TechCrunch Disrupt is the granddaddy of all the hackathons, startup exhibitions, and pitch competitions in the whole country.
TechCrunch is arguably the largest and most visible online tech publication in the world- if you’re a startup getting written about in their blog is a must. But a couple times a year they throw a giant event celebrating startup “disruption” of big corporations and stagnant products all over the country. San Francisco TechCrunch Disrupt is the gem of all Disrupts, with investors, startups, and journalists travelling from all the corners of the world to view the world’s latest innovations and top startups.
First of all, although Disrupt is ostensibly a high profile event with a hefty price on tickets, it was housed in a large rusty sort of warehouse on the Pier that didn’t even accommodate toilets inside the building. After initial perplexion I chalked it up to lean startup methodology- the Disrupt experience was largely reflective of a real startup: chaotic, gritty, exhausting, and so very inspiring.
The startups who are competing for the Disrupt Cup are pre-selected by a committee to be allowed to perform, and from there only the best are called back to the Finals on the last day of the three day event. Here’s a rundown on the final pitches.
Preemadonna is a women’s lifestyle hardware company that is building a Nailbot, 3D printer for nail art. You just put your painted fingernail under its sensor, and then it will print nail art, such as a star or flower, on the center of your nail. Right now they can only paint nail art and not the entire nail, due to big size variations in womens’ nails. What I loved about them is that they’re targeting inner city girls after-school programs and clubs so that girls can enjoy making their own nail art. Where I felt their business plan fell short was in how this bot can really disrupt the manicurist industry and if it could really replace nail technicians in salons.
Stitch is like Slack, one of the slickest corporate instant messaging startups, but specifically for the healthcare industry. They are HIPAA compliant, so all information between doctors and patients, and the rest of the medical staff stays confidential. I really liked their go to market strategy, but for something like the Disrupt Cup they really weren’t differentiated enough from Slack and other communications startups to win the prize.
If you’ve seen all the recent startups that promise you will love cooking with their “kits” that they send you in the mail of all the pre-chopped ingredients, then you’ll recognize Scrumpt’s kid friendly approach. Scrumpt sends parent’s “school lunch kits” that are nutritious and mostly prepackaged. Parents just have to assemble a few ingredients and include some “staples” like fruit. This was another company I liked, especially since the Mother and daughter founder duo on stage were so genuine. But ultimately there isn’t anything proprietary or groundbreaking about Scrumpt, and is easily something that Munchery or another company could move into. Until they are out-serving the school cafeteria they probably aren’t too disruptive.
Leap Financial offers a sort of “CFO in a box” that automates things like burn rate and key performance metrics. They are a lot like InDinero, but more finance oriented rather than accounting. I honestly didn’t understand too much of their pitch or think it was very compelling. If you’re starting a company it’s an awkward conversation to explain that you don’t have a CFO because instead you bought a software package.
Greenbits was a real dark horse out of the gate. They are a streamlined point of sale checkout system for marijuana dispensaries in Washington, and soon every other state that legalizes the drug. Due to state regulations, heavy cash dependency, and the recent legalization of cannabis in certain states retail stores for marijuana have been buckling under the lack of solutions for their inventory and sale management. Greenbit provides the fastest checkout time for cannabis retailers and has taken 45% market penetration in Washington since their recent launch. Greenbits was awarded the runner-up award from TechCrunch, which suggests that the ecosystem of startups to support canna-businesses will be growing immensely in the coming years.
Agrilyst analyses greenhouse farmers’ crop data and provides insights that can increase yield 15% and save small farmers up to $50,000 do far. Agrilyst had an amazing pitch with compelling data and really knew their customers. They only launched their beta two months ago but have such great results that they were awarded the Disrupt cup and the $55,000 prize! They were most likely chosen for innovating in the new but explosively growing AgTech market, with a lot of potential to completely disrupt farming in an age where food shortages are on the horizon.