Here comes the Metaverse ūüĆé

The Metaverse is a physically replicated digital world. In the future, we’re imagining a network of worlds where you can jump between with the same avatar, wearing NFTs, and playing games or even working.¬†Crucible, for example, is building a portable digital identity platform for this. Let’s look at some startups building in this ecosystem.

For a light-weight non-expansive social experience as an intro, you have tools like Roomkey, Mibo, and Recroom. Spatial and Spot for a work-focused take on this.

Jumping into worlds where you can buy real estate and create on it, there’s¬†Decentraland¬†(the biggest),¬†The SandBox, and¬†Cryptovoxels. Upland looks a bit like¬†Monopoly¬†and¬†MegaCryptoPolis¬†looks like Sim City.¬†Somnium Space¬†and¬†Dual Universe¬†are expansive universes.

For Metaverse gaming, you have Axie Infinity and Illuvium for raising monsters. Gods Unchained for online trading cards. Big Time Studios has an RPG where you collect NFTs. Zed Run is for horse racing and F1DeltaTime is for car racing. Decentral Games runs casinos within Decentraland.

Use Genies to create your avatar and start collecting fashion. Fabricant designs photorealistic digital fashion. RTKFT does fashion drops in the digital world. Digitalax is building a fashion ecosystem. Find more digital fashion at DressX or The Dematerialized.

If this is a space you’re interested in, jump over to the¬†Metaverse Tracker¬†we just released that covers over 200+ projects and tools in this space.

2021 Startup Trends Report

This article is based on a Tweet thread from a month ago that received 1M impressions.

We’ve tracked ~1500 startups (seen 10x more) and talked to 100s of investors in the last year. Here are some of the exciting trends and startups we’ve noticed or come across. It’s a mix of early & late stuff.

‚öôÔłŹNo Code¬†– This year was big!¬†Airtable¬†and¬†Zapier¬†are king, followed by¬†Webflow¬†&¬†Bubble. Tools that sit on top include¬†Memberstack¬†&¬†MemberSpace¬†(memberships),¬†Stacker¬†(app),¬†Obviously AI¬†&¬†Levity AI¬†(AI/ML). Jump to¬†Makerpad¬†to learn more about this space.

ūüóÉProductivity¬†–¬†Notion¬†looms large.¬†Coda¬†and¬†ClickUp¬†have a bit more data capabiltities.¬†Retool¬†to go straight to your back-end.¬†Raycast¬†&¬†Command E¬†are like Superhuman UI for your mac.¬†CommandDot¬†for calendar.¬†Motion¬†for browser.

ūüĎ©‚ÄćūüíĽRemote Work¬†– Expecting this to stick around to some degree.¬†Firstbase¬†for home office equipment. Hire remote w¬†Pangian, manage remote employees w¬†Remote,¬†Deel, or¬†Panther. Manage remote interns w¬†Symba. There’s been a rise in collaboration tools like¬†CoScreen,¬†Mmhmm, and¬†Loom.

ūüĎ©‚ÄćūüŹęEducation¬†– Homeschooling with¬†Prisma,¬†Primer, and¬†Galileo. Microschools w¬†Prenda,¬†Wonderschool, and¬†Schoolhouse. Find childcare at¬†Winnie. Virtual classes at¬†Outschool.¬†ClassDojo¬†&¬†Clever¬†help schools digitize.¬†Panorama¬†provides data insights across the education system.

ūüďöISAs/Training¬†– Seeing many¬†LambdaSchool¬†for Xs, many with income share agreements.¬†Skilbank¬†&¬†Acadium¬†for marketing.¬†Reforge¬†for growth.¬†Product School¬†for product management.¬†Uvaro¬†for sales.¬†Insight Fellows¬†for data science.¬†Microverse¬†for remote devs.¬†Edith¬†for mentorship.

ūüéąOnline Events¬†–¬†Hopin¬†was the breakout.¬†Luma¬†&¬†Spore¬†for managing online communities around events. Livestream with¬†Reach.Live,¬†OnJam, or¬†Welcome. Find tables at¬†Remo¬†or¬†Airmeet. Walk around w¬†Gather. Book entertainment at¬†Seshie.

