We can’t check out every investing outfit’s demo day. But one event that we try to catch every year is that of Pear, which is held annually each fall and features (blessedly) just a dozen or so very nascent startups.
Pear, a seed-stage venture firm founded in 2013, has an impressive track record when it comes to identifying promising companies from their earliest stages — including DoorDash, Gusto, Aurora Solar, Vanta, Branch Metrics and Guardant Health. As notably, despite introducing a far smaller number of teams to investors than Y Combinator and more renowned accelerator programs, there always seem to be at least one or two projects in Pear’s Demo Day mix that turn into actual, sustainable, and sometimes sizable companies.
Consider that over seven previous “batches” that featured a collective 69 teams altogether, Pear has helped push into the market Xilis, which uses “micro-organoids” to quickly make thousands of 3D replicas of a patient’s tumor that can then be tested for drug compatibility faster (it closed a $70 million Series A round this summer); the relationship intelligence company Affinity (which announced $80 million in Series C funding last month), and Viz.ai, whose software helps doctors diagnose strokes and coordinate care (and whose funding now tops $150 million after closing its most recent round back in March). It has some others it can, and does, boast about, too.
This year, the event, held this past Wednesday, shined a light on 13 of these very nascent teams. Pear also connected investors in attendance with five of its own portfolio companies that were just coming out of stealth mode. For those of you that might be interested in tracking emerging themes or actual investment opportunities, here’s a quick rundown of who pitched what (with the Pear-backed companies at the end of this list).
Note that we did not write the descriptions below. These were the exact pitches that the teams delivered straight to investors in attendance, so you’ll naturally spot a bit of hyperbole (because, startups).
Founders: Sameer Kapur (CPO), Vishnu Chakroborty (CTO), Gautam Ajjarapu (CEO)
“Burst is the first DeFi-powered bank for Generation Z – we use DeFi to help our users earn more. Our first product is Burst savings – we give users up to 250x more than typical banks by cutting out the middlemen. Behind the scenes, we leverage DeFi protocols to grow their money safely by up to 10% yearly. Our future product pipeline will allow our users to spend, borrow and invest — each offering is united under the common goal of putting more money in our users’ pockets. Before Burst, the founding team worked together building revenue-generating companies for an audience of over 600,000 Gen Z users. Gautam and Vishnu have experience engineering products at Stripe, Google, and Amazon, and Sameer was the first product manager at Perch Credit, a consumer neobank startup. Now, our team is obsessed with making the benefits of crypto and DeFi accessible to help our generation achieve financial independence.”
Founders: Emily Stebbins (Co-CEO), Jonathan Siktberg (Co-CEO)
“Health U combines persuasive microlearning with a clinically validated diabetes prevention program to deliver self-directed care at scale. Our mobile micro-learning platform offers bite-sized care programs for pre-diabetes patients that only require 3 minutes a day and provide real-time disease prevention for value-based providers. With high-frequency microlearning and personal health coaching, Health U keeps patients engaged with their health on a daily basis. Our solution is uniquely tailored to deliver significant 3-year ROI for Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), which include over 10 million pre-diabetic patients. Before Health U, Jonathan experienced this problem firsthand in medical school, and Emily worked in digital product at Bain and in Health Tech at JNJ before joining the GSB. Our team is on a mission to drive disruptive innovation in chronic disease care.”
Founders: Matt Alston (CEO), Melissa Zhang (CTO)
“Bonfire is empowering creators to turn audiences into communities through easy-to-use tools and a no-code platform powered by their social tokens and NFTs. We’re building the infrastructure to make it dead simple for any creator to manage their token community – including a dashboard, CRM, and community engagement toolkit. Before Bonfire, Melissa was a senior software engineer at Coinbase scaling their internationalization infrastructure, and Matt was a product manager at Uber building out their loyalty program. Matt and Melissa have known each other for 8 years and are passionate about helping creators become owners and achieve independence from rent-seeking gatekeepers.”
Founder: Justin Clegg (CEO)
“Allset is a mobile messaging company that is driving revenue for the 5 million home service businesses in North America. The typical business in this $800 billion industry has on average 6 employees and their main concern is growing their business. While there are tools like Service Titan for field management, businesses want a low touch solution for marketing and sales. We realized that SMS provides an intimate communication channel to reach those customers. AllSet is a full-service SMS messaging platform that is integrated with home services field management services and that allows businesses to create personalized customer flows such as tipping, offers and promotions, maintenance reminders and subscriptions. We have started reaching out to customers with our tipping flow, where homeowners are prompted with an automated tip request as a text message after an appointment is completed. We launched 6 weeks ago and have been growing at 20% week over week since then.”
