Free Ventures Spring 2015

These are the teams for UC Berkeley startup accelerator Free Ventures, which helps startups in various stages of development.

The demo day for all teams’ projects is coming up! Get your tickets here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/uc-berkeleys-free-ventures-spring-2015-demo-day-tickets-16495202595

C. Light Technologies

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UC Berkeley graduate students Christy Sheehy and Zach Helft believe the answer to Alzheimer’s disease lies in the eye. Alzheimer’s, along with many other neurological disorders, can be diagnosed through the observation of irregular eye movements – yet current diagnostic tools are invasive and inaccurate. To that end, they have developed a precision eye tracker, which is almost 150 times more accurate than current eye-tracking equipment. Such a tool could significantly improve Alzheimer’s treatment by allowing doctors to diagnose the disease earlier. While a cure for Alzheimer’s does not yet exist, early detection would be invaluable in slowing the progression of the disease with current treatment methods and also allow patients and their families to better prepare themselves for the emotional toll of the disease.

Motivated by an aunt suffering from Alzheimer’s, Sheehy began to work on her eye-tracking device as part of her dissertation in the Vision Science program. She later partnered with Helft, who brought his previous knowledge of eye-tracking hardware to the team with his work on restoring the vision of blind mice. Since then, Helft and Sheehy have finished their prototype and are now looking to secure funding for further improvements. Eventually, they hope to put their device into the hands of general practitioners, who will use it in the yearly physicals that they perform.

Wist

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It’s 2015, why wait? We can hail a taxi, order delivery and reserve a hotel room straight from our phones and over the Internet, so why can’t we make a reservation at a restaurant? This is the idea behind Wist, a startup created by Kevin Xie, Albert Chau and Stefan Tian. The team has developed an app that allows the user to remotely join a restaurant wait list and receive an estimated wait time, so they can arrive right on time. While it seems as if such a system is obvious, restaurants have been hesitant to accept remote-join systems because they believe that ease of use will lead to more no-shows. Wist hopes to change that perception with a machine-learning algorithm that will take into account the possibility of no-shows to offer the most accurate wait time possible. By moving away from a reservation system, Wist will also allow restaurants to fill empty tables reserved for no-shows.

With three restaurants in Berkeley already using Wist, the team hopes to spread the app by simply replacing the pen and paper waitlist with an iPad and then relying on the customers who use Wist to encourage the restaurant to accept remote-joining. By spreading it through customers instead of restaurants, they think they can overcome restaurants’ general unwillingness to accept new technology. Their goal, as they state, is to “provide the benefits of planning ahead without having to.”

Improving Outcomes

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When his mother needed surgery, Francis Wong found it hard to recommend a surgeon to her, even though he was a doctor. His mother wanted to know how long it would take for her to return to gardening after surgery, but most doctors simply did not have that information – and current online solutions, such as the Electronic Medical Record, were outdated and could not provide relevant information to patients. Realizing that online reviews for doctors were hard to understand, Wong decided to start his own platform to help patients make informed decisions about their doctors and know what to expect. From this idea, he founded Improving Outcomes with Aparna Dhinakaran and Christian Le.

Improving Outcomes provides clinically validated online surveys to patients after their care to give them a better idea of their outcomes after treatment. Answers are then consolidated and used to better predict patient outcomes. As with any big data implementation, Improving Outcomes will use machine-learning algorithms, handled by Dhinakaran, to process the data received. This data can not only be used to predict outcomes, but also to predict correlations in treatments, providing the medical community with an opportunity to see how their treatments will affect different patients. Improving Outcomes has a working prototype and is currently working on achieving HIPAA (doctor-patient privacy) compliance.

Rooster

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The founders of Rooster, Tali Saar and Gil Lederman, describe it as a “local sharing community.” Where other local communities, such as Craigslist and Nextdoor, focus on buying and selling, Rooster is solely focused on sharing and borrowing for free – no money allowed. Tali and Gil believe that offering goods for free, as well as offering your help when you can, will “open up” communities and help build a support network in the age of social media.

Rooster has proved successful in smaller communities such as Palo Alto, its pilot community. As a web app, it will leverage existing trust in Facebook and email accounts to verify members and build physical trust between them. However, Rooster does not desire to be a traditional social media platform. In contrast, Saar and Lederman believe that sharing goods in the local community makes stronger connections possible and builds support groups that exist outside of an online setting.

Instant Esports

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Esports, professional video gaming, is a fast-growing industry with an infrastructure that rivals that of traditional sports. It boasts organized leagues and big-name sponsors that engage fans all over the world. Instant Esports hopes to be the “ESPN of esports” by bringing all esports information into one place. Co-founders Rick Ling, Sebastian Merz and Jonathan Lin are all diehard esports fans who know that finding articles and information about your favorite teams means that you have to visit several different sites. With Instant Esports, they aim to deliver a curated esports experience that brings together a myriad of different esports blogs and player statistics.

Instant Esports has already released an iOS app to track League of Legends games that draws upon the game’s official API – it already has over 14,000 downloads. In the same way, the first release of Instant Esports will rely on Reddit and Twitter integration, instead of trying to foster its own community early on. However, as Instant Esports grows, it will go beyond official APIs in developing its own systems for tracking player stats and eventually hope to establish itself as the central hub for esports discussion. The team also has hopes to expand to East Asia, traditionally the home of esports. Above all, by bringing esports information into a single place, Instant Esports hopes to create fans of esports as a whole, instead of fans that just follow a single game.

Zypper

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In an entrepreneurship class, Zad Kargaran, Jonathon Wu, Hao Guan and Lucy Chen were tasked with disrupting the analyst industry. What they discovered in their research was a way to perhaps eliminate the need for an analyst entirely, or at the very least, disrupt an analyst’s workflow. All businesses use RFPs (Request for Proposals) to find out about potential vendors for their products. These are lengthy documents that are shunted through several different departments of a company – a fragmented process that’s incredibly time-consuming. Zypper hopes to innovate this process by bringing together all aspects of the RFP and providing a single platform to which all departments can contribute.

More than just streamlining the process, Zypper hopes to also make it more transparent. While maintaining company privacy, Zypper will aggregate data and create scores to show companies how they measure up and, from there, see how they can improve their service for the next proposal. This system can also be used to track trends in the many industries that Zypper caters to. RFPs are already created and filled out on electronic platforms, but this is legacy software that requires training to use. Zypper hopes to convert traditional-minded companies to their easy-to-use software.

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