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Stratio's LinkSquare was introduced on VentureBeat

Stratio's LinkSquare can decipher what's in your food to see if it's authentic.

Above: Stratio's LinkSquare can decipher what's in your food to see if it's authentic.

Image Credit: Stratio

How do you really know that the food or medicine you’re about to ingest is what the package label says it is? With the LinkSquare from Stratio, you can actually run a test to get confirmation.

Stratio is unveiling its new LinkSquare infrared scanner for food, pharmaceuticals, materials, and physical objects at the 2016 International CES (the big tech trade show that will take place in Las Vegas next week). The San Jose, Calif.-based company says that its product will allow consumers to receive instant, reliable information about an object’s composition, right on their smartphone.

Stratio is unveiling the product amid increasing fears arising from food and drug scandals in the U.S. Consumers are concerned about product authenticity, and those fears may not be groundless. A 2013 report, for example, revealed that more than 30 percent of fish sold at U.S. restaurants and grocery stores were mislabeled. On top of that, more than 40 percent of the drugs sold in the U.S., and 80 percent of the active ingredients within those drugs, are manufactured in unregulated plants overseas, and enter the U.S. with no inspection.

That raises questions about whether the food you’re eating is really as healthy as you imagine, and whether you are successfully avoiding harmful chemicals, allergens, and counterfeit supplements.

LinkSquare is a portable, versatile spectrometer that uses the same kind of spectroscopy astronomers use to decipher the composition of distant stars. Materials emit light of different frequencies, and a laser spectrograph can measure these frequencies, allowing the device can make a positive identification at the molecular level.

The device uses a germanium-based Short Wave Infrared (SWIR) image sensor to illuminate an object and capture its response to light. Each type of molecule vibrates in its own way, and these vibrations interact with light to create a unique “optical fingerprint.” The data is analyzed through algorithms within Stratio’s database to identify a product’s composition, and results are then sent to the user via smartphone. The technology has been used by large corporations and the military for decades. Stratio is making it accessible to ordinary people.

The company has competitors in the field, such as Consumer Physics’ Scio, but Stratio contends that its scanner is capable of capturing light from a broader spectrum, thus analyzing more data to provide a more accurate analysis.

I’ve seen the Scio development prototype working accurately in identifying pain-relief pills. Dror Sharon, CEO of Scio-maker Consumer Physics, said in an interview that his company is now shipping its handheld device for scanning materials. The $250 Scio device has its first third-party party app, Diet Sensor, for scanning food.

“We haven’t seen any of the others in the market yet,” Sharon said. “It’s still an open field. But there is a big difference from making one unit, making a thousand, or making a million.”

Like competitors’ devices, LinkSquare can reportedly detect bogus drugs or mislabeled foods, and can also help consumers avoid mistakes such as confusing two medications which look similar to the naked eye. The device will be especially beneficial for people with dietary restrictions, and those who depend on a regular drug regimen. LinkSquare may also be used to verify whether other materials, such as leather, are genuine.

“Our eyes are the most important tool we have for evaluating the things around us, but looks alone can’t tell you everything. LinkSquare gives you important information you would miss otherwise,” said Jae Hyung Lee, CEO and cofounder of Stratio, in a statement.

Horizon Prizes recently offered a million euros to the inventors who can come up with the best scanner prototypes for analyzing food composition and nutritional facts and detecting potentially harmful ingredients.

LinkSquare is currently compatible with Android, and iOS support will be added in 2016. After CES, the company is planning a crowdfunding campaign in June 2016. The device is expected to be priced at $200.

Stratio was founded in 2013 by four Stanford University electrical engineering doctoral students. Lee recalls that he went out to celebrate a publication of a paper and bought some expensive whiskey.

“The very next day,” Lee said, “I read an article about a group of bars that were in trouble for switching out top-shelf alcohol for lower-end stuff. It made me wonder about the whiskey I had the night before – no one likes to get cheated.”

There are worse consequences than paying a lot of money for cheap whiskey.

“Our eyes are the most important tool we have for evaluating the things around us, but looks alone can’t tell you everything,” Lee said. “LinkSquare gives you important information you would miss otherwise.”

The company has been recognized in numerous startup competitions, including taking second place at the Business Association of Stanford Entrepreneurial Students’ Start-up Challenge in 2013, winning grand prize at the Global Start-up Contest in South Korea in 2013, and receiving U.S. National Science Foundation Small Business Innovation Research grants in 2014 and 2015.

Stratio has 12 employees. Investors include a major semiconductor company and the U.S. National Science Foundation’s Small Business Innovation Research grant program. Stratio has also received funding from several incubators, including Start-up Chile and Alchemist Accelerator, as well as receiving research and development grants in South Korea.

Start-Up Chile Demo Day Top3
Stratio was selected as Top 3 companies on the Start-Up Chile DEMO day, held on Nov 12th 2015. Start-Up Chile is a seed accelerator created by the Chilean Government Based in Santiago, Chile.
BASES (Stanford): 2nd Prize Winner
Stratio won the second prize at BASES
The Business Association of Stanford Entrepreneurial Students (BASES) awarded $150,000 to 14 startups on Friday in the finale of a multi-round entrepreneurial competition that began in January.

