These Unknown Startups Could Reshape the World
“Tomorrow’s Disruptors: These Unknown Startups Could Reshape the World” focuses on early-stage venture startups poised to make a significant impact. Authored by Ron Levin and Jason Bird, it highlights double-bottom line investing, with opportunities for venture investors to potentially make both a social impact and a profit. Drawing from Alumni Ventures’ Seed Fund portfolio, the authors spotlight 10 startups addressing global challenges in sectors like healthcare, education, and technology. Innovative solutions range from AI-based mental health platforms to revolutionary wildfire suppression technologies to clean home electricity.
Picture this: A small, secluded room with a lone entrepreneur sketching out an idea that could revolutionize an industry. Early-stage venture investing invites you to be part of that exciting story, where a spark of innovation can ignite a transformative blaze. For an angel or a venture capital investor, that innovation can sometimes generate outsized returns.
However, many investors are not merely seeking financial ROI but the fulfillment that comes from supporting entrepreneurs who are solving significant problems and bringing needed innovations to market. As Sir Ronald Cohen, Co-Founder of Apax Partners and a pioneer in impact investing, wisely said, “Impact investing allows us to align financial returns with positive social and environmental outcomes. It’s not just about making money; it’s about making a difference in the world.” In this blog, we’ll explore how some venture-backed companies are delivering that double-bottom impact.
It’s not just about making money; it’s about making a difference in the world.
If you want to learn more, please join our webinar about double-bottom-line investing and learn more about the venture-backed companies below making a social impact.
Ron LevinVenture Capitalist
Ron is Managing Partner at Alumni Ventures, where he leads the AV Seed fund. Prior to joining AV in 2019, Ron was both an angel investor and advisor to multiple high-growth technology startups. He was previously co-founder and CEO at TravelPerk, an enterprise travel platform based in Barcelona that is now valued at over $1 billion. Earlier in his career, Ron was a consultant with McKinsey & Co. and he has spent much of his professional life working at the intersection of the aviation, travel, and technology sectors. Deeply committed to social impact through entrepreneurship, Ron recently published the book “Higher Purpose Venture Capital,” which profiles 50 venture-backed startups that are making a difference for society.
Jason BirdVenture Capitalist
Jason contributes his expertise in financial analysis, sales development, and market research to the Seed team. Previously, Jason served as an Analyst at Yard Ventures, specializing in sourcing and conducting due diligence for investment opportunities across various stages. His professional background is primarily in sales, with significant experience in real estate and tech sales. Jason is also an entrepreneur, having co-founded Hinzu, a one-stop promotional outlet offering development, design, marketing, and startup advice services to artists. Jason is an alumnus of Babson College, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree with a focus on entrepreneurship and finance.
Investing in Difference-Making, Early-Stage Companies
For many investors attracted to venture investing for profit and impact, the challenge is identifying and then getting in early with promising companies. That issue is a key reason we created Alumni Ventures’ Seed Fund — the most active fund within the most active venture capital firm in the U.S. We invest in more than one new company every week on average and do so at the early “pre-seed” and “seed” stages. Our mission is to find attractive ideas in large markets with impressive founding teams that are building something with the potential to be big and a force for “creative destruction” in markets needing fresh ideas.
Many of the investments that the AV Seed team have made in the past year address acute problems that are faced by countless people on a global level. They run the gamut from healthcare delivery to education, climate change, healthier eating, child safety, and more.
The following 10 companies, all of which Alumni Ventures invested in over the past twelve months, are relatively unknown today. But each offers the potential to positively impact their industries and the world.
Alli Connect is a matching platform that tackles a crucial challenge in mental health therapy by effectively connecting providers and patients. Using an AI-based algorithm, the company pairs patients with therapists tailored to their specific needs, overcoming a key industry hurdle. Alli Connect’s initial focus is on delivering matching and counseling services for first responders (principally, fire departments) by boosting engagement and retention while reducing stress and burnout. It’s a valuable, smart tech solution to help tackle mental problems — which are more prevalent than cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
Dropstat is reshaping how hospitals tackle nurse staffing challenges. Amid a persistent shortage of qualified professionals leading to increased workloads and compromised patient care, Dropstat’s AI-driven workforce and cost automation software proactively handles shift gaps. By replacing manual processes and text-based communication, it empowers hospitals to make informed, cost-effective staffing decisions in advance, reducing the risks of understaffing. In a case study at a 150-bed facility, Dropstat impressively cut overtime and bonus pay costs by 75%, offering a transformative solution in an industry projected to lose 38% of its workforce.
In an industry often criticized for its lack of sustainable practices, leading to increased waste and resource consumption, Haddy stands out by providing retailers with AI-powered, robotic, 3D-printed furniture tailored to customer specifications. This innovative manufacturing approach ensures faster and more cost-effective production while significantly minimizing raw material waste, with over 99% of materials utilized. Founded by John (Jay) Rogers, the former CEO of Local Motors — a company that successfully raised $300 million for autonomous electric vehicles — Haddy brings extensive experience and cutting-edge technology to revolutionize the furniture industry.
