For aspiring entrepreneurs and startup founders, coming up with an idea for a startup or a problem to solve is often the first step in your journey, long before seeking venture funding. But sometimes it can be helpful to see what major venture capital funds are looking to put their money behind and how your ideas fit in. Here's a growing list of some requested startup ideas solicited by major venture capital funds.
Got more ideas for startups? Send the ideas, description and name of the VC fund with links to us.
Andreessen Horowitz is the iconic Silicon Valley investment firm that specializes in technology and has backed some of today's most famous startups.
|Startup Ideas and Requests||Description|
|Online Marketplaces||We’re continuing to see tremendous innovation in marketplaces. The first generation of net companies saw a few big horizontal marketplace winners like eBay and Craigslist. But entrepreneurs are continuing to create the next generation of online marketplaces|
|Crowdfunding||When we’ve got a smartphone in our pocket all the time, we have a way to fund anything at any time via crowdfunding.
Until now, crowdfunding has mostly been an occasional, desktop sort of experience. Sure, we might back a new gadget launch or a charity a few times a year, but it’s not an everyday thing. That’s about to change. With smartphones in our pockets, we not only have access to crowdfunding platforms whenever we want, but to the crowd that comprises the various social circles of our lives — from family to school, work, and the region we live in.
|Insurance||Insurance is all about distributing risk. With dramatic advances in software and data, shouldn’t the way we buy and experience our insurance products change dramatically? Software will rewrite the entire way we buy and experience our insurance products — medical, home, auto, and life.|
|Full-Stack Startup||The old approach startups took was to sell or license their new technology to incumbents. The new, “full stack” approach is to build a complete, end-to-end product or service that bypasses incumbents and other competitors.
A good example from big companies is Apple versus Microsoft. For years, Microsoft just built pieces of the stack — the OS, apps — and relied on partners to build semiconductors, cases, assembly, do retail etc. Apple does everything: they design their own chips, their own phone hardware, their own OS, their own apps, the packaging, the retail experience etc. Apple reminded the world that you could create a really magical experience if you did many things well at once.
|Containers||Containers are another way of isolating an application from the underlying hardware. They’re objects that serve the same purpose as a virtual machine — instantiations or clones of the host operating system with a self-standing, self-executing application inside — but they also provide bare-metal performance, because there’s no virtualization layer between.|
|Security||The threat of people getting into our systems today is so great that every company in the world has to embrace the notion that not only are they going to get hacked, there’s a good chance hackers are already inside … and they just don’t know it.
So there’s a whole new class of companies that come into play during, and in the aftermath of, a hack.
|Virtual Reality||Computer enthusiasts and science fiction writers have dreamed about VR for decades. But earlier attempts to develop it, especially in the 1990s, were disappointing. It turns out the technology wasn’t ready yet. What’s happening now — because of Moore’s Law, and also the rapid improvement of processors, screens, and accelerometers, driven by the smartphone boom — is that VR is finally ready to go mainstream.
Once VR achieves presence, we start to believe.
|Bitcoin (and Blockchain)||Bitcoin is as different from the wire transfer system as the modern Internet is from phone lines. You wouldn’t expect the phone lines of 1988 to easily accommodate hundreds of millions of tweets and likes per day, nor multi-gigabyte file transfers or P2P apps. Moreover, the primary use of Bitcoin may not be doing “better wire transfers” anymore than the primary use of the Internet was VOIP.
Instead we should expect totally new kinds of applications, because Bitcoin is good for transactions that are very small, very large, very fast, very international, and/or very automated — unlike the legacy payment rails. It probably starts with low stakes, digital goods that the dollar can’t colonize right now due to the requirements of credit card companies … basically business models that are just too low stakes, or too weird, or too international.
|Cloud-Client Computing||Where we had client-servers before, we now have a more distributed, cloud-local computing (what Gartner calls ‘cloud/client computing’). This approach runs stateful, smart applications and stores data out at the endpoint, all synchronized with the back-end cloud. If the OS is at the endpoint and we have control over that endpoint, then you can start moving with fluidity between the endpoint. No one entity dominates or controls the entire thing.
Note, these endpoints aren’t just phones; they could be wearables and other small devices and screens connected to the internet. Beyond the devices themselves, it all adds up to a massive amount of compute power. The next decade of computing will be about doing something with it.
|Digital Health||Through successively more sophisticated engineering the instrument [of digital health] thus begins to move from the hands of the specialist to the generalist to the nurse practitioner to the nurse… and then, perhaps, to the general population in the form of a phone accessory or an app.|
|Online Video||YouTube can be stingy about sharing video revenue because there hasn’t been any serious competition that can deliver viewers at such scale… Until now. Just like scores of entrepreneurs have hollowed out or unbundled Craigslist by building specialized marketplaces, entrepreneurs and companies are setting their sites on hollowing out YouTube|
|Sensorification of the Enterprise||Think about what’s possible with smartphones today. The form and sophisticated functionality of smartphones has led to businesses we couldn’t ever have imagined (ridesharing, to name just one example). This was made possible partly because of the “sensorification” of the landscape, coupled with mobile and a friendly UI.
That same sensorification needs to move into the enterprise.
|Machine Learning + Big Data||Here at a16z, we treat “big data” and “machine learning” as connected activities. People have been talking about the need for more ‘analysis’ and insight in big data, which is obviously important, because we’ve been in the ‘collection’ phase with big data until now. But the innovation in the big data world that I’m most excited about is the ‘prediction’ phase — the ability to process the information we’ve collected, learn patterns, and predict unknowns based on what we’ve already seen.
Machine learning is to big data as human learning is to life experience: We interpolate and extrapolate from past experiences to deal with unfamiliar situations. Machine learning with big data will duplicate this behavior, at massive scales.
|Internet of Things||Right now we have a culture of planned obsolescence. But the IoT could change things here, and create a new culture of repair. If you’re a small family-owned restaurant that can’t afford to constantly upgrade equipment or fix things, you can answer a whole new set of questions with the IoT: Is that freezer working extra hard because someone left the door open, or because its compressor is about to fail and you’re about to lose $6,000 in food? Power consumption patterns, audio waves, and more can be analyzed to determine whether, when, and how something ought to be running.|
|DevOps||DevOps (a portmanteau of “development” and “operations”) is a software development method that stresses communication, collaboration, and integration between software developers and information technology (IT) professionals. A response to the interdependence of software development and IT operations, DevOps aims to help organizations rapidly produce software products and services — and to improve operations performance.
But DevOps is more than just a methodology. It’s a must-have skill set for the modern programmer — and is increasingly becoming its own department as well (the subject of much debate).
Y Combinator provides seed funding for startups and has one of the most celebrated accelerator programs for early stage entrepreneurial projects.
|Startup Ideas and Requests||Description|
|A.I. & Robotics||AI stands to have a large impact on society.|
It feels like it could be one of the dividing lines in the history of technology, where before and after look totally different. We’re interested in people applying research to any narrow domain (drug discovery, programming assistant, legal advice, fraud detection, etc) and especially those focused on the intersection of AI and robotics (manufacturing, self-driving cars, etc).
|Bio||It’s still early, but we’re finally making real progress hacking biology.|
We are certain that this is going to be a surprising, powerful and controversial field over the next several decades. It feels a little bit like microcomputers in the 1970s.
Engineering principles are now routinely applied through synthetic biology and bio is touching all aspects of life from healthcare to manufacturing and even food and agriculture.
There are so many directions this can go–fighting disease, slowing aging, merging humans and computers, downloading memories, genetic programming, etc.
Reading DNA has become incredibly fast and cheap. There are many interesting applications here. There will perhaps be even more interesting applications as we get better at writing DNA.
We are also interested in applications of biotech to prevent its own misuses. For example, if the bad guys can create new infectious diseases quickly, it’d be nice if the good guys could create new cures and vaccines quickly as well.
|Brick and Mortar 2.0||We are interested in seeing startups that use brick-and-mortar commercial or retail space in interesting and efficient ways.|
Amazon is putting malls and big box stores out of business. Rather than fighting a losing battle with Amazon, brands need to rethink how to use retail space in ways that play to their strengths. Tesla, Warby Parker, and Peloton, for example, use brick and mortar locations as showrooms that complement their online sales channels. Without the need to store inventory, retail space can be used much more efficiently.
Interesting uses of brick-and-mortar space are not limited to retail stores: similar sea changes are happening to restaurants, entertainment venues, local service providers, and office buildings. New businesses will be purpose-built for customers that are trained to expect features like online ordering, deep integrations with other services, and immediate delivery. Flexibility is key. For instance, it is likely that rather than multi-year leases, businesses of the future will utilize “micro-leases” that last days or even hours.
Additionally, the era of big box stores that migrated consumer attention out of main street and into suburban shopping centers flanked by parking lots is likely to change as the era of self-driving begins. Once self-driving cars are adopted widely, our relationship with physical space will evolve in ways that are hard to predict. We want to see startups that are thinking about that shift and building new ways to use physical space.
|Carbon Removal Technologies||The Paris Agreement set forth a global goal to limit the earth’s temperature increase to 1.5°C this century. Just switching to renewables isn’t going to be enough to reach that goal. We will also have to remove carbon from the atmosphere.|
Carbon removal and sequestration technologies are still in their infancy. The current solutions can be divided into two groups: natural (such as reforestation and biochar) and technological (such as direct air capture). Several countries including the US recently stepped up and created financial incentives for removing carbon from the atmosphere, but it is not yet cost effective with current technology.
Other approaches to geoengineering to counteract the effects of climate change could have potential as well.
|Cellular Agriculture and Clean Meat||Recent scientific developments have changed the way we think about producing protein.|
For the first time, we can now produce food that is scientifically indistinguishable from animal products like meat and dairy, using only cells and not harming any animals.
Today humans use farm animals mostly for meat and dairy production. Whether or not you believe this is cruel and wasteful, we know it’s not sustainable. More people eat meat every year, yet most of the available farmland in our world is already being used for production of meat. The agricultural sector is the world’s second-largest emitter of greenhouse gas after the energy sector, and the use of antibiotics in farming is real danger to our own health system.
Growing real animal-meat directly from cells is a revolutionary science. We would love to fund more startups taking this science to market. We also want to fund startups specializing in the scaling phase of cellular agriculture. The world will massively benefit from a more sustainable, cheaper and more healthy production of meat.
|Response to COVID-19||In order to confront the COVID-19 crisis, we need to immediately mobilize global scientific and technical talent. There are already a number of YC companies that are helping with the crisis, and we’re looking for more startups that if successful could alter the trajectory of COVID-19. We’re particularly interested in startups working on:|
Tests / diagnostics
Treatments and vaccines
Equipment for hospitals
Ways to reduce transmission
Monitoring and data infrastructure
For a startup to have an impact in time to address the current crisis, it will have to move faster than most people think is possible. This means the founders need to have domain expertise in the area; they also need to have a plan for how to have a significant impact globally in a short timeline. They also need to have a path to building a sustainable business after the crisis is over.
We will fast-track a handful of promising COVID-19 startups through our admissions process for the summer batch and immediately fund them so they can get started right away. They will participate in YC remotely and can immediately begin doing office hours with YC Partners and getting help from the YC community.
Unfortunately, we don’t know how long it will take to review your application. We want to be as thorough as possible. We ask for your patience and trust that we will get back to you as soon as we can.
|Diversity||A diverse workforce is good for business and good for the world. |
Without different perspectives, the products and services we create will miss big opportunities for large segments of people. We want to fund non-profits and startups that are working on making technology a place that is more inclusive and attractive to people of all ages, races, sexual orientations, and cultures.
|Education||If we can fix education, we can eventually do everything else on this list.|
Human brain power is vastly underutilized on this planet because most people lack access to a good education. Strong education systems lead to greater social mobility, better workers, better citizens, and more and better startups. A small increase in the learning output of education systems across the globe would have an enormous impact on human productivity and economic growth.
