Everyone knows about the massive corporations that dominate the headlines and the markets. Companies like Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL), Alphabet Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL), and Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) are constantly developing new technologies and changing how we do things.
But what about the smaller companies doing the same? What about 2018’s startups?
Startups are changing the way we do things in a range of fields, from hiring to cybersecurity to how we eat pizza. Some address holes in existing industries, while others are increasing convenience for consumers.
Some, like Tilr and Shippo, are leveling uneven playing fields, and a few, like Plenty, are using new technology to solve existing problems and better lives.
These companies might be small now, but any of them could turn into the next big leader in technology.
2018 Startups to Watch: Tilr
Funding: $5 Million
Founders: Carisa Miklusak, Luke Vigent, Sam Pillersdorf, Stephen Shefsky, Summer Crenshaw
Tilr is a startup that seeks to remove unconscious bias within the hiring process. Tilr matches applicants with companies based solely on skills, rather than past job titles.
Interested workers sign up through the app and rate their own skills, but they complete training and interviews with members of the Tilr team. Workers receive applicable shifts to sign up for and show up at the designated time and location to begin work for new companies.
Tilr is only two years old and only available in four markets. However, they are expanding to 12-15 more markets in 2018.
But Tilr isn’t just interested removing the bias in hiring, they’re also interested in providing benefits for their workers in an economy that resists hiring full-time employees.
Recently, Tilr partnered with BlueCross BlueShield to help create Anthem, an insurance program for “gig” workers. Tilr helped Anthem understand the behaviors associated with intermittent workers. Tilr recognizes that even though the economy is changing, the basic needs of employees are not.
“A cared for worker is typically a more productive worker,” said Carisa Miklusak, Tilr CEO.
2018 Startups to Watch: Qualtrics
Funding: $400 Million
Founder: Ryan Smith, Jared Smith, Stuart Orgill
Qualtrics is a software company that allows users to collect and analyze data online for a range of purposes. The “experience management” company was founded in 2002, but Qualtrics didn’t raise outside funding until 2012. The unicorn company generated more than $250 million in revenue in 2017.
CEO Ryan Smith told Axios that Qualtrics expects to file for an initial public offering in 2018.
And the company is already interested in giving back: with the Huntsman Cancer Institute, Qualtrics launched an anti-cancer campaign in 2016.
2018 Startups to Watch: Duo Security
Funding: $121 million
Founders: Dug Song, Jon Oberheid
Duo Security is a cybersecurity company specializing in business networks. They provide a two-factor authentication app for company networks, password management and make sure that any device connecting to a company’s network is virus free. As Ann Arbor, Michigan’s first unicorn company, Duo has more than doubled its revenue for each of the past four years.
CTO and Co-Founder Jon Oberheid thinks that “the industry needs to change the way it looks at security. We need to make the process simpler, smarter and more secure. Period.”
Duo specializes in cybersecurity that anyone can easily use, thus making companies less vulnerable as technology evolves quickly.
2018 Startups to Watch: Pindrop
Funding: $122 million
Founders: Dr. Mustaque Ahamad, Paul Judge, Vijay Balasubramaniyan
Pindrop is another cybersecurity company, working in a very different area. Pindrop specializes voice recognition technology. This fraud detection and security startup can analyze and recognize your voice — even over the phone. Pindrop can also determine whether a voice is real or computer-generated.
Investor Martin Casado believes that voice recognition is an untapped market that will only grow. “Voice as a way to interact with computer systems is becoming more and more pervasive, whether we’re talking to Alexa at home or interacting with an automated system online.”
As phone systems increase automation, many banks, retailers, and insurance carriers already use Pindrop.
2018 Startups to Watch: Shippo
Funding: $29 Million
Founders: Laura Behrens Wu, Simon Kreuz
Shippo is a shipping solution that seeks to level the playing field between Amazon and smaller online retailers. CEO and co-founder Laura Behrens Wu believes that Amazon and Amazon Prime have left online shoppers expecting free and fast shipping, but smaller and mid-sized business have a lot of trouble meeting these expectations. Shippo, however, makes it easier.
