"Want to become a billionaire? Then help a billion people."
"The world's biggest problems are the world's biggest business opportunities."
Both of these statements are the way I describe the premise of Singularity University's Graduate Studies Program (GSP) and the companies we create each year.
Last week we graduated our seventh GSP class and unveiled our newest crop of 10^9+ companies.
This is a post on the coolest companies coming out of the SU universe.
What Is a 10^9+ Company?
In 2008, Ray Kurzweil and I co-founded SU to enable brilliant graduate students to work on solving humanity's grand challenges using exponential technologies.
During the GSP, we ask our students to build a company that positively impacts the lives of 1 billion people within 10 years (we call these 10^9+ companies).
Historically, if you wanted to touch the lives of a billion people, you had to be Coca-Cola, GE or Siemens.
Today, you can be a guy or a gal in a garage with connectivity.
Over the years, we've given birth to some very cool companies. Here's an update, and a peek at the newest players.
10^9+ All Stars
Matternet: Matternet is building a network of autonomous drones (UAVs) to transport goods in cities as well as places with inefficient or nonexistent road infrastructure. In the developing world, Matternet drones can carry 2 kg packages such as medicine, documents, replacement parts or other critical goods for transportation. In cities, their cloud-based navigation system is revolutionizing transport logistics. Sound like Amazon Prime? Yes, but Matternet was founded two years earlier.
Modern Meadow: For millennia, many of the world’s favorite products have been cultured — including beer, wine, yogurt, cheese and bread. Modern Meadow uses these same principles to nurture and feed animal cells, creating high-quality products (think 'meat' and 'leather') without the animal sacrifice and environmental harms of factory farming. Such cultured meat massively reduces the amount of land (by 99 percent), water (by 96 percent) and energy (by 45 percent) needed in product, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 96 percent.
Fellow Robots: Fellow Robots is reimagining retail robotics to create a smarter retail environment. Their robot OSHbot communicates with shoppers to identify what they need and then autonomously navigates through the store to enable the easy, rapid selection of desired items. This creates smarter shoppers and a more efficient shopping experience.
BlueOak Resources: BlueOak extracts valuable metals (copper, silver, platinum, etc.) from discarded electronics (e-waste). Using existing scaled-up mining industry technologies, they capture value from the 40 million tons of e-waste that is landfilled or incinerated annually around the world, containing $70 billion worth of precious and base metals. One ton of cell phones contains as much gold as 70 tons of gold ore. Every day, U.S. consumers dispose of enough cell phones to cover over 50 football fields.
Made In Space: This company just launched the first zero-g 3D printer to the International Space Station. Their hardware is able to manufacture materials and complex structures in weightlessness. Eventually, we’ll be able to 3D print entire structures in space from metallic material mined from near-earth asteroids.
MirOculus: MirOculus is creating a simple blood test that can tell you, at the molecular level, the exact type of disease you have and its severity before it presents any symptoms, and then monitor the success of the treatment. They are also focused on cancer detection using microRNA biomarkers, leading to routine cancer screenings that will allow for early-stage detection and the prevention of millions of cancer deaths.
Organ Preservation Alliance: Transforming human organ availability through breakthroughs in cryo-preservation. The nonprofit is developing technology to dramatically improve long-term organ storage mechanisms.
A Few of This Year's 10^9+ Companies
This summer, the GSP students pitched over 25 new business concepts. Here are a few of my favorites:
ImpactVision: ImpactVision uses hyperspectral sensors to analyze spectral signatures that cannot be detected by the human eye. Focusing on the food industry, they’re able to detect pollutants and bacteria on foods to reduce food waste, and even help a shopper determine freshness or ripeness.
Anticip8 Analytics: Anticip8’s mission is accurate, micro-weather prediction that can help renewable energy producers (solar, wind). Uncertainty about tomorrow’s forecast (cloud cover, rain) reduces the ability of suppliers to commit their full capacity, especially for wind farms. This leads to less renewable energy in the grid and higher prices. Anticip8 offers low-power, low-cost field sensors with novel computing architecture and high resolution spatial and temporal modeling to increase suppliers’ confidence when committing loads to the grid. They’ll build better, decentralized ground-up weather models that update every 10 minutes.
RedOlive: There are 700 million motorcyclists in the world. Nearly 300,000 of them are killed in accidents each year, and 80% of those deaths occur in low-income countries. RedOlive’s first product Oliver is an embedded system designed to provide the convenience and safety experienced by high-end automobile drivers to ordinary motorcycle riders. It uses an array of sensors and cameras to constantly monitor motorcyclists’ surroundings and notifies them how to react appropriately. Think AR + motorcycle helmet + affordability.
AIME: AIME's platform provides critical information for disease prediction and outbreak management via machine learning and artificial intelligence. The goal is to geolocate the area of the next disease outbreak up to three months before an outbreak occurs. Currently, AIME works to end dengue outbreaks. In the future, AIME will tackle tuberculosis, the flu, HIV and malaria.
Aipoly: Aipoly is an intelligent assistant for the visually impaired that empowers them to explore and understand their surroundings through computer vision and audio-feedback. They use convolutional neural networks to identify the elements within a picture and neural image caption generation to feed back a semantic description of its content. The user takes a picture and it is automatically uploaded to Aipoly servers, where it is analyzed and tagged, and a description is sent back to the smartphone that took it and read out loud using text-to-speech.
We recently launched an accelerator at Singularity University.
You can find out more here, but here are the basics:
We provide $100,000 in seed funding to give early-stage startups runway throughout the program, a coworking space at NASA Research Park, a structured program offering (bootcamp and 4-week sprints), and the best Singularity University has to offer for 7-10% equity in your company.
For nonprofits/501(c)(3) organizations we provide $50,000 in unrestricted grants.
Our goal, as stated above, is to empower entrepreneurs to build products positively impacting humanity at scale.
Image Credit: Shutterstock.com