Future Tech

These 10 Startups Are Going to Improve Lives. Here’s Why.

Matthew Hughes 31-10-2014

Welcome to TechCrunch Disrupt London. It’s an unusually hot day for the end of October, and the smell of freshly brewed coffee hangs in the air. The best and brightest technologists and entrepreneurs from America, Asia and Europe have gathered at the Old Billingsgate; a former fish-market that’s now hosting the biggest startup event outside of America.


Over 200 makeshift stands have been erected – 200 teams who are eager to show the technology press and their peers what they’re working on. There’s so much talent and so little time to see it all.

If you’ve not been able to make TechCrunch Disrupt this year, you’ve missed a lot. Here are 10 of the best apps, startups and products I stumbled across while I was at the conference. And I think they’re going to improve your life.


You’re probably familiar with the dilemma of your cell phone running out of juice just a few hours into the day. You might even carry a portable charger for when your device is running low on juice. You might even charge it with solar power. But in the future, you might carry an Upp.

Upp isn’t a battery. Rather, it generates electricity from a fuel source. Hydrogen, to be precise. Just plug in the charger, and it’ll use this clean source of fuel to give your phone a bit of a boost.

Run out of fuel? The Upp app will show you, on a map, the nearest place you can replace your hydrogen cell. Upp will be available in stores in the next few weeks.



I’m a huge Uber fan What Is Uber and Why Is It Threatening Traditional Taxi Services? Uber has landed, and it's fundamentally changing inner-city transit. And some might say, not entirely for the better. Read More . I ride it whenever I’m in a city that has it, rather than call for a traditional taxi. But, what if Uber was a little bit more eco-friendly?


That’s Gliide [No Longer Available]. If you’ve used Lyft or Uber, you’re probably familiar with the idea of hailing a ride from your cell phone. Gliide (still in private beta in London) takes that model, but adds flashy Tesla Model S electric cars to the mix. It’s basically a brash, flashy, conscience-soothing ride sharing app.

Pillow Talk by Little Riot

As someone who has been in more than my fair share of long-distance relationships, I know how hard it can be. Thankfully, this wearable from Geordie firm Little Riot aims to make being separated from your loved one a bit more tolerable.



Pillow Talk (pictured: A very primitive conceptual prototype. Not the real thing) is a wristband and pillow combo. The wristband listens to your heartbeat, and then transmits it to your iPhone. It’s then transmitted to the corresponding pillow, which soothingly beats according to the pulse of your partner.

It’s saccharine sweet, and it’s in the final stages of product development. It will be released on Kickstarter very soon. But if things do go south, Pillow Talk won’t break up with your partner 3 Polite Ways To End Online Relationships Without Getting Stalked Read More  for you. Sorry.

Be Specular

‘What we’re trying to build is Uber Hire A Car In Most Major Cities Worldwide With Uber And MyTaxi You'd expect by now that hiring taxis with an app on your fancy GPS-enabled device to tell the drive your location would be an everyday event, right? Wrong. Read More for eyes’. Zeena Qureshi, one of the co-founders of Specular, told me. This app allows visually impaired people to experience the world around them, by taking advantage of other people’s eyes.



The app (soon to be released on iOS and Android and actively in beta testing) allows visually impaired users to take a photo of an object or a scene, which is then transmitted to a volunteer. The volunteer then describes the object for the user, allowing the visually impaired person to make better sense of their environment.

Find out more about the project at the Be Specular website.


Launching a startup in Geneva – the third most expensive city in Europe – isn’t easy. Trust me, I lived there for a long time. There’s no real startup community. No hackerspaces Four Reasons Why You Should Visit Your Local Hackerspace Read More to depend on. And the cost of living is really, really expensive.



Which makes me even more enthralled with Odience. It’s a slick live-streaming app to rival even the likes of Ustream. Just point, shoot and record, and it will then be transmitted to whoever is watching the feed. It works well, and it looks incredible. And astonishingly, it comes from a place that is known more for its stuffy bankers and diplomats than it is for a vibrant tech scene.

You can download it for iOS.

F.A.C.E by SightCorp

What if your computer knew how you were feeling? Wouldn’t it be incredible if Facebook could tell if you were feeling sad, and tweaked your timeline accordingly to show you only the happiest news? Well, with SightCorp’s new emotion recognition technology, that could be a reality.

This technology (which can be integrated with third-party products through its open API) can not only identify your emotional state, but can also give a pretty solid guess at your ethnicity and age.

Bullet News

Life, I’ve always thought, is better spent doing things other than reading the news. It’s depressing. It’s time consuming. It’s ridiculously unhealthy. If you’re like me, you’ll love BulletNews.


BulletNews is a free app for iOS that allows you to digest the most important stories in no less than six bullet points. You can choose what news sources you read, and you can even choose what news you want to read, be it current affairs, business or sports.


