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The 2020 Ventures to Watch

VentureFuel builds innovation programs for large corporations. As part of our service we evaluate thousands of emerging technologies and pioneering startups. Each week we highlight one that we believe can drive significant value for corporations through pilots and partnerships.

Plain Sight

Description
Plain Sight is commercializing serendipity with its localized, social networking platform that connects you with the type of people you’re looking for both online and in physical spaces. Allowing users to tap into their local business communities, Plain Sight is dictating the future of networking and finding your tribe. Listen to our conversation with Founder James Chapman on Apple or Spotify.
Reason to Believe
Backed by Quicken Loans chairman Dan Gilbert. Recent pivot has led to nearly 30 spaces listed on the platform throughout Detroit and Washington, D.C. Plans for expansion into Atlanta, NYC and SF.
Links
Recent press on pandemic pivot in TechWire. Listen to our conversation with Founder James Chapman here.

Speakeasy Co.

Description
From Craft to eCommerce, Speakeasy Co. is helping alcohol brands deliver direct to consumer. Their tech platform navigates the otherwise complicated three-tier alcohol industry system, and ships direct to consumers in 48 US states. This enables brands to own the user experience from beginning to end, providing crucial data and analytics on their customers. Listen to our conversation with Co-Founder and CEO Josh Jacobs on Apple or Spotify.
Reason to Believe
7x growth since January. Almost 3k unique customers and 8k+ bottles sold. 165 brand partners.
Links
Listen to our conversation with Co-Founder and CEO Josh Jacobs here.

SnackRiot

Description
Want to discover what's next in snacking and surprise and delight your family? SnackRiot is a snacking discovery solution that curates the very best snacks and delivers them straight to your door for deliciously fun and convenient snacking. By cultivating the market and making the best recommendations in clean snacking, SnackRiot saves consumers time at the grocery store and helps them retain their MVP snackhero status. Listen to our conversation with Co-Founders Erica Wagner and Arielle Diskin on Apple or Spotify.
Reason to Believe
100% of respondents are only familiar with 1-3 brands per SnackRiot box, meaning they're always being introduced to something new. In 43 states.
Links
Listen to our conversation with Co-Founders Erica Wagner and Arielle Diskin here.

Burbio

Description
All your local municipal information, all in one place. Burbio is a platform for aggregating school, government, library and community event information, and recently, it has launched a School Opening Tracker, providing daily updates across all 3,000 U.S. counties by school district learning plans to track return to school during Covid. Listen to our conversation with Co-Founder Dennis Roche on The VentureFuel Podcast on Apple or Spotify.
Reason to Believe
Raised $2.8M total funding, including a recent seed round in the beginning of the pandemic. Real-tie community calendars and trackers allow retailers, brand marketers and investors to quickly pick up on emerging trends.
Links
View the School Opening Tracker here. Listen to our conversation with Co-Founder Dennis Roche on The VentureFuel Podcast on Simplecast.

Realife Tech

Description
Making experiences more personal, responsive and human. Realife Tech is an experience automation platform that provides customized communication channels for event guests, making event systems more intelligent and responsive, and enhancing the fan experience, building loyalty and generating more revenue. Listen to our conversation with Founder Adam Goodyer on The VentureFuel Podcast on SimpleCast, Spotify or Apple.
Reason to Believe
Raised over $7M from Stadia Ventures, Superfly and Virgo Investment Group. Recently launched a Covid Fan Safety Hub to assist in the safe return to live events. Partners and Clients include AEG, O2, Live Nation, Tottenham Hotspur and more.
Links
Listen to our conversation with Founder Adam Goodyer here.

Shift

Description
Buying and selling cars, reimagined. Shift's mission is to make car purchase and ownership simple through the digitally-driven and consumer-first platform. Their auto marketplace allows users to view available cars or work with a concierge to find great deals online, test drive at home, and then buy or finance a new car. Listen to our conversation with Co-Founder George Arison on The VentureFuel Podcast on Apple or Spotify.
Reason to Believe
Raised almost $300M in funding before deciding to go public via a SPAC. Covid-19 pandemic has seen a surge in used car sales. Co-Founder George Arison is a $100M founder.
Links
Listen to our conversation with Co-Founder George Arison here.

