Emerging Startup Stories
Ecovative Design – A Startup Providing Sustainable Alternatives To Plastic
The world is becoming energy conscious and is constantly looking for ways to reduce carbon emissions and carbon footprints and shift to sustainable and renewable energy practices. Plastic is a bane to the environment, owing to its ability to adversely affect ecosystems and inability to decompose once it reaches a landfill or the environment. Single use plastics are a major contributor to this problem. A company called Ecovative Design is slowly trying to develop an alternative to plastics by making packaging material and various other products from mushrooms, which are a type of fungus. Ecovative Design was founded by Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre and is based out of Green Island, New York.
Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre worked on their idea as a part of their university project during an Inventor’s Studio course at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. They initially developed and created an insulation material using this mycelium technology and named it Greensulate. They followed this up by founding Ecovative Design. After winning $ 700,000 at an event called the Picnic Green Challenge, they went commercial by making a protective packaging called EcoCradle.
The founders claim they were inspired by observing how the fungal mycelium strongly bonded with wood chips. They realised they could use this resinous property to create a product which essentially left zero carbon footprint and is totally safe since it is organic. They chose a special strain of fungus which they left at a place for about five days, where the fungal mycelium bonded with non food agricultural materials and created organic compostable material. They finally heated the product to make the fungus inert. This material was then placed in moulds so it could be shaped into the requirements of the product. The founders developed products which can be used in insulation, protective packaging and structural biocomposites.
It is the aim of the founders that once the use of mycelium grown products gain household acceptance, they can replace the use of plastic and polystyrene. This technology is being studied by other companies who rely on mycelium technology and can incorporate it into their product design. Ecovative Design has a revenue model wherein they license their technology and offer it to interested vendors. Companies like Ikea and Dell use their protective packaging when they ship their products.
With Ecovative Design currently researching and creating products which cater to the apparel, food, textile and skincare industries, it will be interesting to see how these products replace non biodegradable products in the future.
Emerging Startup Stories
Suki: This Startup Wants To Transform Healthcare With Its Artificial Intelligence Tool
We live in a rapidly transforming era where humanity is making exponential leaps in technology. Thirty years ago, no one would have believed you could talk to an online voice assistant to create tasks and get things done. Ten years ago, no one would have believed humanity would land robots on Mars. Technology truly has improved the quality of living of every human who owns a smartphone and has access to an internet connection. Voice assistants are slowly replacing manual tasks and making lives easier and efficient. Siri, Alexa, Google Voice Assistant are just some of the widely used artificial intelligence based tools which are employed on a daily basis. Artificial intelligence, which is hailed as the technology of the future is now slowly making its way into much more complex domains like self driving vehicles, quantum computing and also health care.
Suki, a United States of America based startup founded by Punit Soni, developed their own voice assistant which runs on artificial intelligence to simplify healthcare for doctors and other healthcare professionals. In simple terms, Suki is akin to Siri for doctors. While you could order a pizza or schedule an appointment on Siri, doctors could modify, edit and add health records of their patients. Suki is a powerful tool to help doctors with documentation of health records which often take hours of their (doctors) time.
Suki currently focuses on documentation but has the potential to expand its usage to data queries, ordering, prescribing and billing. According to a white paper published by Suki, using its technology increases the time a doctor spends with a patient by 12% by cutting note taking time by 76%. The time which is saved also brings in a financial benefit of $30,000 more in revenue a year on average for doctors.
Suki raised a $ 20 million Series B round from Flare Capital Partners, First Round Capital, and Venrock, doubling its total funding to $ 40 million since its 2017 launch. Suki is also looking to expand its reach in India and has decided to establish Bangalore as their base of operations. India holds a lot of potential for Suki considering the amount of manual work which goes into almost any sector.
It would be interesting to watch how Suki and other similar AI based startups would transform healthcare across the world.
Emerging Startup Stories
The Story of Mens Grooming Startup Bombay Shaving Company
In the past grooming products were traditionally targeted at the female gender. However, with changing times and perceptions grooming is now a gender neutral term. Grooming is now essential for looking great and making a good impression. However, in a market which is traditionally saturated with products from FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) for women, a startup saw potential in men’s grooming products. Bombay Shaving Company, found the men’s grooming market in India was largely unorganised and was largely limited to just shaving products. Today there are products like body wash, soaps, oils, shampoos, creams and perfumes for men’s grooming and the popularity of grooming products is due to brands like Bombay Shaving Company, Beardo and Ustraa.
Bombay Shaving Company was founded in 2015 by Deepu Panicker, Rohit Jaiswal, Shantanu Deshpande and Raunak Munot who are all friends. It all began with Shantanu, who was a software engineer working for McKinsey in the United States of America. A chance discussion with a friend who was interning at Harry’s, a New York based shaving brand piqued Shantanu’s interest. The friend spoke about how shaving brands in America are challenging the likes of Gillette and PRO, which led Shantanu to the realisation that India could also use a disruption in the grooming space.
