1. Essential, from the creator of Android, is gunning for Apple and Samsung.
What it is: A consumer gadget company founded by Andy Rubin that’s designed a new smartphone to challenge Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy devices. It calls that gadget, simply, the Essential Phone.
Rubin is best known as the guy who created Android, sold it to Google, and nurtured it into the most popular smartphone operating system on the planet. He left Google back in 2014, founded a startup incubator, and then helped launch Essential under its umbrella.
After working on Essential’s phone in stealth for years, Rubin unveiled it in May. The device is just the start of the startup’s ambitions. The company also has a smart home hub in the works that’s intended to control everything from smart light bulbs to connected toasters.
Funding: $330 million from Redpoint Ventures and others, according to Bloomberg.
2. Brandless wants to be the new ‘Procter & Gamble for millennials.’
What it is: A consumer packaged goods company that offers everything from dish soap to olive oil to kitchen knives. The company offers all of its products for a single low price of $3 each through its website.
Officially launched in early July, Brandless is making a bet that you don’t care as much about the brands you consume as you think. None of its products are from name brands; instead they all carry its “brandless” private label. Rather than having a big logo emblazoned on them with a bunch of marketing hype, the packages Brandless’ products come in just say what the products are and list their attributes.
Funding: $50 million from investors including Cowboy Ventures, Redpoint Ventures, and Google Ventures.
3. Forward is a new doctor’s office that’s like an Apple Store meets ‘Westworld’.
What it is: A futuristic medical practice designed by Google and Uber alums that’s been described as a doctor’s office from “Westworld.”
Launched in January, Forward offers a futuristic take on the popular concierge medical practice model, complete with state-of-the-art diagnostics tools, an artificial-intelligence system that listens and takes notes for physicians, and a pricey $149 monthly membership.
4. NomadicVR thinks the future of entertainment will be an arcade.
What it is: A creator of virtual reality arcades. Customers can strap on VR headsets and PC backpacks and roam around rooms in virtual reality.
NomadicVR emerged from stealth in March. It’s got good timing — many investors are betting that VR will be a big part of entertainment’s future. The early reviews of NomadicVR’s arcade experience is that it’s “mind-blowing” and will convert even the skeptics.
Funding: $6 million from Horizons Ventures, Maveron, Paul Allen’s Vulcan Capital, among others.
5. Hound Labs thinks it can smell pot on your breath.
What it is: A startup that’s developing one of the first breathalyzers for weed. Its device, dubbed the Hound marijuana breathalyzer, detects and measures THC — a chemical compound responsible for marijuana’s psychoactive effects.
When users blow into the Hound marijuana breathalyzer’s mouthpiece, their breath passes into a single-use, disposable cartridge. A chemical reaction separates the THC molecules from the rest of their breath, allowing an automated mechanism to calculate the amount of THC present. The company just started its first clinical trial of the Hound marijuana breathalyzer, and it expects to release the gadget by the end of the year.
Hound Labs is initially planning to market its product to law enforcement agencies. The startup’s work has gained the backing of Benchmark, a Silicon Valley venture firm that was also and early investor in Facebook, Snapchat, and Uber.
Funding: $8.1 million from Benchmark.
6. DeepMap wants to help self-driving cars ‘see’ the road.
What it is: A startup that’s building maps for autonomous vehicles.
One of the hardest parts of developing self-driving cars is making sure they have the data they need to be able to “see” the roads. That’s where DeepMap comes in. Founded by a team of ex-Googlers, it plans to license its maps to large-scale automakers.
DeepMap isn’t the only company trying to tackle maps for the cars of the future. But because it’s a small startup, it doesn’t have the same conflicts a lot of automakers have and can license its technology to anyone.
Funding: $32 million from investors including Andreessen Horowitz and Accel.
7. Redwood Materials is a stealth startup with Tesla ties.
What it is: A mysterious startup that appears to be doing something in recycling.
Redwood Materials’ website is sparse. There’s little there besides a slogan — “unlock the value of your materials” — and a brief description — “Advanced technology and process development for materials recycling, remanufacturing, and reuse.”
Everything else about the startup remains an enigma, including why two top Tesla execs are running the company. An April financing filing listed JB Straubel, Tesla’s CTO, and Andrew Stevenson, the electric car company’s head of special projects, as executive officers of the recycling startup.
Funding: $2 million from unknown investors.
8. Virta Health wants to reverse type 2 diabetes.
What it is: An online medical company focused on creating individualized diabetes treatments.
The latest venture from Sami Inkinen, who founded Trulia and Zillow, was inspired by his personal life. Virta Health hopes to tackle Type 2 diabetes, which Inkinen himself was diagnosed with in 2004.
Aided by physicians, coaches and algorithms, each regimen Virta designs for its clients “addresses the underlying biochemistry of diabetes and shifts the paradigm from management to reversal,” Virta says. The aim is to do all that without medications or surgery.
Funding: $37 million from Venrock, Allen & Company, Obvious Ventures, and others.
9. Cover wants to bring small, pre-fabricated living spaces into the backyards of the country’s hottest real estate markets.
What it is: An architecture-meets-tech company that is planning, designing and manufacturing living spaces using machine learning and methods borrowed from the aerospace and automotive industries.
Cover unveiled its first pre-fab home this spring. The company can make a range of spaces, including backyard studios, in-law units, home offices, and guest rooms, all collectively known as accessory dwelling units. These units, which range in size from 300 to 1,200 square feet, are meant to increase the housing supply in cities where the cost of living is increasingly prohibitive.
Funding: $1.6 million from General Catalyst and Khosla Ventures.
10. Misty Robotics wants to build a robot for everyone.
What it is: A company that’s working on home and office robots.
Misty is a spin-off of Sphero, the company that built the Star Wars BB-8 droid and showed the world how fun a toy robot can be. Instead of toys, Misty is developing practical robots.
“These robots will be seen and treated as our friends, our teammates, and a part of our families — performing helpful tasks, providing safety, and interacting with humans in entertaining and friendly ways that have only been seen before in science fiction,” the company said at its launch.
Funding: $11.5 million from Venrock, Foundry Group, and others.
If you are an international business looking to scale in the US, check out the acceleration programs by MarketFit.