You don’t have to be an industry insider to know about tech companies with popular products like Snapchat or Facebook.
But what about the up-and-coming tech startups that could become tomorrow’s market leaders?
We asked more than two dozen venture capital investors to name the startups they believe are going to boom in 2019. After all, VCs are the experts scouting the landscape every day and hunting for the next big thing — if anyone has a finger on the tech innovation pulse, it’s them.
We asked the VCs to name a startup in their own portfolios they were particularly excited about for 2019.
But for every startup in their own portfolios, the VCs also had to name one they had no financial interest in. The best VCs are passionate about startups and meet more than they can fund, and we wanted to go beyond their immediate portfolio of investments.
What follows is a compelling list of startups set for success in 2019. They range from fledgling companies working on a seed round to well-established companies that have raised many millions, but which are still flying under the radar. The funding information is according to Crunchbase and Pitchbook, keepers of such records.
AdQuick: an easier way to buy outdoor ads
What it does: AdQuick offers a marketplace for buyers and sellers of outdoor ad space.
Why it’s hot in 2019: “AdQuick is a mainly ex-Instacart team that is tackling the archaic world of outdoor advertising,” says Pezeshki. As Google and Facebook continue to dominate online advertising, “many direct-to-consumer companies will start to look for ways to reach consumers in other ways.”
Alma: co-working space for mental health therapists
What it does: Alma is a co-working office space specifically for mental health providers that includes access to the tech they need to power their practices. It opened its first facility in New York.
Why it’s hot in 2019: “60 million people suffer from mental illness,” Barna says and Alma offers therapists a “beautifully designed space, friendly digital tools and a supported community of therapists.”
Applied Intuition: simulation software for self-driving cars
What it does: Build autonomous simulation software for autonomous vehicles.
Why it’s hot in 2019: Before more autonomous vehicles enter the public roads, their makers need specialized and heartier simulation software to test them. “A massive problem for the 21st century with an incredible team tackling a complex and high-value challenge,” says Janmohamed.
Appzen: automatically audit expense reports
What it does: AppZen uses AI to automatically audit 100% of a company’s expense reports, invoices and contracts in real time.
Why it’s hot in 2019: “Every company has employees who expense things that are out of compliance, out of policy or are just fraudulent. Similarly, every company has suppliers that game the system and push the envelope,” says Janmohamed.
Arrive Logistics: software to manage shipping
What it does: Arrive Logistics is a tech-enabled freight brokerage that connects shippers with carriers.
Why it’s hot in 2019: “Arrive has seen incredible growth since its founding in 2014. In 2018 the company grew headcount to more than 600 while more than doubling revenue, which surpassed $300 million. As more and more consumers are buying everything online, the shipping and logistics category has meaningfully expanded,” says Neider.
Arterys: AI-powered medical imaging
What it does: Arterys offers AI-enabled medical imaging software as a cloud service.
Why it’s hot in 2019: “It shows the power of technology to help humanity. The company brings the convergence of cloud computing, big data, image processing, and AI applied to healthcare,” says Lin.
Atrium: like a law firm and a tech startup in one
What it does: Atrium is like the offspring of a law firm and a tech startup. It uses machine learning software to deal with ordinary legal documents and has lawyers who work on the complex legal issues.
Why it’s hot in 2019: “Legal advisory is a huge, huge industry that still operates pretty much the same way it operated two decades ago. Atrium is bringing together all the advancements in AI, workflow automation and collaboration to build a next-gen more scalable law firm,” says Mandan.
Benchling: collaboration for life science professionals
What it does: Benchling is a data management and collaboration tool for life science, pharma and biological researchers.
Why it’s hot in 2019: “Benchling provides a platform to accelerate the pace of biotech research, helping researchers track candidates, design experiments, and share results. They’re working with over 100,000 scientists and larger organizations like the FDA,” says Vishria.
Boulder Care: digital help for opium addiction recovery
What it does: Boulder Care offers long-term support for people overcoming opiate addiction, accessible via an app.
Why it’s hot: “Boulder is building a telehealth addiction solution for the modern era partnering with local physicians while leveraging digital expertise to provide the counseling, random testing, care management and adherence verification via their mobile app,” Kopelman says.
