As an enterprise accelerator, Alchemist focuses primarily on seed-stage companies that make their money from other companies rather than those that sell to consumers. This latest cohort (the accelerator’s 25th) saw nearly 20 companies go through the program, with focuses ranging from physical therapy devices to an AI “coach” for sales reps to productivity tools for software developers.
This afternoon the accelerator is also announcing that Volvo (via the Volvo Cars Tech Fund) has joined Alchemist as an investor. While the two companies did not specify how much Volvo was investing, previous similar partnerships saw companies like GE and Juniper Networks invest around $2 million-$3 million.
Care to see the companies make their debut to the world? Alchemist will be streaming its Demo Day on YouTube, with programming set to begin at 2 p.m. pacific.
Don’t have time to watch the whole thing? Here’s an alphabetized list of all the companies scheduled to present, along with some notes about what each is working on:
Anda Technologies: A simplified smartwatch with built-in GPS, calling and a quick symbol-based messaging system, meant to help parents and caretakers stay in touch in situations where a full smartphone might be too much. They initially focused on Latin America, and are now expanding support to U.S. and Europe.
Botco.ai: A “conversational marketing platform” — in other words, marketing chatbots meant to increase sales and conversions. Potential customers can chat with these bots over SMS or messaging apps, and their AI will use its growing understanding of what it knows about your business to respond.
BreachRX: A platform meant to help streamline your company’s response when a security breach happens. They provide response playbooks, help assign tasks to the correct team members and help capture records of how and when your company took action.
ClearQuote: Computer vision-based vehicle inspections. The company says it can scan an entire vehicle for damage using a smartphone camera in around 60 seconds, calculating cost of repair on the fly. Focusing on end-of-lease inspections, used car inspections and rental car return inspections first.
Copilot: An AI-powered “coach” for sales reps. As reps make phone/video calls, Copilot analyzes the conversation and generates “cue cards” with relevant information.
Evolution Devices: A wearable electrical stimulation device meant to help in the rehabilitation process for those with lower limb weaknesses (including stroke survivors or individuals with multiple sclerosis). The device adapts to each user’s own walking pattern, and helps with remote care by reporting data (such as step counts) back to the patient’s therapist.
Faucetworks: An “artificial neurologist,” meant to help more quickly identify neurological emergencies while a patient is in an ambulance en route to a hospital, or at hospitals where no neurologist is on site. Their hardware system asks patients a series of questions, then walks them through a physical exam.
HR Messenger: An HR/onboarding chatbot built to work over WhatsApp/Facebook Messenger, helping to automate things like pre-screening questions, interview scheduling and referral requests. The company says it’s working with clients including KFC and H&M.
Hopthru: Data analysis platform for public transit agencies. Hooks into the data these agencies already collect, cleans it up, then pipes it into a dashboard to help these transit agencies find ways to improve their routes and ridership.
Hubly Surgical: Building a smarter drill for neurosurgeons performing “skull puncture” operations. The company says that many surgeons still use basic, standard (hand-cranked!) drills, which can lead to high complication rates. Hubly’s drill helps to precisely angle the drill and is built to prevent the surgeon from drilling too deep. Expects to see FDA clearance in 2021, and launch in U.S. hospitals in 2022.
HyPoint: Working on high-power, high-density hydrogen fuel cell systems for aviation, meant to dramatically reduce CO2 emissions from air transportation.
Mobiz: A platform for sending personalized marketing messages to your established customer base via SMS, building “personalized micro-sites” for each user based on the brand’s existing data. The company says it’s already working with companies like Burger King and Woolworth, and is currently seeing $6 million in ARR.
Node App: A marketplace for connecting brands with influencers. Node helps to verify each influencer’s audience, then connects brands with these influencers with pre-negotiated deal terms.
Rectify: A tool meant to automatically detect and redact sensitive information when sharing documents outside of an organization. Focusing on the insurance market at first. Founder Melissa Unsell-Smith says the Rectify founding team previously worked together for 15 years in AT&T’s corporate legal department.
RubiLabs Inc: A platform focusing on making on-demand deliveries of medical products (vaccines, medications, etc.) to hospitals and pharmacies in Africa via drones, motorcycles and other dedicated vehicles. The company estimates that it has already saved 7,000+ lives.
