How To Say A Name And Pamper Yourself Without Going Broke

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

Venture capital normally starts to slow down in the last couple of months of the year — the record-breaking 2021 excluded, obviously.

Last month did feel that way, with fewer rounds being announced and funding being down. However, there were still some intriguing rounds from companies that do things a little differently.

Here are five noteworthy November rounds from startups helping you pronounce someone’s name to others making urban farming a reality.

Say my name

There isn’t one person in the world who hasn’t come across a name and wondered out loud or at least in their mind, “How do you say that?”

It’s embarrassing and can also affect a relationship either party is trying to establish with the other.

NameCoach is here to help. The Palo Alto, California-based company is trying to solve the problem of name mispronunciation in critical settings. The startup locked up an $8 million Series A led by Impact America Fund last month.

The company’s software embeds accurate, context-aware audio name pronunciation buttons in everyday tools people use. The technology currently is used by educators, sales reps, customer support agents, call centers and recruiters, according to the company.

As the startup pointed out in its announcement of the funding, pronunciation is something that has become even more important as cultural norms change and people care deeply about their identity.

Eighty percent of the 30 million unique names in the world have multiple pronunciations, according to NameCoach.

This is a tool even a journalist would love.

Paltrow and Alba’s high-end pampering bet

We all have passed an amazing resort and wondered what it would be like to stay there.

ResortPass may help you be able to find out.

The New York-based startup raised $26 million in Series B last month co-led by Declaration Partners and 14W — and with investments from the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow and Jessica Alba. The company offers day access to luxury hotels and resorts around the world — think Ritz-Carltons and Four Seasons.

The idea is many people may want to use a resort’s spa or pool, but can’t really afford to spend the type of cash for an overnight stay. Founded in 2016, ResortPass now works with more than 900 hotels.

It’s an interesting business model with some notable backers who likely know high-end resorts well. However, one has to wonder if the people who book a stay at such resorts would be thrilled with an influx of people using a place’s amenities without having to pay the same freight.

Just a thought.

Renting better

We often make fun of startups that come up with new “as-a-service” monikers.

When New York-based Rezi raised $100 million in debt financing from Stratos Credit and described itself as offering “Occupancy-as-a-Service” for rental property owners, it caught our eye.

However, this “OasS” startup escapes ridicule as it takes on a serious problem in renting. While the platform is designed to help landlords with quick and painless leasing, it also helps renters find homes through an online approval process. That can help remove some of the unfortunate biases people face.

In theory, the platform should help both landlords and tenants, so who can laugh at that.

Fresh food for all

Agtech has become increasingly popular with investors in recent years. Continuing that trend, a Boston-based startup closed a $17.5 million Series B3 co-led by Aliaxis and Ospraie Ag Science.

Freight Farms creates container farms that can be used anywhere and uses software enhancements for higher crop quality. The idea is to be able to grow fresh, local and healthy food year round — even in so-called “food deserts” that have challenging geographies and climates.

While vertical hydroponic farming is not new, the idea of a single shipping container to allow for urban farming enhanced with tech is something that sounds creative to us.

The company has customers in 39 countries and says it has created the largest connected network of farms in the world.

With vertical farming growing at more than a 25% compound annual growth rate and expected to hit a more than $10 billion market by 2026 — per the company — don’t expect investor interest in agtech to wane any time soon.

More AI

AI has been in the news a lot lately. However, much of it revolves around marketing and sales automation.

Spot AI caught our attention because of its use of AI involving security cameras. The Los Altos, California-based startup closed a $40 million Series B last month led by Scale Venture Partners to turn CCTV and other types of security camera footage into actual usable insights.

Usually such footage is just used for monitoring, but Spot AI’s platform is being developed to read such camera footage to get insights about anything from security to operations to safety.

The company is trying to make “video intelligence” an actual thing.

Since we already feel we are always being watched, we might as well get some good data points out of it.

Illustration: Dom Guzman


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