Grocery TV

Description
Grocery TV is modernizing the grocery store. With their AI-powered checkout displays that combine video advertising with a product management platform, Grocery TV helps brands and retailers drive awareness, engagement and conversions. They're now the largest digital advertising network in U.S. grocery. Listen to our conversation with Co-Founder & CEO Marlow Nickell on The VentureFuel Podcast on Apple or Spotify.
Reason to Believe
Over 5,000 displays across the U.S. Advertising partners include Pepsi, Chase, State Farm, Netflix, Mondelez and more. Parent company Popspots has raised a Series A of $5m.
Links
Listen to our conversation with Co-Founder & CEO Marlow Nickell here.

Holler

Description
Holler is on a mission to foster empathy and understanding between all people online by enabling more expressive texts, posts and DMs. Their innovative technology creates and delivers useful, entertaining, expressive visual content that adds texture and emotion to your favorite messaging environments (LinkedIn, Venmo, etc.). Leveraging AI, Holler delivers relevant content at the right time within the context of a conversation. Listen to our conversation with Founder & CEO Travis Montaque on The VentureFuel Podcast on Apple or Spotify.
Reason to Believe
Corporate clients include HBO, FOX, Starbucks, Chipotle, Snickers, McDonald's and many more. 33M content recommendations per month. 2020 Fast Company Most Innovative Companies and Founder named Most Daring Entrepreneur (Entrepreneur Magazine) and Forbes 30 Under 30.
Links
Recent press and articles about Holler here. Listen to our conversation with Founder & CEO Travis Montaque here.

Amper Music

Description
Create your own soundtrack using AI. Amper Music is an artificial intelligence composer, performer and producer that creates unique music, instantaneously, tailored to any content (video games, digital content, tv, podcasts, etc.). It provides a level of artistic control you'll never find from stock libraries, along with ownership over your own tracks. Listen to our conversation with CEO Drew Silverstein on The VentureFuel Podcast on Apple or Spotify.
Reason to Believe
Corporate clients include Mastercard and have partnered with Ten Cent. Have raised $9m+ in funding from investors such as Techstars, Advancit Capital and Two Sigma Ventures. Founding team with decades of experience composing and producing music for film, corporations, video games, etc.
Links
Listen to our conversation with CEO Drew Silverstein, including music we created on Amper Music here.

Bears Nutrition

Description
Supercharged milk! Bears Nutrition makes nutritional shakes for kids to grow strong and healthy, developed by a leading pediatric nutritionist and mother, and brought to you by a team made up of an Olympic Gold Medalist, former UNICEF Chair and Stanford VC. With a 92% taste rating compared to peers, Bears Brain Booster and Immunity Nourishment shake powders are both parent and kid approved with their great taste and quality nutrition. Listen to our conversation with the Bears Nutrition founding team on The VentureFuel Podcast on Apple or Spotify.
Reason to Believe
Grand prize winner of the Real California Milk Accelerator (2019). 92% taste preference rating compared to peers. Founding team includes Olympic gold medalist Adam Kreek, former UNICEF Chair Kevin Yeung, and leading pediatric dietitian Laura Davis.
Links
Listen to our conversation with the Bears Nutrition founding team here.

Foodboro

Description
Navigating the world of innovative food and beverage via community. Foodboro is a network for food and beverage makers, which gathers intelligence and insights, and provides members with the connections and services they need to navigate the future of food and beverage. With thousands of community members and a marketplace of hundreds of partners, Foodboro is developing a one-stop resource and community for food founders. Listen to our conversation with Founder Mark Johnson on The VentureFuel Podcast on Apple or Spotify.
Reason to Believe
Thousands of food founders and expert service providers as part of the community. Community members featured on Shark Tank and backed by major investors.
Links
Sign up to receive the Foodboro newsletter here and listen to our conversation with Founder Mark Johnson here.

eyecandylab

Description
Immersive ocean worlds, augmented reality home shopping experiences and slime dripping from your ceiling. eyecandylab is creating all these experiences and more through their interactive video-triggered augmented reality technology. Utilizing the latest in computer vision technology, the creators and innovators at eyecandylab have the mission to redefine our daily use of media and bring it to an entirely new level of immersive experience. Listen to our conversation with CEO and Co-Founder Robin Sho Moser on The VentureFuel Podcast on Apple or Spotify.
Reason to Believe
Corporate clients include adidas, LG, Nickelodeon, NBCUniversal, European Tour and more. Featured in Forbes, Wired, TechCrunch Disrupt and more. Received The Spark award for Germany's top start ups.
Links
Listen to our conversation with CEO and Co-Founder Robin Sho Moser here.

