FiRe 2017: Setting the Startup World on FiRe with Four FiReStarters

By Charly Kuecks

Ed Butler of the BBC hosted a panel titled “FiReStarters I: Five Companies Improving the World,” where he interviewed four FiRestarter companies ( was missing). Across a wide variety of disciplines, these CEOs are pushing the envelope of innovation and truly embody FiRe XV’s theme of breaking through on a century scale.

1) 24-Hour Solar Roof — Will Perego

24-Hour Solar Roof builds roofs out of solar panels, rather than layering the panels on top of other roofing materials. This eliminates waste while providing 24/7 electricity.

Perego’s company’s mission is to provide everyone in the world electricity and fresh drinking water directly from their roofs, so no one has to worry about a blackout ever again. It’s easy to see how this tech is timely, in light of devastating power outages in Puerto Rico among other places.

The panel system made by 24-Hour Solar Roof circulates the heat captured by the sun and provides hot water by using a different type of A/C system. It reuses rain water instead of using electricity. As an atmospheric water generator, it extracts the humidity from the outside air.

Perego discussed financial models for developed and developing countries. In the United States, consumers’ costs for traditional solar panels vs. 24-Hour Solar are very similar. In developing countries, there are no upfront costs for installation. A use case Perego discussed was to build a solar roofed community center where residents can eliminate travel time to charge electronics and hassles to acquire drinking water.

With traditional solar panels, over 85% of energy is wasted. 24-Hour Solar Roof’s panels provide security for both electrical power and water, two vital building blocks to health and development. By installing a solar roof, consumers can reduce 80% of their energy consumption.

2) Aptage — John Heintz

Aptage leverages artificial intelligence for project management, to predict the outcomes of projects, and to give advice on decisions. If you are a project manager with a deadline 3 months out, and you knew it was at 60% risk of failure, what would you do differently? Aptage has developed a risk language that displays these risks using visualizations.

Heintz claims that the human mind is not good at assessing risk. He points to the Big Dig in Boston, which is estimated to cost up to $22 billion, including interest. One of the key contributors to this failure was the project managers not knowing things were going off track.

Heintz quoted Nobel winning behavioral economist Daniel Kahneman, from his book “Thinking, Fast and Slow.”

“Even statisticians are not good intuitive statisticians,” he said.
Aptage provides burndown charts to help project managers overcome the challenges inherent in any risky long-term project and make the statistical risk of missing deadlines more intuitive.

3) Exro Technologies — Mark Godsy

Exro’s technology bridges the gap between hardware and software. They develop electric motor technology found in wind and automotive applications.

This tech enables motors to become self-optimizing: Godsy discussed a computer program that reconfigures a motor dependent on torque.This makes motors more efficient especially in electric vehicles.

Exro has validated their technology by building three prototypes, applicable to motors, generators, and software intelligence

An audience member asked if these optimized motors were adaptable to an elevator, or a subway, or to a hybrid bus? Godsy answered that Exro is “enabling these machines to be intelligent — [they] do have application in all those areas.”

Breakthroughs in material science drive discovery at Exro. Godsy is focused on the possibilities of graphene. When motors themselves improve, Exro’s software leverages those changes, harnessing more energy.

4) ÉlpisÉremo Inc — James Ryan

ÉlpisÉremo develops breakthroughs in tissue generation. Ryan is optimistic that this research in the body’s signaling pathways will lead to applications in regenerating the body.

Ryan discussed orchestration of two factors involved in gene over-expression. He claimed the body’s mechanism to turn proteins directly on and off is “like a symphony — [with] lots of moving parts.” By directly affecting gene expression, Ryan’s hopes that “we’re entering a whole new era of medicine.”

ÉlpisÉremo’s scientists were inspired by Tesla’s electric oscillator: they monitored nanomechanical signatures during stem cell development. Ryan played an audio recording of what these oscillations at the molecular level sound like.

Ryan was inspired to co-found ÉlpisÉremo after successfully using a then-experimental stem-cell treatment when his infant son fell ill. By targeting the next wave of epigenetic research, Ryan and his team of research scientists are bypassing traditional stem cell therapies.

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