Shantanu then spoke to his friends, family and general consumers about shaving habits and came to the conclusion no one likes to shave because men hated the daily ritual of shaving. This led to the birth of Bombay Shaving Company. Shantanu soon roped in his school friend, Raunak Munot, who was the Director of Social Strategy, GroupM New York, and college friends, Rohit Jaiswal, the Head of Channel at Emel and Crompton Greaves, and Deepu Panicker, a senior analyst at McKinsey.
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The team worked with world class experts and manufacturers about fragrances, raw materials and worked with chemical engineers as well as packaging innovators. The first five hundred customers were acquired purely through word of mouth. Most of their products are constantly innovated depending on customer insights. One example would be when a sizable amount of customers wanted the shave to be closer and aggressive, the team designed a new razor part and shipped it to their customers free of cost.
Secondly, the Bombay Shaving Company team wanted to give their customers a great unboxing experience and it worked. Customers began to share unboxing videos and pictures on social media and it worked wonders for their branding which led to an increase in sales. The team also gave users the option to get their names engraved on the shaving razors to add a personal touch for free of cost. Bombay Shaving Company raised $ 9 million in funding since its inception and now sells more than 40 products across four categories (shaving, bath, beard and skincare.)
Today Bombay Shaving Company has redefined the shaving experience and continues to grow. In January 2021, Bombay Shaving Company raised $6.1 Mn (INR 45 Cr) in a funding round led by a UK based consumer goods giant Reckitt Benckiser. This funding will be used to launch three new consumer brands in the market, invest in marketing and branding and penetrate deeper into the market, beyond the metros.
Let us know in the comments below if you have ever used any of the products of Bombay Shaving Company or plan to use in the future.
Emerging Startup Stories
Silicon Valley Is Flocking To The Next Big Thing In Tech Called Clubhouse
While the world is caught up in its daily routine, there is one startup which is silently taking over Silicon Valley by storm. Named as Clubhouse, the startup has nothing to do with parties but is instead the next big thing in social networking technology. Clubhouse is slowly growing in leaps and bounds and is attracting a slew of some big names in technology onto their platform. Since the last couple of weeks, Twitter is abuzz with this new player in town and how amazing its user interface and experience is, and the most unique but important thing is Clubhouse provides direct access to the who’s who of the startup world.
So what is Clubhouse and why is it being hailed as the next big player in the social networking scene? Read along to find out more about this incredible app.
What is Clubhouse?
Clubhouse is a new type of social networking platform which is an audio only platform. This means every conversation takes place through audio where users speak to let their thoughts known. Users can create and host rooms where speakers will talk about a particular topic. Depending on the topic being discussed in a room, a user can join the room as a participant and take part in the conversation. Clubhouse believes audio is a special medium and users need not worry about being judged because there are no cameras.
How to use clubhouse
Clubhouse is currently only in its beta phase and the app is not open to the public at large. The app is also available only to iOS users at the moment. The only way to join the community as a user is through an invitation from an existing user. This is one of the reasons why Clubhouse is such a rage at the moment. The team behind Clubhouse say they do not want to scale up very rapidly because they feel it is important to take things slowly. Therefore the invite only/iOS only is the current offering in beta, but experts and pundits believe it is a genius marketing strategy to get people to talk about the app.
Upon registering, users can choose a variety of interesting topics based on which rooms are displayed. A user can then join one of these rooms and take part in the discussion.
Clubhouse currently has a user base of 600,000 users and it is still in its beta mode. Getting an invite to Clubhouse is a badge of honour at the moment. Indian Twitter feeds exploded in early January 2021, when AngelList founder Naval Ravikant and Entrepreneur Balaji Srinivasan hosted a room called Startup Bharat, where they spoke about the Indian startup scene on Clubhouse. Since then Indians have been scrambling to acquire the highly sought after Clubhouse invite.
Evan Williams, Reddit co founder Alexis Ohanian, former Y Combinator President Sam Altman, AngelList co founder Naval Ravikant, Ashton Kuthcer, Oprah Winfrey, Drake, Kevin Hart and many others are some of the influential personalities who are on Clubhouse.
Kevin Harrington, a host on Shark Tank hosted a room in Clubhouse where he listened to pitches from entrepreneurs. The room had more than 3000 participants and some of the pitches even received funding by the end of the session. This fast paced and the in-the-moment nature of the app is why Clubhouse is such a rage.
As Clubhouse slowly expands and finally makes itself available for everyone, it would be interesting to see how it will position itself among the likes of Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. But right now, in its nascent stages, Clubhouse is the place to be and a place of deep learning.
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