By Miguel Hernández
BU News Service
A billboard system that recognizes and analyzes cars before displaying an ad. A device that patients can take home to monitor their white cell counts. A therapy model for stroke patients using augmented reality.These were among the seven startup proposals heard last Friday Feb. 9th by a panel of judges at the MIT Sloan School of Management, during the 20th edition of the MIT Venture Capital + Innovation Conference.
The contestants were competing for a spot in the final round of the Startup World Cup, in which every regional winner will compete for one million dollars to fund their project.
After the seven presentations at MIT — each lasting around 10 minutes including questions from the judges — Leuko Labs was chosen as the winner.
The product was pitched as a “non-invasive white cell monitor to improve chemotherapy treatment” by Carlos Castro-González, project manager and co-founder at Leuko Labs.
Leuko Labs’ product consists of a small device that is placed on a patient’s fingertips. Through advanced optics, the device can see through the skin and count white blood cells. Normally, determining a patient’s white blood cell count requires drawing blood at a hospital.
“What we want to do is identify early those cases with clinically low white cells before the patient develops an infection so we can have more time for preventive intervention,” said Castro-González. The device would also allow for chemotherapy patients to know, through daily home tests, when they are ready for their next chemotherapy infusion.
Two other startups with health-care solutions competed in the contest: Iterative Scopes and AUGMENTx.
Iterative Scopes offers a novel way of using computer vision during colonoscopies. Using AI-assisted diagnosis, their product helps doctors detect polyps and diagnose colorectal cancer during a colonoscopy.
Karina Abik, a business developer for Iterative Scopes who presented the product, said the technology could be used to train doctors and evaluate their performances, which they are currently exploring.
AUGMENTx offers a therapy program for stroke patients based on augmented reality. Their therapy model uses off-the-shelf augmented reality hardware onto which patients can load their rehabilitation exercises. It would allow stroke patients to undergo neurological rehabilitation in their own homes and at a lower cost.
Albert Kwon, one of the startup’s founders, said they were aiming to set the therapy’s cost at 200 dollars a month.
One advertising startup made its case on Friday: Synaps Labs. They have developed technology that allows billboards to recognize the models and license plates of cars passing by in order to choose the best ad to display at that moment.
“We have given eyes and brains to billboards,” said Alex Pustov, a co-founder of Synaps Labs, which already has 12 billboards operating in Moscow.
Pustov said that they are “very serious about privacy” and explained how a person can opt out of being recognized by their billboards after a question by Daniel Hullah, one of the judges.
“So basically, on the billboard, it says that this system is being powered by Synaps Labs,” Pustov said in response. “Then you can go on the website and put in your license plate and you’ll be opted out.”
The remaining contestants were AirWorks, which uses real intelligence from drones to provide construction workers with better data of their sites; Acciyo, a yet-to-be-launched Chrome extension that provides newsreaders with a timeline of other articles written about the topic they are currently reading about; and Infinite Cooling, which uses technology to make power plants save more water.
The judges for the evening were Hyuk-Jeen Suh, head of Samsung Ventures East Coast; Jennifer Lum, Angel Investor and Startup advisor and cofounder of Forge.AI; Catherine Ulrich, Managing Director at FirstMark Capital; Daniel Hullah, Managing Director at GE Ventures; and Geoff Ralston, Founder of Imagine K12, a startup accelerator for educational ventures.
The competition was held as the final event of MIT’s Venture Capital + Innovation Conference. The grand finale for the Startup World Cup will be held on May 11th at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in San Francisco where the winners of each regional event will face off.