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5 Interesting Startup Deals You May Have Missed This Year — So Far

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

Editor’s note: This is the mid-year version of a monthly column that runs down five interesting deals every month that may have flown under the radar. Check out June’s entry here.

It’s been a busy half year so far, so it’s understandable you may have missed some interesting startups raising money.

Don’t worry, we have you covered as we run down a handful that caught our eye.

Making it rain

One of the things humankind still has not figured out is how to control Mother Nature.

Nevertheless, an El Segundo, California-based startup is giving it a try when it comes to rain.

In May, Rainmaker Technology raised a $6.3 million seed round from a large group of investors that included Long Journey Ventures, Champion Hill Ventures and Garry Tan. The startup aims to develop cloud seeding techniques — a weather modification tool discovered last century that seeks to introduce ice nuclei to clouds and cause, well, rain.

Cloud seeding can work, but the question has usually been how well it works. It also has been in the news recently.

Rainmaker hired its first engineers this year and now seems poised to get out into the field later in 2024 — and make it rain.

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 in February 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.

AI and robotics

Let’s face it, robot humanoids are both cool and terrifying. That combination, however, gets you on this list

Norway-based 1X, developing the latest android tech, raised a $100 million Series B led by EQT Ventures. Last March, the company raised a Series A led by OpenAI, with participation from Tiger Global.

However, it’s not its investor that we care about — it’s Neo.

What is Neo?

Neo is the company’s second-generation android. It’s designed as a bipedal humanoid, created for what the company calls “everyday home assistance, offering versatile support for a wide range of domestic tasks in the consumer market.”

1X’s mission is to produce safe and advanced androids to help meet global labor demands. The company already has enterprise clients in logistics and security.

We know 1X is only one of several humanoid developers. Even Tesla is making them. Nevertheless, the thought of a human-like robot setting your table for dinner is the very definition of “interesting.”

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 in February led by Shine Capital 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.

AI for social media

Ever been lonely on social media and needed a friend?

Well, now you can just create one — or at least an AI one.

Butterflies.AI locked up a $4.8 million seed round led by Coatue in June. The Bellevue, Washington-based startup is creating a social media platform where humans and AI can “co-exist,” by letting users create AI friends.

The platform relies on AI models to help users create a new “friend” in just minutes. The AI persona’s are fully fleshed out with a profile, backstory and even emotions. They then can create and interact with other people and AI personas on the platform.

To be honest, we don’t completely get the idea. Isn’t the point of social media to argue with people who don’t think like you? Not to make/create friends.

Illustration: Dom Guzman

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