Audio & Transcript

I'm Matt Joseph, and this is episode 14 of the SuperConnector podcast. We are covering 10 of the most interesting startups that raised venture capital in the last week, two minutes per startup, we're covering industries like robotics, gaming, clean tech, alternative foods, and education. Let's jump into it.

So first up is the bot company, Now the bot company has raised 150 million from a bunch of really well known investors.

We're building bots that do chores so you don't have to. Everyone is busy, bots can help. Our team has spent years building robots, including the self driving kind that give people some of that time back.

And we're taking that a step further with this company.

that is from Kyle Vogt. Now, Kyle is a fascinating figure in Silicon Valley. Kyle's already sold a couple of companies for a billion dollars in Twitch and Cruise.

Going through Twitch, I, Twitch was, was, and is today pretty successful, but the result was entertainment mostly like the, the better the product was, the more we would entertain people and then, you know, make money on the ad revenues and other things. And that was, that was a good thing.

It felt, felt good to entertain people, but I figured like, you know, what is really the point of becoming a really good engineer and developing these skills other than, you know, my own enjoyment. And I realized I wanted something that scratched more of an existential itch, like something that, that truly matters.

it had to have a direct and positive impact on society in some way. So example would be like, you know, healthcare.

Self driving cars because they save lives other things where there's a clear connection to somehow improving other people's lives and Then it just sort of light bulb went off like self driving cars like that That was the most fun I had ever had in college working on that.

So after that light bulb went off, I went all in on cruise immediately and got to you have a feeling that he's probably going to do something big with this one. They want to make robots that do household chores for everyday people.

It's interesting that he chose this space because he's going to be going up against companies like

Figure AI, which has raised hundreds of millions of dollars already.

(Add video of figure robot) His co founders aren't quite as accomplished as he is, but they are powerhouses in their own right.

(Add photo of all bot founders if possible with text on the other side)

Vogt founded the startup with Paril Jain, who led the AI tech team at Tesla, and former Cruise software engineer, Luke Hollebeck.

Their website literally tells us nothing, but I kind of like the fact that they raised 150 website that looks like they threw it up in 10 seconds.

The only way to interpret this is that robotics is hot right now and founders who have had successes in robotics before, like these guys, are going to have no trouble raising money. Now, can they actually build these kinds of robots? We'll see, but I wouldn't bet against them. Up next, Lucid Bots out of Y Combinator's Summer 19 batch has raised 9 million to expand its line of cleaning drones into other dirty jobs.

You know, I really started this company just from a place of genuine human concern. We saw these people hanging off the sides of buildings, well above ground from things like lifts, ladders, scaffolds, you name it. And we just thought to ourselves, how has no one found a way to use existing technology to make this a safer job?

Getting up on a ladder. It's dangerous as hell. Last year, over half a million people went to the ER from ladder related falls. So we're like, we want to find a way to leverage drone technology to make this safer.

I remember we used to. Do our soft wash, uh, cleaning with drones is batching and 35 gallon trash cans that I fit into the back of a sedan. And we picked up from Lowe's. So those were their early days of lucid proving that drones could clean buildings and it's evolved a bit since then.

now, Andrew's a fascinating character. It seems like he's accomplished a lot at a young age. Here's what it says about him on Y Combinator's website.

(Split out a picture of Andrew against the YC Website)

Andrew graduated with a double major from Davidson College in just three years while playing a D1 sport, working three jobs, and founding Lucid.

So he founded this company coming straight out of school, and he was a very busy man in the process.

But he's also going up against some pretty stiff competition. Here's what TechCrunch said about that.

Drones are an industry where some big players fly in.

Amazon has a lock on delivery drones, even though it's not going to deliver in California anymore. Google DoorDash also tried to get in on that.

I can't take this article seriously.

There's also drones that are being used for aerospace and military purposes.

But even though they have a lot of competition, these guys are actually making money.

Lucid Bots did just over three and a half million dollars in revenue in 2023. Nine million dollars isn't a whole lot of money, given who they're going up against, but they have a great founder, and it seems like they're on a torrid pace.

Up next, mimic Robotics raised two and a half million dollars to build humanoid robot hands.