Bowery: indoor farms for pesticide-free food
What it does: Bowery grows pesticide-free produce in indoor farms, often located in cities, managing everything from the seeds to its proprietary, farm-controlling software system.
Why it’s hot: “Bowery farms use zero pesticides, 95% less water, and are 100+ times more productive on the same footprint of land than traditional agriculture,” says Hayes. “It’s the solution we need to feed the planet.”
Calm: a popular meditation app
What it does: Calm is a popular mobile app for meditation, sleep and overall mental wellness.
Why it’s hot in 2019: “Calm is driving a real positive social impact by helping its users alleviate anxiety, depression, insomnia and a number of other ailments,” says Ta.
He notes that with 35 million downloads, Calm has outpaced its competitors while raising less money and “still has huge potential to grow by expanding internationally and evolving into a more comprehensive wellness brand.”
Cameo: pay an Instagram influencer for a shout out
What it does: Cameo lets you pay to have an online celebrity/influencer send a personalized shoutout. It’s often done as a surprise gift. Influencers charge anywhere from a few bucks to several hundred dollars.
Why it’s hot in 2019: “It spreads virally through word of mouth by the gifter, giftee and influencer themselves (mainly in Instagram),” says Quinn. “Instead of going for big names from the start, the company made the wise decision to start with lesser-known influencers first and has now begun to get the attention of A-list celebrities.”
Carta: helping startups deal out stock options
What it does: Carta provides equity-management software that helps companies manage their employee-owned shares and options.
Why it’s hot in 2019: “The scale of the opportunity for Carta is far past cap table management,” says Twohig. “The company has an incredible long term vision around this which will lead to a very impactful company to the equity markets.”
Chainalysis: protecting against fraud in crypto transactions
What it does: Chainalysis is an enterprise software company that detects cryptocurrency transactions and investigates them for money laundering, fraud and compliance violations.
Why it’s hot in 2019: Chainalysis “is seeing significant traction, working with businesses (like banks and crypto exchanges) and government agencies (like the FBI and Europol) to investigate and understand blockchain activity,” says Tavel.
Clubhouse: Software project management tool that programmers like to use
What it does: Project management software for software development
Why it’s hot in 2019: Clubhouse wants to take on the most popular tool in this category, Atlassian’s JIRA. “Ask any engineer if they like using it [JIRA] and the answer usually involves an annoyed look. Clubhouse was started by engineers looking to create a modern product that developers actually love using,” says Agrawal.
Coda: the spreadsheet and document reinvented
What it does: Coda offers a new kind of shareable, collaborative spreadsheet document.
Why it’s hot in 2019: “Coda combines the flexibility of a document with the structure and depth of a spreadsheet,” says Soma, who calls the product “amazing” and says, “the team is truly a world-class team.”
Dedrone: protecting airports and other security sites against drones
What it does: Dedrone detects, classifies, and tracks down drones and their pilot.
Why it’s hot in 2019: “With mega drone incidents at Gatwick, Heathrow airports and other malicious events using drones, drone security will be top of the agenda,” says Senkut, adding that Dedrone is “trusted by four of the largest armed services in the world,”
Divvy: a free expense report app for businesses
What it does: A free expense report app for businesses that automates reporting and helps companies manage online subscriptions and catch fraud.
Why it’s hot in 2019: “Unlike other services, Divvy makes money from merchant transaction fees, rather than customers, and offers a slew of benefits for users like real time spend tracking and budgeting, free travel service, and cash back rewards,” says Narasin.
Dragos: protecting power grids from hackers
What it does: Dragos prevents cyber threats that can knock out real-world systems like power grids, water supplies, and industrial machinery.
Why it’s hot in 2019: “Industrial technologies like manufacturing equipment and power stations are just as vulnerable to cyberattacks as traditional IT systems, with the potential for damaging real-world impact,” says Niparko.
Epic Games: Hit video games and a development tool, too
What it does: Epic games is the creator of game sensation Fortnite, as well as Infinity Blade, Unreal and others. It also makes the Unreal Engine, the super popular development tool for creating 3D and VR games.