ūüõćVideo Commerce¬†– Livestream shopping is hot in China and startups are following to bring is elsewhere. Some recent iterations of QVS include¬†Popshop Live,¬†ShopShops,¬†NTWRK,¬†TalkShopLive.¬†Livescale¬†helps brands run their own livestreams.¬†Playback.ai¬†is the same for wholesale.¬†HERO¬†is video chat for ecommerce sites.

ūüéßAudio¬†– Driven by¬†Clubhouse, this space has seen lots of action.¬†Chalk¬†is a more open version of CH.¬†Cappiccino¬†is a cute social app.¬†Eternal¬†is an audio driven metaverse. I assume¬†Descript¬†is doing really well (it’s a Podcast editing tool). And then there’s¬†Yac¬†for internal communications.

ūüĖľNFTs¬†–¬†Dapper Labs¬†crushed it w NBA Top Shop, excited to see more. Mint NFTs over at¬†Rarible,¬†Mintbase,¬†Cargo, or¬†Mintable. Sell/buy on¬†OpenSea. Exclusive collections at¬†SuperRare¬†or¬†Foundation. Game at¬†Decentraland. Breed race horsed at¬†Zed.

ūüíłInvesting¬†– Big 4 are¬†Robinhood,¬†Coinbase,¬†Republic, and¬†AngelList. Social stock investing is happening at¬†Public/Finary.¬†Commonstock¬†is similar with more focus on education. Gift stock w¬†Stockpile.¬†Grifin¬†app buys stock where you shop.¬†Alto IRA¬†is for investing your IRA into alternatives.¬†Off-Piste¬†leverages blockchain to gives access to pre-IPO opportunities.¬†MoneyMade¬†is your one stop shop for all things alternative.

ūüĆéClimate¬†– Huge momentum here, lots of capital. Carbon sequestration like¬†Opus 12¬†and¬†Carbon Engineering. Enterprise APIs like¬†Patch¬†and¬†Watershed. Eco-shopping w¬†EcoCart. Sustianable Window AC w¬†Windmill. Education and community at¬†Terra.

ūü§ĖGPT3 –¬†Pretty cool we’re seeing startups use this.¬†Copy.ai¬†does marketing copy.¬†OthersideAI¬†&¬†Lavendar¬†do email.¬†Debuild¬†writes code.¬†ABTesting.ai¬†auto A/B tests GPT-3 written web copy.¬†Sapling¬†personalizes messages for customer service.

ūü§ĪFertility/FemTech¬†–¬†Thinx¬†sells period underwear.¬†Modern Fertility¬†and¬†Grip¬†do at-home fertility testing.¬†KindBody¬†is where you freeze your eggs,¬†Overture¬†works on the science behind it.¬†DadiKit¬†and¬†Legacy¬†do sperm storage.¬†Kiira¬†is a women’s virtual clinic and¬†Bastion¬†is for men.¬†PairTree¬†is a new platform for adoptions.

ūüĎęDating¬†– New dating apps for a new world. Draw w dates on¬†Monet. Play games with them on¬†XO.¬†Lolly¬†is like Tik Tok for singles. Video dates over at¬†The League¬†or¬†Filter Off. Match by personality at¬†SoSyncd. Go to¬†Clarity¬†for advice.

ūüõ†Data Tools¬†– Seeing an increase in vertical data tools.¬†Public Comps¬†for SaaS benchmarking.¬†Ilo¬†for Twitter.¬†Sentinic¬†for measuring brand reputation.¬†Forecastr,¬†Summit, and¬†Causal¬†for financial planning.¬†Metorik¬†for eCommerce.

ūüõíEcommerce¬†–¬†Airhouse¬†for 3PL.¬†Shippo/Easyship¬†for shipping.¬†RetentionX/Tradeswell¬†for AI.¬†TaxJar¬†for tax compliance.¬†Fast¬†for one-click checkout. Post purchase offers w¬†CartHook.¬†Route¬†for package tracking.¬†Returnly¬†&¬†Returnmates¬†tackled for managing returns.¬†Porch Pod¬†for accepting deliveries.

ūüďčAPI Management¬†–¬†Airbyte¬†syncs APIs w/ data warehouse. GraphQL API w¬†Hasura.¬†Canonic¬†is a low-code back-end.¬†Kong¬†is for connecting everything.¬†Autocode¬†helps w API workflow.¬†Bearer¬†for monitoring API usage.¬†Doppler¬†for managing API keys and more.

