Setting the tech startup world alight
Myriam Zilles, Pixabay
It promises to be an exciting year for AI startups, as growing numbers start to really shake things up across all industry sectors, from medicine and retail, to marketing and property. Here are four that are poised for growth and ready to exploit new opportunities in 2020.
Medtech startup StethoMe’s AI-powered wireless stethoscope allows parents to examine their children and share lung and heart readings with doctors who can decide on the seriousness of the issue. StethoMe can identify potential issues in children early and also eases the burden on healthcare services.
Based in Poznań, Poland, the company was founded in 2015 by Honorata Hafke-Dys Jędrzej Kociński, Wojciech Radomski, Paweł Elbanowski and Marcin Szajek. The idea originated from Hafke-Dys and Kociński, scientists from the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, and also parents who struggled with frequent respiratory system infections in their children.
They began studies into the body acoustic signals that doctors can hear during a stethoscope examination and explored the idea of a smart home stethoscope that could potentially change the lives of many families around the world.
At the same time, Radomski, Elbanowski and Szajek, who’d been running an IT service provision company, were looking for an exciting new idea from the medical world. With the goal of creating a global product with high impact, they launched StethoMe.
The company provides two medical devices, StethoMe, a smart, digital stethoscope, and StethoMe AI, the software intended for intelligent sound analysis which supports both the home user as well as the doctor during the diagnostic process. Medical knowledge is not needed to use it and the results are more accurate than the average GP. It is intuitive and easy to use.
Early investors in the project included SpeedUp Group and Programa.pl, and the project has been co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund since January 2017. In 2018, it secured $1.5 million from TDJ Pitango Ventures and $500,000 from Manta Ray VC.
The business now employs 24 people, and after successful pilot studies, is at the beginning of the commercialization process. “The main strategy is to share our solution in a B2B2C model,” says Radomski. “We are also developing a solution for medical professionals, StethoMe Pro.”
Describing itself as a ‘digital town hall’, PLACEengage uses AR and VR technology that allows users to experience proposed property developments. The Dublin-based company was founded in in 2018 by Carol Tallon, who at the time was working in PR for the real estate sector, and was heavily involved in proptech and emerging technologies for the built environment.
She says: “I had identified that unsubstantiated objections to planning applications were adding €11,500 to the cost of a new home in South Dublin. This cost and resulting delays meant that many developments were simply no longer viable – unfounded objections were slowing down the delivery of vital new homes and infrastructure.”
Tallon’s goal was to focus on the available data; planning applications, local demographics, earning potential, mortgage rates and affordability, alignment with the National Planning Framework, etc., to provide workable placemaking solutions for the community, developers and all stakeholders.
The business was initially bootstrapped and much of the tech development was funded by offering an analogue version of the digital offering. The company won a place on one of Ireland’s most prestigious start-up programs, DCU Ryan Academy High Flier program, founded by Ryanair founder Tony Ryan, and won the final pitch competition.
The company has a core team of six, with additional developers working on a contract basis.
Tallon says: “Urban planning in Ireland is at a critical junction. In March last year our Minister for Housing established Ireland’s first Office of Planning Regulator and the industry is now taking a more empirical approach to urban planning; the collection and analysis of more detailed and relevant data; AI is the key to unlocking this.”
Times are tough for retailers, with the right pricing, marketing and stocking all critical to their competitive success. Retail tech startup Greendeck is helping brands and retailers with the right competitive intelligence they need, harnessing the power of AI for better pricing, promotions and buying strategies. The London-based business was founded in 2018 by Aayush Jain, Yashvardhan Srivastava and Aditya Joshi, who were later joined by Karthik Veluswamy as co-founder.
“Dynamic pricing as a concept was very interesting for us,” says Jain. “Industries like airlines have had very mature dynamic pricing systems for many years. Through our research we found that retail is beginning to adopt this as well, thanks to the shift from offline to online shopping.”
Greendeck was part of the Techstars SAP.iO program in Berlin where they raised a pre-seed round of $120,000. Earlier in 2019 they raised a seed round of £500,000 from London-based VCs, led by RLC ventures. The company has invested heavily in the creation of its proprietary machine learning algorithms and data infrastructure, and currently employs 25 people.
“2019 was the year when we were focusing on product-market fit, and this year we will focus on growth,” says Jain. “We currently have customers in Europe, and will be expanding to the US and Asia.”
Thanks to this startup’s AI-powered technology, customers can send mass email campaigns using their handwriting. Scribeless was founded by Robert Van Den Bergh and Alex Robinson in 2018, and is headquartered in Bristol in the U.K., with a U.S. production facility in Texas.
It was Van Den Bergh who came up with the idea while working at an accounting firm when he was asked to help with a handwritten marketing campaign to re-engage prospects that had gone cold.
He spent three weeks writing out hundreds of letters by hand, a task he vowed never to do again. However, when the responses were evaluated a month later the campaign was dubbed the most effective the company had ever done in terms of engagement and ROI uplift.
At this point, Van Den Bergh and Robinson began exploring the concept of using automation to create handwritten letters. “We used AI to mimic anyone’s handwriting, with all the nuance and variability of human writing, and advanced printing, creating notes in a scalable and efficient fashion for marketing and sales campaigns,” says Van Den Burgh.
In its first year the company was fully self-funded through revenues, and in 2019, it secured an investment round from angels and VCs, raising just under half a million to date. Scribeless currently has five employees.
Robinson says: “This year we will continue to serve companies across Europe and the U.S., and will be expanding our team, including our technology team, to ensure more of them can reap the benefits of sending handwritten letters for prospecting and customer re-engagement.”