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5 Interesting Startup Deals You May Have Missed In February

Illustration of a robot arm/wrench turning a nut in the middle of the number 5.

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

The new year is now more than two months old and things seem to be moving even faster than last year.

So it’s understandable if some may have missed some of the more unique startups that raised fresh cash in the year’s second month. With that, let’s take a look back and recap some of the most intriguing raises of February.

Better sleep

There are sleeping problems and then there is chronic insomnia. While both are issues, it can be difficult to get help with the latter, a serious disorder. About 30% of the general public is affected by the problem.

Boston-based Stellar Sleep locked up a $6 million seed round led by Initialized Capital to help those folks.

The subscription-based app works by understanding the user’s sleep profile and builds a custom, interactive program that helps the users relearn how to sleep. The app uses psychology techniques — like acceptance and commitment therapy — to address root causes of insomnia such as anxiety.

The program even works continuously to help improve the user’s sleep and can even connect with wearables.

It can take months to see a sleep clinician — which is a lot of lost sleep — so it’s nice to think maybe an app can help you regain some Z’s faster.

Feel the game

Ever want to know what it’s like to put a move on an NFL linebacker or get crushed by a 350-pound defensive lineman?

Well, sports tech startup StatusPro raised a $20 million Series A last month to help give you an idea.

The Miami-based startup’s virtual reality simulation gaming franchise, NFL PRO ERA, lets players experience what it feels like to be their favorite quarterback right on the field — giving them a professional football player’s perspective. Since the game’s launch, StatusPro has gained more than 1 million users.

The company also has some big-name investors behind it. GV led the new round, which included participation from the likes of LeBron James and Drake.

StatusPro plans to use the new capital to develop new titles, as well as improve its technology and other features.

Weed it out

Herbicide-resistant weeds are not just a problem for farmers and growers, but pose a major threat to sustainable vegetation and our food security.

Resistance already exists against most herbicides and some weeds are resistant to several different herbicides.

However, an Israel-based startup is looking to solve the problem through creative science.

WeedOut locked up an $8.1 million Series A last month led by U.S, agri-focused firm Fulcrum Global Capital. The startup is looking to tackle the problem through a new and environmentally conscious approach.

The company is using a method inspired from sterility techniques used since the 1940s for controlling populations of unwanted insects like mosquitoes. WeedOut’s solution centers on proprietary weed pollen from the male plants. This sterile pollen fertilizes the female weed, yielding nonviable seeds and cutting out the next generation.

WeedOut’s first target is the Palmer amaranth weed, which invades fields of corn, cotton, soybeans and sugar beets. It can cut corn yield by 90%.

Prolonged use of chemical herbicides have created these “super weeds.” Maybe a new green solution can finally knock them out.

Be the next Hemingway

It seems like everybody wants to be a writer. Well, San Francisco-based Inkitt locked up a $37 million round led by Khosla Ventures to help folks not just get published but maybe even hit it big.

The self-publishing startup allows anyone to live out the dream of being a published author, but then they add a little tech twist. The company uses AI to select what it believes may be the next blockbuster book, refine it and then distribute the novel on a different app called Galatea.

AI is being used for everything, so why not trying to figure out what may be the next great American novel.

Inkitt clearly has big ambitions. The company now has raised  $117 million, per Crunchbase. The startup’s CEO, Ali Albazaz, also has stated he would like to grow the company into a media empire, calling Inkitt the “Disney of the 21st Century.”

Big dreams.

Better nails

Robotics and automation are making a lot of things better, but are they also improving the trip to your salon?

Startup 10Beauty locked up a $17 million Series A led by Shine Capital last month for what it is calling a “salon-quality” manicure machine.

The process seems easy: Insert your manicure pod, customize your manicure on a mobile app, slip your hand into the rectangular small machine, and let it get to work filing, polishing and shaping your nails.

The Burlington, Massachusetts-based company said its first 1,000 machines are sold out, and that its customers include Nordstrom and Ulta Beauty. The manicure machine also works faster than a typical manicure and allows the person to get other things done — like their hair — as the machine works.

What’s also impressive is 10Beauty has secured $38 million in total equity financing since being founded in 2019, per the company.

That’s serious dough for better nails.

Illustration: Dom Guzman

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