The Top 21 Startups of ’21 presented by Prepare 4 VC

The Prepare 4 VC: Top 21 of ‘21 Showcase is a global initiative recognizing the Top 21 Pre-SEED + SEED stage startups growing + progressing inside The Startup Oasis community powered by Prepare 4 VC.  The startups + founders recognized in this initiative are being showcased as “startups to watch in 2022 & beyond” due to the enormous strides you’ve made with your ventures during the 2021 year in:

  1. Proof-of-concept validation

  2. MVP progression

  3. Team growth

  4. Funding secured


GRID


Founder: Mariam Nusrat https://community.prepare4vc.com/members/6470666

Startup Name: GRID – Gaming Revolution for International Development Inc. Website: https://breshna.io/

What is the most exciting thing about you startup to date?

  1. Breshna operates at the intersection of 3 exploding tech trends, No-code, video games and NFTs

  2. Breshna is a no code platform that empowers users to create purposeful NFT video games without writing a single line of code.

  3. Breshna changes how video games are created and used:

  4. On the “create” side, we are leveraging the no-code movement to empower a non-tech audience to create their own video games.

  5. On the “use” side, we are taking video games beyond entertainment and deploying their power for education, marketing, training, and story telling!

What is the company’s unfair advantage?

Breshna’s Bolt Squad! Breshna is being built in public, which means we were building a community event before we started building our product! Customer-built growth is triggered by the evangelism flywheel; When end users are empowered to build, they also become the 1st (& most authentic) sales people for our product. They’re proud of what the Breshna games they build & want to show it off.

Factors for growth in ’21

  1. Familiarity with the pain point: Being a non-tech person who believes in the power of video games, I have always craved a tool that can empower me to make my own purposeful video games without engaging a gaming studio. Breshna democratizes content creation through video games.

  2. Team: We are a team of 18 game changers who built Breshna’s MVP and Alpha versions in less than 8 months. Our Alpha was #2 product of the day on Product Hunt, we have 1000+ registered users who have created 3000+ video games.


Virtual Sapiens


Founder: Rachel Cossar https://community.prepare4vc.com/members/7396674

Startup Name: Virtual Sapiens

Website: www.virtualsapiens.co

What is the most exciting thing about you startup to date?

We have successfully built a beta product that provides each user with their very own in-call communication coach. It’s amazing for our team to see our product in the hands or early users, getting feedback that is both constructive, and positive. And most importantly, to hear of the increased awareness our Sidekick activates in our users from the get go. This in and of itself is a win, since any improvement must being with awareness:)

What is the company’s unfair advantage?

We have an incredible team and an in-house communication expert with applied coaching experience. We are also going directly for the more challenging area of body language feedback and coaching using computer vision. Many companies are focused on vocal and verbal metrics. While we will be adding this is soon, we are first movers in the way we have built our product, as well as our focus on this important aspect of communication.

Factors for growth in ’21

  1. My incredible co-founder coming on board:)

  2. Our amazing team of female engineers!

  3. Our supportive investors, believers and champions.


Xena Intelligence


Founder: Akhil Suresh Nair https://community.prepare4vc.com/members/6020273

Startup Name: Xena Intelligence Website: https://xenaintelligence.com/

What is the most exciting thing about you startup to date?

The most exciting aspect of my startup is the opportunity to see our small business clients discover new and sustainable sources of growth on ecommerce resulting in them providing employment to more people in the community. I think the true measure of impact is when everyone grows together.

What is the company’s unfair advantage?

Xena’s unfair advantage comes in the form of the market segment we are able to cater to. Traditionally, ecommerce support agencies and companies have only targeted large enterprises as clients leaving the vast majority of small and mid sized businesses to fend for themselves. Xena’s automation and AI has enabled us to support this untapped segment who really needs deserves this kind of support. As a result of this, our AI is exponentially better than our competitors due to more data sources and quick learning curves, which makes Xena a much better proposition for enterprise companies as well.

Factors for growth in ’21:

  1. Being a part of Prepare 4 VC cohort, MassChallenge and other fantastic entrepreneurial support systems including individuals who selflessly promote budding entrepreneurs.

