Last Christmas
I gave you your start
But the very next quarter
You burned through my cash.

This year
To save my accountant
From tears
I’ll invest in something special.

Digital Shadows (UK)

Based in London and San Francisco, Digital Shadows provides companies with cyber situational awareness. In non-sales speak, they monitor the internet across the visible, deep and dark web, scanning for information that can provide a company with tailored threat intelligence. Specifically, they focus on cyber threats, data leakage and reputation risks lurking in the shadow of the web. They’ve made great progress this year in customer acquisition, added incredible experience to their team, and raised $26m to help companies step into the light.

Nubank (Brazil)

In Brazil, people pay some of the highest interest rates and fees in the world for some of the worst banking services. Enter Nubank, a digital bank with no intermediaries or expensive bureaucracy meaning customers pay lower rates and gain more control of their own finances. Imagine being rewarded for good behaviour and being given more direct control over your account and the decisions made around it. I bet most Brazilians wish they’d known about this bank sooner.

Copia

According to Copia CEO Komal Ahmad, hunger is the developed world’s dumbest problem. Copia provides businesses (retailers, corporate cafeterias, caterers, etc) with the easiest and most effective way to get rid of their excess food, reduce disposal and overproduction costs, and receive tax credits for their food donation, which goes to feed the hungry. Not bad for a simple, easy-to-use application that also lets you know the impact your donation has on the community. Founded in San Francisco, investors are eating the startup up. This company is going places, literally and financially.

ElektroCouture

What do you do if you want to express yourself through fashion but can’t find any clothes that really reflect your personality? Well, if you’re Lisa Lang, a former engineer who couldn’t find the clothes to ‘express her nerdiness’, you set up your own company and build it into one of the hottest startups in Germany. ElektroCouture sells LED jewellery and clothes that glow in the dark – including a jacket that changes colour based on texts it receives. Lang has produced clothing for Lufthansa, IBM and Intel, and sells her collection on ASOS and, soon, Amazon. The world is about to be taken by a (lightning) storm.

AquAgri

Most farmed crops take an incredible amount of water, fertiliser and all-round care to make it to harvest. Not so with seaweed. It’s ‘planted’ in the ocean, only needs sunlight and nutrients from the water it lives in to grow, and is incredibly renewable. Abhiram Seth has made seaweed farming a sustainable business that offers those involved, mainly women, a fixed, predetermined income, which desrisks the job, and an opportunity to produce a crop that itself becomes an organic biostimulant for other, more needy crops. The company sells this biostimulant through tata chemicals, and provides other products to sell to major conglomerates. Colorado, move on over; here’s the next hotspot for weed.

Tutorama

Tutorama, founded in Egypt, was built on the belief that any child could achieve amazing things if they had the right support system. This idea has manifested itself, so far, as a marketplace for parents to connect with high-quality tutors, filtered by subject, curriculum or credentials. The platform facilitates the scheduling and billing, and provides a centralised location for progress monitoring. ‘Personalisation is Tutorama’s mantra,’ said Omar Khashaba, Founder and CEO. This is one startup taking it to a higher degree.

Smarkets

Vegas (and all bookmakers) are rigged so the investor/gambler ultimately loses (in aggregate of course). Smarkets is a betting exchange that facilitates peer-to-peer betting. Users set their own odds and bet against each other. Don’t like the odds? See if you can get them better elsewhere. The system is not rigged in favour of the house because there is no house. The platform takes a small 2% fee for its work – ten times lower than your typical betting platform. While it was founded in 2008, Smarkets has made some massive strides forward in 2017 and was ranked the 25th fastest-growing company in Europe by the FT. I wouldn’t bet against them continuing their growth in 2018.

Snapask

Approaching tutoring from a completely different perspective, Hong Kong-based Snapask acts as a mobile crowdsourcing platform, instantly connecting tutors and students for one-on-one academic support. In fact, its AI connecting tool is said to be able to provide students with a personalised response to questions, from a tutor, within 15 seconds of submitting. Students take a picture of their question, upload it to the platform, say supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (Ok, I made this part up) and get their reply. In 2016 Snapask began using IBM’s Watson at its core and in 2017 launched version 4 of its app, surpassing 300,000 users. File this one under prestidigitation.

Typeform

If you’re not using Typeform to create customer surveys and capture useful information, you probably live under a rock. Typeform, which hails from Barcelona, has found a way of, dare I say it, making forms (and surveys) beautiful. Launched in February of 2014, the company clocked 100,000 users by August of that year, going from strength to strength since. Describing itself as a platform for conversational data collection, 2017 has been a breakout year for the company, capped with a $35m fundraise led by General Atlantic. The new funds will go towards building more developer integrated tools and AI. This poll of one is conclusive; Typeform is definitely collecting momentum.

Infinidat

Imagine a data storage startup that claims to have just three seconds of downtime per year, can prove it eats up only a third of the power competitors use, and is priced at half the going market rate. Sounds too good to be true, but I assure you it’s not. Israel-based Infinidat has developed a hybrid flash and spinning disk system that does all of that, and more. They’ve raised over $230m to take on storage giants, such as EMC and IBM, and there’s no reason to think Infinidat can’t do just that. This newly made ‘Unicorn’ will not be stowed.

ConnectMed (South Africa/Kenya)

This South African startup allows patients to get in touch with a qualified doctor anytime, anywhere, anyplace (where it operates). From 8am to 11pm, patients can schedule a consultation of 15 mins (minimum) and pay a flat, affordable fee. The team is passionate about achieving the mission of enabling everyone to live healthier, longer, happier lives no matter their income level. 2017 has been good for ConnectMed, with the company expanding into surrounding countries. Yes folks, the doctor is in the house.

The Boring Company

First PayPal, then solar and eventually Tesla, now that Musk character is turning his attention to a reportedly less exciting venture. While Tesla is doing a great thing in the motor industry by effectively replacing dirty, fossil-fueled power vehicles with slightly less dirty electric ones, there is still the small issue of simply having too many darn cars on the roads. So, instead of finding a way for people to not need cars, Musk has decided to dig massive tunnels under major cities that will allow the transport of cars, with people inside, past the congestion. I promise you, as odd as that sounds, you have to understand how attached Americans are to their cars. Once that is understood, you’ll realise this isn’t such a mad idea. There is nothing boring about this boring company, except the actual boring.