ūü§ĚAPI Integration Tools¬†– Seen a lot of “Plaid¬†for X”s.¬†Finch¬†is for HR.¬†Noyo¬†for insurance.¬†Terra¬†for wellness apps and wearables.¬†Impala¬†for hotels.¬†Duffel¬†for flights.¬†Rutter¬†for eCommerce.¬†Yonomi¬†for smart home.¬†API Deck/Paragon¬†for SaaS APIs.

ūüߨBiosynth¬†– Been seeing more biosynth startups in less regulated industries.¬†Bolt Threads,¬†Mycoworks, and¬†Ecovative¬†use mushrooms to make leather and more.¬†Biomason¬†grows cement the same way coral grows.¬†Algiknit¬†uses algae to make yarn.¬†Jellatech¬†grows gellatin. Then there’s¬†Modern Meadow,¬†Zymergen, and¬†Geltor.

ūüßłDTC¬†– Some fun DTC brands I’ve come across recently include¬†Judy¬†(emergency kits),¬†Windmill¬†(window AC),¬†Raised Real¬†(kids food),¬†Bite¬†(chewable toothpaste),¬†Tushy¬†(bidets),¬†Bippy¬†(TP),¬†Away¬†(luggage), and¬†Solo Stove¬†(firepits).

ūüé®Design¬†– Some fun design tools I’ve come across include¬†Lottie¬†for adding 2d animation to your site,¬†Spline¬†for 3d design, and¬†Blush¬†for customizing illustrations.

There you go! It’s by no means a comprehensive list of all things exciting in startup land, but a glimpse into what we’re seeing.

Wild Wild Wealth Management ūüíį

Robinhood. WSB/GME. Crypto millionaires. $5M Republic campaigns. Personal wealth management is no longer just for the rich. First thing you notice is that talking about money is no longer gauche. Stock investing is social on Public.com, or Finary if you want to connect to your brokerage. Commonstock is similar, but more focused on following top investors over friends. Qoore is a mobile app to learn investing, with splashing colors and emojis.

Stockpile¬†let’s you gift stock easily.¬†Bumped¬†rewards you with stock when you shop.¬†Grifin¬†automatically buys stocks where you shop.¬†Overflow¬†makes it easy for charities to receive stock gifts (tax benefits!).

Of course it’s not just about public markets.¬†Alto IRA¬†let’s you invest retirement dollars into alternative assets. Go to¬†Sponsor Fund¬†to invest in PE deals or¬†HoneyComb Credit¬†to loan money to local SMBs.¬†Microacquire¬†is a startup acquisition marketplace.¬†Offpiste¬†is a DeFi based market for pre-IPO futures in startups.

Use¬†EarlyBird¬†to start investing in your kid’s future.¬†Harness Wealth¬†and¬†Compound¬†offer financial advice and wealth management for founders and employees.¬†TaxBit¬†is tax software for crypto.¬†MoneyMade¬†is a place to find and compare alternative investment platforms, like¬†Pacaso¬†for fractional real estate investing or¬†YieldStreet¬†for fractional art and more.

Integrate good times, come on ūü§Ě

I read somewhere that the average company uses 100+ SaaS apps. Regardless of the specific number, it’s a lot. Like water molecules traveling through¬†trees, rivers, and animals, pieces of data flow through these SaaS apps, powered by integrations. As users, we’ve gotten use to these integrations, but they take time to build.

This is where integration aggregators like¬†Plaid¬†come in. If you’re building a fintech startup, connect with the Plaid API and “boom!” your users can connect with 1000 banks. Think about the downstream impact of this on the fintech ecosystem.

Finch¬†is a universal API for payroll and HR.¬†Noyo¬†is for connecting with insurance APIs. Use the¬†Wearable API¬†to connect with 300+ fitness devices and apps.¬†Impala‘s API to book hotel rooms and¬†Duffel¬†to sell flights in your app.¬†Rutter¬†is an API to connect with e-commerce platforms.¬†Seam¬†has an API to connect with 1000s of smart home/building apps and devices (for hotels &¬†apartments).¬†API Deck¬†is a unified API for SaaS apps to launch integrations faster with each other.¬†Paragon¬†is a dev solution for integrating your product w third party SaaS apps.