We are interested in new school models that can develop critical thinking, creativity, citizenship, and job skills at massive scale. We’re looking for ideas that combine technology and person-to-person interactions to deliver highly individualized educational experiences.
We also know that 90% of the human brain develops before age 5 and achievement gaps open up well before kindergarten. We’re interested in ventures that dramatically improve outcomes for children from birth to age five, that reduce inequality, and that have the potential to enhance the future quality of life for those children and their families. Scalable solutions in these areas should now be doable thanks to advances in brain science and technologies such as smart home devices, wearables, and mobile.
|Energy||There is a remarkable correlation between the cost of energy and quality of life.|
Throughout history, when the cost of energy has come down a lot (for example, with the steam engine) the quality of life has drastically improved.
Cheap energy would do a huge amount to reduce poverty. New energy sources could also help the environment, the economy, reduce war, ensure a stable future, make food and water more abundant, and much more.
We believe economics will dominate—new sources must be cheaper than old ones, without subsidies, and be able to scale to global demand. Nuclear energy can hit the bid, and possibly so can renewables. But pricing is the first order question.
In addition to generation, we’re also interested in energy storage and transmission. 10x better batteries would enable great new things, as would the ability to easily move energy around.
|Enterprise Software||Making The Expensive Cheap: Because of the cost of traditional enterprise software, many categories of solutions were previously cost prohibitive for small or even medium sized businesses to benefit from.|
|Enterprise Software||The Next Billion Workers: Traditionally office-based knowledge workers have been the users of enterprise software. Mobile phones and tablets turn every type of employee – from the retail store associate to the field services team – into a knowledge worker.|
|Enterprise Software||Digitizing Every Industry: Every industry is going through some form of information-based disruption; this is causing businesses to modernize their practices, leveraging new data, accelerating key processes, and delivering digitally-enabled experiences in the process.|
|Financial Services||The world’s financial systems are increasingly unable to meet the demands of consumers and businesses.|
That makes some sense because regulations designed to protect customers can’t change fast enough to keep up with the pace at which technology is changing the needs of those customers. This mismatch creates inefficiencies at almost every level of the financial system. It impacts how people invest their savings, how businesses gain access to capital to grow, how risk is priced and insured, and how financial firms do business with each other.
We think that software will accelerate the pace at which financial services change and will eventually shift the nature of regulations. We want to fund companies with novel ideas of how to make that happen.
|Future of Work||Jobs will look very different 25 years from now.|
We’ve already seen a massive shift toward automation, robots, and AI, and the pace of their impact on work isn’t slowing down.
There’s uncertainty on whether these new technologies will result in more or fewer jobs in aggregate. We’re interested in what you think will happen and what comes next.
In particular, we want to figure out what new work will be created to leverage these new technologies. And what can be built to help people and companies adapt to the changing skills requirements they face.
We also want to know how the meaning of work will evolve. People seek full-time jobs for many reasons, including money, healthcare, and a sense of purpose. We’d love to see solutions that address each of these factors (or any others) in anticipation of a changing job market.
|Government 2.0||In 2018, Pew Research Center reported that 57% of Americans believe that children in America today will be worse off financially than their parents. Since 2013, this number has been as high as 65% — even though we are experiencing our tenth straight year of economic growth.|
We believe this mindset is the result of increased family debt, stagnant wages, and a lack of government commitment to provide equal access to the basic services families need to thrive. These services include access to quality education, affordable housing, healthcare, food, physical safety, accurate news and information, a social safety net, and a livable environment.
|Healthcare: Pharmaceuticals||Pharmaceuticals: With computational drug discovery and omics data, we have vastly more powerful tools than before for inventing new drugs. It’s more achievable than ever for startups to make breakthroughs in this area.|
|Healthcare: Cell Therapies||Cell Therapies: With breakthroughs in iPSC and CAR-T technology, there is a well-warranted explosion of interest in cell therapies. What we’ve seen here is probably just the beginning.|
|Healthcare: Diagnostics||Diagnostics: There are big trends in this space towards continuous monitoring and portable and point-of-care diagnostics. We’re interested in both hardware and software / AI based diagnostics.|
|Healthcare: Medical Devices||Medical Devices: Costs of prototyping and manufacturing are lower than ever and computational power is higher than ever. We’re excited to see what devices have the most clinical impact and how the data they generate can make medical devices more valuable than ever before.|
|Healthcare: Data||Data: With the ability to collect omics data inexpensively, there is a a huge opportunity to create new datasets of healthcare data and mine them for useful insights.|
|Improving Memory||Human memory is too volatile.|
Compared with computers, humans have an odd memory system. We can recall subtle emotions and feelings from 10 years ago while simultaneously forgetting where our phone is and what to pick up at the store. The increasing bombardment of information and ideas certainly does not make it easier, nor do age onset diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s.
The Merge is coming. Some solutions like voice assistants and wearables may help supplement short-term memory. More complex approaches involve neural interfaces but raise new UX problems. We want to fund startups that are exploring how to improve human memory with technology. Ideally we can solve Mitch Hedberg’s problem once and for all.
|Longevity and Anti-Aging||We spend billions of dollars a year researching diseases of aging like cancer and heart disease, but only a tiny fraction of that researching aging itself.|
We think this is a misallocation of resources. We now have the understanding of biology to work on therapies that directly address the root causes of aging. We’ve funded several companies working on this and we’d like to fund more.
|One Million Jobs||We want to fund companies that have the potential to create a million jobs.|
There are a lot of areas where it makes sense to divide labor between humans and computers-—we are very good at some things computers are terrible at and vice versa—-and some of these require huge amounts of human resources.
This is both good for the world and likely a good business strategy—-as existing jobs go away, a company that creates a lot of new jobs should be able to get a lot of talented people.
|Supporting Creators||The internet has made it easy to distribute creative work to millions of people, but no one has figured out how to help creatives make a sustainable living.|
In the arts, there is an army of middle men that exist between the artist and the fan. Each person in the middle takes a cut of each dollar made by the artist. We want to see more startups that are building a direct pipeline from artist to fan.
We believe there are ways to build more creator-friendly platforms, and we’re interested in seeing projects that make it easier for artists to raise funding, track consumption of their work and prevent piracy.
|Transportation and Housing||About half of all energy is used on transportation, and people spend a huge amount of time unhappily commuting.|
Face-to-face interaction is still really important; people still need to move around. And housing continues to get more expensive, partially due to difficulties in transportation. We’re interested in better ways for people to live somewhere nice, work together, and have easier commutes.
Specifically, lightweight, short-distance personal transportation is something we’re interested in.
|Underserved Communities and Social Services||Tens of millions of working poor in America don’t see a path to the middle class.|
This population has to navigate a world with substandard services, low quality housing, overcrowded schools, and crime in their neighborhoods. They are often unbanked and living paycheck to paycheck.
The US government alone spends hundreds of billions of dollars per year on social services and safety net programs for these underserved communities.
We believe great non-profits and for-profits can bring technology and strong metrics-driven approaches to this largely ignored, massive market.
|VR and AR||Virtual reality and augmented reality have been a long-unfulfilled promise.|
But we feel the wave is coming, and this is the right time to start working on it.
Homebrew offers seed-stage venture funding to a small batch of companies each year, with a portfolio spanning both consumer and enterprise hardware and software.
|Startups Ideas and Requests||Description|
|Platforms and tools for businesses of one - LinkExchange for Social Media||Make it easier for non-competitive entities (especially businesses) to cross-market one another via their various social media accounts. All approaches I've seen thus far have too much friction or are based around entities directly monetizing their reach (eg “I'll tweet your link for $50”)|
|Platforms and tools for businesses of one -IMDB for Business/Products||LinkedIn doesn’t do well when presenting non-linear, non-corporate work histories. The realities of work for many people these days is overlapping jobs and project collaborations instead of single employers. It also lacks the ability to structure what your contribution was to a larger effort. For example, creating the “credits” for a popular mobile app. If I’m a UX designer, what I really want to show you is my project role across the apps I’ve worked on, not necessarily lead with “Senior Designers – Disney Interactive.” That’s old way of thinking and it would take LinkedIn a while to move to this new thinking, if they ever could|
|Platforms and tools for businesses of one -Shadow Economy Picks & Shovels||“Shadow economies” are what I call robust ecosystems which are largely hidden from view because they occur outside of normal measurement media. For example, YouTube creators grew under the noses of brands, investors and mainstream media. eBook self-publishers, Etsy sellers, Uber drivers. All shadow economics which need picks and shovels (ie tools and services that help them grow their businesses)|
|Platforms and tools for businesses of one -Podcast Monetization and Analytics||An example of one shadow economy I've tracked for a while is podcasting. Monetization and analytics are horrible, largely because of the legacy iTunes distribution dominance. Burned-in ads and aggregate download stats aren't nirvana. Show me nirvana. Update: Increasingly convinced this isn't a venture-scale business until the non-iTunes podcast distribution platforms are bigger. Maybe a Hulu for Non-Music Audio will work - combination of ad-supported and subscription|
|Platforms and tools for businesses of one -Social Yellow Pages||Everyone has their go-to hair dresser, dry cleaner, auto mechanic or other service provider. But you don't have a go-to for every service. But chances are that someone you know does for any particular service of interest. And odds are we all have contact information for the service providers we know and use in our phones. Is it possible to leverage this data to create a “social” market network/directory for service providers?|
|Vertical software & services - Amazon Mayday as a Service||Innovative approaches to connecting information seekers to live expertise. Press a button and get help, whether it's in-store, at home, at work and so on. Entrepreneurs tend to take two approaches to this problem: One is assuming a marketplace or expert rate card model is the key, but that doesn't address trust, community, reciprocity; the other is launching too broadly horizontal and not targeting specific verticals. I'm interested by what Aaron Patzer is doing with Fountain|
|Vertical software & services - Vertical knowledge networks||While Google has put information at the world's fingertips, it's still often necessary to seek the counsel of experts who have specialized and rare knowledge. Whether in health, financial services, manufacturing or a number of others sectors, we're going to see the emergence of marketplaces that match consumer and business demand with scarce or expert knowledge|
|Vertical software & services - Consumerization of healthcare||While Obamacare makes healthcare more affordable and accessible for a large portion of the population, it doesn't address most of the inefficiencies, data silos, and poor experiences that exist in our healthcare system. It's exciting to see new direct to consumer and consumer-to-consumer healthcare services being created to help people figure out whether their child is sick, access needed mental health services, get diagnoses from experts and actively monitor their health. And all of this is being done outside of the traditional health care system, including both providers and insurance companies. I can't wait for software to eat healthcare|