Looking for a new do? HAIRCVT is a website that makes it easy to find a new style, from the world’s greatest hair stylists.


Type in a location, and it’ll return stylists in your area and photos of work they’ve done on previous clients. Once you’ve found a style you love and a stylist you want to work with, HAIRCVT will help you make the booking. Could it be any easier?


‘The problem I’m trying to solve is wastefulness in the events industry’. I met ShowSlice co-founder Damian Oracki in a nearby London pub for drinks, and to discuss his product he dubs the ‘AirBnB of events’.


The principle is simple. Suppose you’re holding a conference in London, and you’re based in Edinburgh. Do you want to ship down lighting, a stage, and other miscellaneous gear from Scotland, or do you want to rent something that’s already in London?

If you’re even remotely environmentally conscious, the answer is obvious. It was for Damian. And thus, ShowSlice was born. But it’s not just equipment you can hire. This site also allows you to rent some incredible, exclusive venues, such as Old Billingsgate on the banks of the Thames. In that respect, ShowSlice really is the AirBnB of events – and more.


You probably know what’s in your food. You might be careful to avoid certain chemicals, like MonoSodium Glutamate (MSG), or aspartame. But do you ever think about what’s in your toothpaste?


Cosmethics is a free app for iOS that makes it easy to find harmful chemicals in the products you use every day. Just scan the barcode, and it’ll show you a list of what’s in the product, and what you need to be wary of.

So Much Innovation, So Little Time

Over two days, I came into contact with almost 400 startups pitching their wares at TechCrunch Disrupt. They came from around the world. From the US, from Canada, from Korea, from Lithuania, from Scandinavia, they came. Whittling 400 outstanding products down to ten was hard. But I think they’re going to change lives for the better.

But what do you think? Do you disagree? Is there one startup you think will change the world? Tell me about it. The comments box is below.

Photo Credit: EpicStockMedia / Shutterstock.com

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  1. Coby
    November 9, 2014 at 1:38 pm

    A bit overzealous with the titling of this post, to say the least.

    That first startup, "Upp" or whatever it's called, represents much that is wrong with the world today (IMHO). When the problem everyday folks appear to be most concerned with is their smartphone making it through the day on a single charge, that (again, to me) seems to point to people being too glued to their devices. I suppose my angst is more-appropriately pointed at the folks who can't even walk down the street without taking their eyes off the darned things, much less opt for text-messaging with an adjacent friend instead of speaking and eye-contact.

    As morbid as this sounds, the day in the future when (and probably not "if") people start dropping like flies from some new cancer permutation, or some other, as-yet-to-be-realized malady that's caused from the overuse of smartphones, is a day that represents karma more than tragedy. I realize this comment makes me sound like an old, progress-fearing curmudgeon, but it's worth noting that I, too, use my smartphone way more than I likely should. What's wrong with us all?

  2. Stu
    November 4, 2014 at 4:27 pm

    I do like the barcode ingredients list idea, but as an android user can't even try it. Same with the live streaming app.

  3. David
    November 4, 2014 at 12:32 pm

    Thanks for the article. Hype? BS? Well, these are start ups, so, you have to deal with that as part of the game.

    Some of the items you wrote about don't interest me, but, hey, that's the way of the world, right? We're all unique in our combination of tastes and interests. I will agree that the title of the article oversells the content, though.

    I did find some of the things interesting - anything with hydrogen fuel cells is good and interesting to me. Mood sensing software that would try to cheer me up if I'm down? I might find that useful, too. A building block toward an AI head shrinker ... ;)

  4. Robert
    November 4, 2014 at 6:13 am

    I agree: hype and BS. Next time use an appropriate lead title.

    A new flavour for bubble gum will not change the course of history.

  5. CityguyUSA
    November 4, 2014 at 12:44 am

    If this is the best we have to look forward to I might as well just kill myself now.

  6. Leon
    November 3, 2014 at 12:22 pm

    Improving lives or giving more audience to this site?

  7. James Bruce
    November 2, 2014 at 9:15 am

    Ok, I get the need for remote vibrators - but transmitting a heartbeat across the world? Yeh, no, that’s stupid on so many levels.

    Also, to answer the question on conference gear - at least from my experience working club and concert venues - yes, you do in fact want to lug your own gear around because the lighting has been programmed to your specific equipment in advance and trained on the setup. The possibility of someone else screwing that up, not providing the right bits adequate spares - not cool.

  8. a
    November 1, 2014 at 7:39 pm

    A load of PR hyped BS, as usual.

  9. bben
    November 1, 2014 at 12:23 pm

    Once again, an article with more hype than substance - I really don't see anything here that could possibly make any great improvement to my own life, or anyone else's, in any possible way. A couple that may or may not make a small difference to a very specific group, but more as a slight change in the way they do certain things than anything that will actually make any real improvement in their life.

    • akilah
      November 4, 2014 at 5:45 am