A Black Girl @ Tech Crunch

A Black Girl @ Tech Crunch

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I thought I had a pretty solid grasp on the size of the startup scene, but man, was I wrong! I've been living in Silicon Valley for almost five years (January 2018) and what I do know is that this is where startups live and die...in garages. Or in a house with 20 people in it. Or in a fancy office space in the City bankrolled by big VCs. It's where dreams are made and hearts are broken. But the scale at which people move here to start or grow a business was really reflected at Tech Crunch. It was an ocean--a literal ocean--of startup exhibitors. There were over 100 in the Startup Alley and they changed daily. It was incredibly exciting--like, when you unexpectedly find ten bucks in your pocket or you're starving on a Saturday morning and remember you have leftovers from eating out the night before. Before I went, I had the goal of stopping at every table and talking with each founder. Laughable, I know. Of course that didn't happen, but here are a few of my favorite companies that I did get to chat with and also a couple of my other favorite moments during the conference! Enjoy!

Favorite Companies:

Octagon Studio - Octagon is an interactive augmented reality platform that can serve as a teaching mechanism or independent study tool for students and I'm certain it has other use cases as well. I demoed Octagon, and even as an adult, it was engaging and exciting to use. I imagine if I didn't want to put it down, kids wouldn't either. Essentially, there are these themed flashcard packs that you use in conjunction with an iPhone or iPad app. The cards have themes like Animal 4D, Space 4D or Humanoid (the one I tried) and the app allows you to use your device's camera to capture the photos and information on the cards coming to life. 

FairFare - FairFare is an app that consolidates ridesharing app information so users can see the cheapest price and the fastest arrivals among all the players (Uber, Lyft, Gett, etc). After doing a little more research, though, I found a couple other teams who have been working on nailing down this service (urbanhail, Ride Guru). But I also learned that Uber has been blocking startups from aggregating their pricing data for the purpose of comparing it to the prices of other ridesharing apps. So FairFare's future may be uncertain, especially since Google has now created a similar tool that doesn't violate Uber's API user agreement. With Google, the tech is wide open and free making it extremely difficult for another app to monetize it.

CryptoMove – this startup competed in the Startup Battlefield competition. Although they didn't make it to the finals, they were one of my favorites. With the recent Equifax hack and other infamous hacks of the past (I'm talking to you, Target), making sure our private information is safe is becoming more and more difficult. Encryptions that we used to think were impenetrable are slowly unraveling as hackers spend more time chipping away at current security measures. There are two reasons I thought what this startup is working on was so awesome:

1. I learned something new: cyber security is not something I’ve ever had any interest in. The concepts always seemed unreasonably technical for my social brain and only fun for those who knew how to hack things. The founder of CryptoMove explained the concept clearly, confidently and most importantly, in a way that made me feel like this was something I needed.

2. I connected it to something I consider important and relevant in the current state of the world: missile defense systems. The company likened it to how missiles are never together and always on the move; they are strategically placed on submarines all over the world. By breaking things apart and mixing them up constantly, they are harder to find and therefore harder to catch.

That analogy made me understand perfectly. CryptoMove breaks down your data into bite size pieces, encrypts them all separately, and moves it around randomly in the…well, I don’t know exactly where, somewhere lol. Ether? Atmosphere? The cloud? But the bottom line is that we can protect our data from hackers in a way that is proven to be safer, more efficient and practically impossible for the bad guys to crack. Pretty cool.

Open As App – turns your business data into an app that you can share instantly. Even in this world of business school, we often get caught in the drudgery of spreadsheets. Even if we use a dashboard reporting format, it’s often still static, difficult to convey to others and not easily updated. Open As App gives you the ability to upload an excel sheet which it uses to automatically build a dynamic application that can be downloaded by your stakeholders instantly, adjusted as often as possible, and automatically updated with the newest data each time the app is opened by a user. Further, you can make the app available to be edited by others and select design themes to make it more attractive. Loved this demo!

Others Highlights & Key Learnings:

1. Startup Battlefield – It was neat seeing new companies on the cutting edge of technology and innovation. But it was even better because I got to see how the VCs interacted with the founders and with each other. 

2. Investor Breakfast – I got to meet some incredibly smart, thoughtful VCs who are working to make sure the startups at the conference had opportunities to present their ideas and get feedback during this three days.

3. The conference was close to the CalTrain—very exciting for a girl coming from San Jose. No fighting traffic for me!

4. Cryptocurrencies are the future--for sure. This is also debatable. 

5. AR/VR had a huge showing at this conference. I thought this was still a far-off technology that had quite a ways to go before becoming mainstream but I counted at least 10 VR startups with different applications. I need to find a book to read on this. Suggestions?

6. I got to connect with someone who has become a really awesome mentor over the last year—Lisa Lambert. Her interview is coming up next week!

Til next time...