Robots, Cyber-Security, 3-D Printing, and MedTech: Canaria joins Richard Branson’s Top 10 Tech Start-Ups of 2017.
2017 has started with a bang here at Canaria Ltd.
We were thrilled to initially be selected as one of the top 25 tech start ups by the prestigious Extreme Tech Challenge, and waited with bated breath in the sullen London winter to find out what our fate would be. We were winding down for the festive season, reluctantly slowing our product R & D with a mixed emotion of relief in anticipation of a week or so off to make merry with our loved ones when we heard the news. An email arrived just at the end of the afternoon when the short murky day had already turned to a chilly night outside the Institute of Engineering and Technology: we had made it into the Extreme Tech Challenge Top 10 and would be jetting off to Las Vegas on the 5th January as part of CES to pitch to the judges. Forget winding down for the holidays; snapping into full-throttle beast mode was the new call to order. It was time to roll up our sleeves, put an endless supply of coffee on heat, accept that sleep was not a thing that was going to happen anytime soon, and get to work.
So what exactly is the Extreme Tech Challenge, and why did it warrant us going into such a furious state of work over the holidays?
Although the Extreme Tech Challenge has only been going for a few years, it’s one of the most high-tier, and certainly the largest, tech start-up competitions in the world. Set up by Richard Branson and MaiTai Global, it emerged organically from the kite surfing community of tech entrepreneurs whose collective passion for discovery and for nurturing new talent led them to form a platform for the most exciting tech start-ups from around the world to present their ideas on a global stage, with the top 10 being welcomed into their network of super high achievers in business and sports. Richard Branson is the anchoring judge, and hosts the finals on his own Necker Island. Media exposure is vast: Wired, Forbes, The Verge, and a plethora of tech industry publications cover the contest. Getting into the top 10 means that you’re no longer a little fish: you’re now viewed as fledgling global player with all the traction and support that accolade brings.
So, of course, our prototypes and business had to match all the expectations that the XTC badge demands. Efforts were doubled to get our works-like-prototype to get heart rate readings, finish our initial dummy smartphone app, design an oversized prototype container, nail down any lighter use cases, print all the flyers we’d need at CES, and rehearse and rehearse and rehearse our pitch. As an added bonus, because it was Christmas, most of this had to be done with the team dashing between different countries.
The run-up to XTC went by in a flash. We managed to get internationally reputed computational architect Manuel Jimenez Garcia (one of the Bartlett School of Architecture’s most cutting edge and esteemed teachers) to collaborate with us on the design for our oversized prototype. The dummy app was made, we were able to showcase our low energy bluetooth data transfer capabilities, and earpiece casings were updated to withstand our CEO running between events for 3 days without having to take them off as well as withstand passers-by fiddling aggressively with them at our stand.
Frankly, it was a miracle our slightly-bomb-sized oversized prototype managed to get through US customs.
CES draws 200,000 tech industry insiders to Las Vegas in January every year. Attendees range from enthusiasts, to journalists, to CEOs of major companies such as IBM, companies showcasing their new tech, investors of all levels, and everyone in between. It’s the tech industry’s Christmas, Hanukkah, Diwali, Kwanzaa, and Vaisakha all rolled into one. It’s the only place in the world you can get bottle service at a raving club with Lil’ Jon playing in the background whilst chatting to MIT professors and doctors at 3am.
CES itself this year saw a shift from last year’s major trend in IoT to trends in automated vehicles and AI. This places Canaria in a good position within the zeitgeist as our technology is primarily IoT but AI will become a critical part of our pattern analysis in the biometrics our hardware provides in order to provide our users with accurate warnings about their physiological state.
Extreme Tech Challenge events took place throughout the 3 day window of madness that made its home within the sprawling Mojave desert. The alien backdrop of the looming, arid striped mountains which stoically surround the city of sin on all sides seemed all too fitting for an event fixated with jump-starting man’s evolution into the unknown frontiers of technology. A perfect analogy for our ability to invent our way out of the most hostile environments, and not just survive, but somehow to flourish in the most inhospitable territories. Appropriately, we dined, drank, danced, and explored with the other 9 XTC companies in the run-up to the big pitching event. Waxing lyrical with the talented individuals behind Audicus, Cloudwear, Emerge, Filament, Intezer, Mobile ODT, ReDeTec, Cresilon, and VantageRobotics proved that we were truly in excellent company with other businesses dedicated to changing the way we’ll all be living our lives over the next few years.
Finally, the day of the pitch itself was upon us. After setting up our stand and chatting to the press and judges about what we’re working on, a quick sound check was all that separated us from the pitch.
The XTC 10 each embarked upon a rallying explanation of their projects, ambitions, and motivations. Concerns ranged from consumer-related robotics, to ways to save the environment in the era of 3d printing, to changing the way mankind is able to treat traumatic blood-loss in and out of the hospital. It was an honour to be the only company without investment sharing the stage with companies who had raised $15million. The recognition of the value of what we’re working on would have, in itself, been more than enough to be the reason for the trip. However, the experience to mingle and grow with the other semi-finalists, coupled with the excellent feedback from the judges, really brought it to the next level. In the blink of an eye, our pitch was over and it was time to announce the finalists.
The well-deserved finalists consisting of Cresilon, ReDeTec, and VantageRobotics took to the stage one last time amongst a near deafening wave of hoots and applause. A weary yet contented lull set in to fill the short space before the after party, during which we received our invitation to attend the finals at Necker Island to cheer on our golden comrades and meet the rest of the MaiTai family.
As they say, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas, but you’re welcome to try and coax our CEO into telling you what happened over the next 24 hours before returning to London. Although the visit was brief, the XTC experience and the allies we made there will stay with us for a very long time.
Canaria would like to give a special thank you to Bill Tai for the support he gave us during XTC and his continued advice afterwards.
Unfortunately, due to pre-existing commitments, Canaria was not able to attend the XTC finals on Necker Island.