Now breaking into the second month of 2022, I've decided to compile a list of some startups that I am excited to follow this year. Each of these startups has something unique about them: their product, growth strategy, or team, all of them excite me enough to say I'M BULLISH.
I could write much more about each of these companies, but I tried to keep my writing concise, so this can be an easy read with links and more info so you can dive deeper into each company yourself. I've had the pleasure to meet or work with many of the founders listed and have received some inside scoop on what their future holds, but I can not write it all here for obvious reasons. With that said, when I say keep an eye on these, it will often be for reasons that I'm not allowed to write. Guess you'll have to follow their journey to find out why.
Let's get to it!
UtopiaLabs, modern system for managing payment requests, payroll, and reporting for your DAO
Why I'm bullish: Team and Market
As of right now, the DAO tools market share is wide open, and Utopia Labs is a first mover in the space. Utopia Labs is building a payroll tool for DAOs. This will make it easier for people to manage DAOs and also for contributors to get paid. As DAOs become more mainstream beyond just tech Twitter, I see these tools to be essential in Web3 onboarding. Furthermore, suppose you're as bullish on DAOs as Kaito is. In that case, you'll likely believe that DAOs have the potential to transition a good portion of companies from the typical corporate structure onto DAOs. Utopia will be in a prime position as broader adoption grows, if that is true. They are already in a great position right now with many partnerships with major DAOs like FWB, Pleasr DAO, and Yield Guild already using Utopia. Lastly, they have an incredible team of builders that I have been following for some time now.
Party Round, a consumer-grade social product that gives founders a new way to raise money from their friends, investors, and communities
Why I'm bullish: Team, Branding/Marketing, network effects
Party Round is a mobile app that enables founders to raise money from investors as easily as sending a Venmo request. Reread that first sentence. This can be a massive win-win for both founders, especially first-time founders, and investors. No more finding fundraising documents online, sending signatures back and forth, or paying legal or accounting fees for a fundraise. They intend to enable investors to mint NFTs as a digital certificate to showcase their portfolio. Sounds great for investors, but when I had talked with their CEO, Jordi, he had told me that their primary long-term goals are founder-focused.
Then my personal favorite thing about Party Round has been their drops. These drops grew their Twitter to over 14k in 8 months, making growing their waitlist a breeze. It was actually my first interaction with their brand. My favorite drop was their Helpful VCs drop. This drop featured 30+ NFTs of different VCs, including Li Jin, Packy McCormick, Alexis Ohanian, Mac Conwell, and many more. Each investor had 5 hours to claim their NFT by Tweeting at Party Round. This drop got investors’ attention before even looking at their deck while growing their waitlist. Very scrappy and creative team.
As they onboard more investors and founders alike, I predict rapid user acquisition through network effects. These network effects will onboard more institutional investors and also non-traditional investors like friends and family into VC. At Jordi's previous startup, he wanted to let a friend invest around $500 into his round, but his team said it wouldn't be worth doing because the accounting would cost more than the investment. Party Round wants to fix this and enable people in your network to invest in your ventures easily.
Layer3, Earn crypto by doing sh*t
Why I'm bullish: Product, Market, Investors, Partners
Like Utopia Labs, Layer3 excites me because of the rapid growth of DAOs I see coming. Layer3 is a Web3 DAO tool that can create stronger connections between DAOs and the real world. As their tagline says, Earn crypto by doing shit, Layer3 is making it easier for DAOs to verify work and payout contributors for their work. This is a crucial piece of DAO infrastructure that will make it easier for DAOs to be managed and for contributors to get paid. For example, Braintrust will pay you 25 $BTRST to Explain Braintrust's Fee Converter via a Twitter thread. I had previously written a blog on Mirror talking about exactly this, which is why I was so excited when I had jumped on a Zoom with Dariya to learn more about the future of Layer3.
As of right now, the DAO tools market share is wide open, but critical players like Layer3 are creating partnerships with prominent DAOs like Olympus, Index Coop, Braintrust, and more. Furthermore, they are backed by investors like Balaji and Electric Capital. If you want to do shit to earn crypto, I'd follow along.
Intros AI, Build meaningful connections in your community with intros
Why I'm bullish: Community Space, Founders
As a Community Manager, Intros is one of the most exciting products in the Community space. It allows you to create your own white-labeled version of Lunch Club but so much better. This is a product I've been waiting to see built for quite some time because of how vital nurturing 1-1 relationships is within a growing community. As of right now, there aren't great solutions to do this, especially at scale! Imagine having a Discord community of 1000+ people, and none of them know one another upon joining. That's a problem. With Intros, you can easily introduce community members to one another with their Discord bot. Is it only Discord? No! Discord, Slack, Text, and Email. This gives them a unique MOAT on the off chance that Discord or Slack decides to build out their own matching tools. Community being a catalyst for the future of both traditional startups and Web3 products, like Intros, are building the right product at the right time.
Not only do they have an incredible product but an amazing mind behind it. My 1-1 with David, honestly turned into a brainstorming session. I would throw out a crazy idea like “David! What if you built out X to do Y, which would cause Z”. David would be smiling because he was already ahead of me then would open up Figma. This banter went on for a full hour and they are really building an awesome product that will enhance both current Web2 communities and the future of Web3 communities.
