WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 25TH, 2017
Profits Are Not Enough: 11 Impactful Startups that You Should Know About
Entrepreneurship is not fun and games, and as an early-stage entrepreneur, non-stop work and rejection will become your new normal.
If there’s one thing we have learned over seven years at the Founder Institute, with over 2000 companies launched, it is this:
In order to power through the hard times of entrepreneurship, money cannot be a founder’s main source of motivation.
As Elon Musk once famously said, “Being an entrepreneur is like eating glass and staring into the abyss of death.” Only the most passionate founders will survive.
As a result, in the Founder Institute’s application process, we don’t require that applicants share their startup ideas with us (we focus on founders more than companies). However, one question that we do ask, and that we do take very seriously, is this:
Why do you want to be an entrepreneur?
This is one of our favorite questions to ask, because if you don’t have a good reason ‘why’ you are building a company, you will never have a good “what.” For example, if you don’t have a good ‘why’, you will have a very hard time surviving the challenges, developing a strong vision for the business, and pitching the business to potential team members, customers, and investors. It will be easy for people to see that your “heart” is not in the company.
Luckily, for every entrepreneur trying to make a quick buck, we have seen nearly as many entrepreneurs trying to build a potentially impactful company. Check out some of the companies tackling large problems from across the globe below:
Sergio Ballester, a Graduate of the Costa Rica Founder Institute, is the founder and CEO of Indigo Drones, which was launched in 2014. Indigo Drones has designed a specialized drone that uses machine learning software for aerial mapping and crop monitoring, helping farmers improve their profits by increasing yields and reducing inputs, and helping the environment by preventing water wastage and overuse of fertilizers. As the application of traditional agricultural methods in tropical areas wastes too many resources, increases costs for farmers, and is harmful for the environment, Ballester has set out to help farmers move into the digital age of precision agriculture with his unique product. Ballester’s efforts have not gone unnoticed, as he was listed as an “Innovator Under 35” by the MIT Technology Review.
Udemy is one of the world’s largest online learning platforms, where more than 10 million people currently take courses in everything from programming to yoga to photography and everything in between. Founded by Silicon Valley Founder Institute Graduates Gagan Biyani and Eren Bali in 2009, Udemy features over 40,000 courses, each taught by an experienced instructor and available on demand so users can learn at their own pace, at any time, and on any device. Since its inception, Udemy has raised considerable funding which it plans to use to continue its global expansion. At the moment, Udemy provides courses in about 80 languages, and nearly two-thirds of its seven million users are from outside the U.S.
“We believe education should be open for everyone, not just people who can afford an expensive device.” – Gagan Biyani
Launched in 2014 upon graduation of the Montreal Founder Institute by Francois Poirier, MakerBloks develops color-coded building blocks that introduce children to the world of electronics. With a uniquely versatile design, MakerBloks enables children to build real electronic circuits, lie detectors, burglar alarms, keyboard, memory games, and much more. What sets MakerBloks apart, if not above, other educational toys is that it combines physical building blocks with a storytelling app that encourages kids to build with their hands. The company has won numerous awards and titles since launching, including Winner of TechCrunch Montreal’s Pitch-Off 2015 and the Editor’s Choice Blue Ribbon at Maker Faire Bay Area 2015, among others.
“The best advice I could give to any to anyone who wants to launch a startup is do one thing and do it right. Don’t get lost in features.” – Francois Poirier
Ovamba, a Graduate of the Johannesburg Founder Institute, was created to support Central African economies by improving access to credit for the small and medium enterprise (sme) market. Co-founded by FI Grad Marvin R.R. Cole in 2013, Ovamba’s mission is to reduce the cost and complexity that is commonly associated with the traditional banking system, and pass the savings onto its members and borrowers.
In a study conducted last year, Nigeria was revealed to be the world’s most attractive frontier market for investors, followed by Kenya and Ghana. Ovamba hopes to capitalize on this growing interest in investment opportunities in Africa, and with over $1 million in funding raised so far, continues to expand across the continent while providing additional loan and investment resources.
Founded by current CEO Heather Holmes in 2013, TapGenes takes a personalized approach to health, turning a user’s family health information into easy-to-understand preventative medicine, and helps manage chronic conditions and fight diseases before they happen. Holmes was inspired to launch the company after her father became very ill and her family faced numerous challenges to share his family medical history that impacted his treatment. While genetic testing continues to be a controversial subject, that hasn’t stopped TapGenes’ success, as the company recently won the top prize at the RootsTech Innovator Showdown, one of the top innovator contests in the world.
