Great businesses can be launched any time, even when there’s a downturn in funding.
While 2016 might have spelled trouble for some well-established startups, it also saw the birth of companies tackling things like a cure for cancer, life-saving drones, and competition for Uber.
Business Insider spoke to founders and venture capitalists and took a look at funding data to identify some of the startups that had the biggest starts in 2016. Some names on the list are officially launching out of stealth, while others are still in their early months of forming a company.
Here are 27 of the top startups that launched in 2016.
What is it: Called the world's most comfortable shoe by venture capitalists, Allbirds debuted its first pair of all-wool sneakers in March 2016. Allbirds uses merino wool from its founders' home country of New Zealand that's then processed in Milan, Italy. The result is a shoe so incredibly comfortable that Business Insider staffers swear they're like slippers made of clouds.
Funding: $9.95 million from Lerer Hippeau Ventures and Maveron, among others.
What is it: Lemonade, an insurance startup, launched from stealth in September with its first product: peer-to-peer homeowner's and renter's insurance in New York. Lemonade sells rental insurance policies for as little as $5 a month, and home insurance for as low as $35 a month (your policy rates may vary). Its business is conducted entirely online via an app. There are no human insurance brokers, and no plans to ever use them. But where most insurance companies pocket the money you pay as profits, less any claims paid, Lemonade takes a straight 20% cut of the policy rate as its share. And if your group pays more collectively than it uses as claims for the year, Lemonade donates the money to a charity of your choice (from your kid's school to an established charity).
Funding: $69.5 million from Sequoia, Aleph, and Greylock.
What is it: From the creators of Meerkat, Houseparty has become an overnight hit with teens. The group video chat app lets people join 'parties' of up to 8 people, letting people drop in and out easily depending on who is online. Silicon Valley investors have been reportedly fighting over who gets to fund the newest craze in social, and it raised an extra $50 million from Sequoia, which beat out other venture firms who wanted in on the deal.
Funding: $60 million from Sequoia, General Catalyst, and GV.
What is it: For the last five years, the Zipline team has been secretly working on its lifesaving mission. In April, the company revealed its project to the world: a drone that could deliver up to 3 pounds of blood or medicine. And it's not just an idea -- the company is scheduled to start making drops to health clinics in Rwanda in July in partnership with the country's government.
Funding: $85 million from Sequoia, Andreessen Horowitz, Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen, and others.
What is it: Arianna Huffington announced in August she was leaving The Huffington Post, the news organisation she cofounded 11 years ago, to focus on a new startup called Thrive Global. Thrive Global describes itself as a 'corporate and consumer well-being and productivity platform.' Through her books 'Thrive' and 'The Sleep Revolution,' plus her social-media and mainstream-media appearances, Huffington has long been using her personal brand to promote conversations around wellness topics. Now Thrive wants to move Huffington's wellness brand beyond books into other Thrive-related products -- think pillows, candles, food supplements, and a literal bed for your phone.
Funding: $7 million from Sean Parker, Lerer Hippeau Ventures, Greycroft, and others.
What is it: Jon Steinberg, former president of BuzzFeed and CEO of Daily Mail US, founded Cheddar to present business news with a twist for millennials. Now using a paywall, the company has short clips of its interviews for free but is hoping business-savvy 20-somethings will pay to have news tailored to their interests.
Funding: $13 million from Lightspeed's Jeremy Liew, Homebrew, and Vivi Nevo.
What is it: Launched out of stealth with dozens of ex-Apple engineers, Pearl is making products that can turn your old car into a high-tech model. Its first product is a licence plate frame that connects to your phone, giving you a back-up camera if your car doesn't come with one. It's a pricey $500 to start, but the company says that the frame will improve over time and do a lot more than just show you what's behind you when backing up.
Funding: $50 million from Venrock, Shasta Ventures, and Accel.
What is it:
In 2014, Google released the free software Kubernetes -- a tool to manage and maintain huge piles of containers, based on the tech it had developed itself for the same function. Kubernetes became a smash hit, with developers all over the world using it to get just a little bit of that Google magic in their own computing infrastructures. Now two of its founding team members have launched a new startup, Heptio, to turn it into a business and make it accessible to enterprises everywhere.
