Your best friend can also be your worst enemy.
Today, this statement can apply to technology as a whole. Take data for instance. While advances in data-driven solutions have no doubt been immensely beneficial, they’ve also left us exposed to more vulnerabilities and threats.
This is where the good guys, such as the startups in the 4th cohort of the NetApp Excellerator, come in. From Quantam-resistant cryptographic systems, to secure AI-based data extraction solutions, and smart predictive maintenance systems for Industry 4.0, the innovations from these six startups are ready to wow the world.
And the NetApp Excellerator has given them the perfect platform to do this. Since 2017, when the programme was first launched, and through three successful cohorts, the programme has been helping startups build innovative, world-class products and solutions, and make them market-ready. From tools and technologies, to know-how and mentoring, the NetApp Excellerator enables participants to leverage its ecosystem of partners, subject-matter experts, and customers and to realise the maximum potential of their innovative ideas. This year, six startups representing various sectors were selected from over 300 applicants as part of the accelerator programme
“This is a time when our innovations and tech advancements have started to generate new markets and opportunities within themselves. With the mainstreaming of AI, large data set computations present an opportunity to ensure the safety and privacy of computing data, and we have a startup in our cohort which does that. To future-proof against security threats posed by quantum computing, we have a startup that generates quantum security keys and transmits them over a quantum security-enabled channel. These are illustrations that underpin a larger point that new business models will be powered by deep tech and deliver simple yet powerful solutions to the consumers. At the NetApp Excellerator, I am proud of the fact that over the past two years, we have crafted a diverse technology and business platform for deep tech and B2B companies to make use of and collaborate to create enormous value,” says Ajeya Motaganahalli, Senior Director, Strategy and Engineering Programs, and Leader of NetApp Excellerator.
The six startups in the fourth cohort include:
Getting data, AI and privacy to work together
As the AI wave gets bigger, so does the concern around data privacy. Existing methods to ensure data privacy restrain the complete potential of deriving valuable insights from AI. The industry requires tools to be able to facilitate AI at scale, easily, and without compromising on security or privacy of sensitive data.
Ederlabs is a machine / deep learning research lab based in Bangalore, focused on stitching together fundamental technologies that will allow for data, AI, and privacy to work together.
The startup was founded in Bengaluru in July 2018 by Paul Finney, Utkarsh Saxena, Vishwajit Sasi, and Sharat Satyanarayana. The co-founders have backgrounds in deep tech product development and applied AI.
“At Ederlabs, we believe that enterprises need to develop an infrastructure for AI innovation. We are engineering privacy and security technologies into the building blocks for such AI infrastructure. Our product, Fluid, will enable enterprises to easily and securely scale their AI adoption,” says Sharat.
They share an example of a potential use case in the fraud detection space. All fintech companies have intelligence on red-flags about bad users within their system. Usually, they are active across multiple fintech platforms. If all fintech companies could share the data of such bad users with one another, everyone could be better prepared. However, such data will never be shared openly, given the concern around brand & reputation impact. With Ederlabs’ technologies, algorithms specifically designed to identify these red flags can be developed as a common resource, and then made to run on the data of all fintech companies without their private data getting exposed, he explains.
“The market for 'Secure AI' or 'Privacy-Preserving Machine Learning' has only started taking shape in 2019. We currently operate in the confluence of a few markets such as AI DevOps, AI Services, Cloud Scalers (the big 4 Cloud service providers), and Data Centers. With our technologies, AI adoption and engagements will become easier for companies across all industries,” he adds.
Talking about their time with the NetApp Excellerator, Sharat says, “The experience has helped us significantly validate not only our product hypotheses, but also given us great insights into the design of our business. The NetApp Excellerator programme is significantly valuable to an early stage company like ours. We are grateful to the mentors from NetApp who have been proactively guiding us towards making our technology market-ready.”
Empowering enterprises by slashing unscheduled downtimes
By 2020, there will be an estimated five billion connected devices. It is in this context that predictive maintenance has emerged as the biggest use case for Industry 4.0.