“We see ourselves as a connector, empowering consumers and their families and connecting them to the right services or help that they might need.” – Heather Holmes
Energyly was founded by Dayal Nathan in 2013 and is a Graduate of the Bangalore Founder Institute. Formerly eMeter, Energyly employs energy analytics to help businesses, offices, and homes reduce their power cost with a simple user interface at an affordable price, to help increase productivity and profits. The company’s app works by first entering specific data, which then produces detailed energy analytics of power consumed and a prediction of electricity to be consumed for the next five years, even offering month-on-month and year-on-year comparisons. As energy consumption continues to be a hot topic in sustainability discussion, Energyly’s product is a welcome solution to a pervasive problem, and their efforts have won them a “Best Startup – Energy” Award by CII Startupreneurs and “Best Utility App” Award by Global Mobile App Summit & Awards.
Founded in 2015 by Gregorius Bimantoro, ProSehat is currently developing an online marketplace to help health consumers conveniently find and buy original products from a network of trusted pharmacies with online prescription from doctors and a user’s drug records. This Graduate of the Jakarta Founder Institute is on a mission to fill a major gap in the local Indonesian pharmacy marketplace. However, before even conceiving the idea for ProSehat, Bimantoro, himself a medical doctor, delved into the medical tech industry when he helped launch the medical Q&A site Tanyadok, which he describes as “a Quora for doctors”, and features content provided by lecturers and graduates. Despite having only launched last year, ProSehat is already making a name for itself in the startup industry, and was the grand prize winner of Seedstars Jakarta in September of 2015.
GoFar was founded by Danny Adams, a Graduate of the Sydney Founder Institute, in 2013. The company has produced a simple device that gives drivers feedback about their driving efficiency, designed to help organisations nudge their drivers towards safer and more efficient driving styles, with the ultimate goal of no wasted fuel and zero accidents. Originally conceived by Adams, himself an experienced engineer, GoFar creates personalised coaching programmes that train drivers to improve and motivates drivers with a unique mix of financial and non-financial incentives to apply their new skills in a manner that’s safe for both the driver and the environment.
“The advice I’d now give any other tech entrepreneur is to be aware of the startup ecosystem in their city and take full advantage of it from early on.” – Danny Adams
2houses is a web platform designed to help divorced parents communicate with one another about what is the most important in their lives: their children. Founded by Gill Ruidant, a Graduate of the Brussels Founder Institute, 2houses’ unique service allows parents who are no longer married, living together or romantically involved, to deal with arrangements that can be complicated for separated parents, including organizing child custody, sharing reports about school and medical information, and tracking expenses. As a divorced parent himself, Ruidant is aware of how split guardians try their best to avoid the personal tension, stress, discussions and arguments that so often come with divorce, and has used his personal experiences to build a platform that allows separated parents to communicate online on a neutral platform rather than talking face-to-face or over the phone.
AllCanCode is a Graduate of the Athens Founder Institute, and was founded by Kostas Karolemeas in 2014. Designed for both kids and adults (but mostly kids), AllCanCode builds adventure games for web and mobile applications that teach users how to code, building professional skills on in the process. Employing a graphical programming language involving building blocks instead of an awkward syntax and a built-in guide that teaches the user the art of programming, kids can actually write code while playing fun and entertaining games. Last October, AllCanCode was selected as one of six winners of the third “Learning Innovation Hub (iHub) Pitch Games” held at Adobe Systems, by the Silicon Valley Education Foundation (SVEF).
“Computers are the machines that empower our minds. Producing more developers is not the solution. We need to teach everyone how to solve computational problems without a developer.” – Kostas Karolemeas
Women are, unfortunately, too often left out in the world of entrepreneurship. However, it was exactly this situation that motivated Tara Roberts, a Graduate of the Santiago Founder Institute, to launch Girltank in 2012. After traveling and interviewing women around the world, Roberts discovered that there was no global network to support tech-minded women across borders. To address this, Roberts co-founded Girltank, a community hub and storytelling platform designed to support female social entrepreneurs from around the world. It turns out that this was a good idea, as Girltank has since gone on to receive numerous awards and accolades, including the Daily Beast/Newsweek-Toyota-Women in the World Foundation’s Women of Impact $50,000 award, and the Youtopia Grant.
“I believe it’s time for a woman-led movement to change the world focused on principals like compassion, cooperation, and empathy.” – Tara Roberts