We spend a lot of time reading about startups in the CB Insights database and plenty of the companies we read about have a product or service that’s so intuitive we’re bummed we didn’t think of it ourselves.
But just as often we read about companies with an idea so novel and niche it leaves us wondering, “What exactly made them think of that?”
Using the CB Insights platform, we surfaced 23 of the most unique (read: weirdest) venture-backed startups tracked in our database. Read on for next-gen marshmallows, underwear, and dog toys.
Total funding: $1.94M
Birds can be scary, and when they fly near our planes, they’re downright dangerous. Bird Control Group is on the front lines of defending humanity from avian assault: with lasers. The company’s silent, long-range laser systems unnerve the birds and drive them in a different direction. Your move, birds.
Total funding: $80K
Ladies on the go who don’t want to be weighed down by a purse or backpack have few options for keeping their money, keys, and phone safe and secure. That’s why the team at Boobypack decided to reinvent the bra and turn it into a hard-working garment, building sports bras and halter tops with zippered pockets, perfect for keeping women’s valuables safe and secure.
Total funding: $1.05M
These days you can get lots of different goods delivered to your door, so why not customizable marshmallows? Boomf is a marshmallow delivery service wherein customers customize their sweet treats with edible images or words, and it counts no less than Kate Middleton’s brother James as one of its chief executives.
Total funding: $4.2M
Legal marijuana has opened the door for startups of all kinds. CannaKorp is focusing on changing the way medical marijuana patients smoke. Described as “Keurig for weed,” this sleek, futuristic unit uses K-cup-like pods to deliver perfectly measured doses of vapor at predictable strengths, without the mess of grinding, rolling, or smoking.
Total funding: $560K
Too busy working to exercise? With Cubii, you don’t have to choose. This sleek under-desk elliptical lets busy office-jockies work up a sweat while rattling off emails.
Photo credit: Cubii
Total funding: $330K
With studies showing that cell phones could increase cancer risk or lower sperm count, Duoo Underwear is making sure men don’t have to take any chances. These stylish French undies protect men from electromagnetic radiation down under. They’re made with a patented “SilverShell” material, which according to the company, mimic the attributes of a Faraday cage and help block electromagnetic radiation.
Total funding: $80K
SpaceX isn’t the only private space startup that wants to get you to space. Elysium Space does too—only after you’re dead. The company’s pioneering service will blast your remains off of Earth, where they will either land on the moon to enjoy eternal lunar slumber or be released back into the atmosphere where they’ll burn up on reentry and give your loved ones on the ground an otherworldly moment of beauty.
Total funding: $100K
Inspired by Ayn Rand, the people behind Galt.io aim to forge a politically oriented social network in which its 4,000+ users can interact and organize around the topics and causes that they care most about. The network features its own economic system, using a currency called “Galtcoins.” According to the site, its economy functions via “buying and selling shares … [allowing] shareholders of active causes to accumulate coins … [serving] as a mechanism to determine the value (or valuation) of a cause, while allowing the free-market to determine which causes succeed and fail.”
Total funding: $750K
Ag Tech isn’t just crop-tracking software and drones, now even the cows in your field can be wirelessly connected. Herd Dogg equips cows with sensor-laden tags, which collect data on cows’ activity through a device called the “Dogg Bone.” When you’re in range of the Dogg Bone, you can access the data on your phone and see your cows’ activity without hours spent manually tracking and inspecting them.
Total funding: $12.7M
Reaching down to tie your shoes can be a high-friction daily task, which is why Hickies developed these stretchy fasteners that can be swapped into the holes of any normal lace-up shoes, turning them into convenient, trendy slip-ons. Your fingers and lower back will thank you.
Total funding: $1.13M
It takes a unique point of view to look at a horse and say “what that horse needs is headphones.” HorseCom aims to use technology to help horse and rider alike get the most out of every interaction. This multi-part system includes headphones for the horse, a special helmet for the rider equipped with a microphone, and even special music tailored to “horse sensibilities.” The music is intended to calm and focus the horse and the headphone-mic combo lets the horse hear your voice commands more easily.
Total funding: $60K
Yes, as the women behind the startup Manservants insist on their website, “This is a real service.” The startup invites you to hire a smart, handsome, chivalrous guy to wait on you nonsexually (they’re very insistent about this part). There’s a wide array of suggested uses for your Manservant including a Heartbreak recovery package, as arm candy for a special event, a cabana boy for a pool party, and more. You indicate how your Manservant should dress and act and even get to pick the name he answers to.