Now the lede here seems to be that this company is based in Switzerland, Spinning out from the research university, ETH Zurich. mimic was founded by researchers Elvis Nava, Stephan Weirich, Stephan Daniel Gravert, and Benedict Foray in 2024. The founding team were working at the intersection of robotics and AI under Professor Robert Katchman's Soft Robotics Labs.

And we also have a picture here of the founders. All nice guys, all very European looking.

The problem they seem to be solving is related to labor shortages. They basically want to supplement the work of laborers with these humanoid hands.

They claim that these humanoid hands will be able to mimic any, hence the name, any work done by a human just by observing them.

This marks a departure from conventional robotic solutions which focus on being purpose built for narrow use cases.

We designed our robot to mimic a human hand so it fits in our world instead of redesigning the world to fit with our robot, says co founder Elvis Nava.

And here we have a picture of the robot holding a croissant. I guess that's helpful. They're saying that this is being used to package and sort bread in a bakery.

The lack of a focus is a yellow flag, if not a red flag with this startup. It's not to say they won't build some cool technology, but it's very hard to commercialize things when you don't have a specific customer in mind.

I mean, they've thrown out a bunch of different types of customers who they say have approached them.

(Replace Matt with an image)

We've got supermarkets, industrial baking, gastronomy, manufacturing, recycling, and pharmaceutical lab automation.

At this stage in the company, they don't need to pick a specific focus yet, but they're going to have to figure that out pretty soon. It's going to change what they develop.

Up next, Yellow raised 5 million dollars from a16z for its 3D modeling tool for gaming applications.

Yellow is almost like ChatGPT for 3D modeling. You write in a single line of text and then it comes up with a 3D model based on what you say. And that could be really helpful when you're developing games.

They have a video here and we're going to play it

for our listeners, what's happening is they type in a line of text. You see the 3d model swirling around and then they type more text to edit it.

It's very similar to what you would do with chat GPT.

The problem with yellow is solving is that it takes a lot of time and a lot of money to make 3D renderings.

So they're helping out the 3D artists who help to build the renderings for video games and other creative applications.

With its yellow sculpt tool, artists can generate clean pre rigged 3D character meshes based on a text prompt in under three minutes.

It's interesting that a16z funded this.

Andrew Chen is leading their games fund. He actually, I think, is now based down in LA and he's been commuting back and forth between San Francisco. They have an accelerator.

(Insert photo of the founders)

Seems like a pretty cool company and it speaks to the growth of both a16z and these former Googlers.

Next up we got four clean tech companies. Now I couldn't decide which ones of these I liked the most so I just kept them all. Hysata raised 111 million for green hydrogen electrolyzers. Now we're going to get into exactly what that is.

It's basically a machine that uses electricity to split water into oxygen and hydrogen, and they do it with renewable energy sources. So it's green.

Now, the reason that hydrogen is exciting is because it can be a replacement for fossil fuels.

So for things like the production of steel and cement, or even as a replacement for gas,

The only by product from using hydrogen as a fuel is oxygen.

Founded in 2021 by Dr. Paul Barrett, electrolysis expert Gary Swiggers, and renewables guru Tom Campy, Hysata has designed a new kind of electrolyzer.

And here we've got a nice picture of the founders walking in unison. They're based in Australia. And I think what they're doing is pretty cool here.

The challenge with existing electrolyzers is that they are inefficient. A lot of the electrical energy is not converted into chemical energy in the form of hydrogen gas. We knew that reducing the electrical resistance was the key to increasing efficiency. So we started with a clean sheet of paper and tackled those resistances head on.

This led us to our core invention, a very simple, elegant design based around a wicking membrane that allows targeted delivery of liquid between the two electrodes. Our design allows for bubble free operation and collapses the resistance in the cell. A green hydrogen industry will not be economical at scale without a step change in electrolyzer efficiency.

Efficiency is the key to getting a low levelized cost of hydrogen.

As per the company, it is 20 percent more efficient than existing technology and makes it faster, simpler, and more affordable to transition to renewables. It has the potential to transform sectors such as steel, chemicals, high grade heat, and heavy transport with its product.

So there are already a bunch of electrolyzers on the market. But the claim here is that Hysata has created an electrolyzer that's much more efficient than the others that are in the market.

