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Startup Watch: 5 Innovative Newbies to Know

These five hungry startups are capitalizing on Millennial trends to provide potentially game-changing services that could see big success.

Every trend that sweeps through the young consumer landscape provides a new opportunity for businesses. But while big brands often have trouble figuring out how to capitalize on the latest craze or cultural moment, startups move fast to find ways to appeal to Millennial retail rebels, disruptive mindsets, on-demand mentalities, peer-to-peer revolutions, new pasttimes, and shifting values. Here are five innovative newbies playing off trends to create new businesses that could find big success thanks to their of-the-moment focus: 


We wrote in our most recent trend report that young consumers are seeking out experiences that surprise and delight them, and a wave of new companies is attempting to make buying even mundane items special and shareable—a movement BuzzFeed is calling fundane. Mattress company Casper is a prime example, rethinking the “Big Sleep” business model and trying to turn mattress shopping into a an adventure. Casper offers a single style mattress that is hand delivered in a box (via bike in NYC), and encourages customers to film themselves “unboxing” the item as it expands from the size of a golden retriever to its full dimensions. The brand hopes that the easy and positive buying experience will be social media worthy, and wants to make what was once a chore a fun experience. While Bloomberg Business notes that Casper has a lot of work to do to take down long-standing mattress companies, the startup is appealing to several Millennial trends, and could get young consumers to convert.


25% of 13-32-year-old males are currently playing in a fantasy sports league, along with 9% of females in the same age range, according to a 2014 Ypulse monthly survey. Ypulse data also shows that 20% have played before, but just aren’t right now. Fantasy sports are a big trend, and fantasy-betting site DraftKings is capitalizing on its popularity, and getting attention. The Walt Disney Company recently invested $250 million in the Boston startup, which specializes in “Daily Fantasy Sports,” a newer style of fantasy that creates a roster of players for a single day or week rather than an entire season. DraftKings also deals with real money, with players betting, and winning, actual cash, a development in the category that has increased outside companies’ interest.


55% of Millennials say regular exercise is very/extremely important, and 65% agree that they have a healthy lifestyle, according to a 2014 Ypulse survey. But from gym selfies to the “fit is the new pretty” mantra, evidence is everywhere that working out has become a trend that goes beyond staying healthy—it has cultural clout. But not every Millennial can afford the personal trainer and gym membership that they might want, so startup TruBe is giving young consumers a way to access a professional training session, on-demand. The London-based app makes “fitness and well being straightforward and accessible,” providing users with the tools to book workout sessions within an hour or weeks ahead of time, wherever they might want. Trainers will meet users anywhere from the park to their office, bring everything needed for the workout, and charge £65 per session.


Many hotels have been on the quest to Millennialize their accommodations and business models, and compete with Airbnb. Startup Pillow is putting even more pressure on hotels to step up their game. The company makes the Airbnb process smoother on all ends, acting as a middleman that takes care of everything from apartment listing to cleaning, manages the time-consuming parts of the process for the lister, and provides standard amenities for the renter. They charge an upfront fee of $250 and 15% thereafter, which could be a steal for those valuing time over money.


Startups are capitalizing on the pot culture as the “marijuanaconomy” heats up, and weed’s taboo status goes up in smoke. (Catching up with Millennials’ long-held POV.) Restrictions against pot-related apps have been lifted, and there has been an influx of smartphone-based services devoted to all things weed, but perhaps the most risky of these new “iSmoke” startups are those that focus on delivering the newly-legal product to tech-savvy customers, on-demand. Eaze is a leader in that category, and the “Uber for weed” recently got a big push from a famous stoner. Snoop Dogg’s venture firm invested the app, helping it reach $10 million in Series A funding—a feat Forbes calls “almost unheard of” for a weed startup. Since launching last July, Eaze has made 30,000 weed deliveries from dispensaries to patients in the Bay Area. The app is planning on some rapid expansion, and improvements to deliver the green goods to users within 15 minutes of ordering.