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And the winner of Startup Battlefield at Disrupt Berlin 2018 is… Legacy

At the very beginning, there were 13 startups. After two days of incredibly fierce competition, we now have a winner. Startups participating in the Startup Battlefield have all been hand-picked to participate in our highly competitive startup competition. They all presented in front of multiple groups of VCs and tech leaders serving as judges for a chance to win $50,000 and the coveted Disrupt Cup. After hours of deliberations, TechCrunch editors pored over the judges’ notes and narrowed the list down to five finalists: Imago AI, Kalepso, Legacy, Polyteia and Spike. These startups made their way to the finale to demo in front of our final panel of judges, which included: Sophia Bendz (Atomico), Niko Bonatsos (General Catalyst), Luciana Luxandru (Accel), Ida Tin (Clue), Matt Turck (FirstMark Capital) and Matthew Panzarino (TechCrunch). And now, meet the Startup Battlefield winner of TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin 2018. Winner: Legacy Legacy is tackling an interesting problem: the reduction of sperm motility as we age. By freezing men’s sperm, this Swiss-based company promises to keep our boys safe and potent as we get older, a consideration that many find vital as we marry and have kids later. Read more about Legacy in our separate post. Runner-Up: Imago AI Imago AI is applying AI to help feed the world’s growing population by increasing crop yields and reducing food waste. To accomplish this, it’s using computer vision and machine learning technology to fully automate the laborious task of measuring crop output and quality. Read more about Imago AI in our separate post.

Legacy freezes your sperm so you don’t have to

Legacy is tackling an interesting problem: the reduction of sperm motility as we age. By freezing our sperm, this Swiss-based company promises to keep our boys safe and potent as we get older, a consideration that many find vital as we marry and have kids later. Legacy, which exhibited in Startup Alley at Disrupt Berlin 2018, was chosen as the wildcard company to present its services onstage during Startup Battlefield. How does it work? Well, the company delivers a system for grabbing sperm. The material is kept in a specially made container and shipped to a nearby clinic where they then test the sperm and place it in cryogenic storage. You can then make a withdrawal when you’re ready for babies. “Our unique at-home solution allows men to have their sperm analyzed and frozen at a clinic without leaving their home or having to meet with a physician,” said founder Khaled Kteily. “All clients receive a full fertility analysis, including personalized recommendations using our machine learning-driven technology.” Kteily ensures us that our special sauce will stay safe over the years. “Our core values of privacy, quality, and security ensure discretion, anonymity, and the highest level of quality for all our clients, including multi-site storage, whereby our clients’ deposits are stored in multiple tanks in multiple locations at high security.” The company offers three packages: Bronze, Gold and Platinum. The $1,000 Bronze package requires you to take your sperm to a clinic where it will be tested and cryogenically stored. The Platinum plan costs $10,000 and ensures the company will keep up to six samples of your swimmers indefinitely, affording your genetic material practical immortality. Kteily founded the company after a friend looked for solutions to sperm storage while facing cancer treatment. Realizing there was nothing that looked trustworthy or usable, he used his background in health and entrepreneurship to build Legacy. The company has raised $250,000 and they are profitable. Kteily sees his company as the “Swiss Bank” of sperm storage. “Male fertility has declined by 50 percent. Every 8 months, men produce a new genetic mutation that gets passed…

Koo! is a social network for short-form podcasts

Alexandre Meregan says that music, and audio in general, has always been core to his life. But one day on his five-minute commute to work, trying to listen to a podcast for the first time, he realized that by the time he arrived at work he had only heard an introduction and a commercial jingle. He immediately went to work on Koo!, a short-form podcast app aimed at young people. Koo! lets users record up to one minute of audio, add “sound stickers” like a drum roll or a poop sound, and share the “Koo” in a feed with their friends and followers. Meregan believes that some young people are hesitant to share their thoughts on social media, which is mostly picture or video-based, because of the quantification of their self-worth through Like counters. With Koo! users can simply speak their thoughts without having to share a picture or video. “At Koo! we believe a lot of great content is being held back by teenagers due to insecurities that comes with photo and video,” said Meregan onstage at TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin on the Startup Battlefield. “We feel that what you say should be more important than how you look.” Like most social networks, Koo! is primarily focused on acquiring new users before focusing on a revenue model. Ad-supported revenue is the most obvious option to make money, but Meregan says that the team has been floating around a few other ideas, as well. One user-acquisition tactic, according to Meregan, is to target YouTube content creators and give them a complimentary service to share their thoughts and voice. A handful of startups have tried their hand at audio-based social networks, but few have managed to gain much traction. Koo! is backed by Sweet Studio, though Meregan declined to share the amount of funding the company has received to date.