Why it’s hot in 2019: “Developer of one of the largest virtual worlds and massive online games in existence and owner of one of the largest game development platforms Unreal Engine,” says Twohig. “It is as much of a next generation social network as it is a game.”
Ethos: high tech life insurance shopping
What it does: Ethos uses technology to simplify the life insurance underwriting process making it easier for Americans to get life insurance.
Why it’s hot in 2019: “Life insurance is a critical financial protection for families, but the buying process has long had a negative reputation due to outdated systems, extra doctors visits, and insurance agents who are incentivized to push expensive policies,” Niparko says.
In contrast, Ethos has a 10-minute process and “policies that are backed by some of the oldest, trusted names in the insurance industry,” he says.
Faire: helping small retailers compete with Amazon
What it does: A wholesale marketplace for smaller retailers that helps them stock their shelves, paying only when items sell. It uses data science to help retailers discover new products.
Why it’s hot in 2019: “In a world where many see Amazon as the Goliath that can’t be beat, Faire is putting power back into the hands of the 1 million+ local retailers that drive nearly $1 trillion in annual revenues in the US,” says Kim.
“In just over a year since launching, the Faire team has already surpassed $100 million in run-rate revenue, while building an impassioned community of happy retailers and makers,” says Treyger.
“They take all the pain out of buying for store owners,” says Lin.
“While large format stores have been shutting down, localized small stores have been on the rise over the last few years,” Grace Chou, “What Faire is doing has a ton of potential.”
Figma: collaboration tool for software designers
What it does: Figma offers a browser-based tool that lets UX design teams collaborate to build software products faster.
Why it’s hot in 2019: “Figma is a great example of the coming generation of well-designed ‘prosumer’ products that grow organically with a fanatic userbase,” says Saper, referring to when employees choose their work tools themselves.
“Figma seemingly has a red hot product that is rapidly taking share and expanding the market,” says Murphy.
FortressIQ: The ‘Workday’ for bots
What it does: An AI software bot that detects a company’s processes, documents them and helps automate and can then manage them.
Why it’s hot in 2019: “The digital bot ecosystem is growing exponentially, and enterprises need a governance layer to manage their digital bot portfolio to see which processes can be automated, which bots are working well versus not, and which processes should be sent back to humans. FortressIQ is building the governance platform to do so,” says Mandan. “Think ‘Workday for bots’,”
GoPuff: the digital, same-day convenience store
What it does: GoPuff is an on-demand delivery service for convenience store items.
Why it’s hot in 2019: “For a $1.95 delivery charge, the service is available seven days a week from noon to 4:30 a.m. in over 50 markets, with more than 3,000 products in stock,” says Kopelman.
Greenlight: kids’ allowances go digital
What it does: Greenlight is a smart debit card for kids that parents can fund and manage from their phones.
Why it’s hot in 2019: “Allowances are going digital. Greenlight has a great mobile app experience for parents to set rules on where/how much money can be spent and kids love the experience of having their own card,” Larco says.
Guideline: a smart way to do 401Ks for small business
What it does: Guideline offers a 401K service to small businesses that doesn’t charge participants any fees on investments and instead charges employers a per person fee.
Why it’s hot in 2019: Its business model is “in contrast to the asset-based fee model that is widespread in the industry,” says Neider. “The company has been growing rapidly, working with over 5,500 employers, representing 129% growth year over year.”
Guru: automatically keeping info up to date
What it does: It helps companies make sure all of their documents for their revenue teams—marketing, sales and support is up-to-date and it automatically puts the right knowledge in front of the right people at the right time.
Why it’s hot in 2019: “Guru is pioneering what we call Coaching Networks, instead of letting your most important facts live inside employee’s heads,” Saper says. ” With $25 million in the bank, Guru plans another growth spurt.”
Adds Fletcher,”Guru is a knowledge management solution that uses AI/ML to surface content and answers to customer-facing teams when they need it.”
Harness: helps programmers work smarter and faster
What it does: Harness makes what it calls Continuous Delivery-as-a-Service. It’s a cloud tool for programmers that uses machine learning to automate tasks and help them test code so they can release new features faster.
Why it’s hot in 2019: “The second act from AppDynamics founder, Jyoti Bansal. The shift to cloud and Kubernetes is accelerating and along with that, the speed or software releases and new features is more important competitively than ever,” says Murphy.
