Startups: 10 trend to keep an eye on in 2016


Giuseppe Visentini and Paolo Berra, Italian angels for Growth partners, analyze the 10 most important development trends for startups: among them, the “sensor” field in which IAG has invested too.

“Technical innovation breaks a caste’s privileges

Opening the possibility of a gesture to the whole population”

Alessandro Baricco, Barbari (2006)

We love and fear innovation. Technological innovation produces psychological and entrepreneurial, and thus social, changes. If we don’t realize it and we act accordingly, we are destined to lose our privileges. We believe it is important to answer this question: how can we, as entrepreneurs and individuals, generate value in the ongoing change? Reading Silicon Valley blogs, talking with some scientists and living in the startups ecosystem it is clear that, in 2015, some technologies started to have a groundbreaking impact in our lives. Find following a quick overview of the most important.

  1. Sensors everywhere


In 2015 we are looking at the perfect wave, smaller and cheaper sensors, connectivity, 3D printing and perfected data mining will create a smart and connected world, where objects, clothes, appliances, houses, streets, cars, boats, will be in constant communication between themselves.

Among the many applications: a shirt that can read the wearer’s heartbeat developed by French company Sciences Cityzen, a bracelet that can measure how many calories we are consuming (HealBe), a garden nozzle that can decided whether to activate itself or not based on the weather forecast (Blossom), small platforms where you can put food and be told how many is left (SmartQSine), a pacifier that send the child’s body temperature to the parent’s smartphone (BlueMaestro) to a new security system that activate itself before the break-in actually happens (MyFox).

People will want increasingly more to monitor their own vital signs to perform at best, avoid issues (like glucose levels, arterial pressure or the risk of a stroke), or to make a rescuer intervene as soon as possible. Through sensors, it is possible to identify promptly serious diseases (through DNA microarray) or to understand quickly the best treatment for a tumor.

“IAG’s investments in the field have been multiple in the latest years. From WinMedical, which has launched the most wide wearable platform on the market, WinPAck, for an instant and continuous monitoring, both at home and in the hospital, the patient’s vital signs, to the Italian company Proxtome, able to develop a smartphone app that allows to identify, to share and to text communicate any kind of file on a complete on-the-cloud mode, to Gipstech, specialized in taking advantage of geomagnetism for localization in  indoor and GPS-less areas.

We must remember to IAG investments in the field that ended with a successful exit. One regards the Quo-Test device by the English company Quotient Diagnostics, which is able to monitor the concentration of glycated hemoglobin – a required parameter for periodical monitoring of diabetic patients. The second investment regards the French company Senseor, which has been able to develop temperature and pressure SAW(Surface Acoustic Waves) industrial sensors both for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and final users.

Antonio Mazzeo, WinMedical president, tells Uno Mattina show his entrepreneurial experience


  1. Digital Health and Startup Health


As of today there are over 10,000 startups registered on the Angel List in the HealthCare sector and the trend is bound to further growth. Health is definitely moving toward the consumer, since 78% of American ones are interested in mobile health solutions, with whom they can access to personalized medical information with a simple touch on their smartphone.

Blogteraphy, self-diagnosis and online medical consults, virtual therapeutic communities, apps for a better quality of life. In 2015 the use of digital medical records, a container for all diagnoses and test results; something similar to what Apple offers (HealthKit). And it not necessarily big data, but also just the creation of cross-references in one place for the first time (Electronic Medical Records – EMR). Some examples: e-Prescribing, dr chrono, simplee, doximity, comprehend, patientsknowbest.

Even for a technological point of view the challenge is a decisive one. The reduction of electronic costs, the massive development of nanotechnologies and the ability of IT tool to analyze bigger and bigger amounts of data, and the growth of the number of digital native doctors, will lead for sure to an acceleration of innovation in the field. And this lead to hope in the bettering of services and in reduction of health expenses.

“Through its partners, IAG owns important and recognized experiences exactly in the HealthCare field and this allow the club to capture, evaluate and the help the best initiatives on the market”.


Among these, for example, CellPly, a company that is creating a technologic platform that will revolutionize the cancer therapies: through a microchip that will analyze the tissues taken from the patient in a couple of hours, the platform will be able to deliver the results of the cellular answer to the treatment to the doctors; Angiodroid, the only completely safe, painless and automatic solution for angiography and Biogenera, who has patented a molecule for the treatment of the three main pediatric cancers. The last in time order is GreenBone, which aims to manufacture materials for bone implants from natural sources such as wood, which possess extraordinary regenerative properties and are quite suit to face the loss of relevant part of the long bones following traumas or tumors.

