In a highly original move, I decided to book-end the year with a recap of interesting products and propositions I'd found over the course of the year.
This is a fairly hefty collation of daily posts I did over the last week or so on LinkedIn, with propositions across AI powered productivity tools, Hardware, Home Comforts, Fintech and a final grab-bag of stocking fillers that wouldn't fit elsewhere.
1. Productivity tools (and how they got chewed up and reimagined by AI)
If there's been one technology that's moving rapidly from hype-cycle to genuinely useful, it's Generative AI. The middle of the year was full of impressive new outputs from image GANs like DALL-E and Stable Diffusion, while there's been a fresh explosion of text based tools around the release of GPT-3 and ChatGPT. It's clear that as these models get better, a whole bunch of productivity drudgery is going the way of the dodo.
One big race is between tools that use AI to help you become a better writer. Or just do all your writing for you. See Moonbeam there, and its competitor Jasper.ai for examples. Inserting AI into a workflow of millions of content creators is going to be a big prize for whoever cracks mainstream adoption.
Levity.ai takes a different approach - enabling users to build their own workflows with added AI classification that you can train yourself. It's IFTTT on steroids.
Rewind.ai is interesting if somewhat terrifying project in brain-outsourcing. It records everything you've seen, said or heard... and indexes it for search. The perfect antidote to 'I'm sure I was looking at something relevant to this yesterday' feelings.
Magician shows the power of fitting these models into specific workflows. In this case, giving designers in Figma a text-to-icon, copywriting, and text-to-image powers right inside the tool they use day-in-day out. This feels like a rich pattern to explore imitating for other tools and roles.
Adept.AI is the most impressive demo video I have seen in this space - automating activities and actions around laborious browser actions (e.g. add a lead to salesforce) and spreadsheets (e.g. 'create a profit and margin column for this data'). Expect a Microsoft vs Salesforce bidding war for this one in 2023.
Finally, at the weirder end of things - 'prompt engineer' is threatening to become the shortest lived job title ever as marketplaces emerge like PromptBase where you can buy and sell exactly the right sweet nothings to whisper to your GAN to get that specific style of image.
Hardware is hard, so the cliche goes. These examples show, in some cases where that heavy-lifting is worth the effort: fitting into complex environments, breaking new ground, and making the world a little more inclusive and sustainable. And then there’s some dystopian nonsense to finish on.
Mafic have a number of IOT/sensor products in the construction space for tracking safety, hours and productivity. Having done a little bit of work in the construction space, there’s still a long way to go on making building delivery efficient and smart. And protecting workers and teams while you’re at it too. This looks like a great start.
EVs are emerging thick and fast now, and one of the interesting things to see is the growth of new or augmented modes beyond the classic car. OX Motorcycles look like a cool take on micro mobility, while Kilow extends EV into adventure buggies. EVs aren’t just a green shift - they offer a route to more fun and more use-case specific vehicles.
XRAI blew me away with their demos earlier this year. Google had just launched a ‘demo’ video of the future of translation plus AR, but it was clearly a mock-up. Then XRAI Glass (which as far as I can tell was a team of four people at the time) hit the road with an actual bit of hardware ready to do live speech-to-text translation overlaid into a pair of AR glasses. Check it out.
How about a bit of maritime? 🏴☠️ The high seas are infamously tricky for technology (particularly connectivity) and shipping is also a big source of pollutants. Eelume robots are perhaps the most 🤓 of things I discovered this year - modular undersea robot arms that can do autonomous service jobs. I’d imagine if you’re scared of sea snakes and/or robots, this might be troubling content. As with lots of maritime tech, it’s currently cued up to serve the Oil and Gas world, but a pivot to ‘energy’ - tidal, wind etc. - more broadly is surely on the cards.
Artemis delivered a big slice of techno-optimism when I found them this summer. They’re developing 100% EV ships combined with the latest hydrofoil tech to help them travel super fast and smooth. Then, it’s a case of adapting those innovations to different types of maritime need. Feels like a big potential unlock for off-shore wind servicing, mobility and maritime generally if they can crack it. Bonus points for the HQ being in Belfast as well.
Finally - lets get off that optimistic cloud and back to the drudgery of #zoomlyf. Jabbrrbox have fought through the vowel shortage to serve up pay-as-you-go call boxes that are already popping-up in airports. For when that zoom call must be done in the private confines of a sound-proofed, oxygen draining space, Jabbrrbox have got you. 2023 goals: avoiding the need to use this product.
3. Home Comforts
Our homes are always intriguing reflections of what we do, and what’s important to us. As those things shift, the opportunity for new things to use in and around domestic life is always going to be there. This also means a real grab bag of propositions in this section, and a charming blend of low-fi and high-tech, from low cost to blow-out.
The pandemic has fortunately receded from the headlines this winter (unless you’re in China of course). But its effects and ideas echo onward. Algenair feels like something that definitely appeals to some of the persistent concerns about air quality and ‘brain fog’. It's a sci-fi looking tube that grows algae while purifying the air around you. Hoping v2 brings some more lava lamp features.
Sometimes, tech has been around for ages but just needs a tweak and some product design to unlock demand. Impulse takes induction hobs, digital interfaces and combines them to look like a DJ controller from Tron. More serious note - if we want net zero, we probably want to ditch cooking on gas, so this sort of innovation is smart.
