The Future 5 of San Francisco Tech, Q4 2021
Sure, the latest initiatives from the Teslas, Apples and Googles of the industry tend to dominate the tech news space — and with good reason. Still, the big guns aren’t the only ones bringing innovation to the sector.
In an effort to highlight up-and-coming startups, Built In is launching The Future 5 across eight major U.S. tech hubs. Each quarter, we will feature five tech startups, nonprofits or entrepreneurs in each of these hubs who just might be working on the next big thing. You can check out last quarter’s inaugural round-up of promising Bay Area startups here.
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It’s no secret that San Francisco is home to several top dog tech leaders, but what about the little guys? The Bay Area is home to plenty of up-and-coming startups that deserve their fair share of the spotlight as well.
The city by the bay is constantly innovating and has so much more to offer outside of the bubble of Silicon Valley. Plenty of startups worth noting have been popping up across the Bay Area in areas like Oakland, Berkeley, Mountain View and more.
From real-time translation apps to virtual divorce lawyers, these local innovators have broad sweeping goals and aren’t afraid to start small. San Francisco is still the city to watch when it comes to cool and creative emerging tech startups. The selected few on this list prove that those dreading a so-called “techxodus” have nothing to fear.
The same thing could be said a million different ways in the tech world, which is why San Francisco-based startup Ditto is working to make sure the procedural language companies use is consistent across teams.
Ditto helps companies big and small manage and componentize words across their product from design to production. The remote software aims to make it easier for teams to collaborate by providing them with a single place to view their edit history, check up on text status, sync duplicate text and search copy across designs.
“It’s been a pretty fun time this past year building and growing Ditto since we exited YC,” Jessica Ouyang, co-founder of Ditto, tweeted. “A lot has changed since [my co-founder] and I were coding in our Stanford dorm room, but we’re still as excited as ever for what’s next.”
The SaaS startup emerged from Y Combinator’s winter 2020 batch and closed on a $1.5 million seed round last June. Since then Ditto’s end-to-end technology has already been adopted by corporate giants like Microsoft, Stripe and McAfee.
Forward Kitchens (Foodtech)
If you’ve ever ordered in from a restaurant, only to look it up later and find out that it doesn’t exist, then you may have ordered from a ghost kitchen. Ghost kitchens are delivery-only restaurants that oftentimes operate out of the space of an existing one.
As the pandemic continues and more people choose to order in rather than go out, the rise in popularity of ghost kitchen businesses has continued to accelerate across the U.S. According to Euromonitor, ghost kitchens could create a $1 trillion global market by 2030.
Now, Bay Area-based company Forward Kitchens has arrived to provide restaurants with a way to launch ghost kitchens of their own.
We aim to become the backbone of the restaurants that feed America.”
With Forward, restaurants can set up as many digital storefronts as they’d like without having to get in touch with multiple shipping and delivery companies.
“The food delivery market is set to explode and we aim to become the backbone of the restaurants that feed America,” the company said in a statement. “Delivery should no longer be an ancillary business line for kitchen operators but rather a focus food establishments need to adapt to, to succeed in the digital world.”
To get started on the platform, Forward puts boots on the ground of a restaurant location and takes into account its capacity for additional cooking space. The startup also takes other things into account like the restaurant’s neighborhood demographics, as well as what food is already available in the area. From there, Forward provides eateries with next steps on how to expand their business.
Born out of Y Combinator’s summer 2019 cohort, the SaaS platform emerged from stealth last August with $2.5 million in seed financing. In addition to Y Combinator, new investors Floodgate, Slow Ventures, and SV Angel participated in the round.
Hello Divorce (SaaS)
The emotional turmoil of a divorce is tough enough as is, add all the paperwork on top of that and it’s an absolute nightmare. Oakland-based startup Hello Divorce is here to change that. Founded in 2018 by family law attorney Erin Levine, the legal tech platform aims to give its clients “lawyer results without the lawyer cost.”
So far, the platform has seen a 95 percent divorce success rate for its clients.
“What I’m really passionate about is the access to justice component of what we do and how we are part of the movement to shape legal for the greater good,” Erin Levine, founder and CEO of Hello Divorce, said to Built In. “Navigating a big life event on your own can be frightening and overwhelming, add in a complicated and wildly inefficient legal process and we are really set up to be negatively impacted.”
Divorce is not the end of a family – it’s simply a reorganization.”
Almost 50 percent of all marriages in the United States will end in divorce or separation, according to a study by Wilkinson and Finkbeiner. This is great news for platforms like Hello Divorce. The company has seen 100 percent year-over-year growth since its founding.