Founders: Jason Shames (CEO), Cole Maritz (CRO), Dane Bratz (CTO)
“Skipper is a reservation platform for hotels and resorts that allows them to sell the guest’s entire trip directly through a unified transaction experience, greatly expanding the $285 billion hotel market. For the first time, hotels can allow a guest to book a room, a spa appointment, a dinner reservation, and a third-party activity, all through the hotel instead of costly intermediaries like Booking or Expedia.”
Founders: Mackenzie Branigan (CEO), Joe Sofia (COO)
“At GatherMade, we’re building the trusted sharing economy for family meals. With recent regulation changes, there is a brand new category of supply: home chefs (parents, grandparents, and caregivers) who are able to earn a living by cooking from their own home kitchen. We will win this supply by empowering them with the software and infrastructure to run a profitable business. By focusing on families, our home chefs get better unit economics with family size meals, batched orders for better planning, and consistent demand. We are devoted to empowering modern families through economic empowerment, inclusivity, and community support.”
Founders: Arman Hezarkhani (CEO), Jason Zhu (CDO), Nikhil Choudhary (CTO)
“Most Americans are not financially literate and it makes lives tangibly worse. In 2020, Americans lost $415 billion to poor money management and thinking about finances causes anxiety for 60% of us. This is because only 17% of us are required to learn any personal finance in school. Parthean teaches personal finance to young professionals. Partnering with finance-focused content creators, we create playbooks that align with critical financial events; like building credit or making your first investment. Users watch our movie-quality videos, engage with our social quizzes and polls, and keep each-other motivated and learning as they progress together. By the end of every playbook, you’ve taken an action that gets you closer to your goals.”
Founders: Anirudh Joshi (CEO), Damir Vrabac (COO), Viswesh Krishna (CTO)
“Valar Labs guides oncologists to make more accurate cancer treatment decisions. The founders worked with Professor Andrew Ng in Stanford’s AI lab to leverage medical imaging data for clinically impactful tasks. They are unlocking the potential of untapped imaging data that is already part of routine clinical care to help guide oncologists with treatment decisions. They have brought on top oncologists as advisors and are collaborating with cancer centers like UCSF, UCSD and cancer networks like Pancreatic Cancer Action Network to build their platform.”
Founder: Isha Patel (CEO), Luis Molina (CTO)
“Kale is the first credit card that empowers creators to translate their social value into economic value. We are creating an algorithm that identifies brands’ super fans, based on their purchasing history and their social activity. Brands reward these customers directly for posting about them, and Kale takes a fee for every match between the brand and content creator. Before founding Kale, Isha and Luis worked together at LinkedIn as product and engineering partners for 5 years, building and launching feed video, short-form video and the camera to 700 million users. We are experts on user generated content and creator communities.”
Founders: Leonid Lukyanov (CTO, John Fallows (CEO)
“Aklivity is an API platform that helps enterprise developers cut down the time-to-market for their latest API initiatives by up to 97%. It supports building, deploying and managing modern streaming APIs, which are fundamentally incompatible with existing API management solutions. With Aklivity, teams are relieved of the hodgepodge of integration frameworks and disjointed manual efforts associated with managing streaming APIs today. Before Aklivity, the team pioneered WebSocket and founded a company that brought the technology to dozens of global enterprises. An established pipeline and key strategic relationships are in place to deliver streaming API Management to over 21,000 organizations and make swift progress on a $2 billion market opportunity.”
Founders: Maya Mikhailov (CEO) Alex Muller (President)
“SAVVI is a complete embeddable ML solution empowering a market of 600,000 product teams (U.S.) to efficiently add personalization and intelligence to their products. Product Managers and Developers can quickly start using a machine learning tool that is easy to implement, deploy, and manage – without the need for data scientists or ML experience. Teams using SAVVI have seen a 1,500% ROI over traditional ML methods.”