|Consumer software & services - Hotel Tonight of Local||I believe more recommendation/content experiences should be focus on constraining the options and making the recommendations immediately actionable. If I want dinner, don't tell me 50 restaurants with ratings, etc. Show me three that you “know” I'll like and make a table bookable from the app. Update: For some reason, entrepreneurs keep showing me new ways to find/discover/recommend restaurants. If you're passionate about this, go for it, but I think it's a really tough business to build and a relatively uninspiring problem to spend years solving.|
|Consumer software & services - Mall Kiosk Photo Editing||This is more of a silly one but I've wanted to see if someone could make good cash flow by setting up kiosks at malls and doing realtime/near real-time photo editing for consumers. For example, make the Christmas Card photo look great by improving contrast and so on. With all the digital photos that people value, and the relatively quick fixes that someone with expertise can accomplish, could you have 500 of these across the us making $500/day.|
|Consumer software & services - Future of Insurance, Warranties||Skim away customer segments and charge them fairly with plans they actually love. Develop new types of insurance or warranties that are available more different experiences, periods of time or groups. Make less opaque and scary for consumers.|
|Consumer software & services - Consumer mortgages||Forget about the fact that it's harder than ever to qualify a mortgage. It's also just as painful as ever to go through the process of applying for one. Trulia and Zillow have helped make finding the right home somewhat easier, but no one has really fixed the process of buying a home and mortgages are the worst part of the process|
|Consumer software & services - Buying and selling homes||A home is most people's most valuable asset, yet the process of buying and selling that asset is more difficult than for virtually any other product or service. And real estate agents don't add much value in the process. They only help manage a process that is not well understood and that can seem daunting to the average person. This is going to change because middlemen earning 6% of a transaction shouldn't exist if they aren't adding considerable value. The last major innovation in home buying and selling was Zillow. Opendoor looks really promising. But there are going to be other models for making the process simpler, more transparent and less expensive|
|Consumer software & services - Mobile personal productivity||It's hard to build a generalized solution for personal productivity because people have their own systems and behaviors that are hard to change. But I'd love to get beyond single purpose apps for to-do lists, calendaring, tasks, etc., that operate in silos and don't leverage the other data and sensors that exist on the phone. Can a family of apps that work together seamlessly to help people use their time more efficiently and wisely be built by a startup|
|Consumer software & services - Home concierge||Being a homeowner can be painful, time-consuming and expensive. Cleaning, gardening, maintenance, small improvements, emergency repairs...the list of things that need to just get done go on and on. Yet there still isn't a concierge like service to make homeownership less of a burden. I'm intrigued by the idea that cameras, beacons and other connected devices can make owning a home easier. In particular, is there an opportunity to start with something as simple as a photo-based appliance/equipment registry backed by a maintenance service|
|Consumer software & services - Micro-insurance (for collaborative economy products and services)||Riding in an Uber, renting an AirBnB and hiring a Taskrabbit are all examples of new transactions that deliver great value but also incur risk for both the customer and the service provider. It should be possible to insure yourself against injury or liability whenever engaging in one of those transactions, ideally with the tap of a button|
|Consumer software & services - On-demand live camera network||Imagine being able to be any place in the world - attending any event, seeing any physical thing, sharing in any experience. I want to see a network of smartphone users who offer live streams to potential viewers or fulfill requests for livestreams enabling these types of experiences. This was something we contemplated at Twitter but never could get energy around. Update: Since we originally wrote this post, Meerkat & Periscope launched, continuing to push notion of “live everywhere.” While we're still interested in the space, we don't think fast follower is interesting here and differentiation won't be about video quality or ease of broadcast but vertical experiences and communities|
|Consumer software & services - School-based social network||There are social networks for work, for friends and family, for your neighborhood and for your interests but those of who are parents are part of one more important community...our children's schools. None of the existing social networks address the use cases that are specific to parenting and schools despite the seemingly large and highly engaged school-based communities that exist offline|
|Consumer software & services - Simple, inexpensive estate planning service||It's crazy that when you die you have to fight to provide for your family and to protect the assets you've accumulated. The average American has no idea how to manage estate planning and even for those who pay attention it can be a confusing and inefficient process to get life insurance, setup trusts, draft wills, etc. It should be much easier to leave this world knowing that you've done all you can do to make sure your loved ones are taken care of|
|Consumer software & services - Sleep||We don't sleep enough, at the right times or in the right environments. And it's not only hurting our productivity, it's contributing to declines in our health. I own a Sense, but I think there is more to be done to help people sleep better and understand the impact of sleep (or the lack of it) on their lives. Update: So Sense is dead. And I'm more focused on sleep apnea as a problem since being diagnosed with it myself. Is there a way to diagnose and treat sleep apnea without cumbersome, uncomfortable contraptions and weeks long processes with specialists, doctors, dentists and surgeons?|
|Enterprise and small business software & services - Killing Passwords||It's clear that passwords are failing us as the default access and security method. How can we do away with passwords without putting undo burden on consumers and owners of password-protected products and services? Two-factor authentication clearly isn't the right solution. Is some form of biometrics based on fingerprints, voice, gait or something else the way to solve this problem?|
|Enterprise and small business software & services - Cyber Insurance||No matter how smart businesses get about IT security, hackers always seem to be one step ahead. We should definitely create ways to prevent security breaches but we should also create financial protections for the cases in which breaches happen. Current cyber insurance policies are costly, complex and incomprehensive. There has to be a better way to structure, price and sell cyber insurance because all businesses should have it|
|Enterprise and small business software & services - Candidate Feedback||There is tons of money spent on identifying job candidates and the recruiting process. So why is it that companies don't collect feedback on their recruiting processes from candidates who go through the interview process but don't receive an offer. It seems like a source of incredibly valuable data on overall candidate experience, interviewer quality, interview process effectiveness (false negatives/positives), etc. Would love to see someone tackle this problem in a way that provides value to both companies and candidates|
|Enterprise and small business software & services - Outsourced Salesforces||How does a business dial up or down a salesforce as needed? How do small batch manufacturers get their products on local retail shelves effectively? Why isn't it easier for someone to become an independent sales rep for their favorite products or services? What does Multi-Level Marketing model look like applied to broader set of verticals?|
|Enterprise and small business software & services - Future of the Co-op||Cooperatives are businesses owned by the participating entities. If you continue to play out some of the sharing economy dynamics, we could see less and less economic rent flow to the platform, away from the participants. Or participants themselves own/run the platform|
|Enterprise and small business software & services - Rethinking the Job Interview||The majority of companies are terrible at interviews. The majority of job applicants don't understand how to judge whether company is a good fit. What are better approaches to solving this and making the right matches once candidates are in the application funnel?|
|Enterprise and small business software & services - Commercial property leasing||While Trulia and Zillow have addressed residential real estate, the commercial real estate market still suffers from opacity, complexity and inefficiency. After obtaining health care, finding office space was the most difficult thing we had to when starting Homebrew|
|Enterprise and small business software & services - Employee retention||Billions are spent on recruiting the right people to companies and on giving those employees performance reviews and feedback, but there still seems to be a gap when it comes to solutions that help companies understand the health of their workforces. There is lots of data on why employees stay at companies but no one has leveraged that data to create Employee Relationship Management software that benefits both employees and managers|
|Enterprise and small business software & services - SMB multi-level marketing||Online marketing is hard for experts to understand, execute, optimize and scale. How difficult must it be for small businesses? And at the same time it remains true that word-of-mouth is the best marketing. Why not create a way for small businesses to refer business to each other, share customer information, even market collectively|
|Increasing food availability||With an ever-growing population and longer life expectancies, we need to grow and produce more food than ever. Anything that helps increase yields or reduces/replaces costly production is potentially game-changing|
|Water use and supply||Even more acute than the shortage of food, is the shortage of water, which is already impacting many areas as global temperatures rise. Technology can help reduce the amount of water needed to grow food or produce other goods. It can also be used to find and tap new sources of water. Cheaper desalinization is of particular interest as an opportunity to fundamentally change water supply for the entire world|
|B2B Drones||Especially around more effective data collection and making that data actionable. Bonus points if it's creating a new type of action that previously was logical/understood but had negative ROI because cost of human performing was too high|
|Human-assisted artificial intelligence (for scheduling, trip planning, gifting, health triage, etc.)||AI is all the rage amongst VCs, but great product experiences don't have to be delivered by solutions that 100% AI-driven. There are clear opportunities to combine good enough AI with human intelligence to deliver incredible value. X.ai and Clara are cool examples of startups attacking this opportunity but there are many use cases and verticals for which similar approaches can be taken|
|Cross-network/platform addressing||Phone numbers. Email addresses. Skype handles. Twitter usernames. The list of services that have a proprietary “namespace” is large and growing, even with more and more services leveraging the mobile address book. Why can't I communicate with a friend or colleague on any service without knowing the right “name” if I know them in real life or on another service? Shouldn't I be able to control who can call me after 7pm or on weekends or set a preference for always accepting calls from my wife, partner of company CEOs? Someone please create a universal addressing system, a human DNS of sorts|
|Data collection and aggregation||This is a generic one but there is no question that until recently it's been hard to collect many types of data and to aggregate and make sense of that data so many people can take advantage of it. New types of collection devices (cameras, sensors, beacons, etc.) are becoming ubiquitous and allowing startups to eliminate data scarcity or breakdown data silos where they previously existed. As examples in healthcare, I'm impressed by the potential of services like Figure1, which creates a repository of clinical images, and SharePractice, which crowdsources treatments|
|Blockchain bank||Does anyone love their bank? Banks are notorious for screwing customers with excessive charges and fees for all kinds of things. And really the only service a bank provides is keeping a digital record of money. Is there an opportunity to build a better bank on top of the blockchain that enables storage of currency with no hidden fees or charges, peer to peer money transfer (and maybe even check cashing) and a seamless debit card experience|
|New credit rating agency||Moody's, Fitch and Standard & Poor's are the players in a government-protected credit rating industry oligopoly. Their ratings were exposed during the financial crisis for what they are - outdated, unreliable and seemingly “for sale”. Better methodologies, richer data and broad cooperation can lead to the creation of a truly independent rating agency that introduces competition and breaks the oligopoly|
Two Sigma Ventures
Two Sigma Ventures is an early-stage venture capital fund based in New York City investing in "transformative" data and computing.