“No one should be bankrupted by divorce, and no one should stay in an unhappy or unhealthy marriage simply because they can’t afford it,” Levine continued. “Divorce is not the end of a family – it’s simply a reorganization. And the more education and affordable services we provide, the more we will see our communities thrive.”
Hello Divorce provides clients with both self-service and guided processes, those who’d like access to a lawyer have that option as well. The platform, which announced the arrival of a $2 million seed round back in July, is currently available to users in California, Colorado, Texas and Utah.
The pandemic has highlighted many longstanding problems with healthcare access in communities of color. According to the CDC, Latinx people are nearly three times as likely to be hospitalized from Covid-19, and 2.3 times as likely to die from the virus. Other long-standing health issues like hypertension and diabetes disproportionately affect Black and Latinx communities.
Bay Area-based startup MiSalud is on a mission to address these and other issues by way of its mobile app and extended platform. The company offers patients a range of personalized preventive care and traditional healthcare services with Spanish-speaking physicians.
Hispanic people account for 20 percent of the U.S. population, and in states like California and Texas, that number goes up to 40 percent, according to MiSalud co-founder and CEO Devon Huff.
“Many [Latinx people] are essential workers — important members of the global food and manufacturing supply chain,” Huff said. “But unfortunately, most [Latinx people] don’t have Spanish-speaking physicians in their communities. Which contributes to one-third of Hispanic women and nearly half of Hispanic men not having a primary care doctor.”
Huff grew up in Oxnard, a town in Southern California where Latinx people make up the majority of the population. Both his father and his grandfather were physicians for the community. His background, in addition to that of his co-founders, is what inspired him to get MiSalud off the ground.
“My parents came to the U.S. as migrant field workers. We used to travel between Mexico, California and Washington State, following the fruit harvest from April to December,” Bismarck Lepe, co-founder and executive chairman of MiSalud, said in a statement. “Because of the cost, we wouldn’t see doctors until we were back in Mexico in December. Now, despite having good insurance and financial means, my mother still goes to Tijuana for medical care. She feels more comfortable with someone who understands her language and culture.”
MiSalud announced the arrival of $5 million in venture capital back in August to continue increasing access to healthcare services for the Latinx community. The company debuted its app earlier this month after operating in private beta throughout most of the year.
If English wasn’t your first language and you speak with an accent, then you’re probably intimately familiar with native English speakers constantly underestimating your intelligence or deriding you for not speaking the language “properly.” To add, you may experience difficulties interacting with international callers during your workday. Mountain View-based company Sanas was founded to help solve for issues like these and more.
Sanas operates as a real-time accent translator. The company was founded by a group of three Stanford students from Russia, China and Venezuela. Each of them faced their own communication struggles due to their accents and, as a result, put their heads together to find a better way to communicate. Thus, Sana was born.
“I really celebrate the fact that I still have a little bit of my own Spanish accent. However, I do recognize that at certain points, it is hard to understand me,” Andrés Pérez Soderi, co-founder and CEO of Sanas, told Built In. “[This company] means quite a lot for me, not only because of where I come from and how I celebrate my own activism, but also because I've seen opportunities in my own life where something like Sanas has had a really big impact.”
Sanas’ software intercepts audio and converts accents through a speech-to-speech approach. This, in effect, creates a sort of virtual bridge between the audio device and the computer and sends a new signal to whatever communication app is in use.
We never want to say that one accent is better than another.”
“We’ve had a lot of people share stories about how either today or in the past, software like this could really change their lives. People that have immigrated from a foreign country to the United States and had to go hours and hours of accent pronunciation training,” Soderi continued. “It’s one of the things that I was most pleasantly surprised with this company is the effect that it can have. You know, the business stuff is great and all, but the effect that it can have on people, and in unlocking more connections, I think, is super special, especially as we continue to grow into a more global community.”
Sanas integrates with over 800 types of communication software, including Zoom, Skype and WhatsApp. The company’s technology is currently being used in several call centers around the world. Sanas has its sights set on using its tech to tackle numerous industries moving forward, from education and telemedicine to entertainment and gaming.
“We don’t want to erase anyone’s identity and that’s why we are so focused on the idea of matching rather than conversion,” Soderi said. “We don’t want to just change one person's accent on the other, we want to be able to match both ways. We never want to say that one accent is better than another.”
Sanas announced the arrival of $5.5 million in seed financing in August. Investors Human Capital, General Catalyst, Quiet Capital, and DN Capital participated in the round.