  2. A great team, Xena currently has 5 full time employees who form the crux of its growth and tireless strides forward.

  3. Being an immigrant, I think I have seen a unique culture in the US that promotes merit and hard work. This mindset has certainly played a huge role in helping entrepreneurs like me persevere even in the face of dire challenges.


Employers 4 Change


Founder: Isabella Johnston https://community.prepare4vc.com/members/8488154

Startup Name: Intern Pursuit, Inc. d/b/a Employers 4 Change

Website: www.E4C.tech

What is the most exciting thing about you startup to date?

We conducted a skill study between interns and our employee customers in our MVP pilot. The results from the study validate that mid-senior level employees neuro learning skills and organizational processes and culture improved dramatically because of working with interns. It “rewired” the mindset of older experienced workers which resulted in improved ideation, creativity, and organizational processes.

What is the company’s unfair advantage?

Our platform is an end-to-end HR DEI, culture & skill development solution for employers in all industries and organizational size. According to Statista 2020 survey, the top three challenges that are big concerns for learning and development (L&D) professionals globally are – Getting managers to make learning a priority, – Creating a culture of learning, – Increasing employee engagement. Employers 4 Change addresses those concerns that starts from recruitment selection and develops neuro learning skills from intern to mid/senior level employees. A multidimensional learning approach takes into account the unique characteristics and dimensions. Multidimensional learning provides neuro learning that has the potential to accelerate learning and make a 3-month training period equivalent to 1 year of experience. Real diversity is represented through internal characteristics and qualities such as our skills, abilities, personality type, disabilities, IQ, how we communicate, multigenerational, and multiple other factors. That boils down to how we are all unique yet we share common needs to be seen, accepted, respected, and included.

Factors for growth in ’21

  1. Key Partnerships with academic institutions. Our partnership with UC Berkeley’s PlexTech CS & AI Club was supported for 3 semesters and got us to a MVP. Added perk – it was equity and cost free.

  2. Customer Fit – we have like-minded employer customers that share our vision and and mission.

  3. Funding Support. We received a grant from the City of Orlando and Orlando Economic Partnership to prepare a report on how working with interns develops cognitive neuro learning skills for interns and employees.


Baru


Founder: Tino Go https://community.prepare4vc.com/members/5226393

Startup Name: Baru

Website: https://www.hellobaru.com/

What is the most exciting thing about you startup to date?

Our technology is proven across 27 regions nationwide showing that our operations replicate quickly. Our unit economics are well understood and we’re ready to scale revenues.

What is the company’s unfair advantage?

Our recently awarded patent is leveraged in a unique marketplace structure that hinders industry incumbents from lower mark-up cannibalization of their existing sales and overhead cost structure (if they tried to mimic Baru’s operations).

Factors for growth in ’21

  1. Organic sales with zero marketing have demonstrated that Baru is filling a market need.

  2. Baru has expanded its geographic reach with new manufacturing partnerships across 27 regions with little effort.

  3. Baru team members are building processes that will support sales growth with lower fulfillment effort.


Scroobius


Founder: Allison Byers https://community.prepare4vc.com/members/8396980

Startup Name: Scroobious

Website: https://www.scroobious.com

What is the most exciting thing about you startup to date?

We have helped over 200 founders who identify as underrepresented create investor-ready pitch material, gain confidence in their presentations, and connect with a supportive network of peers.

What is the company’s unfair advantage?

Our largest advantage is our authenticity, which is indeed a moat as evidenced by the CEO of Canvas stepping down following public outrage (https://timesofe.com/canvas-ceo-steps-down-after-50-million-round-incited-racial-controversy-about-who-gets-funded/). There is a lot of talk about DEI initiatives right now without a lot of authentic action. I previously raised nearly $10M for my startup and have first-hand experience with the challenges of fundraising as an overlooked founder. Our founders get help from those who understand their journey, are educated from a place of empathy, and find peers they can relate to in our diverse community.

