“If you're like me, you've seen many "Best of 2022" lists. So instead of contributing another, here's a (far from exhaustive) handful of the consumer-focused companies from the On Deck community I believe people will be clicking on this year.”
- Julian Weisser, co-founder of On Deck
Why: Traditional home ownership is becoming historically out-of-reach
Over 1/3 of households in the United States rent. Most renters want to someday own. Unfortunately, interest rates for home purchases have gone through the roof and made monthly payments painful or impossible for many Americans to become homeowners. Affordability is the worst it's been since the early 80s and is getting worse.
There might not be a better time for a company like Roots to exist. Roots combines the upside of renting (no down payment, no 30-year loan) with the benefit of building wealth through home equity. Here's how it works: the company qualifies a potential Roots member, gives them a home shopping budget, and then buys a dream home on their behalf.
When members pay rent to Roots each month, they also earn equity ownership in the home, which they can hold onto (or sell) if they ever move. Roots is currently in Las Vegas and growing rapidly due to customer love.
Roots co-founder Lauren Self was part of On Deck’s accelerator in 2021
Why: We might be nearing a breakthrough in longevity for dogs—and humans too.
Vaccines have saved millions of lives. The National Cancer Institute reports that 5-year relative survival rates for all cancers combined have increased from 49% in the mid-1970s to almost 70% in recent years.
But what about aging? Why do we treat it differently than other illnesses? Do we need to age as fast as we do? Why do some people seem to age more rapidly than others?
Loyal is on a mission to increase dogs' life and healthspan. And then do the same for humans, too. Loyal's founder, Celine Halioua, says longevity is "preventive medicine by a different name." It's about giving everyone more healthy years.
Sometimes breakthrough science and technology are conceptually scary before you experience them and realize the concern was misplaced. For instance, IVF was initially controversial. But then people saw the babies and realized they were no different from others conceived the old-fashioned way (and they were just as cute). Over time, the concerns evaporated. Loyal has the opportunity to do the same by starting with treatments for dogs and getting people more comfortable with the idea of human longevity as well.
Loyal founder Celine Halioua was part of ODF2
- Celine on The Deep End podcast
- Wired Magazine Cover Story
- Jon Stewart interviews Celine
- Startups make the future less scary by Julian Weisser
Why: Traditional public schools are failing, and alternative education options are too expensive
In recent years, the public education system in the United States has faced numerous challenges and controversies, including budget cuts, shortages in quality teachers, and underperformance. As a result, many parents seek alternative education options for their children, such as private schools or homeschooling. However, these options can be expensive or time-consuming and out of reach for many families.
That's where Primer comes in. The company launched microschools (schools comprised of 10-20 students led by an in-person teacher) in Florida that offer an affordable alternative to traditional public schools. Primer's microschools are small, personalized learning environments that provide students with a high-quality education at a fraction of the cost of private schools (many costs are covered by the state and philanthropic donors).
A neon sign on Primer's wall says, "Take Kids Seriously." With their innovative approach to education, Primer is providing a much-needed solution for families who want a better option where their kids can reach their full potential.
Primer co-founder Maksim Stepaniko was part of ODF1
- Co-founders Ryan Delk and Maksim Stepanenko on The Deep End podcast
- Primer, The Ambitious Home for Ambitious Kids in Not Boring by Packy McCormick
Why: Writing is more important than ever, and existing tools are stuck in the past.
We humans coevolve with our tools. We change our tools, and then our tools change us. Writing, invented thousands of years ago, is a grand whopper of a tool, and I have no doubt that it changed us dramatically.
- Jeff Bezos
Word processing software changed us. It's time for us to change our writing tools again. Lex is leading the charge. Unlike products specifically focused on generating marketing copy, Lex is building a general-purpose word processor for all forms of creative writing.
I am not a professional writer—I need all the help I can get. But AI only wrote one sentence in this essay. Instead of writing it all, AI helped me experiment with different directions to take the narrative and how to frame specific ideas. Far from replacing me, Lex has helped me break through in moments writing this when I otherwise would have gotten stuck and thrown in the towel—or tabbed away to some distraction. I think that Lex will make me a better writer. It also makes me more excited about a future where AI helps us get better at everything.
