These companies have a good chance of finding themselves in the right place at the right time with the right technology in 2022.
As 2022 begins, there’s more attention on early-stage startups than ever before. According to Crunchbase, venture investors bet $201 billion on 8,000 early-stage startups last year; that’s way up from the $101 billion invested in 2020. (VCs bet $643 billion on startups overall in 2021—10 times the amount invested in 2012.)
We’ve compiled a list of some of these promising companies in a variety of industries, confining our picks to startups that have raised either seed rounds or Series A funding. In fields that range from robotics, cybersecurity, and quantum computing to farming, health, and beauty, these are the ones to keep your eye on in 2022.
Palo Alto, California
As supply chain problems continue, we’re increasingly conscious of how the things we want to purchase get manufactured and delivered. The manufacturing process is highly automated in some sectors, but factories are just beginning to use computer vision artificial intelligence to keep an eye on the whole process. Founded by Andrew Ng—who was cofounder and head of Google Brain and, earlier, chief scientist at Baidu—Landing AI provides a tech platform and AI tools that manufacturers can use to quickly detect (with the help of sensors) product defects and systems breakdowns on their production lines. In December, Landing AI closed a large $57 million Series A round led by McRock, with funding from the investment arms of Intel and Samsung.
Palo Alto, California
Cyberattacks have increased as more companies of all sizes run their businesses out of the cloud. Confluera, which has raised $29 million, is a new kind of cybersecurity company that’s uniquely set up to help such businesses. The company’s cybersecurity platform, which is itself delivered from the cloud, helps enterprises defend against cyberattacks, which are continually evolving and becoming more sophisticated. Confluera’s secret sauce may be its combination of threat detection, threat analytics, and cloud-security solutions that are often siloed off as separate fixes.
Quantum computing is stuck between a nascent technology and one with real-world applications. Scientists within academia and within tech companies are slowly but surely working through the problems that have kept quantum computers from rivaling traditional supercomputers. Research breakthroughs by scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University led to the launch of QuEra Computing, which uses a unique quantum architecture and laser techniques to arrange and direct the tiny qubits, or quantum bits, in its 256-qubit system. (Experts say quantum systems must exceed 100 qubits before beginning to outperform conventional supercomputers in some types of problems.) In November, the company emerged from stealth with $17 million in venture capital, raised from Rakuten, Day One Ventures, Frontiers Capital, and others. QuEra says it’s already generated $11 million in revenue, and recently received a research award from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
Google Ventures has put lots of investment money behind health and biosciences startups over the years, with some real successes. One of its bets, the gene-editing company Editas, raised $94 million in its 2016 IPO. This past summer, GV co-led a massive $315 million funding round for the gene-editing startup Prime Medicine as it exited stealth. Prime has developed gene-editing technology that it likens to a “DNA word processor” with a search-and-replace function. The editor finds the underlying genetic causes of diseases then fixes the problem gene without harming the rest of the genome.
Perhaps the main thing keeping cryptocurrency from mainstream use is that it lacks the scale and the infrastructure needed to support tens of millions of transactions per day. Startups are stepping in to change that. MoonPay operates a crypto trading platform that allows people to buy different kinds of cryptocurrency at one app or site. It also integrates with other companies, such as crypto wallets, exchanges, decentralized finance platforms, and NFT marketplaces, to let them offer the same service to their customers. MoonPay’s valuation shot up to $3.4 billion after it raised $555 million in a Series A round led by Tiger Global Management and Coate. The capital will help MoonPay scale its global footprint and give more people access to the emerging crypto economy, according to cofounder and CEO Ivan Soto-Wright.
There’s a growing awareness in the scientific community that psychedelic agents, long a taboo in the West, have real potential for helping people with things like anxiety and depression. Johns Hopkins Medicine opened a specialized research center in 2019 to study the clinical possibilities. CaamTech is among the more promising of a small cadre of startups developing new drug compounds based on psychedelics. The company is looking for effective combinations of tryptamines, which are similar to the core compounds in magic mushrooms (psilocybin) and LSD. And it has some believers; CaaMTech closed a $22 million Series A round in September, led by Noetic, a group of venture funds launched by Grey House Partners to invest in early-stage psychedelic and CNS companies.
