21 Bay Area Companies to Watch in 2021
The Golden State is chock-full of notable tech companies — and the Bay Area certainly helps power the charge. With a constant stream of buzzy up-and-comers, coupled with its history of churning out and nurturing tech juggernauts, the scene always brims with a “what’s-next” energy.
But with the pandemic thrusting the need for digital solutions and virtual services into the spotlight, the last year seemed to put heightened focus on technology that can power industries and provide novel solutions while addressing consumer needs.
Across fields like healthtech, sales and other industries, the Bay Area tech industry’s momentum remained impressive last year. Upstart companies hit new growth milestones, nabbed impressive funding rounds and continued to build on their core offerings. From fast-growing firms to now-hiring organizations, the 21 companies listed below are ones to keep tabs on this year — underscoring that, while the history of the fertile scene is deep, it’s what’s around the corner that’s most exciting.
What they do: Aerial Canvas offers photography, 3D tours, videos, drone photos, listing copywriting and other marketing services in order to help real estate agents and companies move properties.
Why we’re watching: In a 2020 recap video, the company singled out expansion from the Bay Area into San Diego and Sacramento, nearly 3,000 videos completed and headcount growing to more than 100 team members (from just 19 to start the year) as a few items underscoring a high-growth year.
What they do: Debuting in January 2020, Aisera leverages AI to help enterprise companies automate key areas of operations, such as customer service and IT requests, in hopes of improving customer experience and boosting employee productivity.
Why we’re watching: In February of last year, Aisera scored a $20 million Series B to continue powering its growth. “We like to follow entrepreneurs like Muddu into the future,” Jon Callaghan, co-founder of True Ventures (which participated in the round) said of Aisera co-founder and CEO Muddu Sudhakar in a press release. The wins didn’t stop: Months later, the company shared that it had been named to the Forbes AI 50. This month, the company announced a $40 million Series C, bringing overall funding to $90 million-plus.
What they do: For employees seeking answers to questions, manually scouring sources of information can be a cumbersome experience. Allganize uses AI to automate the process, saving employees time in the workday by getting answers to their queries swiftly. The company’s 100-plus enterprise clients include SMBC, Hyundai Card and KB Securities.
Why we’re watching: Allganize’s funding reached $15 million total after a $10 million fundraising round announced in March. “The support from our investors allows us to move faster to meet the increasing demand for NLP — especially at a time of unprecedented growth,” founder and CEO Changsu Lee said in a press release, which noted that funds would be used for initiatives like hiring and R&D.
What they do: Brightline is focused on providing behavioral health solutions for kids and teens virtually with licensed professionals through its app. Services include therapy, coaching, speech therapy and more.
Why we’re watching: In August of last year, Brightline announced that it had notched a $20 million Series A, which would be leveraged for growing headcount and developing the company’s tech, among other efforts. “We’re thrilled to have an exceptional Series A investment to continue building a brighter future for families,” CEO and co-founder Naomi Allen said in a press release.
What they do: Cardless caters to superfans of sports teams by giving customers the chance to use points for team merch, exclusive offers and more. Users can manage rewards and make payments through a corresponding app.
Why we’re watching: Late last year, Bloomberg reported that the company had teamed up with the Cleveland Cavaliers for its inaugural card. “There’s a ton of startups in payments and lending and checking accounts and investment accounts. This is the last vertical in banking that hasn’t really been disrupted,” co-founder and CEO Scott Kazmierowicz said of the co-branded credit card space.
What they do: DataGrail helps companies ensure that they’re compliant with privacy laws. Their software can deliver automated data subject access requests, plus “live data maps” showing data use at an organization. It integrates with more than 900 apps and infrastructure providers.
Why we’re watching: In March, DataGrail shared that it had raised $30 million in its Series B funding. “With our Series B funding, plus the unparalleled expertise of our board, we’ll be investing even more in research and development and adding more people to our world-class team,” CEO and co-founder Daniel Barber wrote in a company blog post, which noted the Series B would help drive R&D and hiring.
What they do: Doorstead’s tech combs through data to suggest rental prices to property managers based on a given area, with its “guaranteed” option promising a certain amount of rental income to property managers as they seek to fill vacancies. The company oversees important aspects of the rental process, like managing rental listings, tenant screening, lease agreements and rent collection.
