As 2022 winds to a close, it’s time for a look back at some of the most promising startups and the entrepreneurs leading them in Rhode Island over the past year. At Rhode Island Inno we covered a wide array of companies that were able to innovate in an unpredictable market over the past year and this year’s selection represents a cross section of new business ventures that have found inspiration tackling today’s problems with future solutions.
Launching in 2021, Ritual Motion had a big year, celebrating $1 million in crowdfunding. When we profiled the company in January, it had hit a $20 million valuation at Start Engine with a little more than 200 investors seeding the first batch of money. The Providence-based company is hoping to capitalize on the increasingly popular esports market, which is looking at billions in growth over the next few years.
The company, founded by Dana Paul and Bill Cesare, launched GUILD: Gamers United In Live Discussion to help organize a fragmented but rapidly growing gamer community. Paul said Ritual Motion’s mission was to build a social community platform “based upon authenticity, diversity and inclusion where gamers could create, collaborate and share exclusive content.”
2022 was a big year for Brilliantly founder Kristen Carbone. The company is about to launch the second version of Brilliantly Warm, a heated bra insert designed for women who have had breast implant reconstruction. The product was featured in Jill Kargman’s 5 Favorite Things on Goop! Carbone also won the Dream Ventures Spring Fundraiser Accelerator and was chosen for a fellowship from Silicon Valley Bank and Luminary for a yearlong program.
In January, Rhode Island Inno spoke to Carbone about developing the new technology after cancer struck her family. The company is part social support group, part program space and part product launch pad for women affected by breast cancer. Carbone said the company recently kicked off the seed fundraising round for Brilliantly.
After more than five years of research and development, DeLorean AI founder Severence MacLaughlin launched the new artificial intelligence interface in late 2021. The technology can help predict the onset, transition, and best next actions for chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and kidney disease. MacLaughlin said that DeLorean AI is currently processing 35 million patients a day.
DeLorean has focused its AI on a number of areas, from predictive care and disease prevention to B2B business deals and human resources problems like recruiting and retention. The company was recently featured on Fast Company and Miami Inno, where MacLaughlin told reporters that DeLorean AI was the first medical AI product to be biologically validated by third-party labs.
In his days as a general contractor in Rhode Island, Luke Fleury spent too much time receiving and reviewing bids for his projects. Time consuming and paper heavy, the process ate up too much of the work week, he said. This year, Fleury, along with co-founder Case Olszewski, launched the app Dibbs as a one-stop shop for construction supplies and services. Fleury and Olszewski met their third co-founder, Rob DeSantis, a former co-founder of the Ariba bidding platform and an early LinkedIn angel investor, at the the Aquidneck Club golf course and country club in Portsmouth.
Fleury said the app uses built-in bidding templates to cut the time it takes to place and receive bids in half. Based out of Newport, the app is available to Rhode Island and in May expanded to include Massachusetts residents.
Founded as a virtual company in 2020, Adtech Pharma was built to outsource everything from formulation to product development to production-specific cannabinoids. Over the last two years, the Warwick company has seen major investment come to fruition recently, thanks to its flagship product under development — new eye drops that use a synthetic cannabinoid to lower eye pressure in patients and could protect their optical nerves.
According to Robert Kupper, Adtech’s president and CEO, their new product Nabilone (aka NB-110) uses synthetic cannabinoids in the place of a preservative. It also acts as a CB1/CB2 receptor agonist, lowers intraocular pressure of glaucoma patients and could protect optical nerves.
The Haven Collective
After a few years of innovative work in the daycare space, the Haven Collective closed its seed round this year, raising $2.6 million from six investors. According to founder Britt Riley, the company became the first licensed daycare in the United States to offer unlimited use of workspaces and an onsite gym when it launched its first location, the Coggeshall Club. Riley was a new mom, working a busy, largely remote position as a marketing executive when the idea for the combination daycare, workspace and gym hit her. She founded the first pilot club, Coggeshall Club, with partners Morgan Everson and Christy Johnson soon after. The club offers Montessori and Reggio Emilia blended play-based daycare and unlimited access to workspaces and wellness opportunities for parents.
Although it’s been around for more than a decade, this year Maternova, a marketplace for doctors, nurses, and midwives to track innovation and buy technologies that save lives in childbirth and help improve newborn care around the world, kicked off its Series A fundraising.
According to Maternova founder Meg Wirth, the company works with everyone from governments to hospitals and research institutes around the world to provide the latest innovations in maternal and infant care. While the company works extensively in Mexico, Latin America and South Asia, demand for those products and knowledge is rising in America, Wirth said.
Even though Trail Sense founder Kyle Corry doesn’t consider the popular app a business, the “Swiss Army app” hit 10,000 downloads this year. Trail Sense uses a phone’s sensors to provide navigation, weather forecasts and astronomy — all offline — even estimating avalanche risk. Corry told Rhode Island Inno he created Trail Sense with the goal that it would be free to everyone without ads, so he has yet to make any money off of the use of Trail Sense itself. He also doesn’t have any investors, but does accept donations from people who really like the app.
One of the major lessons in business school is that of “building a better mousetrap.” With the creation of its dilating disk valve technology, a climate-friendly alternative to traditional industrial valves and a new round of funding, Rhode Island’s Clarke Valve is ready to scale its new technology. According to CEO Kyle Daniels, the valves help stop methane leaks in oil and gas infrastructure and can radically reduce the release of so-called “fugitive emissions” into the atmosphere.
In August, Clarke Valve announced a $5 million Series D funding round led by Flowserve Corporation, with additional funding from OGCI Climate Investments, Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures, Chevron Technology Ventures, and New World Angels.The new funding comes as large multinational energy companies are trying to reduce methane leaks as part of their climate goals. Daniels said the dilating disk eliminates all three sources of emissions that come from valves, including fugitive emissions, venting emissions and steady state emissions.
Living walls have gained popularity in the past few years, but when Moss Pure creator Jamie Mitri looked closer, she found that most companies that created moss walls use preserved moss. That discovery led Mitri, a Smithfield, Rhode Island, native, to create Moss Pure, which creates the aesthetically pleasing design pieces that also work as air purifiers. Mitri told Rhode Island Inno this year that the living moss artwork is made with 95% sustainable and eco-friendly material, with the Zigzag frame being 100% reclaimed wood. Mitri said certified analytical results show that their products capture carbon dioxide while targeting particulate matter, VOCs, metals, and certain bacteria and viruses.