The 19 hottest San Francisco startups to watch in 2018
By: Caroline Cakebread
10 Nov. 2017
It's been a wild year for tech in San Francisco.
Yet even amidst the turmoil, tech continues to reach new heights, with Salesforce tower now dominating the San Francisco skyline.
San Francisco remains America's breeding ground for innovative startups, with an ever-growing flock of entrepreneurs busily at work creating the next big thing.
We've compiled a list of 19 hot San Francisco startups to watch in the coming year by talking to venture capitalists, active members of the San Francisco tech scene, and looking at fundraising data from PitchBook. To narrow the list down, we kept it to companies headquartered in San Francisco, excluding Palo Alto, Mountain View, and San Jose-based ventures.
The coming year is sure to be a telling one for the San Francisco tech world, here are the hottest startups to watch out for:
Motiv wants to be the future of fitness trackers.
What it is: Motiv makes the Motiv ring, a fitness, heart rate, and sleep tracker in the shape of an attractive metal ring. It's designed for 24/7 use with an inconspicuous design, a battery that lasts for three days, and waterproofing.
Its on-board memory sets it apart from other fitness wearables, as the ring can be separated from a phone for up to five days, and still store all activity data. The company wants to be the simple answer for people looking to improve their health.
Founded: 2013 by Michael Strasser, Eric Strasser, Curt von Badinski, and Peter Twiss.
Funding: $20.18 million from Granite Ventures, Soda Rock Partners, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and others.
Nurx wants to give more women easy access to birth control.
What it is: Nurx is basically the "Uber for birth control." Its service eliminates a trip to the doctors office, and allows women to get a birth control prescription by simply putting in their information into the Nurx app and having a doctor review it. Delivery doesn't cost extra, and for the uninsured, Nurx helps customers choose and sign up for a provider. It's available in 16 states right now, and has plans to expand nationwide.
Founded: 2015 by Hans Gangeskar and Edvard Engesaeth.
Funding: $8 million from Lowercase Capital, Y Combinator, Union Square Ventures and others.
Virta Health is on a mission to reverse Type 2 diabetes.
What it is: An online medical company focused on creating individualized diabetes treatments.
The latest venture from Sami Inkinen, who co-founded Trulia, was inspired by his personal life. Virta Health hopes to tackle Type 2 diabetes, which Inkinen himself was diagnosed with in 2004.
Aided by physicians, coaches and algorithms, each regimen Virta designs for its clients "addresses the underlying biochemistry of diabetes and shifts the paradigm from management to reversal," Virta says. The aim is to do all that without medications or surgery.
Founded: 2014 by Sami Inkinen, Jeff Volek, Stephen Phinney.
Funding: $36.7 million from Venrock, Allen & Company, Obvious Ventures, and others.
Brandless wants to change the way we buy household staples.
What it is: A consumer packaged goods company that offers everything from dish soap to olive oil to kitchen knives. The company offers all of its products for a single low price of $3 each through its website.
Officially launched in early July of 2017, Brandless is making a bet that you don't care as much about the brands you consume as you think. None of its products are from name brands; instead they all carry its "brandless" private label. Rather than having a big logo emblazoned on them with a bunch of marketing hype, the packages Brandless' products come in just say what the products are and list their attributes.
Founded: 2015 by Tina Sharkey and Ido Leffler
Funding: $50 million from New Enterprise Associates, GV, Redpoint Ventures, Cowboy Ventures and Slow Ventures and Sherpa Capital.
Trove wants to make self-storage convenient.
What it is: Early Uber employee Michael Pao came up with the idea for Trove with co-founder Jon Perlow somewhere on highway 101. They were driving from Menlo Park to San Francisco and noticed the massive number of self-storage facilities on the way into the city. They realized that, of course, the facilities were there because people like being close to their stuff, and Trove was born.
The company contracts with local moving companies that have extra storage space on their properties. For a minimum of $100 per month, customers can sign up with Trove and have the professional movers pack up and move their stuff to a nearby facility. The items also get photographed and catalogued in Trove's app, so people can see what they have stored and request specific items back when they want them. Right now, Trove is only available in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Founded: 2016 by Michael Pao and Jon Perlow
Funding: $8 million from Greylock.
Spoke is bringing artificial intelligence to help desk tickets.
What it is: Spoke uses artificial intelligence to automate help requests like sending a support ticket to IT or asking HR about company holidays. Employees can ask Spoke's bots routine questions, and if it can't answer the bot will reroute the request to the right team. Still in beta, Spoke counts DoorDash, Turo, and Nuera as early users.