Factors for growth in ’21

The most important factor contributing to our growth is our organic network of customers, partners, advisors, investors, and champions. All of our growth has been inbound from word of mouth, referrals, and unsolicited public promotion and PR. We have not spent money on sales or marketing yet. We are mission-driven and our devotion to amplifying the work of overlooked founders resonates on a deep level prompting mutual support. I founded Scroobious one month before COVID changed our world. This accelerated the need for our solution in two significant ways. First, in-person meetings were a health risk and pitch videos became a necessity. Second, many were either forced or opted to leave their jobs and entrepreneurship became the only viable option to maintain work life balance with the lack of childcare and in-person school. There is a swell of both emerging entrepreneurs and emerging investors who are looking for virtual pathways to connection. We entered a new era of racial justice in the US following the murder of George Floyd, which happened four months after founding Scroobious. I spent nearly a year researching and strategizing how to best reach and serve founders who identify as underrepresented with a large focus on founders of color before incorporation and had already established partnerships with organizations in the space. We all received and continue to experience an influx of interest from partners and investors looking to support founders of color in a way we haven’t experienced before.


Gooru


Founder: Puck Fernsten https://community.prepare4vc.com/members/9486754

Startup Name: Gooru Inc.

Website: https://gooruglobal.com

What is the most exciting thing about you startup to date?

The possibility of personal transformation while transforming an industry.

What is the company’s unfair advantage?

Our innovation pipeline.

Factors for growth in ’21:

A loan, a meeting in DC, and Prepare 4 VC.

  1. A loan kept prototyping going through a 6th year, this time with EnCata, a leading engineering company in Eastern Europe.

  2. A meeting in DC solidified a partnership with my preferred style leader.

  3. Prepare 4 VC hosted an insightful Demo Day that left me with go to market ideas, one advisor telling me the “market doesn’t support” Gooru raising funds and I should make other plans, and another advisor telling me to keep going. Progress isn’t always pretty.


Goalden Hour


Founder: Karthy Chandra https://community.prepare4vc.com/members/6239949

Startup Name: Goalden Hour

Website: https://goaldenhour.com/

What is the most exciting thing about you startup to date?

We have a HUGE vision: This isn’t just about helping people get fit, manage stress, or stay organized. We see an opportunity to radically alter the trajectory of humankind by helping people take small steps towards being healthier, more eco-conscious, and compassionate to one another. We believe the combination of tech, behavior change, and community could result in explosive, collective action that might just save the world.

What is the company’s unfair advantage?

Most productivity tools in the workplace are simply focused on task management and team collaboration. We’re intent on helping individuals become more effective and efficient in their own lives so they show up as their best selves. We take a goal-driven approach and use behavioral science to help people stick to their goals.

Factors for growth in ’21

  1. Pivoting from consumer to B2B

  2. Interviewing potential customers and getting signed LOIs

  3. Joining Launch House and expanding our network


Makeena


Founder: Karen Frame https://community.prepare4vc.com/members/9659119

Startup Name: Makeena

Website: https://makeena.com

What is the most exciting thing about you startup to date?

We won a grant from Kevin O’Leary this past summer over 2,000 other companies!

What is the company’s unfair advantage?

We have a real story, and when we tell that story, our community of shoppers resonate with it – and then activate around it. In addition, because we are an early stage startup with angel investors who are super supportive, we can make decisions quickly and then act on them.

Factors for growth in ’21

We were 1 of 229 companies selected to participate in MassChallenge Cohort 50 and received the Silver Award. That opportunity led us to a relationship with IBM to work on integrating AI into Makeena, as well as KPMG being interested in taking our product to its client base.


Foodspass


Founder: Travis Matthew Siflinger https://community.prepare4vc.com/members/8999143

Startup Name: FoodsPass

Website: www.FoodsPass.com

What is the most exciting thing about you startup to date?

Disrupting the digital couponing ecosystem used by over 145M Americans.

What is the company’s unfair advantage?

FoodsPass isn’t just another rewards program. We’re brand, retailer, and product agnostic. This means members can always access the best deals, no matter where they go to eat.

