After an Olympic travel fest over 2 time zones and a lot of waiting around in International airports and about 4.5 hours sleep, I arrived at #StartupVillage 2018 last week with a team of International journalists.  This annual event held in Moscow, Russia is in its 6th year and has gone from a mere 5,000 attendees to approximately 20,000 this year.

The only disappointment on the first day was the weather.  It dropped from 26C the day before to 11C on the first day of the event but the unflappable Irish contingent (me) barely noticed in their 3 layers of T shirts.

After a tour of the venue I attended my first English talk in Might and mind. Manpower VS artificial intelligence in technological era with Steve Beckers IMEC, Mike Kemelmakher, SAP Innovation Centre Israel, Alexandr Khanin, Vision Labs, Dmitriy Shushkin and Hans-Aloys Wischman of Phillips Research.  This talk was weighing up the pros and cons of augmentation versus artificial intelligence.

The fields of study on the panel was diverse and although it was cold and a tad bit on the windy side, no one moved for the duration of the 40 minute panel.   Steve Beckers feels that humans will more than likely become better augmented rather than have AI take over in the future. Hans felt that currently aeroplanes were better researched and safer than cars, Alexandr and Mike both felt that augmentation in humans would be better than trying to improve visual recognition in AI.  Though they both felt that perhaps the research hadn’t been found as yet that could do this.  Finally Dmitriy felt that instruction was better interpreted by humans rather than AI as they could be better adaptive.

A short while later I sat in and listened to Harder, better, faster, stronger. Supertechnologies that change our lives  which had a selection of speakers who were industry leaders in their fields.  They explained their stance on technologies that they had either innovated or used that is going to make significant inroads into changing today’s way of life.  The two people that really stood out for me in this talk was Bas Landorp and Tom Zimmerman.  Both very enigmatic and charismatic too. They explained how Mars One (Bas) and human-computer interaction (Tom) have changed how we see technology in the last 5 years and they had time and opportunity to expand in what they had achieved as well.  Once the recordings are up this talk is well worth watching.

I then went for a walk around the venue and viewed several of the stands in the separate areas.

I was impressed with this VR exhibit.  You can actually walk on the spot, twist and turn and see yourself navigating through the game, it was a nice extra touch.  The queue unsurprisingly was enormous to try it, so maybe next time I’ll give it a go.

The sense of anticipation throughout the venue was great.  The spread of startups throughout the breadth of the “village” is vast and people from every nation is pretty much represented.  As you walk around the winding paths of the complex, you are brought into the “startup vibe” with the bright colours of the branding and raised voices of questions and answers from the separate stands.

As I walked along and watched some demonstrations being done, I came across one business called Shield.  It is  currently very much in the startup phase but has several different prototypes on display and plans to go into different colours and patterns in the next round to be more pleasing to the eye.

Andrey explained that the protection was through several layers of materials and was light and easy to carry.  Definitely one business to watch over the coming months as Investors were at the table when I arrived.

On the second day we arrived to a much warmer Village and the wind had settled down as well.

I wanted to attend a few more talks in order to get a better feel for more of the startups that were there and I have to say I didn’t really read the blurb on the programm when I decided on the next one.  I read “Digital Farming” but I must be honest I only really focused on the word digital.

I was pleasantly surprised to find the first topic on the agenda was the breeding habits of cows.  This system is a great way to monitor heifers in heat:

A collar and eartag system to detect heats in cows and heifers. The collar is worn by a bull or a vasectomised / teaser bull, it uses proximity, activity and mounting behaviour to know which cow or heifer is in her standing heat.”

Mooncall HEAT

The next item up for discussion was SEEDO.  We watched a very amusing video explaining its merits and I have to say it makes gardening look easy when you are using this. I thought it was  an excellent concept from seed to harvest and it helps that you can monitor the growth via an app on your phone.

I certainly had my eyes opened as to how digital tech has had an impact outside of “social”platforms.  The use of tech in farming can save time and money and help with recording vital statistics to measure the success.

The event overall brought together startups with potential investors and end users to ensure that that they were given a forum to reach out and gain valuable insights to further their projects.

I found the talks were very well researched and prepped and the Moderators (on the panels) really had some pertinent questions and obviously knew what they were talking about.  It’s a must for Startups to attend and I have been told that its a country that welcomes foreign startups and Investors alike.  I hope to attend again next year.


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