TechCrunch Disrupt SF spotlights fresh founders, not just hotshot CEOs

Josh Constine
Users Guide to Disrupt SF 2017

The challenges of startup life don't get the same attention as the funding rounds and blockbuster exits. We often only see tech executives on stage once they've already made it big. But it's the leaders of fledgling startups, currently in the trenches fighting to survive, that can teach some of the most important lessons for fellow entrepreneurs.

That's why TechCrunch Disrupt developed the Founder Spotlight series. Alongside the top CEOs and prestigious investors, we're giving the founders of three fast-rising startups the time to tell their stories of persistence and perseverance. We hope to provide a more relatable vision of what it means to run a growing company in order to inspire others embarking on their own journeys.

The mother-daughter duo Adrianne Weir and Elena Taggart Medo founded Medolac to make shelf-stable human breastmilk. They've grown by taking sales off sketchy Craigslist, and providing a stable source of income to women with extra milk to offer. But they've also faced questions about exploitation of impoverished families for the convenience of richer ones, and that for-profit marketplaces like Medolac divert milk from non-profits providing it to children in need. We'll discuss the economics and ethics of this controversial but critical service.

As the marijuana legalization leads to a green rush of pot startups, Hound Labs is working to keep the roads safe as people get comfortable lighting up. CEO Mike Lynn's company has built a marijuana breathalyzer. Police are keen for a way to distinguish between who's smoked weed in the last few weeks and who's high right now. But any inaccuracy in the device could lead to wrongful arrests. On stage at Disrupt, we'll talk about how startups deal with the increased scrutiny of moving beyond software and into hardware people depend on in the physical world.

Frida Polli sees AI's power to reveal what we don't always know about ourselves. Her startup Pymetrics builds neuroscience games that hiring companies can use to vet potential employees. AI then finds candidates whose traits match the top performers at the employer. Polli's tech could help people find the perfect job for them. But there's always danger of humans building bias into algorithms, or the games convincing people they won't be good at a job they'd love. We'll chat about how much startups and their clients should trust AI, and how to avoiding extending human error into code.

As perhaps the longest-standing publication to startups, TechCrunch sees it as a our duty to spotlight not just today's great companies, but tomorrow's. Hopefully we'll see yours in the Founder Spotlight in the future.

Disrupt SF takes place September 18-20. Tickets and exhibition packages are still available. We hope to see you there.