Ecolibrium Energy’s SmartSense empowers enterprises to prevent unscheduled downtimes, optimise maintenance & energy costs, moving the enterprises from scheduled to predictive maintenance. With SmartSense, customers can reduce the probability of unplanned downtimes by 70 percent, maintenance costs by 30 percent and energy costs by 10 percent.
Ecolibrium was founded by brothers Chintan and Harit Soni in 2010. Things started off on a high note for them with the establishment of Gujarat’s first smart micro-grid demonstration project with Torrent Power. Their next breakthrough came in the form of incubation at CIIE, IIM Ahmedabad. Since then, they have added 700+ installations across 300 global enterprises. It is currently used by customers belonging to pharma, engineering, automotive, foundry, commercial buildings, OEM, FMCG and other sectors.
They currently have a presence in India, South East Asia and the Middle East. “The NetApp Excellerator programme has gone a long way in helping each department within Ecolibrium. There have been several workshops and webinars that have benefitted different stakeholders. From devising a more effective sales strategy and strengthening the marketing communication to a UI/UX session and a discussion on how to build the best architecture for a startup in the growth phase – the Netapp Excellerator has definitely resulted in overall skill enablement across our team,” say the founders.
Helping build Quantum-resilient cryptographic systems for a post-Quantum world
Quantum Computers (QC) have seen an exponential pace of development recently. The potential benefits of quantum computing, from advances in cancer research, gene studies to unlocking the mysteries of the universe, are limitless. But that same computing power can be used to unlock confidential information. QCs will be able to crack current public key cryptography in minutes leading to a ‘crypt-apocalypse’.
The only solution is to evolve a new breed of Quantum cryptographic systems resilient to the power of Quantum Computers.
QNu Labs was set up in September 2016 to build and deploy products and solutions in the Quantum Cryptography space. “QNu’s architecture and solution is unique in terms of its implementation methodology and has been filed for patents. We believe our solutions will radically simplify the implementation and enables faster deployment without any 'rip and replace' of any of the existing infrastructure. Therefore, our solutions are well differentiated in terms of efficacy of the solution and ease of deployment to make organisations crypto-agile,” says Sunil Gupta, Co-founder, CEO and Head of Products, QNu.
QNu was incubated out of IIT-Madras Research Park under co-founder Prof. Anil Prabhakar’s guidance, and began operations headquartered in Bangalore. Apart from Sunil, who’s the CEO, and Dr Anil Prabhakar, who is the Technical Director, CTO Mark Mathias is another co-founder. M.T Karunkaran heads Product Engineering and Development. The team is working to put India in the elite group of countries to possess Quantum Cryptography products and solutions.
The NetApp Excellerator helped QNu identify new use cases and value propositions in the area of public cloud and opened up new avenues to explore partnerships. “The mentorship sessions that were conducted, have built a new paradigm of quantum cloud and internet security in the context of the NetApp Data Fabric. We are now looking at creating an offering within data centres which would tie into the public and private cloud key management security. Through NetApp’s mentors we have fine-tuned our pitch to create a nuanced narrative that talks about a larger impact in the quantum crypto space. We are looking at building a strong use case for the data centre and CSP market, and to look at securing keys in a quantum-secure manner. Our approach was largely to get deeper understanding of NetApp offerings to build on the use case, validate the same, and do a joint POC with NetApp,” he adds.
Taking the pain and danger out of sensitive data-sharing in the digital age
Today, we receive statements, text messages and notifications that contain sensitive and personal data through emails, SMSes, chat and cloud storage, which are traditional channels of communication built without any security in mind and solve the communication problems from a different age. These are the very channels that hackers use to push spyware, malware, spam and phishing attacks.