Why we’re watching: Doorstead made a handful of key hires last year. Among them: tapping Expedia Senior Director Jason Karas as the company’s new VP of Growth. “I’m thrilled to be joining this data-savvy and empathetic team at this moment of explosive growth, and to ultimately bring simplicity and peace of mind to property owners everywhere,” Karas said in an October 2020 press release. Another sign of growth: The company’s recently announced $12.5 million Series A, which Doorstead indicated will be used to developing its tech, bring aboard new talent and fuel entry into new markets.
What they do: This free network of more than 35,000 members focuses on helping women succeed in tech through connecting users to job opportunities, exposing them to industry peers and mentors and sharing knowledge by posting relevant articles. Last year, Elpha launched its iOS app.
Why we’re watching: Be it the gender pay gap, the “broken rung” or other disparities, the need for major improvements yielding an equitable tech industry for women abound, underscoring the importance of communities like Elpha. And, with resources like its “Top Workplaces for Women 2021” survey, whose results Axios recently reported, the company continues to help shape the dialogue around women in tech.
What they do: Sales isn’t just purely selling — there’s a litany of other tasks that go into pushing relationships forward and closing deals. Tailored to enterprise Salesforce users, Groove’s platform aims to make key functions like meeting scheduling, call logging and workflow management smoother for sellers across 30-plus industries.
Why we’re watching: Last year, Groove pulled in a $12 million Series A funding. “Groove has grown 103 percent year over year on average in a largely organic way and has invested deeply in product and engineering up until this point. This funding round enables us to drive greater awareness of our unique market position and competitive differentiation,” CEO Chris Rothstein said in a press release. The round brought the Inc. 5000 Regionals: California honoree’s total funding to $16 million.
What they do: Transforming data from wearables, fitness apps, labs and other sources, Human API’s platform allows individuals to share their health data at their discretion with companies that can use it to inform use cases in areas like life insurance, clinical research and more.
Why we’re watching: Human API wound down 2020 with a $20 million-plus Series C, announced last November, to continue scaling their product. "With this new capital we're evolving Human API into a digital transformation platform unifying more data from more sources," founder and CEO Andrei Pop said in a release.
What they do: Legalist helps fund litigation efforts, using algorithms to inform decisions around the cases in which it will invest. “We scrape state and federal court records and look for indicators, like whether a court is favorable to plaintiffs, if particular case types tend to win, who the judge is. We also check for points at which the case could be dismissed,” CEO and co-founder Eva Shang previously told TechCrunch.
Why we’re watching: Last year, not only did the company reach more than $500 million in damages recovered for clients but it also announced that it had invested in more than 100 cases. “Legalist’s unique combination of technology and human expertise is what allows us to underwrite David vs. Goliath cases quickly and efficiently,” Shang said in a press release announcing the former.
What they do: Mercury lets startups open bank accounts tailored to their financial needs as they seek to scale. Accounts are free to open and feature savings accounts, checking accounts, debit cards and other features.
Why we’re watching: The company, which garnered a $20 million Series A a few years ago, singled out in a blog post some notable metrics underscoring a momentous year for the team, including more than 500,000 wires sent as well as $110 million directed into its newly announced Mercury Treasury product. Also notable? Their headcount: At the time of the December 2020 recap, Mercury said it touted more than 60 employees in nine cities — and appears to be currently hiring.
What they do: From a bike trip to a car ride, the Miles app lets users rack up miles regardless of the mode of transportation. Miles can subsequently be used toward perks at partner companies like Chewy, DoorDash and other notable brands.
Why we’re watching: Miles popped the hood on its 2020 growth with its recent “Miles 2020 in Review.” Highlights included more than 1.8 billion miles earned by users, 2.4 million rewards redeemed and more than $22 million saved via rewards, according to the company. An equally significant milestone? Last summer’s investment from Liil Ventures, helping power the company’s expansion into Europe and Latin America.
What they do: Leveraging what the company describes as “hybrid, common-sense powered AI,” Robust.AI aims to allow robots to autonomously operate in settings like construction, delivery and warehouses.
