Highlights from Silicon Valley Scaleup Summit 2020

After our Israeli Summit, we pursued our series of Summit with a deeper focus on the vibrant North American ecosystem at the beginning of October. 

We hosted several interviews of top notch leaders of the buzzing ecosystem including Gene Teare, Strategic Research and data evangelist at Crunchbase and Willem Jonker, CEO at EIT Digital. 

One of the outcomes of the Summit was the 100+ cherry-picked scaleups that we shortlisted to foster innovation and collaboration with our corporate clients. Below we summarize the most interesting emerging trends that we tracked.

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Energy and Sustainability: What’s Next? 

It is nowadays clear that the energy sector is one of the most innovative and forward-looking. The industry is vastly screening the market to find the most progressive and sustainable solutions. 

John Doerr, partner at the prominent Silicon Valley VC firm Kleiner Perkins, announced in a 2007 TED talk that, “Green technologies —going green—is bigger than the Internet. It could be the biggest economic opportunity of the 21st century.” It’s no surprise that many startups are taking a more environmentally-conscious route and finding sustainable solutions to modern-day challenges using different approaches, ranging from hydrogen to carbon capture and storage. Lastly, it is also interesting to see how startups are helping utilities to improve their margins by boosting efficiency with Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, 

Hydrogen Solutions: the Future of Sustainable Energy?

Hydrogen solutions are gaining life points and emerging as a way to decarbonize future energy production. These technologies allow the production of low-cost green hydrogen from renewable energy. The produced green hydrogen can then be recombined to generate power at peak times, offsetting the need for fossil fuel ‘peaker’ plants. They are increasingly more pragmatic and actionable, able to scale technologies, and ultimately allowing hydrogen to become widely used.
Companies such as Origen Hydrogen and Power to Hydrogen are overcoming the challenge of hydrogen production.
Others, including NrgStorEdge, PowerUp Energy Technologies and WireTough Cylinders, are tackling the hydrogen storage issue. 

Electriq Global sees hydrogen as an alternative zero-emission fuel to enable the clean energy transition. 

Carbon Capture and Storage 

Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is one of the avenues taken by many startups to tackle sustainability challenges. It is a technology that can capture up to 90% of the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions produced from the use of fossil fuels in electricity generation and industrial processes, preventing the carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere. That is the angle Carbon Clean Solutions chose. Indeed, they  provide a low cost carbon capture technology to industrial emitters, helping them to decarbonise and leverage the growing value of captured carbon. 

Companies such as Carbon Engineering or Global Thermostat can capture carbon dioxide directly out of the air around us and pledge to transform Carbon Dioxide from a global liability into a profit center.
The CO2 captured can also be used to create new products. Kiverdi uses a bioreactor to combine CO2 with special microbes to transform CO2 into proteins, high-valued oils, nutrients and bio-based products, which can be used in a wide range of consumer and industrial applications.

AI Solutions to Streamline Power Plants Operations

Finally, scaleups such as Datch, Skael, and CRUX OCM are playing a crucial role in helping energy corporations to streamline their operations in power plants thanks to the use of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. It is a prerogative for companies to use these new solutions to improve safety and enhance operators’ efficiency.

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Agriculture 2.0: Sensors + Analytics

The most recent studies indicate that Smart Agriculture is projected to hit 22 billion USD market size by 2025, at an astonishing growth rate of 10%. Innovation is playing a crucial role in disrupting the old agriculture sector. California and Silicon Valley are becoming the epicenter of AgTech where farming meets the future. 

Sensors For Precision Agriculture Management And Forecasting

Precision agriculture management and forecasting are two topics where technology can have a great impact. They both depend on accurate in-season crop measurements, and tech solutions are a great fit. Slantrange, for example, developed a multispectral camera sensor that is mounted on drones to collect accurate data about the crops. 

Sensors For Biodiversity Monitoring

Kakaxi, an AI-powered platform that collects and analyzes images and ambient data with their proprietary camera device installed on the field, provides an attractive solution for biodiversity monitoring. 