Funding: $8.5 million from Accel and Madrona Ventures
What is it: Founded by Paul English, one of the cofounders of Kayak, Lola is lifting the travel-agent industry into the 21st century. Lola works as a chat app to connect travellers to a team of consultants who can take care of every step of the planning process. The app uses a combination of AI technology and an experienced staff to provide travellers with an alternative to many of the DIY travel websites.
Funding: $20 million from investors including General Catalyst and Accel Partners.
What is it: Gladly is next-generation customer service software, built for a world where people email, tweet, and text their complaints. The company organizes support tickets so that the information all goes in one place -- regardless if a customer emails first then calls a support agent later that day.
Funding: $27 million from New Enterprise Associates and Greylock
What is it: Yelp is great for finding good restaurants or coffee shops, but a list of the best spots changes if your new priority is finding somewhere that's stroller-friendly.
Part Yelp, part Foursquare, Winnie helps parents find locations that meet their needs -- whether that's a changing table in the restroom or just a quiet area to nurse -- and lets them share the story of their visit when they check into the spot.
Funding: $2.5 million
What is it: KnuEdge should barely be considered a startup. Compared with the relative youth of the companies on our list, KnuEdge has been around for the last 10 years -- spending the entire time in stealth mode.
In June, former NASA administrator Dan Goldin reemerged to reveal what he had been working on for the past decade: KnuEdge, a startup based in San Diego with a mission to one-up Google, AMD, and Intel with the 'fundamental invention' of the next-generation computer processor.
Funding: $100 million from unknown investors.
What is it: Modsy is
a startup that lets you try out furniture in your own virtual house before you buy it. The startup transforms pictures you take of your space into an online model, like in 'The Sims.' From there, its staff of designers redesign your rooms and you can customise it as you want, easily swapping out pieces.
Funding: $11 million from Forerunner Ventures and Accel.
What is it: Two former Warby Parker execs -- Jen Rubio, the company's former head of social media, and Steph Korey, former head of supply chain -- teamed up to create Away, a travel brand aiming to create products that combine high-quality materials and innovative technology at an affordable price. The brand debuted its first carry-on this spring and has since developed a cult following for its suitcases that can even charge your phone.
Funding: $11 million from Forerunner Ventures and Accel.
What is it: Most people just end up paying the amount due on their medical bills and don't understand what they're even being charged for. Remedy wants to protect customers from being over-charged on their medicals by verifying all of the claims. A user connects their online insurance account to Remedy's system and authorizes the company to retrieve their medical records. Once granted permission, Remedy's team of medical-billing specialists begin scouring insurance claims from up to one year ago and verify that the patient is being charged for the correct thing. When Remedy detects a new claim on your account, one of its contracted specialists will go to the healthcare provider and pull the documentation to make sure it's correct.
Funding: $1.9 million from Marc Benioff, Slow Ventures, and others.
What is it: The 'anti-Uber startup' Juno was founded by Talmon Marco, an entrepreneur who made a fortune when Viber, the messaging app he founded, sold to Rakuten for $900 million. Basically, Juno says it's much friendlier to drivers than Uber and Lyft -- it takes a smaller share of the profit, leaving more for drivers. So far, it's only in beta in New York City, so only a small group of people have tried it.
Funding: Reportedly raising a $30 million round.
What is it: Accompany wants to put a 'chief-of-staff' in your pocket thanks to its app that will pull executive-level dossiers for you. Whereas LinkedIn is great at showing you someone's background, Accompany keeps you prepared for your meeting by pulling in everything from recent news articles about the person to information from SEC filings about a company.
Funding: $40.6 million from Cowboy Ventures, CRV, and others.
What is it: Intercoms aren't the sexiest home technology, but Nucleus wants to turn it into one of the most useful. Backed by Amazon, the startup built a touchscreen device that can be placed anywhere inside a home, and responds to voice commands using Amazon's Alexa technology. It's a lot more than a typical intercom: the Nucleus also lets you have audio and video chats between rooms, or with other homes that have the system. Plus, you can tap into Alexa to do things like read headlines or listen to music. Nucleus went on the market in August and sold out on Amazon.com the first day.
