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14 disruptive U.S.-based startups to watch in 2021

When it comes to startups and innovative tech, the United States is way more than just Silicon Valley today. The country is full of tech hubs that give birth to countless exciting startups.
Małgorzata GalińskaJan 19, 2021 | 9 min read

When it comes to startups and innovative tech, the United States is way more than just Silicon Valley today. The country is full of tech hubs that give birth to countless exciting startups.

As the largest tech market in the world representing 33% of the total - or approximately $1.6 trillion in 2021 - the U.S. is one of the best places for startups.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, founders enjoyed a stream of funding for realizing their ideas. U.S.-based venture capital funds raised a combined $69.1 billion in 2020, with highlights Andreessen Horowitz announcing a couple of mega-funds with $4.5 billion in commitments.

So, what are the most interesting startups that we’re all going to hear about in 2021? Here are 14 companies on the path to disrupting their industries.

14 U.S.-based startups to watch in 2021

HealthTech

  1. Olive

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Founded: 2012
Location: Columbus, Ohio
Funding (last round): $385 million
Valuation: $1.5 billion

Brand claim: “Olive builds artificial intelligence and RPA solutions that empower healthcare organizations to improve efficiency and patient care while reducing costly administrative errors.”

Olive develops AI and RPA solutions (a technology involving bots that mimic human actions to complete repetitive tasks) that help healthcare companies improve their efficiency and deliver better patient care while reducing costly administrative errors. Healthcare systems and employees work hard to manage essential processes, so they need solutions like Olive, even when not dealing with pandemics.

The company is looking to make healthcare more data-driven, efficient, affordable, and human - and Olive believes that artificial intelligence is capable of making this a reality. Olive’s CEO Sean Lane was looking for the next challenge after a career at NASA: “Looking for what was next, I was drawn in by the prescription drug abuse problem that consumed my hometown of Gallipolis, Ohio and impacted my family personally. I wanted to do something meaningful, and that’s when I started looking at healthcare.”

In the last round, Olive raised a smashing $385 million from investors, proving that their idea has a solid foundation.

  1. Lyra Health

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Founded: 2015
Location: Burlingame, California
Funding: $110 million
Valuation: $1.1 billion

Brand claim: “Lyra Health’s mission is to transform mental health care through technology with a human touch — to get more patients the care they need when they need it.”

Founded by the former Facebook CFO, David Ebersman, this California-based startup helps employers provide their staff with personalized mental health services. Since the pandemic struck the world, Lyra Health has gained 800,000 new members, the total patient base reaching 1.5 million. Some notable customers of this disruptive startup include eBay, Uber, Morgan Stanley, Starbucks, and Zoom Video Communications. Not bad for a company founded just a few years ago!

FinTech

  1. Chime

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Founded: 2013
Location: San Francisco, California
Funding: $1.54 billion

Brand claim: “Banking that has your back.”

Counting over 5 million account holders, Chime is one of the fastest-growing tech companies in the U.S.A. It takes only 5 minutes to apply, and users get a Chime Visa® debit card, a Spending Account, and an award-winning mobile banking app. Chime’s easy-to-use mobile app was featured as one of the best Money Management applications in the App Store. The startup’s mission is never to charge hidden fees, offer people their paycheck up to two days earlier, and keep users updated on their spending and account balance. It’s that simple, but it’s so much more than what traditional banks offer.

  1. Albert

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Founded: 2015
Location: Culver City, California
Funding: $72 million

Brand claim: “Home for your money. Mobile banking, savings, and investing — in one place. Plus human experts at your fingertips.”

Another startup to watch in 2021 is Albert, a platform that helps people to automate their financials. Users can easily track how much money they make and understand their spending habits to maintain a healthy balance. The app also helps to put money toward savings by finding extra dollars to save automatically. You can even set it to get an alert when you’re overspending in real time.

The Genius feature connects paid subscribers to real financial advisers for even more value-added. More than three million people use Albert today.

Automotive / TransTech / Mobility

  1. TruckMap

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Founded: 2016
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Funding: Undisclosed

Brand claim: “TruckMap is a mobile app for truck drivers that provides drivers with updates on parking availability, access to local truck services, and truck-optimized GPS routing.”