Water-quality Management in the Aquaculture Space

The aquaculture industry feels the need to improve water-quality management, especially in real-time. Aquasend, specialized in aquaculture, answered that call with their proprietary platform. They provide farmers with tools and continuous reporting to instantly manage dissolved oxygen and temperature levels.

These solutions show that impactful innovation is happening and will happen in the agricultural sector, so stay tuned because new scaleups are about to emerge soon. 

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Mobility: it’s all About the Data

In the last years, the mobility and transportation industry faced many structural changes, due to social, demographic, financial, environmental and technological forces. 

Moreover, the COVID-19 crisis is having a disruptive impact on the way we live and move around, on cities and on societies as a whole. 

An emerging mobility ecosystem is bridging the gap between the digital and physical world. Technological advancements in hardware, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and telecommunication (5G) are helping to close this gap towards a frictionless mobility mode. The main element for this (r)evolution to happen is and remains Data

MAAS at Fingertips

We saw how startups are leveraging data in mobility during our last Digital Summit. Mobility As A Service platforms, such as Kyyti, are perfect examples of this. Kyyti makes everyday mobility more efficient, convenient, and environmentally sustainable thanks to data. They provide multimodal mobility and available transport options to people at their fingertips.

Moovit combines information from public transit operators and authorities with live information from the user community, offering travelers a real-time picture, including the best route for their journey.

Trafi offers cities the possibility to connect all mobility services to one single platform where users can not only check itineraries but also book their tickets and trips. 

Improving Fleet Management and Driver monitoring

Fleet Management and Driver monitoring are also leveraging data to provide more value. Zubie and SmartDrive are focusing on real-time GPS fleet tracking devices and IoT technology solutions for automobiles. 

Zendrive leverages the data to measure and improve driving behaviors, detect collisions, predict risks, or improve fuel efficiency.

Logistics: Data for Track and Trace Use Cases

Data is not only essential in the B2C market. ShipChain, for instance, creates a platform that allows a fully integrated system across the entire supply chain. This enables the shipping and logistics market to unify shipment tracking on a secured blockchain.

Mobility and Payment

The use of data is enhancing payment. LISNR developed an ultrasonic data transmission platform designed to send information using sound between devices on standard speakers and microphones, enabling proximity verification & contactless transactions for merchants, financial service providers, and mobility companies.

Is data the new oil? For the automotive industry, we think so.

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Digital Construction: the Birth of Robotic-As-a-Service  

The importance of robotics for the construction industry is growing every day. Several of the companies present at our Silicon Valley Summit were focusing on the development of automated robotic solutions – with the promise of making construction operations more efficient, cheaper, and, perhaps most importantly, safer.

Robotic Solutions focus on Specific Applications

Given the need for extremely precise and specific procedures (as well as the fact that robotics in the construction industry can be considered still in its infancy) many of the solutions currently tackled one specific use case. It’s the case of Kewazo, which offers smart robotic elevators for industrial and construction sites, with the first application focus being scaffolding assembly. Okibo also proposes a focused use case with their automated robot for plastering.

Retrofitting Heavy Equipment

SafeAi and Built Robotics are retrofitting existing heavy machinery into self-operating robotic assets, allowing the machines to operate fully autonomously, while Teleo converts the existing fleet into remote-controlled robots.

An interesting trend we have seen is that most of these solutions are not selling their machines or products directly, but decided to focus on subscription and leasing contracts instead: we can call this the birth of the “Raas”, Robotic-as-a-Service model.

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Healthcare: the Future is Now

With the COVID-19 crisis, healthcare has definitely been the topic of the year. The startup scene has proved to be capable of offering what an unexpected pandemic made necessary.

We can mention specifically tele-healthcare solutions that allowed remote visits and Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM). A lot of attention has also been put on specific sensors that monitor vital signs of patients at home or in isolated places. 

