8 Startup Ideas We'd Like To Invest In

It’s our job to ask questions and challenge the status quo. Why is it done that way? Who's being ignored as a result? Could it be done better? Could this group be served more effectively?

Our investors ponder these questions more than most and are in the process of documenting their findings via our new publication - Nanotrends. We’re exploring the interesting ways in which consumer behaviour, markets, technology, and climate are evolving and the promising startup opportunities that are emerging as a result.

You can follow our ever-growing directory here, or keep reading for a selection of 8 startups that we’d be keen to invest in...

The Opportunities

1) Conversational commerce will transform shopping

By Katie Kim

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We spend hours texting on our phones — the number of users on the top 4 messaging apps surpassed the number of users on the top 4 social media networks in 2015. We already buy things online, discover what to buy online, and chat about what to buy online with friends and family. So why wouldn’t businesses connect with consumers where they already are and through their preferred methods of communication?

We’re looking for startups that: are leveraging conversational commerce and enabling businesses to integrate messaging apps into their sales/marketing efforts.

2) Subscription management for boomers

By Matthew Bradley

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We’ve passed on a number of subscription management startups over the years, as for now it just doesn’t seem like that big of a problem for most markets or a younger generation. With a re-orientation towards older members of society - who studies reveal are less likely to to be able to identify a bad a deal, or a scam - there’s a chance that entrepreneurs can unlock a more acute use case. Older folk are increasingly addressable too. By this point, in many Western economies, it’s likely that smartphone penetration is over 70%, in the US almost all will have a cable subscription, with increasing numbers having further digital media subscriptions. That’s to say nothing about all of the other direct debits and standing orders that will be coming out of their accounts on a regular basis.

We’re looking for startups that: are building subscription management tools catered to the older generation.

3) Alexa, take care of my grandparents

By Louise Rix

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There are 5.4m people in the UK aged 75 and older and the number of older adults is expected to double in the UK in the next 25 years. To sustain this shift in population demographic it will be necessary for more people to live independently at home for longer. The personal IoT and connected home trend, particularly strong 5–10 years ago, showed promise for enabling older adults to be safer at home, but never came to the forefront, due to a general dislike of wearing monitoring devices.

Smart speakers are a promising passive solution - one that doesn't require the user to explicitly interact with the technology by speaking or pressing buttons. A team at MIT have already used Alexa to detect agonal breathing (usually an indicator of an underlying medical emergency) and there are many other health conditions that could be passively monitored.

We’re looking for startups that: are using smart speaker technology to assist older people to live independently at home for longer.

4) Why digital reskilling could power the post-covid workforce

By Luke Smith

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There is an emerging need for platforms that can re-skill and onboard new workers into these growth industries like logistics, e-commerce, and potentially healthcare, and help the millions of workers who have been impacted by Covid-19. While they’ll deliver a social good, they will also help workers and employers and so should be able to build valuable businesses.

Online education has seen massive growth over the past decade, with the emergence of massive online-only courses (MOOCs) from the likes of Coursera or EdX as well as digital language learning solutions such as Duolingo or Babbel. However, there is a gap for practical, skills-based vocational training of the sort that will be required. Companies such as Lambda Academy or Makers probably come closest but are typically focused on white-collar software developer roles rather than the often partially manual roles in the industries above.

We’re looking for startups that: are building digital training solutions for non-white collar skills such as those required for logistics, e-commerce, healthcare industries.

5) Telehealth for your pregnancy journey

By Katie Kim

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It comes as no surprise that the usage of telehealth apps by both patients and doctors has surged since the outbreak of this global pandemic. But, telehealth is not a catch-all solution for everyone. Namely, pregnant women and new mothers are largely unable to take advantage of the services that video conferencing and telemedicine provide.

There is an opportunity for an app where women can virtually connect with obstetricians and midwives to help guide them through their pregnancy journeys. Ideally, this would include personalized care (personally assigned doctors and midwives and up to date medical records), and a social community aspect where mothers and mothers-to-be could connect with one another to receive and offer emotional and mental support. Further, the user experience could stand to improve with integrations of connected devices. In pregnancy care, routine check-ups could be augmented with antenatal scans taken with portable, medical-grade ultrasound devices, such as with Clarius or Butterfly IQ, as well as blood and urine sample collections, all of which can be performed or taken within the comfort and safety of one’s home.

We’re looking for startups that: are building telehealth solutions catered to pregnant women and new mothers.

6) Podcasts Are Booming. But Can Someone Solve The Discovery Issue?

By Brendon Ferreira

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A good analogue for podcasting today is where web blogging was in the early ’90s, a time before Alta Vista, Yahoo and Google. A long tail of individuals would produce content but without any efficient way to be discovered. It was only through the proliferation of search engines and blogging platforms that truly unlocked the value of the internet.

The advancement of AI and ML, especially Natural Language Processing, means that the time and effort required to break down and understand spoken-word audio content is now scalably achievable. We have seen a rise in Automated transcript services and subtitle companies provide an opportunity to enrich audio information to be searchable and discoverable. It is the convergence of the enabling technology with the explosion of spoken-word audio that makes the timing right for a discovery solution searchable

We’re looking for startups that: are fixing the podcast discovery issue.

7) Blockchain, after the hype

By Matthew Bradley

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One view on the potential of the blockchain is that it is an incredibly powerful technology to organise and coordinate. That power is magnified when smart contracts (snippets of code that can self-execute) are brought into the picture. Crudely put, a blockchain + smart contracts has vast potential to simplify business processes.

Zero-ing in on a particular area, it seems to me that KYC — know your customers — and AML — anti-money laundering — are ripe for some efficiency gains. Being responsible on KYC/AML is a necessary cost of doing business for businesses that handle money, but a cost nonetheless. Indeed KYC/AML requirements tend to get more stringent over time, alongside generally increasing economic complexity. In 2018, for just the US, financial services firms spent ~$25 billion to manage money laundering risk. This is to say nothing about the cost of ignorance or breaches: you can see the impact and trend relating to that for financial institutions in the graph below.

We’re looking for startups that: are building RegTech solutions for costly business processes - such as KYC, and AML.

8) The future is intangible. Who’s going to finance it?

By Matthew Bradley

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Alex Danco recently made a case for software companies looking to securitise their MRR. This points squarely at the opportunity. There will need to be some infrastructure for this market too: those companies building a dataset relating to software intangibles (market value of R&D, stickiness of MRR) will be valuable.

If the underlying data is there to understand risks and exposures, dreaming for a moment, there could be a real winner with a company that cracks the code for financing intangibles in its broad sense — Research and Development (R&D) capabilities, Intellectual Property (IP) and software, know-how within organisations, brand — could be onto a massive market opportunity.

We’re looking for startups that: are building a way to finance intangibles.

Shope is a marketer, writer and headshot photographer. As Brand and Content Manager at Forward Partners, Shope executes on our content strategy and works to build our awareness with early-stage founders. Prior to joining Forward Partners she worked at e-commerce and marketplace startups, initially as a content creator at ASOS, before moving onto support Drover and Common Objective with their communications and content. She has a strong interest in consumer brands and sustainability.

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