Kansas City, Missouri
Integrated Roadways produces a patented roadway technology called Smart Pavement that lets vehicles passing over it connect to the internet and receive real-time traffic, road, and accident information. In the future, the company says, the interconnecting pavement “slabs” may be able to provide wireless power to cars, as well as melt away snow and ice on the surface. They can also sense the speed, weight, and congestion of vehicles—data which could be used to help cities manage traffic. Integrated is in the middle of installing its roadway technology at an intersection near Denver, where it has an agreement with the Colorado Department of Transportation. With America’s infrastructure eroding, and with more electric vehicles coming quickly, Integrated Roadways could be in a unique position to deliver on the promise of smart roads for smart cars.
Farmers around the world are under increasing pressure to show food buyers that their methods are safe, fair, and sustainable. This agricultural IoT startup aims to help farmers digitize and quantify the business of growing crops. The company’s product is a mobile platform that collects (via physical sensors in the fields) and analyzes all kinds of data, from hydration levels to farm equipment status to weed growth and even crop market prices. xFarm raised 3 million pounds (more than $4 million) in a 2019 Series A round led by United Ventures.
Redwood City, California
Serve Robotics’s history is a bit complicated. The technology for its small delivery robots was originally developed inside Postmates—then Postmates was acquired by Uber, then Uber spun out Serve, then Uber invested in Serve. Got that? Anyway, Serve’s little four-wheeled courier bots use autonomous AI to navigate sidewalks, crosswalks, and even small curbs to deliver products right to consumers’ front doors. They can deliver small to midsize goods such as food orders at a much smaller cost (including to the environment) than a 2-ton car. The company recently closed a $13 million funding round that included money from Uber and 7 Ventures, the venture capital arm of 7-Eleven.
KIDDO BY GOOD PARENTS
COVID-19 has exacerbated the gaps in the healthcare system’s ability to take care of children. This has led to an increased investor interest in digital health companies focused on pediatric care. One such company is Good Parents, which makes a wrist wearable for kids called Kiddo. The device tracks key vitals, like heart rate, skin temperature, blood oxygen levels, activity, and sleep. Parents can follow the data in real time via a smartphone app, which can provide a holistic look at the child’s health. Pediatricians can also access the data, which might help them see problems developing. The company has been burning small amounts of seed money since 2015, but in early January 2022 closed a $16 million round led by Mojo Ventures to fund its next phase of growth.
Blink offers companies a technology platform that makes it possible for frontline (non-office) workers to gain access to company resources (IT, HR, productivity, communications, etc.) using a simple app and without having to log in to each one. The company manages integration so the customer company’s IT staff doesn’t have to. Blink took on new customers rapidly since launching its app in 2018. It recently raised $20 million in a Series A round led by Next47, with participation from early investors Partech and Techstars, bringing its funding total to $30.7 million.
Tel Aviv, Israel
Nobody likes passwords, a mode of authentication developed back in the 1960s. But we can’t seem to move on—not fast enough, anyway. Businesses are especially susceptible to password fatigue: Customers often give up on registering or logging in because of password problems. Transmit Security helps enterprises allow their customers to log in without passwords, with alternative means such as UX drag-and-drop or device biometrics. The company says it has a strong foothold among large U.S. banks, and has been rapidly taking on new customers in the U.S., Europe, and Asia. It pulled in a massive $543 million funding round based on a $2.3 billion valuation last summer, bringing its total to $583 million.
One in four Americans are on Medicaid. But the system for taking care of these patients is less than efficient, which costs the insurance companies that administer the plans money. Waymark uses a tech platform to sync up health providers, community-based caregivers, and patients in ways that it claims improves access to care, takes better advantage of preventive care, and ultimately improves outcomes. The company just raised $45 million in a Series A round led by Andreessen Horowitz, NEA, and Lux.
New York City
Within a current wave of “clean-beauty” startups, Saie is a standout. The startup sells a broad line of makeup and skin care products, which the company markets effectively and sells at relatively low prices. In late 2021, the company crossed over into fashion with Saie Vintage, for which it collaborates with female-founded vintage curators to sell used or homemade clothing. Gwyneth Paltrow is an investor in the company’s seed round.
Online dating represents a huge social and cultural transformation. By some accounts, more than half of relationships start with an app or dating site. And yet dating tech still has real limitations. So Syncd, founded by sisters Jessica and Louella Alderson, has a novel approach that leans on science a bit more than other apps. Instead of the face-value, swipe-right-swipe-left routine, So Synced’s app matches people based on their Myers-Briggs Personality Type, which is derived from a five-minute test. Then, using an advanced algorithm (aka secret sauce), the platform matches people who might have some commonalities. The company, which started in 2021, says it already has more than 100K users and has paired more than a thousand couples.