The energy I felt as I entered the room at Plug and Play’s Internet of Things EXPO was irresistible. I couldn't believe how many people were there, and although it should have felt intimidating, the ‘Unicorns Are Real’ bags laid out at the entrance set the tone for a day filled with incredible ideas from Silicon Valley’s finest. I had been following Plug and Play’s Twitter and hearing about their IoT EXPO for a while now and was excited to see what all the hype was about. Startups were buzzing around preparing for their pitches, judges were examining the presentation tables with curiosity, and invitees were enjoying some care-free socializing. As I moseyed around the room, I had the pleasure of talking to six of the startups before they got up on stage to share their ideas. Their innovative designs and incredible dedication were evident as they explained their platforms to me.
LoteBox was one of the first startups that I bumped into at the IoT EXPO. This Brazilian-based company is committed to making maritime freight shipping more efficient. They explained to me that there is so much time and space wasted with current shipping methods. Spreadsheets and long phone calls are complicated and inefficient, they have come up with new ways to combat this. With their innovative “workflow management system” they have created a step-by-step online system that is much more effective than traditional spreadsheets and easier to use. Their proposal looked promising to me; they could really optimize the maritime market by making consumers like you and me get products faster and cheaper. I had been truly convinced that my future maritime shipment empire was safe in the hands of the LoteBox boys, I glanced over their shoulder to notice a guy laying his head down on his startup podium. Upon closer inspection, it seemed as though he had brought a pillow along with him to the pitch day. Maybe he had had a long night preparing for the expo? I wished the guys luck on their pitch and headed over to see what the napper was up to.
Two tables over, the young man still had his head on the spongy yellow pillow. Was he going to fall asleep? I went over gently poked his arm, he immediately bounced up and outstretched his hand. I shook it and asked him what he was doing, he laughed and said he was demonstrating his product, Nana. Nana is a sleep monitor that slips right under your mattress. He was eager to have me try it out, so I laid my head down on the pillow and it was incredible. You had no idea the mat was there! The paper-thin mat has the ability to monitor all of your vitals without wires or wearables, he said that “people don’t like to wear wires and that’s why this product was designed without them.” Nana analyzes how well you are sleeping and gives you recommendations so you can get the best quality of sleep possible. He said that he really loved this product because not only can you monitor your own sleep, but also the sleep of your loved ones. He wants to make sure that the people he loves are getting a great night’s rest and Nana helps him do that.
Across the room three guys were grinning from ear to ear around their table, it looked like they were having a great time, so I went over to see what all the smiles were about. They eagerly introduced me to their product, Yonomi, and it was no wonder they were smiling. Yonomi is an app that connects all of your smartest technology together so that they work in unison to make your life easier. It can connect your sound systems, TV, alarm clock and nest all from an app on your phone! An app that makes your life easier? What’s not to smile about!
It wasn’t just the startups that were giddy to be at the EXPO. Plug and Play attendees were tweeting about unicorns and receiving exclusive PNP swag.
Next, I had the pleasure of meeting Brett, the co-founder of Notion. When I asked him to tell me about his company, his face lit up. Brett said that Notion started out as the world's best smoke alarm. It was inspired by his partner (and best friend) Ryan’s puppy who went nuts one day because the battery was low on Ryan’s smoke detector and it kept beeping every few seconds while he was at work. Ryan had no idea until he got home and his puppy was in a panic. He thought there has to be a better way to keep people in touch with their homes when they aren’t there. So he teamed up with Brett and they created an innovative home monitoring system. While Brett is telling me this story I’m thinking: “sign me up I want to order one right now!”
A pregnant woman lifting up her shirt was the next thing I noticed. She was showing off a device from Bloom Technologies. The small white device stuck to her belly had the purpose of collecting data to give the expecting mother real time feedback on what was going on with her baby. She told me it was “awesome” knowing what was happening, and that she couldn’t imagine what her pregnancy would be like without it. This is a product that I could see every expectant mother wanting.
Right before the pitches started I had time to catch one more startup, HelloStage. The founder Bernhard Kerres, had an incredible energy emanating from him. You could just tell that he was so excited to be at Plug and Play. His company connects members of the classical music community, the Linkedin of classical music, making it easy for composers, singers and musicians to find each other. Bernhard was very passionate about his company and I think that that is what all people need in their business because if he is passionate his customers will be too. The presentations were about to begin so he gave me an Austrian chocolate and went in to share his ideas with the crowd.
The pitches were starting, I quickly scurried over to the main room to get a seat. The room darkened, and the stage illuminated proudly displaying the Plug and Play logo on the white backboard. Sitting in the audience I had butterflies, I couldn’t even imagine how nervous the startups who were about to pitch were. One by one the startups got up on stage to give their 3-minute pitches. They went off without a hitch, the presenters spoke eloquently and kept my interest. After meeting so many amazing startups and hearing them up on stage I wondered how the panel of judges would be able to pick just three winners! But after some deliberation, the winners were called. In third place, LoteBox, in second place, Bloom Technologies, and in first place Notion.
These three winning startups had platforms that stood out from the rest. Their ideas and designs are what put them at the top of the list for Plug and Play’s IoT EXPO. They made products that can really help people by making their lives simpler and more efficient. The reception wrapped up, and the people tricked out drawing an end to Plug and Plays 2015 IoT EXPO. The startups who were there went back out into the world to make a difference in their customers' lives. The next EXPO is already on my calendar, I can’t wait to see what it has in store.