“Companies of all sizes struggle with resolving workplace service and information requests. Spoke gives employees the real-time help they need, while freeing IT, HR and facilities teams to focus on running their companies’ operations. It's one of the clearest examples of applied AI in the enterprise driving productivity gains throughout an organization,” said Accel partner Vas Natarajan in an email.
Founded: 2016 by Jay Srinivasan, Pratyus Patnaik, and David Kaneda
Funding: $28 million from Greylock, Accel, Felicis Ventures, and others.
Holberton School flips education on its head by not charging tuition.
What it is: Coding schools in San Francisco are easy to come by, but Holberton School sets itself apart by not charging tuition. Instead, it has graduates give back 17% of their salaries or internship pay for the first three years after graduation. It also doesn't employ formal teachers or give lectures, most of the curriculum is based around students working on specific projects and teaching each other. Through this tuition-free model, the school is hoping to bring more diversity into the tech industry, and educate those who wouldn't otherwise be able to get tech training. Some of its students have already been hired by companies like Google, LinkedIn, and NASA.
Founded: 2015 by Julien Barbier and Sylvain Kalache
Funding: $4.3 million from Ne-Yo, Jerry Yang, Jerry Murdock, Reach Capital and others.
Crew is a Slack-like app for nurses, waiters, baggage handlers and other mobile workers.
What it is: Crew is communication software designed specifically for people who aren't sitting in front of a computer all day. Think restaurant managers, nurses, and firefighters. It's similar to Slack in that it allows employees to instant message each other, but it's designed with mobile workers in mind. It has features to easily handle shift scheduling, workplace updates, and task lists from managers. Teams can customize Crew to fit the way they work by choosing only the features they need.
Founded: 2015 by Danny Leffel and Broc Miramontes
Funding: $24.9 million from Sequoia Capital and Greylock.
Rothy's is the new status shoe for an eco-friendly generation.
What it is: Rothy's are womens flats made from recycled plastic water bottles. The subtle shoes have earned a following from Vogue fashion editors and venture capitalists for their sleek but simple style and eco-friendly cred. Manufactured in China, the shoes are made with 3D printing rather than the traditional cut and sew method. Rothy's is cagey about its revenue and how many shoes it has actually sold, but it did reveal that at one point, the wait list for its black pointy-toe flat was at 20,000 people.
Founded: 2016 by Stephen Hawthornwaite and Roth Martin
Funding: $7 million from Lightspeed, Grace Beauty Capital, and M13.
Dote is a shopping app for brands that are too cool for Amazon.
What it is: Dote's mobile shopping app was incubated on Apple's "Planet of the Apps." It markets itself as "the mobile mall" where mostly younger female consumers can find brands that choose to stay off Amazon like Sephora, Brandy Melville, Urban Outfitters, and Ugg. It also tries to make using the app more of an experience than a transaction. Users get notifications when their favorite brands go on sale, are shown curated trends, and have the option of showing their friends what they are buying on social media.
Founded: 2014 by Lauren Farleigh and Christie Paz
Funding: $10.8 million from Lightspeed, Harrison Metal and Rivet Ventures.
Qadium is helping big corporations keep massive networks safe.
What it is: Founded by an ex-CIA agent, Qadium scans the internet on behalf of large companies, looking for devices that are outside of corporate firewalls and vulnerable to attacks. In 2016, bad actors used insecure printers, DVRS and other appliances to take major websites like Amazon, Netflix, and Twitter offline and Qadium is betting corporations are willing to pay big bucks to prevent such crises. The startup promises to alert customers about rogue, unprotected gadgets within an hour of finding them by sending push notifications to their IT departments. It has has already enlisted some big customers like Capital One and CVS.
Founded: 2012 by Matt Kraning, Shaun Maguire, Joe Meyerowitz, and Tim Junio
Funding: $66 million from Founders Fund, New Enterprise Association, Susa Ventures and others.
PayJoy is helping people with no credit or cash get smartphones.
What it is: PayJoy wants to give smartphones to the 2 billion people who live in areas with internet access but who don't have a reliable way to get online. The company sees this as essentially a credit problem; A lot of people can't come up with the cash to pay for a phone up front, they have bad credit or they don't want to deal with tech lenders who can charge up to 500% interest on smartphone loans.
Customers register for PayJoy by uploading their Facebook account, government ID and phone number into PayJoy's software. And that's it. No credit history required. The company fronts up to 80% of the cost of the phone in "lease-to-own" arrangements that typically have customers repaying 1.6 times the cost of the phone over time. That's still a bit of a mark-up, but PayJoy says it's "significantly less" than what those customers would pay to get a smartphone from competitors.
