Introducing Free Ventures' Batch XI

FreeV Updates

  1. We successfully wrapped up Batch XI with 5 amazing companies. Register to come to our Demo Day next Monday 7-9pm at The House to see our companies pitch and network with the entrepreneurs and students in the Berkeley community!

  2. Congratulations to the Blitz Esports team (Batch IV) on their acquisition by Discord!

  3. Alexander Kern and Nikhil Srinivasan from Distributed Systems (Batch VI) were featured on Forbes 30 under 30 for Enterprise Technology.

  4. COBA was recently featured on the Korea Times for their work in creating a solid coffee bar.

Read our full article on Batch X. Below are short company introductions.

Batch XI

Atlas Mental Health: Building a K-12 mental health support network to supercharge communities with the knowledge and tools they need to keep each other mentally healthy. Their mobile applications connect parents, students, and schools to prevent student suicides and barriers to getting help for those that need it.

Fourthstate Labs: Blockchain scalability company working on Plasma, a layer 2 solution to reduce transaction fees and increase throughput of blockchains. Plasma allows users to step off the main chain(i.e. Ethereum) onto cheaper and faster side chains where transactions can be conducted. To learn more about their product, read their article on Plasma.

COBA: COBA, the coffee bar, is a solid coffee alternative made from whole coffee beans that empowers busy people to do more. While traditional coffee utilizes only 20% of the coffee bean, their bar utilizes the whole bean and contains the caffeine content of 1 cup of coffee. Read their FreeV Spotlight to learn more about the process of making a bar.

Escape Technologies: Escape is is creating an enhanced augmented reality experience through proprietary optical architecture that will enable a compact, lightweight headset with high shareability and field of view.

Pit Vidura: Pit Vidura offers safe and affordable sanitation services for low-income households in dense urban slums. By developing innovative hardware and software tools, they aim to make emptying pit latrines hygienic, efficient, and affordable. Pit Vidura is backed by Unilever and the Gates Foundation to bring sustainable solutions to sanitation problems in developing countries.

Introducing COBA: The Coffee Bar

FreeV Updates

  1. COBA (Batch XI) launched a Kickstarter campaign and was featured on NowThis Food with over 270k views. Instagram: @coba.coffee & Facebook Page

  2. Rachel Sklar, founder of Pit Vidura (Batch XI), was recently invited to talk at the UN International Trade Centre for their Accelerate 2030 event. Rachel was 1 of 5 social entrepreneurs worldwide selected by UNDP and Impact Hub invited to present their work to various UN agencies and Swiss investors.

COBA—The Coffee Bar

COBA is a coffee startup that is trying to solve many of the inefficiencies in coffee consumption. Their current product is a coffee bar which resembles a chocolate bar in terms of taste and texture. Each bar contains the caffeine equivalent of 1 cup of coffee. 

Their mission is to be ethical and mindful about where coffee comes from and let people feel good about what they’re consuming. 

Q: How did you come up with the idea to create a bar? 

Josh: “Coffee takes 5–6 years to grow in South America. Farmers in Ecuador check the crop every day to make sure the product is perfect and the process is very labor intensive. After the beans arrive in the US, they get roasted and ground up into a drink. Most people don’t know that the coffee grounds thrown out after this process have almost 80% of the caffeine content from the bean. After noticing how inefficient coffee consumption is right now, we wanted to come up with a product that would utilize the full bean.” 

Q: “How did you source the ingredients for the bar? 

Josh: “Peter had some connections in South America. Recently, he went down to Ecuador and met with direct trade coffee farmers. These farmers aren’t big enough to afford certifications, memberships, and fees that bigger entities can pay for. We wanted to develop personal relationships with these farmers because it gives us a more human element to the process. We aren’t just helping our customers who buy the bar, we’re also helping the smaller farmers.”  

Q: Why is this the best way to consume coffee? 

Josh: “The key distinction is that the bar is solid versus drinking a cup of coffee, which is how coffee is usually consumed. Having a bar solves many problems. It’s easier to carry, takes up less space, and utilizes the whole coffee bean.” 

Q: What is your progress in Berkeley, so far? 

