Entrepreneur First (EF), the company builder and “talent first” investor, held its eleventh Demo Day in London this afternoon. The event included newly formed startups from EF’s London, Berlin and Paris cohorts, and represented a showcase of the investor’s now pan-European reach.
Once again, the pitches took place in front of a near-overcapacity crowd at King’s Place in London’s King Cross area, and this time saw 29 startups pitch their wares to investors, press and other actors in the European tech scene.
EF stands out from the many other demo days that the U.K. capital city hosts because of the way the investor backs individuals “pre-team, pre-idea” — meaning that the companies pitching only came into existence during the three programmes and perhaps may never have seen the light of day without the founders bashing heads at EF.
The latest demo days also comes shortly after EF announced it has raised a $115 million new fund led by a number of leading (mostly unnamed) institutional investors across the U.S., Europe and Asia, including new anchor LP Trusted Insight. A number of well-known European entrepreneurs also invested, including Taavet Hinrikus (co-founder of TransferWise), Alex Chesterman (co-founder of Zoopla) and EF alumnus Rob Bishop (who co-founded Magic Pony Technology, which was bought by Twitter for a reported $150 million in 2016).
This new fund — which EF said is one of the largest pre-seed funds ever raised — will enable the talent investor to back more than 2,200 individuals who join its various programs over the next three years. EF currently operates in Bangalore, Berlin, Hong Kong, London, Singapore and Paris.
Meanwhile, the themes for EF’s eleventh London Demo Day continued to reflect the company builder’s focus on recruiting the best technical and domain expert talent — both recent graduates and also people already working at tech companies. They spanned practically every gamut of the tech sector you could think of.
After enduring 29 rounds of “pitchlash” (up from 24 last time), TechCrunch’s picks, chosen by Editor-at-Large Mike Butcher, who attended, are as follows:
Here’s the full list of presenting teams (in their own words) with some informal notes Mike made live at the event:
FabricNano – LONDON
FabricNano designs artificial cells that produce chemicals 100x faster.
TechCrunch comment: Fermentation of things like beer has been around for thousands of years. It’s now powering the global chemicals market. But we still rely on living cells to do the hard work. Improving the living cell by 1% would save the chemical plant millions of dollars a day. This startup makes an artificial living cell which is highly efficient. The cost has come down to do this. The founders have a history in mechanical engineering and DNA. They have chemical companies testing with them, and have filed some patents. They are raising £1.5m to accelerate this whole idea. Strong pitch!
Fast Biotechnologies – BERLIN
Fast Biotechnologies revolutionizes healthcare by enabling accurate diagnosis of life-threatening infections in minutes instead of days.
TechCrunch comment: Scepsis is killing people almost as much as cancer, globally. But detecting it is slow, and people die waiting for results. This startup uses a bacterium to detect it faster, and it’s the direct result of the founder’s PhD work. It’s already being tested in the lab. The founder didn’t say how much they are raising…
Leakmited – PARIS
Leakmited detects water leaks from space.
TechCrunch comment: Sounds cool huh?! Only 6% of water is good for human consumption and we waste a lot of it in leaks. 50 billion euros worth. Fixing leaks is easy, but finding them is tough and the tech hasn’t changed in years. The idea is that leaks change the properties of the ground, which can then be detected from space using pattern recognition, up to an accuracy of 20 meters which is a 1000% improvement. They will pilot this tech in France. Strong team, strong pitch. I’m wondering if this would be relatively easily replicable by a satellite company?
Candu – LONDON
Candu is a learning platform within your app, empowering you to upskill and retain your customers.
TechCrunch comment: Ex-Stanford founder pitches a learning platform that upskills users as they use the product. On the job training for this century. This decreases churn and improves the results. Well-trained customers are more likely to use and renew a Saas product. One of the co-founders helped build Coursera, so they have history in this space.
Blazar – PARIS
Blazar uses machine learning to predict cancer response to immunotherapy.
TechCrunch comment: Treating blood cancer better with ML-based prediction. They have a team which has built previous ML products and the co-founder who presented has been a cancer researcher for the last 14 years. This is sort of weaponizing the immune system against cancer. No mention of the money they want to raise.