TAMER SHABANI/The Stanford Daily
Teams entered the group’s 150K Challenge in one of three categories—the Social Entrepreneurship Challenge (Social E-Challenge), the Entrepreneurship Challenge (E-Challenge) and the Product Showcase. BASES received 96 entries for the E-Challenge, 41 entries for the Social E-Challenge and 81 entries for the Product Showcase.
Product Showcase
The Product Showcase competition was open only to Stanford-affiliated entrepreneurs, and participants applied to the program with products they had already created. The BASES team selected a group of finalists to demonstrate their prototypes at the finale.
“It’s like a science fair on steroids,” said Zineb Laraki ’12 M.S. ’13, vice president of external relations at BASES. “It is very product- and idea-driven.”
More than 50 companies presented their products at the Product Showcase, including Auralyze, an acoustic modeling firm founded by Charles Mbatia ’13, Andrew Tener ’13, Konstantine Buhler ’14 and Jonathan Abel M.S. ’84 Ph.D. ’89, a consulting professor of music.
Auralyze’s co-founders voiced their appreciation for the opportunity provided by the showcase to reach a broad network of potential investors.
“I think the BASES program is fantastic— they have given Auralyze a way to show our technology to a large group of investors and we are already rapidly gaining interest,” Buhler said.
The top Product Showcase prize and $20,000 went to ALICE, an artificial intelligence product that reduces the amount of time necessary to schedule a construction project. Stratio came in second place, winning $15,000, and Flamestower took third and the $10,000 prize. MedAble and Refresh tied for fourth place, with each receiving $2,500.
The Social Entrepreneurship Challenge showcased novel ideas in social innovation and technology, while the Entrepreneurship Challenge featured companies with products in a wider range of markets.
According to Laraki, both E-Challenges were business model competitions. Entrants went through several rounds of judging and mentorship before six companies from the Social E-Challenge and nine companies from the E-Challenge were selected as finalists.
In the Social E-Challenge, Anjna Patient Education, a non-profit focused on informing patients about their health conditions using text messaging and voice technology, received the top prize and $25,000. Adapt Air won $15,000 as runner-up, and Flamestower and Vynca won $5,000 apiece in third place.
Vineet Singal ’12, co-founder of Anjna Patient Education, said that the competition provided valuable experience in presenting to and networking with potential investors.
“I think that for me it was a great experience to have a public presentation, because it is important for us to be able to tailor one pitch to different audiences,” Singal reflected.
In the E-Challenge, AWAIR took home the top prize of $25,000, with Resido Medical winning $12,500 for second place. Third place and $7,500 went to CinderBio, and ChemoFilter and ALICE tied for fourth place, receiving $2,500 each.
Matthew Goodyear ’12 M.S. ’14, co-president of BASES, described this year’s finalists as especially talented and noted that the competition had attracted more medical, healthcare and information technology companies than in previous years.
“They seem to get better every year,” he said. “I think they’re all good—they had to get through three rounds.”
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Plug and Play Expo 2013 Winner
Stratio was one of three winners at Plug and Play Expo 2013
That is what my personal favorite pitch offered at Thursday’s Plug and Play’s Spring Expo in Sunnyvale where 31 startups told their stories to a crowd of potential investors and journalists.

It was impossible to tell whether Glanse CEO Evelyn Zoubi and Chief Technology Officer Mosab Al Dahyyat can deliver on the promise of doing for clothing what the Shazam mobile does when it identifies random snippets of songs found in the wild.

Their live demo wasn’t available yet at the expo but Sunnyvale-based Glanse’s founders say users will be able to find out what somebody they see in public is wearing by taking their picture with your mobile device. The app will tell what that snappy dress or shirt costs, where you can find it and even help you buy it on the spot. And it offers cheaper alternatives, too.

The judges didn’t agree with me, maybe because there was no way for them to try it out for themselves. But if Glanse works, it would seem to be a great idea.
Here are the three startups picked as winners by the official judges:
— Stipple: This San Francisco startup led by CEO Rey Flemings demonstrated its image-based advertising service with investor Justin Timberlake‘s new release this week. It helps brands turn the images they put on the Web into e-commerce opportunities by connecting them to interactive media, advertising and commerce. Images are the magic magnets on the Web, getting more interactions than words and videos combined. In addition to Timberlake, Stipple has also already got some backing from Sands Capital, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Relevance Capital and Floodgate.
—Speaktoit: Founders Ilya and Olga Gelfenbeyn racked up a bunch of awards for their voice-activated personal assistant for Android devices before the Expo. They were declared a Top 10 Android app by the New York Times and won demo days at Stanford and Cisco. They are also already backed by Intel Capital. It puts a face to the voice that helps users, unlike Apple’s Siri and works with a number of other services, including Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Evernote.
— Stratio: This is the work of four Stanford engineering students who have come up with a new infrared imaging technology that works with a smartphone, meaning it costs far less and offers much higher resolution than existing options. A range of possible uses, from food quality to chemical analysis and forensics, make this a promising advance that won over the judges.
Another Expo startup that I liked is one that will be familiar to readers of The Pitch, my weekly profile of Silicon Valley startups that runs in the Business Journal.

CrowdSync’s Alex Fortunato and Laird Hayward were on hand to show their crowd-sharing video technology. The name of their company is FoxSpring Labs but CrowdSync is the app they have developed that lets people share and sync videos with others that were at the same wedding, show, party or other event. Anywhere there are more than two cameras shooting and the operators have CrowdSync, the possibility of more engaging video is there with this app.

As always, there were too many interesting startups to list all of them in a blog like this one. And also, as usual at Plug and Play, a good number of the companies pitching were here from other countries.
There was one, Sha-Sha, that promised to be the Netflix of the Middle East and another, Anghami, that promised to be a kind of iTunes for Arabic, Bollywood and other music in North Africa and the Middle East.

Some, like Speaktoit and Stipple, almost felt like they were “ringers,” already attracting influential backers, and perhaps should have been judged separately from the greener startups.
But that’s a Plug and Play expo, a patchwork of local and foreign entrepreneurs, advanced startups and neophytes. But always worth a visit.

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