MakeSpace

Description
Storage without the struggle. MakeSpace makes storage convenient and consumer-friendly with their on-demand, tech-enabled experience. Customers pay only for the space they need, schedule pickups and drop-offs and have access to digital photo inventory of their stuff through the MakeSpace app.
Reason to Believe
Have raised $142.6M over 7 rounds of funding. Expanded into 31 markets. Featured in TechCrunch, Fast Company, WSJ, Forbes and more.
Links
Listen to our conversation with Founder Rahul Gandhi here.

AllVoices

Description
As work becomes more remote, and diversity and organizational dynamics more of a focus, AllVoices provides a tech-powered human resources solution. AllVoices is an encrypted communications platform that allows employees to anonymously send complaints or feedback to company leaders. With staggering statistics such as - 75% of people who experience harassment in the workplace never report it - AllVoices is on a mission-driven path to give employees the voices they deserve.
Reason to Believe
Just closed a seed round of $3M with backing from Greycroft, Halogen Ventures, Crosscut, and more. Featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, NPR Marketplace and more. Trusted by clients such as Wieden + Kennedy, Instacart, THrive Market, GoPro and more.
Links
AllVoices featured in Forbes and TechCrunch. Listen to our conversation with founder Claire Schmidt here.

IRIS.TV

Description
Safe and contextual ads, delivered at scale. IRIS.TV is a privacy-first video intelligence platform that uses machine learning to automate personalized video content based on audience preference. This allows brands and publishers to display ads that make sense based on the content consumers are watching, making them more enjoyable, while also protecting the viewer's privacy. A true win-win for the current climate of ad-protection and the cookie-less future.
Reason to Believe
Trusted by over 5,000 customers including USA Today, Fox+, CBS, Time Inc, Rodale and more. Raised Series A funding from Progress Ventures, Social Starts and Third Wave Digital.
Links
Read up on use cases on IRIS.TV's blog. Listen to our conversation with Founder Field Garthwaite and Head of Brand Strategy Michael Kahn here.

Resemble

Description
Tap into the power of cloned voice. Resemble builds AI-generated synthetic voices that can be used for dynamic audio executions across radio, film, podcasting, marketing content and more. Their machine learning technology can clone voices from just 5 minutes of audio data, and their authoring tool allows creators to adjust speech, tone and more with the click of a button.
Reason to Believe
Backed by Craft Ventures, Betaworks, AET Fund and more. Multiple cloning and production tools supporting 50+ languages. Featured in VentureBeat, TechCrunch and more.
Links
Game developers use Resemble's tech via their new open source Unity plugin. Learn more here. Listen to our conversation with Co-Founder Saqib Muhammad here.

Live CGI

Description
A custom, virtual broadcast studio toolkit at your fingertips. Live CGI offers a complete platform to create unique branded content quickly and in real time. The software requires minimal equipment, staffing or investment, and allows brands and creators to unlock computer generated creativity to be used for games, education and entertainment, streamed live or on demand.
Reason to Believe
Corporate clients include NBA 2K League, Emerald Esports, adidas, Sugar Gamers and more. 2019 Product of the Year nominee at NAB Show. Founders and engineers with years of experience in broadcast TV, including 5-time Emmy winner.
Links
Watch the podcast virtual studio recording with Live CGI here.

Run the World

Description
The new way of bringing like-minded people together. Run the World is a virtual live event platform enabling people from all over the world to connect, socialize and share experiences. This new platform has been described as a hybrid of Zoom video, Eventbrite ticketing, Twitch interactivity, and LinkedIn networking.
Reason to Believe
Have raised almost $15M in less than a year since being founded. Featured in Business Insider, VentureBeat, TechCrunch, CNN, Fortune and more.
Links
Listen to the recording of our live event on the Run the World platform here.

Package Free

Description
Leading the zero-waste revolution, Package Free offers a line of plastic-free and sustainable everyday lifestyle products from bamboo toothbrushes to mason jars, natural pacifiers and dog shampoo bars. Having diverted 100m units of trash in just its first few years of operation, Package Free has become a role model for other businesses to reduce their carbon footprint. The company's products can be purchased from a brick and mortar store in NYC as well as their e-commerce site packagefreeshop.com.
Reason to Believe
Raised $4.5M seed round led by Primary Venture Partners. Founder, Lauren Singer, named Forbes 30 Under 30 for Social Entrepreneurs and a 2020 Changemaker by Well and Good. Package Free has been profitable since day one.
Links
Featured in the New Yorker, Shape and the Wall Street Journal. Founder, Lauren Singer, featured on the Today Show. Listen to our conversation with Lauren here.

