TCF & The Hottest Community-Driven Startups

The Community Fund portfolio founder and investments partner fam

Hello! For those new to The Community Fund, TCF is a $5M institutionally-backed seed-stage venture fund focused on investing in community-driven founders through our own community of operator-investor partners (there are 13 of us!). We’re on a mission to produce outsized returns. And, while we’re at it, we’re changing the narrative of who VCs are, who we invest in, and how companies become unicorns (the TCF fam pic for proof 😉)

On that note, TCF is nearing the end of year 1, we’ve reviewed thousands upon thousands of early-stage community-driven startups (thanks to the community and to our investment partners’ networks, like Blavity and the Startup-Investor Matching Tool!), and we want to formally introduce you to the hottest community-driven companies we’ve uncovered (AKA our portfolio companies), in case you want to:

  • land a job on a rocket ship, if you’re looking for a job
  • have a need met if you’re looking for a solution or a partner
  • publish a piece on awesome companies, if you’re looking to write
  • track companies you’ll want to invest in in the future if you’re looking for your next unicorn
  • learn about and get inspired by community-driven companies

Alright. So, to make it easy for you to learn about our AMAZING portfolio companies I’m grouping them by the categories listed below. Note: we excluded portfolio companies that are in stealth mode.

  • Fintech
  • Community & Creator Economy
  • Connection & Belonging
  • Health & Wellness
  • Future of Living

Fintech

Baraka is an investment app for millennial investors across the middle east. Broadly, there are 35 million next-gen consumers in GCC and 300 million next-gen consumers in MENA. In Saudi Arabia alone, there are 20 million (or 65% of the total population) who are considered millennial or Gen Z. Among them, 1.5 million + next-gen consumers in GCC have savings in the range of $250K — 1M. An estimated $500B in assets will be transferred to the next-gen consumers by 2030. This will be the initial niche Baraka targets. Founders: Feras Jalbout, Kunal Taneja

Canopy is building the Shopify for community-driven investing. 2020 and 2021 have been banner years for nontraditional venture investment. We have witnessed an evolution of the venture capital ecosystem: more, diverse ecosystem participants emerged, ranging from operator-angels to operator fund managers; concurrently, participants are experimenting with more, diverse vehicles, from syndicates to SPVs, to rolling funds, to crow-funding campaigns. An underlying current is the rise of small-check investors: people who want to invest alongside their friends and trusted influencers. Canopy is creating private communities that enable leads to involve their LPs in a customized, branded, and personal way. The next big product feature Canopy will launch is portfolio analytics — which helps investors understand venture returns. This new feature aims to demystify angel math and better inform the next generation of small-check investors. Founders: John Ling, George Fang

Zeta offers financial tools. content and advice designed specifically for couples and families. Traditional financial institutions, and the infrastructure that underpins them, treat finance as a single-player activity, while in reality finance is a team sport. There are 128M American households that share finances and Zeta has found that 68% of couples merge their finances either partially or completely. However, there is no sophisticated multi-player product in the market yet. Additionally, for most people, financial education is hacked together from myriad unqualified sources, and nearly two-thirds of divorced couples attribute their breakup to financial issues. The Zeta Team has spent the past four years doing deep research on multiplayer finance and is re-building shared, community-driven finance for modern families. While the Zeta Money Manager and Joint Cards products currently focus on couples, Zeta’s multi-player approach and platform represent an opportunity to support shared finance amongst trusted networks of kids, family, and friends, and enable underserved populations, such as individuals who are financially responsible for other family members. Founders: Aditi Shekar, Kevin Hopkins

Elphinstone is bringing sophisticated financial advisory tools to consumers in emerging and frontier markets around the world. The wealth management space in Pakistan is very archaic. Asset managers still peddle funds the old-fashioned way (distributed through banks, heavily manual, etc) and stock trading apps are far from being user-friendly. Elphinstone is targeting an India-adjacent market with much less competitive fintech innovation, progressive regulators, and a large addressable TAM to build a world-class tech-enabled wealth management platform. Long term we see the company growing into a stock brokerage for local and global markets. The key is how to capture the captive audience. Founder: Farooq Tirmizi

