The Hottest Startups to Watch in 2018!

“There are two types of people who will tell you that you cannot make a difference in this world: those who are afraid to try and those who are afraid you will succeed.”- Ray Goforth

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Technology continues to develop every day. Technology changes constantly. With IoT, AI, VR, self-driving cars, blockchain, there is limitless opportunity for tech to grow. No surprises here. And new companies continue to be founded on the powers and capabilities of technology, with goals to leverage that power to make our society a better place for all. I love to research new companies that have the potential to make a huge impact in a few years, and I decided to write about 5 companies that I believe have a real chance to change the world.

1. Nurx

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Commonly called “the Uber for birth control,” Nurx was founded in 2015 by Hans Gangeskar and Edvard Engesaeth with a vision to take advantage of an untapped opportunity in healthcare. The startup created a telemedicine application that eliminates the need for women looking for birth control to visit a doctor. Instead, all users have to do is enter their medical information into the app. Next, a doctor reviews the information and writes a prescription accordingly. If there are questions, doctors are available to answer any follow-up questions about their prescription at no additional cost. Then the company ships the prescription completely free to each user’s doorstep!

The service for insured users is either free or the cost of a copay. If uninsured, Nurx works to help these women find the right brand for them “without breaking the bank”, or offers these users $15 for a month supply. In addition to offering Birth Control, Nurx also offers Plan B, Ella, and PrEP.

Image result for infographic on maternal mortality rate by state

But how big is this opportunity? Pretty large. According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, more than 20 million American women live in “contraceptive deserts”. These are counties in which the number of public clinics is not enough to match the demand and needs of the population. Texas is the state that happens to have the largest amount of contraceptive deserts. Texas also currently has the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world and the highest repeat teen pregnancy rate in the United States.

Nurx is currently available in only 17 states (including Massachusetts) and the District of Columbia. They have plans to expand nationwide. However, Nurx does face competition from Amazon (who also offers Ella and Plan B) and other telemedicine applications. I never knew to what extent access to birth control is limited in some portions of our country. It should be interesting to see if they can continue their success!

2. Motiv

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Founded in 2013 by 4 young entrepreneurs, Motiv “wants to be the future of fitness tracking”. The firm’s main product is called the Motiv Ring, which is an attractive metal ring which is capable of tracking fitness, heart rate, and sleep designed for 24/7 usage. The ring is waterproof, and its battery lasts for 3 days. The ring’s differentiation is in its memory and storage capacity. Not only does it store all historical data, but it also analyzes it and makes recommendations for a healthier lifestyle. Charging only takes 90 minutes, and its design is ultra-thin (it literally weighs less than a penny and is 0.1 inches thick). The firm also provides a sizing kit with your order to guarantee that it will feel comfortable. The ring comes in two colors: grey or gold. The application that is compatible with the product lets you view the analytics of the data and set goals for yourself. The order price of $199 includes free priority shipping. Motiv rings are also available for purchase on Amazon.

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In terms of the ring’s technology, Motiv “reinvented the wearable”. The ring features a patented flexible circuit board. Motiv was also the first firm to fit a heart rate sensor in a product this size. Rings are also more efficient in accurate heart tracking due to less hair and tattoos on human fingers. It takes advantage of the latest Bluetooth technology in order to sync with the user’s mobile device automatically with minimal impact on the battery life of both devices. The data measures that the ring keeps track of are active minutes, activity types (it can sense if you are going for a run automatically), activity intensity, sleep duration, resting heart rate, calories burned, steps, distance, and more!

Motiv’s biggest competitor is Fitbit. However, a strategic advantage to Motiv is its small size: a huge turnoff with wearable technology is how it looks, and Motiv’s ring seems to blend in and not stick out. Their pricing strategies are very similar, and the latest version of the Fitbit watch is priced at $299, with older versions selling between $150-250. However, Fitbit is a much more established brand with larger economies of scale to leverage. It should be interesting to see how they compete, and if Motiv can convince customers to try out their product!