Factors for growth in ’21

  1. Launching our App on iOS & Google

  2. FoodsPass was recently shortlisted for “Most Fundable Company 2021” by Pepperdine University, the Techstars x Western Union Technology Accelerator and the Kroger Innovation fund

  3. Forging a team of intelligent advisors @ www.eFintechForum.com 


Omneque


Founder: Amanda Zuydervelt https://community.prepare4vc.com/members/8197264

Startup Name: Omneque Website: www.omneque.com

What is the most exciting thing about you startup to date?

Lady Gaga wore our jewelry to the House of Gucci premiere, we told a 6 figure diamond and we had a double page spread in the FT How to Spend it magazine

What is the company’s unfair advantage?

1st mover advantage as vintage Jewelry specialists and the caliber of our team

Factors for growth in ’21

  1. Over 100 features of leading press

  2. A growing celebrity following

  3. Being recognized as industry specialists by vogue for vintage jewelry

  4. A very determined CEO


Online Health Company (OHealth)


Founder: Temitope Farombi https://community.prepare4vc.com/members/8592574

Startup Name: Online Health Company (OHealth)

Website: www.ohealthng.com

What is the most exciting thing about you startup to date?

Clients feedback have been the most exciting things as it helps validate our idea and makes us want to do more

What is the company’s unfair advantage?

Ohealth is a doctor led company and this has given us a distinct edges in doctors recruitment into our app

Factors for growth in ’21

Covid pandemic has created increased demand for health services and this has helped our startup growth. Our product is very simple to navigate and this made our app user friendly


TruAnon


Founder: Jesse Tayler https://community.prepare4vc.com/members/7087509

Startup Name: TruAnon digital identity

Website: https://truanon.com/

What is the most exciting thing about you startup to date?

Everyone of us has had our lives pushed further online and our need for greater privacy, safety and authenticity has never been more apparent. It would not surprise you to know that up to one in four profiles online are simply scam. It might surprise you to learn that Identity related crimes are responsible for an estimated $3T to consumers and businesses. This last year we’ve seen identity related investments triple to record heights, and the reason is obvious. Lives depend on creating a more trusted environment online. Current Solutions Are Not Working. We must have a revolutionary solution to address this crisis.

What is the company’s unfair advantage?

A unique software invention allows legitimate members to quickly and easily self-identify. TruAnon provides the tools to confirm and control online identities. This means control over how members share and view each other’s Online Identity which has immediate effect. Simply being visible and available, it is obvious if someone is asking for trust while avoiding transparency. This puts power with the legitimate and removes it from the bad actors there to abuse your service. TruAnon puts an end to spam and scam, fraudulent accounts and fake profiles starting day one.

Factors for growth in ’21

  1. We are a highly ‘software-invention’ style startup, having created TruAnon from the ground up using industrial technologies for this one purpose.

  2. This advantage allowed us to reach early adopters proving the product market fit and value proposition.

  3. This next phase is the start of our partnerships and growth. We have done all of this, even before formal investment partners.


Fit Mama


Founder: Michelle Caira https://community.prepare4vc.com/members/8621565

Startup Name: Fit Mama Fitness Inc

Website: https://www.fitmama.io/

What is the most exciting thing about you startup to date?

Every single person I get the chance to speak to about what I’m building, they say “There is such a gap in the market for this! I wish I had this when I was postpartum!”

What is the company’s unfair advantage?

Ten years of working in the field with the client base (demographic), as a certified personal trainer combined with being someone who went through pregnancy, delivery, postpartum and breastfeeding, are the two unfair advantages Fit Mama has over our competitors.

Factors for growth in ’21

  1. The Techstars application process – I conducted two customer interviews as part of the process and that was lightbulb moments for me – learning exactly what the client was feeling and doing at the point of sale, really opened my eyes.

  2. Opening out to build in public. Scared to do so earlier in the startups life, now at the stage where the fear of a competitor swooping in, is just not there. It has allowed me to create a concept called “Bench-to-Play” to build out my initial team, and to show and tell the good, bad and ugly. Getting peer and fan support has been a relief.

