All posts in “Startups”

Chef Andrew Zimmern talks about the future of food


This week on Technotopia I talked to chef Andrew Zimmern, host of Bizarre Foods. Zimmern is a fascinating thinker and has a lot to say about the future of restaurants, eating, and food distribution.

Zimmern believes that the future looks more like the artisinal movement than fast food and he has some interesting answers to what the world looks like in 20 years. Listen in to find out what he thinks of the coming food crisis.

Technotopia is a podcast about a better future by John Biggs. You can subscribe in Sticher or iTunes and download the MP3 here. All-New episodes of Bizarre Foods: Delicious Destinations air Tuesdays at 9pm and 9:30pm ET/PT on Travel Channel.

reVIVE wins the Disrupt NY 2017 Hackathon Grand Prize

It’s been a long night at Pier 36, also known as Basketball City. But this time, you couldn’t see hoops. Instead, the building hosted a very special competition — the Disrupt NY Hackathon.

Around 750 engineers and designers got together to come up with something cool, something neat, something awesome. The only condition was that they only had 24 hours to work on their projects. Some of them were participating in our event for the first time, while others were regulars.

We could all feel the excitement in the air when the 89 teams took the stage to present a one-minute demo to impress fellow coders and our judges. But only one team could take home the grand prize and $5,000. So, without further ado, meet the Disrupt NY 2017 Hackathon winner.

Winner: reVIVE

ADHD diagnosis is very complicated and time-consuming. In addition, ADHD diagnosis is based on a variety of subjective factors and there is no definitive, quantifiable way to diagnose it. In addition, treatment of the disorder can be a hassle as well, as it often involves usage of a suite of stimulants such as Adderall, all of which come equipped with side effects (such as appetite loss and depressive feelings). The team wanted to create a VR solution to this problem that can provide both a diagnostic and treatment mechanism for ADHD.

Read more about reVIVE in our separate post.

Runner-Up No. 1: CodeCorrect

Including a small JavaScript file in your web code to override the window.onerror browser function will reroute uncaught exceptions to a locally running node.js web server. From there, a GET request is made to StackOverflow’s API to search for questions (sorted by highest vote count) where the error message exists in the question title. The answers to each question are then extracted, and if answer content can be converted to instructions, including where to make changes to the code, those changes will be made.

Read more about CodeCorrect in our separate post.

Runner-Up No. 2: Waste Not

Waste Not allows you to scan your groceries receipt to keep track of your food. It checks average expiration times and notifies you before your food expires. This way, you waste less food because you get alerted when your food is expired.


Tarikh Korula

Tarikh Korula has a decade of experience founding companies that ship and grow consumer technology products to the delight of millions of users. Korula was a winner at the world’s first public hackday in 2006. His most recent hack, Katch, a Hulu for mobile live streaming, grew to 1.2 million organic users in 12 months. He currently leads Uncommon Labs, where he advises early- and mid-stage startups on growth, fundraising and profitability. Korula is a regular contributor at TechCrunch and lectures on product development at NYU, SVA and Parsons. He also sits as board chair at The Interdependence Project, a New York nonprofit dedicated to teaching mindfulness and meditation. Check out his blog: https://tarikh.me/

Anjali Kapal

As VP of Product for GoDaddy’s Productivity business, Anjali oversees the team that provides small businesses with products that help them communicate, collaborate and run their businesses.

Before joining GoDaddy, Anjali led product teams at PayPal, where she oversaw the global launch of Consumer wallet (web and mobile), increasing active consumers from 100 million to 150 million in the first two years. She also held leadership positions at Financial Engines, Intuit, ATI and General Motors, where she focused on bringing technology solutions and solving for consumers and SMBs worldwide. Anjali studied engineering at the University of Ottawa, Canada.

Charlie O’Donnell

Charlie O’Donnell is the sole partner and founder at Brooklyn Bridge Ventures, which makes seed and pre-seed investments and was the first venture firm located in Brooklyn — where he was born and raised. Brooklyn Bridge invested in the first rounds of Canary, The Wing, Orchard Platform, Tinybop, Hungryroot, Clubhouse, Ringly and goTenna, among others. Working in venture capital since 2001, he apprenticed his way through the asset class with analyst roles on the original Union Square Ventures team as well as at the General Motors pension fund. At First Round Capital, he sourced investments in SinglePlatform (sold to Constant Contact) and GroupMe (sold to Skype). Charlie discovered GroupMe at the TechCrunch hackathon, where the service had been built. He also sourced investments in Backupify (which was an idea he had tweeted to the founder, a friend of his), chloe + isabel and Refinery29.

