The startup community has shown amazing ingenuity and grit as of late. But that’s no surprise –– that community has always been an impressive kinda bunch. And to show just how impressive, we selected 7 startups from our Startup Program and asked them to share how their journey began, plus an example of how they’ve overcome a big, audacious challenge in the past.
Keep reading to learn more about these awesome companies (and visit their sites to give them a little extra support!).
Real Estate; IoT
IOTAS helps multifamily owners and operators turn their properties into smart homes.
How IOTAS Got Started
“A real estate developer who had another startup building technology for large Fortune 500 approached me and asked for a technology differentiation for a 200 unit apartment building he was starting construction on. He knew that 10 years from now, the most important thing for his residents would be about how much technology would be integrated into the building.
I was already working on a Smart Home product and this led me to start IOTAS, an IoT-as-a-Service platform that would focus on the Multi-Family rental market. I took the idea on the road and spoke at real estate conferences and found an overwhelmingly positive response to Smart Apartments.” — Sce Pike, Founder and CEO
On Overcoming a Challenge
“As a female founder, raising capital was the biggest challenge. Even prior to Startup Grind, we already had a great product-market fit and a great business model that got us to scale and revenue quickly. Yet it still was a lot of effort to raise capital because I didn’t fit the mold of the typical CEO and the industry, real estate technology, was relatively unknown to the VC community. This led me to turn to large corporate strategic ventures who were looking for IoT solutions to innovate with. To date, IOTAS has raised more than $17M with Intel, Telus, and Liberty Global to name a few.” — Sce Pike, Founder and CEO
Stack is a smart browser for internet multitaskers. It lets you manage all your social media, messaging, e-mailing, and productivity apps from one place.
How Stack Got Started
“Stack was born as a side-project of mine to satisfy the personal need of efficiently managing all social media networks from one place. While working at the bank as a software developer, I didn’t want to get caught browsing social media. Therefore, I created my own browser, with the slim design and split screen feature, aligning Web-apps into parallel cards on one screen, allowing consuming 3x more information in the same period of time.
Later, after uploading it on Product Hunt, I came to know that the messy browsing experience is a generic problem and Stack was a very simple and at the same time super elegant solution to that problem.” — Zviad Sichinava, CTO
Overcoming a Challenge
“In February 2020, we successfully closed our Seed round. However, due to Coronavirus, all our contracts and funding agreements were put on hold.
This caused totally unexpected and very serious financial problems to the company. And in order to manage to continue working full time on Stack and overcome the financial problem caused by Covid-19 crisis, in less than a week, we put on live a donation campaign, approached our 30K users worldwide, and received tremendous support from the great community of Stackers.” — Zviad Sichinava, CTO
3. AirBox Technologies
Logistics / Transportation / Supply Chain
Airbox is a smart mailbox solution for secure package delivery by truck or drone.
How AirBox Technologies Got Started
“Our President, Brandon Pargoe, had a serious health scare and decided to re-evaluate priorities in his life. He decided to use technology to improve delivery capabilities especially how this improves healthcare deliveries.” — Jeremy Tucker, Co-Founder
On Overcoming a Challenge
“A big challenge working in the drone industry is heavy regulations with flying unmanned vehicles. Our product was fully developed yet drone deliveries were not yet happening. We changed our marketing to reflect the value for businesses and people using AirBox Home for ground delivery in the meantime which has been very well received, especially now with social distancing and the emphasis on contactless deliveries.” — Jeremy Tucker, Co-Founder
AI / Blockchain / Cloud Computing
Physna, short for “Physical DNA,” codifies 3D models into detailed data that is understandable by software applications, bridging the gap between the physical world and digital world of software.
How Physna Got Started
“Paul Powers co-founded Physna in 2016 together with Glenn Warner, who passed away in 2019. The two developed industry-leading software to bridge the gap between software and the physical world by normalizing 3D data and applying machine learning. Physna’s proprietary technology is patent-pending in over 120 countries and is increasingly used as an industry default for cybersecurity, protecting the integrity of 3D designs in aerospace, automotive, medical devices, etc. from otherwise untraceable manipulations from cyber attacks. Physna is also used to increase efficiency with CAD design, reduce supply chain / procurement costs, optimize inventory, and far more.
Physna is now widely considered the leader in geometric search and analysis technology, and has a growing team of high-profile engineers developing an entire new category of technology: Physical code.”
On Overcoming a Challenge
“The most significant challenge we ever faced, by far, was the untimely passing of Glenn Warner, who was the CTO and joined Paul Powers at the very beginning. This was a major challenge that required intense work and collaboration from the entire team during an unimaginably emotional period. The business challenges were overcome thanks to a devoted, hard-working team with a common goal that managed to funnel their emotions during this crucial period into a rallying call.” — Paul Powers, Founder & CEO
Otsimo is democratizing access to special education & speech therapy, teaching children core skills vital to cognitive and behavioral development.