Why we’re watching: Last year, Robust.AI’s total funding reached $22.5 million, thanks to a $15 million Series A, announced in October, to help further the development of their platform. “At Robust, we want to grow the entire robotics industry by overhauling the software stack for robotics, injecting cognition and common sense into the pipeline, allowing robots to operate in complex environments that were previously out of reach,” co-founder and CEO Gary Marcus said in a press release.
What they do: Solv.’s app allows users to get same-day appointments, both in person or via video. According to the healthtech company’s website, more than 27 million individuals have booked through their service, which also allows people to schedule COVID-19 tests.
Why we’re watching: A $27 million Series B+ funding round, announced in November 2020, encapsulated a high-growth year for the company. “Solv. is leading the charge to make sure that innovative providers can offer a digital-first experience and consumers get more access to what they need, when they need it, from their phones,” CEO and co-founder Heather Fernandez said in a press release. With the round — which the company said would help grow their network of providers — Solv.’s total funding clocks in at $50 million.
What they do: Geared toward teens, Step offers free bank accounts with perks like no minimum balance requirements and zero fees (think: ATM, late and overdraft fees). In February, the Palo Alto-based company — which also offers Step Visa Cards — said it now touted more than 1 million users.
Why we’re watching: The company bid adieu to 2020 with a splash when it reported a $50 million Series B in December, with new investors including high-profile names like Justin Timberlake and Eli Manning. “We founded Step to help improve the financial future of the next generation and this investment not only validates what we’ve built, but it will also help us continue to innovate and grow with our users,” CEO and Founder CJ MacDonald said in a press release. Driving growth and staffing up were said to be core focuses of the funding.
What they do: Machine learning engineers can leverage Streamlit’s open source framework to help make developing apps more turnkey. According to the company’s website, teams at Uber, Yelp, Google and other organizations have used their tech.
Why we’re watching: Streamlit wasted no time building on a momentous 2020 that featured a $21 million Series A. After a $35 million Series B notched earlier this month, which will be used to catalyze further growth and reach of its platform, Streamlit now touts $62 million in total funding. “The coming year will be even bigger, with more app features, programmable state, speed improvements, multipage apps and tons of enterprise security features,” co-founders Adrien Treuille, Amanda Kelly and Thiago Teixeira said in a blog post.
What they do: Dishwasher broken? Garbage disposal in disrepair? Members of subscription-based Super can have repair and maintenance on items like these and more completed by professionals — while the company handles the costs.
Why we’re watching: Super made noise a few years ago when the company tallied a $20 million Series B in 2019, with CEO Jorey Ramer noting 400 percent year-over-year growth in customer base at the time. According to Super’s website, the company’s current coverage includes a handful of major cities including Houston, Chicago, Baltimore and Washington D.C.
What they do: Charging electric vehicles puts a demand on power grids. Founded by John Taggart and Apoorv Bhargava, WeaveGrid’s tech leverages predictive analytics and machine learning so EVs can be smartly integrated with the grid. The efforts buoy an overall goal to aid decarbonization in transportation.
Why we’re watching: With the attention around electric vehicles (whose U.S. market share McKinsey said “will likely increase” in the years ahead) seeming to continually heighten, the technologies aiding the broader industry demand focus. For those interested in playing a part, WeaveGrid’s seeking talent in areas like business development, engineering and solutions, according to the company’s careers page.
What they do: Students gearing up for college can use the ZeeMee app to chart the application process (like chatting with admissions counselors and getting application tips), decision process and eventual next steps (like connecting with future fellow students). Colleges, meanwhile, can use it for recruitment and engagement efforts.
Why we’re watching: The app’s “Year In Review: ZeeMe Edition” spotlighted key wins from 2020: 167,000 new users, more than 40 new partner schools and more than 150 virtual events conducted, among others
What they do: Launched by Uber alums Arjun Vora and Tito Goldstein, Zira harnesses AI to help users automate key management tasks for shift workers like employee onboarding, scheduling and incentives. Their tech integrates with payroll providers like ADP and Quickbooks.
Why we’re watching: Zira reported a $3.1 million fundraising round last fall, led by General Catalyst and Abstract Ventures. “We are making a solution that enables employers to do right by their employees, and in return, reap the benefits of an engaged workforce,” Vora told Crunchbase News, also noting to the outlet that the funding would be used to support hiring talent.