Josh: “We had a public crowdfunding campaign when we joined FreeV in September. We were 100% funded in 24 hours. We wanted to focus on Berkeley first because we’re leveraging our personal connections and the Berkeley community to establish a foothold here as our ‘home base’. Since then, we were able to create a second product (COBA Dark) and build relationships with other food startups to set up a supply chain.”

For samples of the bars, check out their Kickstarter campaign. Be sure to read the full article to learn more about COBA and the challenges they faced as student entrepreneurs!

Machine Learning Series: Reinventing Psychiatry

We are excited to have 5 companies in our Batch XI that are in a variety of industries including food, AR, blockchain, and wellness!

Read our full article on Foresight Mental Health and how they use machine leaning to improve patient care in the mental health space. Below are some highlights.

Foresight Mental Health — Reinventing Psychiatry

Almost 1/5 of people in the United States currently have mental health issues. Over 1/2 of adults with a mental illness don’t receive treatment. Demand for psychiatrists is increasing every year but patients are faced with exorbitant fees and long wait times.

Matt and Doug co-founded Foresight Mental Health (Batch VIII), a mental health and wellness clinic in Berkeley. They create customized genetic profiles through genetic testing, symptom profiles, and brain-chemical balance estimates. They factor in mental health history, family history, and lifestyle as well. The Foresight Platform analyzes clinical research and the patient profile to assist your doctor in accurately identifying the optimal treatment. Weekly surveys and practice-issued wearable technology monitor patient health to ensure treatment is effective.  

Q: What are current problems with patient care in the mental health space? 

Matt: “There’s a lot; it’s really a mess. Let’s start by looking at a treatment. There are currently 30 different anti-depressants. Sometimes they work and other times they don’t — and it takes a month to tell if it is even effective. You can imagine a psychiatrist nodding as you talk about your life and sending you out with a script saying ‘see you next month’. You have no idea if it’s going to work; neither do most psychiatrists because of the degree of trial and error psychiatry is forced to use right now. We’re trying to leverage data to improve this process. It is also very difficult to track side effects because of the lack of monitoring done on patients outside of the office. The prescribing method is very detached where psychiatrists check in on patients once a month and hastily prescribe medication based on surface level interactions. There is no effective method to regularly track results.”

Q: How do you provide specific data driven solutions to patients?

Matt: “Right now psychiatrists are often just picking medications out of a hat when determining which medication is best. We spent a lot of time tweaking our algorithm. We interviewed close to 200 psychiatrists trying to figure out how they make prescribing decisions. We built our model on medical guidelines and a database of information each medication. The data includes different factors that influence it, genetics, neurotransmitter estimates, biometrics, etc. Our software can sift through this in real-time. Next, we’re going to integrate a machine learning model into our precision medicine platform to add predictive power as we collect more patient data.”

Q: Where do you see your product moving forward?

Matt: “Imagine as a patient, before you even enter the building, you are diagnosed through an AI-driven chat bot. Your treatment plan is already constructed with sections dedicated to medications and therapy, in addition to exercise, sleep, and diet. When you walk int the office for the first time, you are given a genetic test and your doctor discusses the plan with you for treatment and monitoring.”

Be sure to read the full article to learn more about Foresight Mental Health and the challenges they faced as student entrepreneurs!


Machine Learning Series: Decontaminating Beer

FreeV Summer Updates

  1. Applications for our Fall 2018 Batch XI are open. If you are currently enrolled at UC Berkeley and working on a product or service, we encourage you to apply. Applications are due Friday, September 7th at midnight.

  2. Congrats to Alex Kern and Nikhil Srinivasan from Distributed Systems (Batch VI) on their acquisition from Coinbase!

  3. Congrats to Divy from Paladin Drones (Batch VIII) on becoming a 2018 Thiel Fellow!

Read our full article on Fiat Lux Labs here. Below are some highlights:

Fiat Lux Labs - Decontaminating Beer

Beer is a $111.4 billion market in the US alone. The brewing and fermentation process at a large scale is very complicated and has not changed for hundreds of years. While the tech revolution has greatly influenced manufacturing and production globally, it has left the beer industry undisturbed. Large breweries have always been capital intensive and reliant on manual labor. A group of Cal students are hoping to use an IoT device to improve the brewing and fermentation process. 