|Startup Ideas and Requests||Description|
|The Next Generation of Intentional Eating||Health and diet has clearly become an important trend in the last few years, reaching a fever pitch with Beyond Meat’s IPO in May last year. I believe we’ve only started to scratch the surface of what’s possible with intentional eating and sustainable food, and we’re excited to dive deeper in this space in 2020. In just the last year, we’ve seen companies innovating around different aspects of this trend: diet-based grocery stores (Thrive Market), plant-based meal programs (Sakara), healthy delivery options (Territory), and more. I expect this theme will only grow with the confluence of three other trends: millennials and Gen Z are champions of the environment and sustainability, we’re starting to build a better understanding of the microbiome and its relationship to health, and food and preventative habits may become a better first line of defense against skyrocketing healthcare costs.|
|The Fight Against Disinformation||The ability to create deep fakes and distorted videos is far outpacing the ability to detect them. Just see this altered video of Nancy Pelosi that spread virally last year as evidence. With an enormous amount of pressure already on the tech platforms to prevent misinformation in the upcoming election and the clampdown and oversight of political advertisements, I’d imagine that deep fakes and distorted videos will take center stage given their ability to spread widely through these same platforms. Hopefully more progress will be made on solutions that address these problems, and I’m optimistic this could be a good use case for applying AI to help protect both consumers and government alike.|
|A Once in a Generation Shift to Remote Work||Just a few years ago the traditional mantra of “everybody under one roof” dominated the conventional wisdom for how companies should be built. The physical, financial, and talent constraints of Silicon Valley and other major tech hubs forced startups to innovate and seek scalability and talent outside their home market. At the same time, global broadband deployment and the emergence of next-gen collaboration tools like Zoom, Slack, Google docs, and many others, has made it possible for teams to collaborate effectively without the need of a physical office. A new generation of startups like GitLab,1 InVision, Zapier, and Automattic pushed the remote work boundaries to the extreme, creating completely virtual enterprises with thousands of remote employees around the world. Others like HashiCorp and Stripe view remote work as another tool to continue to scale their workforce. The rise of remote work will have extensive implications on how we build companies and global labor markets. I believe this is a massive global shift that will play out over decades, and we’ll continue to watch this trend and seek opportunities to invest in startups that help facilitate and accelerate the adoption of remote work.|
|The Increasing Importance of Climate & Disaster Preparedness||The world is getting weirder in a lot of ways, and one of the most unfortunate ways is the changing climate and the disasters it causes. Town-destroying fires in California and Australia. Dangerous prolonged heat waves in Europe. Enormous typhoons and floods in Southeast Asia. Citizens, companies, and governments are all underprepared for the impacts of severe weather. There are companies working on helping to prepare for, avoid, minimize and mitigate these impacts, but we suspect one or more companies in this space (existing or brand new) will gain prominence this year.|
|A New Class of Security Companies for the Multi-Cloud World||It is no secret that cloud computing has transformed the way organizations build and scale their businesses. While there are many known security implications of cloud adoption within enterprises, a few notable new challenges have recently emerged with (i) the wide dispersion of sensitive data, (ii) the breakdown of ‘monolithic’ applications into microservices and serverless functions, and (iii) the adoption of hybrid cloud infrastructure. All of these trends have resulted in a maze of complexity and vulnerabilities within corporate IT environments (and an accompanying rise in cloud-based breaches), which is creating a new sense of urgency for vendor-agnostic solutions that help enterprises deal with everything from access management to misconfigurations.|
|The Rise of Privacy-Focused Marketing||Big companies have been built off of cookies and social media retargeting, with business models that tailor advertisements to your hyper personalized data and follow you around the web. With Google, Facebook, and the large tech platforms becoming more sensitive to privacy, we believe there may be an opportunity for a new wave of marketing companies that position themselves on more generic data and networks, giving consumers more control over their data and ability to opt-in to what they’re seeing. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the emergence of more ad networks focused on specific publications or a return to less precise, more widely targeted advertisements.|
|A New Wave of Opportunities for “ML Ops” Startups||Machine learning operations (ML Ops) focuses not on data or models themselves, but rather on managing the delivery pipeline, allowing companies to deploy models into production faster and alert customers to issues in data drift and the like (i.e. QA in the context of ML). As the discipline of ML matures (especially thanks to early players like DataRobot, H20, Domino, etc.) and expands and moves from academia to applied business and product solutions, there will be a shift in ML workflow “ownership” from academic data scientists to developers. Developers, who are accustomed to working off standards such as continuous integration (CI) and continuous development (CD) pipelines, will put pressure on organizations to create similar frameworks for ML Ops. For example, developers & data engineers need more standardized ways to assess why models fail to converge or give sensible results, handle version control and governance, debug and deal with input and output sanitization, easily deploy models/ code into production without disruption, and test and monitor other various aspects of the production pipeline. This evolution and need to further support the continuous delivery pipeline for ML paves the way for a whole new set of ML Ops tools.|
|Delighting Customers Using Intelligent Applications||Consumers have in recent years adopted a new view of brand quality that goes beyond tangible product features and increasingly includes the entire customer journey. As offerings continue to shift from guided and in-person to online and self-service, a customer’s view of brand is increasingly wrapped up in the kind of end-to-end customer support they might receive. Businesses who still view customer support solely as a cost center will lose to those who understand that positive customer experiences drive efficiencies in customer acquisition and retention. The challenge of keeping costs low while meeting customer expectations for real-time, convenient, and efficient interactions, will see companies turn to intelligent automation to effectively scale any solutions they might consider. As companies begin to deploy incremental automation within existing workflows, we expect applications to exponentially learn, improve quality, and over time, become trusted by businesses as the primary mechanism for providing a high degree of customer satisfaction.|
Find startup ideas from industry verticals and other funds.
|Startup Ideas and Requests||Description||Firm|
|Better Bills||Ever found yourself paying for extra services that you never wanted or finding incomprehensible items in a service bill? Some companies make very difficult or downward impossible to understand what the charge is, others make the process of suspending the unsolicited service troublesome. I’m sure you’re familiar with this.|
Managing and benchmarking services is another important aspect to consider. How does your bill compare with other companies offering the exact same services? Are you getting the best deal out of your current service provider?
|Consumer-centric loan servicing||Take student loans for example. There are 44.2 million American student loan borrowers who owe $1.41 trillion dollars in student loan debt in the US.|
Going trough a student loan can be a daunting experience. Some of the issues people usually deal with include:
Servicers giving you inconsistent information about plans that will reduce your payments. Applying for such plans can also be a challenging experience.
The lender doesn’t administer your services in the manner that you designated.
Your lender has reported inaccurate information to credit bureaus.
|Hardware + software for banking branches||Digital banking has gone a long way. Most of our day to day interactions with the bank are done either via the internet or with banking hardware, like the ATM machine. Still, there are a significant portion of banking operations that are still done person to person.|
Some stuff may sound like too far fetched but there are already prototypes being tested, like video conferencing ATMs that can centralize all services in the same terminal, even interacting with a remote assistant, maybe conversational AI will play a big role there supporting an increasing number of customers.
|Tax preparation||Software for doing tax preparation has existed for a long time. Yet, these applications only cover moderately difficult scenarios like a taxpayer running a side business at home. Only 30% of tax preparations are done using software. In the US there are over 300k people employed in the tax preparation business generating around $10 billion in revenue. There’s definitively a huge opportunity for companies that can crack the problem of handling more complex tax preparation scenarios.||True North|
|Mobile bank account opening||Going to a bank branch to open an account while living in a big western city may not be a problem, but imagine the other 4 billion people who live in rural areas. That’s a huge underserved population for whom opening a bank account and having access to financial services is the difference between social inclusion and poverty.|
Of the 7 billion people in the planet, 6 billion have access to a cell phone. The UN estimates more people have access to cellphones than toilets. All these people are only one adoption cycle from having access to smartphones. Mobile applications for accessing banks without any interaction whatsoever with a branch will be a big thing for the underserved rest of the world in the near future.
|Abstractions from the core||In today’s world core banking systems are expected to perform beyond the initial functions they were originally designed to do – recording transactions in an account. Mobile applications and internet services requires banks to offer an additional level of integration that transcends their branches and proprietary systems.|
A new generation of branchless banks is at advantage over the traditional banks, since they have the opportunity to build their systems from scratch and avoid the multi-million dollar task of replacing or upgrading their legacy systems. I think these digital banks will close the gap and offer not customers, but third party developers the API services to build innovation beyond traditional services.
|Brokerage-as-a-Service||Selling and buying stock at a broker can cost up to $65 the transaction. This means small investors or investors seeking to trade in small transactions are basically out of the game.|
Silicon Valley companies are already growing a stake at the brokerage business. Companies like RobinHood offer their users free stock trading without minimum or maximum transaction limits. They don’t have a public API yet, but if they decided to do so, they could easily become a back end service for other investment applications, essentially creating an ecosystem of trading services.
|Personalized insurance||The modern consumer has become used to the ease of having access to everything at the touch of a button and they want that same ease from their insurance. Consumers want to be able to get their insurance offerings when they want them, where they want them and how they want them.|
New technologies like IoT (internet of things) allow smart devices to collect more usage data. Hardware sensors can collect information like changes in the acceleration when the insured item suffers a drop. GPS position tracking of a rental item can inform the company if the item, like a bicycle, is being used within the designated areas.
All of this data gives a rich world of information to insurance companies to offer customers flexibility in the insurance policies making possible to insure items under specific usage conditions and monitor and enforce the policy terms of service thus, driving the prices down for consumers.
|Compliance-as-a-Service||As markets become more competitive, companies choose to diversify to different lines of business. This creates the need to satisfy an increasing number of regulations. Often legal teams are left out compared to the increasing number of contracts they need to verify for compliance, specially in countries or regions with different regulations per state, like the US or Europe.|
Software solutions can be a great differentiator in compliance analysis, specially when using technologies like machine learning. Some of the techniques that can be applied to compliance analysis are:
Correlation – identify overlapping regulations
Validation – identify high important areas, or areas prone to mistakes thanks to repetition
Feedback – visibility at a glance of contract obligations
|Healthcare’s impossible CRM||There has been a clear failure of care coordination in healthcare, perhaps costing the system as much as $45B. Physicians already attempt to coordinate care for the chronically ill, and Medicare is just now getting around to paying them for their efforts. This creates a unique opportunity for investment in the technologies that can support a 24/7 service that will only pay physicians $40.39 PMPM. Since patients will be a customer as well (they will likely pay ~20%), this product needs to make the lives of both sides significantly better.||Rock Health|
|New health insurance products||Access to hospitals and physicians (the “network”) and cost sharing between the insurer and the member (“benefit design”) are core components of a health insurance product—modulating supply and demand. Experimentation with both is rampant, but we’re not sure it has been well-guided or that failures have been unpredictable. We want to find a company that can design the insurance products of the future by successfully predicting the correct contracting mechanisms (e.g., pay for performance, bundled payments, shared savings, full capitation, etc.) for a given provider, building marketable narrow/tiered networks, and combining those with personalized benefit designs.||Rock Health|
|Clinical workflow||We are looking for “physician-first” companies that build tools beloved by doctors. The sad fact is, doctors enjoy medicine less and less each day and dissatisfaction has never been higher. We believe EHRs are satisfaction killers that cannot remain the center of clinical workflow and will eventually be reduced to a thin documentation layer to support billing. Enabling the provision of higher quality care is the number one driver of job satisfaction and your product must start there. Obvious bonus points here for enabling personalized health care at the point of care.||Rock Health|
|Digital therapies||We are committed to finding companies that can build software which delivers a clinical outcome (we’re fine with combination software/pill and software/hardware as long as the hardware is commodity). Our portfolio includes companies pursuing pre-diabetes, Type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, mental health and high risk pregnancy, to name a few. We are looking for additional companies that exploit open source, validated clinical protocols and attack disease/condition areas that represent significant areas of spend. Some categories of high interest include neurodegenerative disorders, mental health, hypertension, and respiratory disease.||Rock Health|
|Genomics workflow||Genomics data is clearly moving to the cloud, despite the challenges of data I/O. We remain interested in companies that will leverage this shift to develop improved workflow tools for researchers, clinicians, and potentially even patients. We believe there is an unwieldy set of open source tools (and associated protocols) that should be packaged together with proprietary software and services for commercial exploitation, particularly in the areas of whole genome analytics, full-read visualization and multi-site collaboration.||Rock Health|
|Biosensing Wearables||We are interested in realized breakthroughs in materials, microfluidics, biochemistry, and other core sciences that unlock clinically useful (and accurate) physiological data that can be measured non- or minimally-invasively, enabling remote, continuous patient monitoring services. This is the future of biosensing wearables, and we want to fund the next generation of companies that leverage a unique physiological data set for a clinical service.||Rock Health|
|Students - The Big Picture of Debt||Right now there isn’t a good way for borrowers to see their whole financial life in one place. Today, you can see your checking, savings, and investing accounts together. The missing puzzle piece is debt: credit cards, personal loans, student loans, auto loans, and mortgages. Having this unified view could help student loan borrowers stay on top of managing the various forms of debt.||Plaid|
|Students - Automated Debt Paydown||Helping students understand how student loans work is important and the next step is guiding them to make the right decisions when paying off this debt. A tool that helps them ingest information about their debt (whether it’s student loans, personal loans, or even monthly utility bills), does the math about the right order in which to pay them off, and automatically pulls the right amount out of every paycheck to make the monthly payment would be hugely impactful.||Plaid|
|Lenders - Next-Generation Student Loan Servicing||Once issued, most loans in the United States are immediately passed off to a servicer, whose responsibility it is to collect payments until the loan is fully paid off. There is significant opportunity to help students do a better job of paying off loans by creating good habits and building a better user experience.||Plaid|
|Lenders - Student-Centric Debt Collections||When default occurs, what happens next is often dehumanizing. Historically, debt collection agencies have not been built with consumers in mind. But creating one that works on behalf of the borrower to help them build a plan to get out of debt could create massive value for both sides.||Plaid|
|Last-Mile Remittance||Better solutions for cross-border money movement in markets that are traditionally cash-based and/or have low financial inclusion||Plaid|
|Digitizing Government Benefits||Online, real-time balance availability, budgeting, or mobile payment options for tracking and using government assistance, such as disability, welfare, housing, and earned income tax credit support||Plaid|
|Cross-Vertical Financial Infrastructure||Infrastructure that enables the expansion to other financial verticals (e.g. brokerage to banking) and allows their customers to focus on consumer experience||Plaid|
|Compliance As-a-Service||Plug-and-play compliance programs and platforms for early stage companies to help satisfy requirements for KYC, AML, BSA, and other new or pending financial regulation||Plaid|
|Smart Cameras Everywhere||If cameras can now understand what they’re looking at, what should they be looking at?||Matrix Partners|
|Social Gaming Platform||Twitch is amazing but where do I go to make friends to play with?||Matrix Partners|
|Personal Security & Privacy||Everyone’s anxious about it but what are we supposed to do besides use 1password?||Matrix Partners|
|More Productive Organizations||How is the average knowledge worker going to get step change differences in productivity?||Matrix Partners|
|Zero Carbon Electric Grid||A fleet of GHG-free generation: solar, wind, geothermal, hydro, and (yes) nuclear|
A massive network of HVDC transmission to move those electrons around
Lots and lots of grid flexibility: batteries, pumped hydro, smart thermostats, water heaters, etc.