Rlay offers a blockchain-powered platform to help companies build better crowdsourced data sets

The team behind Rlay believes that blockchain technology can play a crucial role in helping businesses crowdsource their data-gathering tasks. Founder Michael Hirn said this is a problem he encountered while working with Sunstone Capital to develop a more quantitative approach to venture capital, which meant pulling startup data from a wide variety of online sources. It ended up being an incredibly time-consuming process, and he said, “90 percent of the time was spent cleaning the data and acquiring the data.” CTO Max Goisser argued that this is a broad problem. There are already successful examples of crowdsourced data, most notably Wikipedia, but in his view, they succeeded because “these things were of value for the entire world — everyone’s interested in that.” “But what if you wanted to crowdsource something that is [only] interesting to you as a company?” Goisser said. Then you’d need the right incentive system to convince people to contribute. And that’s where Rlay (pronounced “relay”) comes in — the startup is launching onstage today as part of our Startup Battlefield at Disrupt Berlin. There are other startups, like Dirt Protocol, offering blockchain-powered tools for data collection and verification. But it sounds like one of Rlay’s big selling points is its ability to integrate with existing enterprise database technology. In other words, Rlay leverages the blockchain side of things to provide a mechanism for people to contribute data and be rewarded for their contributions (each customer decides how they want to structure the incentives), but the goal is to collect the data in a format that’s useful for the company, and where, if the company desires, it can be kept private. “We abstract over the backend database that you as a company would use, we abstract over the blockchain or ledger technology — it’s currently Ethereum, but technically, it doesn’t matter,” Hirn said. “So you don’t have to figure out how to work between Postgres and Ethereum, you don’t have to figure out ‘How do we represent the data?’, all of that is taken care of by Rlay.” As for the incentives, he said: There are…

Agtech startup Imago AI is using computer vision to boost crop yields

Presenting onstage today in the 2018 TC Disrupt Berlin Battlefield is Indian agtech startup Imago AI, which is applying AI to help feed the world’s growing population by increasing crop yields and reducing food waste. As startup missions go, it’s an impressively ambitious one. The team, which is based out of Gurgaon near New Delhi, is using computer vision and machine learning technology to fully automate the laborious task of measuring crop output and quality — speeding up what can be a very manual and time-consuming process to quantify plant traits, often involving tools like calipers and weighing scales, toward the goal of developing higher-yielding, more disease-resistant crop varieties. Currently they say it can take seed companies between six and eight years to develop a new seed variety. So anything that increases efficiency stands to be a major boon. And they claim their technology can reduce the time it takes to measure crop traits by up to 75 percent. In the case of one pilot, they say a client had previously been taking two days to manually measure the grades of their crops using traditional methods like scales. “Now using this image-based AI system they’re able to do it in just 30 to 40 minutes,” says co-founder Abhishek Goyal. Using AI-based image processing technology, they can also crucially capture more data points than the human eye can (or easily can), because their algorithms can measure and asses finer-grained phenotypic differences than a person might pick up on or be easily able to quantify just judging by eye alone. “Some of the phenotypic traits they are not possible to identify manually,” says co-founder Shweta Gupta. “Maybe very tedious or for whatever all these laborious reasons. So now with this AI-enabled [process] we are now able to capture more phenotypic traits. “So more coverage of phenotypic traits… and with this more coverage we are having more scope to select the next cycle of this seed. So this further improves the seed quality in the longer run.” The wordy phrase they use to describe what their technology delivers is: “High throughput precision phenotyping.” Or,…