Snowball Wealth gives personalized guidance for your student loans. There are 45M Americans with student debt, with approximately 25% (14.7M) eligible to refinance. With a $500 average referral fee, making the total addressable $7.3B for student debt. When it comes to credit card debt, 28M people are eligible for a new card or loan. With a $200 average referral fee, the credit card debt addressable market is $5.6B. Adding both credit card and student debt markets, TAM is $13B. Snowball differentiates itself from the competition by creating a solution tailored for women and BIPOC communities by providing them for free the type of advice they could normally get from a financial planner. One size does not fit all — there is an opportunity to create a product that resonates with women and BIPOC, who have been traditionally ignored by financial institutions. Founder: Tanya Menendez, Pamela Martinez

TCF investors in fintech companies above: Calanthia Mei, Aaron Samuels, Hassan Bhatti, Lolita Taub

Community & Creator Economy

Famosos is an online marketplace that allows fans and businesses the opportunity to hire Hispanic and Latin celebrities for video shoutouts, business endorsements & more. There are over 500,000 famosos in LatAm and in video messages alone our beachhead market is $4.4B. And the market will be $26 billion by 2025 growing at a 30% CAGR. Founders: Andres Cohen, Heinz Sohm

Carrd is a one-page site that allows publishing custom domains, forms, Google Analytics tracking IDs, websites, and widgets. Site builders have been around since the dawn of the modern Internet and there’s plenty of competition to be had today just as there was back then (from the likes of Squarespace, Wix, etc.) However, we don’t view it as a zero-sum game as we believe the market for this is so incredibly huge there’s literally enough room for all multiple leaders in this space. Founders: AJ, Doni Ronquillo

EngineEars​ is a digital marketplace connecting audio engineers with recording artists to provide full-service audio mixing and mastering services online. EngineEars is founded by Grammy award-winning engineer Derek “MixedByAli” Ali, who has worked with the biggest names in hip hop over the past decade, including Pulitzer Prize-winning Kendrick Lamar and the late Nipsey Hussle. Through these face-to-face interactions, Ali and his partners discovered that many of the pain points he was faced with “the way things had been done” during the creative process were shared by many others across the spectrum. Between the advent of streaming and the limitations faced by artists during a global pandemic, the multibillion-dollar sector of independent music is growing exponentially — even with an estimated 30% increase in 2020, it still only accounts for 9% of the industry. Given this growth potential, EngineEars is well-positioned to revolutionize the music industry for the digital age by providing a fully integrated, end-to-end business solution to help streamline the creative process from production to distribution, beginning with engineers and artists. Founders: Derek Ali, Dan Maynard

Handsome App is a career and education marketplace for the beauty industry. Professionals in the beauty industry are increasingly embracing digital tools to manage their businesses and smartphone adoption is above 90%. There are 1.4M salons and barbershops in the US and approximately 5M professionals in the industry. We believe their most direct path to $100M or more in revenue will be to monetize the salons and become the industry standard. Founders: April Dominguez, Nikki Dominguez

Copper connects authors and readers around books. Publishing is a $26B industry waiting to be disrupted. Copper exists to help authors get their books in front of engaged audiences while creating a transformative impact in the lives of readers. Copper’s mobile app is tailored to readers for social engagement: authors to readers, authors to authors, and readers to readers. Copper’s web platform is tailored to authors and publishers for managing their events, book pages, author pages, and backend data to best reach those audiences of readers. Founder: Allie Trowbridge

