The Future 5 of San Francisco Tech, Q2 2022
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 11 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. Read our round-up of rising San Francisco startups from last quarter here.
San Francisco is still the tech capital of the world. Despite the unwavering pandemic, corporate big dogs like Apple and Facebook still have their roots firmly planted in the fog of the Bay Area. But what about the little guys? Plenty of up-and-coming startups are popping up that deserve their share of the spotlight as well.
Over the course of the last year, San Francisco techies have continued to innovate. From AI-powered manicure robots to virtual reproductive healthcare, the local innovators on this list may be small but that doesn’t mean they should be underestimated.
BUILT IN'S FUTURE 5 UP-AND-COMING BAY AREA STARTUPS, Q2 2022
- Clockwork (Beauty Tech/Robotics)
- Copia (Software)
- Grain (Fintech)
- Pandia Health (Healthtech)
- Posh (Greentech)
An average salon manicure can take up to an hour and cost upwards of $35, but San Francisco-based startup Clockwork is on a mission to slash both those numbers to $8 to $10 for a manicure done in less than 10 minutes. Launched in 2021, the company uses AI-enabled robots to make nail care less time-consuming and expensive.
“As a new mom to a toddler, I believe that time is my luxury. Being able to give people the time to do what they love instead of what they have to is exactly what we set out to achieve with Clockwork,” Clockwork CEO Renuka Apte told Built In via email. “We wanted to create an accessible and affordable option for women to get a quality service, without having to spend a bunch of time and money.”
Clockwork’s AI model is able to accurately identify the shape of each nail and quickly paint them with sub-millimeter accuracy, making awkward small talk with your manicurist a thing of the past. Instead, customers are greeted by an attendant who walks them through the process. After that, users interact with the machine through a touchscreen and voice control interface.
So far the company has raised $3 million in seed money and hopes to grow both in size and service offerings. Currently, Clockwork’s machines are available in a select few Targets in California, Texas, New York and Minnesota. The company also hopes to expand into other beauty services, such as hair and pedicures. To achieve this, Clockwork intents to hire additional engineers and marketing professionals soon.
With food waste at an all-time high, there’s an equally high demand for solutions that redistribute excess food to areas in need. Copia is a company doing exactly that. Founded in 2016, the San Francisco-based startup provides businesses with a way to safely donate their excess food so it doesn’t go to waste.
More than just a food delivery service, Copia provides its enterprise users with actionable insights about how they can lessen their food waste. These insights are drawn from data that the app collects over time. The Copia dashboard can help business owners track surplus trends, make better buying decisions and access tax savings.
“We love seeing the new and creative ways that communities come together to alleviate hunger. It doesn’t matter what your background is — education, race, religion, sexuality, etc. — all human beings deserve to eat, every day,” the company said in a Facebook post. “So we must all come together to end the stigma around hunger and to help feed our peers.”
Getting started is easy. All companies have to do is download the Copia app and schedule their first pickup. From there, users are shown how to properly prepare and package their food, after which a Copia delivery driver picks it up and delivers it to a local nonprofit recipient.
Inflation and interest rates are rising, causing many Americans to rack up tons of credit card debt just to get by. In the first three months of the year, credit card balances climbed to $841 billion, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and are expected to continue rising. One Oakland-based startup hopes to help consumers mitigate debt risk and build good credit.
Grain gives users access to a revolving line of credit based on their current financial behavior rather than relying on a credit score. With the goal of bridging the gap between current credit systems and those who are unable to access a line of credit, Grain has provided credit to more than 150,000 users.
“As immigrants or first-generation U.S. citizens, we also had our own personal experiences with obtaining credit that weren’t positive, which led us to the current credit system and experiencing first-hand how it truly is not equitable for everyone,” Christian Joseph, Grain CEO and co-founder, said. “Grain will provide anyone with access to credit based on current financial behavior rather than past mistakes.”
So far investors are interested in what Joseph hopes will eventually replace the credit card and change consumer mindsets when it comes to credit. Grain has raised $180,000 in venture capital financing to date, according to Crunchbase. The startup is currently hiring a remote customer support specialist and data scientist.
Pandia Health is an online birth control provider making it easier for patients to access reproductive care. Founded in 2016, the company offers and end-to-end solution for access to online doctor’s visits, prescriptions and medications delivered by mail.
“We believe that every woman has the right to make personal decisions regarding their own body,” Dr. Sophia Yen, co-founder and CEO of Pandia Health, said in a statement. “Providing easy access to birth control helps increase the number of women’s success stories, decrease unwanted pregnancies and decrease period problems like PMS and heavy periods.”
Those without an existing birth control prescription simply fill out an online evaluation and pay a $20 doctor fee. Pandia’s physicians then review the online form and prescribe a birth control method that best fits the patient’s needs. Patients can then receive free delivery of the prescription right to their door.
Recycling lithium batteries after electric vehicles (EVs) are done with them is a dangerous and laborious process. Posh is one company rethinking how lithium batteries are taken apart to make the process safer and more efficient.
After co-founder and CEO Wesley Zheng realized the sheer number of EV batteries piling up at warehouses while they waited to be dismantled, he knew there was a better way. Posh’s battery recycler combines computer vision and robotic arms to automate battery dismantling processes. Its flexible automation systems can disassemble numerous types of battery packs and use them to make new battery packs at scale, powering a more sustainable future for robotics and EVs.
“There will be around 12 million tons of batteries retiring from EV between now and 2030,” Zheng said in a statement announcing the company’s $3.8 million in seed funding. “Today these retired batteries are disassembled almost 100 percent manually before they are reused or shredded for recycling. We are changing this by making battery disassembly fast, safe and scalable. We want to bring affordable lithium-ion batteries to the masses and help create a circular economy for our electric future.”