|Energy Impact Partners|
|Renewable Intermittency as an Asset||At-scale green hydrogen production via electrolysis|
Infrastructure to support hydrogen storage and transportation
Demand via natural gas infrastructure, industrial uses, & some transportation
|Energy Impact Partners|
|Resilient Grids||Backup generation for critical facilities (hospitals, grocery, nursing homes, etc.)|
Microgrids for communities and remote areas
Underground power lines
Distribution grid monitoring, intelligence and automation
|Energy Impact Partners|
|Public Transportation Improvements||Expansion of both inter- and intra-city transit networks: bus, rail|
Expansion of access to transit via new modes: dynamic last-mile routing, micromobility, autonomous
Redesign of street network for safety, equity & dynamism
|Energy Impact Partners|
|Electric Vehicles, Homes, Infrastructure||New electric vehicle models in every class, from scooters to semi-trucks (and airplanes!)|
Charging infrastructure to eradicate range anxiety and provide universal access
Electricity-based homes, buildings, ports
|Energy Impact Partners|
|Decarbonized industry||Additive manufacturing capacity|
Admixtures & alternative chemistries for cement
New materials & processes for steelmaking
Bioplastics & improved chemical processes
|Energy Impact Partners|
|Decarbonized agriculture||Meat alternatives|
Systems for reduced food waste & ag supply chain efficiency
Managed grazing, intercropping, agroforestry
|Energy Impact Partners|
|Carbon Removal From Atmosphere||Point-source carbon capture capacity|
Direct air capture systems at scale
1 trillion trees
Carbon-to-value infrastructure. Turn CO2 into useful products (cement, CO, carbon black, etc.)
|Energy Impact Partners|
|Energy Efficient Products, Retrofits, Services Buildings||Low material use/lightweight products|
Universal energy audit & retrofit system
Financing tools to enable as-a-service mode of sales w/ immediate customer benefit
Ultra-high efficiency buildings with sustainable materials
|Energy Impact Partners|
|Tools to ensure carbon transparency||Ubiquitous, transparent carbon accounting framework|
Carbon labeling on products
Carbon visibility & optionality on purchase decisions
Supply chain GHG reduction tools
Robust corporate ESG reporting (emphasis E)
|Energy Impact Partners|
|Remote Tools for Remote Teams - Scheduling||You are in one timezone, but you’ll be in a different one in three weeks when you want to schedule a video call with two colleagues that are both in different timezones and don’t work 9-to-5 schedules. This is still a nightmare and could be several products, or one amazing product.||Earnest Capital|
|Remote Tools for Remote Teams - Universal asynchronous inbox||A huge part of being successful as a remote team is getting great at asynchronous communication. Most remote workers develop their own asynchronous workflow and not all productivity and communication tools have the necessary settings around “do not disturb”, batching messages, and notifications that you need to enforce the structure that works best for you. A Zapier for messages, that collect emails, @-messages, and notifications into a central inbox, with a very detailed set of remote-friendly rules would be awesome.||Earnest Capital|
|Remote Tools for Remote Teams - Bandwidth||Being able to work while traveling is one of the biggest benefits of remote work, but bandwidth—finding it, optimizing it, not paying a fortune for it—can be a constant challenge.||Earnest Capital|
|Remote Tools for Remote Teams - Higher resolution communication||I’ve become obsessed with screencasts both for internal team and customer communication. There are some pretty great options out there for creating screencasts, but may be opportunities around organizing, sharing, searching and collaborating on them. Maybe there’s something better than screencasts for this purpose?||Earnest Capital|
|Remote Tools for Remote Teams - Internal documentation and processes||Good internal wikis, workflows, and decision trees are critical for productive asynchronous teams and most founders I know are using some tool that really isn’t dedicated for these purposes. A pet theory is that internal wikis and customer-facing help desk articles should be searchable from the same query so employees can see both internal rules and public-facing FAQs.||Earnest Capital|
|Remote Tools for Remote Teams - Automated check-ins||Replicating the cues and nudges you get from working in a co-located office is a big opportunity for technology to help remote teams. This isn’t anything new, there are enough products in this space already to fill a lengthy blog post on its own, but there do still seem to be considerable gaps in the market and no clear best product here.||Earnest Capital|
|Remote Tools for Remote Teams - Meeting management and follow-up||Meetings are more challenging with remote teams, they need to be more structured and more efficient than just throwing everybody in a conference room and making sure they put their phones down. Here’s how the team at Wildbit combines automated daily check-ins and weekly meetings.||Earnest Capital|
|Remote Tools for Remote Teams - Employee onboarding||Even in co-located companies, onboarding new employees is often a multi-day scramble to get their work station setup, new accounts created, getting up to speed on the people and processes they’ll need to know to be productive. This is exacerbated in a remote asynchronous team. How can products help make this massive more efficient?||Earnest Capital|
|Remote Tools for Remote Teams - Keeping it human||Just because you can’t look over and check that your employees are working doesn’t mean you should build a digital panopticon, monitoring their every move.||Earnest Capital|
|Remote Tools for Remote Teams - Remote retreats||Nearly every remote team has embraced the idea that you should invest in getting remote teams physically co-located for a team retreat at least once a year. Despite the fact that planning and executing these are a big administrative burden for small teams, many people have tried to build the Airbnb for remote retreats without seeming to crack it. Perhaps it was a good idea but bad timing. Or maybe there is something adjacent to the annual retreat that is a better fit for a product.||Earnest Capital|
|Remote Tools for Remote Teams - Fun and games||Annual retreats are good but not sufficient for building culture in a large remote organization. I really like the way SureSwift runs a Photo Friday in Slack. What other fun internal habits or games can be built to bring remote teams closer together, learn more about their coworkers and build empathy and camaraderie?||Earnest Capital|
|Remote Tools for Remote Teams - Mental Health & Wellness||Productivity isn’t just about GTD. Can mental health, coaching and personal training solutions be deployed effectively for a remote team? While there are a million time-trackers dedicated to keeping workers on task, a big problem for remote workers is remembering to stop work, go outside, and create non-work time and space. Maybe there is an opportunity to invert the time-tracking paradigm.||Earnest Capital|
|Remote Tools for Remote Teams - Employee benefits||Basecamp offers an amazing list of benefits and I’m sure they have a great system now to get those set up in whatever city their newest employee happens to live in. But if I was a 5-person remote-first startup, I would definitely be interested in using a service/product that helped find and set up those benefits in any country or city in the world.||Earnest Capital|
|Better tools to expand our social networks||Maintaining existing relationships, both personal and professional, is easy enough using the existing digital tools at our disposal. Plenty of products have emerged focused on enhancing the spontaneity of these interactions, but what about the serendipity of forming new connections? While some are optimistic that our entirely digital existence will break down barriers to network-based access, instead I think we’ll see more creative ways to create positional scarcity, digitally (ie. clubhouse) and therefore new expansion or deepening of personal networks will prove challenging while we’re all stuck at home. How are we to establish relationships with people that aren’t already on our radar or within our network? How can we still form pseudo-random connections? Companies like lunchclub begin to fill this void but more are needed. Perhaps even more importantly (if hiring and funding decisions are to be made online), we’ll need creative ways to recreate the environmental cues that spark dynamic conversations with new acquaintances that are lacking within the constraint of static, face-to-face video chats. We’ll need to design solutions to help us gain insight into the ways in which our counterparts interact with others without the small cues we’re used to perceiving while spending in-person time with others in casual or social settings.||Dorm Room Fund|
|Tools that address two-dimensionality in the digital world||When we’re forced to spend so much time in our digital world, it’s two-dimensionality becomes frustratingly apparent. Over the past two years, there has been a lot of focus on creating digital communities and hanging out in shared, digital spaces. While some such digital communities or spaces result in more social online experiences, most of them are frustratingly two-dimensional. Personally, the lack of three-dimensional space is perhaps the most noticeable difference between our old way of life and the new one we must temporarily inhabit. Some think the answer may be virtual reality, but that still requires users to overcome a large obstacles (hardware purchase, for example) and may make users feel even more isolated (1:1 relationship with headset.) Instead, I think we’re going to see more innovation in spatial software. Spatial software is characterized by the ability to orient bodies and objects in space, in a parallel to the real world. It reorients software logic around our perception of space as it exists in the physical world rather than orienting it around recency (WhatsApp) or popularity (Facebook.) Spacial software begins to restore our perception of the relationships between us and others, between our location and our surroundings, between our thoughts and our environment, and between time and place, all of which are important orientations that have fallen away as we’ve shifted into our two-dimensional online world. All credit for articulating this concept goes to John Palmer.||Dorm Room Fund|
|Touchless Technology|| I think the current preference for touchless transactions is likely to persist and will ultimately render touchscreens and physical artifacts (cash and cards) as antiquated as handshakes post-virus. This could lead to an accelerated shift towards voice, haptic technology, more flexible and capable robotics, digital payments, and, perhaps, central bank digital currencies. I will focus on the last three.|
To begin, the shocking fragility of our global supply chains⁶ has revealed a heightened necessity to shorten supply chains. A recessionary environment will force companies to do so while controlling any incremental costs (offsetting a potentially higher relative cost of labor), which will likely require more flexible and capable robotics. Additionally, the newly required distancing between humans, and between human and machine³ in instances in which a manager cannot physically visit a plant but needs to inspect its output, is a non-trivial shift that is not likely to be reversed after the virus is under control. According to Anna Shedletsky, CEO of Instrumental, a firm which uses machine learning to help manufacturers improve their processes, electronics manufacturing is “ going to do five years of innovating in the next 18 months” in order to accommodate these shifts.³
Focusing now on digital payments and currencies, while some economies are already nearly cashless, the US has lagged in adoption of digital payments. As more people become reluctant to use physical cash,¹ adoption of contactless solutions - like Apple Pay — will increase. Since onboarding is a one time hassle while the ongoing user experience is frictionless, users that transition to digital payments are likely to be sticky. However, while pay-ins or peer-to-peer transfers work well enough on traditional payment rails, recent challenges in distributing fiscal stimulus demonstrate that payouts remain difficult. Mailing out physical checks to citizens is a very inefficient way to distribute funds. While a large portion of the population can receive these funds via direct deposit, there is a sizable unbanked population that cannot.⁷ Original drafts of stimulus bills included proposals for a “digital dollar” operated and maintained by the Federal Reserve. The draft mentions “digital dollar wallets” which would essentially serve as free bank accounts through which users could receive money, make payments, and take out cash, in an attempt to ensure that everyone who is entitled to COVID-19 related relief, would receive their funds quickly and inexpensively. Later proposals, expanded scope to include debit cards with prepaid “digital cash” balances, which would help distribute funding to those without bank accounts.