Unsplash

Description
THE source for the internet's images. Unsplash is a creative platform built on a community of users who share high-res photos for others to download and use in campaigns, presentations, blogs, social media and more. Brands can leverage Unsplash's millions of downloads by integrating their own branding or campaign messaging into images to drive views, downloads and engagements.
Reason to Believe
Images are seen 12b times by 300m people every month. Successful brand campaigns with Timberland, Harley Davidson, Boxed Water and more. Raised $10m+ from Betaworks, Bedrock Capital and more.
Links
More on using Unsplash for brands here. Listen to our conversation with co-founder Mikael Cho here.

Pod Foods

Description
Bridging the gap between emerging food brands and retailers. This next generation wholesale food distribution platform helps new food/beverage companies get placed onto shelves, avoiding the painful challenges of big distributors. Pod Foods also provides value for retailers through access to new and emerging products to help them stay ahead of the curve, all while simplifying the back end process.
Reason to Believe
Co-founders named as Forbes 30 Under 30. Raised $3.3M from Microsoft Ventures and others. Catalog includes hundreds of products across a variety of categories.
Links
Recent press in Food Navigator. Listen to our conversation with co-founder Fiona Lee here.

Recess

Description
The power of programmatic media buying for live events and experiential marketing. Recess is the easiest way for brands to find, contract and sponsor in-person and virtual events through their online marketplace. With thousands of event organizers in one place, Recess enables brands to reach millions of consumers via event marketing at scale.
Reason to Believe
Corporate clients include Google, MTV, Lyft, Utz, Square and more. Raised $3.7M in a recent round of funding. Quickly pivoting to support the virtual event marketplace.
Links
Recess media kit here. Insight into the virtual event sponsorship landscape here . Listen to our conversation with Co-Founder Jack Shannon here.

Write Label

Description
Leverage the human cloud for creative and campaign copy. Write Label is an online crowd-sourcing platform allowing brands to source creative ideas and copy from a vetted network of tens of thousands of writers. Enterprise use cases include social media copy, radio/tv ads and more, as well as original ad scripts for media sales teams.
Reason to Believe
Corporate clients include NBC Universal, iHeart Radio, Hearst, Spectrum and more. Delivers immediate ROI to customers time and again.
Links
Write Label press page: https://writelabel.com/in-the-news. Case studies for radio and television. Listen to our conversation with CEO Gideon Stein here

XAPP AI

Description
"Alexa, what is machine teaching?" XAPP AI is a machine teaching company, making virtual assistants like Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, chatbots and contact centers smarter. Their technology teaches these assistants to speak on behalf of an enterprise just like a well-trained employee. With Optimal Conversation Studio, XAPP enables audio interactions that understand customer needs and respond intelligently across all channels and devices.
Reason to Believe
Corporate clients include PepsiCo, General Motors, Progressive Insurance, Toyota and more. XAPP has four patents and more pending.
Links
Listen to our conversation with founder Pat Higbie here

OpenSponsorship

Description
No games, no problem. OpenSponsorship helps brands tap into the personality and reach of athletes through its all-in-one brand sponsorship platform. Connecting brands to thousands of athletes across a variety of sports, OpenSponsorship's technology helps facilitate authentic, data-driven digital marketing campaigns that drive real results for brands.
Reason to Believe
Corporate clients include Anheuser-Busch, Verizon, CBS Interactive, Draft Kings and more. Generated almost $2M in athlete endorsement deals in the last year alone. Featured in TechCrunch, Forbes, Sports Techie and MarketingDive.
Links
View OpenSponsorship's complete list of athletes here. Listen to our conversation with founder Ishveen Anand on the VentureFuel podcast.

Lately

Description
Write, re-purpose, approve and share with ease. Lately is a social media marketing platform that uses AI to learn what messages your consumers want to read and builds a writing model to generate new and re-purposed content. By inputting a long-form resource (article, podcast, video), Lately can generate dozens of relevant and engaging posts to spread across social or syndicate to partners or influencers.
Reason to Believe
Corporate clients include Vayner Media, SAP, AB InBev, NBC, etc. Strong investment. 50% trial to sale conversion.
Links
Lately overview in more depth: Covalent Bonds. Hear founder Kate Bradley Chernis discuss Lately on the Venture to Watch podcast.

