Those startups run the gamut, ranging from health devices to a transportation system cribbed from the Jetsons. Here are some of our favorites from the conference’s 12th year.
Airbnb for Bread Bakers
Serial entrepreneur Stijn Vanorbeek got into baking bread during the pandemic, and quickly realized that baking bread could be a legitimate side hustle. But he realized the ideal method of baking thick-crusted artisan bread, in a Dutch oven, would limit him to baking two bread loaves at the same time.
So Vanorbeek founded Simply Bread, which sells a $8,490 oven that can bake up to 15 loaves of bread at the same time. In addition to selling the ovens, he’s also creating an online marketplace so bakers can turn their passion into a business.
The Irvine-based company has been around for 18 months and is now raising a seed round of $2.5 million. They’ve already sold 70 of the ovens, Vanorbeek said, and some of their customers are selling hundreds of loaves of bread a week.
It’s a big market: Americans buy 15 billion loaves of bread a year and demand for artisan-baked bread, which sells for up to $15 a loaf, keeps going up, Vanorbeek said.
A Smart Pilates Machine That Creates Customized Classes
San Francisco-based Somato is building a “smart” reformer—otherwise known as those Pilates machines that look like medieval torture devices. Founder Hannah Fink, who is bootstrapping the company out of her parents’ San Francisco garage, is an industrial designer who did her master’s thesis on exercise equipment design for the home.
Her spin on the reformer is a neutral-toned, light and rounded device that can be folded and tucked away under a bed. Fink says what differentiates Somato from Peloton and other connected fitness devices is its ability to generate customized classes.
Somato does that by combining data from pressure sensors, and using that information to generate customized classes from its database of class clips. Somato will be raising a seed round later this year, and is now taking pre-orders for $2,500 plus a $39 per month subscription fee.
A Wearable Headset That Treats ADHD
Nearly 10% of American children have been diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. The majority receive medication treatment, but that comes with a slew of side effects and doesn’t work on every person.
Australian company Neurode has created a headset and partner mobile app that it says can treat ADHD; it’s currently seeking FDA approval to do just that. Customers wear the headset for 20 minutes a day while playing a game on their phone. Neurode says that the headset stimulates the brain via small electrical shocks, while at the same time monitoring the brain to see whether the treatment is working.
Dolls That Can Teach Coding
One of the first things to come into view in the TechCrunch Disrupt exhibition hall were the hot pink blazers worn by Eliza Kosoy and her team.
The founder and CEO of Berkeley-based Eliza Dolls is hoping to spur interest and expertise in coding for girls ages 5-12 via her programmable doll that can change color, emit sounds and even detect your parents’ pulse using an attached sensor.
Kosoy, who is a doctoral student at UC Berkeley focused on AI and child development, said her experience in research labs has shown a clear gender divide that starts in childhood and ends up in the clear inequity seen at events like startup conferences.
The current prototype is just an early version—don’t look at the toes—and the company hopes to launch a Kickstarter for the toy next year that features the doll in a variety of skin tones so everyone can see themselves as a coder.
A Fresh Coat for Fruit
Various jars of decaying fruit illustrated the display of pre-seed startup Nat4Bio.
The Argentinian company is using a microbial fermentation process to create an organic liquid coating that can protect fruit from browning and pesky fungal infections, extending their shelf life in the process.
CEO Joaquín Fisch said the product itself is meant for fruit packers and provides two layers of protection: a glucose-based polymer coating and added naturally occurring antimicrobials that can fend off browning and mold.
Early results show a reduction of 92% in fungal infections in citrus fruits and 75% in strawberries. And yes, the product itself is vegan, celiac-friendly, kosher and halal.
Saving Bikers’ Behinds
Dallas-based startup Radian and its lead product BiKube has its roots in a tragic event. Founder and CEO Kevin McMahon said during the pandemic his good friend and high school classmate was hit by a car and killed, leaving behind a wife and three children.
Using expertise gleaned from a career in the automotive safety industry, McMahon developed a device that can be strapped under a bike seat, or on the handlebars, that activates a vehicle’s collision avoidance system by amplifying the signal the car’s sensor receives.
The company is raising $500K in a pre-seed convertible note to finalize testing, IP filings and product launch.
Radian’s goal is rolling out a mass-market device starting in 2023 that retails for around $80 and can trigger a vehicle’s auto braking protocol, saving bikers in the process.
Spirited Away With Swyft
Imagine a world where, instead of walking from the train station to your office, you’re whisked away in autonomous gondola-like contraptions cribbed from the Jetsons.
That may not be so far from reality if Mountain View startup Swyft Cities has its way. Unlike a typical ski lift, the cables themselves don’t move; rather, the vehicles are self-driven and self-powered. According to CEO Jeral Poskey, this means they can navigate more complex networks and travel to more locations.
Sure, he acknowledges it may not be the best solution in a super-dense (and hilly) city like San Francisco—but the technology is already being considered by large real estate developments, ski resorts and universities.
Poskey comes from Google, where he helped lead transportation planning and real estate development projects and developed the seed of what would become Swyft. In the coming months, the startup expects to break ground on a pilot program in New Zealand, which Poskey described as cutting-edge on the micromobility front.