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
Provider of financial services for underbanked customers.
Where Sheena Allen grew up, in tiny Terry, Mississippi, there was but one small bank. "People cashed their checks at the grocery store" and used payday lenders and other often-predatory providers, she recalls. "We've lived the problem." She decided to solve it. She spent 2016 researching the financial industry, and then launched CapWay, which created a "social fintech" app to show your balance and transaction information, as well as to warn you if a Netflix fee will drain your account. Up next: a debit card and smartphone-enabled microloans. The revenue model--still a work in progress--involves payments from colleges using CapWay materials, and customer fees. Providing these services to the underbanked is complex, but Allen is undaunted. "We can be profitable, have a social impact—and have a great company," she says. --Maria Aspan
Enables consumers to book personalized video messages, live video calls, and direct messages from athletes, entertainers, influencers, and other celebrities.
In 2020, Cameo launched a philanthropic program called Cameo Cares, which partners with charity initiatives in creating exclusive events that donate the company’s celebrity shoutout fees to worthy causes. The platform’s star power raised more than $1 million for multiple charities in its first six months, while advancing Cameo’s mission of creating unforgettable one-on-one interactions between talent and fans. The first Cameo Cares event was a three-day live-streamed festival in April that raised $725,000 for charities working to address problems caused by Covid-19. A second two-day affair raised $225,000 for organizations involved in the Black Lives Matter movement.