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The Next Billion-Dollar Startups 2018

October 15, 2018

Where are the next unicorns? They’re coming from a wide range of industries—from e-sports and online education, to trucking and 3-D printing, to luggage and shoes.

To compile our annual list of the Next Billion-Dollar Startups, we teamed up with TrueBridge Capital Partners to ask nearly 200 venture capital firms to nominate the companies they thought were most likely to become unicorns. We narrowed down the field from over 100 businesses to the 25 below by looking at revenue, funding and their most recent valuation. They’re presented in alphabetical order.

Amplitude
Founders: Curtis Liu, Spenser Skates (CEO), Jeffrey Wang
Equity Raised: $57 million
Estimated 2018 Revenue: $45 million
Lead Investors: Battery Ventures, Benchmark Capital, IVP
Skates and Liu, Forbes Under 30 alumni, cofounded Amplitude on Liu’s bedroom floor in 2012. The San Francisco-based startup aims to help companies build better products through advanced analytics. For Peloton, for example, they relied on data to help create a virtual community of cyclists on their in-home bikes to keep people interacting with the product. “What we do is we say, ‘We know if you improve this feature, your users will be happier and pay you more money and be more engaged,” Skates says.

Anduril Industries
Founders: Joe Chen, Matt Grimm, Palmer Luckey, Brian Schimpf (CEO), Trae Stephens
Equity Raised: $58.5 million
Estimated 2018 Revenue: $4 million
Lead Investors: Founders Fund, 8VC
Anduril, which was cofounded by Palmer Luckey, the man behind Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, is a defense firm. Its main product is a system of thousands of sensors that uses machine learning to identify what’s happening in the field. Today, it is building a “virtual border wall” to detect people crossing the border rather than animals or other things moving in the distance. “If you can build a platform like that, you can build a lot of cool things on top of it,” says Luckey.

Auth0
Founders: Eugenio Pace (CEO), Matias Woloski
Equity Raised: $110 million
Estimated 2018 Revenue: $50 million
Lead Investors: Bessemer Venture Partners, Trinity Ventures, Meritech Capital Partners, Sapphire Ventures
Setting up a website’s login feature can be time consuming and complex—but very necessary. Auth0 offers software to easily build a basic login function and then customize it with features like universal logins and custom domains. Since its start in 2013, Auth0 has grown rapidly, doubling their revenue and hiring 140 new employees in 2017 alone. With five offices around the globe and employees in 32 countries, it serves customers like News Corp, Mazda and HarperCollins.

Away
Founders: Steph Korey (CEO), Jen Rubio
Equity Raised: $81 million
Estimated 2018 Revenue: $150 million
Lead Investors: Accel, Comcast Ventures, Forerunner Ventures, Global Founders Capital
Steph Korey and Jen Rubio, Forbes Under 30 alumni, founded Away in 2015 after Rubio’s luggage broke on a trip, and she couldn’t find a replacement she wanted. So they launched their own brand, designed to appeal to Millennials with features like ejectable batteries for phone charging and TSA-approved locks, at a lower price point than high-end brands like Tumi or Rimowa. Its basic carry-on costs $225, for example, while its “bigger carry-on” goes for $245; both come in 10 colors. Since then, the New York City-based company has increased revenue more than 10-fold, opened its own stores and expanded into adjacent product lines like backpacks.

Braze
Founders: Jon Hyman, Bill Magnuson (CEO)
Equity Raised: $170 million
Estimated 2018 Revenue: $50 million
Lead Investors: Battery Ventures, Blumberg Capital, ICONIQ, Meritech Capital, Rally Ventures
After someone orders a pizza from Domino’s, Braze gets to work behind-the-scenes, powering the alerts customers receive on their phone as their order gets prepared. That’s possible because Domino’s uses Braze’s web-based platform that can help brands send personalized push messages and marketing messages. Domino’s isn’t the only one on board. Citi is a customer. So are Lyft, Yelp and Deliveroo.

Cloud9
Founders: Jack Etienne (CEO), Paullie Etienne
Equity Raised: $73 million
Estimated 2018 Revenue: $22 million
Lead Investors: Valor Equity Partners, Founders Fund, Craft Ventures
Jack Etienne had a newborn baby when his wife Paullie suggested he quit his lead sales position at San Francisco-based Crunchyroll and build a competitive team in the volatile esports industry. “We decided as a family, this is what we need to do, I need to take this risk,” Etienne says. He and his wife are now the cofounders of Cloud9, the most popular team in the US and UK. The company competes in various esports leagues, and just like traditional pro sports, better performance from Cloud9 teams bring in increasingly lucrative sponsorships, like its deals with Red Bull and HP. 2018 was a banner year, with championships in top games like Counter-Strike and Overwatch. Now it plans to build a 20,000-to-30,000 square foot training facility in Los Angeles and expand its popular merchandising line (mousepads, headsets, jerseys).