Another venture among the most interesting startups in the U.S. is Truckmap, which helps in planning transport routes thanks to insights coming from its extensive community. This is the only free app with routing and directions for trucks, offering access to 14,000+ truck-friendly locations and 400,000+ truck parking spots. TruckMap has a large number of collected locations where drivers can rest and get all the necessary amenities. Users can rate them too. The app also includes recommendations for avoiding low bridges and truck restrictions and allows planning for truck weight, low clearance, and HAZMAT.

Users can also customize the truck height, weight, and avoid Toll Roads, enabling transport companies to create and manage routes using a wealth of information. The app scored a 4.7 rating in the Apple App Store, with reviews like “Works 99% of the time so far it’s the best out of all the other apps on here.”

In MasterBorn we’re proud to support TruckMap on the mission of disrupting the transportation industry! Everyone buckle up because this app will become a game (road) changer in 2021!

  1. Tortoise

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Founded: 2019
Location: Mountain View, California
Funding (seed): $2.8 million

Brand claim: “Tortoise automated repositioning. Transforms last-mile delivery and shared micro-mobility operations.”

Co-founded by Uber alum Dmitry Shevelenko, Tortoise is a micro-mobility startup that offers a hybrid solution for scooters. The idea is to reposition them using autonomy and teleoperations and help cities deal with issues like improperly parked scooters and grocery delivery congestion.

Tortoise partnered with e-scooter operator GoX to launch a public pilot of the first teleoperated fleet of 100 scooters deployed in Peachtree Corners, GA. Tortoise also partnered with the online grocery platform Self Point to apply its tech to delivery carts and deliver goods to local consumers with remote-controlled carts.

  1. Coord

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Founded: 2016
Location: New York City
Funding: $5 million

Brand claim: “Curb management for fast-changing cities.”

Coord has already helped cities from Pittsburgh to Seattle manage 4.9+ million curb spaces. Backed by Sidewalk Labs (owned by Alphabet, the parent company of Google), the startup was founded with the mission of streets serving people, not vehicles. Coord offers a detailed digital view of how curbs are being used. This helps local authorities to mitigate urban problems such as safety, congestion, and revenue-generation. Today, Coord supports over 17,000 curb miles across 15 cities, with the goal of serving over 100 cities across the globe by the end of 2021.

Life Sciences

  1. Sana Biotechnology

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Founded: 2018
Location: Seattle, Washington
Funding: $700 million

Brand claim: “Engineers cells as medicine.”

Life sciences is an exciting field for innovation and here's one among life sciences startups to watch in 2021. Led by several co-founders of Juno Therapeutics, Sana Biotechnology focuses on technologies for using engineered cells as medicine with the first applications expected to start as early as 2022. The ability to modify genes and use cells this way is predicted to be one of the most important advances in healthcare today.

This could help discover treatments for patients with diseases that are currently untreatable. “Our long-term aspirations are to be able to control or modify any gene in the body, to replace any cell that is damaged or missing, and to markedly improve access to cellular and gene-based medicines.” Sana Biotechnology wrote in its IPO prospectus.

With $700 million of funding, it’s one of the most heavily-funded startups to emerge in the Seattle area in the past few years. Less than 3 years after it was founded and without any revenue on the books, Sana Biotechnology just filed to go public, planning to trade on Nasdaq under SANA and raising up to $150 million.

  1. Nuvation Bio

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Founded: 2018
Location: New York City
Funding: $275 million

Brand claim: “Driven by science. Focused on life.”

This startup was founded by David Hung, an industry veteran behind Medivation, acquired by Pfizer in 2016 for $14.3 billion. With offices in NYC and San Francisco, Nuvation Bio focuses on revolutionizing cancer therapies with technology to tackle some of the greatest challenges in oncology today. The company portfolio includes six new potential products that target a number of difficult-to-treat types of cancer. An incredible example of what startups can do for our society!

EdTech

  1. Apptegy

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Founded: 2013
Location: Little Rock, Arkansas
Funding (latest round): $13.2 million

Brand claim: “Powering Your School’s Identity. Build your school's brand with an ADA compliant school marketing strategy.”

Apptegy is a gem among EdTech startups, the company provides several solutions designed to help schools in communicating and branding. For example, the mobile application Thrillshare (available for Android and iOS) provides schools with everything they need for school marketing and communications in one place, helping them to build stronger brands.

The app includes a feature that allows sharing positive stories of student achievement across all the channels, including website, mobile app, Facebook, Twitter, text messages, and voice calls. This helps to control the conversation around their brand. A genius communication and content sharing platform that would come in handy to more than just schools!

