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The startups getting you most excited this year
The 10 PreSeed Now startups getting the most attention so far in 2023
PreSeed Now brings you an in-depth profile of a different B2B or deep tech startup every Tuesday and Thursday. Subscribe to get it straight to your inbox.
We cover a lot of early-stage startups in depth here at PreSeed Now.
Every now and then it’s worth pausing to take a breath and taking a look at which are creating the biggest stir among our readers.
As we slide into summer, when investment activity tends to take a natural pause, let’s do just that.
Today I’ve collected the 10 startups that have attracted the most views and shares from the more than 50 we’ve covered this year so far.
And if you want to keep up to date with the progress of the 100+ startups we’ve covered in this newsletter since we started, our Startup Tracker is the place to go.
A couple of things you should know:
🚀 Space DOTS has raised £1.5m in pre-seed funding from Boost VC, Sie Ventures, 7Percent Ventures, Blue Wire Capital and angel investors Elaine Lau and Alex Ionescu. We wrote about this ‘materials testing in space’ startup back in March.
👀 Keep reading right to the end of today’s edition for a note about PreSeed Now’s output over the next few weeks
The 10 startups getting you most excited this year so far
…based on reads and shares on PreSeed Now:
We summarised Blend as “like TikTok for training deskless workers”. It’s a platform designed to let businesses in industries like hospitality train workers quickly and effectively with easy-to-consume mobile videos.
“It's notoriously difficult training these workers in what is a highly transient sector, where skills are very practical, and people need to learn things very fast. And a lot of money is wasted, repetitively onboarding these workers,” co-founder and CEO Jonah Werth told us.
Businesses using Blend create their own video content, something that would have been unthinkable a few years ago, but the rise of TikTok and Instagram Reels has turned many businesses into video producers, so it’s no big leap for them to create content for internal use.
One problem holding back AR and VR is the nausea it can leave users with. Lark Optics has developed tech to avoid this problem in augmented reality glasses.
Rather than focus your eyes on a ‘virtual screen’, which can be the cause of sickness, this startup projects the AR image onto your retina. The AR is always in focus no matter what your eyes might do to adjust to the real world around you.
Lark Optics is working to a fabless model for producing the components they design, which they will then sell to companies that make AR headsets.
Sentr has spotted two opportunities: a way of keeping amateur sports teams engaged, and helping sportswear and sports equipment brands connect with a highly targeted audience.
Sentr lets players track their progress over time, and gamifies it by letting them compete with each other to score points based on their in-game performance. Teams and players can then share their performance on social media.
“If you turn on Sky Sports News, you'll see stats about Premier League players and how many goals they scored. So by letting players track their own stats, they can feel a little bit more like the professionals,” says co-founder and CEO Tom Furber.
And on the B2B side, Sentr hopes its userbase will prove attractive to companies sick of wasting money having their ads served to couch potato sports fans, rather than those willing to put their boots on and play.
A common pain point when scaling a startup is keeping your internal processes in line with your headcount. What works for a team of 10 can become unworkable for a team of 100, and then by the time you’s got to 500 you have to reinvent it all again.
Teamhouse exists to tackle this problem. Its first product is an A.I. chatbot designed to help employees navigate company guidelines, policies, and benefits, right from inside Slack. This makes life easy for staff and saves operations leads having to answer endless questions.
Two of the startup’s three co-founders have strong operations experience from growing companies around the world, and they’re busy exploring all the ways they can make growing a startup easier and simpler.
Location: Incorporated in Belfast, but founding team based in Newcastle, Nottingham, and London
Duolingo can get you started with a new language, but it’s not so good at getting you up to a native-like level of fluency.
Fluento focuses on speaking ability rather than grammar and vocabulary. It pairs users up with someone else from a different part of the world who is learning the same language. The app sets the pair a goal-driven roleplay scenario they carry out over a video call.
The two users then join a video call to carry out the roleplay.