Seventh.ai: Pitching itself as “Carta for intellectual property,” Seventh.ai helps founders identify which parts of their business can/should be patented, to better understand what the competition has patented, and to work through the patenting process. The company says it’s currently seeing around $250,000 in ARR. Founder Alex Polyansky says he spent 10 years as a patent examiner at the USPTO.
Tocca: A platform meant to help B2B companies throw branded virtual sales events, providing things like virtual lobbies, stages, breakout rooms and person-to-person networking tools. Integrates into tools like HubSpot and Salesforce to make post-event followups more efficient.
Veamly: A “unified inbox” feed for developers that brings threads and messages from Slack, GitHub and Jira into one view, as well as a unified search that can dig in across these tools. Founder Emna Ghariani says the company’s “proprietary prioritization engine” helps to sort tasks and tickets by importance, and to analyze the time they’re spending in each tool throughout the week.
Leading the round — which is expected to reach $200 million and is a mixture of equity and debt — is LGT Lightstone, with participation from Hanaco, Bonnier, Haniel, and Latitude. Existing Infarm investors Atomico, TriplePoint Capital, Mons Capital and Astanor Ventures also followed on. It brings the company’s total funding to date to more than $300 million.
That’s likely testament to the speed of new retail partnerships over the last twelve months. They include Albert Heijn (Netherlands), Aldi Süd (Germany), COOP/Irma (Denmark), Empire Company’s Sobeys, Safeway, and Thrifty Foods (Canada), Kinokuniya (Japan), Kroger (U.S.), and Marks & Spencer and Selfridges (U.K.).
With operations across 10 countries and 30 cities worldwide, Infarm says it now harvests over 500,000 plants monthly, and in a much more sustainable way than traditional farming and supply chains. Its modular, IoT-powered vertical farming units claim to use 99.5% less space than soil-based agriculture, 95% less water, 90% less transport and zero chemical pesticides. In addition, 90% of electricity used throughout the Infarm network is from renewable energy and the company has set a target to reach zero emission food production next year.
Founded in 2013 by Osnat Michaeli, and brothers Erez and Guy Galonska, Infarm’s “indoor vertical farming” system is capable of growing herbs, lettuce and other vegetables. It then places these modular farms in a variety of customer-facing city locations, such as grocery stores, restaurants, shopping malls, and schools, thus enabling the end-customer to actually pick the produce themselves. To further scale, it also installs Infarms in local distribution centres.
The distributed system is designed to be infinitely scalable — you simply add more modules, space permitting — whilst the whole thing is cloud-based, meaning the farms can be monitored and controlled from Infarm’s central control centre. It’s also incredibly data-driven, a combination of IoT, Big Data and cloud analytics akin to “Farming-as-a-Service”.
The idea, the founding team told me back in 2017 when I profiled the nascent company, isn’t just to produce fresher and better tasting produce and re-introduce forgotten or rare varieties, but to disrupt the supply chain as a whole, which remains inefficient and produces a lot of waste.
“Behind our farms is a robust hardware and software platform for precision farming,” explained Michaeli at the time. “Each farming unit is its own individual ecosystem, creating the exact environment our plants need to flourish. We are able to develop growing recipes that tailor the light spectrums, temperature, pH, and nutrients to ensure the maximum natural expression of each plant in terms of flavor, colour, and nutritional quality”.
On that note, I caught up with two of Infarm’s founders to get a brief update on the Berlin-headquartered company and to dive a little deeper into how it will continue to scale.
TechCrunch: What assumptions did you make early on that have turned out to be true or, more interestingly, not panned out as expected?
Osnat Michaeli: When we first chatted about four years ago…, we were 40 people in Berlin and much of the conversation centered around the potential that our approach to urban vertical farming might have for retailers. While for many it was intriguing as a concept, we couldn’t have imagined that a few years later we would have expanded to almost 10 countries (Japan is on its way) and 30 cities, with partnerships with some of the largest retailers in the world. Our assumptions at the time were that retailers and their customers would be attracted to the taste and freshness of produce that grew right in front of them in the produce section, in our farms.
What we didn’t anticipate was how much and how quickly the demand for a sustainable, transparent and modular approach to farming would grow as we, as society, begin to feel the impact of climate change and supply chain fragility upon our lives, our choices and our food. Of course we also did not anticipate a global pandemic, which has underscored the urgency of building a new food system that can democratize access to high quality, amazing tasting food, while helping our planet regenerate and heal. The past few months have confirmed the flexibility and resilience of our farming model, and that our mission is more relevant than ever.