  3. Appointing a COO and sharing my baby. No longer feeling the need to control everything, has meant that the business can flourish. All of these things have contributed to the brand awareness, client acquisition and personal star rising.


Innovative Wellness Systems (IWS)


Founder: Ted Finn https://community.prepare4vc.com/members/9068581

Startup Name: IWS Innovative Wellness Systems Inc

Website: www.iws4u.com

What is the most exciting thing about you startup to date?

Lot’s of excitement in 2021 but a high point was when I was able to wear a prototype of the IWS WellSol® smart insole in my shoes, collect, and review the data on my movement from them. This was the moment that took us from idea to product.

What is the company’s unfair advantage?

Our unfair advantage is twofold. One, the combination of IWS’s world class team including clinicians from Mass General, Beth Israel, Harvard medical school, seasoned entrepreneurs, and software and hardware engineers. Having spent 30+ years in the footwear industry we produced over 50 million pairs of shoes and insoles. Two, working together with leaders at UMass Amherst Center for Human Health and performance to build the WellSol® with data calibrated and validated against gold standards. Very few wearables and data collection devices in our space have been calibrated and validated to ensure the data integrity. IWS is focused on solving important health and wellness problems related to human movement and data integrity is just part of our secret sauce.

Factors for growth in ’21

  1. The MVP of the WellSol® is under construction and validation at UMass Amherst with $300K of non-dilutive matching funding provided by the University

  2. Our team continues to grow with the addition of Dr. Dana Stearns as Chief Medical Officer. Dana is an Assistant Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School and Attending physician in Emergency Medicine at Mass General Hospital.


InternetFM


Founder: Steven Leventhal https://community.prepare4vc.com/members/6066765

Startup Name: InternetFM

Website: https://internetfm.com

What is the most exciting thing about you startup to date?

The most exciting thing so far has been the positive response to the app itself. “I love the app, I drive for Uber in the evenings, and having a source for commercial free music is a godsend.” – Thomas S, Panama City, FL. Also our team enjoys working on the app. Our Android programmer has several subs working for him. Our marketing meetings are fun as we think of new ideas and promotions to keep the app out front and center.

What is the company’s unfair advantage?

A low cost of doing business and decentralized operation make us very efficient. We can achieve profitability with as few as 5000 registered listeners. In addition, our product is designed by radio professionals, as opposed to software engineers, so the app itself looks and works like the old school radio product it’s emulating. It’s easy to set up, and yet it can be customized in a number of ways. Lastly, we listen to our customers, and have taken some of their suggestions to heart, and incorporated them into the ongoing update process. It’s that ability to be fluid and responsive that will keep us light years ahead of the competition.

Factors for growth in ’21

  1. Getting angel funding

  2. That allowed us to really stretch out product development, and being the process of marketing in earnest.

  3. It took us two years to hit 1000 downloads. We reached 2500 in 7 months.


Floelle


Founder: Jerrold M. Shapiro https://community.prepare4vc.com/members/9662165

Startup Name: Floelle

Website: https://floelle.com

What is the most exciting thing about you startup to date?

It will greatly improve the lives of up to one Billion incontinent women worldwide, restoring dignity and joy to their lives.

What is the company’s unfair advantage?

Floelle’s patented medical device fits the busy lifestyle of younger incontinent women, requires no effort from older incontinent women, saves these women money while providing value to their doctors, health insurance providers, governments and the environment.

Factors for growth in ’21

  1. While COVID-19 infected our mechanical designer from February through October, once healthy he was able to make the design changes needed to retain our medical device within an incontinent woman’s urethra, leading to additional intellectual property.

  2. Doctors in Texas were so impressed with the potential of the Floelle device that instead of investing, they decided to become part of the solution by volunteering to do our Early Feasibility Clinical Study at no charge.

  3. We are currently evaluating another investor’s proposal to fund our entire Go-to-Market effort.


PictoSafe


Founder: Curt Austin https://community.prepare4vc.com/members/8749025

Startup Name: Pictosafe

Website: https://pictosafe.com

What is the most exciting thing about you startup to date?