Funding: $9 million from Amazon Alexa Fund, SV Angel, and others.
What is it: Most people want to know if they're being paid fairly but don't know how to find out. Comparably, a new Glassdoor-style competitor, brings transparency to both pay and culture in the workplace.
A worker can anonymously report their salary, experience level, company size, location, and other factors. In return, the site shows them where they rank compared with their peers with the same position and experience level.
Funding: $6.5 million from lead investor Crosslink Capital and included investment from Upfront Ventures, Lowercase Capital, and others.
What is it: Computer vision and parenting are two things that normally don't go together, but Nanit is a smart baby camera that combines them. The camera watches your baby sleep, giving you not only an eye into the crib, but also data about how your baby sleeps. It tracks things like how long it takes your infant to fall back asleep and provides a heat map of where in the crib they love to sleep.
Funding: $6.6 million from Upfront Ventures as well as RRE, 645 Ventures, Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute, Flex, and Jerry Yang's AME Cloud Ventures.
What is it: After realising he was paying $40 a month for an unwanted internet subscription, Yahya Mokhtarzada decided to make sure no one else would get ripped off by a sneaky subscription. As people have more and more subscriptions (Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, your gym) they should be well aware which ones they're signed up for. His solution was Truebill: a startup that scans your monthly credit card bills and then helps you cancel the subscriptions you don't want.
Funding: $1.9 million from investors including Social Capital, Sherpa Ventures, and ITA Software founder David Baggett
What is it: After burning out after selling her first startup, Yunha Kim wanted to help other overworked millennials de-stress through the one thing that worked for her: meditation.
Simple Habit isn't an app that's all about chakras or sitting in the dark for 30 minutes to meditate. Its five-minute sessions are for young professionals on the go -- the busy and sceptical people like Kim who thought meditation would never work for them. Apple has already featured Simple Habit as one of its 'new apps we love' in May.
What is it: There are plenty of vitamins out there, but Katerina Schneider realised after taking a closer look that too many of them have outdated formulations. For example, most people get enough vitamin C in their diets that it's not necessary to have in a vitamin, Schneider told TechCrunch. Instead, her new startup, Ritual, sources its ingredients from different parts of the world and puts together the best blend of only what's necessary.
Funding: $5 million from Upfront Ventures, FF Angel, Rivet Ventures, and Troy Carter.
What is it: Simply described as the 'Keurig for juice,' the three-year-old startup finally launched out of stealth in February. The product is a smart, Wi-Fi-connected kitchen appliance that presses pouches the size of IV bags into tasty concoctions of fresh fruits and veggies. There's no preparation, mess, or cleanup -- you simply slip in the pouch, press a button, and out pours your juice.
It starts at $699, a price tag that has drawn criticism about the young startup, but its investors believe the price will decrease as the company matures.
Funding: $118.5 million from Campbell Soup, Google Ventures, Artis Ventures, and Kleiner Perkins, among others.
What is it: Not every office comes with a nap pod, so a four-person San Francisco startup, Recharge, is giving people the chance to find some quiet during the day. By partnering with hotels, the startup charges people $0.66 per minute or $40 for an hour to get a private room to take a nap, shower after a run, or find a quiet place to take a break. And while there have been some questions about what else it would be used for, the startup has a built-in ratings system to make sure unwanted guests stay out of the app.
Funding: $2.3 million from Binary Capital and including Floodgate, entrepreneur Rick Marini, Eniac VC, Expansion VC, entrepreneur-investor Scott Banister, and early Google engineer Harry Cheung.
What is it: Launched in January by the former CEO of Aereo, Chet Kanojia, Starry will sell wireless equipment that will deliver supercharged internet speeds up to 1 gigabit per second. That's fast enough to download a two-hour movie in just a few seconds.
Starry makes a receiver called the Starry Point that hangs out your window like an antenna. You can hook up your own wireless receiver or use its own Starry Station, a $350 device that can tell you right from its screen how fast your internet is performing.
Funding: $30 million, backed by FirstMark Capital, Tiger Global, and others.
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