BRCK, the backup internet generator which switches between Ethernet, WiFi and cellular networks, has been listed in the '2014 edition of the CNN 10: Startups', an annual roundup of promising new startups, "whose products have the potential to transform industries, help the planet's less fortunate or become a handy part of our lives."
While profiling BRCK, CNN's Brandon Griggs notes: "At first glance, it doesn't look like much: an unadorned brick about the size of four iPhone 5s stacked together."
"But this little box is deceptively powerful. It seamlessly switches between Ethernet, Wi-Fi and cellular networks to provide Web access for up to 20 devices. It works for more than 8 hours without electricity. And it may transform wireless communications in remote corners of the world. It's the BRCK (yes, pronounced "brick"), and it was dreamed up not in Silicon Valley, but by a handful of software engineers in Kenya. The rugged little router - its creators call it a "backup generator for the Internet" - has spawned a young company, also called BRCK, which is distributing them around the globe," states Griggs.
"With a large, custom-designed battery, the BRCK is also built to survive a blackout. In this way it can provide steady connectivity, even in places with spotty digital infrastructure... Perhaps surprisingly, they're also being ordered by customers in rural America, where Internet access can be uneven. No wonder BRCK's slogan is, "If it works in Africa, it will work anywhere," he adds.
BRCK is the only Africa-based startup in the list. Others are Airwave, which designs hardware, software and cloud services for commercial UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) or drones; Boxbee, which aims to streamline the storage process by letting customers manage their extra stuff online without ever leaving home; FiscalNote, whose software forecasts trends and outcomes that can help clients make strategic decisions on whether a bill might pass the Colorado legislature and Humin, a downloadable app which creates a little database of your contacts, searchable by where people work, where they live, who they know - or how you know them.
Others are Planet Labs which plans to launch one tiny, low-cost satellite into space at a time to collect data on behalf of clients; Shyp which wants to transform the cumbersome shipping process by taking over the packaging, picking up and dropping off of parcels and Smart Vision Labs that has developed a pocket-sized gadget that lets doctors test people's vision and prescribe glasses directly through the app. Then there is Spring which lets consumers follow their favorite fashion brands and shop for new looks on a free mobile app that's heavy on pretty images as well as uBiome which is exploring an emerging field of human biology while giving users a glimpse into how their bodies work by sending customers a kit to collect a tiny stool sample.