matternet drone

Calling All Unicorns    

Words: Laura Jaye Cramer
Photo: Courtesy of Matternet 

Will they crack a billion-dollar acquisition or fade to irrelevance? The five startups that might blow up next year. 

A couple of weeks ago, hundreds of rickety event tables were stuffed into the repurposed shipping dock on San Francisco’s Pier 48. The Bay Area is the laboratory of the tech world, and it’s not uncommon for swarms of techies to take over public spaces, smartphones in hand. Even still, it was different. It was the sixth year of TechCrunch’s Disrupt, a conference that brings early-stage companies across all platforms together to “show the goods” to potential investors, tech fans, and members of the press. Each of the rickety tables held a product that was certain to change its creator’s life. And, of course, change the world.

“Startups Start Here!” boasted Disrupt on various printed materials throughout the conference hall. Each startup head that is equal parts optimistic and thirsty; who’s going to walk out of here the next Zuckerberg? There are panel discussions, a 24-hour “hackathon”, and “Startup Battlefield” – a competition that places $50,000 in the hands of most promising startup. But the task of sorting through all of the companies makes Disrupt feel like speed-dating’s nerdy, more professional sibling. There are almost too many interesting products, too many interesting concepts.

But if you could only keep an eye on five, we suggest these.

Tech Crunch

© Flickr // TechCrunch


The eSports industry has millions of active monthly users – a goldmine in terms of consumers. Enter Mobalytics, a new system for competitive gamers that uses visual analysis to not only uncover the player’s weaknesses and vulnerabilities, but help coach them through tactics for improvement. Mobalytics also happens to be the winner of Disrupt’s coveted Startup Battlefield, proving that eSports, and all of its new technologies, isn’t a bad area to invest.


© Flickr // TechCrunch


When roughly 5 million Google Cardboard headsets had been shipped out to interested parties within the first year of its launch, the tech world took notice of the growing interest in VR (better known as Virtual Reality to those of us who aren’t members of the cardboard headgear community). Eager to jump onto the quickly moving bandwagon is Spincle, a platform for capturing VR snapshots from your own iPhone. With plans to make the files as easy as possible to export and share, prepare to see the landscape of internet content change. It may seem crazy to think of carrying around VR headsets in the future, but, hey, hoverboards are a thing. 

Tech Crunch

© Flickr // TechCrunch


Startup Moti argues that motivation delivered via a stale notification does nothing to change the actual behavior of people. Instead, they’ve created a small robotic device that acts as a physical companion and life coach. After plugging in data surrounding a habit the user would like to establish, Moti uses various tactics – like lights, haptics, and sounds – to alert its user when to act. Of course, adding to the list of cues we take from our smart phones and digital devices makes us feel as if human’s inevitable surrender to the robot overlords is just around the corner. But, on the other hand, pros include remembering to drink water, taking a break to get out and exercise, or practicing a new hobby. In a sea of apps and systems that eliminate human interaction or make buckets of buttery delivery food all too accessible, listening to your Moti and taking a hint to better yourself might not be the worst thing.


Having recently announced the Matternet M2, a series of lightweight drones that are able to carry almost 5lbs of materials up to 12 miles on a single battery charge, California-based Matternet has been on the watch list of many an excited techie. At Disrupt, the company (in partnership with Mercedes-Benz) unveiled their new “Vision Vans”, a line of vehicles whose roof will serve as a launching pad for their Matternet M2 drones. The drones will be used for a wide range of purposes, including quicker delivery of goods in highly populated, dense areas, and in order to aid in disaster relief. 

Hyperloop One

Billed as the “technology of the future”, Hyperloop One is truly the stuff of science fiction stories. Currently in the preliminary stages of its massively revolutionary high-speed transportation project, the promised technologies will transport passengers and cargo hundred of miles in a matter of minutes. Set to have some sort of working model by 2021, the team is quick to point out a whole host benefits, including the elimination of direct emissions, eradicating human and mechanical travel error, and the obvious faster-than-an-airline speeds. “The higher-order emotional benefit would be freedom,” Hyperloop One’s Chief Marketing officer Kim Salzer said in an interview. “This really frees up your ability to live and work and enjoy your life. It opens up your horizons and opens up what it means to stay close to people and to connect with people … The internet can only do so much. It’s still nice to go face to face.”

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