Love Your Melon
An apparel brand that gives 50 percent of its profits to organizations helping to fight pediatric cancer.
When Zachary Quinn and Brian Keller borrowed $3,500 from family and friends to manufacture 400 hats during an entrepreneurship class in college, their professors “were a little freaked out.” But the “buy one, give one” business model was already well established, and the founders’ plan--to sell comfortable, fashionable beanies that would stand up to the Minnesota winters, and, for each hat sold, to donate one to a child fighting cancer--took off. The company enlisted an army of college students to deliver hats, and within a year had reached its goal of giving hats to all 45,000 kids with cancer in the U.S. Now, Love Your Melon also donates half its profits to cancer-related nonprofit partners. The business is inherently seasonal, so the founders are brimming with new ideas to expand their philanthropic efforts and revenue streams. The company now sells scarves, shawls, blankets, and other apparel--”anything that you think of when you want to stay warm,” says Quinn--and recently introduced a line of beanies made from recycled plastic bottles. A physical store in Minneapolis, which opened last fall, is also a studio and event space; the founders are considering pop-up locations in other cities. -- Sophie Downes
A maker of a disease-detection platform that uses gene editing-technology known as Crispr.
Diagnosing illnesses can require several tests and days of waiting for lab results--and it still isn't always accurate. In 2018, Trevor Martin and several classmates joined forces with Berkeley professor Jennifer Doudna to form Mammoth Biosciences, with the goal of using the gene-editing tool Crispr, to make diagnostics faster, simpler, and more precise. Mammoth says it is developing technology that uses saliva or urine samples to nearly instantly diagnose diseases, such as malaria and HPV. Using Crispr proteins, the company creates tests that detect a virus's genetic code in a person's cells. If a disease is present in the sample, the liquid will change color, indicating a positive test. Currently, the company is pre-revenue and focused on refining its technology and earning Food and Drug Administration approval. It is also looking to integrate its product into existing lab and hospital tests to make them faster and more accurate. The long-term goal is to create tests that people would be able to perform by themselves at home. "We've assembled literally the best Crispr team that you can possibly put together," Martin says. "We want to create products that improve people's quality of life." --Kevin J. Ryan
Sells at-home blood-test kits for women to monitor their fertility.
After a stint in private equity, where she did due diligence on in vitro fertilization clinics, Afton Vechery knew why infertility rates are rising: Women are choosing to have children later. The problem, she thought, was women didn't get relevant fertility data until it was too late. So she envisioned a company that gives women a snapshot of their fertility while speaking like "an ob-gyn who also happens to be your best friend." (For that voice, she needed co-founder Carly Leahy, a branding whiz who helped launch Uber Eats.) In 2017, they launched Modern Fertility, which charges $159 for at-home blood tests that help women assess, say, how many eggs they have and how close they may be to menopause. Customers receive a full report along with a free one-on-one consultation with a nurse; similar tests at a clinic can run as high as $1,500 if they're not covered by insurance. "I wish there was a magic test to tell women exactly when they should have kids," says Vechery. Until there is, her company will democratize that data. --Lindsay Blakely
Offers graduate nursing students matchmaking services to secure clinical rotations.
Prior to NPHub, Chopra founded a company called United Medical Rotations, which specialized in matching medical students who received their degrees in the Caribbean with clinical rotations in the United States. Through that venture, Chopra realized that nursing students in the U.S. also needed help finding clinical rotations. He backed his way into a significant problem: U.S. universities don't always offer formal medical rotations for nursing-degree candidates. Nor are nursing educators paid for taking these students on. That gave rise to NPHub, which today works with 340 instructors across 23 states. While the company has helped place roughly 2,000 nursing students with instructors to date, the goal is to work directly with universities and expand to all 50 states. --Malak Saleh
A maker of software that offers version control and tracking capabilities for data scientists.
Companies today need to distill massive amounts of data--say, a bank’s withdrawals or deposits--to find trends and make predictions. Consider how a bank knows when to raise red flags if odd purchase behavior gets registered. Businesses hire data scientists to turn copious amounts of data into actual knowledge that they can make decisions with. That’s where Pachyderm’s open-source software comes in. It offers version control and gives users a snapshot of how data looked at any given time--an especially valuable tool in today’s GDPR age, when citizens increasingly have the right to ask how their data is being used.
Although the core package is open source and free to use, many businesses pay for the enterprise edition of the software, purchased with a yearly plan, which provides increased security features, as well as advanced analytics and support from the Pachyderm team. Joey Zwicker and Joe Doliner, Pachyderm’s co-founders, have raised more than $12 million from investors like Benchmark, Blumberg Capital and Susa Ventures. -- Talib Visram