Some of Africa’s most promising tech newcomers took to the stage to present their ideas in the hopes of winning the $25,000 equity-free cash prize, a trip for two to TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco 2019.
After the success of the 2017 event in Nairobi, Kenya, the Lagos event was the second TechCrunch Startup Battlefield to take place in Sub-Saharan Africa. This time around, the organisers reviewed hundreds of African startups to arrive at a list of 15 semi-finalists. With TechCrunch Startup Battlefield’s 2% acceptance rate, it was stated by one of the organisers that it is easier to get into Harvard.
“We came as a small team. The process was intense,” said Tobie Van Zyl, Chief Innovation Officer of Bettr. “The level of performance required to compete I’d compare to the training of an Olympic Athlete. Every company at this event deserved to win. They are world-class innovators solving real human problems. We came as competitors, and we have left with friends from 15 different countries, Lagos contacts and a community that wants to see us expand here next.”
Each company was given 6-minutes to pitch and share a live demo to a sold-out venue and panel of judges. Van Zyl delivered a presentation commenting on the shortcomings of the traditional banking industry and how Bettr will reinvent this ‘broken system’. Andrzej Stempowski, Chief Technical Officer, conducted a live demonstration, showcasing how an account can be opened using only a South African identification document. The full pitch, with more details about the soon-to-be-released product, can be watched on the TechCrunch website.
The resulted in Bettr being selected as one of the five finalists.
The startups delivered their same pitches a second time to a new panel of judges, followed by a thorough Q & A.
The final-round judges included Dapo Olagunju, head of West Africa JP Morgan, and Konstantinos Papamiltiadis, director of developer platforms and programs for Facebook. The winner was M-SCAN, a Ugandan based startup that has invented a mobile ultrasound that is portable and compatible with basic devices, including a mobile phone. Second place went to Bettr.
Bettr is a virtual banking platform powered by a smartphone and a transactional card. The startup is set to launch to the public in 2019.
CES: Most useless gadgets
The worst gadgets of CES also deserve their moment of infamy, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.
It’s fairly easy to choose the best new gadgets launched at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last week. Most lists – and there are many – highlight the LG roll-up TV, the Samsung modular TV, the Royole foldable phone, the impossible burger, and the walking car.
But what about the voice assisted bed, the smart baby dining table, the self-driving suitcase and the robot that does nothing? In their current renditions, they sum up what is not only bad about technology, but how technology for its own sake quickly leads us down the rabbit hole of waste and futility.
The following pick of the worst of CES may well be a thinly veneered attempt at mockery, but it is also intended as a caution against getting caught up in hype and justification of pointless technology.
1. DUX voice-assisted bed
The single most useless product launched at CES this year must surely be a bed with Alexa voice control built in. No, not to control the bed itself, but to manage the smart home features with which Alexa and other smart speakers are associated. Or that any smartphone with Siri or Google Assistant could handle. Swedish luxury bedmaker DUX thinks it’s a good idea to manage smart lights, TV, security and air conditioning through the bed itself. Just don’t say Alexa’s “wake word” in your sleep.
2. Smart Baby Dining Table
Ironically, the runner-up comes from a brand that also makes smart beds: China’s 37 Degree Smart Home. Self-described as “the world’s first smart furniture brand that is transforming technology into furniture”, it outdid itself with a Smart Baby Dining Table. This isa baby feeding table with a removable dining chair that contains a weight detector and adjustable camera, to make children’s weight and temperature visible to parents via the brand’s app. Score one for hands-off parenting.
Click here to read about smart diapers, self-driving suitcases, laundry folders, and bad robot companions.
CES: Language tech means no more “lost in translation”
Talking to strangers in foreign countries just got a lot easier with recent advancements in translation technology. Last week, major companies and small startups alike showed the CES technology expo in Las Vegas how well their translation worked at live translation.
Most existing translation apps, like Bixby and Siri Translate, are still in their infancy with live speech translation, which brings about the need for dedicated solutions like these technologies:
Babel’s AIcorrect pocket translator
The AIcorrect Translator, developed by Beijing-based Babel Technology, attracted attention as the linguistic king of the show. As an advanced application of AI technology in consumer technology, the pocket translator deals with problems in cross-linguistic communication.
It supports real-time mutual translation in multiple situations between Chinese/English and 30 other languages, including Japanese, Korean, Thai, French, Russian and Spanish. A significant differentiator is that major languages like English being further divided into accents. The translation quality reaches as high as 96%.
It has a touch screen, where transcription and audio translation are shown at the same time. Lei Guan, CEO of Babel Technology, said: “As a Chinese pathfinder in the field of AI, we designed the device in hoping that hundreds of millions of people can have access to it and carry out cross-linguistic communication all barrier-free.”
Click here to read about the Pilot, Travis, Pocketalk, Google and Zoi translators.