2020 was a tough year for all world and especially for businesses: COVID-19 brought some companies to a halt and shut down, but created new opportunities for others. Today, growing startups find themselves in a market position that is challenging, competitive, and often underfunded like never before: due to hesitance of their investors, cut budgets of their clients, or financial difficulties of their end customers. Those who manage to strive in such circumstances are either seizing the opportunity to serve those in need in the pandemic or made their business model flexible and resilient enough to weather the lockdown, the dropout rates, and other market-related difficulties. We think both are pretty inspiring.
In this article, we will review the most exciting corporate innovation startups of 2020 (in our opinion) and summarize the lessons we've learned from them. This article will be useful to those who hesitate to implement their creative ideas into life and join the challenging startup world. We hope to find your startup in a similar collection next year.
Most innovative healthcare startups
Healthcare has the most innovative startups in 2020; this industry is one of the most attractive areas for venture investment in 2020 since the demand for rapid digital healthcare development was the highest in history—and, subsequently, digital healthcare funding. The reasons for this are numerous, including the COVID-19 pandemic, the necessity of social distancing, the need to refine patient care, improve operational management, and popularize online consulting. Healthcare systems all over the world have had a stress-test this year. Quick and witty healthcare startups brought many benefits to the entire world, and, due to the USA’s failure to respond to the pandemic properly, we’ve found lots of such bright, innovative healthcare ventures in there. We don’t include every brilliant USA healthcare startup in this collection, only some of them are here together with a couple of examples from Europe.
1. Verge Genomics. This San-Francisco-based startup aims at identifying best-working drugs with the help of AI analysis: they integrate the unique all-human genetic platforms with machine learning to streamlines the process of drug development. They're looking for therapies for neurodegenerative diseases that "have escaped" the traditional drug discovery process. The principle of better, more immediate therapies might be the most attractive approach in the year and the field where efficient drugs are difficult to find. The company unites qualified doctors and leading chemists to back their findings with numerous scientific publications. This startup has all chances to succeed due to its efficient utilization of AI-driven drug testing that is less time-consuming and more cost-efficient; they were the first to fully automate their discovery process.
2. Embleema. This New-York-based network allows patients and physicians to access and share their medical records with physicians and big pharma. The network is HIPAA compliant and does not share excessive or private sensitive information but merely helps drug researchers and physicians to learn from prior cases and innovating their treatment ideas. The primary objective of Embleema is to ease the researcher's access to medical data that has previously been considered as strictly classified to accelerate drug development. Embleema is FDA and GDPR compliant.
3. Qare. The leading French startup in telemedicine unites French-speaking patients from London and virtual medical practitioners located in France and the UK. The current focus of the startup is on the French-speaking community. The startup is actively working on one of the fundamental telemedicine issues, which is an erroneous diagnosis assessment due to the language barrier. Patient appointments are video-based, but in rare cases, home visits are also happening. Qare is currently growing and has already raised €20 million in funding. This startup resolves one of the major weaknesses of telemedicine—language barriers that make people hesitant to use these services. We see this startup as the way out for resolving the weaknesses of telemedicine.
4. AiCure. This UK-US international team aims at providing the patients with quick e-dairies, questionnaires, and drug prescription monitoring to understand how patients respond to treatment. There’s a computer algorithm that allows an overview of the treatment process. It can report in case of a patient's worsening state of health. ePro, AiCure’s mobile app, assists the patients to record and monitor their condition and report them to their physicians. This is another successful AI-integration within healthcare innovations, especially in chronic patients or the mentally-handicapped segment. We highlight this startup as another proof of successful AI integration into digital healthcare.
Lessons we learned from these startups
- Medical startups prioritized telemedicine and AI development in 2020. AI’s possibilities in diagnostics and drug development show a bright future for those startups who would choose this path in 2021.
- Healthcare strives for transparency. The success of AiCure shows that patients become more active and are currently willing to participate in their treatment. Therefore, it is highly crucial for medical startups to keep them informed and be open to feedback. It’s generally a good idea to involve patients in startup development from the very early stages.
- Telemedicine takes it all. The necessity of social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic tells both doctors and patients to avoid personal contact as much as possible, and telemedicine is there to serve their needs on scale.