Founded: 2015 by Doug Ricket, Mark Heynen, and Gib Lopez
Funding: $27.15 million from Santander, InnoVentures, Union Square Ventures and others.
Atrium LTS wants to transform the legal industry by automating routine legal services.
What it is: A software company that wants to help automate legal workflows.
Justin.TV cofounder Justin Kan is back with his next act, Atrium. The company has offered a somewhat vague vision of "revolutionizing" legal services.
"We believe the technology we build can provide a better experience for legal clients than they have thought possible, increasing communication and speed of service," an Atrium job description reads.
Nearly 100 investors have backed the company in what TechCrunch said was one of the largest "party rounds" ever seen in the Valley.
Founded: 2017 by Augie Rakow, Bebe Chueh, Justin Kan, Chris Smoak, and Nicholas Cortes.
Funding: $10.5 million from almost 100 investors including 500 Startups, Arena Ventures, Greylock, and GGV Capital.
Gladly wants to change the way customer service works by getting rid of support tickets.
What it is: People love to text, tweet, email and call companies with their complaints. For each complaint, a ticket is issued. This often leads to an already unhappy customer having to repeat their ticket number and their problem over and over to different customer service agents. Gladly changes that by organizing support tickets so that all of the information goes in one place – regardless of whether a customer emails first then calls a support agent later that day. One of Gladly's taglines is "Hello happy customers, goodbye case numbers." The company recently announced a partnership with JetBlue.
Founded: 2014 by Michael Wolfe, Dirk Kessler, and Joseph Ansanelli
Funding: $63 million from GGV Capital, Greylock, New Enterprise Association and JetBlue Technology Ventures.
Modsy is changing how people redesign their homes.
What it is: Modsy 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 redesigns your rooms, and you can customize them as you want, easily swapping out pieces.
Founded: 2015 by Shanna Tellerman
Funding: $10.75 million from BBG Ventures, Norwest Venture Partners, GV and others.
Zipline is using drones for good.
What it is: Zipline's drones deliver life-saving medicines like blood and vaccines to patients in places that can't easily be reached by road. Health workers at remote clinics can order what they need via text message and Zipline will launch the supplies from its central distribution center. The supplies get delivered via parachute, landing in designated spaces for hospital staff to pick up.
Zipline operates in Rwanda right now and plans to launch in Tanzania in 2018. It prides itself on its 30 minutes or less order fulfillment time, 110 kilometer per hour speed, and daily capacity of 500 deliveries a day.
Founded: 2011, officially launched in 2016 by Keller Rinaudo, Keenan Wyrobek, and William Hetzler
Funding: $44.3 Million from Sequoia Capital, Andreessen Horowitz, Jerry Yang and others.
AutoFi is taking the pain out of getting a car loan.
What it is: AutoFi's platform lets car dealerships turn static websites into e-commerce platforms. Car buyers can browse financing options and apply for loans online or on the dealership's mobile app. After applying, buyers get a financing decision fast – it takes an average of 30 seconds according to AutoFi's website. The car dealership then compiles all the documents the customers needs to sign, and delivers both the documents and the car itself to the customer's house.
AutoFi scored a partnership with Ford earlier this year that will bring its service to Ford and Lincoln dealerships around the country throughout the rest of the year.
Founded: 2015 by Kevin Singerman and Mandar Gokhale
Funding: $19 million from Crosslink Capital, Ford Motor Credit, Lerer Hippeau Ventures and others.
Numerai is changing the way hedge funds are run with crowdsourcing and artificial intelligence.
What it is: Numerai is a hedge fund run by an artificially intelligent system built by thousands of anonymous data scientists. All of the fund's trading data is encrypted to prevent the faceless engineers from seeing what trades the fund is making and copying those trades themselves. The engineers who contribute to the machine mind are also anonymous and are compensated for their efforts in cryptocurrency.
How good this crowdsourced AI is at picking stocks is unclear. The fund doesn't disclose its assets under management or how well they are doing. But it's raked in venture funding from some big names including First Round Capital and Union Square ventures.
Founded: 2015 by Richard Craib
Funding: $7.5 million from First Round Capital and Union Square Ventures.
Figma wants to change the way designers work.
What it is: Built by one of the recipients of Peter Thiel's fellowships, Figma allows user interface designers to collaborate on projects in real time. Basically, Google Docs for designers. Designers can save different versions of projects and go back and build on them later.
"While engineers have built all sorts of tools which make it easy for them to work as a team, designers are still in the dark ages when it comes to collaborative workflows,” wrote founder and CEO Dylan Field on Medium.
Founded: 2012 by Dylan Field and Evan Wallace
Funding: $18 million from Greylock, Index Ventures, Adam Nash and others.