In terms of signing on new retailers, based on your progress in the last 12 months, I’m guessing this has got easier, though undoubtedly there are still quite long lead times. How have these conversations changed since you started?
Erez Galonska: While lead times and speed of conversations can vary depending upon the region and retailer. In mature markets where the concept is familiar and we’re already engaged, deal conversations can reach maturity in as little time as 3 months. Since we last spoke we are already working with most of the leading retailers that are well established in Europe, U.K. and North America. Brands which in each of their markets are both forerunners in a retail industry rapidly evolving to meet the demand for consumer-focused innovation, while proving that access to sustainable, high quality, fresh and living produce is not only possible, but can be available in produce aisles today, and every day of the year, with Infarm.
I’m interested to understand where Infarms are installed, in terms of if the majority is in-store and consumer-facing or if the most scalable and bulk of Infarm’s use-cases are really much larger distribution hubs in cities or close to cities i.e. not too far away from places with population/store density but not actually in stores. Perhaps you can enlighten me on what the ratio looks like today and how you see it developing as vertical farming grows?
Erez Galonska: Today across our markets, the split between our farms in stores and in distribution centers is roughly 50:50. However as you anticipate, we will be expanding our network this year with many more distribution hubs. This expansion will likely lead to an 80:20 split as early as next year, with the majority of our regions being served with fresh, living produce delivered throughout the week from centrally-located hubs. This not only offers retailers and restaurants flexibility in terms of volumes of output, and the ability to adapt the presentation of our offerings to floor areas of different sizes, but it also allows us to begin to serve whole regions from our next generation farms under development today.
Based in our hubs, these farms will deliver the crop-equivalent of an acre or more of fresh produce on a 25 m2 footprint, with significant further savings in energy, water, labor and land-use. We believe this technology will truly challenge ideas of what is possible in sustainable, vertical farming and we look forward to talking about it more soon.
Lastly, what are the main product lines in terms of food on the shelves?
Osnat Michaeli: We have a catalog of more than 65 herbs, microgreens, and leafy greens, that is constantly growing. Our offerings range from the known and common varieties like Coriander, Basil, or Mint, to specialty products like Peruvian Mint, Red Veined Sorrel or Wasabi Rucola.
Because our farms give us excellent control over every part of a plant’s growth process, and can imitate the complexity of different ecosystems, we will be able to expand the diversity of Infarm produce available to consumers to include root vegetables, mushrooms, flowering crops and even superfoods from around the world in the near future. What you see today with Infarm is still only the beginning.
“We will spare no effort to reach agreement in the framework of OECD and G20. But let there be no doubt: should an agreement fall short of a fair tax system that provides long-term sustainable revenues, Europe will come forward with a proposal early next year,” she told MEPs.
In the wide-ranging speech — which also called for the 2020s to be Europe’s “digital decade” — von der Leyen committed the bloc to spending a fifth (€150BN) of the €750BN coronavirus support fund announced earlier this year on digital investments.
“There has never been a better time to invest in European tech companies with new digital hubs growing everywhere from Sofia to Lisbon to Katowice,” she said. “We have the people, the ideas and the strength as a Union to succeed. And this is why we will invest 20% of NextGenerationEU on digital.”
“We are reaching the limits of the things we can do in an analogue way. And this great acceleration is just beginning. We must make this Europe’s Digital Decade,” von der Leyen added.
“We need a common plan for digital Europe with clearly defined goals for 2030, such as for connectivity, skills and digital public services. And we need to follow clear principles: the right to privacy and connectivity, freedom of speech, free flow of data and cybersecurity.
“But Europe must now lead the way on digital – or it will have to follow the way of others, who are setting these standards for us. This is why we must move fast.”
Beneath the rousing ‘digital sovereignty’ rhetoric, the speech didn’t offer much new on the tech policy front — but the EU president confirmed that updates to Europe’s competition rules and regulation on the use of AI are coming next year.
The Commission is currently consulting on whether a new competition tool is needed to respond to digital network effects that can lead to tipping markets, as well as more widely around a forthcoming Digital Services Act (which didn’t get any direct mentions in the speech).