Even with integrations, a user may want to run more complex automation flows. That’s when they’ll use¬†Zapier¬†(I ran 1557 tasks this last month),¬†Tray¬†(if you do lots of branching), or¬†Parabola¬†(if you run loops).

Beyond aggregators & automators, here’s a few more¬†APIs¬†that recently¬†peak my interest.¬†Check¬†and¬†Puzzl¬†help devs integrated payroll into their platforms.¬†Eligible¬†is for integrated insurance billing into a health startup.¬†Patch¬†is an API for managing climate impact.¬†Mesh¬†is for verifying professional licenses.¬†Appruve¬†is an identity API for Africa.

WTF are NFTs¬†ūüĖľ

If you’re like me, you were wondering why everyone’s talking about NFTs all of a sudden. TL;DR – it’s momentum and big sales. For me, it was this¬†Daft Punk NFT¬†that sold for ~$24,800 that clicked. This will forever be the first big Daft Punk NFT, and the owner has proof of this and can use it as a talking point if they display it in their home (or virtual home). There’s the¬†LeBron NBA Top Shot¬†that sold for over $200k, and¬†this plot of virtual land¬†which sold for $1.5M on the¬†Axie Infinity¬†game. The¬†Cryptopunk¬†collectible has now done over $35M in volume.

The infrastructure side took me a sec to understand. There are essentially collections, and tokens within them. They both have meta tags like name, description, media assets, etc. You can create collections and create, buy, or sell tokens. Doing any of these costs money, because all of it is recorded. Technically, there are two protocols. One allows collections to host duplicative tokens, where more than one (but a set amount) of the same item can exist and be owned by multiple people. The other protocol doesn’t allow this (every token is unique).

To participate, you first need a wallet, one of the biggest is¬†Metamask, and there are newer ones like¬†Rainbow. Worth noting for all of these here, there are many many alternatives. To create or mint a token, people are going to places like¬†Rarible,¬†Mintbase,¬†Cargo, and¬†Mintable¬†which are four of the better known marketplaces to easily mint NFTs. When it comes to minting, the more technical you get, the more optionality opens up – for example you could in theory create a meta tag that changes over time – essentially “aging” your collectible.¬†The biggest marketplace is¬†OpenSea, because it acts as an aggregator. You then have more curated marketplaces like¬†SuperRare¬†and¬†Foundation¬†where your art has to get individually approved. Items can be listed on multiple marketplaces, but all sales are tracked on the same¬†chain.You¬†then have games/worlds like Axie I mentioned above and¬†Decentraland¬†that tap into this chain so you can show off your NFTs (land, apparel, items, art).

Based on my short deep dive into the space, here are a few areas I think are worth exploring, in case you meet anyone working on something similar:

  • A Getty Images¬†(media rights marketplace) that sits on top of the NFT chain. Publications can purchase rights to use images normally. Anyone can purchase ownership on the chain. Royalties on usage sales¬†go to owner, royalties on ownership sales go to photographer.
  • Estate planning service, but specifically focused on ensuring your crypto assets get passed on.
  • Mobile app that let’s you mint NFTs. Could be generic, or vertically focused, like a crowdsourced NBA TopShot for amateur/college athletes.
  • Accelerator/incubator for NFT artists/projects.
  • API to easily enable games/sites to let users customize their profile/world w art they own on the chain.
  • Plaid for crypto. One API for integrating w all major wallets (not chains) and crypto tools/marketplaces.
  • Shopify (eComm) API allowing brands to automatically apply discounts to people who own tokens in a specific collection.
  • Tool for managing royalty split between two or more parties.

Dating, Marriage, and Babies ūüíĖūüíćūüĎ∂

First comes love…¬†ūüíĖ

Valentine’s is coming up, so let’s start with some dating startups. I shared¬†Monet¬†last month, the dating app where you draw (so Gen Z).¬†XO¬†is where you play mini-games with dates.¬†Lolly¬†looks like Tik Tok, but only for singles. For video dates, check out¬†The League¬†or¬†Filter Off. They both have video speed dating too.¬†So Synced¬†connects people based on personality type. If you want to join a community to ask questions about dating, head over to¬†Clarity. In a relationship?¬†Zeta¬†is a joint banking app for couples.

