July 12, 2024
Alchemist Accelerator's latest startups range from sneakernet for energy to solar panel cleaning bots | TechCrunch


This morning is Alchemist Accelerator’s demo day, and there are 22 companies making their debut across a wide range of industries. Whether you’re building a construction business, cleaning solar panels, or exploring quantum computing, there’s something for you here.

Alchemist also announced a partnership with Microsoft under which the latter will provide startups with $350K in Azure credits, presumably a “first one’s free” approach to get them hooked on the services. Especially generative AI stuff, which Microsoft is clearly pushing to be the default provider for.

You can watch all the companies of the 34th class present here or at the bottom of this post starting at 10:30 AM Pacific, but I’ve selected five to highlight ahead of time below.

Critical Loop: “Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of magnetic tapes hurtling down the highway,” someone once said, and the same can be said for a truck full of EV batteries — or at least that’s what Critical Loop believes. The “mobile energy asset management network” will act as a grid balancing agent that can physically add capacity where the existing infrastructure struggles to keep up. Of course it involves a good deal of grid analysis and logistics, but they seem confident that “Sneakernet for power” will have a place in the increasingly decentralized energy economy.

Kara Technologies: Lots of new technologies are powerful enablers in the accessibility space, but there’s also a pernicious preconception that a transcript is sufficient for a deaf person to experience an auditory presentation. ASL interpreters provide an important service with rich, live translation, but they are not always available or practical to use. Kara has developed 3D sign language avatars that can provide this crucial modality in those situations — not replacing interpreters but offering an on-demand alternative when it makes sense, for instance in emergencies or other live, developing situations.

Image Credits: LiveDiagrams

SunnyApp Robotics: If we’re going to keep adding solar capacity at current rates, we’re going to end up with millions of football fields (a standard industry measurement) worth of panels that aren’t getting inspected or cleaned frequently enough. That can seriously affect efficiency, but cleaning them is labor-intensive and uses a lot of water. SunnyApp Robotics (a sub-brand of the installer) makes a cleaning bot that can do the job automatically and using less water, with humans there to oversee and move it from panel to panel. (Incidentally, there’s also a wind turbine monitoring company, Werover, also in the batch.)

Beamlet: Every robot, autonomous vehicle, and increasingly smart home needs sophisticated sensing, but existing solutions don’t always fit the bill. Beamlet has built a new, super-tiny photonic sensor that (from what I can tell) measures Doppler effect on returning light to infer velocity (as well as other physical metrics) with greater precision than other methods. It’s not going to replace the FaceID on your phone, but it could be small and effective enough to be a new go-to sensor in robotics and autonomy.

Image Credits: SunnyApp

LiveDiagrams: The idea of a “Google Maps for cloud infrastructure” probably seems odd until you see what network engineers currently use to navigate the web of services and connections that companies rely on. Presenting this information in a visually comprehensible way, automatically and with live updates, makes this information more accessible and probably improves the sysadmin’s mental health.

Alchemist is also doing a victory lap with some accelerator alumni that have raised money at various stages. The company says its applications are up 70% over last year’s, so if you’re thinking about applying, keep in mind there’s lots of competition.



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