“On personalized data — business to consumer — Europe has been too slow and is now dependent on others,” she said. “This cannot happen with industrial data. And here the good news is that Europe is in the lead — we have the technology, and crucially we have the industry.”
“We presented our new industry strategy in March to ensure industry could lead the twin green and digital transition. The last six months have only accelerated that transformation — at a time when the global competitive landscape is fundamentally changing. This is why we will update our industry strategy in the first half of next year and adapt our competition framework which should also keep pace,” she said.
Tech investment priorities
Priorities for digital investment she highlighted are the plan to build a European cloud — which will be based on the GaiaX federated data infrastructure that’s developing common requirements for pan-EU data sharing. (This is part of a major Commission push around industrial data reuse, announced earlier this year.)
The second area of investment focus named was artificial intelligence — with the EU president citing the tech’s potential to deliver innovations such as “precision farming in agriculture, more accurate medical diagnosis and safe autonomous driving”. However she also emphasized the importance of having rules in place to wrap around the tech, reiterating EU lawmakers’ conviction that a framework is needed to ensure what they dub ‘human-centric’ AI.
Earlier this year the EU put out a white paper — setting out proposals for regulating ‘high risk’ applications of artificial intelligence. Though the final shape of the proposal will have to wait for 2021.
von der Leyen also suggested lawmakers are looking for ways to give consumers more control over how their data is used in the big data-powered AI era.
“We want a set of rules that puts people at the centre. Algorithms must not be a black box and there must be clear rules if something goes wrong. The Commission will propose a law to this effect next year,” she said today.
“This includes control over our personal data which [we] still have far too rarely today. Every time an App or website asks us to create a new digital identity or to easily log on via a big platform, we have no idea what happens to our data in reality.”
To this end, she said the Commission wants to develop “a secure European e-identity” that EU citizens could use anywhere in the bloc — “to do anything from paying your taxes to renting a bicycle”. It would be “a technology where we can control ourselves what data and how data is used”, she added, riffing on her digital sovereignty theme.
The Commission is reviewing existing regulations around eID, including running a consultation that’s due to end next month — where it says it’s looking at barriers to uptake of eID and trusted services, and considering how to evolve the framework towards an “EU digital identity”.
It now sounds like lawmakers have concrete plans to overhaul eID — with the aim of promoting a proprietary digital authentication mechanism that can help drive the wider strategy around digitization and data reuse.
The third focus for ‘COVID-19 relief’ digital spending is infrastructure, with a push planned around broadband access.
“The investment boost through NextGenerationEU is a unique chance to drive [broadband] expansion to every village. This is why we want to focus our investments on secure connectivity, on the expansion of 5G, 6G and fiber,” said von der Leyen, adding: “NextGenerationEU is also a unique opportunity to develop a more coherent European approach to connectivity and digital infrastructure deployment.”
Her speech also highlighted a planned €8BN investment in developing next-gen supercomputers. And reiterated calls for European industry to develop its own next-generation chips — “that will allow us to use the increasing data volumes energy-efficient and securely”.
“None of this is an end in itself — it is about Europe’s digital sovereignty, on a small and large scale,” she added.
von der Leyen also spend a fair amount of time on the environment and the risks attached to climate change.
The European Green Deal is set to account for a larger chunk of COVID-19 relief spending than digital projects — although there could, presumably, be some overlap, with von der Leyen talking about “a world where we use digital technologies to build a healthier, greener society”.
She said 37% (€277BN) of the NextGenerationEU fund to be spent directly on Green Deal objectives.
This spending looks set to give a major boost to electric cars via investment in charging infrastructure. Other areas of focus she mentioned are hydrogen replacing coal for industrial production; and adapting the construction industry to make it more sustainable and less polluting, including by the use of AI and smart technologies.
“NextGenerationEU should invest in lighthouse European projects with the biggest impact: hydrogen, renovation and 1 million electric charging points,” she said. “I want NextGenerationEU to create new European Hydrogen Valleys to modernise our industries, power our vehicles and bring new life to rural areas.”
“Our buildings generate 40% of our emissions. They need to become less wasteful, less expensive and more sustainable,” she added. “And we know that the construction sector can even be turned from a carbon source into a carbon sink, if organic building materials like wood and smart technologies like AI are applied.”
The systemic change needed to support a wholesale shift to a circular economy was dubbed”a new cultural project for Europe”.