Spike Diabetes applies social pressure to keep patients safe

It can be tough for diabetes patients to keep a constant eye on their glucose levels. Spike Diabetes lets family and doctors lend a hand by sending them real-time alerts about the patient’s stats. And the app’s artificial intelligence features can even send helpful reminders or suggest the most diabetes-friendly meals when you walk into a restaurant. Today onstage at TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin Startup Battlefield, Spike Diabetes is launching its Guardian Portal so loved ones with permission can get a closer look at a patients’ data and coach them about staying healthy. “Diabetes is an incurable chronic disease that forces diabetics to live a life of carb-counting and insulin injections,” says Spike co-founder Ziad Alame. “Since diabetics are forced to do those mundane tasks for the rest of their lives, they tend to fall off the tracks sometimes simply because of how demanding those tasks can be. As for guardians and parents, they are left in the dark about their loved ones.” With doctors often only getting data during quarterly or semi-annual checkups, patients are often left on their own. “A lifetime of management is very stressful, especially if your life depends on it.” The startup faces stiff competition from literally hundreds of apps claiming to help patients monitor their vitals. MySugr, Diabetes Connect and Health2Sync are among the most popular. But Alame says many require users to track their levels through complex spreadsheets. Spike offers customizable mobile charts, and will even read users their stats out loud to make staying safe an easier part of daily life. Spike is invite-only and just on iOS, but it also touts an Apple Watch app plus optimized engineering to minimize battery usage. “Spike started off as a personal project to help myself adhere better to my medication after reaching critical times in my diabetic life,” Alame tells me. Now he’s bringing to the problem his experience as CTO of the GivingLoop charity platform, TeensWhoCode summer camp and Zoomal crowdfunding site for the Arab world. Alame has assembled a team of diabetics, engineers and PhDs, plus $200,000 in seed funding from MEVP, Cedar Mundi and…

Polyteia launches to help European city governments put their data to work

Local governments collect a lot of data, but they aren’t always great at organizing and using it efficiently. Instead of letting useful municipal insights sit around in disparate databases, some not even digital, Berlin-based Polyteia proposes a platform that would allow city leaders to unify and analyze the data that represents the constituents that they serve. TechCrunch spoke with Polyteia co-founders Faruk Tuncer and Taisia Antonova (CEO and CPO, respectively) at Disrupt Berlin 2018, where they are competing in the Startup Battlefield, and heard a bit more about the platform, who it’s designed for and why. The company was also created with the help of a third co-founder, lead Polyteia architect Lukas Rambold. For the project, Tuncer will bring his experience working in city governments to bear, while Antonova provides expertise on the product side. Antonova is a TechCrunch Battlefield veteran, having pitched IO onstage in London back in 2014. Polyteia’s platform is designed to serve the mayor’s office and city council alike, with a modular topic-specific system that lets cities (and towns) choose bits of its smart governance platform à la carte. The goal is to bring together legacy data stored in various systems into a central location. “It’s trapped in silos,” Tuncer said. “It takes a lot of time to aggregate that data.” Polyteia also offers to digitize data for clients that might still be stuck with some paper systems. That modular design means that Polyteia plans to collect and glean insight on everything from local fire departments and housing projects to schools and childcare. The company began its pilot product, now operating, with a childcare module that allows local governments to track kindergarten needs and utilization numbers, making it possible to identify areas that might need expanded services. In the town of Oranienburg, Head of Central Services Department Mike Wedel is using Polyteia to figure out childcare needs and lauds how with Polyteia “reports are generated at the fingertip.” Angelika Kerstenski, treasurer of the City of Wriezen and chairwoman of the Association of Treasurers in Brandenburg, had similar praise for its work with the new platform. “Polyteia transforms…

