For what seems like the better part of an eternity, the business world can’t seem to stop talking about startups. Bloomberg reported that sixty-two percent of millennials have “considered starting their own business,” and that an overwhelming 72 percent think that startups are “essential for new innovation and jobs”. Startups have become an integral aspect of the professional community, and while it’s unclear how long that will last, it’s inarguable that they’ve become a central focus of job seekers and pundits alike.
As we’re in the last stretch of 2016, let’s look back at the best startup stories of the year. In no particular order, here they are:
Medical care is now deliverable
While we couldn’t blame you for thinking that this startup is focused on bringing accessible ziplines to communities across the world, that’s definitely not their goal. Instead, they have a much more noble purpose driving their brand: to bring medical supplies to areas that cannot be reached by normal means of transportation.
As the video notes, navigating in areas like Rwanda is exceptionally difficult, and trying to reach a nearby community can take hours. Over “two billion people lack adequate access to essential medical products” and, tragically, more than “2.9 million children under age five die every year” because of there’s no efficient way to get medical goods to them.
Fortunately, Zipline is working towards ending this issue. With their fleet of drones, they can take what used to be a four hour wait time, an unfathomably long delay when it comes to medical care, and cut it down to just 15 minutes. Zipline’s vision is “to put each and every one of those 11 million [Rwandan] citizens within a 15 minute-to-35 minute delivery of any essential medical product that they could need.”
While Rwanda is Zipline’s current target, they expect to deliver a “wide range of medical products in other countries this year”. This is just the beginning for Zipline, but it’s already clear how potentially revolutionary this company is.
Machine learning for your baby monitor
Nanit’s aim is to make baby monitors as advanced and helpful as possible. Rather than simply acting as a glorified listening device for your child, Nanit has developed a “baby monitor camera that can actually see and classify behavior, such as sleep.”
Their product uses “computer vision and machine learning technology” so that it can provide parents with the most detailed information about their baby when they are not with them. It can measure sleep onset, room conditions, how long the child has slept for, and even provide a heat map of where their baby loves to sleep. It’s essentially Statcast for children.
While other products can offer similar metrics (measuring sleep hours, how quickly the child fell asleep, etc.), Nanit is the only device that can track data without the need for a wearable sensor.
Nanit claims to be the “best thing to happen to the baby monitor since the baby monitor.”
Making strides in early detection of cancer
Like Zipline, Grail has an incredibly virtuous goal at the core of their company. As stated on their website, Grail’s mission is to “enable the early detection of cancer in asymptomatic individuals through a blood screen – with the goal of massively decreasing global cancer mortality by detection at a curable stage.”
Too often do we hear a close friend, relative, or celebrity recite the all too familiar line, “if only they’d caught it sooner.” Those six words can tear through anyone’s psyche when they’re facing an illness as terrifying as cancer–but if Grail is successful, they’ll have dramatically advanced the ability to detect cancer before it’s too late.
It’s undoubtedly an ambitious goal, but with investors like Illumina, Sutter Hill Ventures, ARCH Venture Partners, and Bill Gates, they certainly have the resources necessary to accomplish their mission.
Through a process called deep sequencing which involves using a biomarker of ctDNA, Grail will be able to administer noninvasive tests to determine whether or not a patient has cancer cells in their body.
The next evolution of network security
While most startups have a number of backers that help them get off the ground, Veriflow had one very significant entity pushing them forward from the beginning: the US Department of Defense.
According to Veriflow, they’re the “first networking company to use formal verification to eliminate change-induced network outages and breaches.” Put more simply, they’re using math to “bulletproof” networks by predicting “what’s going to happen on your network before it actually happens.”
Their explainer video has a feel that’s reminiscent of Skynet or the Matrix, but you can’t ignore Veriflow’s applications. Had Target been using Veriflow when back to when Target had a security breach that leaked millions of customer credit card numbers through the company’s connect heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems.
Had Veriflow been deployed on their servers, that wouldn’t have happened. As far as the credibility and reliability of their claims is concerned, “The company’s cofounders are award-winning computer scientists with PhDs from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and University of California at Berkley.”
They’ve raised over $10 million thus far from the New Enterprise Associates, the previously mentioned DOD, and various other investors in a recent Series A venture funding round. Veriflow is already in use by a number of government offices, and they expect to expand their reach soon, as they continue to raise awareness of their technology.
Is Utah the next Silicon Valley?
Yes, Utah. Utah is an uncannily burgeoning hot spot for startups these days. As the San Francisco area has begun to overflow with startups, becoming too expensive for most up-and-coming companies to even afford rent, unicorn-hopefuls have started looking elsewhere. Austin, Texas has also taken on a significant number of those looking for a cheaper haven, but the Texan city is quickly filling up as well.
This is where Utah comes in.
“Silicon Valley has traditionally been the startup Garden of Eden, but its’ no longer the only game in town. Utah – specifically Salt Lake City and its ecosystem- has become a formidable breeding ground for startups, even developing its own unicorn herd.”
The Associated Press recently ranked “the Provo/Orem area No.8 in the top 20 cities” for startup funding, as various companies raised a total of $200 million in Q1 of 2015. While that’s a modest total compared to Silicon Valley’s $5.05 billion, it would take a true cynic to laugh at one-fifth of a billion dollars.
In fact, Utah startups’ lesser haul might actually be a good thing at this point. With “less available financial capital” from local VC’s and funds, investors are more selective and careful when choosing which companies to place their faith (money) in. “They are able to exercise patience and fund more fully developed companies, focus less on burn rate and growth trajectory and instead home in on companies with a proven market, earlier recurring revenue and a clear path to profitability.”
As Utah’s startup scene continues to grow, they’re proving that Silicon Valley is no longer the only place to set up shop. If their collective success continues, we could see more growth in other cities in the near future.
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