Enabling Tele-healthcare Solutions

Without a robust backend structure, Telehealthcare would be useless. Many startups that participated in our last Summit are addressing this and providing back-end services to constantly track and analyze data coming from RPM sensors.
Open Telehealth (OTH) provides a cloud-based, customizable platform to do exactly this, and scale RPM services to a large number of patients.
Another health platform provider we recently interacted with is Weellmo, which aims at unifying in a single solution an ecosystem of health services (and data from wearables, sensors, apps, etc both proprietary and from third parties), in a way that is easily accessible by care-providers.

Sensors in Unexpected Locations

Other solutions based on devices allowed people to check their vital signs at home or in condition of isolations. Some startups thought of placing sensors in unusual places, such as in a vehicle steering wheel.
This is the case of Cardio-Id, a Portuguese scaleup, that has several products on truck fleets on the road.
BodyTrak instead decided to go for in-ear sensors that not only can monitor vital signs, but can also function in a 2-way communication device, and protect hearing in a number of industrial use cases. 

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Human Resources: How to Leverage AI

Human Resources was thought to be one of the company functions where technology would have the least impact. The need for human empathy and judgment would protect from technology intrusion. It is proven to be a wrong received idea. Indeed, there are many use cases where HR deals with a lot of data, including managing a very large number of employees or candidates, or where the HR processes lack of objectiveness. This is exactly where AI can be of great help.

Analysing Huge Amount of Data

AI algorithms provided by startups, such as Patheers and Vettd, enable HR services to analyse huge amounts of information coming from employee’s resumes, social media, and internal documentation – project descriptions, 360 reviews, and job specifications. More importantly, they will help HR to understand where lay the strengths and weaknesses of an employee person, and what this person needs to improve to meet the expectations.

Sharing Information and Training

Lastly, one of the toughest HR challenges is making sure everyone is on the same page, well trained and up to date. Employees cannot afford to spend too much time training, and at the same time knowledge and skills are key to the employee and the employer’s success. In that regard, Pat.ai, which provides a conversational AI service, can help employees be more efficient and get answers to their questions without asking a colleague or a manager. Area9lyceum offers a platform that allows their client to provide customized content with its adaptive learning solution.

What’s Next?

Our next Scaleup Summits and Mind the Chats obviously.

Interested in joining?

  • If you are a corporate contact us here.
  • If you are a scaleup apply HERE.
About the authors
About the authors
Francesca Cavanna
Mobility & Energy and Sustainability

With prior experience in strategy consulting and an MBA at Collège des Ingénieurs (Paris), at Mind the Bridge Francesca is Innovation Advisor and Account Manager, focusing her activities on verticals such as fintech and insurtech, energy and mobility.
After a period spent in San Francisco offices, she is now part of the Mind the Bridge team in Barcelona.

About the authors
About the authors
Nicholas Sartor
Human resources

Building on several years of experience in Innovation Management Consulting and Corporate Innovation within the Automotive Industry, at Mind the Bridge Nicholas is Innovation Advisor and Account Manager, and specialist for the energy and Industry 4.0 verticals.

About the authors
About the authors
Daniele Graverini
Health tech

After 2 years in San Francisco managing startup programs for Mind the Bridge, Daniele moved to Barcelona, Spain, where he provides corporations with advisory services for innovation in the areas of healthcare, insurance, and energy. Daniele holds a Master’s in International Management with focus on innovation management.

About the authors
About the authors
Rodolfo Lissia

With prior experience in the UK innovation ecosystem, both in startups and venture capital, at Mind the Bridge Rodolfo focuses his advisory activities on verticals such as construction, energy and mobility.

About the authors
About the authors
Alessio Tresanti
Agritech & Energy and Sustainability

Alessio holds a BSc in Economics and an MSc in Innovation, Strategy, and Entrepreneurship from Grenoble Ecole de Management.
Currently, he serves as an Innovation Advisor at Mind the Bridge where he manages the Energy Vertical and the open innovation activities of Enel Spa for the Silicon Valley Hub. He scouts and evaluates more than 1000 startups per year.