The app just crossed 100k signups to the waitlist. If you'd like instant access, feel free to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org), and I'll get you set up with an invite.
Lex founder Nathan Baschez was part of ODF2
Why: Metabolic health has become increasingly important.
The world is facing a metabolic health crisis. 1 in 10 Americans has pre-diabetes, and most do not know they have it. It's recently been shown that those with insulin resistance—1 in 3 Americans—have double the risk of severe depression alongside many other significant health risks.
Awareness precedes action, and Levels has done more than any company to introduce a new health category—metabolic health—to millions of people and give them the tools and support they need to improve. The company utilizes continuous glucose monitors, software, and educational content, alongside optional coaching and additional lab tests, to give people a view of their metabolic health that was previously invisible. The results of being able to learn from and act on your metabolic health data have changed lives.
Levels membership costs are currently out of reach for many—but the company is taking the Tesla approach of building premium products that enable them to continually drive costs down and make their service more affordable over time. The plan is already working. Levels just went out of beta (when the service cost $400), and it is now available to the general public for $199.
Why: The demand for flexible staffing across industries has outpaced existing niche marketplaces.
The gig economy has grown significantly in recent years. After the pandemic, companies in every sector have displayed an increased desire for flexible staffing—a demand existing marketplaces cannot satisfy.
Enter Traba, a marketplace that connects businesses needing staffing with workers who want flexible hours and access to benefits. Traba provides these benefits through its platform and opportunities for workers to grow their skills and certifications to qualify for higher-paying opportunities. By offering this alongside access to affordable health coverage, Traba is helping gig workers enjoy the benefits of traditional employment while maintaining the flexibility of gig work.
With its unique approach to the gig economy, Traba is helping businesses find the talent they need while providing gig workers with the support and opportunities they deserve.
Traba co-founders Mike Shebat and Akshay Buddiga met via ODF8
Why: Growing numbers of people wish to reduce their alcohol consumption.
Alcohol addiction is a harmful condition affecting millions of people worldwide. While treatment options are available for those with alcoholism, there are few options for casual drinkers who wish to drink less.
Sunnyside has built an app and community that helps casual drinkers reduce their alcohol intake healthily and sustainably. Their offering combines a mobile app and text-based coaching to provide individuals with the tools and support needed to make healthier choices regarding alcohol. In addition, the app tracks alcohol intake and provides personalized recommendations for reducing consumption, and the coaching program offers guidance and accountability from trained professionals.
Sunnyside co-founder Nick Allen was part of ODF4. Prior to rebranding, Sunnyside was formerly Cutback Coach.
- Sunnyside featured in The New York Times
- Sunnyside's co-founder Ian Andersen on The Alcohol Minimalist Podcast
Why: DAOs continue to be a primary innovation engine for web3, and as they grow, they require better coordination tools.
Some of the most exciting parts of web3—from the Ethereum Name Service (ENS) to decentralized exchanges like Uniswap—are being built by DAOs. As these modern organizations scale their treasuries and stakeholders, the complexity of coordination increases, and most of the tools they need do not exist yet.
Agora is building and launching fully-fledged governance interfaces that will include a comprehensive set of features for delegates and voters. Voting is an essential part of the DAO structure, and with Agora, voters can view current delegates and their past activities, decide on open proposals, and much more.
Beyond building powerful tools, a fascinating aspect of Agora’s story so far is how the team works directly with DAOs to fund the development of the portals and other features. So far, they have launched portals for important DAOs like Nouns and ENS. If you participate in a DAO, you will likely benefit from Agora soon.
Agora co-founder Charlie Feng was part of ODS1
- Nouns x Agora announcement
- ENS x Agora launch
- Uniswap x Agora planned
Thinking about starting a company? Learn more about the On Deck Founder Fellowship (ODF)