More frivolous but impressive - Trek Pools. These guys make ready to roll swimming pools, in shipping containers and deliver them all over the US. Given containerisation is my favourite analogy for the power of a platform eco-system with an agreed set of shared standards, it’s always nice to see people continuing to innovate on top in the way we see happening in digital platforms.
Car Cabana is super lo-fi but brilliant product I discovered when digging into the concept of ‘product-channel’ fit. The product is simply a tarpaulin sheet that attaches to opened boot of an SUV with magnets to create a private changing space when you’ve gotten to the beach. It was invented by a midwestern mom who then completely nailed the marketing drive for it on TikTok where it’s simple set up and family appeal were perfect for the life-hack audience that’s big on there. Ideation exercise idea for 2023 - watch a bunch of TikTok videos around your opportunity space and then come up with something you can see in vertical video format there.
Wander is at the opposite end of the scale flashy: full service, digitally enabled rental accommodation in incredible spaces. Targeting the alpha rich in the US with facilities that mean you can work and relax from these incredible places, and hop in the bundled Tesla if you need too. Something something rampant inequality. But certainly an impressive level of service innovation here.
Finally, not a home for us, but for Bees: Beehome is an open-source modular design kit for wooden bee homes. You can have a tinker online, print off your design and get it cut for you to assemble locally.
Fintech continues to be one of the most lively places for new propositions to emerge - accelerated each year not just by funds and hype, but the growing eco-system of enabling tools and platforms. Oh and there’s all the crypto stuff too which I’ve generally stayed away from (but there’s a sprinkling in here for you WAGMI folks).
One big opportunity space is helping people investing in all the things. Not just stocks, or bonds, or ETFs… but how about cities? That’s what Nada is targeting, with bundles of real estate investments in popular US cities giving folks a way to ‘bet’ on the continued growth of property values in those cities. More exotic is Ctrl Alt over here in the UK. They are targeting alternative investments. at the moment just holiday let cabins, but extensions into luxury, solar farms and more looks on the cards.
If you want to go more headlong into this space, there’s Jupiter Exchange who are making a similar play but with crypto infrastructure. Fair to say I could have pulled another 20 similar examples doing this with specific assets, crypto or no, and other nuances. With interest rates not consistently low now, it’ll be interesting to see if this rush to alternatives continues.
With all these options - we all need help making sense of what to do right? Uprise is driving straight into the ‘advice gap’ with a US advice proposition - trying to take high-net-worth level service and analysis to the masses. They claim $1.5m worth of advice across everything from cards, investments, loans, insurance…
Ivella caught my eye as a way to manage couples finances. They are trying to build ‘the best bank for couples’. I think there’s a long way to run on helping money better match social reality. Whenever I see propositions like this, I’m always left wondering how Splitwise is doing and why someone big hasn’t acquired them yet.
Onto Insure-tech. Snack offers micro-insurance to Grab delivery drivers in Singapore, and is now in the process of building out the proposition with more day-to-day rewards. Machine Cover is much further down the ‘stack’ in the buzzy world of parametric insurance - offering the tech needed to enable insurance and disbursement conditional on pre-agreed data conditions.
Finally - anyone who’s done user research in personal finance will have met some spreadsheet people - maybe you’re one of them?! For those who likes to maintain a very detailed finance spreadsheet, Budget Sheet might speak to you - allowing a live feed of (US) bank account data into a Google Sheet. And for those of us tinkering with new propositions, it’s a tool for making some rough and ready prototypes.
5. Stocking Fillers
Finally, time for a few products that might be helpful if you’re still on the look out for that perfect gift... No guarantees these will actually fit into a stocking mind.
Artifact is a really lovely idea - an experienced team of journalists and interviewers on hand to make a podcast interview series with your family. Capture all those classic stories, specific nuances and historical details… and get it in audio to share with the rest of family.
Fragrance is a classic Christmas gift, but what about something professionally and algorithmically selected for you? Sillages offers a guided journey toward creating your own fragrance, via digital help or in-store brains or some combo of the two. Previous product round-up product Ffern is still the one for me, but this sounds like a good alternative, and good fun.
Getting a gift for someone who keeps dunking themselves in cold water and chatting ‘macros’? Airofit might be for them. This Vader-vibes IOT mouthpiece coaches breathing techniques and promises chakra alignment etc. for those who can tolerate the oddness.
Less virtuous - perhaps degenerate? - giftees may want to get bought into BlockBar, where booze & NFTs offer a heady cocktail of inebriation and speculation.
Less boozey? Explore are offering a concentrated hit of coffee in cold brew for your fridge which looks like a winning formula in these multi-non-dairy-milk times.
Probably a bit tricky to pitch as a gift - but maybe there’s someone you know who needs that perfect profile pic for LinkedIn/Tinder/Lulz? Why not ask generative AI to help them, via PhotoAIs magic?
And if all of that is too much good fun, it’s probably time for a dunk in a beautiful wood-fired hot tube as provided by Goodland (feel free to purchase me this if you have *really* enjoyed this post 🙏)
Finally - I’m sure we’re all feeling a bit fragile already and there's only more to come - so Happy Tuesday’s post-party supplements are here to soften the blow of all that merriment.
That's it, a big round of propositions and products for 2022.
What's gonna be the break out category or shift for 2023? Follow us on LinkedIn to get a real time view of innovation and product breakthroughs as they emerge.