The top 50 startups to discover at Web Summit 2021
The first of November sees the return of Web Summit to the Altice Arena, Lisbon. As the world takes tentative steps away from restrictions imposed by the virus, events have resumed and have been attended with enthusiasm. Whilst for many it will be too soon, thousands are heading for the Portuguese capital.
In 2018 over 70,000 attended the annual conference; working out which growth and start-up companies to talk to is a real challenge. The huge exhibition halls have a changing array of businesses each day. Even when you do find a business that you feel you should talk to, finding time can be hard! Founders and leaders find themselves fielding hundreds of questions.
So to help you I’ve spent some time going through the featured startups on Web Summit website (1,500 of them!), and have picked my top-50 to look out for! This is not a list reflecting the best businesses, merely the companies I feel are doing something different and attention worthy. I’d be shocked if we don’t hear more from one or two of them in the coming years!
A company that turns Co2 back into rocks, that sounds frankly fascinating (and likely to intellectually floor me in a conversation).
Edge AI, video and education. Soft skills are so important, and any company looking to help develop them using data has got to be worth listening to.
I love films, and I love film music. So when I see that a composer is using AI to score films I ask, “why?” and “aren’t you worried about your profession?”
AI-powered remote alcohol monitoring. I’m really glad I’m tee-total…
Helping to combat mental health with connections based on shared experiences. I have a lot of heart for that concept.
Self-management platform for the 1 in 3 of us (me included) with a chronic disease.
An AI agreement app that helps you get stuff for free using the skills you have. Surely not?
Saving and transmitting digital assets for the future. I’ve seen a few ideas like this, and it’s a nice idea. We all like a well curated photo album right?
A digital native speaker in your pocket. Perfect, because I give it a go, but I’m generally rubbish when I’m in an environment where English isn’t widely spoken. Or, will it make me lazy?
The tagline simply says “turning sunlight into seafood”, and that alone has me invested. The website looks great too!
A combination of using organoid structures and AI to help patients. Any advances in this field using AI is another step forward worth celebrating.
We’ve seen Cowspiracy, well here is AI being used to reduce farming carbon emissions by 33%! Although how AI stops cows farting is beyond me.
Not only will you find out the environmental impact of your clothing choices, but you’ll be presented with more sustainable alternative choices.
A knowledge-sharing platform bridging youngsters and academia. It’s adaptive, uses AI, and the videos are 3 minutes. Sounds like a platform fit for a mobile first generation.
A network of investors and mentors to help you raise funds, grow sales and talent.
Sustainable weight-loss. Bespoke nutrition. Algorithmic approach. Either every buzzword in the book or genuinely brilliant.
You can make compatible friends across communities using AI to understand your personality and social preferences.
Smart acoustic technology is being used to save water ‘one megalitre at a time’. Better than humans hunting for leaks!
When your team does well, you give to charity. As a Newcastle fan I might not give too much, so I might have to support a *sightly* more successful team!
An IOT-as-a-service startup taking advantage of the falling costs of tech and satellite technology.
A data driven solution to track hormonal health.
Using virtual reality to find creative mental health solutions.
A cloud-based library full of diseases’ nano-scale markers and biological profiles that promises to offer personalised medicine.
Of all the profiles I’ve read, this one makes me ask ‘what?’ more than any other. A neuroscience backed self reflection app that facilitates growth via video interactions… with our future self.
The OhMyG - silent sex toys that break stigma. Porn and violence is creeping into the bedroom, so let’s have a serious conversation about sex and place women first. If it makes many men uncomfortable, it’s probably doing the right thing!
An AI baby sleep tracker. I’ve seen what babies do to people’s lives; the world needs this. Parents need this.
Invest in what you love via factional investing. Stuff like wine, or Pokemon cards (apparently). Still, global markets are on a knife-edge, this might be an idea made for our times!
The FitBit for mental health. Sounds snazzy and potentially very significant if it delivers on that tagline. Anything to break stigma is good.
Taking solar lighting to low-income communities, and improving energy efficiency.
Just imagine if photos could talk, what would they say? Mine would say, “Christ mum, what the hell is this hair cut?”
A service to help students know what careers they might pursue, and how to get there. Cultural capital can be in short supply, so this is a big help in social mobility.
Empowering women through travel. Given the awful attacks on women in our society here in the UK (and particularly London) this is a start-up with a valuable mission.
“Radically changing the way we learn”; as we come out of enforced isolation I feel retrospective looks at education should absolutely be part of the conversation.
Micro-lender for the unbanked for Mongolia. Given the amount of people who struggle, especially accessing credit, this sounds like a potential game-changer if also done responsibly.
A female-led sexual health platform offering education, telehealth and home testing to provide security, privacy and control. And the best name at Web Summit.
A guilt free way to enjoy fashion! Now you can rent your look and monetize your wardrobe. I suspect this doesn’t apply to me…
What’s the percentage of your ownership? Should hours worked equate to that percentage? In ‘Ownership’ the team logs hours to create a ‘fair ownership’ model. Interesting, but is time the best measurement?
Dubbing video content into any language using AI that sounds human.
Do you want to live a greener life but don’t know which brands align to your beliefs? Now you can use this online platform to make informed choices.
Personal longevity recommendations from just a drop of urine. I suspect it’d say, “David, put down the cake.” Hopefully not the next Theranos, but potentially very interesting!
AI-driven virtual power plants. I love this idea! Instead of building expensive and dirty power stations we are sustainable and utilize what we have better. Loved the website!
Another one I loved when I hit the website, mainly for the cute graphics (sorry). However, we all know entry requirements post-Covid are complex and confusing, and so Safescore sounds life-saving. But will it have longevity?
A social fitness app! I love Strava, and this sounds like it goes a step further. I’ve pre-registered!
My wife was an actor. Early in our relationship she had to ‘do’ a west-country accent (a niche British accent for international readers) for a play, and had dinner with my friend from that region. She got the part. Now there is an app where people can record their accent for others to learn from. Plus we can save a library of accents (they’re vanishing). Love this.
Using AI and data to make the world greener with vegetation intelligence at scale!
They’re looking for start-ups to take part in a reality TV show where viewers form part of the narrative. Could disrupt funding, and educate people on the realities of start-up life. Could be a disaster. I’m thoroughly intrigued.
Instant mental health screening and passive measurement. Anything to help protect people and stop self-harm is to be lauded.
A micro-blogging platform that allows you to get adverts on store-fronts and ads around a city.
This is a digital innovation platform dedicated to the management of chronic diseases and health literacy. Something I understand and fully support.
Making hiring Zen with a hyper-realistic and interactive AI recruiter. My first thought was “you haven’t spent much time around many recruiters if you think ‘zen’ is realistic”, but the industry has been talking about this for some time now…
These are just my top 50, but I hope to capture time with a few whilst I’m on the ground in Lisbon. Reading through the blurbs set off as many questions as it answers. One thing that is striking is the application of AI to so many challenges, and the focus on sustainability, education, health and mental well-being. This is a conference in the shadow of Covid.
I hope to see you there!