Alcemy – BERLIN
Alcemy’s quality prediction AI enables cement and concrete producers to cut costs and carbon emissions.
TechCrunch comment: We make a lot of concrete on this planet. It can be a complex thing. But it’s often made stronger than it needs to be. Until recently it took a month to test the strength of the concrete. So they tend to make it too strong, and this also creates MORE carbon emissions. Instead, this solution test concrete quality in 40 minutes. Not bad, huh. The prototype has been tested with partners. They think they could save all the UK’s carbon emission. Strong pitch and thank god someone is thinking about the environment for a change…
Presscast – LONDON
Presscast is a new kind of advertising that is organic and scalable.
TechCrunch comment: Programmatic ads have ruined online content (don’t we know it)… Media doesn’t scale like tech. Content marketing plus programmatic. They call it “Natural language advertising”. This looks at articles online, and inserts your lines of text into the article. (I hate this already…). Finextra did this. They launched a week ago and have 500 publishers now. I’d love to know this list! Strangely they did not include whether or not the advert is flagged as such, which is worrying. They are raising a seed round.
Arthronica – LONDON
Arthronica is an AI monitoring and rehabilitation platform.
TechCrunch comment: Addressing a costly and chronic condition: Arthritis. Costs healthcare a lot of cash globally. Capturing data for treatment is expensive and has to happen face to face. Their AI architecture uses a smart phone camera to read the person’s muscle movements and then assess the level of treatment needed. I think this is a great idea and a natural use of ML in cameras / smartphones.
Semblr Technologies – LONDON
Semblr automates building construction using small, swarming robots.
TechCrunch comment: Robots! Using a big robot to build a house is inefficient. Use small ones! The first robot automates bricklaying. There is high demand for houses, but the workforce is not there. Previous bricklaying robots, they are WAY too big. A swarm of robots the size of a cat can build it faster. BaaS – Bricklaying as a service. LULZ. Cofounders are an ex-architect and ML expert. They are testing on real sites. Sounds convincing.
Packetai – PARIS
PacketAI uses AI to automate IT Operations.
TechCrunch comment: Resolving IT incidents using ML! Save lots of money! Crucial stuff but hard to make interesting in a pitch…
Nostos Genomics – BERLIN
Nostos Genomics uses CRISPR to unlock genomics-based medicine.
TechCrunch comment: Genetic diseases are more common than you think. But to get a treatment you need assessment and 70 percent of genetic tests fail. Their solution claims to be way more efficient at assessing genetic diagnoses.
Deltablock – PARIS
DeltaBlock adapts traditional capital liquidity services for Digital Assets.
TechCrunch comment: Sounds like a blockchain pitch which doesn’t want to mention the word blockchain… Surprise! Ok they mentioned it once. This is a market-maker for digital assets, like in traditional markets. Aiming at 100 billion Euro market. Starting in Switzerland, of course. They are raising in fiat money… Hard to assess this one.
Reallm – LONDON
Business intelligence for the supply-side of marketplaces.
TechCrunch comment: We understand the demand side of this world but the suppliers often get forgotten. So take Uber or something and they spot where user demand is being missed by lack of supply of drivers. This is a way for drivers or similar to work out where they can work more efficiently.
Panakeia Technologies – LONDON
Panakeia makes cancer diagnosis simpler, faster and cheaper by eliminating the need for multiple tests.
TechCrunch comment: Cancer diagnosis can take a month and is expensive. They do this by running ML over images of biopsies. Already have several test partners. Seems like a strong team.
Speak Ai – LONDON
The world’s most expressive and realistic artificial voices.
TechCrunch comment: This was the spookiest pitch of the day! The idea being that you could use this artificial voice inside video games. Saving enormous amounts of money. 5 paid pilots already. Voice in the video games industry is huge. Makes it as easy to edit voice as videos. “A photoshop for voice.” Impressive stuff.
Vine Health Digital – LONDON
Vine Health’s platform uses behavioral science and AI to increase the survival of cancer patients.
