Beauty professionals use her app to find empty space in salons across the country.
After an independent stylist asked to rent out a chair in Courtney and Tye Caldwell’s Plano, Texas, salon, the husband-and-wife team knew they had a bead on something valuable. Soon, the Caldwells found themselves helping stylists find empty spaces in salons across the country. For three years, they handled the matchmaking themselves while also meeting the demands of their day jobs--Tye managed the salon and Courtney ran digital marketing strategy for Oracle. In 2015, they automated their side hustle with the ShearShare app. In the four years since, the Caldwells have done a stint at Y-Combinator, raised $1.1 million in funding (with another $2 million anticipated this fall), hired 11 new employees, and expanded bookings to nearly 500 cities across 11 countries. In July, ShearShare debuted a tax assistance feature for self-employed stylists. “We get the ebbs and flows of owning a small business in this industry,” Courtney says. “Our customers stand by us because of that. It’s rare.” --Cameron Albert-Deitch
Her company ensures that stock-photo sites represent all the people in the world.
In 2016, Nicole Carter was spending hours on stock-photo sites, struggling to find images that would resonate with the people her marketing firm was targeting. “I decided, why not contribute to the solution?” she says. She started developing Diversity Photos with her husband, Gerald Carter, and their co-founder, Althea Lawton-Thompson, and launched the following year. The Atlanta-based company works with photographers to provide stock images that represent people of various races, ethnicities, religions, sexualities, sizes, and disabilities. Carter and her co-founders are helping Adobe Stock, Getty Images, and Offset (the premium arm of Shutterstock) make their offerings more diverse. Carter declined to share a revenue figure, but she said that sales have more than doubled in the past year, and Diversity Photos is now profitable. This fall, the company plans to add more photographers to its stable, and is eyeing expansion into video content. --Sophie Downes
Silicon Valley’s favorite next-gen email organizer has moved from buzz to reality.
Front has been a buzzy company for years now. Silicon Valley’s favorite next-generation version of email, the San Francisco-based startup pulls all your favorite messaging systems into a single inbox. The past year has seen co-founder and CEO Mathilde Collin finally turn that buzz into tangible growth. Her startup’s Series B round of $66 million (total funding now: almost $80 million) let Front make its first acquisition last October, a calendar-scheduling platform called Meetingbird. “We raised way more money than we needed,” Collin says. “We were actually not looking to acquire a company. But this company built on top of Front to make it available to our users.” Three months later, Front completely redesigned, repriced, and relaunched its app from scratch, leading to a boost in paying customers: 5,200 companies now, up from 4,500 at the beginning of the year. Front has also opened a new Paris office--a foreshadowing of Collin’s plans for international expansion, and a comfort zone for the native Parisian. --Cameron Albert-Deitch
Her software has helped social workers approve foster and adoptive families for thousands of children.
Felicia Curcuru knew early on that starting her own company was never a question of if, but of when. After honing her business chops with stints at McKinsey and FundersClub, an online venture capital firm, she co-founded Binti in 2014. The San Francisco company provides software tools that help social workers and government agencies evaluate families going through an adoption process. Instead of filling out huge stacks of paper forms, families can use Binti to submit their applications online, making it easier for social workers to review them. Last year, Binti began partnerships with agencies outside of California, where it is up and running in 36 out of 58 counties. Now 78 agencies across 12 states use the tools. Since 2016, Binti has helped more than 15,000 families win approval to foster or adopt a child. Curcuru says: “Our mission is to help every child have a family.” --Guadalupe Gonzalez
Non-violent offenders under community supervision can use her app to keep track of court dates and stay out of jail.
After a career in startups and the music industry—one job was helping Prince secure his digital rights—Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins saw a loved one go through a complex and harrowing experience after missing a court date. He had bounty-hunters after him mainly because he didn’t know who to call to reschedule his appearance. Ellis-Lamkins teamed up with longtime lawyer Diana Frappier to remedy a flawed system that saw nonviolent offenders pay fines and await trial behind bars because they couldn’t afford bail or a lawyer. They called it Promise; its pitch was to take over parts of the local criminal-justice apparatus and provide individuals with an app and automated check-in process that keeps track of court dates and paperwork. Before even graduating from startup incubator Y Combinator in 2018, this audacious little company had raised $3 million in funding from the likes of Jay-Z’s Roc Nation and First Round Capital. Recently it has been working with Alameda County in California, as well as localities in Kentucky and North Dakota, and appearance rates--essentially, showing up when you’re supposed to in court--have increased by nearly 25 percent. “The system is fundamentally broken based on race and class,” Ellis-Lamkins says. She’s aiming to even the field, and help fix a system that penalizes those without means. --Christine Lagorio-Chafkin