There was a lot of hype around the potential for hydrogen powered cars a few years back. That all died down once Tesla took off, but who knows?

Maybe we'll see some more of these things in the future.

Up next, Li Industries raised 36 million dollars to recycle lithium ion batteries. So this essentially sits on the back of the rise of lithium ion batteries for electric vehicles.

The company intends to use the funds to construct a 10, 000 ton recycling facility powered by proprietary direct electrode to electrode technology.

So these guys already have two factories where they recycle batteries. One that's at 500 tons, the other one's at 1, 000 tons. So this is a big step up to 10, 000.

So we've got four co founders here. Zeng Li. Nolan Schmidt, Henry Han and David Young.

They all have pretty deep experience in the battery universe, but I just think it's hilarious that they named the company after the CEO.

I think they would argue that the Li is maybe from lithium instead, but who are we playing here?

I don't mean to make light of Dr. Lee.

I mean, he's a big shot in the battery world. He was at MIT and Virginia tech, and he's developed a bunch of technologies that have gone on to become companies.

So he knows what he's doing.

Up next, Rainmakers raised $6.3 million to make it rain. Literally to create clouds.

Now there's so many different parts of this startup that I think are interesting, but I have to start with this

(Scroll down to the photo in the article)

picture of the founder and CEO Augustus Doricko.This guy looks like Joe Dirt

and for the Gen Zers, that's a movie that came out 20 plus years ago with a guy who had a famous mullet. Cloud seeding is a weather modification technique that seeks to introduce ice nuclei to clouds, causing precipitation to form. In short, making it rain.

Now the reason that we'd want to do this is because of climate change. There are lots of areas around the U. S. and around the world, frankly,

That are getting much less rain at times that they expect rain causing all the plant and animal life to die. So we need more rain clouds in places that are being starved by droughts.

Now we might end up going a little bit over the two minutes on this one But I have to play this clip from an interview by our mulleted founder. Augustus Doricko.

I originally wanted to be a naval test pilot, um, at the Naval Academy because the demographic that's most frequently selected for astronaut school are naval test pilots. Um, and the reason why I wanted to be a naval test pilot and to become an astronaut was because I sort of bought into like this Aristotelian and also like Neil deGrasse Tyson, um, perspective of the world.

Just acquiring knowledge because if we don't have the answers to things we just need to get farther out and expand human civilization So we have more time and information to think about the answers like deep philosophical problems. What's the nature of reality? What's the meaning of life?

When we were going out to raise and, you know, we ended up with some great investors that, um, are risk tolerant and are bullish. Um, but a lot of people were like, man, you've got like five independent things that you have to technically de risk. And I was like, yeah, yeah, yeah, exactly. Um, but that being said, the foremost thing that we have to solve, definitively solve is differentiating between super cold water and ice on radar.

god. It's incredible. Augustus Doricko, everybody. This is why we do this podcast.

Up next, electricity maps raised 5 million euros to optimize the time usage of electricity for a grid that is now including intermittent energy from renewables.

That's a mouthful, but basically what's happening is Now in the EU, lots of countries are getting energy that is renewable. It's intermittent in when it's available, right?

So like solar power, you can't get it at all times. If you're supplying the grid with solar power, you need some way to match the demand and the supply.

And that is exactly what electricity maps is doing.

The platform enables businesses to build products that use electricity when it is cheaper and cleaner. Current use cases range from cleaner AI computations and data centers to more sustainable charging of electric vehicles to granular carbon accounting practices.

(Add Matt back in, with article segment calling out profitability)

And apparently they've been profitable for years. They don't actually even need this money.

Now the product is really cool.

You can zoom in to any state in the U. S., for example, and see by different counties, it looks like, exactly how much carbon is being used.

Electricity Maps started from an itch to know more about electricity production and consumption. There were articles in the press saying that Denmark ran on 100 percent renewable energy for a day. So I was wondering whether this was true and how long it lasted. How many hours in a day, Olivier Corradi told TechCrunch.

So Olivier is French and Danish. and he's a data scientist. So it's not really surprising that he's doing this.

And we have a clip of Olivier discussing electricity maps. Here we go.

