Lab Dispatches

Dispatches From The Lab: A Snapshot of the ’16-’17 Cohort

As our 2016-2017 wraps up and we prepare to welcome our new cohort on June 5, here’s a look at three startups who have had an exciting year at the Startup Lab.

Dearest – The Future of Childcare, Powered By Education

Dearest redefines babysitting by connecting you with its network of teachers and educators who inspire children to develop their passions and learn while they play.


When Eiko Nakazawa first came to the Startup Lab with her Columbia cofounder, Hitomi Kimura ’14SEAS, in 2015, the duo was working on a concierge service that helped high-profile individuals book table reservations in Michelin restaurants for last minute client dinners. Then Nakazawa, an entrepreneur mom, found herself in a situation that many new parents find themselves in: She needed access to childcare while at work, but was disappointed with the options in front of her.

After looking online and visiting daycares in the area, she realized that many childcare providers would not provide an engaging environment for her child. As she continued her hunt for an option she would be comfortable with, she began leaving her son with a friend – a teacher – who was also a new mom. Nakazawa quickly saw how her own son was benefitting from the attention and activities that this teacher was thoughtfully providing for the children while Nakazawa was away.

“That’s when I realized that there must be underutilized resources of highly qualified people out there who could work with kids to inspire them,” said Nakazawa.

This is the moment that started Dearest, a platform that offers access to thoughtfully designed, engaging childcare provided by talented, vetted, and enthusiastic professionals. These professionals include certified teachers, students at Columbia Teacher’s college, and writers from The New School – all individuals from different fields, with different strengths, united by the common desire to create nurturing environments for children. On Dearest, parents can search for and choose childcare based on availability and/or provider profiles that list the expertise and activities the individual offers. Parents can choose to keep a regular schedule with a provider, or pick up help ad hoc.

After an angel round in 2016, Dearest is gathering steam in 2017 with users thanks in part to the space and community provided by the Columbia Startup Lab as well as access to the Columbia interns who have come to work at Dearest through CORE.  So if you’re a parent, check out Dearest for your next childcare need, or if you’re a professional who is interested in working with children, sign up to be a provider! Send an email to

Text IQ – Protecting Enterprises from High-Stakes Legal Disasters

Communication is meaningless without context. Text IQ applies machine learning techniques to language analysis in conjunction with human interactions. By analyzing documents in relation to the individuals connected to its content and transmission, Text IQ is able to identify and isolate meaningful, sensitive data with unprecedented speed, accuracy, and efficiency.

While getting a Ph.D. in computer science at Columbia University,  Apoorv Agarwal’s research became the foundation for his startup Text IQ.

Enterprises spend hundreds of millions of dollars handling legal and compliance documents in a process that is slow, expensive, and lets mistakes fall through the cracks. Agarwal ’16SEAS and his partner, Omar Haroun ’12CLS, CBS, developed an Artificial lntelligence software that makes the review of compliance and legal documentation faster, cheaper, and more accurate.

Getting space in the Startup Lab provided them with credibility and space to recruit great talent for Text IQ; they have also benefitted from Columbia’s network of alumni who are in prominent positions in every industry and can offer support, advice, mentorship, and feedback.

“It’s easy to assume that our idea is good, that it’s going to work, and that people need it. It’s harder to convert these assumptions into hypotheses and test them out in the real world,” said Agarwal.

Hypotheses testing has helped Text IQ to iterate quickly and avoid many pitfalls; it has also grown their network of collaborators and customers. Now, the company is operational, profitable (sales for Q1 2017 are in the millions), and received its first outside funding from Floodgate to the tune of $3 million. Media attention notes that where many startups create buzz on hype, Text IQ is buzzing because it actually delivers.

Yank Technologies – True Wireless Charging

Yank Technologies developed The MotherBox,  the first wireless charger that can REALLY wirelessly charge your device. There’s no contact required. It’s truly wireless. You can charge your iOS or Android devices simultaneously and never worry about your charging cables again.

Many businesses start with an idea for a product or service, but Yank Technologies started with a passion for solving a problem: The limits of technology. Josh Yank, ’14 MBA from Binghamton University, and Jin Li, ’15SEAS, wanted to eliminate the bottleneck of demand for content and device-usage by working on improving energy distribution for personal devices. The pair decided that the best way to start was to develop a wireless charging option and so they created Motherbox, the first true wireless charging system that requires no point-to-point contact with devices.

Yank Technologies has the goal of “giving you power at those places and moments that you need the most” said Yank. Yank and Li also hope that their technology will help unlock the potential of future devices.

Yank and Li moved their startup from their upstate headquarters down to the Lab in 2016, and found that it was a great boost for their branding. It also helped them better plug into the investment and industry contacts in Manhattan that are key for collaborations, conversations, and long-term growth. “Plugging in” quickly is one of Yank’s big pieces of advice to any would-be entrepreneurs – gaining access and then actively reaching out to people to ask questions early and often can help you avoid more critical mistakes.

Yank Technologies has now officially launched the MotherBox wireless charging system and raised over 500% of their Indiegogo goal.  The team will soon also take advantage of another Columbia partnership: the New Lab, a manufacturing and co-working space dedicated to hardware-focused innovations.  They’re also looking for electrical engineers with expertise in RF design or RF engineers to join their growing technical team! Reach out to for more information on available positions.

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