Photo by Kristina Flour on Unsplash

What secret is powering these AI and Blockchain startups?

No longer is there such a chasm between powerful corporations and the startups that are trying to disrupt the traditional hierarchies.

Craig E Ryder
Mar 2 · 4 min read

Silicon Roundabout attended Oracle Openworld in London to find out how Oracle’s global startup program is allowing innovative startups to blaze a trail in some of the most exciting sectors out there.

Now the blockchain evangelism of 5–10 years ago has cooled down, cases of real-world problem-solving form the world’s most misunderstood ledger are starting to come to fruition.

Rob Squire, who is the CTO of new “centralised” blockchain startup, Ld8a, explains that blockchain’s future isn’t with digital currencies, but with Enterprise Systems of Record (ESOR). For him, blockchain’s immutable ledger is perfect for records that need to keep in sync with real-world changes.

Take, for example, product provenance.

London and Dublin-based startup, Circulor, is an industrial supply chain technology that harnesses the blockchain so brands can demonstrate to their stakeholders that they are ethical and sustainable.

Discussing a problem industry like mobile phones, which has a long, torrid relationship with “conflict minerals” such as coltan and cobalt, co-founder, Veera Johnson, explains that the Circulor system can track cobalt as it is recycled through the supply chain, and logs what is added to it, by whom and, when, all on the incorruptible record of the blockchain.

Blockchain startup, Circulor, are making suppliers rethink the provenance of problem products like smartphones. Photo by Rodion Kutsaev on Unsplash

The technology is so compelling it motivated the former Asian businesswomen, Johnson, out of retirement.

She said, “We don’t stop the process [of bad supply chains] but we shine a light on it and that will, in turn, help improve supply chains. This year we’ll be moving into the aviation sector and the provenance of 3D printing materials.”

Similarly, a new Germany-based startup, retraced, is looking to redesign the fabric of the fashion industry. Following disasters such as the Randa Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh, which inadvertently unearthed poor working conditions from many, familiar high street brands, consumers, especially young people, are demanding brands act more ethically. retraced allows fashion brands such as Cano — who produce handmade shoes from Mexico — to do that by telling their customers the stories they care about.

In both of these blockchain applications, the startups could not function without high-value computational power.

retraced Communications Manager, Tai Ford, said, “We couldn’t do this without being on the Oracle Blockchain. What they give us is infrastructure. Our system needs to continuously update and Oracle’s higher computer power handles this….allowing our tech team to concentrate on the solution for end consumers.”

We know that human interaction with AI is the future, but some of the AI systems around today remain unconvincing (Hello Siri!).

London-based AI startup, DeepZen, are going a long way to fixing that by creating emotional and expressive voices that position us closer to ‘the uncanny valley’.

DeepZen CTO and co-founder, Kerem Sozugecer, says, “our voices are so ultra-realistic and indistinguishable from a human that they have passed 4 minute Turing Tests.” To prove his point, DeepZen’s website has inserts from audiobooks that their tech has transcribed, including Metamorphosis by Franz Kafta.

Is the voice in your ear human or AI? Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

Another startup changing our relationship with AI is BotSupply. Operating out of Copenhagen, their bots have two huge advantages over most other Chatbot Management Systems (CMS). First, their bots are fully international, supporting nearly 30 Natural Language Processers (NLP) including Arabic, German, Italian, French and Spanish. Second, their CMS builds bots with no code!

BotSupply’s tech is especially symbolic of the newfound partnership between corporations and startups.

BotSupply cofounder, Francesco Stasi, explains, “We get to harness Oracle’s incredible international reach and marketplace, whilst Oracle has been able to upgrade their English-only bot offer, to our suite of 27 languages”.

The secret powering these AI and Blockchain companies, and a whole raft of other technology startups, is computational, cloud-based technologies, as well as business development and market resources provided by Oracle.

Another good example is San Francisco based analytics platform Kinetica, who fly drones over “The Bay” to document the build-up of pollution.

Kinetica’s CMO Daniel Raskin says, “With Oracle’s Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) we can stream 420 hours of data into 18 hours, a feat simply unachievable for a startup without that kind of technical support.”

The startup world is changing. No longer is there such a chasm between powerful corporations and the startups that are trying to disrupt the traditional hierarchies.

This development shouldn’t be mistaken as a colonisation project from the former on to the latter, but closer to a partnership. When looking to innovate on emerging technologies like AI and Blockchain, startups are having to increasingly rely on the colossal computational power that corporations can provide so they can run their vanguard solutions.

Moreover, the innovation that startups bring help corporations such as Oracle stay current and enter new environments.

Find out more about Oracle's startup program here.

Silicon Roundabout Hub

All about startups, technology, entrepreneurship, venture…

Craig E Ryder

Written by

Comms Tectonic | Cofounder Reach Out | Freelance Journalist | Studying MA in Global Digital Cultures @ SOAS | BA First Class Anthropology

Silicon Roundabout Hub

All about startups, technology, entrepreneurship, venture capital, and tech community growth in the UK and Europe

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