Wind, green clouds... fake organs?
Catch up with 8 startups we've covered over the past month
It’s time for the monthly roundup of all the startups we’ve covered on PreSeed Now over the past month.
Whether you’ve been busy or you’re new around here, why not take a couple of minutes to catch up on all of the B2B and deep tech startups we covered in July…
Myriad Wind Energy Systems
This Glasgow-based startup is taking on the orthodoxy of the wind energy sector with a radically different, modular turbine design.
“Instead of one massive rotor, what we've got is many smaller rotors on a lattice frame structure, and they're closely spaced together because that improves the aerodynamics”, says co-founder Adam Harris.
“People want bigger wind turbines, and there is a limit to how big you can build a wind turbine at the moment with the current technology because you can only build a blade so big before it starts falling over from its own weight.
“But with our approach, because we've got this frame, we think we can go a lot bigger in terms of the power rating of the wind turbine, and ultimately, that's what people really want. They want the biggest wind turbine that they can have to reduce the overall wind farm costs.”
Manchester’s Versori is building on the concept popularised by IFTTT and Zapier, but with a lot more flexibility. It lets businesses connect any two apps’ APIs together to make complex or repetitive processes a breeze.
Versori’s technology machine-reads the API schemas and transposes them to a simple UI where the user can simply connect functions together to achieve their desired outcome.
Brown gives the example of an ecommerce company wanting to connect Shopify or Magento up to a legacy ERP system, or to push products through to third-party shopping marketplaces, and then pushing logs of orders back to the ERP.
He also says a manufacturing giant could build bespoke connections up and down its supply chain for a variety of use cases. Brown sees many similar uses in the healthcare space too.
You might have come across Landscape over the past 18 months or so, as its ‘Glassdoor for VCs’ product caused a bit of a stir. But its business is developing in a different direction, as I found out when I caught up with Manchester-based founder Joe Perkins:
“The review platform really is just a value add tool for the ecosystem and it does act as a bit of a lead magnet for us, which is now pushing people into OpenScout… I think that will be the key commercial driver of Landscape as a business.”
OpenScout aims to transform scouting. This is the process by which individuals seek out potential deals for VCs, and then get paid if a deal closes. What OpenScout does differently is it connects VCs from numerous funds with deals from a wide range of scouts.
While many VC firms have their own scouting initiatives, OpenScout allows dealflow to potentially find the best home, rather than the one a scout personally happens to have access to. It also allows a broader range of people to prove themselves as great scouts. As long as they meet plenty of great startups, it doesn’t matter if they aren’t the kind of person a VC would normally consider as a good fit as a scout.
Using cloud computing can put a huge strain on a company’s sustainability goals. Making use of huge data centres comes with a cost to the planet. But London’s Greenpixie wants to help businesses optimise their cloud setups to reduce their digital carbon footprint:
In its initial form, the startup’s Cloud NetZero product supports Amazon Web Services, with support for Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Azure, Oracle, Salesforce and others on the way. It looks at customers’ cloud usage and provides an analysis dashboard, along with a carbon reduction plan to help them take action.
So for example, if a customer is using servers in Australia, it might suggest switching to servers in the Nordics, which have a lower carbon intensity. In the future, Greenpixie plans to be able to automate as many of these actions as possible.
Greenpixie is starting out by targeting tech companies. Co-founder and CTO Will Tinney says SaaS businesses are particularly interested in this offering.
Childcare can be prohibitively expensive, and this holds people–particularly women–back from fully engaging in the workforce. London-based Mirza wants to solve this problem for parents with a loan available through their employer’s payroll system.
The startup will charge employers an annual fee, which gives their staff access to a platform that helps them work out the cost of care and apply for up to $10,000 of childcare support. Despite being based in the UK, Mirza is prioritising the less-subsidised US market first, although it’s also looking at UK opportunities.
The financial support is a 0% interest loan with three-year repayment terms, integrating with payroll for both loan payouts and repayments. But employers can pay off the loan on behalf of the employee, offering it as a perk of the job if they choose.
“In a nutshell, we’re trying to make childcare affordable,” says Mirza co-founder and CEO Siran Cao. “We work with employers to really bridge the time gap of childcare affordability for their employees, and do so by aligning interests for the company and for the employee.”
Concrete is one of the world’s most important building materials, but it’s prone to cracking, which can lead to huge maintenance costs. Cambridge’s Mimicrete has a fresh take on ‘self-healing’ concrete which it hopes will mean critical infrastructure stays intact for longer, with lower ongoing costs:
Mimicrete has developed technology for a vascular system of tubes inside new concrete structures (yes, like ‘veins’ inside the concrete), that deploys microcapsules to fill in cracks large and small, as they emerge.
“It's very much like the human body,” says CEO and co-founder Arta Selmani. “If you have a cut, blood will flow to that spot and coagulate and close the wound, so the same will be with concrete. Where there is a crack, that crack will trigger the tubes to crack as well, and release the self healing agent that is inside. It coagulates and closes the crack, and it stops further damage within the concrete structure.”
Selmani explains that while there are various causes of cracking in concrete, such as tension and temperature, water is a common cause, where further water entering a crack then exacerbates the problem. “You've seen bridges collapsing because it's almost impossible to do maintenance and look closely where a crack is. We think a self-healing vascular system will autonomously heal itself wherever the crack is - probably even [cracks] humans sometimes can’t detect or see.”
London-based Organa has developed a technique to produce realistic, artificial human organs that feel and react just like the real thing. They’re targeting the medical device manufacturing market:
Co-founder and CEO Manoj Murali explains that while other such artificial organs made from silicones or hydrogels already exist on the market, his startup has managed to create the closest replication of real biological tissue.
He says this is because they replicate real organs based on multiple metrics such as stress-strain behaviour of the tissue, needle insertion force, and friction force. “Those three parameters allow us to independently modulate characteristics of the synthetic tissue and let us get really close to matching biological tissue.”
The competition, Murali says, often focuses on one metric, such as the stiffness of the tissue. He says adding more metrics adds to the realism of the finished product.
“Friction especially adds an element that a lot of people ignore, which is really important in the body. If you can imagine a catheter, for instance, sliding along vessels, there's constant contact with the tissue as it moves along and all of that is dictated by the friction behaviour of the tissue. And a lot of competitors just simply don't take that into account.”
The metaverse is coming, if you believe all the hype. Cambridge-based NeuroXR wants to help retailers get ready for this brave new world with technology that reads brainwaves to collect analytics about users’ emotions as they browse virtual stores.
Its software works with EEG-compatible VR headsets to measure the emotional experience of customers as they explore a virtual store. Whether they’re happy, excited, anxious or stressed, this data is logged alongside data about what they were doing in the store at the exact moment they felt a particular emotion.
“Whenever you're having any sort of emotion, your brain fires electrical impulses in between the neurons. Depending on the area of the brain, and depending on the wavelength of those impulses, they get translated into specific emotions,” explains CEO and co-founder Elena Cismigiu.
“So if you are experiencing anxiety, your brain fires so quickly and the headset can pick it up so quickly, before you actually feel anxious. They are accurate by the millisecond, and the really cool thing about it is that you can't cheat it.”
The newsletter brings you a new B2B or deep tech UK startup every Tuesday and Thursday.
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