For the past three days, in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge at Fort Mason Centre, over 200 of the best new startups showcased their innovations at the eighth annual Launch Festival.
Founded by startup legend Jason Calacanis, the conference has grown into a celebration of the entrepreneurship of the startup world, with talks from the likes of Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, and Peter Thiel of Founders Fund. Uniquely, major sponsors such as Google and IBM allow the organisers to offer thousands of free tickets to students and young entrepreneurs who want to learn more about how to create the new hottest launch.
Startups are of course a key bellweather of future trends in culture and technology, so we came along to discover those trends and support Unilever Foundry, the global platform that enables Unilever to innovate through collaboration, to kick off its global competition to find the best new marketing tech startups, through its Scaleup of the Year 2015 programme. These guys were seriously impressive, keep your eye out for them in the near future:
WINNER: Little Bird
Social analytics tool to identify influencers by their ability to impact the perception of other leaders and key businesses
Platform to manage competitions across multiple social channels, with a rules engine that allows for sophisticated tiering of prizes and social sharing
Software and analytics platform that unleashes the potential of wearables for developers, enterprises and brands
There are some pretty worrying statistics emerging about the unsustainable nature of our current food consumption habits. This hasn’t gone unnoticed in the startup community, and several of the strongest businesses we saw at Launch presented solutions to this problem.
One of Unilever Foundry's favourite startups of the event was Sereneti Kitchen, a system created to allow users to control their portions, to reduce food wastage and prevent obesity from overeating. An automatic tool that helps people cook, which the founder calls the Nespresso of the cooking world, just by pushing a button. The user puts in fresh ingredients, which the company will mail to your door in portions, and selects a recipe on their smartphone; the device then does the rest. Much better than chucking a readymeal in the microwave.
On a less mouth-watering note, Bitty Foods sells nutritious, grain-free, protein-packed cookies, made with cricket flour. Yes, crickets. Sounds gross, but insects may well be the key to food sustainability. Last May, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation published a report concluding that insects could be key to stablising the global food supply. If edible insects become part of the mainstream global diet, the UN indicates that we could reduce greenhouse gases by 18 per cent and lower the average cost of food globally by 33 per cent.
So, what were the emerging trends coming from Launch Festival in 2015?
Hacking the prototype
The prototype has long been the darling of the startup world, a quick to build example of your final product that can get investors and the media excited. It’s been adopted by a lot of the agency word too, as a way to show clients ideas quickly.
Launch provided a number of glimpses of the future of prototyping that the agency world might want to take notice of from MESH, a Japanese startup that wants to revolutionise the way people prototype hardware to Protohack which enables non-coders to create their own product prototypes.
Consumers in Control
Finally, there was a broad trend across many of the startups for products and solutions that help consumers take control of their own lives. Rather than relying on big corporations to create what they need, many of the startups were focused on making consumers more self-sufficient.
The best example of this was e-NABLE, a crowd-pleasing not-for-profit organization that crowdsources the production of prosthetic hands. By plotting nearby owners of 3D printers and the location of prosthesis patients on a Google map, the company has grown a community of 3,000 registered volunteer and has given over 1,000 away for free to those in need across America.