Top 10 Startups of 2013: From Pebble Smartwatch to Snapchat Selfies

After years of recession, 2013 saw the long-awaited turnaround for many businesses–although many families are nevertheless still struggling. In the face of newfound competition and improving outlooks, entrepreneurs have been searching high and low for good ideas. From language learning to Minority Report-style computer controls and hook-up apps to new chat formats, they’ve found success! Unsurprisingly, nearly all of the apps either are in the tech sector or dependent on it–befitting the late date of 2013. Here are the ten best startups, from $10 million Pebble to $3 billions plus Snapchat.

10. Pebble


After gaining financial backing on Kickstarter–specifically, earning $10 million in a month, smashing Kickstarter records–Pebble faced a much larger task: bringing their product to market. Their smart watches were successfully brought to market this year, after a series of delays. However, if you think that you’d like to have your phone shoot facebook updates, sports scores, and (of course) the time to your wrist, then Pebble is the startup for you. With over one quarter million sold so far, the company seems to have bet wisely. Using a bluetooth signal, your phone and your watch will be in constant contact, and the face will fit onto most watch bands–allowing endless customizability. If wearables become the next new thing, Pebble is poised for success. Our B2B experts are starting to wonder if we can expect some of the best CRM software services to realease their apps in smartwatch versions soon.

9. Patreon


Like Kickstarter for art. The name even suggests the goal, which is to enable the masses of citizens to become modern-day patrons of the arts by funding creative types. Those funded will receive payments every time they release their music, or post a youtube video of their work. Rather than pitching a project to investors, they can get paid repeatedly after producing their work. So far, the company has raised over $2 million in venture capital, and with more money in the pipeline, Patreon is set up to provide art for the masses in 2014.

8. Leap Motion


Want to control your computer like Tom Cruise in Minority Report? With Leap Motion’s new technologies, you can–at the low, low price of $79.99 (about the same as a handful of blu-ray copies of the film). While the company started in 2010, they had a huge 2013 after successfully getting their software and sensors integrated into a Hewlett Packard laptop. The sensor, which works with PCs and Macs, lets you make gestures to control objects on the screen–clicking, dragging, etc with a flick of the wrist. After a recent string of slick, Apple-like commercials, Leap Motion is setup to go mainstream in 2014.

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7. Beyond Meat


After years of tofurkey and other semi-edible attempts at creating meat-like flavors in vegetarian packages, Beyond Meat is trying something differently: using pea and soy proteins as the base, the company has fully engineered a chicken replacement that not only tastes, but feels and looks like chicken as well. So far, the company has placed its Beyond Meat products in Whole Foods across the nation, but they’re looking beyond. Producing chicken meat the traditional way, by feeding chickens, uses far more soy and other crops than just using the crops directly to produce the “meat” directly. This facet makes the company’s upside growth trajectory very promising: using their beyond meat food, the company can likely sell to lower-income countries and see large-scale demand for their thrifty and, allegedly, tasty producets.

6. Coinbase


Bitcoin, a digital currency, made the news recently after one of its primary uses was shut down: an online drug marketplace called Silk Road. Coinbase was one of the first companies to realize that bitcoin offered a profit opportunity–if someone could convince legal businesses to begin using it. Coinbase fills that gap. On their website, you can buy and sell bitcoins, store them there, and soon use them for purchases from genuine merchants. They have attracted $6 million in funding from venture capitalists and over 10,000 merchants. If they can build on their success, they may well offer a reasonable alternative to Paypal in the Bitcoin world.

5. Duolingo


Learning a new language? Brushing up on some high school Spanish–or French, German, Portuguese, Italian, or English? Just traveling internationally, and wanting to order dinner? If any of these apply to you, then Duolingo is the startup you want to check out. While there are plenty of flashcard apps out there Duolingo is operating at a higher level: it includes not just identifying the correct word, but reading, writing, listening, and even speaking comprehension tests. While plenty of online learning management software options have existed for some time, this is far and away the top language app available today. The company is also clearly a well-run startup, having partnered with BuzzFeed to help translate the popular media page’s stories into Spanish, French, and Portuguese–a great sign that the company is seeking solid footing and setting itself up for success in the future.

4. Lyft


Need a lift? Download the app, look for a mustache, and get ready to give dap: all three are prerequisites for a successful ride with Lyft, a new transportation service that employees regular drivers and sidesteps the heavily regulated taxi market. The drivers do undergo training and background checks, and millions of riders have already used the service, which is available in 18 cities after starting in tech-heavy San Francisco. Premised on a car-free lifestyle for young urban types, the service follows in the footsteps of the more-upscale Uber and competes with Sidecar, along with more traditional transit options. After raising $60 million in August, the startup is poised to build on an incredible 2013 with an even better future.

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3. Tinder


Dating websites have problems: Match makes it too easy to contact others, while OKCupid is too involved; Christian Mingle and JDate are niche; and so what’s a singleton to do if they just want a good time with a good-looking partner? One option: download Tinder. You start by swiping away all the faces you don’t like, and any two-way thumbs up will result in a chat that can end in a hookup. While the founders claim that relationships have ended in marriage, the app is aimed at more casual encounters. It has clearly hit a nerve in 2013, with two million daily users and plans to expand into business networking and other endeavors.

2. Upworthy


You know that website that seems to always be filling up all of your social media pages? That’s Upworthy! Having only been on this planet since 2012, this past year was a huge success for this leftist news and media promoting startup. At its height in 2013, Upworthy saw 38 million unique visitors in the month of September. Upworthy has been called the fastest growing website of all time. One of the keys to Upworthy’s success is the fact that their writers are asked to submit around 25 headline ideas for each of their articles before they are published. No wonder their articles are so link-worthy!

1. Snapchat


One sign a startup is out of control (in a good way!): it turns down a $3 billion buyout offer from Facebook! Even Instagram went out with an $800 million offer–it’s hard to imagine turning down an offer almost four times larger. Snapchat’s owners may have learned a valuable lesson from their own service: money, like most things in life, is ephemeral and it’s more important to have fun along the way! And Snapchat is having plenty of fun: with a location in hip Venice, California, the employees are enjoying life as much as the mostly teens snapping selfies and then drawing and writing over them, the app’s main features. Whether the decision to turn down Facebook’s offer turns out to be genius or foolish, and whether Snapchat ever figures out a way to make a buck off of teens’ fleeting attention, one thing is sure: Snapchat has been the startup of the year for 2013.

Category: Financial News

One Comment »

  • Zenzuki says:

    One startup that you need to watch is Jelly. It’s a search query tool but based on images and social network. You post a photo and ask your friends, hoping you get an answer soon. This is remarkable based on my own experience. I remember trying to search for the name of a bird species a couple of years ago but I only have a photo as lead. Not even Google could help me find the answer because I couldn’t key in which words. Jelly found a niche.

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