YourStory recently launched ‘Starting Up with Shradha Sharma’—a weekly live show hosted by Shradha Sharma, CEO and Founder of YourStory, that provides a first-of-its-kind platform to early- and mid-stage startups to showcase their innovation, without the luxury of retakes or tweaks.
In Episode 6 of the weekly series, YourStory hosted VECROS, 3rditech, Codemate.ai, and Trestle Labs—startups in various stages of growth but each unique and innovative in their own ways.
In this unfiltered chat, the founders talk about the origin of their ideas, how they’ve built their ingenious products, the scaling stage, and their future plans.
Let’s meet the startups, shall we?
Founded by Besta Prem Sai and Rajashree Deotalu, VECROS solves the problem of training people to operate drones with its autonomous drones built in-house.
The drones can be used for real-time inspection and monitoring purposes. “The core problem we are solving is autonomy. The drones we have built can understand what’s happening around them and navigate on their own,” explains Sai, Co-founder and CEO and VECROS.
The drones are powered by a smart system which executes as per the inputs fed. “This is a huge game-changer, especially for the scalability part,” he adds.
Talking about the differentiation the deep tech startup brings, Deotalu, Co-founder and Head of Autonomy at VECROS, explains that other drones utilise artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities are on the cloud whereas the AI processor resides in the VECROS drones in the system.
This helps the startup’s drones to process data at a rate of 21 trillion operations per second. The Delhi-based startup now wants to upgrade this to 28 trillion operations per second. In addition, the systems developed by VECROS are 4G- and 5G-enabled as well.
“This makes the system very context-aware and avoids obstacles in real-time. You do not need human input in the whole operation. Sitting in Mumbai, you can fly the drone to Delhi,” says Deotalu.
The team wants to decentralise drone operations by enabling certain commands that can be executed remotely to fly multiple drones and get relevant data.
The startup is at the proof-of-concept stage, and is working for companies such as Sterlite Technologies and Nokia, in addition to some construction firms. The team is looking to find the product-market fit in the telecom and powerline sectors.
VECROS, which is a combination of the words ‘vector’ and ‘robotics’, is looking to raise its next round of funding.
Founded in 2019, 3rditech, a semiconductor startup, has been operating in stealth (you will not find their website!). Co-founder Vrinda Kapoor says the startup is the first in India to work on image sensors, which have wide-ranging applications in phones, webcams, satellites, drones, large surveillance systems, and closed-circuit televisions (CCTVs).
The startup, which has been bootstrapped since its inception, had paying customers from the very early stages, which did not necessitate any fundraising.
“There are multiple kinds of semiconductor companies. Some make systems on chips, some make the sensors themselves, and some do the backend work. We are one of the few that’s a product company. We are building our own products (semiconductor chips) and pushing them into the market,” says Kapoor.
Spun out of IIT-Delhi, the startup received its first US patent on March 12, 2023.
“The fact that semiconductors are everywhere and they power everything is known. So, why people don’t get into it is because they are afraid,” says Kapoor. “The fear needs to go away as the government is providing a lot of incentives.”
He adds there is a huge potential for semiconductor companies in the fields of computing and data centres, telecommunication, and autonomy.
She also said that the hardest problem for the startup was to get a foundry to manufacture its products.
“That’s the biggest barrier to entry and then, coming up with funds to pay for the fabrication,” adds Kapoor, who along with her co-founder, has been able to scale the team to 60 people.
Founded in 2022 by Ayush Singhal, CodeMate is an auto-correcting tool for programmers which fixes errors as they type out the code. It helps developers write code better and faster.
“We are building ‘Grammarly for programmers’,” says Singhal, Founder of CodeMate. The startup promises to decrease the turnaround time for startups, thereby bringing in cost reduction. CodeMate also caters to educational institutions to help fix student errors in addition to providing detailed reports on their coding abilities and programming scores.
The Delhi-NCR-based startup claims to reduce 40% project costs and 30-35% in project timelines. It is presently working on pilots with three organisations, which are evaluating its solutions.
The first version of its product launched last year focused on multiple features such as generating code from text, translating codes, and creating documentation in addition to code debugging.
“We faced a major challenge. We couldn’t define our proposition as to why a developer should install CodeMate and not any other tool,” says Singhal. User feedback suggested that code debugging was the most used feature and the startup began focusing solely on that. This led to the launch of the public version of CodeMate 2.0 about a month ago.
He explains that while ChatGPT does code debugging, Singhal says that any tool wrapped around it has a lot of “hallucinations”.
“We are building an autonomous AI agent which not only generates the fixed code but also fixes its own code repetitively till the time it passes all the test cases and runs successfully in our own backend. Only then do we suggest the fix to our users and thereby, we are reducing the “hallucations” to a large extent, which is not the case with ChatGPT or any other tool out there,” says Singhal.
Over 15,000 individuals have used the platform so far. CodeMate introduced pricing just about a week ago. The bootstrapped startup currently has 65 individual paying customers, and more than 20 organisations are interested in the paid versions of its solutions.
Founded in 2017 by Akshita Sachdeva, Bonny Dave and Abhishek Baghel, Trestle Labs enables blind and visually-impaired people to access any kind of content, be it printed, handwritten or digital.
“We realised that the biggest challenges a visually-impaired person faces are in the education and employment sectors. Our product, KIBO, which is essentially ‘Knowledge in a box’ brings that ability to listen, translate, digitise and even “audio-tise” anything, which is printed, handwritten or digital across 60 global languages,” says Sachdeva, Co-founder at Trestle Labs.
She adds that their ability to cater to unserved and underserved languages sets them apart. The platform serves 60 languages, including 13 major Indian languages and other Asian and African languages. Besides translation, the features include scanning and uploading documents and downloading them as audiobooks.
Trestle Labs has also received a patent.
“Because we wanted to build something which is much more inclusive, that’s why I guess we choose audio as the channel or the medium of delivering the output of the content,” says Co-founder Dave. “We’ve seen good results in adoption also in mainstream organisations, schools, colleges and universities who have adopted KIBO in their own institutions.”
Highlighting the impact on users, Sachdeva recalled a student named Gokul who uses KIBO’s mobile app to prepare for his UPSC (Union Public Service Commission) examination. He cleared the exams and got appointed as an IAS officer in Tamil Nadu.
He now uses a KIBO access device to read his official documents confidentially without having to depend on anybody else.
“It all happened very slowly. But now, there is a community effect, which is giving us a head start,” says Dave.
KIBO, which has three products (a mobile app, a hardware device and a web app), is based on a freemium model where 70% of the features are free, according to Dave. The startup, which is both bootstrapped and profitable, does not want to depend on donations or corporate social responsibility funds for its growth.
The company has over 500 institutions and around 70,000 individuals using Trestle Labs’ products.
You can watch the video interview here.