People often ask me how I stay on top of tech. It’s literally one of the top three or four questions I get at Q&As when I give talks. It’s always like “well, how do you stay on top of it? There’s so much going on!” And I often answer “it comes to me,” or “well, Phil Toronto vets a lot of my deals and brings be stuff because I’m an avid angel investor.” And then, obviously, I keep an eye on Techcrunch and Techememe.
But the reality is that now in my resurgence to blogging, I’ve decided to follow up on my 19 People That You Should be Following on Twitter but Aren’t (Part II) with a series based on my favorite number in the world: Five.
Five has been my favorite number in the world ever since I was five (the jersey from when I was a kid in this video is #5). So I’m going to do something as often as I possibly can called Five Companies You Should Be Paying Attention To.
My main theory behind it is going to be “five companies that most of you haven’t heard about” — companies that might not have have gotten their first big piece of press yet. I’m on this new obsession, more than ever, to bring value, and I think this is a huge value-add. I’ve scoped out a lot of the other influencers on LinkedIn, and I think I’m uniquely positioned to be able to deliver this consistently with the help of my team.
So here are the first five of companies that I think are exciting and worth your attention, in no particular order:
This was cofounded by two actual small gals (5’3” and 5’, I think), Bianca and Mallory. Two young ladies whom I’ve had the pleasure of knowing a little bit, and who have enormous drive and enormous hustle. One of my favorite things about them is that they started their business with a bootstrap mentality. They didn’t go out and raise money. They started it with the first client’s paycheck, much like AJ and I did with VaynerMedia, so I’ve always had a kinship with that starting point. I think that they’re just doing a really good job. This comes down to two individuals who really get where the world’s going. I think PR is being disrupted dramatically more than what you hear about. There is some major evolution happening to traditional PR, especially if you’re paying attention to what’s happened with the relationships that digital agencies, social agencies, and PR agencies have with big brands these days. I give enormous amounts of credit to these two because of their pure hustle, and their smarts and wits about what’s relevant in the tech/PR world these days. They’ve been able to make a huge impact, and are clearly blazing a path to young, female entrepreneurship that excites so many today.
Co-founders Lee and Calvin have produced a very interesting platform. I am completely obsessed with operations, and so there are a lot of people playing in the space of “doing your thing for you” (Taskrabbit, Fancy Hands, Exec), but what WunWun’s done for you here is a very lightweight mobile execution of the idea. I’ve been playing around with it, and Phil Toronto (our emerging tech guru here at VaynerMedia) even got a guy in a Mickey Mouse suit show up to his birthday party. Whether you need someone to pick up your cleaning, or you need something delivered for you, this NYC-only app (for now) reminds me of the way I felt about Fresh Direct in some ways. It’s a very NYC thing now, but I see enormous opportunity for it to scale out. Even if you’re not in The City you can still download the app and see where it’s going, and in the spirit of this article, if you’re in a city where you think this would do really well, I highly recommend you reaching out to them and saying so. So check it out! I am completely obsessed with the intersection of technology and real-world. It’s why companies like Uber and Airbnb excite me so much because they’re using technology to make our world better, and I think WunWun’s got a chance to play in that space.
Kickfolio is a company that I noticed from afar several months ago, but then I got to intimately enjoy one of their presentations at a 500 Startups event in NYC. To me, phone apps are a very lucrative and important space. I really think this startup brings huge value to the people that use it. When you can preview an app in a desktop environment, it crosses over a huge number of desktop users who also use mobile devices and gives them a chance to experience your app while they’re surfing the web and stumble on it. Moreover, if you review apps, it gives you the experience to actually test the apps in a browser experience. To me, this is an extremely powerful product. I’m excited that it’s coming from Australia and not from Silicon Valley or New York other typical startup places. It’s also exciting that they’re getting great engagement from users (People actively engage with Kickfolio apps for 1 minute 31 seconds on average). I’m a pretty big fan of things that bring value to promotion, and Kickfolio sounds exactly like that company. Check it out, I think you’ll find it tremendous.
Audicus is a startup that I desperately wish I’d funded. They may still be raising, but I’ve been a little bit more conservative in my angel investments and dragging my feet. This feels like “The Warby Parker of hearing aids.” Now I know you’re laughing, when you read me saying that, but what I can tell you is that this is the kind of business that I fall in love with. Patrick intimately knows the space. He’s done a lot of homework in Europe, and now he’s applying his learnings by bringing a consumer packaged good to the US market (which is $6bn, by the way). I actually see this having a deeper impact than just hearing enhancement. This is a very fruitful company and I think anybody reading this who has hearing issues (and I can tell you, even I don’t hear as well as I did five years ago, so you don’t have to be 80 to pay attention to this), or more importantly if you have an aging parent or grandparent that could be affected by hearing loss, this is a company worth checking out. There is something about this company that excites me. I feel like it has the chance to be a huge winner, and a very valuable company one day, so it’s important for me to post it here not only to make a statement about which companies I think are going to be successful (as is the energy of this article), but also to bring value. So I hope that there are a few people reading this who have hearing issues or know people who are struggling with hearing and will check it out.
Greg Cangialosi, one of the cofounders of Betamore, is a dear friend of mine. In fact, I used his company’s email platform as Wine Library’s email service provider. I met him at the first tech conference I ever went to, which was Tech Cocktail in Washington DC back in 2007, but what I love about Betamore is not that Greg is a great dude, but that it’s putting Baltimore technology on the map. It’s an urban tech campus for entrepreneurship in downtown Balitmore. It’s a huge coworking space with a curriculum (think like Indy Hall meets General Assembly), and the reason it’s on the list is strictly one thing: I am completely passionate about tech startups and innovation coming from many other places besides NY and SF (and more, and more: LA). Think places like Omaha, or Detroit, or Austin. I feel like these three co-founders are going to drive this to huge success and really create Entrepreneurship 2.0 in the Baltimore region. If you’re in Baltimore or visiting, this is a company you need to reach out to and check it out. I hope this project inspires someone in Des Moines, I hope it inspires someone in Walla Walla, WA, I hope it inspires someone in Hunterdon county, NJ.
So that’s it! That’s my first list of five. I hope to be doing this more often. I’m curious, though, for you to leave a comment here on LinkedIn and let me know how many of these companies you’ve heard of before. (Seeing a lot of “0”s will make me feel rad!)