The advantage of working as a tech journalist is that I have ample access to great startups doing interesting and often amazing things.
This year, I've connected with thousands of startups, incubators, and investors and attended dozens of events. I wanted to share some of the companies I've discovered this year.
They aren't necessarily the most established or highest funded (heck, some are pre-Pre-Seed), but they are worth watching.
Let me know what you think. If people enjoy reading this, I could make this a recurring feature in 2024.
Automated Architecture (UK)
In most cities in Europe and the UK (and elsewhere!), housing is in crisis, with many people unhousing or living in unsafe, inadequate accommodation.
Automated architecture (AUAR) is building a distributed micro-factory network for sustainable timber housing.
The micro-factories fabricate building blocks from standard timber with off-the-shelf robots and then assembles these into one and two-storey houses and living spaces.
Its design algorithms can generate multiple design variations to suit the location, with all costs known to clients and manufacturing partners.
Using sustainable materials, this not only creates housing at speed, but also empowers local contractors, architects and developers to build better homes.
The company has raised an undisclosed amount in Pre-Seed funding. There's no universal solution to solving the housing crisis, but AUAR is acting while many — including politicians — are still discussing it.
Conventional prosthetics are old, heavy, uncomfortable, and expensive, especially as babies and kids grow.
Koalaa has developed soft modular prosthetics for below-elbow limb differences.
The soft prosthetics are made from machine-washable fabric and easy to put on. Once in place, a range of tool attachments can be fitted for tasks such as holding a pen or paintbrush, chopping vegetables, gardening with a trowel, typing, sawing, skipping or going for a bike ride.
Wearers become part of the Koalaa Community and receive their own 'limb buddy' for support.
A team member can fit Koalaa products in just 15 minutes or via its remote Limb Buddy service.
Remember when sketch notes used to be a thing at conferences and workshops?
Drawify is a platform that enables you to translate your story into a professional illustration (without needing any drawing talent) using visual elements provided by (paid) artists worldwide. Yes, instead of stealing artists' work like certain generative AI platforms, it compensates artists for their work.
The drawings are in a vector format, rather than a raster format, like JPG or PNG, making it possible to mix and match different elements, such as style and colour, in less than an hour. Love it.
Many industries need help to fill technical roles. Hashlist connects talent in engineering and aligned industries worldwide with mobility companies in the Nordics and Europe.
Hashlist helps fill the talent gap by helping companies find full-time, high-paying tech jobs with career growth through a digital recruitment platform specifically for the mobility sector. No commissions.
Ok, this sounds a bit weird on first read, as it involves mucus. That's why I haven't included a picture.
Bac3Gel is a startup that produces artificial mucus of different body districts in healthy and pathological conditions, including intestinal, lung, vaginal and stomach. It recreates key features of mucus, including oxygen gradients, structure, viscoelastic properties and nutrients, known to control bacterial behaviour and crosstalk in the human body.
This can be used to recreate gut, lung, vaginal and stomach microbiota in vitro to evaluate the effect of products such as antibiotics, nutraceuticals, probiotics, prebiotics, vitamins, and other food supplements over complex bacteria communities.
While solar is the way forward, panels are expensive, struggle to store energy effectively, and have a limited life span.
Solarplex hybridises conventional solar panels to simultaneously generate electricity and heat. As a result, the total power of the two types of energy is over 90 percent of the energy received from the sun. — conventional panels convert only up to 22% of solar energy.
Further, hybridization increases the lifespan of solar panels by up to 50 percent.
Not everyone who works in food services is a master chef. There's a huge shortage of workers in mass food production (think food for cafeterias, hospitals, and airports, for example).
With a team of robotic engineers, Roboeatz develops autonomous kitchen robots capable of preparing, cooking, and serving perfectly portioned hot and cold dishes from 80 fresh ingredients.
I visited its factory in Riga earlier this year and I saw it with my very own eyes. The company was founded in 2018 and has since expanded its reach to Canada.
Ok, this is not a new company, but indulge me. This is a super interesting use of IoT. Plant-e develops sensor applications powered by living plants. It was founded in 2009 and spun out of the Environmental Technology Department of Wageningen University.
Via photosynthesis, plants produce organic matter. Part of this organic matter is used for plant growth, but another part can't be used by the plant and is excreted into the soil via the roots.
Naturally occurring microorganisms break down the organic compounds for the roots to gain energy. In this process, electrons are released as a waste product. The electrons can be harvested as electricity by providing an electrode for the microorganisms to donate their electrons.
Even better, plant growth isn't compromised by harvesting electricity, so plants keep growing while electricity is produced.
The process avoids the need for batteries and is a massive boost in the fight against e-waste and the logistics of battery replacement.
Lead image via Koalaa.