23 of the most promising startups aimed at consumers of 2021, according to top VCs

Campuswire: tools for online college learning

Annelies Gamble is a partner at Scribble Ventures.

Startup: Campuswire

Recommended by: Annelies Gamble, Scribble Ventures

Relationship: No financial interest

Total funding: $3.6 million

What it does: Campuswire is an online platform for remote college courses with features like live video streaming, Q&A forums, chatrooms, and direct messaging. 

Why it’s on the list: The startup is working to transform online higher education by building remote learning resources that are more than “a jumble of outdated tools for communication and collaboration,” according to the website. 

Gamble said companies like Campuswire are becoming integral to helping community college students who are receiving degrees at a rate of just 13% within six years, while also helping bolster income for the 51% of adjunct faculty members who are living on welfare. 

“It’s a vertically integrated online alternative to community college that provides adjunct professors with a better opportunity to monetize their expertise,” Gamble said. 

Dapper Labs: cryptocurrency for basketball fans

bill tai
Bill Tai is an angel investor and partner at Charles River Ventures.

Startup: Dapper Labs

Recommended by: Bill Tai, Charles River Ventures

Relationship: Investor

Total funding: $400 million

What it does: Dapper Labs is a blockchain-based platform that lets users buy and sell virtual NBA collectibles in the form of non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

Why it’s on the list: The company was created in partnership with the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association and builds upon the league’s recently launched Top Shop online marketplace.

Capitalizing on the cryptocurrency and NFT craze, Dapper Labs allows users to trade NBA-licenses video highlights called “moments,” such as Derrick Rose of the Detroit Pistons making a game-winning shot, Insider reported

“Dapper Labs is pioneering the NFT category and leading mass consumer blockchain and crypto marketplaces,” Tai said. 

DoNotPay: ‘the world’s first robot lawyer’

Scott Belsky
Scott Belsky is an angel investor.

Startup: DoNotPay

Recommended by: Scott Belsky, angel investor 

Relationship: No financial interest

Total funding: $17.7 million 

What it does: DoNotPay is the self-proclaimed home of “the world’s first robot lawyer,” and promises to “fight corporations, beat bureaucracy, and sue anyone at the press of a button.”

Why it’s on the list: Founded by Josh Browder, the company offers a wide range of legal services on everything from copyright protection to insurance claims. The app, which operates as a legal consultant chatbot, was originally developed as a method to dispute parking tickets.

“Browder and his team are among the best mission-driven and execution-oriented teams I have seen in years,” Belsky said. 


Foundation: an NFT marketplace

jeff morris jr chapter one ventures
Jeff Morris, Jr. is the general partner of Chapter One Ventures.

Startup: Foundation

Recommended by: Jeff Morris Jr., Chapter One

Relationship: No financial interest 

Total funding: $2 million 

What it does: Foundation is a curated platform for NFTS. Users buy and sell NFTs auction-style, with some pieces selling for thousands of dollars. 

Why it’s on the list: For a few months, it seemed like everyone was getting rich off NFTs. Over $2 billion worth of NFTs — unique files minted on blockchain technology — were sold in the first quarter of this year, according to NonFungible.com. However, as millions of NFTs were created, many became worried about copyright issues, stolen images, and scams. 

By curating its market, Foundation has maintained high-quality pieces and become a go-to platform for noteworthy NFTs like the Nyan Cat and a column from The New York Times.  

“As NFT markets become noisier and more bubbly, a flight to quality will drive more artists and collectors to Foundation this year,” Morris said.

HAGS: a Gen Z social platform

terri burns gv partner
Terri Burns is an investing partner at GV.

Startup: HAGS

Recommended by: Terri Burns, GV

Relationship: Investor

Total funding: $1 million

What it does: HAGS — an acronym for the popular yearbook sign-off “Have a Great Summer” — is a consumer app for high school students to interact with one another.

Why it’s on the list: Designed as a new social media platform for Gen Z, HAGS connects with Snapchat to allow users to join their high school to play games and chat with classmates. 

“The founding team is a group of incredible product thinkers, and it’s been a joy to work with them side-by-side as they think through building a new interactive virtual community built explicitly by and for Gen Z,” Burns said. 


Labster: a virtual science lab simulator

Hans Tung GGV
Hans Tung is a managing partner at GGV Capital.

Startup: Labster

Recommended by: Hans Tung, GGV Capital

Relationship: Investor

Total funding: $103 million

What it does: Labster creates virtual laboratory simulations that are designed to stimulate natural curiosity and highlight the connection between science and the real world. 

