Editor’s Note: This article is regularly updated to provide the most up-to-date information.
Among the myriad equity crowdfunding platforms — which allow anyone to invest in startups — StartEngine is one of the leaders. A critical factor has been the company’s early mover advantage in the industry. But StartEngine is also an innovator. For example, the company introduced a secondary trading platform. This allows for trading in the shares of startups, which should help to encourage even more activity and liquidity.
Howard Marks is the CEO and co-founder of StartEngine. Before launching the company, he started several other successful ventures, most notably Activision Blizzard (NASDAQ:ATVI), which has a market value around $70 billion. He also co-founded Acclaim games, which was later sold to Disney (NYSE:DIS).
“Overall, I consider StartEngine to be one of the three ‘must-have’ accounts for online startup investors,” said Brian Belley, founder of Crowdwise.org and VentureWallet. “Investing on any other equity crowdfunding platform is much more of an optional preference for investors who either want to invest in certain niches or want to spend additional time screening every equity crowdfunding deal.”
Keep in mind that StartEngine currently has more than 100 deals on its platforms. So then, what are some that look good?
Let’s take a look at these seven:
- In Force Technology
- Care Angel
Equity Crowdfunding: In Force Technology
In an active shooter situation, the average response time is 12.5 minutes. But this is way too long. Note that a shooting can last about five minutes, and one person is shot roughly every 15 seconds.
It certainly is horrific. But for In Force Technology, the company has been building a system to help out. It’s called Force911 and is a mobile app panic button, which sends alerts directly to police cars, local dispatch systems and even the mobile phones of officers.
The target market for the company is the public school system in the U.S. (there are over 130,000). In Force Technology estimates that the category is about $517 million per year. But the company has other markets like universities, private schools and places of worship.
The FORCE911 system was launched in the summer 2018. Since then, the company has forged relationships with organizations like the AASA (American Association of School Administrators). There are also installations in 50 schools in Worcester, Massachusetts, and various parts of Virginia.
Already the company has raised $2 million from institutional investors. And as for the equity crowdfunding round, the company has raised over $23,000 from 41 investors and the valuation is $12 million. The minimum investment amount is $228.81.
In 2013, Eliza and Andrew Nimmich started a service called Tutor the People to help students raise their test scores. While it was successful, there was still a problem — that is, when a student needed a tutor the night before, sometimes there was not anyone available.
Yet Eliza and Andrew saw this as an opportunity to build a scalable edtech platform. The result was the co-founding of Learnt. Based on AI, the system matches vetted tutors with students instantly. As a result, it can mean getting the best fit for different categories like SAT prep, language training, GRE prep and so on. The service is available for students from kindergarten to college.
The Tutor the People business (a subsidiary of Learnt) has seen strong growth. The revenues jumped by 169% in 2019 to over $1 million. This was done without taking outside capital.
For the equity crowdfunding campaign, the company has raised more than $131,000 from 182 investors, and the valuation is $9 million.
For most book authors, it is extremely difficult to gin up sales. Advertising on platforms like Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) and Alphabet’s (NASDAQ:GOOG, NASDAQ:GOOGL) Google can be expensive. There are also large numbers of titles released every day — many of which are self-published.
Some of the features of BookSniffer include:
- direct messaging between authors and readers
- sophisticated author portals
- low-cost advertising programs that have systems to help identify the right keywords
- custom book landing pages
In October, when the app was launched, revenues hit $30,000. The company’s business model includes both advertising and subscriptions.
Regarding the equity crowdfunding campaign, the company has raised more than $104,000 from 187 investors, and the valuation is $18.4 million. The minimum investment is $249.84.
Care Angel has developed an AI-powered voice-enabled assistant to provide personalized care management and monitoring. The focus is primarily on high-risk populations that have chronic conditions. However, by using the app, it is possible to live at home.
With the Covid-19 pandemic, digital medical technologies have become mainstream. They are also a key for managed-care insurance companies to provide cost-effective care.
In 2017, Care Angel was launched, and the company was able to get over 60,000 patients. Since then, the growth has remained strong. The company now works with various large health plans across the world that represent about 600,000 members. Care Angel estimates that its solution has seen 83% engagement and $41 per-member, per-month in clinical cost reductions.
For the equity crowdfunding round, the company has raised over $237,000 from 252 investors, and the valuation is $45.7 million.
Founded in 2006, Alelo developed an AI-powered avatar system for training. The company currently has more than 500,000 users and has generated more than $55 million in revenue since inception.
Alelo has been particularly successful in getting adoption from governmental agencies and academic institutions. Some of its customers include the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Marine Corps, the U.S. Army and the Office of Naval Research.
But Alelo is leveraging its experience to move into the corporate training market. With the novel coronavirus pandemic, there has been a surge in demand for this. The training is primarily focused on areas like communications, team building and language learning. In turn, these types of “soft skills” can boost workforce productivity.
While systems like Zoom (NASDAQ:ZM) have been effective for training, the experience can be too passive. But Alelo’s immersive and interactive approach provides a cost-effective approach. Keep in mind that the company’s system involves realistic virtual environments and online conversations with virtual humans. Think of it as like having a personal tutor.
As for the equity crowdfunding campaign, the company has raised more than $433,000 from 685 investors, and the minimum investment is $276. The valuation has been set at $10.5 million.
Recruiting contractors is tedious, time-consuming, expensive and prone to error. And while there are many human resources (HR) apps to help out, they often fall short.
But for a startup called SkillSoniq, the focus is on using AI to streamline the process. The system essentially takes the guesswork out of the decision-making, but also helps find ways to greatly reduce the costs.
SkillSoniq launched its service back in 2019, and there has been notable traction. In all, the revenues have come to $350,000 (in year one), and more than 12,000 freelancers have been onboarded. Over 300 companies use the platform, which is available in various cities in the U.S. and Canada.
The contractor market is large and growing. If anything, the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the ramp up. After all, contractor arrangement can be ideal for a remote worker. But it also can mean evaluating a person on a trial basis — and eventually, he or she may become an employee.
For the equity crowdfunding campaign, the company has raised more than $70,000 from 162 investors, and the valuation is $10.3 million. The minimum investment is $149.24.
The founder of Jetson, Peter Peng, got his inspiration for his startup when he tried to use Amazon’s Alexa to order toothpaste. The experience was frustrating because the system offered only one brand and had no effective way to do a search.
Peng looked for alternatives to Alexa, but he could not find one. So he built his own. Jetson is a “voice-first” marketplace that allows any brands to sell their products or services.
Jetson uses sophisticated artificial intelligence (AI), such as NLU (natural language understanding), which is patent-pending. This essentially allows for multi-step conversations. The software can also be easily integrated into existing platforms like Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) Siri, Google Home and yes, Alexa.
Note that voice commerce is expected to see significant growth. According to Juniper Research, the spending is forecasted to reach $80 billion.
In terms of traction, Jetson has signed a variety of partnerships, such as with Postmates, Chowly, Shopify (NYSE:SHOP) and Delivery.com. There are over 13,150 merchants and 1.46 million products available.
The company has already raised about $2.8 million. As for the current crowdfunding round, Jetson has raised more than $164,000 from 228 investors. The valuation is $20 million.
On the date of publication, Tom Taulli did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in any of the securities mentioned in this article.
Tom Taulli (@ttaulli) is the author of various books on investing and technology, including Artificial Intelligence Basics, High-Profit IPO Strategies and All About Short Selling. He is also the author of courses on topics like the Python language and COBOL.