Monday March 06, 2017

From 'Uber for kids' to the 2.0 burger: touring Silicon Valley startups

Hop Skip Drive has been described as "the Uber for kids."

Hop Skip Drive has been described as "the Uber for kids." (Courtesy of Hop Skip Drive)

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>> The Disruptors

When you think of some of the most wildly successful Silicon Valley startups of recent years, it's Uber and Airbnb that come to mind.  They're companies that haven't just disrupted industries — like taxis and hotels — but have disrupted our lifestyles, changing the way we live.

And today in the technology startup hotbed of Silicon Valley, Calif., there are countless new companies hoping to do the same — disrupt our lifestyle with a new product or service — and make the company founders and investors a few hundred million dollars while they're at it.
 

Ridesharing for kids

The Current's Peter Mitton recently took a tour through some of the more surprising would-be disruptors in Silicon Valley, and his first stop wasn't a corporate campus, but a San Francisco school. 

"It's like a third and fourth job," says Mary McManamon. 

"It's just the bane of our existence." 

McManamon is a programmer and mother of two.  The bane of her existence is picking up the kids after school, and shuttling them around to their after-school activities.  It's definitely an area of lifestyle that's ripe for disruption.

Enter HopSkipDrive. The California-based company describes itself as a ride service for families: "created by moms, driven by love."  But it's already been dubbed, "the Uber for kids."

Drivers are heavily vetted, and monitored every step of the way, as they pick up and drop off kids.  And their parents get up-to-the-minute notifications on their phones to make sure everything's going smoothly.

It may take a bit of getting used to as a parent, but Mary's daughter Aisling, 11, says she loves it.

"It's easy, it's really helpful, especially for my mom because she works a lot."
 

Robotic roommates

Robotics may play a huge role in disrupting the way we live in the near future, and there are countless companies in Silicon Valley today aiming to create the robots we'll soon live with.

Knightscope is a Mountain View, Calif., based company aiming to disrupt the security guard business with what company founder Stacy Stephens calls its "autonomous data machine."

via GIPHY

"Basicallly it's a security robot," he says.  "It's a fancy way of saying that."

His security robots are already at work on corporate campuses around the Valley, including Microsoft's, watching out for suspicious activity, and leaping into action when they see something.

Meanwhile, at a retirement home in nearby Palo Alto, California, a warmer, fuzzier side of disruptive robotics is on display.

"I call it 'it,'" says 89-year-old Thelma Ackley of her robotic roommate, created by OhmniLabs.

"I have six grandchildren, they're adults, and they really love calling me on it."

via GIPHY

This robot is a way for extended family to keep in touch with their elderly loved ones.  They use their computers at home to dial into the robot, and can use it to walk around their loved ones' apartment, checking to see that everything's allright, as well as holding a conversation.

But surprisingly, one of the most buzzed about "disruptors" in Silicon Valley today doesn't involve an app or any microchips at all but something meatier than that.
 

Burger 2.0

Impossible Burger

The Impossible Burger. (Peter Mitton)

At Impossible Foods,  the stated goal is to disrupt cows with their Impossible Burger. The idea is that consumers love beef, but cows are a highly inefficient way of producing it.  They've broken beef down into its constituent, sensory experiences – from the way it changes colour when it cooks, to its sizzle, smell and chew — and created a plant-based burger meant to replicate it exactly. Just don't call it  a veggie burger!

Google has already made an offer, in the hundreds of millions, for the company. But they're not selling.

Those are just a few of the countless startups in Silicon Valley today hoping to disrupt our lifestyles, in ways big and small.  And, as consumers, we seem more and more open to disruptive ideas.

And so, the hunt for the next big, juicy, disruptor continues.
 

Listen to the full conversation at the top of this web post.

This segment was produced by The Current's Peter Mitton and Josh Bloch.