5 Interesting Startup Deals You May Have Missed In August: Better Avatars, Help With Loneliness And Insect Farming

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5 Interesting Startup Deals You May Have Missed In August: Better Avatars, Help With Loneliness And Insect Farming





This is a monthly column that runs down five interesting deals every month that may have flown under the radar. Check out last month’s entry here.

Even though venture dollars may be slowing, startups are still getting money—including companies doing some unusual things. Here are some interesting rounds of note that may have been overlooked last month:

Upping your avatar game

If everyone will soon live in the metaverse, we’ll definitely need better avatars.

Clearly investors agree, as New York-based Ready Player Me locked in a $13 million Series A last month to further its full-body 3D avatar business. The new round was led by Taavet+Sten. Using AI motion capture, users can create a lifelike online avatar.

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In addition, the avatar can move between worlds in the metaverse—meaning people don’t need to create a new identity every time they hop worlds.

Along with investors, businesses are also jumping on board, according to the startup. The company has grown its customer base from just 25 in January to more than 900 companies now.

Looking for a few good fellows

Sometimes startups look to solve problems that are brand-new or ones we didn’t even know we have (see above).

Then there are companies that try to solve problems that unfortunately are timeless.

India-based Goodfellows closed a seed round last month to at least help—if not solve—one of those problems. The company looks to offer companionship to lonely senior citizens. The  subscription-based service connects young college students—or “good fellows”—with the elderly. The idea is to keep seniors company—maybe a walk, a meal or just a chat.

The undisclosed seed round actually brought out a big investor; former chairman of Tata Group, Ratan Tata.

The service is only available in Mumbai currently, but there are plans to expand.

Do you want fries with that?

How we order food has undergone a lot of changes in the past decade. Be it through a code, online or by robot, tech has forever changed how someone  gets a cheeseburger.

Memphis, Tennessee-based Bite Ninja takes it even further—as the startup specializes in remote work for the restaurant industry.

The company actually allows restaurants to hire remote workers to take orders at an eatery, meaning only food preparation staff have to be on-site to handle the order.

While introducing cloud labor to restaurants may seem like a little much, the startup closed a $11.3 million “bridge” round which included money from Manta Ray Ventures, Owl Ventures, AgFunder, Pioneer Fund and TRAC Unicorn fund.

The next big thing

Any retail brand wants to know what their customers’ tastes are and what they want next.

Qloo thinks it has the AI for just that. The New York-based startup raised a $15 million Series B in August from Eldridge and AXA Venture Partners.

The startup uses AI to help brands analyze anonymized and encrypted consumer data to provide recommendations.

That may not sound revolutionary, but as the company’s founder and CEO Alex Elias points out, consumers are normally only analyzed by what they buy or do in a certain app. Qloo can take a cross section of data and see how, for example, your favorite meal correlates to what music you like to listen to.

Both cool and scary at the same time.

Not your traditional farming

Upcycling is big right now in all walks of life as everyone looks to cut down on waste and focus on sustainability.

India-based Loopworm does its own kind of upcycling—with insects.The insect biotech startup closed a $3.4 million seed round co-led by Omnivore and WaterBridge Ventures as the company looks to upcycle food waste into protein-rich animal feed.

Loopworm uses biochemistry and fermentation to make food waste suitable for the breeding of insects that can be used for protein-rich nutrients and value-added ingredients. The company believes the process can help transform multiple sectors including aquaculture, pet food and nutraceuticals.

Maybe not appetizing, but definitely practical.

Illustration: Dom Guzman


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Author: Chris Metinko