At the same time, FinTech companies, such as Cash App and Venmo, are also providing ways for their users to receive stimulus funds digitally, even if they don’t have a bank account. The government’s new willingness to partner with FinTechs may diminish the need for a central bank digital currency (CBDC) to aid in wide-spread payouts. The focus on CBDC in stimulus bill proposals may be motivated by the recent pilot launch of China’s digital Yuan (the DCEP) across four regions.² In this context, it’s still worth considering the impact that the introduction of central bank digital currencies could have on other parts of the monetary and payment ecosystems, long after the virus is contained.
|Dorm Room Fund|
|Digital IDs||The need to assess risk and prevent fraud in the distribution of government stimulus could accelerate the transition to digital IDs. As the government passes legislation allowing for unprecedented levels of fiscal stimulus, it is calling upon established FinTech companies to aid in the digital delivery of funds to SMBs. A lending practice that requires loan officers, in-person identification processes, and faxes was not functional before the crisis and I don’t see how it remains in place afterwards. FinTech companies — like Toast, Brex, and Mindbody, among others — have high frequency, comprehensive relationships with SMBs, allowing them to have a real-time financial picture of many of the small businesses applying for Paycheck Protection Program loans.⁴ The fact that they’ve also already performed Know Your Customer (KYC) checks on these merchants should help to reduce fraud. If this dynamic spurs the U.S. government to embrace digital processes, perhaps it also more quickly paves the way for digital IDs. With more reliable digital IDs, a whole host of paper-based, in-person processes could be digitized and made more efficient.||Dorm Room Fund|
|Privacy Tools||I believe the rapid escalation of widespread citizen surveillance (a necessary measure to contain the virus) will lead to an increased desire for anonymity, pseudonymity, and privacy. Until now, violations of privacy were mostly abstract, because they occurred indirectly and online, whereas now they are concrete and apparent. If users didn’t care about privacy before, they just might after this pandemic. I still don’t think privacy will work as a product per se (since it generally still involves corresponding tradeoffs that outweigh the perceived benefit), but I do think that people will seek refuge in platforms that allow them to use an avatar or pseudonym and that grant them the option to communicate and transact anonymously as their offline lives become increasingly tracked and traced. Masks may finally be de-stigmatized in western culture, and maybe they even become a pro-health, pro-privacy fashion statement.||Dorm Room Fund|
|Security for Edge Devices||es, as companies shift to remote work, we need video conferencing solutions and collaboration and communication tools to enable productivity, but we also need cybersecurity solutions that secure the millions of edge devices now accessing corporate networks and confidential files. Pre-virus, most security fell on IT departments, but now it is up to employees to ensure their personal computing devices are secure. This will require widespread adoption of better authentication measures, stronger end point security, and techniques to ensure data integrity.||Dorm Room Fund|
|Media for the people, by the people||While the trend towards user-generated content has been growing gradually for several years, shelter in place orders may force users to generate their own content en masse. While Hollywood and recording studios are shutdown and sports are on hiatus, users are turning to TikTok and Patreon in droves. As Twitter becomes a place for rapid, scientific research exchange and an avenue for first-hand reporting, the contrast in the quality of reporting relative to traditional media outlets is stark. Information exchange regarding the virus may just change the face of journalism; if not, it probably at least changes perception about who the purveyors of trusted information are.|
While this is not the first time we’ve experienced a breakdown in mainstream media reporting (The 2016 U.S. election, for example), it is the first time this breakdown has occurred on a global scale, impacting everyone at the same time, and on a personal level. Furthermore, given the corresponding economic impact, the media industry is likely to consolidate as local news outlets and smaller publications struggle to remain afloat. This will increase the level of centralization in editorial decisions at the same time that advertising-based revenues are pressured. That sounds like a recipe for an environment in which it’s even harder to produce content devoid of politics and sensationalism, further driving users to get their news direct-from-experts and their entertainment direct-from-creators.
|Dorm Room Fund|
|Solutions for Fighting Climate Change Consequences - Fires||Climate change is one of the largest threats to humanity, impacting everything from our food supply to the air we breathe. It’s a problem so large that one startup could never make enough of an impact to solve it, but we believe there is a massive opportunity to create positive change. How can we avoid wildfires that have become one of the key problems in areas like California, Australia, Arizona and beyond? And how can we contain them faster? Similarly, there are new risks of flooding, tornados and other climate catastrophes – how can we predict and address these challenges through technology to create better outcomes?||DCVC|
|Solutions for Water Security||As the impact of a changing climate shows effects across the globe, water security will climb to the top of the list of problems we face. For years, global and regional water security issues have been top of mind for the U.S. Department of Defense as it makes decisions about conflict resolution and national security policy and strategy. It’s not hard to imagine a war fought over water in the near future. From much cheaper drilling of wells to mass desalination to filtration and membranes, what technologies can help stabilize our global water supply?||DCVC|
|Solutions for Food Security||Just like with our water supply, the changing climate has a drastic effect on our food security. Months of soaking rains devastated U.S. crop yields while extreme drought across 42 percent of India sunk farms into distress. And yet our world’s population continues to grow. No nation will be immune to the impact of an increasingly threatened food supply. There is a massive opportunity to solve this challenge through everything from alternative proteins to better fertilizers, farming techniques and more.||DCVC|
|Cheaper Ways to Construct Buildings and Infrastructure||Construction and transportation infrastructure costs billions of dollars due to long timelines, the high cost of labor, and the high cost of transporting materials. These exorbitant costs are a roadblock to affordable housing and transportation. How can these challenges be addressed by using robotics or new materials? Are there new processes to build commercial and residential buildings, tunnels, bridges, faster and cheaper?||DCVC|
|Discovering, Developing, or Extracting Materials||In most industries, we are still relying on materials that were discovered hundreds or thousands of years ago. In some applications, these materials don’t make sense anymore, especially now that we have the ability to develop cheaper novel replacement materials. Does your company have a process for discovering novel materials? Or how about synthetically developing wood, glass, cement, textiles, metals, and other critical materials? Or are you working on reshape the mining industry by being able to extract materials with less energy and less environmental damage?||DCVC|
|Infrastructure and Solutions for the Emerging Renewables-Powered World||While we have made a lot of progress with renewable energy, the development of a robust infrastructure to support these new approaches has lacked. What can we do at not only the consumer level, but also the grid level, to rapidly power more of our society using renewable energy sources? How can solar systems be made simultaneously cheaper, more efficient, and more recyclable with fewer toxic components? Does super-critical steam from deep geothermal make more sense in some domains than compact nuclear and vice versa?||DCVC|
|Infrastructure for the Future Electric and Autonomous Vehicles||Whether we like it or not, our streets and cars will soon look very different. But it’s not only cars that need to change. Our shift to fully autonomous and electric vehicles will require a corresponding change to our traffic infrastructure, consisting of everything from traffic management to parking, car wash and maintenance, and perhaps most importantly, charging unmanned autonomous vehicles.||DCVC|
|Distributed, Supply-Chain-Resilient Manufacturing||In a world of increasing pandemic risk and potentially nasty regional wars, how does manufacturing become less centralized and less dependent on fragile global supply chains – while at the same time less expensive and more sustainable? Durable and non-durable manufacturing can be optimized from many angles to produce higher quality and cheaper items with the ability to share or form novel materials. Anywhere from metal, sheet metal, carbon-fiber composites, to flexible PCBs, to chemicals, to apparel, the ability to shape and form materials and components at high volume production is of importance – as long as it can be done in a town or even a garage without toxic materials and huge energy consumption.||DCVC|
|Solutions for Environmental Pollution||Study after study has shown us that pollution has a detrimental effect on our health and the environment. From dangerous smog in China causing ~1.6 million deaths a year to man-made noise causing high blood pressure, heart disease and low birth weights, to say nothing of its effects on natural ecosystems. Can we create viable solutions to absorb pollutants, eliminate dangerous chemical run-offs or reduce the impact of man-made noise?||DCVC|
|The Future of Industrial Biotech||Industrial chemicals are used in almost every industry, and the market is controlled by a few monopolies. There is a massive opportunity to compete with these monoliths – or even work with them – to develop new paints, coatings preservatives, cleaners – and the microbes that make them – that will have a massive impact on our lives.||DCVC|
|U.S. Healthcare Cost Reduction Startups||No matter where you sit on the political spectrum, it’s difficult to argue that the U.S. healthcare system is itself “healthy” given rising costs and increasingly limited access to care for many people. At the same time, quality of care remains among the most sought after in the world. From fully-automated pre-authorization to point-of-care diagnostics to systems for lowering administrative costs, how can technology help reign in these costs to democratize access to the U.S. healthcare system?||DCVC|
|Solutions for Fighting Antimicrobial Resistance||Years of reckless over-prescribing of antibiotics have given rise to resistant superbugs, creating one of the major public health concerns we face. We need new antibiotics, antifungals, and antiviral drugs and other methods to fight these super infections and stop pandemics.||DCVC|
|The Future of Sustainable Transportation||Logistics and transport are one of the largest costs of businesses and families, but also faster transit enables new economies and new types of commerce. How can we move cargo and humans across the globe faster and cheaper, and sustainably and safely in the face of rising energy costs, fragile supply chains, and violent weather?||DCVC|
|Silencing Troll Armies & Computational Propaganda to Save Democracy||Social media has introduced so many benefits to our society – increased connections, the ability to discover new cultures and more. But alongside these benefits are challenges that were previously unimaginable and present an increasing threat to our society – from large-scale harassment to the perversion of global political systems through computational propaganda. How can we identify these threats early and create the ‘anti-viruses’ to bot-driven social attacks and propaganda machines?||DCVC|
|Services and brands targeting babyboomer and GenX women||Feels like a very large, underserved market - and in particular, new brands leveraging tech & digital to help women with peri-menopause and menopause||Cowboy Ventures|
|An Online Center For Worship (Church)||Senior citizens are often lonely, immobile, and religious. They’re also very loyal customers.|
Think of how successful some televangelists have been. And they just sell videos. Now that seniors are quickly adopting mobile devices, you can layer on Netflix-like content selection, social features to build community (and network effects!), on-demand streaming, interactive components, in-app donations, etc. Just as middle schoolers can practically live their social lives in Fortnite teams or CoD lobbies, on online religious gathering place could be the killer app for seniors.
|A usable prediction market||I don’t understand why there aren’t more prediction markets. The prediction markets that do exist — the financial markets — are incredibly impactful and employ millions of people. Interesting PM use cases include prediction-based corporate governance structures, better predictions of real-world events, and more accurate securitization of private risk.|
I was excited by the launch of Augur, but nobody really uses it. I haven’t worked out why Augur — or a centralized service for that matter — hasn’t caught on. Sports betting is a technically a form of prediction markets and that’s a huge industry. I see no reason people wouldn’t enjoy on similar real-life events (will Kanye run for president and get more than 500k votes?) I think that a prediction market with a Robinhood-esque ease-of-use or social features could get big. (Perhaps this is something that Robinhood should just build on their own!)
