Out-of-the-Box Investing with Start-Ups

Investing in a tried-and-tested business concept is always a safe plan, especially when fear of the economy hitting a downturn seems to say, “be conservative.” However, I prefer to look to the future, reviewing multiple trends in order to take a more opportunistic approach to investing. Show me a handful of start-ups and I’ll show you entrepreneurs who are creating, innovating and developing concepts that could very well be the next big thing! Here are some promising start-ups I have my eye on from fintech, consumer, medtech and esports.  Full disclosure – neither I, nor my company are investors in these companies. I want to showcase what I find inspiring and not be self-promoting.

Expense tracking service Divvy is taking on Concur and Expensify by offering its budgeting, fraud detection, and spend management tools for free. Instead of charging per user, Lehi, Utah-based Divvy gives businesses custom Mastercards and takes a cut of merchants’ fees to the bank when people make purchases. Founders (and high school buddies) Alex Bean and Blake Murray, both 35, have won over more than 3,000 corporate customers so far, including WordPress, Evernote and Qualtrics. 

Co-founders Ariel Cohen and Ilan Twig created TripActions, a technology-enabled corporate travel management platform that combines data science, modern user-friendly design, and world-class service, to bring businesses and their employees the best experience in business travel. One of the top 20 companies in Forbes 2019 Cloud 100, the company is fast becoming the default for corporate travel. TripActions business travel platform combines the latest AI-driven personalization with unrivaled flight, train, lodging, and rental car choice, and proactive, global 24/7 365 live human support to delight employees, finance leaders, HR professionals, and travel managers alike—all while empowering organizations to seize travel as a strategic lever for culture and growth.

Meanwhile, with health-consciousness, self-care and stress reduction becoming more common each day, fitness-linked gadgets and apps are catching the eye of consumers. One to watch is Calm, the #1 app for Sleep, Meditation and Relaxation, with over 50 million downloads and over 700,000 5-star reviews. They were named Apple BEST OF 2018 award winner, Apple's App of the Year 2017, Google Play Editor's Choice 2018, and "the world's happiest app" by the Center for Humane Technology

The esports scene is flourishing across the globe and has turned several elite gamers into multi-millionaire superstars with legions of fans. The competitive gaming industry is now worth billions of dollars and it is becoming increasingly professional thanks to large sponsorship deals and the emergence of major franchises. Athlane is a new esports league and a semi-finalist in Harvard University’s Innovation Challenge. An esports data platform, Athlane enables investors, sponsors, professional teams, and other interested parties to discover, track, and assess esports opportunities through aggregated, validated real-time data feeds and AI-driven analytics.

It's true that not all startups will succeed, but there is value in exploring opportunities and trying to create solutions to unique challenges if only to learn how to improve in the future. That said, with an innovative idea, great leadership, and a strong team, a startup can have a true fighting chance at success.