TechCrunch comment: If you make things hard or easier you have big consequences (fake flies in urinals etc). If you nudge a patient into better behavior they have better outcomes. They have trials with partners already. Co-founders are rather well qualified! Great advisory board. 95% of patients on-board. Excellent results from patients. This is a startup to watch.
CirPlus – BERLIN
CirPlus is the global marketplace for recycled materials.
TechCrunch comment: Make it EASY to buy recycled plastics rather than hard. Have had EU funding. Passionate founder.
Nanovery – LONDON
Nanovery is developing nanorobots to diagnose the world’s deadliest diseases.
TechCrunch comment: Detect cancer using a simple blood test? Have we heard this before? No – they are building a search function using nano-robots. Their nano-robots are cheaper, they say. Very hard to assess this, but it sounds good.
Seyo – LONDON
Seyo enables machines to cooperate autonomously in extreme environments without the internet.
TechCrunch comment: Machines don’t have a global clock and one microsecond out can throw a system. So Seyo creates a logical sequence which is not time-based. It means the machines can work off the grid. They can be used in heavy industries like mining, where there are many fatalities.
Rosecut Technologies – LONDON
Rosecut is a digital private bank that offers bespoke, regulated advice in real-time.
TechCrunch comment: Wealth management! Always of interest to VCs… Rosecut wants to help the middle market, just under private equity. Traditional private banks require a lot of money. Rosecut is aiming at these guys. Already have $4.3m worth of assets ready to on-board. Likely to be regulated by the FCA in the next few months. Founder Qiaojia was a former ace asset adviser.
SquareMind – PARIS
SquareMind allows robots to make skin cancer detection more accurate and accessible.
TechCrunch comment: 3D construction software for full body mapping, able to track the growth of moles on the body using off the shelf robots. Prototypes and patents.
Intropic – LONDON
Intropic provides data refineries for investment management firms.
TechCrunch comment: Asset managers are generally shit, lazy and inefficient. Hedge funds are already using Intropic. Because the world needs more efficient hedge funds…
Flowlity – PARIS
Flowlity’s mission is to bring Amazon supply chain efficiency to the rest of the world.
TechCrunch comment: Many industrial players lack the time to do this well, and don’t scale at the level of Amazon. This startup claims to address this. No more overstocks, shortages and lost sales. The team was in this space before.
Omini – PARIS
Omini brings lab testing closer to the patient.
TechCrunch comment: Faster blood testing. (Yes, another one). Biosensing devices for immediate blood tests. Their first product measures infections and inflammations. THANKFULLY they mentioned the huge disaster in this industry and made sure people knew they were different.
Sense Street – LONDON
Sense Street innovates capital market communications.
TechCrunch comment: Freeing the information that’s in chat rooms about capital markets with ML. They can pull sentiment out of the chat rooms and give clients better insight. So that’s nice.
QantEv – PARIS
QantEv optimizes provider networks for health insurers.
TechCrunch comment: Probably sounds great if you’re a health insurer… rather indecipherable to the rest of us.
Morta – LONDON
Morta digitizes and automatically enforces construction rules.
TechCrunch comment: Building documents are in PDF and paper. This is a very old-fashioned industry. Mistakes creep in. Codifying the designs and rules reduces mistakes. Building industry wins!
CogniScent – BERLIN
CogniScent provides AI-guided early detection of neurodegenerative diseases.
TechCrunch comment: The lack of a sense of smell is a key indicator of neurodegenerative diseases. So you take a smell test, fill out a test and the result claims to be a 90% accurate prediction of a neurodegenerative disease.
Neoplants – PARIS
Neoplants use synthetic biology to design plants for the future.
TechCrunch comment: Problem: You spend a lot of time indoors and indoor air pollution is much worse than outdoors, because of VOCs. Air purifiers are bullshit. And green plants have ZERO impact on air quality. So their indoor plant is biologically engineered to capture VCOs and process them. Patents galore. You could also use these to capture carbon outdoors. Where do I buy one?!