This could take the form of a consumer-focused product, or a toolkit for companies to integrate prediction markets into their own products.
|Better tools for remote teams||Zoom, Slack, and G-Suite have made managing remote teams much easier over the past several years. I can’t imagine leading Contrary without such convenient ways to work and communicate. But there are still unsolved problems. Documenting everything for your team through a wiki or messenger is slow and painful enough to not get done most of the time. And you can’t look over at someone’s desk to see if they have a minute to chat. We need better information collection (some companies have attempted auto-transcription of meetings) and less ambiguous/distracting ways to get someone’s attention remotely.|
The holy grail of remote tech is feeling like you’re with someone IRL. No matter how much time I spend with Contrary’s venture partners over calls or text, the friendships don’t feel quite right until we meet in person. When seeing someone in-person I’ll feel like we’ve been friends for a while. But in-person interaction is that final stepping stone. This seems to be an artifact of how we’re built as humans. Getting around that somehow would be huge since team culture is so important.
|Tools or a platform for job offer negotiation||Most college kids don’t negotiate their job offers. I think that’s a colossal mistake because 1) wages tend to be sticky so a marginal difference in starting salary will add up over a career, and 2) an extra few thousand dollars saved now will compound into 5x that by the time the students’ future kids are growing up. Every little bit of cash matters early on in life.|
I think there are a couple causes of this problem. College students may not know that they can negotiate offers, or they may be too timid or anxious about risking their offer. Even though in reality, nothing ever happens to the offer and employers won’t think less of you as long as you’re not overtly greedy. Or maybe students are just burned out after 4 years of hoop jumping and want to put the job search behind them.
I don’t know what the best model would be. Career coaching is available to most students, but nobody uses it and it’s got a mediocre reputation. The school cares about getting you in a job, not optimizing those little comp details (similar to the real estate agent incentive problem). There are a couple product angles you could take. First, you could offer an end-to-end job hunting service that closely coaches you on what to say to recruiters (don’t be the first to name a salary number! Blame a family member for needing time to think and compare!). You’d charge a percentage of bonuses you can negotiate to de-risk from the user’s perspective. Second, you could create a library of example emails, Glassdoor-like negotiation benchmarks (some companies are more flexible than others), and a community for navigating the post-offer process which is crowded out by resources for the job-seeking process. Paid access to such a library would be clearly ROI-positive from a user perspective in theory, but I bet it’d be hard to market in practice.
The long term vision would be to slowly eat more and more of the recruiting “stack” and eventually match users with companies. You already know how Indeed, WayUp, etc. work. I think there’s an opportunity to build lasting value-add by being a uniquely trusted brand that is on the job-seeker’s side from the start (helping with negotiations), and by having a better understanding of why employees do or do not accept an offer since you’re involved in that process.
|High quality food vending machines||Consumers want 1) convenient food, 2) better quality than fast food, and 3) more unique or “local” eating experiences. The rise of fast-casual, food trucks, and single-purpose micro-shops supports these trends. But there are a couple problems you run into in the food industry that make restaurants bad fits for venture. Margins are low, the businesses are not scalable, and the moats are dependent on brand and food. I want to take the food truck craze one step further with automated vending machines that cook food within them. You’d start with simple (but restaurant-quality) foods like dumplings. The machine would have an internal steamer to cook the dumplings on the spot. To maintain freshness, you’d have a full-time employee prep ingredients and deliver them to all of the vending locations. You could expand into pizza, eggs + hashbrowns, shawarma, etc.|
The key thing here is keeping quality up — most vending machine food is bad. But if customers would walk up to a machine on their morning commute and get fast-casual quality meals, you may even be able to charge a premium. Of course there would still be a cost challenge: the machines would be expensive, and you still need to hire someone to do constant maintenance and restocking. That’s mitigated by the lack of labor cost on a per-machine basis. This would be really hard to grow, but I think the market is so big that the slog would be worth it.
|A robust way to signal conformity and conscientious||I’m a fan of Bryan Caplan’s The Case Against Education. It argues a viewpoint that may seem obviously wrong or even upsetting, but is very difficult to actually find steel-man refutations of. To oversimplify one component of the book’s thesis, education signals three things: intelligence, conformity, and conscientiousness. Of course we have the SAT or IQ tests to show off intelligence. But you can’t show a potential employer that you’re conformist enough to be an obedient employee and conscientiousness enough to get the job done.|
That’s a big part of why we spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars and 4 prime years on education. If there were a stronger, more honest signal of conformity/conscientiousness, then you could potentially skip the brute force signalling that makes up much (most?) of modern education.
(If you’re thinking “but what about everything you learn?” then I agree that’s also part of school, but go read the book. There are some incredible empirical results that may sway your viewpoint.)
I’m purposely leaving this proposal vague. There are a lot of different angles you could try. Perhaps a company should build a stronger reputation system that tracks detailed feedback across employers (hiring managers rarely call references beyond your most recent job). Or you could build a more comprehensive marshmallow test for adults. Or something totally different that I’m not alluding to here.
|A socially acceptable, well-branded nootropic||I’m worried that nootropic vitamins and supplements will go the way of Google Glass, Segway, and Soylent: useful products, but something you’re a little too embarrassed to use. Cutting edge research-based companies tend to have very utilitarian marketing strategies and the nootropic/supplement/IMF/biohacking space isn’t really “cool” or consumer-ready yet. I assumed that the company formerly known as Nootrobox, now HVMN, would be the ones to make it happen. Maybe timing isn’t right, or their execution was off.|
Consumers seem to gladly regulate themselves using drugs (coffee, alcohol, and nicotine, specifically) so I don’t think there’s anything fundamental preventing nootropics from happening. Vitamins are common too. I can’t explain why drugs and vitamins haven’t been combined into a mainstream nootropic. It has to be the marketing. (Semi-related: Kin is a startup I’m excited about).
|A dating app for hyper-targeted user-defined subcommunities||There are two competing trends I’ve observed in the dating space: 1) an absurd number of niche dating services have small communities, and 2) it’s difficult to filter for what you actually care about on the popular platforms like Tinder or OkCupid. Match Group, the owner of Tinder, Match.com, and OkCupid, has tried to cover the major user segments at the brand level. Is there a way to cover more user segments and give users more choice at the app level?|
Nearly all new dating startups are cookie-cutter and terrible. I’m interested in a platform that solves the filtering problem by offering a marketplace of user-generated subcommunities, a la Reddit. There would be an “everyone pool” or master-list of profiles to sift through, paired with the option to “join a circle” such as tall people or neoliberals who enjoy the theatre. I’m skeptical of top-down data science that matches people together based on survey questions — I think letting users generate their own taxonomy could lead to interesting results and potentially form a lasting differentiation. The default “all” list helps users join the platform, and the unique subcommunities lock users in.
|Couple's Therapy||Not a general Telehealth startup that also does couples, but a focused one||Cleo Capital|
|Total compensation||There are many firms that sell salary data for companies to create their own compensation bands. They all suck. Data is collected via survey so it is stale and skewed to the participants. The data is often sparse and the leveling is not well normalized. And that’s just for salary data, which is the easier problem. Equity compensation is harder and the incumbent firms there are even worse at it. Think of a modern and real-time compensation survey, for cash and equity.||Carta Ventures|
|Portfolio analytics||Today, venture capital is a qualitative exercise. Very little quantitative analysis goes into helping investors source, qualify, decide, and manage investments. Recently a few boutique firms have appeared to try quantitative venture investing. A few progressive existing firms are building internal tools to create quantitative insights. But most firms are way behind the curve on this.||Carta Ventures|
|Sell-Side research firm||We expect that CartaX, our private trading venue, will launch in 2020, pending regulatory approval. Private venture backed companies will list on CartaX so their shares can trade. Investors will want to buy and sell those shares. The problem is how do investors learn about the companies on CartaX and which ones to buy and sell?|
In the public world there is an entire industry for research with analysts and dedicated research firms. In the private world there is nothing. CartaX needs a robust research industry to help investors make better trading decisions. Think Morningstar for private markets.
|Cryptocurrency - Interfaces||Using crypto is still extremely difficult. Although UI/UX is a pain, the main driver of adoption of crypto products is trust. Own the consumer relationship with trust and you can drive transactions.||Boost VC|
|Cryptocurrency - Store of Value for individual and business||Argentina was recently hit by a devalued Peso and the government made it illegal for businesses to own dollars. Crypto might not even be the best tool and maybe only a rail to hold other assets but there should be products designed specifically for those prepping or knowing a financial collapse is near. I include businesses too because the crypto community tends to focus on the sovereign individual and not the enterprises who also need these problems solved.||Boost VC|
|Cryptocurrency - Cult Coins||Cryptocurrency communities in many ways look like cults and religions. The cryptocurrency 1. identifies you as a believer 2. gives you access to the network 3. shares in the upside the group creates. The anarchists and libertarians got obsessed with Bitcoin, the technologists got excited by Ethereum and the Doge community loves their memes. We are going to see more custom coins created for different cults/communities/tribes and want to see more experimentation here. I could see these looking like DAOs or even personal tokens.||Boost VC|
|Cryptocurrency - For profit DAOs||Two consistent trends I have seen in the DAO space over the years are people building tools for DAOs and then general community DAOs with no clear agenda. The tooling is ready. I want to see capitalist driven DAOs, coordinating people to make profits.||Boost VC|
|Cryptocurrency - Companies built on stable coins||ust as there are bitcoin first/only companies, there will be large ones built from stable coin first/only. As the money printers go brrrrr around the globe, people want a store of value. Bitcoin is not that store of value… yet.||Boost VC|
|Ocean Tech - Data||70% of the planet is a massive blind spot to humanity. We need more information, so I believe the gateway to this is to track data on the ocean. More sensors in the ocean, more tools tracking data already on the ocean, Aquaculture and logistics adopting more analytic based approaches… these are exciting!||Boost VC|
|Ocean Tech - Feeding 9 Billion People||he ocean is the answer to the question of how to feed 9B people. 2014 was the first year that we, as humans, farmed more fish than we “hunted” or caught through the standard fishing approach. Which means there is still incredible growth in the farming part of the ocean!||Boost VC|
|Ocean Tech - More Oysters and Kelp||Oysters are the liver of the sea and are responsible for filtering nitrates out of the ocean. Kelp sequesters carbon better than anything else on the planet. WE NEED MORE!! I want to see startups scaling Oysters and Kelp.||Boost VC|
|Ocean Tech - Less Plastics||We need alternatives to plastics, we need to profitably capture all the plastics in the ocean, and we need more sustainable thinking when it comes to plastics! This is a hot topic, but also a necessity in the next 10 years.||Boost VC|
|Longevity - Own The Longevity Community||This will be the ultimate tribe/cult. Create and own the relationship with people looking to extend their lives. This will be built over time with trust and results, eventually becoming the greatest distribution channel for longevity science.||Boost VC|
|Longevity - Super Babies||Instead of fixing problems when they happen, can we start out human life minimizing the threats of cancer and disease. Although a delicate subject, more people are becoming comfortable using tools to help conceive healthy children.||Boost VC|
|Longevity - Measuring Success||The efficacy of certain drugs and lifestyle practices still remain difficult to measure. The problem of long term sacrifices for potential future results make many hesitant to start at all.||Boost VC|
|Longevity - Death||Even with longevity, we all die. Death still remains one of those topics we all experience but few want to speak about. Interested in people working in this area — whether it be planning and optimizing(!) for death, memorializing loved ones, etc.||Boost VC|
|VR - Education||The Matrix exists, you can learn things faster by experiencing them more. We have invested in Apex Officer, Vantage Point, Virtual Speech and more all tackling specific verticals of learning and training. I believe this is going to be one of THE largest verticals in the world.||Boost VC|
|VR - Mental and Physical Health||One use case that has emerged in Virtual Reality is Fitness. I use it to stay active, which I would never say about my phone or my computer. We have invested in FitXR and YUR, which focus on this vertical, but I believe there are going to be hundreds more opportunities in this space. In addition to fitness, mental fitness is going to be a real thing in VR. You can meditate in a more visual way.||Boost VC|