Couchbase
Founders: Steve Yen, Dustin Sallings, Damien Katz, J. Chris Anderson, Jan Lehnardt
Equity Raised: $155 million
Estimated 2018 Revenue: $70+ million
Lead Investors: Accel Partners, Mayfield, Sorenson Capital, North Bridge Venture Partners
Couchbase is an enterprise software platform that lets users build apps with “NoSQL” databases. NoSQL databases are a shift from traditional ways of organizing data, allowing developers to add users quickly and create more responsive UI interfaces (sometimes at the cost of sophistication and flexibility). Their platform has won over customers from Disney to Wells Fargo.

Coursera
Founders: Daphne Koller, Andrew Ng
Equity Raised: $210 million
Estimated 2018 Revenue: $140 million
Lead Investors: Kleiner Perkins, New Enterprise Associates
A pioneer of massive open online courses, known as MOOCs, Coursera was founded in 2012 by two idealistic Stanford computer science professors. The original idea: put the best courses taught by the world’s greatest professors online and make them available to the world for free. Today Coursera makes money three ways. It charges learners for course completion certificates, collects from enterprise customers that offer Coursera classes to employees, and splits tuition revenue with schools like the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Michigan that offer online degrees through Coursera’s platform. The world’s leading MOOC provider, it has 150 international university partners, 1,400 enterprise customers and 36 million registered users.

Flywire
Founders: Iker Marcaide
Equity Raised: $143 million
Estimated 2018 Revenue: $75 million
Lead Investors: Bain Capital Ventures, F-Prime Capital, Spark Capital, Temasek
Boston-based fintech company Flywire helps universities, hospitals and businesses receive payment in foreign currencies, making money transfers cheaper and faster. Here’s how it works: If a Chinese student at say, Boston University needs to pay $50,000 tuition, she’d traditionally need to pay in U.S. dollars through a wire, incurring foreign-exchange-rate fees of 3% to 5%, plus a 10-day settlement time. Through Flywire, she can pay in yuan and through apps like Alipay or WeChat. Flywire’s software handles complex currency routing, offers rates of 1% to 2% and settles transactions in two days. CEO Mike Massaro says revenue is growing nearly 50% a year.

Honey
Founders: Ryan Hudson, George Ruan
Equity Raised: $55 million
Estimated 2018 Revenue: $100 million
Lead Investors: Citi Ventures, Anthos Capital
A free browser extension, Honey gives over 10 million active users discount codes and cashback rewards for purchases from a host of online vendors. Its business model resembles other coupon and cashback programs: retailers pay Honey to distribute discount codes, relying on the promotions to generate more sales. Honey’s expanded its offerings in recent years, giving users access to “shopping lists” that provide the price history of various items, similar to a flight-tracking app. Despite doubling its user base in the past year to 10 million, Honey operates with no advertising.

KeepTruckin
Founders: Ryan Johns, Obaid Khan, Shoaib Makani (CEO)
Equity Raised: $80 million
Estimated 2018 Revenue: $50 million
Lead Investors: GV, Index Ventures, IVP, Scale Venture Partners
Trucking is a giant industry--with more than $700 billion a year in freight revenue, according to the American Trucking Association--yet until recently much of the required paperwork was done on paper. San Francisco-based KeepTruckin’s big idea: bring truckers and small trucking firms into the digital age, allowing them to log their hours and comply with regulations about the hours they drive on their phones. As the company has expanded, it has added sensors and video to its electronic-logging device that helps truckers drive more safely and efficiently. Because of the risk of fatal injuries, Makani says, the technology can not only save money but lives.

Lemonade
Founders: Daniel Schreiber (CEO), Shai Wininger
Equity Raised: $180 million
Estimated 2018 Revenue: $50 million
Lead Investors: Aleph, AXA, General Catalyst, GV, Sequoia Capital Israel, Softbank Group
Lemonade is a startup insurer in the property-and-casualty area. The New York-based company uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve underwriting and pay claims faster. It takes a flat fee to 25% of customer premiums, with the rest earmarked for claims payouts; any surplus divvied up to charities of customers’ choosing. In 2017, it gave back 10%. Inspired by the work of behavioral economist Dan Ariely, Schreiber cold-called him every night until Ariely agreed to meet and, then, to join the team as chief behavioral officer. “We said, ‘We never want to make money by denying claims,” explains Schreiber, an outsider to the insurance industry before launching the business. “We want to build a model that doesn’t have conflict of interest at its core.”

