a real problem and already have sales to customers,” says Alexander Chemeris, CEO and co-founder. “Our current issue is to properly scale the company, as the current demand completely overwhelms our ability to deliver.”
A Fairwaves network, which supports only voice and text messages, is compatible with any GSM phone. Fairwaves, founded in 2011, has concluded a $200,000 round from business angels and has started selling a basic version of its product.
Founded in 2012, Infantium is a platform that personalizes learning by creating an individualized syllabus for every child’s needs, learning style, speed and level. The platform watches how the student interacts and reacts to the content displayed. It then learns to adapt and anticipate what content is best suited for that specific child. Parents and teachers can consult reports that analyze how the student is progressing.
Infantium, which is in private beta in schools in Barcelona, is building what it says is the world’s smartest tutor for children through the use of cognitive technology, neuroscience and big data.
“For Infantium, being awarded one of the three prizes [in the start-up competition] would be an incomparable recognition of its work and the potential to enact change in the education space,” says Karen Marquez, CEO and co-founder.
Infantium has received pre-seed investment and recently started fundraising.
ION Eyewear is producing ION Glasses, frames that interact with smartphones and tablets thanks to a Bluetooth 4.0 chip, a multi-color LED and a buzzer. The functions, accessed by two buttons on the frames, are controlled by an application available in iOS and Android.
The glasses can notify the user with a pre-selected light code if they receive a call, text message, email, alarm for a meeting or social network update. The buttons can be used as a remote control to play music on the phone, activate the camera, video or voice recorder, or advance slides in a presentation. If the glasses move beyond a pre-specified distance from the phone both will beep. The rechargeable battery lasts about a week depending on usage.
The company, which raised $64,000 with an Indiegogo campaign, has started manufacturing the frames, expected to cost about $125, and plans to launch in March, less than a year after it was founded. Distribution will be primarily through opticians in Europe and the U.S.
“We have the first production of about 4,000 glasses ready,” says Ricardo Urias, co-founder. “We’re confident we will be able to obtain enough funds to produce the second production wave of about 40,000 units. This should happen by September 2014 and if everything goes right we will have sold around 50,000 units to reach break even by the end of 2014.”
The motorcycle helmet with a voice-controlled interface and built-in navigation system projected in front of the rider’s view (similar to a fighter pilot's screen), may soon be a reality if Moscow-based LiveMap gets funding.
The $9,000 raised in an Indiegogo campaign, some grants from Russian foundations, and seed money from the founder have helped LiveMap build prototypes, but more is needed to start serial production, says Dmitry Sizonov, a usability expert at LiveMap. The goal is to have the helmet available in the U.S. and Canada by the end of the year with other countries to follow soon after.
“Technologies formerly available only to aerospace and military applications, very expensive and sophisticated, would become much cheaper, easy to use and accessible to virtually any motorbike rider,” says Sizonov.
The helmet can be preordered for $1,500 and will cost $2,000 once production has started.
Founded in late 2012, Basel, Switzerland-based qipp has created a web application that helps users organize their personal things and share them with friends. Users add anything from a computer to a car to their digital portfolios and qipp finds product information. Extra information can be added, such as warranty details.
“Qipp is very much inspired by Internet of Things approaches, but takes a completely unconventional way to come to a solution for underlying problems,” says Stefan Zanetti, CEO and founder.
Lists of items can be shared with friends and made available to be borrowed. Qipp can interact with any kind of physical identifier, sensors and communication modules such as barcodes and NFC tags. The company, which will seek to raise funds from investors later this year, is a spinoff of ETH University in Zurich.
Aptly named Recommend, which can be used as an iPhone app or on the company’s website, lets users find recommendations from people in their trusted network. Experiences can be shared with friends and experts in a particular field can have their recommendations broadcast to the wider public, says Nicolas Mendiharat, founder and CEO.
Recommend raised €1.1 million in two seed rounds from 30 business angels including tech entrepreneurs Xavier Niel (Free), Loic Le Meur (LeWeb), Catherine Barba (Malinea), Vincent Karachira (Next Performance) and Xavier Garambois (Amazon).
Recommend, founded in 2012, uses an algorithm based on behavior analysis and numerous criteria. A Recommend app for Android phones is expected to be released in early summer.
Sterio.me, founded in November 2013, is seeking to provide teachers and students in sub-Saharan Africa with a low-tech tool to improve learning. Teachers record educational content such as quizzes and generate a code that is sent by text message to students after school. The code is then texted for free by the students to activate a VoIP call from the Sterio.me servers with the content. The call, which is free for both the teacher and the student, is interactive and can include multiple-choice answers and open-ended questions.
Sterio.me, which is looking to raise its first seed round of funding, plans to make money from advertisements that are educational or have the aim of positive action afterwards such as promoting sanitation and washing hands (for example by a company selling soap), says Christopher Pruijsen, Sterio.me co-founder and CEO. Sterio.me is working towards a pilot launch in Lesotho and Tanzania. The company says that in Lesotho it has received interest from Vodacom for a partnership and has had positive feedback from the teacher unions and the Ministry of Education.
“The penetration of Internet-enabled devices is still lacking in Africa,” says Pruijsen.