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Northside 2015: iLost, Flic take pitch competitions

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By Brian T. Horowitz, Editor and Contributing Writer

At the Northside Innovation Conference in Brooklyn, New York, European and Nordic startups showed off their latest technology in an attempt to win over investors. Innovations ranged from a cloud lost-and-found platform to chip-based medical diagnostics and wireless smart buttons.

A June 11 “Heart of Europe” pitch competition featured companies from Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland. Judging the “Heart of Europe” pitch event were Thomas Wisniewski, a managing director at RosePaul Ventures; Tanya Menendez, chief marketing officer and co-founder at Maker’s Row; and Anthony Ha, a writer at TechCrunch. Elliot Tomaeno, founder of Astrsk PR, which focuses on early-stage tech startups, moderated the event.

‘The Google of lost and found’

In the “Heart of Europe” competition, the judges chose iLost, a Netherlands-based company, as the winner. It provides a search engine to help people track lost items.

In her presentation, Hanneke Stegweg (above), founder of iLost, referred to the online platform as the “Google of lost and found.”

The site allows people and public venues to post where they’ve found items, whether it’s at a hotel, an amusement park or on a train or bus. Users can have an item delivered back home the next day.

About one-third of found items on the platform are returned to their owners, Stegweg noted.

Although many items that owners report lost have financial value, others are simply “emotional” items or “irreplaceable,” Stegweg said.

Participating in the pitch competition allowed Stegweg to make plenty of connections among investors and mentors to help iLost make a start in the U.S. market, she said.

“It’s the best kickoff for the U.S. market that I can imagine,” Stegweg told Power More.

Stegweg says iLost seeks $2 million from investors in the United States.

The ability to share knowledge with other startups at the conference will prove valuable, according to Stegweg.

“It’s a wonderful way to show what the Netherlands has to offer in terms of startups, and combined with Belgium and Switzerland that’s a nice opportunity,” Stegweg said.

Other finalists at the “Heart of Europe” competition include Flatev and 1Drop Diagnostics. Flatev, short for flat-bread evolution, uses a pod-based machine to turn a 20-minute process of making tortillas into a one-minute process, according to Carlos Ruiz, co-founder, CEO and chairman. The company isseeking $1.5 million in Series A funding.

Meanwhile, 1Drop Diagnostics pitched how it plans to revolutionize lab testing with technology that involves taking a fingerprick of blood and inserting it onto a chip, said Luc Gervais, CEO and founder of 1Drop Diagnostics.

The company wants to send the chips to space to blood-test astronauts on the International Space Station. 1Drop can customize biomarkers to detect prostate and cervical cancer. It expects to have a new product on the market by 2016 with a final point-of-care device by 2018, Gervais said.

Nordic competition and the ‘Quantified Self’

The pitch competition that followed the “Heart of Europe” session featured startups from Scandinavia. Judges included Dan Teran, co-founder at Managed by Q, which provides a mobile platform for office management; Brittany Laughlin, general manager at venture-capital firm Union Square Ventures; and Caitlin Kenney, managing producer at podcast company Gimlet Media.

Swedish startup Shortcut Labs won out among the competition because of its Flic innovative wireless smart button, a device that’s part of the Internet of Things phenomenon.

Founder Joacim Westlund came up with the idea for Flic when he needed a way to quit smoking Snus, the Swedish form of tobacco. Westlund designed a mobile app to include a button he can tap whenever he smoked the tobacco. He then designed a button people could wear and connected it wirelessly to the mobile app.

“It was so hard because he was doing it all the time — he had to unlock the phone and pull up the screen,” Pranav Kosuri, co-founder and CCO of Shortcut Labs, told Power More. “It should be as easy as pushing a button so that’s where the idea originated.”

The wireless button has functionality based on the “Quantified Self” idea, in which people can record data from various aspects of daily life, including medication regimens and smart home controls. The wearable button connects to a mobile app to allow users to control lights, play music, order food and sound a distress signal.

In addition, the button could even be used to allow lumberjacks to count trees.

For Laughlin, Flic satisfied the “total package” she and the other judges were looking for.

“I think Flic is something people immediately think of as a use case they could use, and I think they did a good job presenting that,” Laughlin told Power More. “It’s something that I want to go out and buy right away.”

Presenters at the Nordic competition also included Nelli Lähteenmäki (pictured at top), co-founder and CEO of YouApp, a wellness app that inspires people to take “micro-actions” rather than making changes all at once.

The Northside pitch competitions showed a high level of innovation from the European and Nordic region.

“I think if this is the quality of companies that are in the Nordics, we should make sure that people from New York are getting on a plane to go over there to meet companies, too,” Laughlin said. “We shouldn’t just make them come here, because it was fantastic quality.”

Check out our interview with investor David S. Rose and additional coverage from the Northside Innovation Festival below.

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