2010′s Innovative Dozen: The XSITE Xpo Showcase Companies
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Promethean Power Systems
This startup came to our attention in April when we rounded up the smaller startup financings from the month before, and I’m looking forward to seeing it in action. Promethean Power Systems is applying solar power to food transportation and storage, particularly in developing countries. The Cambridge-based startup was a runner-up in MIT’s $100K Entrepreneurship Competition in 2007 and is out to eliminate the need for expensive diesel-powered generators in keeping perishable food cold while in transit. Its product also has applications on countries with unreliable electricity.
I first heard about Somerville, MA-based Sproxil when it nabbed some area awards earlier this month. First, it got honors at MITX’s Technology Awards. Then, it took the title at IBM’s SmartCamp, a day-long bootcamp for companies in “smart” tech, a field that brings IT to areas of the physical world you might not expect, like parking, water monitoring, and making plans with friends while traveling. For Sproxil, that particular realm of the physical world is medicine packaging in developing nations. The company has developed a “mobile product authentication” service to prevent consumers from purchasing counterfeit drugs, a big problem plaguing countries like Nigeria, Sproxil’s current target market. The system works with medicine that is packaged with scratch-off labels that reveal an item-unique code. Customers then text that code to Sproxil, which confirms whether or not the item is the real thing. The technology could ultimately translate to other consumer products threatened by knockoffs, CEO Ashifi Gogo said at his presentation at IBM earlier this month.
Vgo Communications is out to make working remotely seem not so remote. The Nashua, NH-based startup, originally named North End Technologies, was founded in 2007 by robotics and visual communication industry veterans. In February it raised $2.5 million in new cash and converted $1.8 million of debt to equity, to put towards getting its product to market. “VGO enables you to be present and mobile in and throughout a distant location,” says its website. “You can see, hear, talk, interact, and move around just as if you were there. With VGO, you can go anywhere.” It all sounds a bit futuristic to me, so I’m excited to see the company present at the Xpo to get a better taste of what they’re doing.
Zeo might be the only startup of the Xpo bunch that can boast the acclaim of talk show host Regis Philbin. The Newton, MA-based company, founded in 2003 as Axon Labs by three Brown University students, has been selling a sleep-tracking device for about a year. The company sold more than 1,000 units of the Personal Sleep Coach in three days after Philbin talked it up on his show last June. Users of the Zeo system wear a headband with sensors that send data on users’ sleep patterns to a bedside unit, which produces a graphical display of the data. The device attaches a score to the users’ sleep patterns based on the data, and also has an alarm that can wake them once they have reached an optimal time to wake up. The startup has raised about $14 million and is recently started peddling the $250 device via infomercials.