A maker of software to reduce food waste at grocery stores.
U.S. retailers throw out $18 billion worth of spoiled food each year. Most of the eight million tons of food that end up in landfills annually are the quick-to-spoil items: fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, dairy, bread. Matt Schwartz saw that as an opportunity. In 2016, he founded Afresh, a startup that uses technology to help stores figure out just how much produce to order for their shelves. Grocery store staffers input their inventory each day, and the company's machine learning algorithms calculate how much of each product they should order and when. The goal is to reduce spoilage while also ensuring that the store stocks enough supply to meet demand. The company is refining more advanced insights to take into account, for instance, recent weather conditions where a certain product grows and how that's likely to affect sales. Many of the stores participating in the startup's pilot have cut their fresh food waste in half--which translates to serious savings. "The future of food is fresh," Schwartz says, "and I think the world would really be better off if it were more accessible, fresher, and less wasteful." --Kevin J. Ryan
A platform that aims to help life science workers organize research and collaborate on projects.
Ashutosh Singhal and Sajith Wickramasekara met as students at MIT, but it didn’t take long before they hatched a plan to become co-founders. Wickramasekara, who has a background in software engineering, had dreams of working in the biotech field--groundbreaking developments like immunotherapy and CRISPR fascinated him. However, collaborating on biotech projects wasn’t as easy as sharing lines of code for software. Wickramasekara thought it was inefficient to share information through paper documents, emails, or excel, where details could get mixed up or convoluted easily. Those gripes turned into Benchling, a platform that supports life science research and development through data organization, note-taking, sample tracking, and workflow management. Founded in 2012, the company started out serving academics. Today, its platform is used by companies in the biotech and pharmaceutical industries. It has raised $27.4 million from Y Combinator, Benchmark Capital, Thrive Capital, and Andresssen Horowitz. -- Emily Canal
An issuer of corporate cards to venture-backed companies based in the U.S.
Brazillian entrepreneurs Henrique Dubugras, 23, and Pedro Franceschi, 22--who now live in San Francisco--know all too well how difficult it is to get access to a credit card in the U.S. without any credit history. After selling their first business, a fintech company called Pagar.me, for an undisclosed sum in 2016, they secured a spot in Y Combinator's 2017 winter class with an idea to launch a virtual reality company. But their difficulty getting a credit card in the U.S., without any prior U.S. credit history, proved more than just annoying, it became their next business idea.
Now the pair run Brex, which provides U.S.-based entrepreneurs who have limited to no credit history with no-interest corporate charge cards. Brex offers corporate cards via a new underwriting process the founders invented, which tracks a company's fundraising history, its cash balance, and spending patterns instead of the founder's individual or business credit history. It makes money through transaction fees and charging $5 per person per month after five users sign on. With more than 3,000 customers, Brex is now valued at more than $1 billion. -- Guadalupe Gonzalez
An app maker focused on making people smile by sending users happy news articles or compliments from friends.
Austin Kevitch co-founded Brighten Labs, an app maker aimed at making people smile, after the death of dear friend. The company's first app, Brighten, which offers to dispatch compliments to their friends while they're still living was inspired by that loss. At its height, in 2015, Kevitch says the app, which is free to use, had about 2 million users. Then, in 2016, Brighten Labs got socked with a wrongful termination lawsuit from a former employee, who worked briefly at Brighten as an advisor. The matter was settled out of court, but the experience left the company battered.
Kevitch and his co-founder, Alec Lorraine, are now in the throes of a comeback with their second app, Moodboost. Launching in February 2019, the app offers users a curated "happy news story" every morning in exchange for $1 a month. According to Kevitch, it already has 10,000 users. If this app “scales anywhere near [how] Brighten did, we should generate around $5 million in revenue in year one,” he says. -- Guadalupe Gonzalez
A maker of smart shopping carts, which use image recognition and artificial intelligence technologies.
Time is money and Caper aims to save you both. The company's smart shopping carts employ cameras and sensors to transform a regular shopping cart into a checkout-free retail experience. The smart cart scans, logs, and bags items as they’re added to the cart. Then it automatically tallies the bill and charges the customer upon leaving the store. Further, an interactive screen on the Caper cart pushes alerts regarding potential deals and coupons. Caper, a Y-Combinator alumnus, has raised $3.5 million in funding from angel investors including Max Mullen, co-founder of Instacart, and Jenny Fleiss, co-founder of Rent the Runway. Helmed by four founders under 30, the company is projected to generate $11 million in 2019 revenue, thanks to pending deals which are expected put the technology in more than 100 New York-based grocery stores by the end of the year. It further expects another 100 stores to adopt the product by the end of 2020. Customers who want to try the service now can check out Caper's test store, Foodcellar Market, in Queens, New York. --Tim Crino