Naurt, Re-imagining what is possible with true location technology
Founders: Jack Maddalena
Why I'm bullish: Tech, Market, Founder
Naurt is an outlier on this list, but I've been following the startup for a while now. Naurt is a software product that will allow you to track physical items with up to 10cm of accuracy… yeah wild. This level of accuracy can have a massive impact on a variety of industries, including drones, supply chain, transportation, and more. Imagine losing your phone and checking its location and not only being able to know that you left it at a friend's house, but that it was actually in his couch cushion. Not a world-changing example, but you get the point.
Naurt isn't an entirely new piece of tech, but it dramatically enhances the global navigation satellite system (GNSS), the GPS technology used worldwide. It is a simple API that can allow their customers to easily enhance their tracking capacity by 40-90%.
Fable, Collaborate seamlessly across the internet
Why I'm bullish: Team, Product
Fable is a collaborative work tool built into your browser. Essentially Figma style collaboration, but built directly into your browser via a chrome extension. We can use this exact article as an example. Imagine you want someone who's on your team to read this very sentence because it's super insightful, I hope. Instead of sending them a link to this article and telling them to scroll down to the section on Fable, you could highlight the selection and assign it to them. They receive a notification, and when they come to this web page, they will see all of the sections you highlighted with your commentary… Yeah, super cool! I see Fable for product teams but also within content and media teams. I imagine journalists highlighting online research for their team to read. I’m sure you can start to see ways Fable can enhance your teams and why this could be a great addition to the future of work.
Full Disclaimer: I am best friends with one of the founders, Ryan Myher, so this is slightly biased. But, I see that relationship as having a deeper understanding of the company. Ryan Myher is one of the scrappiest builders I have ever met. He never stops building and constantly working on something, created an incredible network while coming from Johnston, PA (nowhere PA), and dropped out of school. The other founders Brihu Sundararaman and Armaan Kalsi are attending Yale as computer science and molecular biology majors. Being entirely bootstrapped, within five months they have already built out an extremely impressive product.
Dive Chat, College is back, Make it Count
Why I'm bullish: Network Effects, Founders, Product
GROUP ME SUCKS!… If you graduated from college in the past five years, you know exactly what I mean when I say this. I was a part of a club at Penn State with 150 members. Just from that one organization, this will sound absurd, I was in at least 30+ group chats. Some were serious, and others were just memes, but you get the point. It was a complete mess. Dive Chat is the solution for on-campus clubs to organize properly. Dive has an incredible onboarding video, UI/UX, and features built-in events right into the app. This is so handy, and even bigger messengers like Telegram, GroupMe, and Slack don't have it natively built-in. Along with having a great product, their audience is key, frats, sororities, and university clubs. If appropriately implemented, targeting these organizations creates massive potential for wildfire network effects across college campuses. As these students graduate, I can even see them sticking with Dive and using it to keep track of other organizations in their lives too.
For example, if you went to Miami Hack Week 2022, maybe you got to have first-hand experience using Dive since I organized a group with Michelle Fang for Hack Week. It ended up popping off. Now do I think the app is perfect? No. Do I think getting feedback from 200+ people in tech at Hack Week was smart? Yes! I love scrappy teams that can build products and acquire users with a low CAC. Furthermore, I sat down with John Herrick, their CTO, alongside one of the best product devs in my network Kyle Joyce, to chop it up about the future of Dives UX and user acquisition. After that conversation, I'm incredibly excited to see them continue to build and can’t wait to see it spread across college campuses.
Syndicate, Transform any wallet into a Web3 Investment Club
Why I'm bullish: Network Effects, Product, Community
If you couldn't tell by this point… I'm particularly bullish on community, DAOs, and I also love VC. So Syndicate is the perfect intersection of all three. Syndicate allows you to collectively raise funds to invest in startups, DEFI protocols, NFTs and more. I've been keeping tabs on Syndicate for a little while now but haven't met someone on their team just yet (@ Syndicate HMU). Even without meeting the team, various reasons particularly excite me about Syndicate.
First, the value proposition to start an investment DAO over a traditional venture fund is extremely enticing. The reasons Syndicate lists, which I also agree with, include Seeing more deals, win more deals, and "Learn, Grow, and Win Together." All three of these value propositions are community-centric, meaning that having a community of engaged investors can be far more powerful than LPs at a traditional fund because of the unique value add the community can bring. The closest thing to this is startups raising on equity crowdfunding platforms, but all investors who invest in the same startup are not a community. They are all just individuals that invested in the same company. On top of this, I see Ian Lee and Will Papper as futuristic thinkers. On the Zima Red Podcast, Ian explained that Syndicate’s long-term vision is to build a social network where investing DAOs can connect and invest together. This is for sure worth the listen.
Network effects will be one of the most powerful components to Syndicates's success as well. Syndicate has a long list of investors in both their Sees and Series A funding rounds. Some of these investors include firms like A16Z, Variant Fund, Electric Capital, Coinbase Ventures, and more. Then individual investors include Ryan Hoover, Alexis Ohanian, Lenny Rachitsky, and even Snoop Dog. After pulling up Syndicate’s smart contract, it appears that nearly 300 people have already started their own investment clubs. I would assume that many of those are prominent investors listed on their site. Each of these 300 or so new investment clubs can have up to 99 people co-invest in them. This is where the network effects of not only great investors, but great community builders will be a catalyst for Syndicate’s growth. With that being said, I’m so excited to see how the startup ecosystem changes as Syndicate disrupts traditional venture capital.
If you’re a founder and think I should be bullish on you too, let’s connect! LMK how I can support you with community building, capital, go to market, and most of all vibes :)