Kidas is a gaming cybersecurity platform that focuses on identifying threats in PC-based video games. Given concerning statistics that almost two-thirds of children aged 7-15 experience bullying during multiplayer gaming and over half interact with strangers, Kidas offers parents a proactive solution. The application analyzes in-game communications, sending timely alerts about potential risks like threatening communication, racism, bullying, and financial fraud. With a simple monthly subscription, parents can stay informed, ensuring their child’s online gaming remains a safe and secure experience.
Pathfinder Health utilizes machine learning to provide insights into early childhood development needs. Founded by former Amazon executive Samar Parikh and behavioral pediatrician Dr. Paul Patterson, Pathfinder Health stems from their personal experiences addressing their children’s developmental issues. Targeting children aged 0-5, the platform helps parents identify delays in their child’s physical development and share real-time insights with healthcare providers for assessment and solutions. It includes a library of scientifically validated exercises to aid delayed children in catching up and accelerating development. The platform has proven highly effective and is gearing up for a significant contract with the US Air Force to benefit member families and medical practitioners.
In today’s digital world, people worry about fraud and identity theft, even as they unknowingly share personal information online. A basic internet search can reveal a lot about individuals, making them susceptible to scams. Existing solutions focus on alerting users to potential threats, but few actively reduce the risk of fraud. PrivacyHawk offers an innovative solution, automating the removal of personal data online. It takes advantage of recent laws, like the California Consumer Privacy Act, allowing users to request businesses to delete their data within 45 days. PrivacyHawk simplifies this process, offering a user-friendly mobile app for easy monitoring, making it a standout in the fight against online fraud.
In the past decade, people have become more aware of the environmental concerns tied to fossil fuels. Many believe that electricity, increasingly sourced from renewables, will replace fossil fuels in powering our lives. Nearly $1 trillion is projected to be spent on transitioning to clean electricity. However, making this shift at the household level is challenging. QuitCarbon offers a software platform for consumers to easily switch to clean, safe, and cost-effective electricity. Starting with home electrification, QuitCarbon’s engine and contractor network make the process simple for homeowners and more profitable for contractors, leveraging the founders’ expertise in energy and engineering.
Swaplanet prolongs the lifespan of gently used children’s goods. The Athens-based company operates a “recommerce” marketplace where parents can resell children’s clothing, books, and toys — earning money while helping buyers save. Using a hub-and-spoke model, Swaplanet covers all of Greece, emphasizing operations over technology. Despite this, the company’s solution to the global issue holds significant growth potential. Unlike larger competitors such as thredUP and Poshmark, Swaplanet sets itself apart by exclusively focusing on children’s goods, known for their shorter useful lifespans.
Facing the escalating threat of wildfires, traditional suppression methods fall short in tackling the largest forest fires, resulting in annual damages exceeding $350 billion. Recognizing this long-standing challenge, Team Wildfire introduces a revolutionary solution. By adapting movie set weather technology, the company mounts jet engines filled with fire retardant onto logging equipment. These engines propel the retardant at 250 MPH, equipped with mist chambers to enhance effectiveness. As wildfires are predicted to increase by 30% by 2050, Team Wildfire’s hardware solution offers a proactive and scalable approach, creating manmade hurricanes and providing ‘suppression as a service’ to effectively combat massive wildfires.
Ummino is a standout food tech company focused on gut health. They tackle the prevalent issue of depleted gut microbiomes with advanced probiotic and synbiotic solutions. A key innovation is their unique human milk oligosaccharides (HMO) composition, designed to clinically repair and restore compromised gut health. Ummino’s technology goes further by unlocking rare natural compounds, enhancing taste and nutrition. This not only improves the overall quality of food and beverages but also enables clients to turn basic ingredients into high-value functional products.
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While founders seeking venture capital have faced considerable headwinds since early 2022, there are many who have succeeded in launching and scaling their business. It takes grit to force change in a market, but determined founders who are mission-driven can and do succeed with the right idea plus smart execution. AV will continue to invest in impactful disruptors at the earliest stages and support them in their journeys.
Please join our webinar to learn more about double-bottom-line investing and some of the venture-backed companies making a social impact.
This communication is from Alumni Ventures, a for-profit venture capital company that is not affiliated with or endorsed by any school. It is not personalized advice, and AV only provides advice to its client funds. This communication consists in the main of forward-looking statements, generally consisting of any statement pertaining to any issue other than historical fact, including without limitation predictions, financial projections, the anticipated results of the execution of any plan or strategy, the expectation or belief of the speaker, or other events or circumstances to exist in the future. Forward-looking statements are not representations of actual fact, depend on certain assumptions that may not be realized, and are not guaranteed to occur. Any forward-looking statements included in this communication speak only as of the date of the communication. AV and its affiliates disclaim any obligation to update, amend, or alter such forward-looking statements, whether due to subsequent events, new information, or otherwise.