Mar 12, 2021

Five Startup Ideas #025

Mental healthcare 3.0, political participation, and baby formula.

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Chris Zeoli's "Shopify for medical supplies," won last week's battle. It was an absolute heater though, garnering the most votes to date. As one reader noted:

All the ideas in this edition were extraordinary.

Amidst fierce competition, Ann Miura-Ko's "Curation social network" and Jarrod Dicker's "Life lobbyists" came a close second.

The three startups I found most intriguing this week...

A question I'm thinking about. If you could model your startup after one business, who would you choose?

Startup ideas...

Mental healthcare 3.0

Drive down cost and increase access to mental healthcare through tech leverage

Despite a growing and pervasive need, cost and access are significant barriers to mental health. Many companies make the matching process easier by connecting individuals to care providers, either directly, through employers, or payers. But there is likely an opportunity to productize an experience in a way that dramatically reduces the per-user cost, significantly increasing access.

For example: What if, during the 1:1 session between a patient and a mental healthcare provider, AI could identify the primary topics discussed and suggest groups of peers who are also focusing on the same issues? The user could then join a group or adopt specific tools. Product-driven solutions (with minimal cost) could increase engagement and touchpoints and perhaps lengthen the time between 1:1 sessions, driving down the total cost. We are interested in how technology can change the product of mental health and the connectivity between patient and provider.

Rebecca Kaden, General Partner at Union Square Ventures

The climate operating system

Enterprise software to manage all aspects of climate risk, energy usage, and carbon emissions

As managing carbon emissions and energy usage becomes more critical for all enterprises, I foresee "climate" becoming a core department or function within large enterprises. There is an exciting opportunity to build a SaaS product to track/optimize energy usage, carbon emissions and enable carbon offset purchasing — essentially "Anaplan for Carbon." Moreover, these platforms will allow public-facing portals (think that showcase an enterprise's commitment to climate change reversal.

While we’re seeing solutions emerge (Watershed is an example), we’re just at the start of the trend here.

Vinay Iyengar, Two Sigma Ventures

Make political participation great again

Incentivize political participation through a premium bonds/lottery system

In America, political participation — spanning discussion to actual voting — barely breaks 50%. Half of the country is not engaged with critical decisions that affect their lives. We may need new incentives. Despite the colossal amount of money in American politics, none of it ends up in voters' hands. I think there’s a (theoretically) ethical way to change that.

Instead of Facebook ads and predatory TV hits, a destination should be created for citizens to be incentivized to partake in political discovery, discourse, and involvement. Campaign funds could be used to directly target voters on a particular site, essentially paying citizens to participate in democracy.

In particular, I think a system like this could galvanize the young and those struggling financially. Both populations tend to participate at especially low levels — monetary rewards could change that.

There’s a considerable risk of funds being misused, of course. (There is plenty of misuse already). I think the worry of bribery could be hedged by equalizing the payment across user sets. You would ensure various political parties and demographic groups received representative funds. Payment dilution would be offset by more political dollars pouring into the platform as more and more people used it.

Ultimately, bringing civic engagement online could also smooth the path to digital voting, something that needed to become the standard years ago.

"Publius" would be the name.

Derek Urben, Investor at Left Lane & Writer at The Opus Letter

Job interview tutoring

Get tutoring before a job interview to brush up the skills you claim to have

People pay tons for SAT prep, yet nothing for pre-job interview tutoring that could instantly unlock a higher salary.

There should be a tutoring marketplace where you can get a refresher on critical skills for the jobs you're applying for, with one-on-one help to address your weak spots and help present your talents.

What I've been calling "Preperview" in my head would let tutors sign up and have skills verified by higher-level tutors. Job applicants could browse for the skills they need, access exclusive primer videos, and take a survey about which specific sub-skills they need help with before live video chatting with a tutor. It could go to market with a few core hard and soft skills, expand over time, and eventually try to get enterprise deals to help colleges or other organizations get students or members better jobs. It could charge upfront, on layaway, or via an income sharing agreement paid back once the user is earning more.

Josh Constine, Investor at SignalFire

Better for you baby formula

A baby formula without vegetable oils or other toxic ingredients

The baby formula market is enormous: $45 billion in 2018 and projected to more than double over the next eight years.

Simultaneously, every baby formula on the market contains toxic vegetable oils and lots of starches, and unnatural ingredients. Getting infants the nutrition they need is critical to proper immune and cognitive development, and today we feed our infants stuff that most parents wouldn't eat.

There's a big opportunity to build a clean-label baby formula. One that uses healthy fats, clean ingredients and is formulated as closely as possible to breast milk to encourage proper development.

Justin Mares, Founder at Kettle & Fire, Perfect Keto


As always, clues are available to those that would like them. Just respond to this email.

We have a new winner! Lars R was first to respond last week, answering in record time. He narrowly beat out reigning champion, Sid J and a motley crew of puzzling prodigies including Emily P, James M, James M, Krishna N, Gianpaolo E, Clint M, Shobhit J, Pranav, Peter K, Gabriel A, Nate M, Ravi P, Greg K, Jim W, Steven C, Neal K, Allison B, Issam F, Maximilian R, Abe C, Mark F, Jake K, Adedeji E, Zara N, Jon K, Kunal G, Robert H, Shweta K, Aishwarya N, Ciprian T, Prasanna D, Fady K, Tom B, Shriya N, Yazin, Dimitar S, Daniel D, Sai A, Bryan, and Amna H.

The answer? Katrina Lake, founder and CEO of Stitch Fix. Congratulations to all that chanced their hand. Strong work.

The Generalist’s work is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal, business, investment, or tax advice. You should always do your own research and consult advisors on these subjects. Our work may feature entities in which Generalist Capital, LLC or the author has invested.