AR, VR, gaming, and transportation: these are some of the hottest sectors in today’s startup world.
Beyond reimagining everyday experiences and interactions, these technologies also have the potential to move beyond a niche market and scale enormously.
From autonomous vehicles to lightweight mobile games, the startups included on this list aren’t just revising the way we interact with the world, they’re remaking it!
Here’s our list of 10 hot startups to watch out for in 2016. They range from nuTonomy, a MIT startup that launched the world’s first autonomous taxi in Singapore this year; to Blackstorm Labs, a new company co-founded last month by venture capitalist and DBS advisor Ernestine Fu; to of course Niantic, who made quite the splash this year with everyone’s favorite game Pokemon Go.
1) Hyperloop One
Founded: In 2014 by Shervin Pishevar and Brogan BamBrogan.
Funding: Raised $141 million across three rounds of financing.
It’s been a big year for Hyperloop One, the startup focused on reinventing transportation through the use of passenger capsules. The capsules are then propelled in large scale using linear induction motors and air compression technology.
Originally envisioned by SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk, Hyperloop raised an impressive $80 million dollar Series B this past spring and carried out their first field test in Las Vegas, which was a success.
2) Blackstorm Labs
Founded: In 2016 by technologist Michael Carter, developer of the WebSocket protocol for HTML5, and venture capitalist Ernestine Fu, who first caught our attention when she appeared on the cover of Forbes at age 20. Carter and Fu previously founded the hackathon project HelloWorld together, and then impressively sold the project two months later. Blackstorm’s other co-founders include Stanford PhD dropout Martin Hunt and open source hacker Tom Fairfield.
Funding: Blackstorm Labs recently completed a large $33.5 million funding round with investors including Highland Capital, Alsop Louie Partners, among others.
Blackstorm Labs unveiled themselves this year with the ambitious goal of being “the post-app store company.”
They’re focused on developing technology to power apps across new, next-generation platforms like messengers, mobile browsers, and AR/VR. Blackstorm prides itself in the speed and versatility of their technology, which is comparable to that of native apps.
Founded: Co-founder of Quora and early Facebook engineer Charlie Cheever founded Exponent in 2015.
Funding: Exponent recently completed the Y-Combinator accelerator program, but has not disclosed its funding rounds.
Founded: Originating out of MIT research, nuTonomy was founded in 2013 by MIT PhD grads Karl Iagnemma and Emilion Frazzoli.
Funding: NuTonomy completed a $16 million Series A round in May 2016, led by Highland Capital and with other high profile backers including Ford Chairman Bill Ford’s Fontinalis Partners, Samsung Ventures, and even the Singapore Economic Development Board.
NuTonomy provides software and algorithms for self-driving cars. The company famously launched the world’s first autonomous taxi pilot project in Singapore this August, with additional tests occurring in Michigan and London.
NuTonomy plans to launch a full-scale, completely autonomous taxi system in Singapore by 2018.
Founded: Former CEO of Veoh and CTO of Myspace Music Dimitry Shapiro founded GoMeta in 2016.
Funding: No funding has been disclosed so far.
GoMeta is a new startup that revolves around AR/VR technology. Shapiro has the ambitious goal of building a metaverse, or a collective shared virtual space, accomplished by either enhancing physical reality and incorporating virtual aspects, or developing a more physically persistent virtual experience. In a widely shared statement, Shapiro explained that “The Metaverse is a democracy. I’m with Her.”
The company recently launched the app Metaverse and has been sending residents of San Diego on scavenger hunts for cash.
Founded: Gfycat was founded in 2015 by Dan McEleney, Richard Rabbat, and Jeff Harris. McEleney is a 10-year product manager veteran with an instinct for Internet culture, while Harris is a deeply technical engineer with 15 years industry experience. Rabbat received his PhD from MIT and held multiple executive roles at Tango, Zynga, and Google.
Funding: Gfycat announced a mammoth $10 million seed round in September, led by Alsop Louie Partners, with additional funding from Pear Ventures and Stanford’s StartX fund.
Gfycat is a short video sharing platform with rocketship traction. Although just a small startup, Gfycat already has 75 million monthly active users, who consume over 1.5 billion user-generated clips on the site per month, making it a top-100 site in the US. In other words, they have more traffic than some of the top news sites in the world, including Wall Street Journal and CNET.
Gfycat also recently announced an API allowing developers to build Gfycat functionality into their sites and apps, as well as a video keyboard for the new iMessage, broadening their reach substantially.
Founded: Brigade was founded in 2014 by Sean Parker, Matt Mahan, James Windon, John Thrall, and Miche Capone.
Funding: Brigade raised $9.3 million in funding in 2014 from Sean Parker, as well as undisclosed sums from Marc Benioff and Ron Conway.
It’s hard to talk about Brigade without first mentioning its superstar founder, Napster creator and the first president of Facebook, Sean Parker. Parker, together with a group of four other co-founders, created an app to help people engage in politics and articulate their personal political positions. Brigade allows users to identify where they stand on major issues, revealing connections with others and helping them organise into groups to advance their beliefs.
Of course, this all assumes that people will be comfortable sharing their most controversial beliefs publicly online, something that remains to be proven.
Founded: In 2011 by Steve Pretre and David Friedberg.
Funding: Metromile has raised $205.5 million. They recently completed a $103.1 million Series D financing, in addition to $50 million strategic investment from China Pacific Insurance in September 2016.
Metromile is a startup that aims to revolutionise the auto insurance industry with a new variably priced pay-per-mile insurance plan.
In the past few months, Metromile has raised over $150 million, and through the acquisition of Mosaic Insurance Company, the company is now able to underwrite its own insurance policies. As part of the policies that Metromile offers, drivers are monitored by a device that plugs into their automobiles called Metromile Pulse.
9) Modal VR
Founded: In 2016 by industry veteran Nolan Bushnell and Jason Crawford, the inventor of the technology powering Modal.
Funding: Modal VR has not announced any outside funding.
Modal VR specialises in high-end VR hardware and software that aims to provide a completely immersive VR experience. Modal’s wireless platform has the ability to track multiple users in spaces up to 900,000 square feet with less than 10 milliseconds of latency.
With no current plans to launch a consumer product, Modal is designed to be used in industrial and commercial environments, such as the long lost video arcade. This goal makes sense given that Nolan Bushnell, founder of both Atari and Chuck E. Cheese, is behind the company.
Founded: In 2010 by John Hanke as a project within Google. It spun out of Google in October 2015.
Funding: Niantic has received $25 million in funding from Google, Nintendo, Pokémon, and Alsop Louie Partners.
These days, who doesn’t know Niantic? It’s hard to imagine that Niantic just launched their immensely successful Pokemon Go game this year. Founder and CEO John Hanke first founded Keyhole, a location mapping company that was then acquired by Google.
Inside Google, Hanke formed Niantic as a project focusing on AR/VR. Niantic’s third app, Pokemon Go became an overnight success: it has been downloaded more than 100 million times and has estimated daily revenue of millions of dollars.
Which of these startups are you excited about, and did we miss out any? Let us know!
Feature Image Credit: Digital Trends