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
A booking platform for personalized videos from 10,000-plus celebrities and influencers.
In 2017, Cameo was a website for booking appearances and personalized videos by athletes. One of its first sales: a $20 video from the NFL's Cassius Marsh that a fan in Renton, Washington, bought for his daughter. The man filmed his daughter's reaction--tears of joy--and sent it to co-founder and CTO Devon Townsend and his team. It prompted them to focus entirely on videos and start inviting web personalities with rabid fan bases on to the platform. Cameo has now signed up more than 10,000 celebrities--from Ice-T to Kevin O'Leary--who charge as much as $2,500 per shoot. (The company keeps 25 percent of each booking.) Cameo is now super hot--but Townsend swears he won't sell. "I would just have a lot of money, and I would be bored," he says. "And probably try to start a company that's very, very similar to Cameo." --Cameron Albert-Deitch
A private in-home chef service for meal-prep and special occasions.
Tiana Tenent, 29, had spent five years as a financial advisor and consultant for J.P. Morgan when she realized she wanted to reconnect with her one true love: food. She was considering opening a restaurant when she met Jill Donenfeld, a now 34-year-old private chef, caterer, and cookbook author who was running a private chef placement agency. Together, they launched The Culinistas, an in-home chef service for meal-prep and private event meal production. With a focus on easing the burden of busy parents, the service--which starts at $250 plus the cost of groceries--brings a private chef into users' homes to prepare a week's worth of meals selected from a rotating menu. The service is also available for dinner parties and special occasions. The Culinistas' stable of 80 chefs work out of people's homes in New York City, Palm Beach, Aspen, and the Hamptons. The service is launching in Los Angeles in fall 2019. "There's such a personal component to it," says Tiana. "These chefs are coming into your home and changing your lives, your schedules, the way you move throughout the day." The company hit $920,000 in revenue in 2018 and expects to book $2.4 million this year. -- Brit Morse