The Pitch: The startup turning people into cyborgs

Startup of the week:

Who they are: Cambridge Bio-Augmentation Systems, a U.K.-based startup that recently debuted at Y Combinator’s demo day.

What they do: They make a “USB port” that connects bionic devices to your body.

Why it’s cool: It basically turns humans into cyborgs. The founders say their technology has enormous potential for amputees — they implant a connector into the patient’s bone and tissue that allows a prosthetic limb to be snapped on and off. That makes the limbs more comfortable, cheaper and better standardized. And the company hopes to ultimately create a way for patients to control their robotic limbs with their minds, via a connection between the device and their nervous system.

Where they stand: Cambridge Bio is set to begin clinical trials this year, and expects its technology to be available for wider patient use in late 2018.

Only in Silicon Valley:

We have connected homes, connected cars — even connected refrigerators. So why not connected cows? Cowlar, another Y Combinator-backed startup, has come up with the Fitbit for dairy cows. Their product attaches to a cow’s neck, and by tracking the animal’s temperature and activity, can tell when the cow is in heat, is showing symptoms of disease, or is stressed. All that information goes straight to the farmer’s phone or computer, and is supposed to help increase milk yield while reducing labor costs and medical expenses.

Cowlar, which has offices in Sunnyvale, Tennessee and Pakistan, says it already has hooked up more than 600 cows and has another 7,000 on its waiting list.

Run the numbers:

Y Combinator’s demo day presentations in March included the most Indian companies (11) and the most African or Africa-focused startups (eight) ever funded by the accelerator during one round. YC also reported 22 percent of its startups were founded by at least one woman. That leaves room for improvement, but it may be better than the national odds. PitchBook Data in 2015 reported less than 10 percent of startups that raised a round of funding since 2005 had at least one woman founder.


Y Combinator President Sam Altman spoke to a sold-out crowd during an Inforum event earlier this month at The Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. Here are some of his thoughts:

On Elon Musk sitting on President Donald Trump’s business advisory council: “I’m really happy he is. I don’t think I could stomach it myself. People saying he shouldn’t do that is ridiculous.”

On Peter Thiel facing the wrath of Silicon Valley for supporting Trump: “I don’t think anyone deserves what happened to him.” Altman said his friend faced a “constant barrage of negativity,” including people protesting outside his house, demanding he be fired from his professional positions and accusing him of hating immigrants and Muslims.

On the President: “I agree with Trump’s diagnosis of the problem, which is that the system is rigged and we don’t have economic justice. I just don’t think he has the right answers, or any answers, about how to fix that.”

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Photo: Oliver Armitage, co-founder and director of Cambridge Bio-Augmentation Systems, speaks at London-based accelerator MassChallenge UK. He’s standing beside a mannequin sporting the Cambridge Bio connector that the startup says will revolutionize the way amputees wear prosthetic limbs. (Courtesy of Cambridge Bio-Augmentation Systems)


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