3. Spoke

Founded in 2016, this Artificial Intelligence startup has already raised $280 million from venture capital firms like Accel Partners. Spoke leverages AI technology in the form of a chatbot that can answer general questions and informational inquiries for businesses. Any employee can ask the bot conventional questions (like what is the vacation policy), and if it cannot answer the question, it will redirect the inquiry to the team that is best fit to know the response. This optimizes time usage of many employees, instead of time wasted in answering general questions. Their product essentially “automates help requests”.

Spoke's founders. From left, Pratyus Patnaik, Jay Srinivasan and David Kaneda.

The founders of Spoke (from left to right): Jay Srinivasan, Pratyus Patnaik, and David Kaneda . These 3 men all left Google to start Spoke.

“Companies of all sizes struggle with resolving workplace service and information requests. Spoke gives employees the real-time help they need, while freeing IT, HR and facilities teams to focus on running their companies’ operations. It’s one of the clearest examples of applied AI in the enterprise driving productivity gains throughout an organization.”- Vas Natarajan, Accel Partners

One of the biggest benefits of using Spoke is that its not just another stand-alone application. Its usage is compatible with the messaging app Slack, which is exponentially increasing in popularity. Slack is replacing emailing as the preferred communication medium in a business, and the app helps to make information more accessible for all employees. Spoke chatbots can also be used as a web app–you can ask it questions through email or even a text conversation. Another advantage of Spoke’s technology is that it learns over time whether or not the answers helped the worker’s situation, and develops even better answers after analyzing feedback. The CEO of Spoke, Srinivasan, called his firm’s product “human-curated machine learning”.

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A lot of large and successful businesses, such as DoorDash, Neura, and Turo, were early Spoke users. The firm seeks to expand by convincing small and medium sized businesses to use their technology to aid them in making operations more efficient. I personally am fascinated by this company in specific, and I am excited to see if using Spoke can become a norm in business in a few years!

4. Nomadic VR

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Nomadic is on a mission: to recreate entertainment through virtual reality! The firm seeks to transform traditional retail spaces into VR arcades, where users can strap on a VR headset to explore in a virtual reality adventure and to play games. These VR communities have been described as “mind-blowing,” where users enter the game themselves instead of pushing buttons from the outside. The experience isn’t just a collection of random games like your traditional Dave & Busters. Instead, it connects each individual component in the form of a story to unify the user experience. The firm’s timing is definitely perfect, at a time where many companies are realizing that VR will have a huge impact in the entertainment industry in the future.

NomadicVR thinks the future of entertainment will be an arcade.

According to their website, Nomadic describes itself as “an immersive entertainment company creating VR adventures for neighborhoods everywhere”. The Nomadic platform itself includes features like extensive player data analytics, POS scheduling, and content SDKs (software development kits). Nomadic partners with many content studios, and these partnerships help to make their tech possible. The startup’s technology, when further established, will look to target resorts, cinemas, casinos, and theme parks, and try to convince them to implement VR arcades into their experience: a huge opportunity for growth.

Nomadic isn’t alone in terms of competition. Other startups are seeking to master and invest in location-based VR experiences. One of their biggest threats is a startup named “The Void”. However, Nomadic’s strategy is quite differentiated: instead of attempting to produce their own VR warehouses from scratch like The Void, Nomadic wants to convert existing retail spaces “through hocking a modular setup that will allow for easy installations and conversions,” and therefore less cost. I agree that VR taking over the world of gaming is only a matter of time. The question is: what company will be able to lead the way through this transformation? Nomadic is definitely off to a good start!

5. Zipline

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Founded in 2011, Zipline is seeking to utilize the service of drones to fulfill an inspiring vision: to “deliver life-saving medicines like blood and vaccines to patients in places that can’t easily be reached by road”. The startup has attracted much attention from VC firms like Sequoia Capital. How does it work? Health workers at remote clinics can text what supplies they need for treatment of patients. After, Zipline sends off the needed materials and medicine from its central distribution centers. The products are launched with parachutes attached to designated locations for hospital staff to grab.

Zipline is using drones for good.

According to Zipline’s website, approximately 2 BILLION PEOPLE “lack access to essential medical products” due to challenging terrain (like mountains) and poor infrastructure. I was quite surprised to learn that the firm’s service is currently the only drone delivery system implemented on a national scale, and its on-demand distribution and affordable prices cannot be matched. Zipline is currently operating in only Rwanda and Tanzania, but as the company grows, it hopes to be able to expand to all third-world countries in need of better medical service to help save lives!