Why it’s on the list: Labster’s simulations can be used in several ways, ranging from a supplemental learning took to a complete lab replacement to support remote learning. Today the company works with more than 2,000 global universities and high schools, including Yale University, University of Cambridge, and Imperial College. 

“If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that students everywhere need access to high-quality learning anywhere,” Tung said. “Labster successfully leverages its game engine to deliver interactive virtual lab experiences that consistently engage science students whether they are learning inside a school building or at home.”

Leda Health: an at-home rape kit

anu duggal
Anu Duggal is the founder of Female Founders Fund.

Startup: Leda Health

Recommended by: Anu Duggal, Female Founders Fund

Relationship: No financial interest

Total funding: $2 million 

What it does: Leda Health is building a rape kit that sexual assault victims can use to collect evidence anywhere. 

Why it’s on the list: You may have heard about Leda Health because of how it uses blockchain technology to document evidence. Or maybe you read the flurry headlines questioning their product, wondering if it might cause more harm than good. 

Since the company was founded in 2019, Leda Health has made headlines — both positive and negative. But current hospital rape kits are notoriously inefficient and outdated, and the potential for change is high. 

“This is such a huge issue in America and there has been very little to no innovation in how we work with victims,” Duggal said.

Lovevery: toys with purpose

Robin Li

Startup: Lovevery

Recommended by: Robin Li, GGV Capital

Relationship: No financial interest

Total funding: $26 million 

What it does: Lovevery is a subscription-based toy company designed to meet the developmental needs and brain development of toddlers and babies. 

Why it’s on the list: “Lovevery provides kits and other products including block toys that come with activities specific to a child’s developmental stage,” Li said. 

The Idaho-based startup is revolutionizing the way parents purchase and use toys with their children. According to Li, Lovevery’s subscriber base has grown by 500% in the past year, and today boasts more than 125,000 active members.

The company has also received accolades including Time’s “Best Inventions” of 2018 and was listed among Fast Company’s “World Changing Ideas” of 2020


Mammoth Media

Mike Jones, Science
Mike Jones is the director of Science Ventures.

Startup: Mammoth Media

Recommended by: Mike Jones, Science Ventures

Relationship: Investor

Total funding: $13.7 million 

What it does: Mammoth Media is a mobile entertainment studio for Generation Z. It builds interactive apps, engaging content, and modern storytelling experiences for the digital-first generation.

Why it’s on the list: Mammoth Media is best-known for popular apps like Wishbone and Yarn — an online polling tool for crowdsourcing questions and comparisons among online friends and a “chat fiction” app that creates hypothetical conversations between celebrities and peers. 

In 2021, the startup launched Creatorly, a TikTok influencer network, which currently works with 15,000 creators. According to Jones, since launching, Creatorly has driven 5 million  transactions to date.

“The studio has another launch in the pipeline for later this summer,” Jones said. “I can’t share more on that yet, but it’s been a landmark year for the business already.”

Maro: a digital service for children’s mental health

Casey Santiago
Casey Santiago is a managing director at Founders Factory.

Startup: Maro

Recommended by: Casey Santiago, Founders Factory

Relationship: No financial interest

Total funding: Undisclosed

What it does: Maro is an app that provides mental health resources to parents and children. 

Why it’s on the list: One reviewer deemed Maro the “wise friend we all wish we had.” 

As COVID left children isolated, Maro guided parents through a tumultuous year, creating modules that explained things like anxiety and mindfulness to children. Santiago said she believes Maro has the quality content and “elegant features” to keep users around. 

“I am convinced it will keep our children healthier, happy and safer and help us as parents navigate this journey,” Santiago said. 

Maven: online courses that build community

Li Jin
Li Jin is the founder and managing partner of Atelier Ventures.

Startup: Maven

Recommended by: Li Jin, Atelier Ventures; Rebecca Kaden, Union Square Ventures

Relationship: Investor; no financial interest 

Total funding: $25.1 million

What it does: Maven works with creators to build and offer cohort-based, online classes. 

Why it’s on the list: Maven capitalizes on two major trends: online learning and the creator economy. Powerhouse firm Andreessen Horowitz took notice, leading its $20 million Series A round. 

Not only are big-name VCs on Maven’s cap table, but investors are embracing the platform as teachers as well. You can currently learn about crypto from bitcoin expert Anthony Pompliano or building a business from Sahil Lavingia, CEO of Gumroad. 

“By making digitally-enabled peer-learning experiences more accessible for students and teachers alike, Maven is giving life to a new world of online learning,” Jin said. 


NEWNESS: live streaming for beauty gurus

Alexia Bonatsos
Alexia Bonatsos is a general partner at Dream Machine.