Mapbox
Founders: Eric Gunderson (CEO)
Equity Raised: $228 million
Estimated 2018 Revenue: $100 million
Lead Investors: Softbank Vision Fund, Foundry Group, DGJ Growth, DBL Partners and Thrive Capital
Mapbox is challenging Google’s dominance with a simpler, plug-and-play version of a map. Its map is now the backbone of apps from Snapchat, The Weather Channel, Tinder and Facebook. Mapbox starts with a freemium model, so developers can experiment with its technology, and if they like it, Mapbox charges for increased use. Its Tesla contract, for example, is in the millions. Mapbox envisions its cartography powering everything from autonomous vehicles to augmented reality. “What we are building, this is going to be an atom into how everything is about to relate,” says CEO and founder Eric Gundersen. “I’m getting to touch the craziest industries out there that are going through transformation.”

Markforged
Founders: David Benhaim, Greg Mark (CEO)
Equity Raised: $57 million
Estimated 2018 Revenue: $70 million
Lead Investors:Matrix Partners, Siemens Next47
Markforged makes 3-D printers. When Greg Mark founded the company in 2013, most 3-D printer companies were cranking out resins and plastics. He focused, instead, on carbon, which is stronger and more suitable for a variety of industrial uses. Today, the company–one of a number of 3-D printing startups–makes printers for both carbon and metal. “Plastics are not strong enough for industrial tooling,” Mark says. “You can get strong parts in an affordable price in carbon fiber. It is the factory of the future.”

Pendo
Founders: Todd Olson (CEO), Erik Troan, Eric Boduch, Rahul Jain
Equity Raised: $106 million
Estimated 2018 Revenue: $20.5 million
Lead Investors: Battery Ventures, Spark Capital, Meritech Capital Partners, Sapphire Ventures
When Todd Olson was toiling away as an executive at Colorado-based Rally Software, he “lived the pain” of having poor insight into the way customers actually used the enterprise software products his team spent time building. That vexation prompted him to cofound Pendo. It offers web and mobile based analytics software for businesses to track and chart customer usage; its clients include Sprinklr, Zendesk and Realtor.com.

Podium
Founders: Eric Rea (CEO), Dennis Steele
Equity Raised: $96.5 million
Estimated 2018 Revenue: $60 million
Lead Investors: Accel, IVP
Communicating with a business should be as easy as texting a friend,” says Podium cofounder Eric Rea. He saw how his father, an owner of a few small, tire shops in Canada, struggled to gather customer feedback and as a result found it difficult to be discovered online on review sites like Yelp, Facebook and Google. Podium sells software that gathers customer communication—from text messages and Facebook’s and Google’s messaging apps—and funnels them to one feed that the company can easily manage and respond to. Today, the software manages more than just reviews and also allows customers to inquire directly about anything including store hours or available appointments.

Poshmark
Founders: Manish Chandra (CEO), Tracy Sun, Gautam Golwala, Chetan Pungaliya
Equity Raised: $160 million
Estimated 2018 Revenue: $130-140 million
Lead Investors: Mayfield Fund, Menlo Ventures, GGV Capital
Originally created as an app to re-sell women’s clothes, Poshmark has grown from 1,000 users in 2012 to over 40 million today. It’s expanded from its core of women’s fashion into men’s, kids, plus sizes and even luxury and cosmetics. Poshmark takes a 20% cut of every sale, which puts the company on track to bring in an estimated $130 million in revenue.

Skillz
Founders: Casey Chafkin, Andrew Paradise (CEO)
Equity Raised: $53 million
Estimated 2018 Revenue: $358 million
Lead Investors: Accomplice, Wildcat Capital Management, Liberty Global Ventures, Telstra Ventures
“I wish Skillz had existed when I was younger,” laments Skillz cofounder and CEO Andrew Paradise, 36. Back then, it was harder to find fairly run online games offering prizes; Skillz provides software for game developers to easily construct multiplayer and tournament modes. Over 2 million tournaments are played daily, contests featuring games of solitaire, scrabble and dominoes. Skillz takes 15% of every dollar that the tournaments and multiplayer contests draw.