“Every movement has its own look and feel. And we need to give our systemic change its own distinct aesthetic – to match style with sustainability,” she said, announcing a plan to set up “a new European Bauhaus” — aka “a co-creation space where architects, artists, students, engineers, designers work together to make that happen”.
Currently, the company’s quantum processors top out at 65 qubits. It plans to launch a 127-qubit processor next year and a 433-qubit machine in 2022. To get to this point, IBM is also building a completely new dilution refrigerator to house these larger chips, as well as the technology to connect multiple of these units to build a system akin to today’s multi-core architectures in classical chips.
IBM’s Dario Gil tells me that the company made a deliberate choice in announcing this road map and he likened it to the birth of the semiconductor industry.
“If you look at the difference of what it takes to build an industry as opposed to doing a project or doing scientific experiments and moving a field forward, we have had a philosophy that what we needed to do is to build a team that did three things well, in terms of cultures that have to come together. And that was a culture of science, a culture of the road map, and a culture of agile,” Gil said.
He argues that to reach the ultimate goal of the quantum industry, that is, to build a large-scale, fault-tolerant quantum computer, the company could’ve taken two different paths. The first would be more like the Apollo program, where everybody comes together, works on a problem for a decade and then all the different pieces come together for this one breakthrough moment.
“A different philosophy is to say, ‘what can you do today’ and put the capability out,” he said. “And then have user-driven feedback, which is a culture of agile, as a mechanism to continue to deliver to a community and build a community that way, and you got to lay out a road map of progress. We are firm believers in this latter model. And that in parallel, you got to do the science, the road map and the feedback and putting things out.”
But he also argues that we’ve now reached a new moment in the quantum industry. “We’ve gotten to the point where there is enough aggregate investment going on, that is really important to start having coordination mechanisms and signaling mechanisms so that we’re not grossly misallocating resources and we allow everybody to do their piece.”
He likens it to the early days of the semiconductor industry, where everybody was doing everything, but over time, an ecosystem of third-party vendors sprung up. Today, when companies introduce new technologies like UV lithography, the kind of road maps that IBM believes it is laying out for the quantum industry today help every coordinate their efforts.
He also argues that the industry has gotten to the point where the degree of complexity has increased so much that individual players can’t do everything themselves anymore. In turn, that means various players in the ecosystem can now focus on specializing and figuring out what they are best at.
“You’re gonna do that, you need materials? The position technology? Then in that, you need the device expertise. How do you do the coupling? How do you do the packaging? How do you do the wiring? How do you do the amplifiers, the cryogenics, room temperature electronics, then the entire software stack from bottom to top? And on and on and on. So you can take the approach of saying, ‘well, you know, we’re going to do it all.’ Okay, fine, at the beginning, you need to do all to integrate, but over time, it’s like, should we be in the business of doing coaxial cabling?”
We’re already seeing some of that today, with the recent collaboration between Q-CTRL and Quantum Machines, for example.
Gil believes that 2023 will be an inflection point in the industry, with the road to the 1,121-qubit machine driving improvements across the stack. The most important — and ambitious — of these performance improvements that IBM is trying to execute on is bringing down the error rate from about 1% today to something closer to 0.0001%. But looking at the trajectory of where its machines were just a few years ago, that’s the number the line is pointing toward.
But that’s only part of the problem. As Gil noted, “as you get richer and more sophisticated with this technology, every layer of the stack of innovation ends up becoming almost like an infinite field.” That’s true for the semiconductor industry and maybe even more so for quantum. And as these chips become more sophisticated, they also become larger — and that means that even the 10-foot fridge IBM is building right now won’t be able to hold more than maybe a million qubits. At that point, you have to build the interconnects between these chambers (because when cooling one chamber alone takes almost 14 days, you can’t really experiment and iterate at any appreciable speed). Building that kind of “quantum intranet,” as Gil calls it, is anything but trivial, but will be key to building larger, interconnected machines. And that’s just one of the many areas where inventions are still required — and it may still take a decade before these systems are working as expected.
“We are pursuing all of these fronts in parallel,” Gil said. “We’re doing investments with horizons where the device and the capability is going to come a decade from now […], because when you have this problem and you only start then, you’ll never get there.”
While the company — and its competitors — work to build the hardware, there are also plenty of efforts in building the software stack for quantum computing. One thing Gil stressed here is that now is the time to start thinking about quantum algorithms and quantum circuits, even if today, they still perform worse on quantum computers than classical machines. Indeed, Gil wants developers to think less about qubits than circuits.