Fiat Lux Labs was founded by four Cal students and was part of Free Ventures’ Batch IX in Fall 2017. They built a sensor technology platform that tracks metabolic flux, contamination, and bio mass in the biochemical processing industry. Examples of industry applications are brewing, pharmaceutical manufacturing, and synthetic biology. Using their platform, companies can increase profit margins by 10–15%. 

Q: How did you come up with the idea to decontaminate beer?

Yash: “We were all part of a biochem lab at Cal and had toyed with the idea of making our own beer for fun. I would set up fermentation batches and manually take samples each hour for 48 hour cycles to test for contamination. We quickly realized that contamination was a big problem and began brainstorming solutions. After considering many ideas, we decided building a sensor for a fermentor was the best way to approach the problem. It was a long process, but that’s how we shaped the science into an actual product.”

Q: What is the advantage your tech has over current industry alternatives?

Yash: “Our competitors are mostly providing expensive hardware for biological tests to companies. They have to use the hardware themselves and it gives a binary answer (contaminated or not). Software isn’t really involved. We wanted to abstract the hardware from the user and provide a platform to track much more than just contamination.” 

Q: Why is it difficult to build an ML model in the biochem space?

Yash: “The reason it’s hard to develop this model in the biochem space is that we’re applying ML on experimental data, not just data you can buy. Most other tech companies can buy data from other sources but we have to produce it ourselves and analyze it on top of that. We had started at 70–80% accuracy and we’re constantly working to improve it.”

Be sure to read the full article to learn more about Fiat Lux Labs and the challenges they faced as student entrepreneurs!

Introducing Free Ventures' Batch X

FreeV Updates

  1. We successfully wrapped up Batch X and look forward to seeing what our 6 amazing companies do next!

  2. RoBhat Labs (Batch X) was recently featured on the New York Times for their work in preventing misinformation.

  3. Congratulations to Blake LaFayette, Alice Deng, Daniella Wenger, and Jeffrey Feng from our internal team for graduating!

Read our full article on Batch X here. Below are introductions for each company.

Batch X — Spring ‘18

RoBhat Labs: Using machine learning techniques and cryptography to stop the spread of misinformation. Signed contract with the DNC and frequently feature on MSNBC, Wired, and other outlets. Currently focused on making their product production-ready and doing demos to secure paying clients for the November 2018 elections. Read more in this feature on Wired

Gainful: Personalized protein powder, delivered directly to your doorstep. Since launch 8 months ago, Gainful has been growing revenue by 80% month over month. They did over $55K in revenue in March, have over 1200 active subscribers, and are profitable on each customer’s first purchase. Recently completed YC’s Winter ’18 Batch and is finalizing a target $1M seed round. Learn more in this recent article

MadTech Labs: Developing tertiary hybrid power trains as B2B products to disrupt the transportation market. Two-person founding team with deep industry expertise comprised of a PhD in mechanical engineering and an undergraduate specializing in customer development. To date, they have validated the technology in the lab, and are seeking to scale with customers this year and raise a small seed round. 

Spotlight: Spotlight is a social video app where K-pop fans create and share fun music videos. Users select from a library of songs and record themselves lip-syncing and dancing. They can also add special effects such as augmented reality face stickers. They currently have >100k users (70k MAU) to date with strong engagement metrics, and currently raising a seed round. 

YearBook: A platform seeking to revolutionize the way photos are shared between teachers and parents during early childhood development. YearBook optimizes efficiency by decreasing the distribution efforts required on the teacher’s part while providing an aesthetically pleasing, easy to use platform for parents to view photos of their beloved. Signed initial contracts with customers with intended launch date within the next few months. 

Stealth Mode Startup: Under NDA due to contract with a distributor, this company is working to replace physical ownership with global access while helping consumers realize more utility out of the cost of everyday items. Team of serial founders and hackers with experience at leading companies such as Affirm, Google, Expo and Uber.

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Be sure to read the full article to learn about the challenges our companies faced and new insights into Berkeley startup activity!

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