Founders: Hunter Globe (CEO), Wayne Lencer (Academic Co-Founder), Justin Wolfe (CSO)
“Biologic drugs have been one of the biggest revolutions in medicine of the last 30 years. Blockbuster biologics like Humira changed the way we treat chronic diseases, from Crohn’s Disease to cancer, and created a $375 billion market. But there’s a problem. Biologics are large, complex molecules that are not naturally absorbed in the body. The way we get around this today is by injecting or infusing biologic drugs, so they can get more directly to the bloodstream. Many patients won’t stick with an injectable treatment long term. Others won’t take one at all. Pharma companies have been trying to enable oral absorption of large molecule drugs for years. These approaches don’t work well, and result in very low levels of absorption – usually less than 1% of the total administered drug. We developed a better way – a platform that enables greater absorption of biologics following oral administration. After 30 years of research on cholera and how the bacteria infects the human body, Dr. Wayne Lencer, a Harvard Professor and Transcera co-founder, discovered a type of lipid which can carry larger molecules across the body’s cellular barriers. His lab at Boston Children’s Hospital synthesized and simplified these carriers to enhance absorption of biologic drugs. This is a platform technology which we plan to apply to many chronic diseases. But we’re starting with oral peptide drugs for diabetes and obesity.”
Founders: Andrew Fang (CTO), Jon Braatz (CEO)
“Omniscient Labs is building a low-code geospatial data platform allowing developers to easily ingest and procure geospatial data from user-provided and third-party datasets, develop and host analytics capabilities for applications like object classification and feature extraction, and operationalize the resulting data into operations dashboards and other existing software systems without needing expertise in handling geospatial data.”
Founder: Abhishek Chandra (CEO)
“One in three of us will die of heart disease – it’s time to change that.Recora is the enterprise platform for cardiac care. We help members recover from home after a heart attack. Right now, patients drive to a hospital to complete a recovery program. These facilities are 40 miles away and have 6 week wait times. So 96% of people don’t finish and quickly get hospitalized again.
Using video visits and connected devices, we’ve designed a virtual cardiac recovery program. We ran a 200-patient pilot last year and showed 3x better outcomes. Today we cover 23,000 patients across 12 hospitals and are enrolling them at 220% month-over-month. Just these three contracts are a $46 million opportunity. We’re on track to close 20 contracts in 26 states over the next twelve months, and corner a $10 billion market. Before Recora, we founded and scaled Spring Health, a $2 billion mental health platform. Now we’re redefining the future of heart health so that everyone can live a long, full, and optimal life.”
Founder: Nathan Schuett (CEO)
“Kensa AI develops image processing software to automate and improve visual inspections for civil infrastructure (e.g., bridges, dams, buildings, cell towers, etc.). The company’s initial focus is on concrete and steel structures, combining hi-res 3D reconstructions captured by drones with deep learning to detect cracks, spalling, delamination, and other common defects. Kensa AI’s customers are some of the largest owners and developers of infrastructure around the world, and include Class 1 railroads, electric utilities, and multinational engineering companies. With a team of 5 and projected revenues of $800,000 in 2021, Kensa AI is growing quickly and establish a data moat on some of the world’s most important infrastructure assets. The founder and CEO graduated from Stanford, and he’s now raising a seed round to grow the company’s leadership position in 3D digital twins and AI-based inspection for industrial assets.”
Founders: Jayce Hafner (CEO), Albert Albedi (Head of Product), Sami Tellatin (COO)
“Over half of American farms don’t have the tools or bandwidth they need to identify ways to improve their farms and become profitable. Our API links to the farmer’s bank account where our algorithm assesses the financials to provide a “Farm Read,” scoring the farmer’s financial health. We regularly monitor the farm data to continuously provide clean financials and recommendations on how to improve their farms. We use this farm specific data to connect farmers with capital to improve their score.”
Founders: Zach Rivkin (CEO), Chris Zelazo (Co-Founder), Michael Zuccarino (Co-Founder)
“Great businesses are built on personal relationships, and personal relationships are built on Gatsby — the personal CRM for the future of professional network management. Gatsby is the system of record for your network providing low touch points for you to augment network information and allowing the creation of intelligent workflows for managing it, such as triaging important contacts and bringing the right people to your attention at the right time or managing gatherings and events so the key people show up. We are starting to sell to investing professionals as our initial wedge and plan to expand into all professionals for who managing their network is key.”
Founders: Denzil Eden (CEO)
“Smarty is an intelligence layer that connects you to all your data and applications from its one-stop hub. You talk to Smarty wherever you are online, and Smarty automates routine workflows so your focus is only on what matters most. Use pre-built recipes, create custom triggers yourself, or use natural language commands and choose how your data automatically moves between the applications you use. The founder and CEO Denzil, a graduate of MIT and HBS, is the human behind the bot. She created Smarty to empower passionate professionals to shortcut through routine tasks, to utilize known best practices, and to learn from their past personal data on how to be their smartest selves.”