The Most Ridiculous (and Cool) Ideas to Come out of TechCrunch Disrupt

Words: Laura Jaye Cramer
Photography: Courtesy of TechCrunch

The annual San Francisco conference is the birthplace of tech unicorns. These aren’t among them.

“Beating Dark Souls 3 was harder than getting my PhD,” says one gray hoodie-clad man in his mid-thirties to another. The two men continue to shuffle down Startup Alley, a long strip of tables and booths set up in San Francisco’s Pier 48’s event warehouse, that last week, played host to hundreds of early-stages companies.

It was TechCrunch’s Disrupt, an annual conference now in its sixth year that serves as a platform for various startups to launch products, network, and eagerly explain their brands to press and attendees. If management software really does it for you, Disrupt is heaven. Beyond that, the featured companies range from the practical (like Panopticon Laboratories, a firewall system that protects gamers from cyberattacks) to the niche (like AiMatchMaker, a dating app exclusively for people of Chinese descent). But the most outrageous of them all? We gathered them here for you. 

Alchema

Simply put, Alchema is a personalized craft cider maker that replaces human brewmasters with a small state-of-the-art robot. No larger than a blender or standard coffee maker, the little boozebot features a self-cleaning system, a scale for easy recipe checking, and a wireless internet connection that allows you to check in with your alcohol no matter where on the planet you are. Just like the monk beer brewers of yesteryear. Born from a group of Taiwanese friends who, while partying thought, hey, this would be better if our drinks tasted like exotic fruits, Alchema gives its owner the freedom to dream up any sort of beverage they choose. Show us someone who doesn’t think this sounds fun and we’ll show you a liar.

Robin

“You don’t have to be Snoop Dogg or a resident of Colorado to know that “grass” is a market with huge potential,” said Justin Crandall, co-founder and CEO of Robin, during his Disrupt presentation. But he’s not talking weed. Robin is a new lawn care startup that promises to replace your current lawn professionals with—you guessed it—more robots. Roughly the size of a carry-on suitcase, the little machine uses sensor technology to glide through a yard, effortlessly giving grass a uniform trim. Think outdoor Roomba, but with razor-sharp blades. Surprisingly, this type of lawn system isn’t new, it’s just not standard in the United States. Kudos to Crandall for kickstarting the American iteration and for getting a conference full of techies all excited over a lawn mower. 

Wazer

Billed as “the first desktop water jet”, the sleek hardware combines digital technology with a cocktail of fine particles and high pressure water to cut through virtually any material with a preciseness that rivals that of the human hand. Wazer is to Startup Alley what knife sharpeners are to infomercials: It gets the job done, it seems almost too good to be true, and it’s really, really satisfying to watch in action. And it’s useful, to boot. While consumers are currently enjoying a moment when customized, locally made products are especially hot, more of them can be produced with Wazer—much faster and much more efficiently. On larger scale, it means that from the comfort of their own desk, engineers across all platforms can design and physically build a working, testable prototype in the same day.

LoveNuts

Designed for those who dwell with the prudest of the prude, LoveNuts are vibrators that can only be used when the owner of said nut unlocks the device via their smartphone. In order to “save you from the embarrassment” of someone discovering you’re some sort of sex-toy using monster, the tip features a flashlight. Nothing to see here, just a small, soft, sexy bedside flashlight. It also just so happens to be shaped like a nut. Like an acorn kind of nut. Subtle. 

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