Next Billion-Dollar Startups: Online Pharmacy Capsule Leads Healthcare- And Tech-Heavy List


When Lennie Sliwinski and Matt Pierce founded Trusted Health in 2017, they simply wanted to take what they’d learned about online marketplaces from working at Hired, and apply it to nursing. Their digital platform matches nurses with jobs, giving them more flexibility and control over their careers. Because Sliwinski’s mother worked as a nurse, and Pierce’s brother had suffered a medical error, both of them had a personal passion for the field.

But since the novel coronavirus started to spread across the U.S. this spring, San Francisco-based Trusted’s mission has become even more vital, helping place nurses from around the country in New York City’s hospitals. Last year, Trusted’s revenue reached an estimated $28 million; this year, signups by nurses and job postings on the platform are growing so fast that Pierce, 32, isn’t even estimating year-end revenues yet. “We laid out a rudimentary model at the beginning of the year,” he says. “As you can imagine, that broke.”

Trusted is one of 25 companies that made the cut for this year’s Forbes’ Next Billion-Dollar Startups list. Produced in partnership with TrueBridge Capital Partners, the list highlights the fast-growing, venture-capital-backed companies we think have the best shot of reaching a $1 billion valuation. With millions of Americans at home to fight the spread of coronavirus and unemployment at historic levels, the list reflects the bright spots in a tough economy in the throes of transformation.

Healthcare stands out with five companies, including Lyra Health (mental health benefits), Benchling (biotech R&D software), Weave (software for dentists and other medical professionals) and Capsule (tech-enabled pharmacy), in addition to Trusted Health. Last year, by contrast, there were just two healthcare startups.

Capsule is actually the largest company on this year’s list, racking up some $100 million in revenue last year by helping New Yorkers order their prescription medications by text or app, with home delivery in a two-hour window. Founder Eric Kinariwala, 37, launched the company in 2016 after a bad experience waiting in line at his local Duane Reade drugstore to pick up antibiotics for a sinus infection.

While Capsule was a convenience before the coronavirus crisis, Kinariwala figures it’s now a must-have for those customers who worry about being exposed to the virus at a store and especially for those who are elderly, high-risk or currently in isolation. It plans to expand far beyond New York City, something it should have no trouble doing since it has raised $270 million so far, more funds than any other next-billion-dollar startup on this list. “Everything is working beyond our expectations in New York,” Kinariwala says. “So now it is time to help the 97% of Americans who do not live in New York City.”

Tech companies often dominate the lineup, and all of the companies on this year’s list (including the ones in healthcare) have some technological component to them. Algolia (which powers the corporate search boxes online), Superhuman (a smart email provider) and (workflow-automation tools) are among this year’s 25. So, too, are 3 cybersecurity firms: Coalition, Expanse and Signal Sciences.

How Pharmacy Fatigue Put One Company On The Path To A Billion| 32:45

But the list’s diversity reflects how technology is being incorporated into startups across industries, including ones that are helping people through this difficult time like credit card consolidation app Tally and at-home fitness company Mirror.

Whereas previous lists have spotlighted consumer-products companies like shoe manufacturer Rothy’s and now struggling suitcase-maker Away, this year just Mirror made our cut, as the pandemic closed gyms and pushed Americans to work out at home. Retailers? Last year there were two. This year there isn’t even one.

“We’ve seen all the notes about, ‘This is the end of good times,’ and ‘Winter is here,’” says Jason Traff, cofounder of Shipwell, an Austin, Texas-based logistics startup that made the list. “I am very thankful that, compared to a lot of companies I know, we’re going to grow in 2020, and I think in all the right ways.”

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I’m a senior editor at Forbes, where I cover manufacturing, industrial innovation and consumer products. I previously spent two years on the Forbes’ Entrepreneurs team. It’s my second stint here: I learned the ropes of business journalism under Forbes legendary editor Jim Michaels in the 1990s. Before rejoining, I was a senior writer or staff writer at BusinessWeek, Money and the New York Daily News. My work has also appeared in Barron’s, Inc., the New York Times and numerous other publications. I’m based in New York, but my family is from Pittsburgh—and I love stories that get me out into the industrial heartland. Ping me with ideas, or follow me on Twitter @amyfeldman.




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