So the future is electric. That means that any corporation in the world that uses electricity will have to disclose, at a granular level, their carbon footprints. We certainly hope that Electricity Map can help these customers reduce their footprint and reach their targets.

My name is Olivier Corati and I'm the CEO and founder of ElectricityMap. So the origin of the electricity you have in your power plug actually changes a lot during the day and depending on the various circumstances. So for example, on a windy day, you will have potentially a lot of wind energy coming in.

Coming into that power plug. So over a day, you can have very, very big differences in where the electricity comes from. Electricity map provides an API that can enable our customers to know what is the carbon footprint of the electricity they use at a specific time and at a specific location. Google is using our technology in their data centers.

So their data centers are exhibiting some flexibility because of all the AI computation jobs they're running. So we provide Google with a forecast. Of in the next day, when is the best time to do those calculations to reduce the footprint? And they use that information to make sure that all those calculations happen when the wind blows or the sun shines in the end We hope that we will enable any company to disclose their carbon footprint with a very granular level And that every company in the world will be able to reach their climate targets by utilizing our technology.

Really cool company doing important work.

Up next. Voyage Foods has raised 52 million for cocoa free chocolate, bean free coffee, peanut free peanut butter, and more.

I feel like this company absolutely nailed its one liner because that is just a very intriguing way to describe what you're doing.

So to summarize the problem here, a lot of those products I just mentioned come with allergies. So there are people who just can't eat them, you know? There are some people who are allergic to peanuts.

So they need some sort of solution that doesn't have peanuts in it if they want peanut butter.

But it's also about the environmental cost. You see, a lot of those products use a ton of resources.

Here's the CEO, Adam Maxwell, talking about why he started the company.

Working in food tech, I was in the Bay Area, which, you know, if you go in 10 miles in any direction, there's like 20 plant based meat companies, right? And looking around and it's just, you know, there are a million plant based meat companies, million plant based milk companies, all the plant based chicken nugget companies.

And when you look at these things as like, Businesses, not just startups. Like there seemed like there was just something missing, right? Uh, a lot of these even mature companies now have, you know, terrible margins and cost of goods and scalability problems, uh, aren't actually tackling some like the consumer needs.

But, you know, I think some of this stuff really isn't necessarily better for the environment. so you can see that his rationale was that he wanted to make an environmentally safe alternative foods company. Now we covered another startup that's doing alternative foods last week in Meati Foods,

and they have the exact same problem. We haven't yet seen a business that's figured it out. But from what we can see from voyage, It looks like they're on a good track.

Last month, Cargill became the exclusive B2B distributor for Voyage Foods cocoa free chocolate portfolio.

This week Voyage launched its first B2B partnership with Rudy's Rocky Mountain Bakery. A new pocket sandwich made with a single piece of hollowed out bread that features Voyage's peanut free spread.

Love what they're trying to do. I hope that it all works out for them.

Up next, the Milan based ed tech startup Futura has raised 14 million euros to create personalized learning paths for students using artificial intelligence.

So the problem here is pretty straightforward. There's a ton of students who are in classes where they don't get any kind of personalized teaching. And so the idea is that you're going to use AI to give them that personalization.

Students are already using things like ChatGPT to do this, but Futura is trying to formalize that learning track.

The algorithm replicates the experience of working with a highly skilled private professor. Students using Futura have a 3.5 times higher chance of passing tests than traditional learning methods.

And we've got a photo of the founding team, Lorenzo Pinto, Andrea Ciroli, Francesco Salvatore, Remco Wiseman. These guys are very European.

Now I wanted to cover this one because I think this is the future of education. It makes so much sense in the world to me that students are going to start using these kinds of platforms to learn because, frankly, teachers are overextended. They don't have time to give every student individualized learning.

The challenge that they're going to have is that there's a lot of companies out there, which are already in schools, all of which are thinking heavily about how they integrate artificial intelligence.

There are services like canvas, blackboard, Google classroom. There's just a lot of these guys floating around. But by going after the European market, they might actually be able to get a foot in the door.

I'm excited by the future of education. I hope you are as well.

And Buona Fortuna to the Futura team.

That is it. 10 startups, five different industries, a little bit more than two minutes per, but we're working on it. Thank you for listening. Thank you for watching. And we will see you again soon.

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