West Tenth is a digital marketplace that helps women turn nontraditional talents into flexible businesses run from home. 28M women did not participate in the U.S. workforce in 2019 (in 2020 millions more will be added to this number due to COVID). Many leave to care for families but when they want to return to work their options are limited. As a result, 9M women have created home-based businesses as an alternative to traditional employment. As a customer, finding these businesses is highly inefficient — you have come through Yelp, Google reviews or find people through word-of-mouth. As a business owner, the skills required to create a business are very different than the skills required to market a business (e.g., building a website, SEO/SEM, digital marketing). Here’s what sets West Tenth apart: while there are many “directories” of women-owned businesses, none have built the technology to organize these into a marketplace, or taken the approach of starting local first — which offers advantages in meeting customer demand (in this moment in time people want to support local businesses) and stickiness (opportunities for in-person marketing, which can be a more enduring bond than online marketing). Founders: Lyn Johnson, Sara Sparhawk

TCF investors in community & creator economy companies above: Kara Weber, Lolita Taub, Songe LaRon, Elias Torres, Sonia Sahney Nagar, Jesse Middleton, Dave Salvant, Melissa Moore

Connection & Belonging

The Grand is a community that actively supports each other in navigating professional and personal life decisions. The Grand invites individuals and companies to sign up for classes led by company-certified facilitators on subjects like “Returning to Work After Becoming a Parent” and “Making a Career Transition” for $1,200 to $1,800. Each course has eight to 10 students and runs three months with yearlong access to the Grand’s community and events. To date, more than 500 professionals in 20 countries have taken the Grand’s classes, all of which are currently virtual. The job training and career counseling industry was worth about $16.2 billion in 2020. Although its value is expected to decline slightly to $15.9 billion in 2021, this is because the sector serves to support other industries and many companies are investing in their own employee resource groups. Founders: Rei Wang, Anita Hossain

Healthy Roots Dolls is a multicultural children’s product company celebrating the beauty of our diversity. Their first line of dolls teaches young girls to activate their curl power by loving their natural hair. Toys influence how we think, act, and see ourselves. When children can’t find dolls that look like them, it can negatively impact their self-esteem. More than 50% of children under the age of 15 in America are of color. The majority, no longer the minority. Zoe is the first Healthy Roots Dolls and the only doll designed with hair you can wash and style like your own. Zoe the affiliated Zoe products are designed unlike anything else available on the market with an authentic brand that consumers are personally invested in. With this round, Healthy Roots Dolls is expanding into content (YouTube series for kids) and will be expanding their line of dolls and accessories. Founder: Yelitsa Jean-Charles

Marco connects companies and teams with virtual, hybrid, and in-person experience providers in a marketplace. Due to COVID, many teams are now distributed (and expect to stay distributed). New tactics are necessary to build company culture and community, which are essential for organizational cohesion, employee satisfaction, productivity, and retention. Marco creates extraordinary experiences to keep teams connected — whether they’re remote, hybrid, or in-person — believing that meeting companies where they are is critical at this moment. Remote work is a durable trend and traditional in-person event providers are desperate to find new sources of income in the midst of continuing shutdowns. Many providers will continue leveraging virtual channels even after in-person events come back because they can earn more from virtual events than physical in-person events (can scale, more efficiency, no physical space restrictions or rental costs). And for teams that want to connect in-person, Marco has launched In-Person Experiences in New York and San Francisco (more cities coming soon), and Team Retreats at venues across the country. Founders: Suman Siva, Nick Freeman

Hiki is an autistic friendship and dating platform. This population has been incredibly underserved and for many companies who say “there’s no competition” for Hiki, after doing research (see competition section), there are no true competitors that are addressing this problem. Being one of the first to market and speed is incredibly important especially with a community that sticks with a platform once engrained. In the world of dating apps being first to market is particularly compelling given the traditionally high CAC. In the near future, the app will also focus on hiring initiatives to make sure that folks remain engaged and attribute greater attention to the app. As there is increased awareness of the daunting stats for folks with disabilities, there are new initiatives at the governmental and corporate level to make sure that communities and spaces are diverse and welcoming. Founders: Jamil Karriem, Amira Artis, Boon Chew