Top startups for businesses and fintech startups
Innovative business and fintech startups have managed to find their development in a complicated 2020 environment. The necessity of extensive fintech and corporate changes caused numerous banking outlets to rethink their service delivery and seek new user-friendly opportunities. The following startup payment and banking platforms can be observed as the most interesting out of the vast innovations list.
1. Chime. California pioneering mobile bank offers automatic saving accounts without any fees. It is one of the fastest-growing banks in the US as the amount of remote electronic operations continually grows. Chime’s clients don’t wait for withdrawal of their direct deposit, can easily adjust settings for money saving when they spend or when they get paid, and pay no hidden fees.
2. Blend. One of the leading fintech startups partnering with the best US financial institutions. The comfortable and intuitive lending platform allows fast approval of client inquiries and client-related procedures. The platform provides loans for any customer needs, including car loans, credits, and mortgages; it also gives minimum-percentage loans to be returned either in installments or with the lowest interest rate. Today, when many people lose their jobs or struggle to keep up with their regular payments, Blend helps them out.
3. WeWork. One of the best corporate startups that redefines the principles of everyday office work. WeWork allows extra space for offices, emerging workspaces, or close-to-home spaces for people who cannot work at home or lack working space in their houses. Apart from that, WeWork efficiently complies with all social distancing requirements and strictly follows sanitizing rules. As a result, both emerging and existing businesses can outsource their offices, share space with their partners or relocate closer to their homes to reduce the pandemic risks. At present, the coworking space startups are one of the best possible ways to create a healthy workplace.
Lessons we learned from these startups
- Remote operations. The most successful fintech startups opt for creating apps and other services to enable small businesses to take payment for their services remotely. They also make sure end-customers can use mobile banking freely and at a bigger scale than before.
- Assisting people in need. A drop in profits concerns banks and larger brands, and any average citizen in the wake of 2020. Assisting services and helpful loans can help solve this issue at least temporarily; while loaning can be of ethical concern, it’s often impossible to live without them—especially in the crisis of 2020.
- Safety first. Businesses are slowly moving away from large offices because of safety concerns. The majority of office-based outlets were not ready for the pandemic’s social distancing norms or had to work remotely due to lockdowns. Still, coworking startups can help them find a quiet and sanitized place outside the busy work/office environment where people sometimes lack personal space or proper hygiene.
Food startups to learn from
During 2020 the food industry met big challenges, and it’s not surprising. With the long-standing necessity of social distancing and the gradually declining personal visits to supermarkets, the customers worldwide started using order food delivery. The following startups used this principle to their advantage to succeed in 2020:
1. Zomato. This Indian innovative startup is one of the most rapidly growing in 2020. It used to be an exclusively India-focused restaurant service. Then, it grew in the United States, Australia, UK, Canada, Turkey, UAE, Qatar, Portugal, New Zealand, and many other countries. Apart from successfully informing their clients on the food options and customer reviews, Zomato provides delivery services and contact-free payment options. Multi-language menu and rapid reaction to customer’s feedback other important competitive advantages of the startup. The world is changing, and the restaurant business should be changing, too.
2. Wasteless. The issue of perishable food is one of the most common in 2020. The drop in consumer purchases offers the idea of dynamic prices for the goods that are close to their expiration date. Oded Omer, the CEO, explains that such an idea creates incentives for customers as they choose products with low prices to eat on the day of purchase. Thus, a 50% discount is a wise decision to help sell the goods that might still stay on the shelves and be utilized due before they expire. The principles of this startup have helped many people who lost a significant part of their income since many goods of prime necessity became more affordable.
3. Those Vegan Cowboys. One of the most innovative Belgium-based food startups that provide cruelty-free and animal-free dairy products. The company is on the mission to change the way how the world consumes food. The future with a better environment, healthier food choices, and no cruelty is their foremost goal. We’re glad that companies with such goals become more popular despite any challenges.
Lessons we learned from these startups
- Focus on delivery. As the current society is forced into a contact-free environment, personal visits to restaurants and cafes are risky. Home deliveries are on the rise. The affordable delivery network will always be in high demand for various reasons – from self-isolation to the simple dangers of leaving apartments during the crowded hours.
