Butterfly Network

Butterfly_Network_logo.jpg

Overview

Butterfly Network is an innovative medtech startup that has designed an ultrasound device called the iQ you can use with a smart phone. The ultrasound probe is sold for $2,000 with a $420 per year per user subscription for the software. Usually ultrasounds are a large device transported on a cart with costs starting at $20,000 and up but Butterfly Network’s turns it into a handheld portable scanner. The difference with Butterfly’s device is they redesigned ultrasound from the ground up using microchips as opposed to the traditional quartz crystals. Their technology simultaneously replaces the multiple wands needed by traditional ultrasound machines with just one that gathers the same data. The subscription gives access to ever improving AI to help doctors and even casual users interpret the imagery. The company has sold tens of thousands of units over the last several years.

The team is based in Guilford, Connecticut.

Why I like Them

The innovation here is amazing and widely needed. By turning phones into ultrasound scanners Butterfly Network has made a breakthrough, making healthcare more affordable and easier to access globally. The vision of the company is even more compelling, that of consumers having medical imaging devices in their own homes and read by doctors remotely and AI locally. This would allow diagnostics to be more frequent, catching diseases and conditions much more early than is typically found by an ultrasound scan today.

This is especially key as the world’s population ages and lower cost and greater accessibility in medicine is more widely needed. Doctors in rural Africa are already using the device in villages far from medical centers with Butterfly Network donating a number of the devices.

Even more exciting will be when the team turns it attention to other medical imaging devices, which are traditionally very large and extremely expensive.

Butterfly.jpg

Emerging Trends: The Future of Real Estate

One of the largest markets in the world is real estate and like everywhere else in our economy startups are innovating and disrupting it, albeit at a much slower pace than other sectors. So called iBuyer companies like OpenDoor and Offerpad have raised huge sums of capital to digitize, and speed up the home buying and selling process using algorithms so that buying a home becomes like buying any product on Amazon.

These trends have gotten me thinking more about what software eating real estate will mean for the market. There are a number of parallels here with public equities and how they digitized over the last 40 years.

The most obvious is that real estate will become a more efficient asset class, and a more liquid one. Home prices will fluctuate up and down in value faster as deals are able to close more quickly and comps update faster. To use a public equity term, price discovery will become faster and more accurate. Most home closings take 4-6 weeks. I could see that dropping to an average of 2-3 weeks as everything from the financing approval to title searches, etc. become more automated. As real estate becomes more liquid there will likely be a premium in prices as people are easily able to trade in and out of homes faster and with less friction.

Another change we are likely to see is transaction costs will steadily decrease. Buying and selling a home is expensive in this day and age. Everything from closing attorney fees to especially agent commissions drop as pieces of the transaction are more automated and less reliant on people. The real estate agent profession will become a lot less lucrative in the coming years and we are already starting to see that with both buyer and seller agents lowering their fees in many markets.

All of this won’t happen in the short term but over the next 2 decades buying and selling a home will become a lot easier for the consumer.

Imperfect Produce

Screen Shot 2019-06-30 at 11.32.15 AM.png

Overview

Imperfect Produce is an organic grocery delivery startup that sells produce that would otherwise be discarded due to cosmetic imperfections. 20% of consumable food is wasted in the US because it is not visually appealing enough for grocery stores to display on shelves and farmers just discard these items to waste. The business model behind Imperfect Produce and its competitors which include Misfit Foods and others is a simple one: buy this produce that would otherwise be discarded for pennies on the dollar from farmers and sell to consumers for 30-50% less than market price. To be clear the produce they are buying is just as healthy and nutritious as what’s in grocery stores, it simply has some sort of visual (often minor) imperfection.

Orders are placed through a subscription box model online or via their mobile app. They are a double bottom line organization, which are becoming more popular as business entities.

The team is based in San Francisco, California.

Why I like Them

I like the mission and the problem they are trying to solve. In the US alone an estimated 30% of the consumable produced food goes to waste, a staggering and shocking amount, especially when considering the environmental impact and amount of energy needed to produce all this food. One recent study estimates very year, 30 million acres of cropland, 4.2 trillion gallons of water, and nearly two billion pounds of fertilizer are used to grow food that’s never eaten,

I also like that they give easy access to high end organic produce for even those in the lower income spectrum, and helping small farmers with produce they would otherwise dispose of and take a monetary loss on.

Emerging Trend: The Potential Future Role of Virtual Assistants

A fascinating trend I recently came across is the humanization of virtual assistants that seems to be emerging in Japan and South Korea. Line, through its subsidiary Vinclu last year released a holographic virtual assistant called Gatebox that initially seems to have sold rather well. It’s basically a limited virtual assistant that has a 3D avatar in a box you keep in your house that can interact with you. The video below explains it better than words could. The company right now markets it as “living with characters”.

Currently virtual assistants are seen as tools or utilities, but it is a fascinating thought that eventually they might be seen as friends or confidants. The loneliness epidemic, especially among Generation’s Y and Z is very well documented and publicized with data showing 13% of the country has 0 close friends. This leads to all sorts of negative health effects from additional stress, substance abuse, suicide, etc. This might be a technological answer to coping with the issue, especially as the algorithms become better and more lifelike.

I am curious to see how this type of technology/interface develops and especially if AI virtual assistants become a health tool and as common in a household as a television is.