More than 1,000 start-ups from 63 countries applied to the start-up competition that will take place at the Pioneers Festival at Vienna’s Hofburg Palace October 29th-30th. Hardware and software start-ups from a variety of fields were encouraged to apply. To qualify, the companies had to be less than three years old. A panel of judges chose 50 finalists. They have been invited to Vienna to pitch to investors from top-tier VC firms such as Accel Partners and Sequoia Capital. The grand prize includes partner meetings at Y Combinator, Techstars and Lemnos Labs and a $50,000 seed investment by SpeedInvest plus one month of free mentorship and pitch training.
The 50 finalists specialize in some 20 different areas of tech: everything from agriculture to artificial intelligence and robotics. Informilo shines a spotlight on eight:
Based: Almeria, Spain; London, England; and Miami, Florida.
Launched: June 2014 on Kickstarter.
Funds raised to date: +$150,000 on Kickstarter and $50,000 from an accelerator.
State of product development: The team participated in HAXLR8R, a program for hardware start-ups in Shenzhen, China; it has been working directly with Chinese factories for the past five months and is ready to start manufacturing.
What it does: Uses an array of sensors and actuators inside a unit that will fit in your living room to create the perfect growing environment for vegetables, several kind of fruits, herbs, flowers and houseplants. Using a smartphone app you can watch your food or plant grow, track and understand its progress, water it and control climate variables.
Differentiator: Niwa claims to be the world’s first fully automated, connected and responsive hydroponic greenhouse system.
Based: San Francisco, California and Vienna, Austria
Launched: September 2013
Funds raised to date: $200,000
State of product development: Receiving pre-orders.
What it does: Using Robo smart blocks, kids can play with and build many different types of robots. iOS and Android apps guide them as they build, and suggest possible designs while also instructing them about the capabilities of each smart block they use.
Differentiator: Robo provides for a fun way to learn programming because kids get to see their creations come to life with coding. Once they have built a robot, a child can then learn to program it using intuitive commands in Robo’s app.
Digital Path To Eternity
Based: New York, New York, U.S.
Launched: November 2013
Funds raised to date: $120,000 from Innovation Factory and friends and family.
State of product development: A first version of the product was launched in April.
What it does: Creates a visually and psychologically accurate 3D presentation (i.e., a hologram) of a person, living or dead, using a proprietary platform based on artificial intelligence and artificial empathy, enabling advanced interaction with people and future generations. The Foundation Identity product brings historical figures to life. The Digital Eternity product requires clients wishing to leave a legacy to dedicate six to ten days to work with a team of technical experts, along with a biographer, ghost writer and psychologist, to do emotional mapping and 3D data capturing to record the natural movements of facial muscles and body motions and the person’s voice. The company says the hologram is able to recognize an interlocutor’s identity and decide the answer based on the intimacy level; recognize sounds and music and connect them to memories; and react in real time to questions and gestures with natural movements, facial expressions and posture.
Differentiator: The products promise to allow people to interact with an historical figure or their ancestors or to reach out to future generations.
Air Transport Drones
Based: Vienna, Austria
Launched: September 2013
Funds raised to date: Zero
State of product development: Working on prototype.
What it does: Drone delivery of medical and emergency goods to areas in need in developing countries and to logistics hubs and hospitals in developed countries. No last mile Amazon-style B2C delivery in highly-regulated countries envisioned for now.
Differentiator: Space Leap says it aims to be the first company to create a legal, commercially-viable drone delivery service of this type.
Based: Prague, Czech Republic
Launched: June 2012
Funds raised to date: Zero
State of product development: Alpha release expected by November.
What it does: VIVI is an intelligent digital clone that, thanks to artificial intelligence, thinks and acts like you do and can help manage your digital life, doing your work online, freeing you to do things in the physical world.
Differentiator: VIVI’s platform includes PortraitID, a digital passport with all the pertinent information about your life, and Information Bank, which stores life-tracking data. The company says that combined, these two services and a cloud-based neural network system give VIVI the intelligence to act as an online stand-in.
Based: Vienna, Austria
Launched: Prototype developed in 2012; incorporated in February 2014.
Funds raised to date: $361,452 in 43 days via Kickstarter. An additional €100,000 has been raised from a private investor.
State of product development: More than 370 of the Virtualizer’s third prototype sold through Kickstarter; the products are expected to start shipping in March.
What it does: Allows online gamers to step inside their favorite games and control their in-game characters with their own movements, including walking, running, jumping and crouching.
Differentiator: The Virtualizer is powered by a common USB connection. It claims to be compatible with all gaming software on the market and to be the first to offer 360-degree tangle-free rotation and a vertical free-motion ring for full freedom of movement in virtual reality. A new version with added haptic feedback promises to increase immersion by adding tactile sensation to the virtual reality experience.
Intelligent Flying Camera
Based: Zurich, Switzerland
Launched: March 2014
Funds raised to date: €330,000
State of product development: In beta.
What it does: The Fotokite is a tethered flying camera. No piloting skills are required: it starts with a simple hand rotation gesture, and flies straight to the pointed direction. This self-contained system is equipped with an HDMI video downlink that provides uncompressed live video feedback. The two-axis camera gimbal, as well as the vehicle position, can be controlled from a smartphone or tablet via an app. The tether can carry power, allowing the flying camera to work for hours. The product will first be used by the media and is currently being tested by journalists at BBC Labs and National Geographic.
Differentiator: The Fotokite allows versatile aerial photography without power constraints; the tether solves interaction and safety issues; and the company claims anyone can learn to deploy it in less than five minutes.
Based: St. Michael, Minnesota, U.S.
Launched: January 2012
Funds raised to date: $4 million
State of product development: Beta
What it does: A complete rethink of a tractor’s design and functionality, including the need for a driver. ATC’s The Spirit can steer and avoid obstacles on its own and notify others when help is needed. The design eliminates expensive components used in existing tractors, cutting the cost in half. It also promises to offer 20% better fuel economy; can perform in one pass of the field what would normally take three; improve crop quality by 50% or more; reduce chemical use and significantly reduce soil compaction issues.
Differentiator: ATC has developed a proprietary motor which provides more exact control of the vehicle. Its in-field hardware and software, which rely on radio frequency technology, help ensure sub-centimeter accuracy in fields. And it uses artificial intelligence to make each component of the tractor “smart” so it can make ongoing decisions without a human driver.