3 of TIME’s ‘Best Inventions of 2019’ are SOSV-Backed
For the second year in a row.
Each year, TIME Magazine publishes a list of 100 innovations “making the world better, smarter and even a little more fun.” The editors at the US-based magazine scour the world for gadgets large and small that help solve accessibility issues (talking hearing aids, talking eyeglasses), foods that change the way we eat (protein-packed breakfast cereal, a 100-calorie breakfast bar), and devices to eliminate migraine headaches, relieve sinus pain, and deliver ultrasound readings on the fly.
You would think that the largest companies would dominate the list, right? Wrong. 480 of the Fortune 500 companies weren’t even mentioned. A few big tech companies managed to get at least one of their devices on to the list. For example, Apple scored with their AirPods Pro, LG for an 88-inch 8K OLED television, and Microsoft placed in the Gaming category with its Minecraft Earth virtual world. General Electric, the US-based industrial conglomerate, was mentioned twice — once for a scanner that gives women more control over their mammogram, and once for a 12 megawatt offshore wind turbine.
So why am I writing to tell you this? Making the list one time is an honor for any company. After all, TIME’s editors receive thousands of nominations each year from editors and correspondents across the globe. Many, many more are submitted directly through an online process. And, given that there are 21 categories ranging from accessibility to wellness, it is possible for a few companies, like GE, to be mentioned twice.
But three times? Nobody gets on the list three times, do they?
SOSV portfolio companies do. Two years in a row. Last year, we had Lumos (smart bike helmet), HabitAware (bracelets that break compulsive behaviors), and Lynq (compass that points to family and friends) on the Best Inventions of 2018 list. This year, three more of SOSV’s portfolio companies were named as one of the 100 best inventions in the world.
First, there’s Catalog Technologies (IndieBio / Boston, MA). Catalog made the list for its novel approach to encode the world’s digital information into synthetic DNA. Founders Hyunjun Park and Nathaniel Bernard Roquet realized that there was a disconnect between the amount of data being generated worldwide each year (160 zettabytes of data in 2025) and the capacity of flash drives, hard drives and other conventional storage media to meet the demand. Enter CATALOG, the world’s first DNA-based platform for massive digital data storage and computation. Hyunjun and Nathaniel were inspired by the human body’s efficient system for storing genetic information and created the DNA Data Writer, which uses synthetic strands of DNA to print and store data. More data, faster storage and printing, with a smaller, less expensive footprint. Way to go Catalog!
Then, there’s Unspun (HAX / San Francisco, CA and Hong Kong, SAR). Unspun was mentioned for its 3-D body scanner that creates a personal avatar with 100,000 data points. The result? Custom-fit jeans with zero fabric waste and no unsold inventory. Founders Beth Esponette, Kevin Martin and Walden Lam created a robotics and apparel company to deliver on their mission to reduce global carbon emissions through automated, localized and intentional manufacturing. The company has launched unspun, its own fashion brand and a software API platform powering digital customization for large apparel brands. Jeans that fit, produced on demand, with no waste. Sign me up.
And finally, take a look at Light (HAX / Brooklyn, NY). Light captured the attention of TIME’s editor’s because the company has launched a phone that is, well, actually a phone. Kaiwei Tang and Joe Hollier realized that the device in your pocket has become a computer and a tether, not a phone. Their solution? The Light Phone II — a second phone that only does voice calls. It uses your existing phone number, and inspires and encourages users to leave their smartphone behind and enjoy quality time, while still being reachable. A partnership with Foxconn (same company that manufactures Apple’s iPhone) and efficient use of the cloud equals the world’s thinnest phone, engineered to hold no more than 9 numbers on speed dial, and designed to be used as little as possible. Pre-order it now.
Congratulations to the founders and teams at Catalog, Unspun, and Light. We are happy to see you get the recognition that you deserve!