“In spite of all the technological advancements, phishing attacks and business email compromises still exist and account for losses worth $17 billion. Organizations with high end technical resources are able to put custom solutions together to solve part of these problems. But there are no standards available to receive the information. We learnt that people need better ways to receive, store and share information. They want to be able to trust the message they receive and control the messages they share,” says Prakash Baskaran, founder of Bengaluru-based SecurelyShare, which he set up in 2017.
SecurelyShare uses a single platform, Vault.Direct, to solve these multiple issues which are dealt with by multiple products in silos. They eliminate phishing and other harmful messages with 'source verification'. Their solution is convenient to use by both enterprises and users. End to end encryption means there are no unwarranted disclosures and leaks. Says Prakash, “Since we have been part of the programme, we have worked closely with our tech mentors from NetApp and have been through many workshops conducted by some of the best in the industry on customer acquisition, storytelling, marketing among others. As a platform company we always wanted to do a lot - these sessions have helped us focus on top use cases, separate product capabilities and fine-tune our messages in a much better way. By this separation, we are even able to create a joint product offering with NetApp. In short, the NetApp Excellerator has become a crucial part of our growth.”
Data extraction made faster, easier and more cost-efficient
UniQreate uses AI, Deep Learning Systems and intelligent workflows to fulfill the real needs of a business user – to directly and efficiently manage his/her own data extraction while dealing with changing document formats in the quickest way. This also significantly improves the time and cost involved in data acquisition.
When doing a post-graduate program at Oxford University, co-founder Nitin Gupta found the research processes highly inefficient and laborious. He shared this vision with Kiran Kumar, who was running a tech company in Bengaluru. They built UniQreate into a visualisation tool to create a “network of ideas” from research documents. With a singular focus on empowering business users, they brought in Rakesh Srivastava, an expert in Delivery and Operations, as Head-Operations.
“Data extraction was largely seen as a middle and back office function with thousands of people manually performing tasks. It resulted in higher costs, data governance challenges, and almost no individual growth. UniQreate focused on human centric AI solutions, transforming old and manual ways of working into modern and digital workflows, that just work better,” says Nitin.
They recently launched a self-service module that will bring down the adoption time by 70 percent while on-boarding new users in less than 15 minutes.
“We wanted to be stubborn about our goals but agile in our ways to reach the goals and that is where NetApp Excellerator has been the right hook. The programme has helped us understand the complete product and business life cycles and how to marry the two to create a successful story.”
He says the learnings have helped them create an impactful product messaging, which has been a critical turnaround for them. “With NetApp’s resources, we have built a bigger network of key industry influencers, business, data and product leaders globally, helping us penetrate new markets and geographies. Together, it has been a great experience for all three of us to grow individually as well as a team,” he says.
Automation made faster, easier even for non-technical users
The current methods to automate repetitive and manual business processes use robotic process automation (RPA) solutions or custom automation software. However, these have downsides such as high implementation costs, long deployment time and high complexity. This makes these solutions unfeasible for a lot of business processes. Also, these solutions can only be used by technical users to create automation.
Zappy is the world’s fastest automation software which observes user actions and creates automation within a minute. Our advanced algorithms are based on a combination of supervised, unsupervised and reinforcement machine learning giving Zappy the ability to automate tasks by observing people at their work computers. Zappy enables even non-technical users to automate their tasks in a short time,” says Founder Ambuj Agrawal.
His mother Saroj Agarwal, who’s the company’s Chief Operating Officer, further explains how Zappy not only saves time, but is also super-efficient.
“We developed Zappy to automate these processes under a minute making day-to-day activities simpler and more efficient. Employees just have to do the task or an iteration of that task once, then Zappy can learn that behaviour and create automations for these tasks.”
She says NetApp Excellerator helped them improve in three key areas: customer acquisition and retention, finding the right pricing strategy and driving brand awareness.
“The experience has been amazing so far. NetApp brought in the best mentors from Silicon Valley and industry experts who helped us improve our perspective and way of doing things. We are looking to implement Zappy for NetApp's internal requirement as well as leveraging NetApp's connections for expanding our clientele in domestic and global markets,” says Ambuj.