TCF investors in connection and belonging companies above: Lolita Taub, Melissa Moore, Aaron Samuels, Sonia Sahney Nagar, Kara Weber, Jesse Middleton, Cheryl Campos

Health & Wellness

Kindra is a modern wellness brand for menopause essentials. The first lifestyle brand in the $600B menopause space, Kindra is creating a new category in health and wellness with personalized regimens, scientifically proven and consumer-tested products for women on their menopause journey. The US menopause support market overall is $4.9B. 6,000 women enter menopause every single day. Kindra tackles the top 4 menopause concerns: vaginal dryness, hot flashes, fatigue, and sleep disruption, which together comprise a $1.3B market. Kindra sits in the middles, offering tailored support and proven products to support women holistically, without prescriptions, throughout their menopause journey. Founder: Catherine Balsam-Schwaber

Elektra Health is a new healthcare platform on a mission to smash the menopause taboo by empowering the 50M women currently navigating menopause with evidence-based education, virtual care & community. Menopause is an $81B US market opportunity, ~4x larger than comparable men’s health categories (prostate cancer, male pattern baldness, erectile dysfunction, low testosterone) combined. While every woman will experience the menopause transition, fewer than 20% of OB/GYNs are trained in menopause treatment. Furthermore, current solutions are hopelessly outdated and inadequate: 70% of women who actively seek treatment don’t receive help from a provider. Founded in 2019, Elektra is building the first full-stack digital solution for menopause featuring educational content, telemedicine care from board-certified menopause specialists, and text-a-menopause-expert support. Elektra’s proprietary, evidence-based, and holistic platform supports women over their 10+ year menopause journey. Founders: Alessandra Henderson, Jannine Versi

Dame is a holistic sexual wellness brand through a platform approach such as sex toys, plant-based consumables, well-being workshops, and a focus on community. This is an expanding market opportunity that will only accelerate due to the pandemic headwinds. Dame is allowing women on both sides of the spectrum to take matters into their own hands (literally) and come together as a community to learn about sexual health and wellness. Their hardware products have been crowdsourced through feedback and have a high NPS score, which allows consumers to build trust in something extremely important and personal. They are creating courses to educate folks about pertinent issues such as partner communication and spicing up a sex life. In the future, Dame will become the one-stop-shop for sexual wellness by creating an ecosystem of sexual products and services to be present at every step of a woman’s pleasure journey. The U.S. sexual wellness market size was valued at $9.1 billion in 2019 is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.2% from 2020 to 2027, according to GrandView Research. Founder: Alexandra Fine

Golde makes superfood self-care for all. Golde is a Brooklyn-born health and beauty brand, powered by superfoods. Golde’s products make wellness easy and approachable for a new generation of wellness consumers, from smoothie boosters to face masks. They play at the intersection of the fast-growing $578B Nutraceuticals and $36B Clean Beauty industries. The Neutraceuticals market is projected to be $722.47B by 2027 growing at an 8.3% CAGR. There is a large growth opportunity due to rising healthcare costs, aging populations, and lack of access to functional food globally. The Clean Beauty Market is expected to reach $54B by 2027 due to the expansion of distribution channels, increasing online customer reach, and retailers’ shift toward premium personal care products. Founders: Trinity Mouzon Wofford, Issey Kobori

Ceremonia is a new modern haircare brand rooted in Latin heritage. Haircare is a $7B market and is the fastest-growing category in beauty. Clean haircare as product innovation is underdeveloped compared to skincare, makeup, and even fragrance (where consumer demand has already shifted products from chemical to “clean” ingredients). LatinX is the fastest-growing consumer group in the U.S. — 20% of the current U.S. population is LatinX, expected to grow to 30% by 2060. Latinas spend 46% more on hair products than non-Hispanics. Most brands are brands of the past — minority-focused brands tend to speak to a curly hair group. Not all Latinas have curls, and most don’t have a product that speaks directly to them. Although Latinas are amongst the largest spenders on beauty products, they are still ignored by mainstream brands. The Latinx beauty and hair care market is massive and has been largely ignored by the incumbents, especially in masstige. Founder: Babba Rivera