Then comes marriage…¬†ūüíć

Ready to pop the question? With Clarity offers custom engagement rings. Anomalie designs and sells custom wedding gowns. Bloominous has budget friendly wedding flowers. Rock Paper Coin modernizes invoicing for wedding planners. Bustld connects DIY couples w vendors.

Then comes the baby in the baby carriage¬†ūüĎ∂

Modern Fertility and Grip Fertility offer at-home fertility tests for women. Dadi offers fertility tests for men. Looking for a virtual clinic? Kira is for women, Bastion is for men. Legacy is a modern sperm bank. Kindbody offers egg freezing. Overture is advancing the tech for freezing. PairTree connects adoptive parents with expectant mothers. A few communities for those going through this: Peanut (fertility & motherhood), MamaMend (childbirth & post partum), and Chairman Mom (working mothers).

SNOO and CradleWise sell smart cribs. Huckleberry connects you with sleep experts. Store & share photos w TinyBeans. Invite friends & family to invest in their future with EarlyBird. Marketplaces for baby clothes are over at Good Buy Gear or Kidizen. Organic baby food over at LittleSpoon or Raised Real. Finally, these MiniMeis carriers look awesome.

Retail & D2C ūüõćūüď¶

The changing face of retail ūüõć

2020 hit retail hard, and retail is hitting back (with innovation)! Starting with livestream shopping, you have PopShopLive, ShopShop, and NTWRK to name a few. Hero allows e-commerce store owners to video chat with customers on their site. LiveScale and Playback help brands to schedule and host video shopping events. Glamhive is a virtual stylist service that hosts large scale virtual events for stylists and enthusiasts.

Some new eComm tools:¬†Buy Low¬†is a chrome plug-in that automatically runs price comparisons on various sites for you.¬†Route¬†is for tracking all of your eCommerce packages and¬†PorchPod¬†is for securing them when they’re delivered. Use¬†Returnmates¬†for hassle free returns.¬†Alloy¬†helps automate e-commerce stores, and¬†RetentionX¬†is for running quick and powerful analysis on your Shopify (or other eCommerce) data.

Just a few more…¬†Robomart¬†is a convenience-store-in-a-van that comes to you. Shop local with¬†Fast AF¬†(LA) or¬†Sidewalk¬†(Denver).¬†Pulse¬†measures happiness of in-store customers. Finally,¬†Olvin¬†has a crazy looking data tool to understand global retail behavior.

DTC is in the air¬†ūüď¶

Another big change in retail is a growth of beautiful and specialized D2C brands. Just to name a few…¬†Judy¬†sells emergency kits,¬†Windmill¬†sells window AC, and¬†Canopy¬†sells Humidifiers..¬†Raised Real¬†and¬†Little Spoon¬†sell food for kids.¬†Bite¬†sells chewable toothpaste.¬†Tushy¬†sells a bidets,¬†Thinx¬†sells pads/tampons, and you can get TP from¬†Bippy¬†or¬†Who Gives a Crap. Check out¬†Recteq¬†for a smart pellet grill, or¬†Solo Stove¬†for something more oldschool.¬†Away¬†is for travel bags.¬†Ember¬†for heated mugs. Go to¬†Big Ass Fans¬†for well… big ass fans.

Is it Christmas yet? Let’s talk eCommerce tools

Honoring the tradition of talking about Christmas too early, I’d like to share some eCommerce tools. In all seriousness, if you’re selling D2C, you should be starting to think about how to take advantage of the first and hopefully last COVID Christmas.

Want packaging? Lumi. Need help with ops and fulfillment? Take a look at Airhouse or Outerspace. Then, ship faster with Shippo or EasyShip. Bringing stuff in from abroad? Look at Terminal 49. Managing supply chain risk? Use Alloy or Calico.

Hyloq is for running geo-fenced hyper targeted ads. AutoOptimize and Privy are for increasing conversion rate on your site. LiveRecover is for recovering abandoned carts. Increase referrals with ReferralCandy. Power up your product search with Constructor. Make post-purchase offers with CartHook. If your items are expensive, make sure to offer financing with ViaBill. Sales Tax compliance can be done with TaxJar.

