Company Profile

Parallel Domain

A maker of virtual environments where autonomous vehicles can refine their driving algorithms with no risk to humans.

Parallel Domain founder Kevin McNamara.
Industry
Software
Location
Palo Alto, California
Year Founded
2017
Company Size
1-10 employees
Data as of Publication on Aug. 11, 2020
Company Description

Every year, 1.25 million people around the world die in motor vehicle accidents. "It's not a huge topic of conversation in most living rooms because we just accept that," says Kevin McNamara. "I think that's really strange." McNamara's startup, Parallel Domain, is hoping to change that by making it easier for self-driving cars to get smarter without the risks of real-world road testing. It does that by offering software tools to build photorealistic, dynamic, 3-D environments where autonomous-vehicle systems can conduct millions or billions of training sessions, providing them with the data they need to spot rare but potentially fatal bugs. "Simulation is really the only way you can prove an autonomous vehicle is safe," says Jim Adler, managing director of Toyota AI Ventures, which participated in Parallel Domain's seed round. A former employee of Apple and Microsoft, McNamara got into computer graphics after seeing the movie Finding Nemo. He was so inspired, he sought out an internship at Pixar. Eventually, he hopes Parallel Domain will expand from virtual training environments into other areas, including entertainment--which would bring his career full circle. --Jeff Bercovici  

Playa

Maker of sustainably sourced, cruelty-free, organic hair care products.

Industry
Retail
Location
Venice, California
Year Founded
2017
Company Size
1-10 employees
Data as of Publication on Aug. 11, 2020
Company Description

When Shelby Wild was working as a stylist in New York City, she was constantly spending money on hair care products that never fulfilled the promise of healthy looking hair. Wild was using as many as six products at a time to conceive a wavy hairdo. "The products that were effective were incredibly toxic, and the more natural variations didn’t really work," Wild says. That's when she realized there needed to be a simpler solution to achieving effortlessly healthy looking hair--so she made it herself. Her company, Playa, produces a product line that includes shampoos and conditioners that are toxins free. She adds that all Playa goods are made with organic herbal ingredients that are never tested on animals. Currently, Playa products are sold internationally in the United States, Germany, Canada, and Australia through the company's online website as well as through its dominant retailer, Sephora. Playa expects to book $6.5 million in revenue by the end of 2019. -- Malak Saleh

 

Pop! Wed Co.

Plans, officiates, and photographs tiny weddings.

Pop! Wed Co. founders Maggie Winters (left) and Steven Gaudaen.
Industry
Travel & Hospitality
Location
Washington, District of Columbia
Year Founded
2014
Company Size
1-10 employees
Twitter
Data as of Publication on Aug. 11, 2020
Company Description

Maggie Winters had been photographing weddings through her years at high school and in college, mostly on the weekends, and traditional ceremonies started to feel highly choreographed and cookie-cutter, she says. There were exceptions. The smallest weddings, which just a few family members and a couple of friends attended, felt spontaneous and light, and mercifully void of stress. With this in mind, in 2014, she hatched a plan to host tiny weddings in the Washington, D.C., area. She roped in her then-boyfriend, Stephen Gaudaen, to officiate, and they'd provide a small cake and a scrappy venue--say, an art gallery, brewery, or vintage shop--for $2,900 to $4,500. A year into building the business, Winters and Gaudaen married--at the site of their first Pop! Wed ceremony. --Christine Lagorio-Chafkin

Prep Expert

A standardized-test-preparation service.

Prep Expert founder Shaan Patel.
Industry
Education
Year Founded
2010
Company Size
11-50 employees
Twitter
Data as of Publication on Aug. 11, 2020
Company Description

Shaan Patel had his heart set on attending a good college and eventually heading to medical school, but he didn't get the SAT score necessary for admission. He locked himself in a library the summer before his senior year of high school and taught himself how to ace the exam. Once he did, he knew he was on to something. While Patel still dreamed of becoming a dermatologist, he also now wanted to bring his test-preparation knowledge to others. Today, his 30-person company, which started from a single offline SAT-prep course in Las Vegas, hosts 10,000 off- and online students annually. They pay Prep Expert anywhere from $1,099 to $1,399 to prepare for standardized tests including the SAT, ACT, and GMAT. One of the defining moments for Prep Expert was when Patel appeared on Shark Tank in 2016. Mark Cuban agreed to give him $250,000 in exchange for 20 percent equity and gave the company a boost in publicity. Patel is a dermatologist and the author of 15 test-prep books. He even co-authored an entrepreneurship guide for children with Cuban. --Emily Canal

Ro

Ro is a patient-driven telehealth company. We're patients, just like you, building technology to make health care accessible, affordable, and maybe even enjoyable.

Industry
Health
Location
New York, New York
Leadership
Zachariah Reitano
Year Founded
2017
Company Size
Medium-Large (100 - 249) employees
Twitter
Data as of Publication on Aug. 11, 2020
Company Description

WHY WE'RE A BEST PLACE TO WORK

Ro believes in creating a transparent health care system. That's why, from day one, Ro has put "transparency" at the forefront of everything we do, even internally. At Ro's all-hands meetings, company leadership gives all employees an update on the company's product roadmap, financials, and business growth. We have an active "shout out" culture, celebrating people for their successes at the company as a way to highlight people and their accomplishments. Remote work is also a core part of Ro.