- Ecology and safety. The smart consumerism principle leads the game. Animal-free, cruelty-free, and waste-free productions are primarily supported by investors and users alike. So it’s kind of good thought to focus on not only earning money but also on making a world a better place?..
- Quality over brands. Zomato shows: there’s no need for a fancy restaurant if one wants tasty food, even if that’s the most demanding customer. Even the smaller cafes can be equally successful if there are good customer reviews that come out of great customer service.
Top innovative fashion startups
The global pandemic has impacted the fashion industry. Despite specific celebrity venues still taking place (e.g., Bafta, Oscars, etc.), the majority of posh occasions to show your best outfit became closed, delayed, or canceled. Due to that and various other reasons, the fashion industry showed a 90% decline over the last year, the Fifth Annual State of Fashion report states. This high level of bankruptcies made fashion enthusiasts cautious; fashion found focus on smaller markets—and smaller startups, too.
1. TALA. Unlike major posh brands, TALA startups started selling affordable gym wear for men and women. While sportswear heavyweight brands lose their profits, TALA promotes the ideas of fitness, veganism, staying healthy and personal care while being very cost-effective. Additionally, the TALA clothes line focuses on all ages and addresses the concerns of younger generations: ecology and recycling. To some extent, TALA fashion shows that you do not need to spend millions on designer dresses; you can still look stylish, and wear sustainable, eco-friendly clothes. The feeling of coziness and comfort is what people need in their lengthy isolation during the lockdown.
2. HireStreet UK. Another daring UK brand suggests an alternative approach to saving their clients’ money in a time of recession. The premium-quality fashion rentals for accessible prices made its founder Isabella West a raising millionaire, according to Forbes. Mrs. West efficiently utilizes the idea that fashion worshippers would like to stay trendy even in a time of scarce profits and are not too happy to make second appearances in the same outfit. This idea enabled HireStreet UK to provide luxury clothes rentals for special occasions without overspending. While this option is very niche, the rising popularity of HireStreet UK strongly suggests that smart consumerism is possible—even within high fashion.
3. Lylie's. Human-made diamonds, electronic waste, recycled gold, and silver – these are the main resources this smart startup offers. As more than 80% of electronic metals end up on a dumping ground, 24-year-old Londoner Eliza Walter gives them a second life creating one of the most interesting innovative fashion startups. These jewelry wonders not only became an instant hit but created massive Instagram-following and thousands of grateful comments from customers. Fashion faces like Lily Cole pose with this jewelry, and the press continually attracts public attention to the issue of smart jewelry waste use.
Lessons we learned from these startups
- Affordability is the key. As big brands sink, smaller and flexible startups catch the momentum and show their readiness to answer the client's needs. Lengthy hours in social isolation at home or family circle require cozy yet fashionable clothes—and it’s a good thing if they can be purchased locally, for low price, with the delivery.
- Smart consumerism. While the fashion industry clients' profits fall along with their suppliers, opt-in for temporary or rent-based opportunities that will lower client's spending, yet support their interest in trying new things and following the trends.
- Recycling is power. Along with health concerns, environmental issues continues to be a huge thing people’s mind are occupied with—and there are solid reasons for that. Eco-friendliness should be part of future innovations.
2020 provided us with highly valuable, innovative, and curious startup ideas. The unique blend of technological advances and current demand created a rich, versatile, and profit-promising basis for startups in many fields and industries.
The lessons we learned by observing business, fashion, fintech, and innovative food startups are: be eco-friendly, find new opportunities in the low-income market niches, try wasteless production, and many others. Indeed, the pandemic world’s crisis-like environment once again showed the necessity of using natural and productional resources intelligently.
The drop in profits of larger companies and the well-off middle class showed that niche and local products, as well as environment-friendly production, might be superior to heavyweight brands. In their turn, some of the latter occurred to be not ready for moving online or working remotely—both within the organizations and with customers.
Therefore, if you make up your mind to start a new business in the upcoming 2021, learn from these startups: they’ll give you ideas on how to maximize your profits and make this world slightly better for the forthcoming generations.
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