“When [developers] call a function and now it goes to the cloud, what is going to happen behind the scenes? There are going to be libraries of quantum circuits and there’s going to be a tremendous amount of innovation and creativity and intellectual property on these circuits,” explained Gil. And then, those circuits have to be mapped to the right quantum hardware and indeed, it looks like IBM’s vision here isn’t for a single kind of quantum processor but ones that have different layouts and topologies.
“We are already, ourselves, running over a billion quantum circuits a day from the external world — over a billion a day,” Gil said. “The future is going to be where trillions of quantum circuits are being executed every day on quantum hardware behind the scenes through these cloud-enabled services embedded in software applications. ”
Every Disrupt attendee can take part in the breakout sessions — they’re open to every pass level. Breakouts cover a range of topics and formats. You might watch startups pitch, attend a workshop or take in a panel discussion. No matter what, you’re bound to receive valuable insight that can inspire you and help your business.
Take advantage of our partners’ expertise and check out any (or all) of these breakout sessions. You’ll be glad you did.
Monday, September 14
11:00 am – 11:50 am
Sponsored by Adobe
Gabie Boko, Global VP Digital, Hewlett Packard Enterprise & Adobe VP of Platform Engineering, Anjul Bhambhri discuss digital transformation and experience delivery.
12:00 pm – 12:30 pm
Featuring twenty startups in healthcare, IoT, blockchain, AR-VR, cyber security, E-learning, and green technology
Tuesday, September 15
9:00 am – 9:50 am
Recent events continue to demonstrate that change is not happening fast enough. How can we ensure the current social justice momentum is more than just talk? Guided by SVB’s recent research into the “4th wave of venture capital,” learn how three industry leaders are tackling the problem with real actions. By the close of the session, leave with tangible steps you can take today – whether as an individual or as a firm — to make a meaningful, move-the-needle impact in your organization.
9:00 am – 10:30 am
Join Christine, Allan, Tico Blumenthal (Life Sciences Angels), and Laura Dietch (BioTrace Medical) to explore the investment and innovation framework in post-COVID19, and to discuss the driver of innovation healthcare amid the pandemic and economic collapse. TTA will also present the key anti-COVID19 innovative measurements in Taiwan to achieve the lowest infection rate around the world.
10:00 am – 10:30am
Hub.brussels invites you to join us for the 6th edition of our Belgian startup pitch competition.
12:00 pm – 12:30 pm
Featuring twenty startups in AI solutions, softwares, big data, edge computing, and space technology
2:30 pm – 4:00 pm
TC Include Reception sponsored by Sootchy
INVITE ONLY – TC Include kicks off this year’s founder cohort with organizational partners Black Female Founders, Female Founders Alliance, Latinx Startup Alliance and StartOut with remarks by Sootchy.
Wednesday, September 16
9:00 am – 9:50 am
Sponsored by Consulate General of Canada in San Francisco
Come listen to a group of Canadian founders who will talk about their start-ups and how Canada has helped them grow and succeed globally.
10:00 am – 11:00 am
Sponsored by StartUp Bahrain
Bahrain: Your gateway to the Middle East and beyond
INVITE ONLY – With its supportive ecosystem, advanced digital infrastructure, flexible and pioneering regulations; rapid growth in funding opportunities and a liberal market, Bahrain is the ideal testbed for startups and scaleups to test their products and solutions before growing and expanding across the Middle East
10:00 am – 10:30 am
Sponsored by JETRO
Come see the latest exciting technology and services coming from Japan.
11:00 am – 11:30 am
Sponsored by KOCCA
K-pop? K-Drama? K-Games? K-Entertainment? All startups with K-contents will show off during this Pitch Off
12:00 pm – 12:50 pm
Sponsored by Envestnet | Yodlee
Open finance/banking represents a new era of financial data transparency. It brings an unprecedented opportunity for FinTechs to provide personalized guidance consumers need to improve financial wellness. Envestnet | Yodlee experts will discuss empowering the entire FinTech ecosystem with enriched financial data and insights, plus the future of open banking in the U.S.
