The 21st century begins its third chapter, and with it we have a new cohort of Pioneers. In 2019, Pioneer funded 68 companies and people from over 20 countries. We're excited for where 2020 will take us.
From software that gives you infinite memory to a credit card that reduces global warming, the first set of Pioneers of 2020 are working on tractable, useful companies that will positively impact our society and planet in the coming decade.
These are the founders working on the frontier.
Nat-bot - Nathan Ganser, Ebrahim Hasan
Superhuman for your address book.
Nathan and Ebrahim are working on Nat-bot, a kind of Superhuman, but for your address book. Within sales, CRM systems are as common as a Toyota Prius, but nobody has built the Ferrari for the F1. Something powerful for high-end CEO and founders who want to remain in touch with an extended network.
Nat-bot reminds you to reach out to people you haven't talked to in a while, asks you to take notes about people you've recently seen, and gives you an overview of your whole network with actionable insights. It syncs with G Suite, LinkedIn, Facebook, and more.
Noteworthy: Nathan’s school expelled him for building a website where students could rate teachers. Ebrahim was featured on freelancer.com twice when he was 15 and 16, and is currently a shareholder in a Swedish and Egyptian startup.
Karmabot - Stas Kulesh, David Kravitz
A performance tracking chatbot.
With the advent of Slack, MS Teams, Docs, and more, there is now a Cambrian explosion of company information that was previously oral history. Much of this can be leveraged to find out who within the company is missing recognition.
Karmabot observes the digital watercooler over chat. Through micro-feedback and rewards, it figures out who is consistently great on your team and company. It gives managers what they’ve always wanted: detailed insights on performance assessed in a minimally-partial way.
Noteworthy: Stas has launched over 30 products on product hunt, and has been featured 25 times. In 2004, he created a 3D Tank videogame that received several awards & was sold in every gaming outlet in Russia. David is a product manager. But don’t let that fool you. He’s also worked as a police officer, a bouncer, a call-centre specialist, a tech support person and a PADI diving instructor.
Evolve Research - Tarik Dzekman, Jarryd Clark
Trello, for research.
Here’s the scene: the FBI is researching a case. Visualize it in your mind. Post-its, thumbtacks, and corkboards are littered on a giant board. There’s a reason humans gravitate to this format: we like seeing the bigger picture and moving things around. Evolve is building a dedicated variant of that for customer research.
“But wait”, you think. “Trello does that already!”. And it’s true that a spork can be used as a fork, but sometimes it’s more effective to have a dedicated workflow tool. Software can be equal parts educational and useful, and Evolve will likely both train and equip people on how to do, fast-paced product research.
Noteworthy: This is a team that loves new technology. Tarik has previously made a proof of concept for a new type of neural network architecture. Jarryd has built conceptual prototypes for holographic glance banking using eyewear paired with a smartwatch.
Flock - Aaron Ng
Twitter as a CRM.
LinkedIn was great for the last decade, but it increasingly feels outdated. Like a flash website where no matter what you click on, you get the opposite of what you wanted. Increasingly, people are building connections through other social networks like Twitter. Aaron is capitalising on this with Flock, a tool that allows you filter the people you follow for investors, leads and influential people.
Noteworthy: Aaron has an impressive resume. He’s previously made apps that reached #1 on the Mac App Store, and worked with Square Cash and Facebook AR. But his interests don’t stop there. He made a YouTube tech channel for a year, briefly co-owned a coffee shop, and thought he was going to become a musician.
NetZero - Angus Shaw, Nicolas Carmont, Ashish Telang
A carbon footprint tracker.
NetZero is working on nudging consumers to buy sustainable products with point programs. We know branded credit cards cultivate loyalty to Target or American Airlines. Assuredly they can achieve a similar effect for Earth! Get 2X the points if you bring your cup to Starbucks. (That was just an example, but you get the idea.)
Noteworthy: Each teammate has done something very interesting before NetZero. Angus moved to China to teach English after school. Ashish white-labeled electronics from China and sold them for 3x the price in India when he was 15. Nicolas built an app that estimated body fat percentage from a photo with 84% accuracy.
Nototo - Chen Wang, Austa Jiang
Memory Palace Generator.
A “Memory Palace” is a time-tested, proved method to remember almost anything. The idea is that if you spatially encode your memories, you can remember more. It may sound weird, but it works. Nototo puts this into software. It's kind of Minecraft-meets-notes.
Noteworthy: Since they joined the tournament, the team went from a landing page to a fully functioning prototype.