Conclusion & Closing Thoughts

Technology continues to blow my mind on a daily basis. I love following startups: it’s a great way to learn the latest ideas as to how tech can be applied to different portions of society in the never-ending mission to make our world a better place. I will continue to cheer on these companies, and I’m looking forward to seeing which startups will become tech behemoths like Amazon and Google in the future!

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12 thoughts on “The Hottest Startups to Watch in 2018!

  1. It was great reading your blurbs about these five awesome companies, Dan! I definitely plan to keep an eye out for Nomadic. I can imagine First Person Shooters being taken to a whole new level with this technology. However, the potential for addictiveness worries me a bit. By providing such a realistic experience, I hope people are able to put the games aside when necessary.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kipp, I totally agree. Addiction in my opinion is definitely something that needs to be addressed by technology companies as a whole. They should acknowledge the potential and give customers solutions to thwart the problem, just like Jana suggested publicly that Apple should provide tools for parents to limit the iPhone usage of their children! It should be interesting to see how companies address this ethical issue.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This was a great idea for a blog post! The startups you chose were very interesting and their diversity shows the various ways you can leverage technology to start a business today. I personally found Zipline the most interesting, I’m definitely going to go learn more about them. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Love the topic and the short synopses on each startup! I particularly liked Motiv — I had no idea that rings were included in the wearable tech craze, but after reading about it, it seems like Motiv has a chance of competing with Fitbit and gaining market share soon!

    Here’s an interesting review of the Motiv ring that I think you might like!: It highlights the trend of smaller, less obtrusive wearable tech as it continues to advance technologically — Motiv could be ahead of the curve!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post! You introduced me to 5 cool startups. I love Ziplines mission. Nurx is also interesting and I think we will see more and more companies entering the space of online prescription ordering and fast deliveries. We’ve all heard the rumors that Amazon has set its sights on entering the pharmaceutical industry. I’m wondering if Nurx is HIPAA compliant, and follows federal rules and requirements that are designed to protect patient’s sensitive health information? I’m excited to follow these companies and see which will be the next big thing!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Awesome post! It’s mind-blowing that all of the companies you listed are located in California. The concentration of technology, startups, and innovation in California is fascinating. I was wondering if you found any cool startups outside of California?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Dan, great post! It’s awesome to see these clever ideas come to fruition. The Motiv ring is something that I’ve never seen before. It seems that the wearables space has a lot of potential that hasn’t been tapped into yet.

    Nomadic VR stood out to me because this past weekend, I was able to test out a pair of VR glasses. I took a “walk” around a virtual house. It was incredible! I hope to see more of this technology on the market. Like you said, there’s huge opportunity for growth. Maybe Nomadic will be at the forefront!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I am very intrigued by Zipline. I think there’s a huge opportunity for startups in Africa, especially ones that can successfully build infrastructure throughout the continent. The next step is what they can do to leverage the data they are able to collect. I suspect that will be the predictor of the company’s success/failure.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I really enjoyed this post! How do you follow new startups? I’m always intrigued by them, but I’d like to learn even more about them. Also, I think Spoke’s compatibility with Slack is great for both parties. They can help each other gain traction and grow, since they are both newer with a lot of potential for expansion. It’s fun to watch as startups decide to merge with more reputable companies or try to thrive on their own.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hey Dylan! If you just google “latest tech startups,” a bunch of articles will pop up about the most exciting new companies. In particular, Business Insider and Forbes do a lot of yearly reviews, for example Business Insider wrote a “Top 19 Tech Startups” article for 2018. I love to see what new ideas are out there, and highly recommend reading these types of articles!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Awesome post! After just reading about Amazon partnering with JPMorgan and Berkshire Hathaway to enter the healthcare world, I wonder if they will use their ginormous already-implemented infrastructure, especially with one-day shipping, to imitate Zipline in a way. The idea behind Zipline is fascinating and I wonder if Amazon will now be able to bring it to a larger scale.

    Liked by 1 person

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