Thursday, September 17
10:00 am – 11:30 am
Sponsored by Dassault Systèmes
Dassault Systemes’s 3DEXPERIENCE Lab Global Accelerator Program
INVITE ONLY – 3DEXPERIENCE Lab is Dassault Systèmes’s global innovation program that offers innovative startups free access to Dassault Systèmes collaborative Design, Engineering, Simulation & Data Intelligence solutions, along with mentoring, and marketing support for two years. Come; learn how the Lab selects, mentors and supports its startups!
10:00 am – 10:50 am
Sponsored by AppsFlyer
This session offers the unique opportunity to join a live recording of AppsFlyer’s industry podcast, Next in Marketing. Mike Shields, podcast host and former Wall Street Journal, Business Insider, AdWeek and Digiday editor along with guests (Brian Quinn, US President & GM, AppsFlyer and Ana Milicevic, Co-founder and Principal, Sparrow Advisers) will delve into the ecosystem’s pivotal privacy updates, including Apple’s IDFA opt-out and the impact of iOS 14 to measurement and attribution, as well as targeting in a cookieless world. You’ll also hear about the future of personalization post-regulations in this session that is sure to address the most pressing issues and headlines on the mind of marketers globally.
12:00 pm – 12:50 pm
Sponsored by KITE
Startups plus large enterprises can fuel each other’s growth and bottom line, whether it’s a partnership, investment or acquisition. But bringing the right ones together needs more than serendipity: it requires a dynamic ecosystem that includes consultants, accelerators and VCs (aka the connectors). We sit down with top leaders from around the ecosystem to learn how they discover innovative solutions — and get to outcomes — faster.
And for those who want to upgrade to a Disrupt Digital PRO Pass you can get access to these sessions:
Tuesday, September 15
10:30 am – 10:50 am
Showing Your Work: VCs Investing in Diversity Share Their Secrets
More than 80% of venture capital firms don’t have a single Black investor and 68% of firms don’t have any female partners. As VCs across the country urgently seek to diversify both their investing teams and their portfolios, they could learn a lot from these amazing investors, who have made diversity a central part of their investing thesis from the start. Join us for a candid conversation about the power of investing in underrepresented founders and tapping into over $4.4 trillion in value. This panel will be moderated by Pam Kostka, CEO of All Raise featuring Sarah Kunst, Founder & Managing Director at Cleo Capital and Christie Pitts, General Partner at Backstage Capital who are both leading VCs who focus their investments on founders from underrepresented backgrounds.
11:30 am – 11:50 am
Innovating with Fuel Cells
James Kast demonstrates how Toyota continues to navigate the innovation of fuel cells and the implementation across numerous industries.
That’s a mighty fine breakout lineup if we do say so ourselves. Yep, we’re tooting our own horn. Don’t let all that valuable expertise go to waste. Make sure you carve out time in your Disrupt schedule for insight and inspiration!
Despite promises to examine and reform hiring practices so that tech companies big and small better reflect the world we all live in, diversity reports chart a different path: Black, brown, female and LGBTQIA+ folks aren’t getting their representative seats at the table.
And now, in the wake of a national response to the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Tony McDade by police that has seen millions engage in protests and a seemingly sudden awareness of just how racist the world is, the tech industry has found itself dealing with a crisis of conscience.
Leadership in companies everywhere have held meetings — sometimes putting folks of color in the hot seat — to discuss ways to improve awareness around race and devise plans to implement those initiatives (disclosure: I attended one hosted by TechCrunch’s parent company Verizon). HR departments are checking in with staff to somehow ascertain how to improve their modes of operation.
It is in this climate that TechCrunch is reporting our 2019 events and staff diversity numbers – the fourth such report since we started tracking – which you can see below. To collect this data, we distributed anonymous, volunteer surveys to the panelists, judges and Battlefield competitors at all of our events. We also distributed a form to staff, which was also volunteer and anonymous.
In 2019, we produced six events in three countries in 2019: Disrupt in San Francisco and Berlin; Sessions Robotics, Mobility and Enterprise were held in the Bay Area; and a regional Battlefield in Shenzhen.
Our events draw folks from every corner of the startup world. Whether a founder, an investor onstage or an attendee interested in technology, our events have long served as a place where people could come together to get advice, network, watch the best startups compete on our Battlefield stage and hear from the biggest names in tech.
Our priority at our events is to amplify the voices that have been silenced by the majority. While we continue to see an increase in the number of people of color and white women at our events, we acknowledge that we are still not where we want to be.