The Helm: shop and invest in women-owned businesses
What it does: The Helm is a community and venture fund for women that makes it easy to find and buy products from women-owned businesses as well as invest in those businesses.
Why it’s hot in 2019: In the post #metoo age, “Women drive 70-80% of all consumer purchasing power and want to use that purchasing power to support women-run businesses,” says Hayes.
“The founder Lindsey Taylor Wood is a force. She’s building the destination for women to support brands that are female founded (and funded),” he says.
Hims: very personal products for men
What it does: A wellness brand for men offering products for skin, hair loss and sexual health. (They also have a “Hers” brand for women.).
Why it’s hot in 2019: “They advertise in places where men look for 30 seconds and they have a captivated audience in that place,” such as locker rooms, urinals, or even a plane over Miami streaming a Hims ad behind it, says Quinn.
Using these old-school ad techniques means the company is “less reliant on any one advertising platform, especially Facebook with their algorithm changes,” she says.
Hippo: high-tech home insurance
What it does: Hippo is high tech home owners insurance. It uses realtime data in the application process, covers computers and electronics, monitors for potential risks, like roof or water damage.
Why it’s hot in 2019: Hippo has a fully automated policy application system that takes minutes to get a policy, not days.
It “delivers a dramatically better customer experience with conversion rates that are 10X’s higher than traditional insurance. On the underwriting side, the real time data drives lower loss rates than traditional insurance,” says Treyger.
Ironclad: contract management software
What it does: Ironclad offers contract management software for legal departments.
Why it’s hot in 2019: Ironclad resolves the typical tension between business managers and the legal department, “in a really clever way by enabling the business side to be more self-serve while still keeping them within legal-approved guardrails,” says Miao.
KeepTruckin: fleet management tech for trucking
What it does: KeepTruckin provides a physical electronic logging device in trucks that tracks vehicles in real time, plots location history on a map and manages fuel taxes.
Why it’s hot in 2019: “KeepTruckin is growing like crazy. They’ve found a way to use a bottoms-up approach to enter the trucking industry, part of the deskless workforce that’s typically forgotten by the software industry. In the deskless space, bottoms-up is harder to accomplish because end users don’t have as much IT authority and budget as deskbound workers. Can’t wait to see them explode in 2019.”
LaunchDarkly: a smarter way to test new software features
What it does: LaunchDarkly helps product managers and designers test new features before rolling them out to all users while minimizing work f0r software developers.
Why it’s hot in 2019: “Edith [Harbaugh] CEO, is tremendously respected in the Dev Ops community,” says Munichiello.
“Strong CEO and team and scaling very quickly. Customers continue to rave about the platform,” says Murphy.
Looker: self-serve business analysis
What it does: Looker offers business and financial analysis software that helps companies organize and understand their data.
Why it’s hot in 2019: “Before I became a VC, I helped grow Lightspeed HQ, a Montreal-based developer of point-of-sale and eCommerce software, from 60 employees to 600,” says Miao.
“One of my proudest accomplishments was rolling out Looker. Before Looker, every new financial / business analysis literally started with me opening a blank Excel spreadsheet. After Looker, we had a system robust and flexible enough that 600 employees could self-serve analysis.”
MessageBird: texting and live operators
What it does: They make it easier for companies to embed communications into their products – text, chat, and voice – and make it easier for businesses to communicate with their customers around the world.
Why it’s hot in 2019: With 15,000 customers worldwide, “they are Twilio for the rest of the world,” says Fletcher. “They launched a product, Flow Builder, that is a low-code/no-code platform that allows business owners to automate their communications.”
Milk Stork: Help for new moms on business trips
What it does: Milk Stork provides a breast milk shipping service that lets traveling moms safely ship the milk home while they are away.
Why it’s hot in 2019: Working moms “no longer have to choose between their career and their commitment to breastfeeding,” says Larco.
Milk Stork has a smart business model, too, selling to employers as an employee benefit. This helps companies “attract and retain more of their workforce through the new-parent years.”
Mirror: a home portal into live and on-demand fitness classes
What it does: Mirror is a mirror that transforms into a screen that displays live and on-demand fitness classes.