|VR - Being Together||I think that Arthur, PokerVR, TeleporterVR are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to social. The KILLER app for Virtual reality is “BEING TOGETHER.” or “SOCIAL.” I believe that VR will enable concepts for being together that were previously impossible: Alcoholics anonymous with anonymous screen names, Therapy, Video game playing. I want to find people who are experimenting with the idea of “Forums” for 3d. Or trusted anonymous networks. VR is going to change the way we interact for the better.||Boost VC|
|Human Augmentation - Exoskeletons||We made an investment into ROAM robotics Where the founding team re-imagined the exoskeleton to make it affordable and accessible! We are looking for more founders re-imagining external enhancers for humanity, these could include brain chips, software to enable human robotics, or casual clothing that withstands extreme heat and cold.||Boost VC|
|Human Augmentation - At Home Robotics||Have the best doctors perform surgery on you from the other side of the world, or better yet, have a robot do it. The Roomba is the best consumer robot on the planet… we can do better. What needs automation around the house or your health. Let’s build robots for good.||Boost VC|
|Human Augmentation - Biohackers||The next societal scientific breakthroughs won’t come out of a university lab, it’s going to come out of the garage of some teenager. The cost of starting a bio company is dropping drastically with new infrastructure. There is a new breed of bio founder that we want to discover. Let’s reprogram cells, and give dinosaurs life.||Boost VC|
|Data Collection Systems||Tracking progress of construction and the location of individual assets (people, machines, material) is critical to increasing efficiency. Our portfolio company, Openspace, uses new sensors like LIDAR to map the jobsite and track progress over time. We’re excited to support the next generation of startups leveraging new sensors and vision systems to collect data and build a ‘full scene understanding’ of a construction project.||Baidu Ventures|
|Robust, Flexible and Multi-Purpose Construction Robotics||Robotics and automation have traditionally struggled in construction due to the difficult and complex environment of the jobsite. LIDAR or vision-based autonomous vehicles often struggle to navigate through a messy or dusty construction site. In addition, most construction robots today can only complete a single task such as earth moving or layout marking. We’re interested in sensors, robotics systems and automation technologies that are purpose-built for construction, and can effectively and safely navigate these environments. Furthermore, we’re interested in automated systems that can effectively tackle multiple tasks. This could mean a robotic arm with multiple end-effectors for different construction tasks, or a reinforcement learning platform that can rapidly learn how to complete new tasks with a given piece of equipment and adapt to uncertainty and complexity in the jobsite.||Baidu Ventures|
|Incentive Alignment Systems||One of the biggest challenges in traditional construction is aligning the financial and other interests of all stakeholders (owners, banks, general contractors, subcontractors) to increase efficiency. We’re interested in new startups, business models and technologies that can help to align incentives among all disparate parties involved in construction. For example, a startup could reinvent the GC/subcontractor relationship in a way that more effectively aligned incentives. We’re already seeing this at the academic level with new contract models like IPD. Startups can also focus on reducing some of the barriers to vertical integration in the sector, such as flexible workers comp insurance models.||Baidu Ventures|
|AI-driven Coordination/Collaboration Platforms||Coordinating operations between all the disparate parties on a jobsite is a massive challenge for general contractors. SaaS tools like Procore and Plangrid have had great success applying a ‘google docs’ like approach to facilitating collaboration on the jobsite. Collaboration tools allow developers to capture large amounts of data from the jobsite. We’re interested in the next generation of startups applying AI/ML to coordination and collaboration. We’re excited to see how startups leverage data derived from collaboration to improve efficiency and reduce errors on the jobsite.||Baidu Ventures|
|AI-Driven Building Management Systems||Once a building is completed, the work of AI is not complete. Reducing OpEx for the building management can increase the value of the property significantly. Buildings require complex systems to manage the flow of people, ensure security, and maintain a comfortable and productive environment. Traditionally, systems like HVAC are automated using basic rules and a few simple sensors (ie when the thermostat registers above 72, turn on AC for the entire building). We’re excited to see startups leverage new sensors and decision systems to make completed buildings more comfortable, secure and efficient. For example, a smart HVAC system might capture data from thousands of temperature sensors throughout a building as well as the local weather forecast to efficiently cool and heat only the areas that need it.||Baidu Ventures|
|Standardization of Parts and Tools||Another significant challenge of the modern construction site is non-standardization. No two buildings are exactly the same, so the materials, systems and subcontractors needed for any given job will often vary. Furthermore, designers and GCs often produce distinct sets of documents and drawings that must be later reconciled. We’re interested in startups leveraging technology and new business models to standardize materials and workflows across construction jobs. This may mean a startup building modular or pre-fab building components, or a software company building comprehensive 3D design tools that can generate a single set of drawings based on the input of GCs, subs and designers.||Baidu Ventures|
|New Models for Equipment Finance||General contractors struggle with traditionally low margins (~3.7%), making it difficult for them to invest in new technologies. In robotics, the Robot As A Service (RaaS) model has lowered the barriers to entry for companies embracing automation. Savvy startups could apply the same logic to construction tech to reduce cost. By reducing the upfront cost of a new technology, GCs and Subs will be more likely to try them.||Baidu Ventures|
|Data Repositories and Marketplaces||A key to success for AI startups is accessing large volumes of training data, and efficiently cleaning and structuring it for analysis. In construction, data from past jobs is often siloed within the developer or GC, making it difficult for startups to access. In addition, data is often non-structured or non-standard across jobsites. We’re interested in companies building marketplaces and repositories for construction training data, as well as companies leveraging new technologies to standardize and structure existing datasets. When this data is widely disseminated and plainly structured, it can make the task of training an algorithm much faster and easier.||Baidu Ventures|
|Procurement and Delivery Management Tools||As buildings become more complex, the supply chains needed to construct them likewise increase in complexity. AI and new, cheaper sensors can help GCs and developers to better track the movement of goods through their supply chain, and more efficiently match builders with suppliers. The end result of procurement automation will mean more efficient supply chains, fewer reorders and fewer delays.||Baidu Ventures|
|Jobsite Communication Protocols||As AI, robotics, and advanced sensors become commonplace on the construction site, new networks and protocols will be necessary to efficiently route data and communication. We’re interested in applications of long-range, low-power wireless networks like LoRa, and other new protocols to provide low-latency, lossless communication and data connectivity on the jobsite.||Baidu Ventures|
|Personnel/Labor Training Tools||The shortage of skilled labor in construction is a major stumbling block to efficiency. In software development, income sharing agreements (ISAs) have allowed individuals to learn to code with little to no upfront risk. The same model could be applied to other trades, such as Electrical or HVAC, to develop the skills of a next generation of subcontractor. In addition, AI can help to match skilled workers more efficiently with new jobs, ensuring developers have a robust pipeline of talent at all times.||Baidu Ventures|
|Social Commerce App||TaoBao has seen massive growth in China opening up a new sector of e-commerce and a new business model for the web. Sellers or influencers can stream live product explanations and viewers can buy the product in real time. It's both entertainment and live shopping. (think a more woke QVC infomercial that anybody can host).|
|AI Powered Title Insurance||itle insurance is a $25 billion dollar a year business dominated by 3 companies. Payouts are 5% of claims compared to car insurance which is around 65%|
|Search for Shopify Stores||There should be a way to search across all shopify listings. Similar to eBay but for Shopify stores.|
|Non fungible tokens for all digital content||Imagine a way to hash photos, videos, blog posts, digital art, memes so that we could trace the content creator to its original source and pay royalties in real time.|
The problem is that anybody can change one pixel or shave off 1 second on an mp3 file and the hash will change, allowing anybody to copy and publish without attribution.
I'm not sure this is ever solvable but it would unlock many new types of web business models and opportunities.
|Website logins without username and passwords||The internet just knows who you are. Like when you walk into a store you pick what you want and check out.|
Crypto addresses seem like an obvious first attempt. We can already "login" to any web3 based dApp with our metamask browser using only our ether address. Now imagine our ether address contained a username (ens domain) and any profile info we wanted to share with the website. We could actually walk around the internet without having to login again to every new website.
Customer acquisition strategies could change as well. Instead of buying ads companies could send a coupon directly to your ether address and it would instantly redeem when you use the site.
But the real kicker for me is no more 2FA. Since our ether addresses are all encrypted using our private keys there is no risk that a hacker can reset our password to our email. However, we will need better solutions for when we lose our private key backups.
|No-code Developer Tools||No-code tools are finally starting to live up to the hype. The tech has improved to the point where non technical developers can build both mobile apps and fully functioning websites with API integrations and relational databases. I believe we will continue to see an explosion of new products in this field along with a few new unicorns.|
|Anti aging Treatments or drugs||New research is indicating aging is a disease that can be prevented. David Sinclair wrote a book on it. If true, researchers will eventually find the "cure" or at least develop some drug to slow down the process.|
I think this will be one of the biggest discoveries of the century if successful.
|Carbon Sequestration Machines||Cheap, effective carbon sequestration machines we can scatter across our rooftops like AC machines.|
|Prebuilt or Prefabricated Housing||That is actually cheap to build, permit and install. Currently it is still cheaper to build stick built homes in most major cities. It's also cheaper to build up usingapartment buildings that leverage economies of scale. (IE. one roof, one city water/sewer connection, same unit designs etc). Regulations in most cities require any building over 3 stories to have concrete foundation so we can't stack prefab housing units together like an apartment building.|
|New Business Models for the Web||I think we are only in the first inning with what's possible online. Ad based business models currently dominate the landscape with affiliate marketing, SaaS just behind it. I'm interested in novel business models that haven't been tried before. Social commerce is one example. Here are some others:|
- Tipping (in cents) content articles in real time
- Pooled Interest accounts to fund a particular purpose like Pool together
- Paid for your browsing history (like brave browser is experimenting with)
- Something we haven't thought of yet
|Audio/Voice Consumer Applications||More of our interaction with technology will shift toward audio/voice input/output as the hardware becomes ubiquitous. According to this study, more than 47M adults in the U.S. have access to a smart speaker such as an Echo or Google Home. "Her" might become our reality sooner than we think, especially if Airpods continue to fly off the shelves.|
I’m fascinated by both consumer-facing applications and those building the “pick and shovel” to support companies in this space.
|Digital Celebrities||Lil Miquela is a preview of the future of mixed reality entertainment. This CGI influencer has amassed over 1.2M Instagram followers, sponsored by luxury brands like Prada, and can be seen on billboards in LA. This phenomenon might seem weird, but it isn’t new (see Hatsune Miku) or really all that different from “real” influencers. Celebrities, and even everyday people to varying degrees, express themselves with a filter online. We paint an image of how we want to be perceived. Perhaps these manufactured celebs are as “real” as we are.|
As more of our physical world intertwines with the digital, the differences between the two will begin to fade and we’ll see a more opportunities to craft immersive experiences, brands, and characters that people love.
|Tools for Creators and Makers||The internet has empowered a new wave of digital entrepreneurs, from new media content creators (empowered by YouTube, Twitch, Patreon) to indie D2C brands (empowered by Shopify, Instagram) to bootstrapped SaaS businesses (empowered by Stripe). As more people start a side (or primary) hustle online, there will be a greater need for tools to support all the challenges that go into internet entrepreneurship. Product Hunt plays in this space and I’m particularly passionate to support those creating economic opportunity for others.|
|Distributed and Remote Working||There’s a massive talent arbitrage opportunity today in building a distributed team, something we’ve done at Product Hunt from the beginning. Over the next decade we’ll see more companies hire remote teammates and many more will build entirely distributed teams (a la InVision, Automattic, and Zapier) instead of limiting their candidate pool to the <1% of people that live nearby.|
As this happens, there will be greater demand for tools to help teammates communicate, collaborate, onboard, and evaluate candidates without oft used brand filters (e.g. ex-Facebook, MIT grad).
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