Spin Analytics automates credit risk modeling for banks

Meet Spin Analytics, a startup that wants to leverage artificial intelligence to automatically write credit risk modeling regulation reports. The company is participating in Startup Battlefield at TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin. If you work for a big bank, you know how painful it can be to launch a new product. Every time you start selling a new asset, you need to comply with regulations around the world. It can take months and a lot of money to write detailed documents about your asset. This isn’t like writing a school essay. You need to validate the model, stress test and make sure that everything is sound. “The idea is to automate this process. Today, this process takes 6 to 9 months,” co-founder and CEO Panos Skliamis told me before Disrupt. Spin Analytics calls its platform RiskRobot. First, you need to get a clean data set. The startup helps you aggregate, merge and cleanse data before processing it. This process alone usually takes 4 to 6 weeks. Second, RiskRobot makes sure you comply with regulations in Europe, the U.S. and all around the world — Basel III, CECL, you name it. Finally, Spin Analytics writes the big report. Regulators want to make sure that it’s accurate. That’s why the report contains step-by-step instructions so you can reproduce the model later. Overall, you can expect to leverage Spin Analytics to write a report in less than two weeks. Spin Analytics has been working on this product for three years and is now testing it with some big banks, such as BBVA and Crédit Agricole. If everything goes well, those banks could end up using Spin Analytics for more and more asset classes. It’s an easy sell, as banks could end up saving a ton of money. Credit risk management currently costs $500,000 to $1 million per model. “We reduce that by 70 percent,” Skliamis said. Now, banks need to assess the risk of using this credit risk modeling system. It sounds a bit convoluted, but it also sounds like a great business opportunity.

Loro’s mounted wheelchair assistant puts high tech to work for people with disabilities

A person with physical disabilities can’t interact with the world the same way as the able, but there’s no reason we can’t use tech to close that gap. Loro is a device that mounts to a wheelchair and offers its occupant the ability to see and interact with the people and things around them in powerful ways. Loro’s camera and app work together to let the user see farther, read or translate writing, identify people, gesture with a laser pointer and more. They demonstrated their tech onstage today during Startup Battlefield at TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin. Invented by a team of mostly students who gathered at Harvard’s Innovation Lab, Loro began as a simple camera for disabled people to more easily view their surroundings. “We started this project for our friend Steve,” said Loro co-founder and creative director, Johae Song. A designer like her and others in their friend group, he was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or ALS, a degenerative neural disease that paralyzes the muscles of the afflicted. “So we decided to come up with ideas of how to help people with mobility challenges.” “We started with just the idea of a camera attached to the wheelchair, to give people a panoramic view so they can navigate easily,” explained co-founder David Hojah. “We developed from that idea after talking with mentors and experts; we did a lot of iterations, and came up with the idea to be smarter, and now it’s this platform that can do all these things.” It’s not simple to design responsibly for a population like ALS sufferers and others with motor problems. The problems they may have in everyday life aren’t necessarily what one would think, nor are the solutions always obvious. So the Loro team determined to consult many sources and expend a great deal of time in simple observation. “Very basic observation — just sit and watch,” Hojah said. “From that you can get ideas of what people need without even asking them specific questions.” Others would voice specific concerns without suggesting solutions, such as a flashlight the user can direct through the…

WiARframe wants to make building AR experiences easy

Augmented reality has been a buzzword for years, but for the most part, it has remained a novelty. WiARframe, which is competing in our Startup Battlefield competition today at Disrupt Berlin, believes that we are still very early on in the AR game and that part of what is holding the market back is that the tools need to become easier to use and that designers need to find better ways to find inspiration for their AR experiences. WiARframe tackles these issues by providing budding AR designers with an easy-to-use web-based interface for building AR experiences and a community feature that allows them to share these experiences with anybody who downloads the company’s iOS and Android apps. The actual scene editor, the company’s founder Jeremiah Alexander told me, is modeled after other 3D modeling tools. In it, you can lay out the scene, but then also make it interactive. Typically, developers would do this in a complex and multi-faceted tool like Unity, but Alexander argues that the barrier of entry there is still too high for many non-developers, while wiARframe removes a lot of that complexity by offering a specialized tool that’s only for building AR experiences.”Unity is not for designers,” he told me. In addition to being able to import 3D models, the tool also allows designers to add menus to a scene that can be used for settings or other in-app experiences. As Alexander stressed, though, the community aspect of the service may be just as important. The idea here is to allow other designers to take existing scenes and remix them. That’s not unlike what Microsoft is doing with Paint 3D and Remix 3D, though Alexander likened it more to GitHub. GitHub is also the inspiration for what will likely become wiARframe’s business model in the long run. Like on GitHub, wiARframe users will be able to use the service for free, but their creations will be public. To make them private, users will have to pay. In the long run, the company may also offer an enterprise plan with additional features. While wiARframe started out with…

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