Why it’s hot in 2019: “Mirror has a unique angle on providing guided classes across a wider range of fitness types. Pricing is still steep at ~$1500, but Peleton has shown that there is consumer appetite to invest significant dollars in fitness in your home, so Mirror may be the next generation of this trend,” says Kim.
Oars and Alps: natural skin care for men
What it does: Skin care products for men.
Why it’s hot in 2019: “A skincare line for men with all natural ingredients, is TSA friendly and growing in popularity,” says Senkut.
Openpath: Replacing the key card with the smartphone
What it does: Openpath is killing the office key card by replacing it with smartphone app and door sensors.
Why it’s hot in 2019: “Openpath’s approach to access control is one of those ‘inevitable’ technologies that we can see every office will use,” says Subotovsky.
Plaid: linking apps to bank accounts
What does this company do: Plaid enables developers to links bank accounts to their apps.
Why it’s hot in 2019: “Plaid’s recent acquisition of Quovo primes them to expand into the brokerage and wealth management arena, where they’ll need to compete with and distinguish themselves from other fintech players who already have a head start,” said Vishra.
“Plaid makes it dead simple for developers to integrate financial services data into their applications,” says Kurzweil.
Prisma: a better way to write apps that need databases
What it does: Prisma offers database tools and infrastructure for app developers.
Why it’s hot in 2019: “Prisma massively simplifies working with data and databases by replacing traditional object-relational mapping (ORM) with more modern approaches. ORM is often the biggest bottleneck when building APIs or applications and replacing it can free up a large amount of developer time,” says Agrawal.
Prolon: fasting with nutrients
What it does: Prolon offers what it calls a five-day “fasting mimicking” meal program. It uses precise nutrients in combinations that it says will sustain you, but are not recognized as food by the body so they mimic a fasting state.
Why it’s hot in 2019: The company says it’s a scientifically researched program that was originally developed for cancer patients. Intermittent fasting has proven health benefits and Prolon is billed as a wellness reset.
“My new year’s resolution is to do it 2X/year,” says Treyger.
RigUp: a marketplace for oil and gas jobs
What it does: RigUp’s platform helps contract energy workers find jobs and helps energy companies manage their contract workforce.
Why it’s hot in 2019: In its five years, RigUp has already amassed a network of 22,000 contractors and service providers who use it.
“The oilfield services industry is a $150 billion domestic market that is highly fragmented and has seen virtually no software innovation, in part because energy is an unpopular sector in Silicon Valley. With 50% of the energy workforce set to retire in the next five years, the industry will increasingly be driven by tech-savvy millennials,” Ta said.
SambaNova: new chips and platform for AI, ML
What it does: The point of artificial intelligence is that the computer is continuously learning and changing on its own. SambaNova is building new chips, hardware and a platform for AI, machine learning and big data analytics that can change and adapt to support this type of computing.
Why it’s hot in 2019: The tech is based on the research of its two former Stanford professor cofounders. The third cofounder is a chip pioneer. One of the co-founders, Chris Re, previously founded Lattice, a GV-backed company acquired by Apple.
“Huge market. A+ team and founders. Tremendous interest from customers,” says Munichiello. “AI and learning approaches are powering tremendous enterprise gains and will require new platforms to keep up.”
Serverless: a leader in the next big thing in cloud
What it does: Serverless helps developers write apps for the newest trend in cloud computing, known as “serverless.” It lets a developer focus on the app’s features while it takes care of the app’s cloud infrastructure needs.
Why it’s hot in 2019: “With 26,000 GitHub stars and growing, we think Serverless.com is really cool as they have struck a nerve with the development community,” says Levine.
(A GitHub star is when a user of GitHub stars the app, to watch it and give it the equivalent of a “thumbs up.” GitHub is, a site that lets developers share apps.)
Shield.ai: drones saving lives by scanning dangerous places
What it does: Shield AI builds robots and drones that autonomously search buildings and dangerous sites while simultaneously streaming video and generating maps for military sites, construction, oil and gas fields.
Why it’s hot in 2019: “They provide an artificial intelligence platform that helps save our service members and innocent civilians,” says Levine.