  1. Blackboard

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Founded: 1997
Location: Reston, Virginia
Post IPO equity: $15 million

Brand claim: “Let’s advance learning.”

Even though it was founded in the late 90s, Blackboard embraced innovative technologies and today is one of the leading EdTech startups that serve the higher education, K-12, as well as business and government clients around the world.

Their mission is to support educators and institutions in realizing their goals and preparing for tomorrow’s challenges - especially relevant during the restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The company combines a deep understanding of education with a tech-savvy approach to creating new learning products such as Blackboard App or Blackboard Learn. The latter is a well-established learning management system used by prestigious educational institutions and large companies around the world.

FoodTech

  1. DoorDash

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Founded: 2013
Location: San Francisco, California
Funding: $978 million

Brand claim: ”Your favorite restaurants, delivered.”

Founded by four Stanford students who previously worked at tech companies like Facebook, Square, and eBay, DoorDash helps small businesses to provide their customers with local delivery via its marketplace.

DoorDash benefitted the pandemic-induced demand for delivery services from and in Q2 of 2020, its revenue rose by 214% and monthly subscribers tripled.

Using a self-learning driver dispatch system and tech around restaurant preparation time, the app coordinates deliveries and reduces waiting time. DoorDash currently operates in over 4000 cities across the United States and Canada. The startup has over a million drivers, around 400,000 merchants, and 18 million customers.

The company went public and hit the market in December 2020 with a big splash. DoorDash priced its IPO at $102 per share, and currently, its stock is trading at around 50% higher.

  1. Indigo

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Founded: 2013
Location: Boston, Massachusetts
Funding: $1.09 billion

Brand claim: “What if a healthier planet began with a healthier farm? From questions we grow.”

Indigo is an AgriTech startup that focuses on providing microbial technology for plant protection, which is essential in the food production process. The company developed a technology that improves yield potential, helps to achieve a superior milling quality, and protects plants against environmental stresses.

The startup began its operation in 2014 under the name Symbiota. IT developed microbial seed treatments that helped farmers grow corn, rice, soybeans, and wheat without using too many fertilizers, fungicides, and other chemicals.

Indigo then expanded its business lines to become an Amazon for agriculture, running a number of marketplaces that connect grain growers, buyers, and shippers. The newest ambition of Indigo is the carbon sequestration program that trains farmers on how to use “regenerative” farming practices.

While it seems super-scientific, this could impact us all in terms of the quality and price of food products.

Sports Tech

  1. HomeCourt

home_court_hero_image

Founded: 2017
Location: San Jose, California
Funding: 13 million

Brand claim: “Upgrade your game.”

The company behind HomeCourt.ai is NEX Team Inc., founded by second-time entrepreneurs and ex-Apple engineers - David Lee, Philip Lam, Reggie Chan, and Tony Sung. These people have worked together for over a decade and delivered some outstanding fantastic user experiences with technologies. David Lee’s last startup was EditGrid, acquired by Apple in 2008.

HomeCourt is an interactive basketball iOS app that helps users to improve their skills like a personal skills trainer that analyzes your performance and provides guided feedback. All players need to do is position an iPhone or iPad camera on a basketball court, and the app’s AI will recognize the rim, count swishes, and allow players to compete with others around the world.

HomeCourt is used by players in 200+ countries around the world, with backers such as Mark Cuban, the NBA, and Steve Nash. It has been widely featured in the press and was recognized as Fast Company’s 2020 Most Innovative Company in Sports, Time’s Best Inventions of 2019, and winner of a 2019 Apple Design Award.

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What’s in store for U.S.-based startups in 2021?

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2021 is going to be an exciting year for U.S.-based startups. Those that are planning an expansion to European markets will have to deal with a host of new regulations such as the Digital Services Act, Digital Markets Act, or Data Governance Act. At home, they’re bound to face some more regulation as well.

Apart from that, we’re likely to see more products built with innovative technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), Virtual and Augmented Reality, and the Internet of Things. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact our daily lives, new startups will arise to help us deal with the lockdown-induced problems and improve our daily lives.

At MasterBorn, we have helped many startups disrupt their industries and know what it takes to build a successful product. If you’re a startup founder looking for support in technology, don’t hesitate to drop me a line on LinkedIn or at malgorzata.g@masterborn.com.

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