Aunkur Arya is the general manager of mobile at Braintree.
At Braintree, we love working with companies of all sizes – from small garage developers to big ecommerce giants with billions in sales. But there’s nothing more exciting than seeing new ecommerce companies completely change the way people think about purchasing experiences from buying a cup of coffee to taking a cab.
The headlines are full of big ecommerce companies making news — Uber, Airbnb, Fab.com, Hailo, and Hotel Tonight — but even these great companies were small, scrappy startups trying to find their place in the world at one point.
Here are ten small startups that we think that are worth watching over the next twelve months. Before you know it, they may turn into the next billion dollar tech behemoth, BuzzFeed-worthy app or acquisition target.
Luvocracy — San Francisco
Sites like Pinterest and Wanelo have sprung up as incredible vehicles to build awareness of unique products curated by people and brands. Luvocracy takes a unique spin on this model by allowing you to actually purchase anything you see on the site without being redirected to the original merchant — they handle everything for you, from finding the best price, dealing with delivery, and providing a uniform 30-day return policy. An end-to-end curated experience. We think they are poised to revolutionize social commerce.
Zumper — San Francisco
Apartment hunting is daunting and discouraging. Zumper is taking a novel approach to disrupting the leasing market by providing up to date and carefully curated listings in their markets. They’re starting to see landlords clamor to get their listings on the site, where they can market properties in a way that’s not possible on craigslist. While it took awhile for competitors to bring mobile apps to market, Zumper is focusing on mobile as a primary channel for both landlords and prospective tenants, which we think is incredibly important.
BeerGram — Austin
Imagine your friend has had a really tough day — what if you were able to send them a cold beer right from an app on your way home? Andrea Sanchez is running a one-woman operation to build an app that does just that. We think she’s taking a unique approach to gifting and commerce, and think she’ll quickly expand beyond her home state of Texas. Her tagline is “Because being ‘liked’ by your ‘friends’ is nice, but getting real beer from real friends is better”. We couldn’t agree more.
Surf Air — Santa Monica
Starting an airline takes gumption — that’s why we admire founder Wade Eyerly at Surf Air. His company has been described as the ‘Future of Flying’ and we think he’s identified a unique niche for frequent fliers between the nightmare of commercial air travel and the exorbitant expense of private jet travel. For a flat fee, you get unlimited flights and a 30-second booking experience. Currently flying between the San Francisco Bay Area, Santa Barbara, and Los Angeles Metro area and we eagerly await the addition of more cities where people can enjoy their “All-You-Can-Fly” model.
Tonx — Los Angeles
Companies like Blue Bottle, Four Barrel and Intelligentsia have raised the bar for what people demand from their cafes — and now people want their coffee directly from farmers. Tonx allows people to get this experience right in their kitchen, and does the hard work of sourcing incredible coffee and teaching people how simple it can be to brew it, which is why we’re huge fans of what they’ve built. They source, they roast, they ship. You brew.
Silvercar — Austin
Tired of renting featureless white Ford Escorts to save a buck? Car rental agencies have been too busy merging with each other to focus on the needs of connected consumers in the 21st century. That’s why we think Silvercar is disruptive — with only one car type, each of their Audi A4 premium car rentals comes with XM radio, Wi-Fi, and GPS. We’re especially impressed with Silvercar because they charge a non-premium price point for all of this – only $89/day on weekdays and $59/day on weekends throughout California and Texas. They’re going to make a big dent in the $23B auto rental industry.
Scripted — San Francisco
Hate writing? Finding great writers is tough, especially for small businesses whose needs for content creation are more sporadic. And freelancers can be a crapshoot — can they write a blog post on the iPhone, when their last assignment was to write a white paper for tech hardware? Scripted.com is the leading provider of quality written content on demand making it easy for you to order content from expert writers that know your business, for a variety of uses – that’s why we think it’s a great platform for written word talent.
LiquidSpace — San Francisco
The phrase may be overused, but LiquidSpace really may be the “Airbnb for office space.” They’ve identified an asset — office space — that in many cases is underutilized, but difficult to monetize. Witness road warriors taking conference calls and business meetings in Starbucks, and you’ll see why there is a huge need for a service like LiquidSpace. Smartly, LiquidSpace’s team has bridged the gap for mobile professionals, venue owners and enterprise leaders, recently inking deals with institutional providers of space like Marriott and JLL, ensuring there is high quality supply in the marketplace they’re creating. We think they’re poised for real breakout potential in the next twelve months.
WillCall — San Francisco
WillCall is making the process of going to concerts more fun, mobile and social. Their app, available on Android and iPhone, is a joy to swipe through with visually stunning backgrounds overlaid by subtle but relevant event information. Detailed cards on each curated event display recent artist videos, a smart description, and useful information like transit times to the venue. We love that you can also see which friends have even indicated some interest in going but haven’t bought yet, allowing fence-sitters to goad their friends into making a decision. The purchase is quick and seamless, but doesn’t just stop at the ticket itself. At the venue, WillCall really flexes its mobile muscles — you can choose to tip the artist or even buy merchandise right from the app!
Boxed — New York
Why: Boxed is Costco for the mobile generation. Their founding team hit upon a unique insight – bulk goods are still cheaper than retail, but often inaccessible to city dwellers, require hefty membership fees, and are often plagued with long lines at checkout. Boxed allows consumers to order items off their mobile devices with 1-2 day free shipping, with no membership fees. While companies like Diapers.com proved out the ability to profitably sell and ship larger, heavy goods, Boxed is poised to take this model to the next level with warehouse club shopping.
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