“It will be interesting to see how the Shield team accelerates the development and deployment of their AI products, especially in a high risk environment that protects service members and innocent civilians,” says Tavel.
StockX: a place to buy sneakers and stuff
What it does: StockX lets people buy and sell sneakers, handbags, streetwear, watches.
Why it’s hot in 2019: “StockX inspects every item sold on its marketplace and guarantees authenticity,” says Lee. It also gives StockX sellers as much control as buyers, allowing them to sell to, or negotiate, standing offers for items.
Superhuman: smarter, faster email
What it does: Superhuman intends to be what email would look like if it were built today. It bills itself as the “fastest email experience” and includes features like AI inbox help, undo send, follow-up reminders, scheduled messages, and read statuses.
Why it’s hot in 2019: “Email needs to be reinvented. It’s unbelievable that the most popular email clients – Gmail, Yahoo – haven’t updated their interfaces in decades, costing the world tens of millions of wasted hours every year,” Subotovsky says. “Superhuman is on the right path, and I’m excited to see them breakout in 2019.”
Tia Health: a new kind of medical practice for women’s health
What it does: Tia is a one-stop-shop for female health, integrating gynecology, wellness and primary care under one roof.
Why it’s hot in 2019: “Tia was born digitally via the app-based Tia Bot, and that data and engaged community has informed the customer-centric build-out of their first physical clinic,” says Barna.
“It’s a comprehensive approach for wellness with a focus on nutrition and acupuncture right in the office as well as primary care. And it covers all the stages of a woman’s life,” says Treyger.
Tigera: security for Kubernetes
What it does: One of the hottest new cloud computing technologies is called Kubernetes, which lets companies easily manage cloud apps. But as apps move around the cloud, they require a new approach to track and secure them. Tigera offers software for this.
Why it’s hot in 2019: “Kubernetes is being adopted by every major enterprise around the world for deploying modern, containerized applications,” says Somasegar.
“Tigera is built around the Open Source project Calico, which is recognized and trusted as the de-facto standard for Kubernetes network security,” he says.
Tonal: A personal fitness trainer hanging on the wall
What it does: Tonal offers a personal trainer and weight machine all delivered in the form of a hang-on-the-wall big screen TV.
Why it’s hot in 2019: “Consumers can get access to a world class gym and trainer without leaving the comfort of their home. It helps that the machine looks great too,” says Lee.
Transfix: Transforming the $800 billion trucking industry
What it does: Transfix is a freight marketplace that companies use to hire trucks from carriers, in the $800 billion trucking industry. It uses AI to match loads with carriers.
Why it’s hot in 2019: “Everything on the planet other than babies is delivered by truck,” says Narasin. “Transfix is bringing this antiquated industry into the real time, tech-enabled world and making life better for drivers, shippers and carriers in the process while saving the planet from tremendous waste.”
Trusted Health: software for nurses to find jobs
What it does: Trusted Health helps nurses find jobs, replacing classic recruitment and job negotiations with smart matching and transparency.
Why it’s hot in 2019: “Trusted is one of the fastest growing companies in our portfolio, and they are tackling a massive industry that is desperately in need of better technology,” says Pezeshki.
UpKeep: mobile software for maintenance pros
What it does: UpKeep offers mobile software for people who do maintenance projects, such as property managers or facility managers and technicians, helping them complete maintenance requests faster.
Why it’s hot in 2019: “80% of workers worldwide are part of the the ‘deskless’ workforce who, forgotten by the software industry, rely on their phones and outdated spreadsheets,” Spain says.
UpKeep is used by 150,000 technicians across 2,000 businesses including Jet.com, McDonalds, Marriott, Google, and Magic Leap, he says.
Wild Earth: sustainable pet food from Koji protein
What it does: Wild Earth makes gourmet pet food out of high-quality protein from Koji, a fungi used in Chinese and other East Asian cuisines.
Why it’s hot in 2019: “Wild Earth is redefining the future of pet food and clean meat,” says Chou. “There are 90 million dogs in the US (more than children!) and pet owners are growing increasingly aware of the unsafe ingredients and unethical processes of many traditional dog food brands.”
Source: Business Insider