Startup: NEWNESS

Recommended by: Alexia Bonatsos, Dream Machine

Relationship: Investor

Total funding: $3.5 million 

What it does: Newness is a platform for beauty and fashion influencers to host public and private livestreams. 

Why it’s on the list: Newness is tapping into a huge market: by 2024, the beauty industry is predicted to be worth over $800 billion.

“There is more than enough room for an online space that encourages women to get ready together,” Bonatsos said. “A platform of our own.”

The cofounders, Jenny Qian and Youri Park, previously worked at Twitch, meaning two things:  they know what it takes to run a successful streaming platform, and they have amazing connections. Their investors include Twitch cofounder Kevin Lin and former Twitch executives Jonathan Shipman and John Sutton, according to TechCrunch.

Synthesis: online education for critical thinkers

Hans Tung GGV
Hans Tung is a managing partner at GGV Capital.

Startup name: Synthesis

Recommended by: Hans Tung, GGV Capital

Relationship: No financial interest

Total funding: $5 million 

What it does: Synthesis offers weekly one-hour sessions for students who want to learn subjects like critical thinking and problem solving that go beyond what is taught in a traditional classroom. 

Why it’s on the list: The genesis of Synthesis comes from a project led by the company’s cofounder, Josh Dahl, in which he worked with Elon Musk to start an experimental school at SpaceX. Based on the success of the program, Dahl decided to extend the lessons beyond SpaceX families.

“It’s a new model that teaches children how to think critically and solve problems versus the traditional teaching method of sitting quietly in a classroom,” Tung said.



Patreon: the subscription platform for creators

Avichal Garg
Avichal Garg is a managing partner at Electric Capital.

Startup: Patreon

Recommended by: Avichal Garg, Electric Capital

Relationship: No financial interest

Total funding: $412 million

What it does: Patreon is a membership platform that allows users to create and operate their own subscription services. 

Why it’s on the list: 2020 was a banner year for the already fast-growing “creator economy,” as homebound Americans starting to form their own businesses from home. In addition to platforms like Substack, Cameo, and OnlyFans, Patreon has become one of the top companies for providing “the stability you need to build an independent creative career,” the company says on its website. 

“They are seeing record growth in their product due to a combination of continued growth in creators, creators wanting to reach their fans directly, COVID leading people to want to be creators, and a record number of people wanting to support creators directly,” Garg said. 


Polywork: a new professional networking forum

Scott Belsky
Scott Belsky is an angel investor.

Startup: Polywork

Recommended by: Scott Belsky

Relationship: Investor

Total funding: $3.3 million

What it does: Polywork is a LinkedIn competitor that describes itself as a “new kind of social network” and a “place for people to express who they are.” 

Why it’s on the list: Polywork, which is currently in beta mode, is reimagining the professional social network with a bigger emphasis on connecting individuals based on past projects and personal interests rather than former positions and connections. 

“I think and hope we all realize now that your history of job titles and the shingles you’ve associated yourself with are antiquated proxies for potential,” Belsky said. “People want to connect based on past projects, who they’ve worked with, and the initiative taken to pursue their interests.”


Christie Pitts
Christie Pitts is the cofounder of Backstage Capital.

Startup name: Sēkr (formerly known as The Van Life)

Recommended by: Christie Pitts, Backstage Capital

Relationship: Investor

Total funding: Undisclosed

What it does: Sēkr helps connect users to campsites so they can identify safe places to stay and community while on the road. 

Why it’s on the list: Thanks in part to pandemic restrictions on certain types of travel and the success of the critically acclaimed film “Nomadland,” Americans have been hitting the road at record rates. A recent report from the RV rental platform RVshare found that 73% of millennials reported they are “likely to take an RV trip in the future,” Insider reported.

The trend has even transformed into its own #VanLife meme, spawning a barrage of influencers taking up the lifestyle around the country. 

Travel is coming back in a big way, and Sēkr makes it easier for travelers to plan and enjoy their trips,” said Pitts.

Sorare: NFTs for soccer fans

Ilan Abehassera
Ilan Abehassera is the cofounder of Diaspora Ventures.

Startup: Sorare

Recommended by: Ilan Abehassera, Diaspora Ventures

Relationship: No financial interest

Total funding: $59.2 million

What it does: Sorare is a Paris-based fantasy soccer league where uses can buy, sell, and trade virtual player card collectibles in the form of NFTs.

Why it’s on the list: The company has found a sweet spot in the NFT boom by finding the intersecting audience of bitcoin and soccer enthusiasts. Abehassera said the Sorare has shown “insane growth” and is “a clear product market fit, benefitting from the rise of NFTs.”