One-click no log-in check out? Fast.com. Shop with Hashtags? Use Boost.

Don’t have any merch to sell?¬†Merch38¬†is a tool for doing this with No-Code and no inventory.

Ayo for Productivity

Every few months, a new tool increases my productivity so much I can’t wait to share it. It was¬†Superhuman¬†a few months ago, increasing my email speed by more than 2x. This month, I started using¬†Silent Inbox: a simple gmail plug-in that holds all of your newsletters and delivers it once a day.

Seems email is something on top of everyone’s mind. That’s why the Basecamp team launched¬†Hey, which honestly is a bit much for me. Want to clean up an already messy inbox? Take a look at¬†Mailstrom¬†or¬†LeaveMeAlone. Want to make sure it stays clean? Use¬†Mailbrew¬†to create your own digest of multiple newsletters. Want to write emails quicker? Check out AI-based writing tools like¬†Compose.ai,¬†Lavender, or¬†Otherside AI. Take that one-step further and you’ll have¬†Kriya¬†auto-writing mass emails for you.

Maybe it’s not emails, but DMs that are driving you crazy. The newest tools to manage all of your messages in one inbox are:¬†Texts,¬†Compose,¬†Franz, and¬†Nova Chat.

Want more efficient Calendaring?¬†CommandDot¬†is Superhuman for calendars (shortcuts galore!).¬†Calendar.com¬†gives you analytics on your schedule (kind of like¬†Email Meter¬†for email).¬†Reclaim¬†is great for syncing multiple calendars or making sure you save blocks of time to do work.¬†Workomo¬†will show you relevant info about people you’re meeting with, right in your browser.

Looking for a personal CRM? Check out Dex for something powerful, and Clay for a minimalist one. Folk is for organizing contacts with your team.

Other new productivity tools include Command E for searching across all your cloud apps at once, Mighty for speeding up Google Chrome, Motion for organizing tabs and browser short cuts, and Akiflow for shortcuts that work with all of your web apps.

While there’s a ton of task lists out there,¬†Centered¬†caught my attention due to it’s focus on helping you achieve Mindfulness. (In case you’re curious, I use¬†Todoist).

New & Interesting Startups: September Edition

For the uninitiated, I like to ramble about interesting startups I’ve come across recently. Sometimes there’s a theme, but other times it’s random.

Let’s start with the “unbundling of colleges”, since¬†Lambda School¬†recently raised a $74M C round. You’re starting to see this model across a wide range of skillsets. There’s¬†OnDelta* for marketing,¬†Reforge¬†for growth,¬†ProductSchool¬†for product,¬†Skillfull¬†for strategy & ops,¬†Uvaro* for sales,¬†Insight Fellows* for data science,¬†Microverse* for becoming a remote developer,¬†Acadium¬†offers apprenticeships, and¬†Talent Accelerator¬†is for leveling up freelancers. The ones with an asterisks allow you to pay only after you get a job. The impact of training people for practical and in-demand jobs for no upfront cost will be great for the ecosystem (and hiring managers).

Two projects that tickled my geekier side are¬†Wolfram Physics, tackling the fundamental laws of physics,¬†and¬†Hugging Face, democratizing NLP research. I’m also pretty excited about tele-operated machinery like¬†Reliable Robotics¬†(cargo planes),¬†Einride¬†(trucks),¬†Phantom Auto¬†(forklifts and delivery robots), and¬†Mira Robotics¬†(butler robots).

I saw a handful of health related companies that peaked my interest this month.¬†Soter Technologies¬†has a suite of tools helping places (like schools) open up.¬†Ready¬†is helping restaurants go contactless.¬†Pathspot¬†makes sure employees are washing their hands correctly.¬†Patient Orator¬†and¬†Medcorder¬†help patients communicate with doctors.¬†Levels¬†is a constant glucose monitor for athletes.¬†Ghost Pacer¬†let’s you race yourself with AR glasses.

On the crazier side of things, I’ve been interested in DNA for data storage like¬†Catalog,¬†Twist, and¬†Helixworks. Then there’s these guys at¬†Pipedream Labs¬†building technologies for an underground network of tunnels for physical delivery of things.