Charlie bikes to work, has done seven triathlons and four marathons, and runs the kayaking program in Brooklyn Bridge Park. The longest he has consecutively been outside of the five boroughs of New York City is three weeks.

Jonathan Gottfried

Jon Gottfried is the co-founder of Major League Hacking, the official student hackathon league. Jon previously co-created the Hacker Union, worked as a Developer Evangelist at Twilio and Echo Nest and served as National Director for StartupBus. Jon loves creating new technology and teaching others to do the same. He was recently named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 Education category for his work with MLH and was a previous winner of the TechCrunch Disrupt hackathon with Thingscription and an honorable mention with Joysticc.

Nimi Katragadda

Nimi is a principal at BoxGroup, a seed-stage venture fund, where she focuses on investments in fintech, healthcare and marketplaces. BoxGroup’s portfolio includes companies such as Blue Apron, ClassPass, Warby Parker, Flatiron Health and Vine, among many others. She sources and invests in entrepreneurs building disruptive technology companies that aim to create category-defining businesses. Previously, she worked in investment banking at J.P. Morgan and later as an Associate Product Marketing Manager at Google, focused on growing small business advertisers. She graduated with an Honors BA degree from Harvard, majoring in Economics and Government, and also received an MBA with Distinction from Harvard Business School. In 2017, Nimi was named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list for Venture Capital.

Tom Sella

Tom Sella is VP, Product at WeWork, working on the fascinating interaction between people and space. Prior to WeWork, Tom held a position with Samsung following an acquisition of a startup he co-founded, Boxee.

In Boxee’s infancy, Tom jumpstarted the Israeli operation and launched the initial Boxee service. He was instrumental in Boxee’s foray into the world of consumer electronics and was behind Boxee Box’s most notable innovations, including the RF remote control and dual-sided QWERTY keyboard design.

Tom served in various operations and systems engineering roles with startups. He was also a WordPress advisor and source code contributor and started a multi-user Hebrew blogging platform. Before beginning his professional career, Tom served in the elite IDF intelligence unit, 8200.

Tom is grateful to his wife and three kids for supporting his decision to JUDGE YOU on this beautiful day.

‘Elderly Alexa’ helps families care for their remote loved ones via voice


Last night on Saturday Night Live, a spoof advertisement for an “Alexa Silver” poked gentle fun at how an Alexa speaker could be used with the elderly to do things like listen to their long, rambling stories (and respond with “uh-huh”), as well as answer questions even when addressed as “Alaina,” “Allegra,” “Aretha,” or other names.

But using an Alexa device with senior citizens is actually a good idea — as a hack at today’s TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2017 hackathon displayed.

The hack’s creator, Brett Krutiansky, a computer science student at Northeastern in Boston, says he came up with the idea for “Elderly Alexa” because both of his grandparents need additional care. His grandfather suffers from dementia and his grandmother has trouble seeing, and both have vertigo.

His mother is continually worried and stressed about her parents’ well-being — sometimes frantically calling neighbors when she can’t reach them at home. Krutiansky says he’s offering his hack as a Mother’s Day gift to help ease her mind.

The voice app he built — or “Alexa Skill,” in Amazon’s lingo — is enabled on an Echo speaker, offering an interface between families and their loved ones who need extra care.

Through “Elderly Alexa,” the elderly can ask Alexa what medicine they need to take and what they’ve already taken by saying “Alexa, medicine.” This also triggers an AWS Lambda event that emails their family members tracking their care.

Alexa will respond to users’ questions about medication by telling them the name of the medication they need to take, dosage and time of day it needs to be taken.

She will then ask if they had already taken the medication. Whether the user answers “yes” or “no,” an email is sent to the family member tracking their care.

In addition, the family member can send back the next item on their to-do list in an accompanying iOS app or call them to remind them about their medication. The idea is that, if this daily email doesn’t arrive, the family member will know something could be wrong and can network with others in a group chat room to discuss. For instance, a family could decide who’s driving over that day to check in on mom or dad.

Of course, Krutiansky notes, the Alexa Skill could be used with anyone needing additional care — not just the elderly.

The project was built using the following technologies: AWS (DynamoDB, Lambda & SES), Node JavaScript for the Alexa code, Swift for the iOS app and PubNub APIs for the chat room.