Sonder
Founders: Francis Davidson (CEO), Lucas Pellan
Equity Raised: $140 million
Estimated 2018 Revenue: $75 million
Lead Investors: Greenoaks Capital, Greylock Partners, Spark Capital
Airbnb popularized the idea of staying in someone’s apartment, but Sonder wants that experience to feel more like a hotel than sleeping in a stranger’s home. The company is turning apartments into “Sonder spaces,” complete with a concierge and always fresh towels. The over 3,000 units it rents to vacationers through Airbnb, Expedia and other travel sites have put the six-year-old company on a $100 million run rate as it heads into 2019. “My goal isn’t to build a billion dollar company,” says CEO Francis Davidson and a Forbes Under 30 alum. “My goal is to build the future of hospitality.”

Thirdlove
Founders: David Spector (co-CEO), Heidi Zak (co-CEO)
Equity Raised: $30 million
Estimated 2018 Revenue: $160 million
Lead Investors: L Catterton, New Enterprise Associates
By combing through data and pioneering half-cup sizes, husband-and-wife founders Heidi Zak and David Spector revolutionized online shopping for lingerie. With Victoria’s Secret, long the dominant player in bras, ailing, there’s been an opportunity for new players, including ThirdLove, which now has 1% of the market despite raising only $30 million in venture capital.

Transfix
Founders: Drew McElroy (CEO), Jonathan Salama
Equity Raised: $78 million
Estimated 2018 Revenue: $100 million
Lead Investors: Canvas Ventures, New Enterprise Associates
Transfix uses technology like machine learning to help match carriers with freight, still largely an old-school business done by phone or email. Transfix’s online service saves time and cuts down waste by routing trucks more efficiently so they, for example, don’t drive empty to their next pickups. McElroy’s parents ran a traditional truck-brokerage company out of their home, and he spent his summers from the age of 12 booking carriers before taking over the family business as CEO after college. Transfix’s customers include Barnes & Noble, Unilever and Anheuser-Busch.

TripleLift
Founders: Eric Berry, Eric Berry, Shaun Zacharia, Ari Lewine
Equity Raised: $17 million
Estimated 2018 Revenue: $150 million
Lead Investors: True Ventures, Edison Partners and Entrepreneurs Roundtable Acceler
Internet ads aren’t works of art. TripleLift is trying to improve that a bit. Its online ad-exchange takes advertisements from say, Ford and puts on them across a number of sites from publishers such as News Corp. and Hearst—taking care to find less obtrusive and more natural places for the ads than traditional banner ads.

uBiome
Founders: Jessica Richman & Zachary Apte (Co-CEOs)
Equity Raised: $105 million
Estimated 2018 Revenue: $100 million
Lead Investors: OS Fund, 8VC
uBiome sells at-home test kits that use DNA sequencing paired with artificial intelligence and machine learning to analyze the microbes in a person’s stool or vagina. Two of the kits are sold to doctors and used to detect microorganisms associated with gut conditions like irritable bowel syndrome to metabolic disorders like obesity, to HPV strains. The third allows “citizen scientists” sample their own microbiomes for research or fun. Ubiome, based in San Francisco, was launched by Jessica Richman and Zachary Apte in 2012 with a crowdfunding campaign that raised $350,000 in 10 weeks. Former Novartis CEO Joe Jimenez joined uBiome’s board in August with plans to help the company mine its “microbiome database” for new drug targets in areas like autoimmune disorders and oncology.

VSCO
Founders: Joel Flory (CEO), Greg Lutze
Equity Raised: $70 million
Estimated 2018 Revenue: $50 million
Lead Investors: Accel, Glynn Capital
VSCO started as a way to shoot and edit mobile photos. But VSCO has been quietly amassing its own social network of creatives. Since introducing VSCO X, its premium paid version for $20, the company surpassed a million paid subscribers earlier this year, and its subscriber count is up 10 times from September 2017. Today 73% of VSCO’s users are under the age of 25. “Ultimately we believe creativity is not a market constraint,” says CEO and cofounder Joel Flory. “Our job there is to unlock the creative potential in everyone. “

Welltok
Founders: Scott Rotermund, Chris Rotermund, Carlos Cardona, Chris Coloian, Jeff Cohen, John Dibiasi, Paulo Matos, Stan Nowak
Equity Raised: $260 million
Estimated 2018 Revenue: $80+ million
Lead Investors: Miramar Venture Partners, Emergence Capital Partners, Interwest Partners, New Enterprise Associates, Bessemer Venture Partners, Georgian Partners
The Denver-based healthcare startup works as a go-between for health care providers and their consumers. Providers enlist Welltok send their enrollees information on prevention and treatment strategies via email or text to stay healthy, saving them money in the long run by containing health problems early on. Welltok breaks down the barrier between health care and day-to-day life, following up with people using specially-tailored rewards like gift cards to incentivize regular healthy behavior.

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