Ayana is a telehealth platform that provides online therapy for marginalized communities with an emphasis on intersectionality. Minorities and marginalized communities are underserved by existing mental health services. Corporations want to support their employees who are minorities and/or may feel marginalized to retain them and help them achieve peak productivity and don’t know-how. The TAM for Global Workplace Wellness is $57B. $14B was invested in telehealth in 2020. 2021 projections are estimated to go up to $21B and it is expected that the market will continue to grow. Founder: Eric Coly

TCF investors in health and wellness companies above: Sonia Sahney Nagar, Kara Weber, Cheryl Campos, Aaron Samuels, Lolita Taub

Future of Living

Sugar builds community and transforms the residential experience by integrating with technology stacks that power modern buildings. Every building has the potential to become a community. Most property managers fail to provide residents with technology products that solve their daily problems and foster a sense of community. This results in residents feeling disengaged from the community and ultimately not renewing their leases. Sugar, a mobile-first Nextdoor for apartment buildings, was built to solve that problem. The North American Property Management product market is expected to be worth ~$22B by 2023. As homeownership rates of millennials continue to decline, and the rise of managed buildings, and services such as VRBO and AirBnb that leverage managed buildings continue to increase, the demand for products like Sugar will continue to increase. Founder: Fatima Dicko

Dispatch Goods excludes disposable foodware from food delivery by coordinating into food delivery apps. Food delivery is expected to be a $200B industry by 2025. This means that nearly 100 million single-use takeout and delivery containers will be discarded every single day. As restaurants and consumers strive to address the threats posed by this environmental catastrophe, there exists a tremendous opportunity to provide sustainable, eco-friendly alternatives which can work alongside other delivery services. With current corporate partnerships (eg., Google) and upcoming pilots with DoorDash and Imperfect Foods, Dispatch Goods is the company best-positioned to capitalize on these opportunities. Founders: Lindsey Hoell, Maia Tekle

Zette is a browser extension that allows access to premium online content through a single paid account. The media industry is dying, and they need a solution to help them survive by providing access to high quality, paywalled news is a real pain point for consumers. After all, readers are unwilling to pay for multiple news subscriptions that they may not use on a regular basis. Zette’s pay-as-you-go ClassPass model will allow customers to pay for only the articles they want to spend on using a credits system. Zette is currently focused on serving the online news and magazine industry which has an $11B TAM in the US. Founders: Yehong Zhu, Alex Wright

Brandefy is a personal care product reviewing platform designed to offer reviews and information about those products. Consumers want more affordable, more sustainable, cruelty-free, cleaner ingredient versions of their favorite brand-name beauty products. Brandefy helps beauty enthusiasts save money on beauty products — they began as a community that uses UGC reviews to identify less expensive, similarly performing alternative beauty products, commonly known in the beauty industry as ‘dupes’. Based on community feedback they’ve expanded to also help beauty-lovers find alternatives that are cruelty-free, have cleaner ingredients, or have more sustainable packaging. Using their proprietary community data they’ve been able to identify whitespaces where there is high customer demand and affordable products do not exist and are now building their own affordable beauty line, Unbridled, to meet this demand. The big vision is to build a community data-driven brand platform (similar to the big vision Brandless had, but with more focus, and without the broken unit economics and Softbank vision fund overcapitalization). Beauty is a massive $50B+ market in the US. Founder: Meg Pryde

TCF investors in future of living companies above: Aaron Samuels, Cheryl Campos, Melissa Moore, Hassan Bhatti, Sonia Sahney Nagar

And that’s our future-unicorn wrap! Keep an eye on these companies for future investment here and go work with or for them.

For more on The Community Fund, visit us on Twitter, read our posts, and submit your company on thecommunity.vc. Also, we have a feeling you’ll like the following posts:

About investing in community-driven cos + supporting our underestimated founder/investor fam. @lolitataub