Tribute

Description
Tribute is transforming the way people celebrate each other, and revolutionizing the greeting card industry through the power of video. Tribute's platform helps users easily invite friends, collect videos and compile them into video "tribute" montage gifts. With major corporate clients and a user base growing 10x, Tribute is well-positioned to add real value to the way people connect and share with each other in our digital age.
Reason to Believe
Featured in The New Yorker, Daily News, Huffington Post and more, strong corporate clients, 10x growth in current weeks, strong emotional relevance.
Links
Recent articles in Martha Stewart and Real Simple . Hear founder Andrew Horn discuss Tribute on the Venture to Watch podcast .

Kara

Description
Save your marketing and design team time and money with Kara's automated marketing production platform. Built as an enterprise SaaS platform, Kara's patented technology automates the production of marketing material, while maintaining brand integrity. With recent beta customers like TikTok, Beats by Dre and more, Kara is well positioned to deliver brand-perfect campaign materials at scale not only for large corporations, but also for growing challenger brands and startups looking to scale their marketing efforts.
Reason to Believe
Strong founder team with global marketing background and product/tech experience. Notable corporate customers. Patented technology based on brand validation API, machine learning and a proprietary file format.
Links
Product feature video: https://www.getkara.co/how-it-works . Listen to founder Marie Berry discuss Kara on the Venture to Watch podcast .

Messy.fm

Description
Podcasts are undoubtedly growing -- over half of US consumers are podcast listeners and podcast ad revenue is expected to surpass $1b by 2021. Messy.fm is fueling this growth with its all-in-one podcasting solution. Its platform enables leaders and organizations to record, edit and publish their podcasts with ease. The platform powers thousands of publicly available shows, while also working with enterprises on private, secure podcasts for internal use. Messy.fm has created the Wordpress for podcasts.
Reason to Believe
Strong corporate clients. Have worked with events and learning/research institutions. Female-founded and owned.
Links
Messy.fm VentureFuel podcast episode with founders Fred Schonenberg and Molly Beck

Perksy

Description
The future of feedback has arrived. Perksy's interactive and engaging DIY consumer insights platform powers real time research with everyday people through its immersive mobile app. Brands can leverage this innovative marketing solution to gather real consumer feedback and take advantage of insights that give rise to brand growth, product development and customer satisfaction.
Reason to Believe
Perksy works with the world’s leading brands and agency networks, such as Target, Pepsi, Colgate-Palmolive, Smucker’s, IPG, WPP and is backed by venture firms like Bain Capital, Torch Capital, and Founder Collective. Founder and CEO, Nadia Masri, was also named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 .
Links
Perksy in the press here: https://www.getperksy.com/press

Twenty

Description
Our world has never been more digitally connected and as a result we’ve never been less engaged in real life. This has led to major changes in how we communicate and socialize. 58% of GenZ/Millenials are seeking relief from Social Media, 30% of Millennials say they're lonely and 22% say they don't have a single friend. Twenty is a new social platform that is the best way to get together with friends in real life by allowing people to see who’s around, see who’s down and hang out! With over 2M users and strategic partnerships with Live Nation, Endeavor, Roc Nation and TAO Group as well as influential board members such as Arianna Huffington, Twenty's technology is well-positioned to change the way GenZ/Millennials socialize.
Reason to Believe
Strong momentum due to user growth, solid strategic investors, and experienced management team. Early corporate pilots successful.
Links
Description, videos and press here: https://www.twenty.co/

Ryff

Description
In our increasingly ad-free media landscape with its abundance of content, advertisers are turning to brand integration and product placement to reach consumers. Ryff's proprietary platform integrates 3D models into popular entertainment, saving content creators, TV studios and brands valuable time and money by inserting their products directly into pre-produced content.
Reason to Believe
Raised $8.6M in 3 rounds of funding. CEO Roy Taylor is the former acting head of AMD Studios in Hollywood. Generated press from the likes of Adweek, VentureBeat and TechCrunch.
Links
Video examples included here: https://www.ryff.co/ and industry impact analysis from: TechCrunch

Inuru

Description
Printed Light? While it feels like something out of Star Wars, and in fact was used to promote the latest Star Wars film with Coca-Cola, Inuru has created the packaging of the future with their patented organic conductive inks. This enables brands to literally print light and create stunning, interactive packaging, print advertising and displays. Not only does it have the wow factor through self-powered illumination, but it is paper-thin, reasonably priced and sustainable.
Reason to Believe
Corporate experience with brands from Coca-Cola to Bombay Saphire, have won numerous awards: German Packaging Award, Promotional Gift Award, German Innovation Award, etc. and have 6 patents pending.
Links
Vision for 2025 (look for video at bottom of this link): https://www.inuru.com/technology + Coca-Cola Case: https://www.inuru.com/cocacolastarwarsinuru