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Our top 5 start-ups of the month: August 2017

From sustainable coffee cups to at-home fertility tests, August’s eye-catching start-ups have created products that are exciting, innovative and quite possibly life-changing.

You’d think August would be a relatively quiet month in the start-up world, but it appears that entrepreneurs didn’t have time for a summer holiday this year. Which is good news for those of us looking to start a family sometime soon, who wince every time we throw away a takeaway coffee cup, and who want to see an end to illegal poaching.

These are the five start-ups that caught our eyes in August...

5. Huskee

The UK alone throws away 2.5 billion coffee cups every year. So one start-up, albeit on the other side of the world, is deciding to do something about it. Sydney-based Huskee will soon start producing coffee cups and lids made from coffee husks, the layer of cells surrounding coffee beans.

Coffee farmers are usually left with hundreds of tonnes of husk waste, which tends to be used as a carbonised food source or a fertiliser supplement. From February 2018, however, husks will be converted into the HuskeeCup, which broke its Kickstarter target almost six times over.

4. ZestMoney 

“Credit cards”, says ZestMoney co-founder Lizzie Chapman, “are actually quite evil”. So she came up with an alternative credit model – one based on individual transactions and risk-based pricing. In 2015 ZestMoney was launched in India, a country where consumer credit penetration rates are, in Lizzie’s words, “absolutely pathetic”.  

Now, millions of Indian consumers use ZestMoney’s common-sense model to “upgrade their lives”. Freelance writers, for example, no longer have to settle for a second-hand HP; now they can afford a fit-for-purpose MacBook. As Lizzie puts it: “The solution isn’t ‘Indian people shouldn’t be allowed Apple products’; it’s ‘Let’s create financing systems that make these products affordable and accessible’.”

3. Neurala

Next year, Boston-based tech start-up Neurala will equip a fleet of drones with artificial intelligence (AI). The unmanned aerial vehicles will then be deployed to the African savannah, where they’ll be tasked with tracking wild animals – and, more importantly, the people who poach them.

Once the AI identifies a poacher, it alerts a human analyst who can call in local rangers. Max Versace, Neurala’s CEO, told us that such technology could help solve the world’s other people-caused problems – like removing plastic debris from the world’s oceans. “Humans are going to destroy the world, not AI,” he said. “AI is a weapon in our arsenal to make things right.”

2. Senosis Health

What if your smartphone could essentially be your doctor and monitor vital metrics such as heartbeat, haemoglobin and lung health? Well, this is exactly what Senosis Health’s range of apps can do – simply by using your handset’s microphone, camera, flash and accelerometer.

Now, the Seattle-based start-up, which was founded by tech entrepreneur Shwetak Patel, has been acquired by Google. The takeover comes after the search giant revealed ambitions for a health technology arm, whose aim will be to “dramatically improve the availability and accuracy of medical services”.

1. Modern Fertility

Thanks to San Francisco-based start-up Modern Fertility, women can take the same tests offered at fertility clinics at home. Its diminutive test kit, which is available to pre-order for $149, promises to be make lab tests more affordable and easier to understand.

“We’re building a test that makes this information accessible to women early in their lives,” Modern Fertility co-founder Afton Vechery told TechCrunch. “As I started talking to more women, it was clear there was a lot of anxiety over fertility, but no way to afford to test it. Every woman should have access to this information that is a better predictor than just our ages.”