Following the hackathon, Krutiansky says he will work to make the chat system more user-friendly, will improve the push notification system and will introduce reminders for the list in the iOS app so care providers can also remember what they need to do.

In the future, he also wants to add functionality to remind grandparents about other things they need to do, as well.

“Sometimes, my grandfather [who has dementia] forgets to shower,” he says. “My mom wants to know he’s been in the shower that day.” Alexa could later remind him about this, along with his medications.

While there have been other devices that have been designed for elderly care in particular, Krutiansky believes the ubiquity and cost of Echo speakers is an advantage.

“I’ve seen that one,” he says, referring to the Intuition Robotics speaker, for example. “But it’s a couple hundred dollars versus $50,” he said pointing to the Echo Dot.

Krutiansky plans to publish it to the Alexa Skill Store so his mother can use it soon.

RoboWaiter wants to make American restaurants great again with robots


RoboWaiter’s crack team, consisting  of a developer, designer and a robotics expert, came together at last night’s Disrupt NY hackathon to create a faster, better, smarter waiter using IBM Watson and robots.

Developer Nina Yang came up with the idea last night before the event when her waiter took a while to take her order. Humans, she pointed out, are often busy and can’t handle everything. They also can get orders wrong. But, pending any glitches, robots don’t.

RoboWaiter works through an app powered by IBM Watson which hooks up to a backend ordering platform that can also control a robot to bring you your food. Customers simply download the app, select their seat and voice their order from the menu and the system sends that order back to the kitchen. A chef then places the order onto the robot and the robot moseys on over to your table with your meal.

Now, if you are a waiter you may be realizing at this very moment RoboWaiter has just come up with a plan to replace your job, which has been a serious concern for many American workers in the last few years — and should worry many out-of-work actors just trying to get by in New York.

But on the bright side, according to team member Sharon Gai, “We’re going to make America great again by giving robots jobs.”

Of course, this is not the first robot that has tried to serve humans something. California restaurant Eatsa requires zero human interaction to get your food and one clever robot butler even tried to get former TechCrunch writer Alex Wilhelm drunk by offering him a bunch of booze.

Gai, Yang and their other teammate Irvin Cardenas were already friends before embarking on this endeavor to replace human workers. In fact, the three met right here at TechCrunch’s Disrupt hackathon exactly one year ago to take on the event space with their promoter platform CrowdBuilder. That one didn’t really go anywhere, but they’re hopeful they’re on to something this time.

Cardenas is also presenting in the robotics session of Disrupt for his startup Robotica.ai. We wish him luck in both endeavors.

BikeParking.Club connects a social network to bike locks in a city


Palo Alto has a bike lock problem, and a pair of software developers and a designer took a shot at trying to solve that problem in 24 hours in New York this weekend.

Eugene Tonev, Alexander Sivura and Yuri Dymov — currently at health startup HealthTap — put together a model of the kinds of bike racks you might see on the streets of Palo Alto. But this rack has a connected lock on it, paired with a social network, that can activate on demand. It’s part of an app called BikeParking.Club, which is a network for bikers that might install structures and locks like this to make sure they always have a spot somewhere nearby for their bikes. All this was thrown together and actually worked onstage at TechCrunch Disrupt New York’s hackathon this year.

“You always need to carry all these chains, or buy two chains and leave one in office or one in home,” Tonev says. “You always have a lock around your places. So, if you have chains everywhere, why share them [to make sure you always have a spot somewhere].”

The prototype they showed onstage was a mock-up of pipes and plumbing pulled from Home Depot nearby — but it’s something that resembles what a lock network might look like in the real world. Users connect to the app, which helps them find a nearby open spot and then gives them the ability to lock their bike on the rack. The three bike to work every day, and that’s why they figured it’s a problem that probably needs an answer at some point.

The big problem is twofold, Tonev says: having enough spots around that bikers can access; and not having to carry locks around everywhere to make sure those bikes (hopefully) stay in those spots. So when a user installs a lock, they’ll automatically get access to the parking network around the city while always having access to a spot in the lock they installed.

“The lock is an entry point, after that — If even half of the [tens of thousands of cyclists] will install that [in Palo Alto], we’ll immediately have something like 350,000 parking lots for bikes.”

It’s a hack, of course, but according to the trio, HealthTap encourages them to try out new ideas. Opening up the biking universe might not be such a foreign idea for a healthcare startup, though the software developers suddenly having to deal with a hardware problem was a bit of a taller order. So, who knows where it goes, but at least when they fly back to the Bay Area they’ll have another neat project to throw on their portfolios.