Onsite demonstration and request for solution to a remote problem for safety at a new mine in Northern Canada.

What is the company’s unfair advantage?

I have been a safety and supply specialist for almost 20 years with large North American manufacturer’s, distributors and their customers in Government and Mining operations in Canada.

Factors for growth in ’21

  1. Tremendous growth and opportunity for precious metals in mining, specifically in mining and their operations in Northern Canada. eg. Over 15.3 billion committed to 3 mines near Timmins, ON. https://oma.on.ca/en/ontario-mining/Map.aspx

  2. Extended infrastructure and mining operations require untrained and under equipped workers. Ontario Government has plans to extend Rail routes and supporting highway routes to the mine sites in Canada. Ontario Government is spending money on infrastructure and education for skilled workers. http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/policyfunding/funding.html

  3. Remote work locations, unskilled workers with growth in the PPE Industry Projected to reach $97Billion for 2022 in personal equipment sales alone. All controlled by very few players that have spent 20 years working in this area. https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20210510005484/en/Global-Personal-Protective-Equipment-Market-Report-2021-Spending-on-PPE-is-Forecast-to-Almost-Triple-by-2027—ResearchAndMarkets.com


HomePlan


Founder: Bash Jones https://community.prepare4vc.com/members/9769458

Startup Name: Homeplan

Website: www.joinhomeplan.com

What is the most exciting thing about you startup to date?

We secured our first paying customer and first mortgage lender partner before incorporating the company and now have homeowners from 14 states in our beta with virtually zero marketing.

What is the company’s unfair advantage?

Speed and team. We’ve built everything in house with just the two co-founders. Bash is a homeowner and is solving his problems as well as those of the countless homeowners who approached him for help with issues around their home.

Factors for growth in ’21

The pandemic allowed homeowners to focus more on home maintenance, upkeep and education. We entered the market during this time and have begun to see an influx of homeowners joining our early access waitlist.


Skill-Ex


Founder: Priyanka Kamath https://community.prepare4vc.com/members/8686873

Startup Name: Skill-Ex

Website: www.skillxploration.com

What is the most exciting thing about you startup to date?

Helping achieve Skill-Equity in a developed Nation

What is the company’s unfair advantage?

1st of its kind hard skills training recommender for ~1.6 million students graduating every year.

Factors for growth in ’21

  1. Recognized by the govt of India that provide us assurance to partner with EdTech across the country, this helps us get validated from the highest governing authority.

  2. Received AWS Edstart Recognition for free cloud infrastructure to scale our product.


Culineer


Founder: Jodi Frank https://community.prepare4vc.com/members/8756540

Startup Name: Culineer

Website: www.Culineerapp.com

What is the most exciting thing about you startup to date?

Culineer solves a major problem that prevents the changes consumers and farmers are seeking to implement. The most exciting thing is the overwhelming response from the farming and home cooking community.

What is the company’s unfair advantage?

Most companies in the space address issues in food sustainability by engineering food, or delivering prepackaged food grow more sustainably. We offer technology that enables efficiencies in shortening the supply chain to local food. Buying local reduces transportation cost, allows food to be consumed at is peak and supports local communities.

Factors for growth in ’21

  1. Having the right team. Adding Selorm Nelson (engineering) and Kyle Hoedle (marketing) to our efforts has been a big improvement. Both have a get it done attitude and have the experience and technical skills to do it well.

  2. On the marketing front we’ve tightened up our messaging and branding

  3. On the development front we’ve increase the focus on the customers experience and have consistently delivered on engineering tasks We’ve validated our value proposition with our customers – every week we have more farmers join our waiting list – and they are referring others to do the same

  4. Our GTM strategy is sound and cost effective. We in process of executing a B2B sales effort in a targeted geography.

Congratulations to all of our Top 21 Startups of ’21

Stay tuned for more updates and opportunities to connect and learn from the recipients, and thank you to everyone that applied for an incredible batch of startups to choose from.







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