Below are the demographic data on panelists, judges and Battlefield competitors from our 2019 events.
For almost 10 years, TechCrunch Disrupt has provided a space for startup founders and investors to exchange ideas, make connections, examine the tech industry and compete on the Battlefield stage. Hundreds of startups across a variety of categories tell their stories to the 10,000 attendees from all around the world.
For the first time, in 2019, we hosted Disrupt SF at a bigger venue, Moscone West. Of the 128 speakers and Startup Battlefield judges who self-reported, 54 identified as women (42%) and 52 identified as people of color (40%). On the Battlefield stage at Disrupt SF, 18 companies competed for the Disrupt Cup. There were six self-identified female founders (33%) and 10 (56%) founders who self-identified as a person of color.
At Disrupt Berlin, of the 84 speakers and Startup Battlefield judges who self-reported, 32 (38%) identified as women and nine (10%) identified as people of color. Of the 13 companies that competed in Startup Battlefield, four (31%) founders identified as a person of color and five founders (38%) identified as female.
In 2019, we hosted our Hardware Battlefield competition in Shenzhen, which saw 11 companies take the stage and pitch to a panel of judges. Three (27%) of the 11 founders identified as female and seven (64%) identified as a person of color.
To complement the pitch competition and highlight the issues faced by those in the Chinese ecosystem, we invited top speakers from the startup world in China and beyond to grace our stage. Of the 39 speakers and judges who self-reported, four (10%) identified as women and 26 (66%) identified as a person of color.
Our Sessions events are daylong programs dedicated to the popular topics that bring founders, engineers, investors and academics to one place.
TechCrunch Sessions: Robotics continues to be a popular event no matter where we host it. In 2019, Robotics returned to Zellerbach Hall on the campus of UC Berkeley. Of the 32 speakers who self-reported, eight (25%) identified as female and 11 (34%) identified as a person of color.
In 2019, we launched TechCrunch Sessions: Mobility in San Jose. Of the 38 speakers who self-reported, 10 (26%) identified as female and 8 (21%) identified as a person of color.
We also launched TechCrunch Sessions: Enterprise in 2019. Of the 40 speakers who self-reported, 12 (30%) identified as female and 12 (30%) identified as a person of color.
TechCrunch Include 3.0
TechCrunch Include aims to promote diversity by applying resources uniquely available to TechCrunch, including our editorial and events platforms, and by exemplifying the diversity mission in TechCrunch’s own staffing and culture.
In 2014, we launched the Include program as a donation vehicle. It evolved from that into version 2.0, during which we realized the fulfillment of our plan to be transparent and remain proactive about our diversity and inclusion efforts at our events, on our staff, and in our editorial.
Now, Include 3.0, which launches at Disrupt 2020, we will continue to pursue a collaborative and open relationship with the broader community through partnerships with founder and support organizations, and investor groups. Founder organizations will have the opportunity to nominate early-stage founders to participate in the program as well as serve as advisers to TechCrunch Include. Investor groups commit to establishing lasting relationships with founders in the program and to uphold accountability for representation within their organizations and their investment portfolios. And support organizations provide educational resources and mentorships to strengthen and advise the program including all who participate.
Everyone should have access to the immense possibilities that the tech industry provides, but for the actual numbers to reflect this requires actively addressing the very unconscious biases that have contributed to rampant inequality.
At TechCrunch, our own diversity does not yet reflect this. In 2019, we surveyed our staff, and the results tell us that we have fallen well short of the goal we set. Of 71 editorial, events, business and sales staff, 44 completed the voluntary survey: 70% of the respondents identified as white, 36% identified as women, and 18% identified as LGBTQ+.
We understand that diversity is vital to the pursuit of equality, and while we can look at the last few years and see slight improvement, it is just that: slight. We need to focus our efforts so that our stages and our staff represent more accurately the world in which we live. We are not there yet.
Already in 2020 we have produced two events: Sessions: Robotics in at UC Berkeley — just before California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered the state to shelter-in-place — and Early Stage, which we produced virtually. We are on track to improve our diversity numbers not only in events but also on staff and we will report them in January 2021.
As Black Lives Matter protests in response to police brutality continue amid a worsening global pandemic, TechCrunch will continue to produce events that showcase the diverse talent in the startup community.
And at the foundation will be a small but mighty team focused on the present so we can bring you the future.