How Otsimo Got Started
“My brother was diagnosed with severe autism when he was 2 years old. I was 10 back then. He had been non-verbal and unable to read for a long time. I remember those days when we wanted him to speak a word. I realized my brother has a special interest in smart devices, about 10 times longer than his usual attention to his surroundings.
Then I noticed a problem. There weren’t suitably designed applications for children with disabilities like his. Some communication apps (AAC) were too expensive, and the games were very difficult for him. Because of that, he could play only a few apps, some of which included ads that can be harmful to him.
So with my close friend (Sercan, CTO), we decided to build a basic color game to teach colors to my brother. In a relatively short period of time, he became able to distinguish the colors. His interest and success inspired us to build games for every child who can benefit from them, and we created Otsimo, a mobile education platform for children with disabilities.” — Hasan Zafer Elcik, Co-Founder
On Overcoming a Challenge
“Gaining the trust of the parents. That was one of our biggest challenges since the special needs parents are highly doubtful for the products that they can actually use.
We overcame by stating them we know their pain, experiences that they had and know how to address them properly. We built out games according to that criterion and approach them in an “affective” tone. The rest is full of word of mouth of parents who see the spark in their kids with Otsimo.” — Hasan Zafer Elcik, Co-Founder
AI /B2B/SaaS/Customer Feedback
Sprial’s AI takes in omnichannel customer feedback and detects emerging problems before they blow up.
How Spiral Got Started
“Andrew and I met as software engineers on the Amazon FireTV team. We quickly learned how much customer feedback our teams were getting and how important it was to work backwards from the customer to create products that are truly delightful. We became curious if other companies also collect customer feedback and apply it. After founding Spiral and doing plenty of customer discovery, we found that most companies collect tons of feedback but often it’s hard for them to find key customer issues. As a result, we started to take in companies’ customer support data like emails and chats, and detect emerging problems before they blow up.” — Elena Zhizhimontova, Co-founder and CEO
On Overcoming a Challenge:
“As typical engineers, we started our startup journey with building a cool app. We created an AR app for teleporting others into the same room. Eventually, we learned that a cool app doesn’t necessarily make for a good business. We pivoted completely and worked backwards from the customer to define our new product. We took our customer feedback learnings from our previous experience, interviewed everyone from customer support agents to VPs, and created a brand new product that is now successfully used by large companies.” — Elena Zhizhimontova, Co-founder and CEO
HR + Employee Engagement
SkyHive is an artificial intelligence technology that supports the rapid workforce re-skilling efforts of Global 2000 companies and governments with the world’s most advanced skills ontology.
How SkyHive Got Started
“Before launching SkyHive, I was the President of WhiteWater West Industries, the world’s largest developer of water parks, employing more than 500 workers across 23 global offices. In early 2016, without any intention of making drastic career changes, I attended a conference in Dubai where a group of Syrian women got on stage to speak on a panel. These women had escaped Syria and were living in a refugee camp in Lebanon. They spoke to our group of 2,500 CEOs about the atrocities of the treatment that women endured during the Syrian civil war, and in listening to this, my purpose formed.
It was instantaneous. I knew immediately that I needed to take my energy, experience, and enthusiasm and create something that improves the livelihoods of individuals and communities. That was the day that I became a social entrepreneur, with the mission of tackling global poverty and social inequality by providing better access to education and employment with the use of exponential technologies.
I left the conference infused with this new sense of purpose for redirecting my career. That was the turning point when I took off my “golden handcuffs” and put it all on the line to solve a global grand challenge.
Upon months of exhaustive research, analysis, and theorizing about labor economics and exponential technologies, I conceived a new method of labor market/workforce analysis called Quantum Labor Analysis, which is the application of artificial intelligence to analyze a labor market/workforce at its most granular level.
The impact of Quantum Labor Analysis to the world’s ability to skill/reskill and connect to employment can be likened to the impact that quantum theory had on classical physics; by better understanding the characteristics of the most granular elements of a labor market or workforce in real-time, this technology can drive exponential efficiency in how we understand, acquire, and develop human capital.
As such, SkyHive was founded to achieve its grand vision through helping people better understand the skills they have today, the skills they will need tomorrow, and the most efficient re-skilling and career pathways to thrive in the future of work.”
On Overcoming a Challenge
“When SkyHive was an early-stage company, it was met with an incredible market response and experienced substantial inbound demand. One of the challenges was to scale fast enough to fulfill its rapidly-growing client base.
With lean/continuous improvement principles and processes implemented since day one, coupled with guidance and support from our ‘village’ of advisors and champions, SkyHive was able to scale efficiently and sustainably to meet demand while delivering the highest standard and quality.”
We’re super proud to have companies like these in our Startup Program and excited to see them disrupting industries like AI, education, and logistics. If you’re interested in joining a community filled with top-notch startups like the ones above, be sure to check out our newly launched “Startup Grind Membership.”