Soona: virtual photo shoots for brands

Rebecca Kaden
Rebecca Kaden is a general partner at Union Square Ventures

Startup: Soona

Recommended by: Rebecca Kaden, Union Square Ventures

Relationship: Investor

Total funding: $15.4 million

What it does: Soona offers photo and video services for companies and allows them to direct shoots from a remote location.

Why it’s on the list: The shift to digital has gone into overdrive of late for many industries, and marketplace startups are booming. That means more companies have to spiffy up their online presence.

For many businesses, getting professional-looking content can be a costly endeavor, both in time and money. Soona not only makes the process more efficient but provides insight into what types of photos and videos perform best, according to Kaden — it gives the startup a “data-driven super power,” she said.

Sprout Therapy: virtual care for autistic children

Grace Chou
Grace Chou is a principal at Felicis Ventures.

Startup name: Sprout Therapy

Recommended by: Grace Chou, Felicis Ventures; Stuart Ellman, RRE Ventures

Relationship: Chou is an investor. Ellman has no financial interest.

Total funding: $34.23 million

What it does: Sprout Therapy provides tech-enabled, in-home autism care.

Why it’s on the list: Much like companies like Talkspace are digitizing mental health treatment, Sprout Therapy is bringing child autism care online. The company is disrupting the space by “changing the landscape of access and care” for children and their families, according to its website

“In the US, there are over 1.5 million children with autism every year, and on average, it takes families 18-36 months to put their children into care today,” Chou said. 

Superhuman: a faster email service

eric bahn
Eric Bahn is a cofounder of Hustle Fund.

Startup: Superhuman

Recommended by: Eric Bahn, Hustle Fund

Relationship: Investor

Total funding: $33 million 

What it does: Superhuman is an email client looking to edge out competitors like Gmail by offering a faster and more user-friendly experience. 

Why it’s on the list: The startup has become a “cult-favorite” email client with its $30/month app that’s attempting to “reinvent email and calendaring,” Insider reported. The company broadened its reach beyond iPhone users in May when it announced a corresponding Android app, while rolling out new shortcuts that allow a user to quickly add links to Zoom or Google Meet invites. 

“Email is the lifeblood of any venture capitalist or anyone who works with a computer, really,  and it’s been amazing to see my productivity rise with just one app,” Bahn said. “The team innovates fast — it feels like they are releasing something new every week.” 


Terraformation: fighting climate change with reforestation

Hans Tung GGV
Hans Tung is a managing partner at GGV Capital.

Startup name: Terraformation

Recommended by: Hans Tung, GGV

Relationship: No financial interest 

Total funding: $30 million

What it does: Terraformation is working to solve climate change with forest restoration. 

Why it’s on the list: Started by the former Reddit CEO Yishan Wong, Terraformation is rebuilding global forests in an effort to capture carbon and slow the pace of environmental damage form greenhouse gas emissions. 

“Wong is truly one of those founders will make the world a better place,” Tung said. 

Vedantu: digital after-school education

Madhu Yalamarthi
Madhu Yalamarthi is vice president of GGV Capital.

Startup: Vedantu

Recommended by: Madhu Yalamarthi, GGV Capital

Relationship: Investor

Total funding: $100 million

What it does: Vedantu offers live, personalized after-school education for children in India. The company supports multi-format video classes for K-12 students and helps with test preparation for college entrance exams.

Why it’s on the list: “They have tens of millions of students attending their classes every month,” said Yalamarthi, and seeing subscribers grow five-fold in the past year. Vedantu also benefited from the COVID-19 lockdowns in India, allowing children to continue their education.

The company has further expanded its offerings from just serving K-5 students to also helping older students with after-school live tutoring. According to Yalamarthi, “both of which are now 40% of the business” and scale has helped lower its subscription cost, drawing in less affluent users.


Wagmo: reimagined pet insurance

jenny fielding
Jenny Fielding is managing director of Techstars New York City Accelerator

Startup: Wagmo

Recommended by: Jenny Fielding, Techstars New York City Accelerator

Relationship: Investor

Total funding: $3.1 million 

What it does: Wagmo is a pet insurance and wellness company covering everyday care for dogs and cats. 

Why it’s on the list: The startup is reinventing pet insurance by using technology to develop faster claim processing times, easier-to-understand products, and a well-equipped pet parent concierge.

According to Fielding, the company has created a “modern, consumer-friendly experience that make reimbursements fast and without all the usual hassles.”

“In 2021 they went from providing wellness plans to now offering full-blown insurance, tapping into consumer demand to keep their pets safe and protected,” she said. “The company is growing quickly and has figured out a unique channel to market.”

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