  1. Virtual Reality


From videogames and movies to the real world, it could be a shorter step than anyone can imagine. Virtual reality (VR) is in fact a business in which to invest and IT giants seems to have understood it. In 2014 Facebook bought Oculus Rift for 2 billion dollars, aiming to produce the next generation VR visors; Sony recently introduced Project Morpheus with its application for Playstation 4, while Google deposited the patent of Magic Leap, a technology to generate images undistinguishable from reality to be put in the real world, with a total investment on the project of 542 million dollars.

Soon we will see the first developments of High Fidelity by Philip Rosedale – founder of Second Life, a virtual world with more than a million users today – and new 3D cameras by Immersive Media, Jaunt, Giroptic and others. But maybe the most radical step has been taken by Microsoft with the announcement of HoloLens super project, the first IT holographic platform ever. Thanks to a special visor, you will be able to see holograms, impressed on the real world, managed by hands, voice and even eye motion.

“Many of these projects look like just commercial strategies, but virtual reality is advanced enough today to make the branch take a decisive leap forward”.


If, as said, the gaming industry will be the first to make its use grow, now that the tools start to make people live convincing experiences, the challenge is being passed to content developers which will have the possibility to apply virtual reality to communication, tourism and culture, formation, military application and many other fields, pornography first of all.

At the last Sundance Film Festival the virtual reality experience exploded: from the first short film viewed through Oculus to the realistic flight simulation in the skies above San Francisco to experiencing a college part to exploring the Syrian street as a war reporter. With the abundance of wonderful locations we have in Italy, we really do not lack contents with which we can make tourists dream, even from afar.

The headphones designed by Sony Project Morpheus to live the videogames from within.


  1. Autonomous vehicle


According to the experts, the autonomous vehicles could be one of the major technological development in the next future. We are still at the beginning but the steps taken in the last years seem to be the decisive one. From the new driverless autonomous electric shuttles, able to carry, during the tests, up to 50 students inside Lausanne Polytechnic campus, to the weird autonomous Google car introduced in 2014. In 2015 many car manufacturers, from Volkswagen to Mercedes to BMW to Tesla, brought to the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) of Las Vegas some solutions for self-driving or self-parking cars.

In the last century car culture has shaped the infrastructures of the cities where we live in, influencing billions of people: we spend an average of four years behind the wheels, driving to work or bringing the children to the school, thus making cars essential.  

“Despite that, with the arrival of an intelligent, intuitive and adaptable car, our relationship with it could be radically changed.”

 During the travels, we will have time to rest, communicate, read, play, eat, generating a true change on our lifestyle.

What should we expect from future cars?


  1. Mass robots


Multifunctional robots: from the OSHbots created in Singularity University labs, to Pepper humanoids created by Aldebaran for SoftBank. I tried to wander remotely in NASA campus with one of this Fellow Robots and the experience has been mind-blowing: people you meet, going here and there, talk to you like you are really there. The OSHbots are already available in many shops to help customers find their articles, such as Pepper robots which will soon be present in American homes and shopping malls.

“Through facial and vocal recognition, they will be able to understand humans at communicate at best with them, deciphering universal emotions such as joy, sadness, surprise or doubt”.


Italy could express much of its expertise in robotics, both in the academic and industrial fields.

OSHbots have been designed to not only identify and localize goods, but to speak with the customers in their language too.


  1. Drones


2016 will be a great year for drones, less and less expensive and easier to control. From €20 toys to professional flying cars, such as DJI Spreading Wings or $1,300 YUNEEC Q500 Typhoon. These drones, equipped with high resolution cameras and autopilots, are used in different fields for surveillance, from agriculture to constructions to energy, and to make videos for communication and journalism.

During a recent conference in Atlanta, entirely dedicated to the world of drones, the vice president of the American branch of the Consumer Electronic Association (Cea) stated that within 2025 more than a million of flying drones will navigate the U.S. skies.   On Kickstarter, the popular crowdfunding platform for creative projects, Zano, a mobile-controlled small drone with four rotors and a high definition video camera, has been quite popular: the last January it ended the funding with a collection of 2.3 million pounds afgaint the 125,000 of the initial request. Amazon hopes to complete soon the authorization procedure to bring goods to its customers with drones, through its Prime Air service.

