Practice Makes Perfect
Offers summer-enrichment programs for inner-city public schools across New York City.
Raised by a single mother on government aid and having attended a struggling New York City public school, Karim Abouelnaga, 26, saw higher education as the ticket to a better life. He didn't have the scores to enter a prestigious college the first time around, but a mentor encouraged him to try again. He did--and successfully transferred to Cornell his sophomore year. Abouelnaga wanted to find a way to give back to kids with a similar background. So he gathered his friends to help launch a pilot summer school program at his high school, where the six-year graduation rate was 55 percent. At the end of the summer, Abouelnaga decided to turn the program into a business. Declining a Wall Street offer and instead raising funding from students, professors, and a handful of business pitch competitions, he founded his company Practice Makes Perfect in 2015.
Practice Makes Perfect provides summer academic enrichment programs for inner-city K-12 schools across New York City--serving over 1,300 students. But it's not just summer school. Abouelnaga aims to make the connections meaningful: The company trains students to be mentors and pairs mentors and students in the same neighborhood to help with social and emotional development. "Without the relationship piece, your attendance falters because you don't have the opportunity to build relationship with kids," he says. The company, which has 31 paying customers, charges schools based on the number of classes and duration of programs, allowing students to attend for free. About 89 percent of students successfully graduate from their summer program, Abouelnaga says. Practice Makes Perfect, which has eight full-time employees, hit $1.79 million in revenue in 2017. --Michelle Cheng
Pull Up a Seat
Connects foodies with food businesses that lack brick and mortar operations and a web presence. Think: your grandmother or food trucks.
If you've ever craved a stadium-style hot dog in the dead of winter, or your grandmother's cupcakes when Grandma isn't around, Pull Up a Seat is the app for you. Camille Baker started the company after finding herself longing for more options than the fast-food chains her hometown offered. She wants to create a community of food lovers, where businesses without brick-and-mortar operations can list their offerings on a platform similar to an Etsy shop, and customers can see who's cooking around them. Baker's clients are focused on crafting the perfect taco or vegan dessert, and don't want to worry about maintaining a website, she says. "What we do is give them the software in a box, but also give them--both the customer and the vendor--the ability to find each other in a very easy way." Baker built the tech behind Pull Up a Seat all on her own, launching in August 2017 after securing an initial $40,000 from the eFactory, a startup accelerator in Springfield, Missouri. The Orlando, Florida-based company now has four employees and is looking to expand. Baker's approach to the challenges ahead? "Go out there and try to get it, and if they say no, they say no." --Sophie Downes
A platform for connecting real estate agents, lenders, and consumers--streamlining the house-buying process.
Qualia began in 2015 after co-founders Nate Baker, Lucas Hansen, and Joel Gottsegen met in a friend's dorm room at Stanford University. While many of their classmates were building social media apps, they wanted to address what they saw as a real problem: Buying and selling real estate. "People buy and sell property the same way they did 100 years ago," says Baker, who cited the reams of paper that still must change hands in most real estate transactions.
To bring this process into the 21st century, Baker--now Qualia's CEO--and his co-founders built software that brings the lender, the title agent, and the real estate agent together onto one platform--and it lets consumers track the process in real time. "It's like a Domino's pizza tracker for buying a house," says Baker. Qualia expanded its platform nationwide late last year. The company charges an annual fee to the title companies, lenders, and real estate agents who mostly use the software. The company also closed on a Series B round of funding in March, bringing its total investment tally to $40 million.
It's an idea for its time, adds Baker. "Millennials are now starting to buy houses," he says. "If you’re a Millennial, you're going to be surprised if you have to sign an inch of paperwork." --Brit Morse
Builds 3-D printed rockets for taking cargo to space.
Some rocket manufacturers have taken to 3-D printing certain components of their spacecraft. Relativity Space wants to print the whole thing. Co-founders Tim Ellis and Jordan Noone, college friends who got their start with rocketry in USC's Rocket Propulsion Lab, founded the startup in late 2015. They cold emailed Mark Cuban, who soon agreed to fund the startup's seed round. Relativity has since 3-D printed a functioning rocket engine consisting of just three parts--compared with the 2,700 components that make up a traditional one. Printing such large parts drastically cuts down on time and labor, which will allow the company to charge less and run more frequent trips to space. It's targeting a customer base of midsize satellite companies and already has $1 billion in contract commitments. In March, it inked a deal with NASA to use the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi for rocket tests. The co-founders hope to begin flights by 2020. "Looking forward 50 years," Ellis says, "I can't see a future where things that fly are not entirely 3-D printed." --Kevin J. Ryan
Makes a shoebox-size lab to run medical tests in 15 minutes, to be used in emergency rooms and doctors' offices for rapid test results.
In 2014, Krisna Bhargava was getting his PhD in material science from the University of Southern California when he realized he could build better tools to conduct medical tests to be used in doctors' offices and emergency rooms. "Running medical tests is like cooking--it's all done by hand," says Bhargava. "If you go to the hospital and think you have influenza or pneumonia, a test will take a day or two. But doctors, and patients, need results in an hour." While studying microfluidics and 3-D printing, he found that he could take the testing lab and shrink it to the size of a shoebox and still conduct 30,000 different medical tests. A year later, Bhargava sought out reinforcements. He tapped Bryant Thompson, who was a master's student intern at the time, along with his adviser Noah Malmstadt, and Richard Roberts, the chair of his department at USC. In time, they'd launch ReoLab. The company has raised just under $1 million and plans to raise several million more in a Series A to fund clinical trials. By 2020, Bhargava says the company will be on the market--selling a shoebox-size lab for about $1,000 and an annual subscription plan for the testing pods. "We want it to be stupid easy, like a Keurig machine for diagnostic tests," says Bhargava. --Will Yakowicz