“We offer a unified technology layer to connect with all the shipping providers, get different shipping rates, compare shipping labels, get tracking information, bills and customs documents — everything that a business needs with regard to shipping,” says Behrens Wu, “Our goal is to be the one-stop shop for e-commerce stores who are looking to provide the best shipping solution to their customers.”
EBay Canada recently selected Shippo to power its shipping. And Shippo is already one of several providers for eBay in the United States. But the typical client is still a small or medium-sized business.
Both Behrens Wu and her co-founder, Simon Kreuz, were listed on the Forbes 30 under 30 list for Enterprise Technology.
2018 Startups to Watch: Plenty
Funding: $226 Million
Founders: Matt Barnard, Nate Mazonson, Nate Storey
Plenty is an agri-tech company building “a new kind of farm for a new kind of world.” Using the best technology available, Plenty uses less than 1% of the typical land area and water to bring consumers fresh, organic foods.
Plenty’s technology allows fresh food to be grown in urban areas. Such areas are often food deserts due to their lack of access to cheap produce, making it difficult for residents to find affordable, healthy options.
Plenty recently announced plans for a 100K square-foot farming facility in Seattle, an area where residents have historically had little access to fresh fruit and vegetables.
Amazon’s Jeff Bezos is among Plenty’s many investors.
2018 Startups to Watch: Aurora Innovation
Funding: $6.11 Million
Founders: Chris Urmson, Sterling Anderson, and Drew Bagnell
Aurora Innovation is a secretive startup founded by autonomous vehicle veterans from Google, Tesla and Uber. In August, Aurora Innovation received a permit to test self-driving cars on California roads.
The company designs both the software and the hardware necessary for self-driving cars, an industry that many think is about to take off in a huge way.
Among the company’s goals are: increased road safety, expanded access to transportation, improved lives for commuters and revitalized cities with less need for parking.
2018 Startups to Watch: Zume Pizza
Funding: $48 Million
Founders: Alex Garden, Julia Collins
Zume Pizza uses robotics to make pizza.
At Zume Pizza, humans and robots work together to prepare and deliver pizzas — which are cooked en-route to ensure they arrive hot and fresh. This blended workforce increases efficiency and betters condition for human workers:
“We wanted to identify places where humans were overtaxed physically, bored, or whether the job they were doing was not safe, like sticking their hand into a 600 degree oven for six hours a day,” CEO Julia Collins told The Verge.
Apart from just being a cool idea, Zume Pizza’s automation may help usher in a new era for automated food delivery.
People are already relying on technology to order their food, so the next step may be relying on technology to cook and deliver it as well. Zume Pizza is doing this in a way that doesn’t take jobs from people and uses only locally sourced, organic ingredients.
2018 Startups to Watch: Wag
Funding: $8.9 Million
Founders: Jason Meltzer, Joshua Viner
Wag is a dog-walking app that connects dog owners with certified dog walkers. Though it doesn’t seem very important, Wag is a huge deal for dog owners who work or for whatever reason cannot go for a walk multiple times a day.
“On first blush it may seem silly, but the ~40 million U.S. households with lovable canines also have a twice daily problem that if not addressed leads to a very smelly situation. Owners can’t always get home for a walk and that’s where Wag comes in,” Wag investor, Kent Bennet told Business Insider.
SoftBank is in talks to invest up to $300 million in Wag, so look for the app to expand and improve in 2018.
2018 Startups to Watch: MoveWith
Funding $3.8 Million
Founders: Holly Shelton, Tricia Choi
MoveWith is one of several personal fitness apps that are currently changing the way people work out.
MoveWith delivers audio workouts from well-known coaches to people’s personal devices. In addition to physical well-being, MoveWith also looks after mental and spiritual well-being. The app also offers yoga, guided meditation, and motivational talks.
What makes the company even more interesting is its growth rate: MoveWith is currently “growing 100%+ per month” as consumers discover this convenient alternative to traditional workout classes.
As of this writing, Regina Borsellino did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.