“Even in Italy this technology is quickly spreading, thanks to the low development costs and the wide array of possible applications, making startups operating in this sector the absolute protagonist”.

From miniature Helicampro helicopters to Italdron professional drones for live television broadcasts to Angrodron first Italian drones designed for agriculture to Eadrone drones for the retail market to Aermatica drones, which has flew for Sky TV in the critical area over San Siro stadium during Milan-Inter city match.

  1. Genome analysis and sequencing


In 2015 we have seen a staggering growth of genomic and of longevity researches. Mapping the first human genome took fifteen years and 3 billion dollars. Today you can map somebody’s DNA in a few weeks with an expense of a few hundred dollars.

“The age of personalized medicine has started, an age of a medicine that adapt therapies to each one’s DNA, allowing the development of the best therapy for each case in the right time”.


Barack Obama himself, during the State of The Union speech this January, has listed among his administration projects the launch of the Precision Medicine Initiative, a process based on adequate treatments to the genetic and molecular characteristics of the patient, to deal with disease such as diabetes and cancer.

Your family doctor will soon be able to tell you if you have a high risk of liver cancer or if you don’t have to worry about getting a stroke. He will, for example, be able to determine if the medicine that function for 92% of patients is useless to you and you should take another one that could be poisonous to other people instead.  The doors to an almost perfect medicine are open in front of us.

  1. 3D Printing


In 2014 saw the first object 3D printed in space by Made In Space company. It is incredible (and positive) to see that a group of young scientists, heading a company with a staff of no more than twenty, has been able to develop an innovative technology of 3D printing at zero gravity working along with NASA. This could be put in orbit by the International Space Station, allowing, in the next future, to produce objects directly in space, instead of launching them from heart, thus saving money.

“Three years ago there were only two 3D Printing companies at CES. This year there were more than 24 present, printing everything from biocompatible fabrics to metals and spare parts”.


At Rome Maker Faire 2014, international inventors and experts told about their experiences with 3D printers, for example in making a trachea for a six weeks old baby, a heart prototype or a 14 months old baby and a bionic ear plugged to an artificial antenna. 3D printers have obtained important results also in Italy in the field of both internal and external prosthetic (Tensive). It is only a matter of time before, in the next future, we will be able to replicate with 3D printers every object created by man. On November 5th, Rolls Royce has completed the first flying test with the 48 rotors of the turbofan jet engines – made in titanium- printed with a 3D printer (ALM).

How a 3D printer works


  1. Wireless Power


No more cables needed to recharge your phone: this is the objective of companies such as uBeam and Ossia. The first one has recently collected 10 million dollars in Silicon Valley, the latter 24 million in Redmond (Washington).

“Recharging phones, laptops, wearable devices in a wireless mode but without the recharging mat, simply by walking and being in the same room as the recharging device. This by using ultrasounds or radio frequencies”.

  1. Vocal control and interactions


Do you remember movies such as her (2013) or Trascendence (2014)? We are moving in that direction with Siri, Google Now, Cortana and other system.

“Soon, almost all devices will have vocal control and interaction functions”


Companies such as are developing their own open-source interfaces for IoT and developers. Systems such as Ubi, in addition to IBM Watson and XBOX Kinect One, already allow interactions in natural language and question/answer as instructions. Particularly fascinating is Jibo, the first family robot, developed by a Boston MIT researcher, able to interact with people and destined to become a tool for homes and families.

Jibo: The World’s First Social Robot for the Home

The product is already buyable in a limited edition. We recently registered in the waiting list, for a delivery scheduled in the next months, for about 800 dollars. Our kids are very excited at the thought of having a small family robot that can interact with them. We will see it was worth the wait. It is quite impressive what Google Translate and eSkype Translate are doing by creating a software for simultaneous translations.   Many of the inputs help each other in their development and could lead to benefits in a myriad of fields of application.

We believe it is our responsibility to keep us updated and understand the discontinuity that can function as a growth driver for our businesses or even make us open new ones.

 By Giuseppe Visentini and Paolo Berra,

Italian Angels for Growth Partners,

Courtesy of Sapere Scienza