Total funding: $270K
If you think mild electric shocks are just for lab rats and cartoon characters, then the team at Pavlok wants to have a word with you. This device, paired with a training program, is designed to help users break bad habits by issuing a mild electric shock when the user engages in an undesired behavior. One user who had trouble waking up on time even used a zip-tie to lock his Pavlok to his wrist, left the scissors in a different room, and had to launch himself out of bed to run and cut the device off when it started shocking him every morning. What a wake-up call.
Total funding: $760K
Thanks to the IoT, everything is connected. With Playbrush, even your child’s toothbrush can become more than simply a tool for oral hygiene. The company markets an adapter and games that turn a toothbrush into a controller. Kids brush and play at the same time, making one of the most mundane daily activities more fun and entertaining.
Total funding: $680K
Playing with your pet is one of life’s little joys, but you can’t always be there in person to give your pet the time and attention they deserve. Playdate is a smartphone-controlled ball with a built-in camera that lets you play with your pet from anywhere by controlling the direction that it rolls and issuing a squeaking noise to get the pet’s attention. A built-in camera even allows you to see your furry best friend’s happy face while you’re away.
Photo credit: Playdate
Total funding: $100K
Inspired by the trope of women eating chocolate during PMS, the team at PMS Bites developed gluten-free, vegan chocolate balls infused with therapeutic herbs like dandelion root, Siberian ginseng, and chamomile designed to soothe PMS symptoms.
Total funding: 30K
Trolling isn’t just for Twitter. Anglers looking for an easier way to program their trolling motors (a secondary motor used to help drive your boat while you fish) to allow for more carefree fishing may have found their solution in Pronav. Users attach this device to a motor and program routes using a smartphone app. They can also store and share anchor points and routes with other Pronav-owners in the angling community.
Total funding: $20K
Another innovative startup born out of the marijuana legalization movement, Printabowl offers stylish, customizable 3D-printed water pipes, some of which can even be used as vases. Very green.
Total funding: $270K
Fishing has apparently gotten pretty high tech lately. The Tactibite Fish Call is the latest space-aged fishing must have. Just drop this 3D-printed device into the water and it sends out sounds and vibrations that supposedly match the signature sound of fish feeding, encouraging other fish to head towards the device for an easy catch. It’s the closest science has come to the elusive “fish on demand” category.
Total funding: $2.4M
Bothering with scrubes, creams, and exfoliants can be a real drag on the evening routine. Nufabrx offers an alternative: “Nano-encapsulation technology” embeds an all-natural serum into the bamboo fibers of the pillowcase, allowing you to passively fight blemishes while you sleep. Who wouldn’t want to wake up to clearer skin?
Total funding: $4M
Wakie is your person-to-person alarm clock. Set the time and a friendly stranger, chosen at random, will give you a wake-up call (anonymously; no numbers are exchanged via the app). Or, if you’re already awake and just looking for someone to talk to, choose your topic and the app will connect you with someone with applicable knowledge for a brief chat (calls are capped at 10 minutes, max).
Total funding: $20K
Farm-to-table food is all the rage, but what about wall-to-table? Italian startup Wallfarm wants to help you grow your own basil, lettuce, radishes, and even wheat inside your home. These futuristic hydroponic and aeroponic setups contain growing medium, lighting, and an app that lets you check up on your plants anytime.
Total funding: Undisclosed
There are a lot of “X-as-a-Service” platforms out there, but iZofy is definitely the first “Tarot-as-a-Service” company that we’ve come across. Users can get in touch with experts in a variety of fields: astrology, tarot cards, numerology, and more. Simply submit a problem and a price you’re willing to pay for input from an expert adviser, then wait for them to get back to you with help.
Did we miss any? Tell us your pick for unique startups in the comments. You can look for weird companies yourself by logging into the CB Insights platform or sign up for free.
This report was created with data from CB Insights’ emerging technology insights platform, which offers clarity into emerging tech and new business strategies through tools like:
- Earnings Transcripts Search Engine & Analytics to get an information edge on competitors’ and incumbents’ strategies
- Patent Analytics to see where innovation is happening next
- Company Mosaic Scores to evaluate startup health, based on our National Science Foundation-backed algorithm
- Business Relationships to quickly see a company’s competitors, partners, and more
- Market Sizing Tools to visualize market growth and spot the next big opportunity