“Along the way we use A.I. to give you tips and suggestions on how to maintain the flow of the conversation,” co-founder Ido Cohen told us. “And then after you finish the session, we analyse the entire speech and give you feedback on what you've done well and what you need to do to improve.”
Fluento is selling the product to businesses as well as individual users. B2B use cases could involve training hotel staff, helping salespeople close more deals, or helping professionals in internationally distributed teams communicate better with colleagues.
Can A.I. match up to a human personal assistant? That’s what Self is aiming for.
Founder and CEO Jonathan MacDonald describes the product his startup is building as “a hyper personal, A.I.-powered assistant that learns your personal preferences, simplifies your life, and gives you back time for things that matter.”
It instantly took me back to the days when startups like Fin rode the mid-2010s chatbot wave with software-based personal assistants that required more than a little human support.
A.I. is obviously more advanced now, and while Self will be using human support to get its tech up to speed, this is an idea that deserves another shot. Let’s face it, we could all do with a PA, even if we can’t afford to pay a PA’s salary.
For all the talk of the importance of A.I. safety, most of today’s A.I. isn’t built with a ‘safety first’ mindset.
Aligned AI’s co-founders have long worked in the fields of A.I. safety and ethics, and now they’re building fundamental A.I. tech that wants to be inherently safer than the competition.
“If you want to tell a robot not to harm a human being, you have to find a way to be able to communicate to it what a human is and what harm is, in pretty much the same way that a human understands those concepts,” co-founder Rebecca Gorman told me.
“With traditional machine learning, we're nowhere near communicating that. With the concept extrapolation that we've been developing at Aligned AI, we're getting closer, and we'll continue to get closer with our research.”
Aligned AI is working towards building a “safer” alternative to the likes of GPT-4.
As the space economy grows, the need for support services for all the technology out there grows. Lúnasa wants to be that support.
Its planned constellation of orbital maintenance stations are designed to repair satellites in orbit, provide “in-space logistics” helping satellites get into optimal orbit and position, robotic assembly in space, or transporting cargo to a space station.
The units themselves are reusable, intended to remain in space, carrying out multiple missions over a five-to-seven year lifespan.
Location: Harwell, Oxfordshire
The name Chillingo will get memory bells ringing if you’ve been in tech for a good few years. A games publisher built for the iPhone era, it sold to EA back in 2010.
Now its founders, Chris Byatte and Joe Wee, and are back with “a next generation social network connecting gamers with each other, and the game worlds that they inhabit.”
It’s a map-based social layer designed to enhance players’ experience of games, particularly sprawling open-world titles as well as the likes of Fortnite.
“In the medium to long term you’ll hear more announcements from us in terms of game publisher partnerships, and how we can help them leverage community with the big games that they run as a service,” Wee told us.
“We want to be the go-to place for publishers to spin up communities instantly around their gaming worlds,” Byatte added.
The Impossible Burger brought the possibilities of precision fermentation to mainstream attention a few years ago. The process allows for the production of food that tastes, looks, and feels like the real thing.
In fact, it essentially is the real thing. Real cheese that never went near a cow or any other animal, for example.
There are a bunch of startups in the space already, but BravelyCultured is rethinking precision fermentation “almost from scratch”, as co-founder and CEO Natalija Stepurko explained to us.
Their revised process using marine microorganisms could lead to the ability for precision fermentation to be used to mass-produce food without the need for environmentally damaging mass-scale farming.
There are still regulatory hurdles to pass before this kind of food production can be widely deployed, but BravelyCultured wants to be at the forefront of a technology that could transform the way we think about food.
☀️ PreSeed Now this summer
Summer is a slower time for the early-stage startup world. Startups want to be quieter as they await investors returning from their holidays and investors… well (at least some of them) aren’t paying attention to their inboxes quite as closely.
So we’re changing our content through August. If you’re a paying subscriber, you’ll get an email from us this Thursday and then we’ll have an interesting feature piece for everyone a week today.
More feature pieces will follow in the subsequent weeks until we’re back to our regular twice-weekly startup profiles at the beginning of September. We’ve already got some compelling companies lined up!