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September 17th, 2019

🏠 The best opportunity in real estate 🏗️

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We uncover 30+ Signals and riff on the future of gas stations

I’ve saved thousands of dollars buying anything from bikes to baby joggers to laptops secondhand. Last week I bought a 10-year-old Aeron chair for 75% off the retail price.

The guy I bought it from had a storage unit filled with used chairs. He said he made $35k last year selling pre-owned Herman Miller chairs he buys from DC-area businesses. He also buys liquidated sporting goods. “You can make a killing on ski boots,” he said.

Used chairs would be a hard business to scale (they cost hundreds of dollars to ship, cutting down on your profits). But with the rise of remote working, it could make a great local business.

New this week:

  1. Fastest-growing private companies: We’re back with an even deeper analysis of the Inc. 5000. We turned up dozens of Signals and analyzed every company that’s been on the list for 10+ years. You won’t want to miss!

  2. Ingestible medical devices: The future of medical procedures will be a lot less invasive thanks to smart pills, which are growing at a 24% CAGR. We show you a range of opportunities.

  3. Q&A with RealtyMogul CEO Jilliene Helman: Helman discusses building her $2B company and how to know if you have the entrepreneur “disease.”

The most-clicked items in last week’s email were on age-tech startups and a love letter to Excel.

Now, onto the opportunities!

– Brad

PS: We’re hungry for feedback––hit the buttons at the bottom and tell us what you like and don’t like, and what you want more of!

01  Signals
Quick snapshots from across the internet of potential trends before they happen.

Millennials who paired up on Tinder need tech for the relationship phase. Lasting, an app, offers 5-minute couples therapy sessions. Referring pages for Lasting have gone from almost nothing in January to more than 10k this month. 

What’s next: Living is one of several startups geared toward relationship help (there’s also Pathshare and Honeydue). Expect demand for other online tools that target particular aspects of relationships to grow as tech-savvy generations settle down.

Personal trainer “near me” 
Yes, personal trainers have been around for a long time. But searches for trainers keep growing at a steady rate. Another reason to think we’re still at the beginning of their demand? Kinesiology and Exercise Science has been the fastest growing major for junior colleges and four-year colleges since 2010, according to a Chronicle of Higher Education analysis

Early adopters: Personal training could migrate online—truly “near you”—à la spinning with Peloton. No similar service yet exists for personal training, although individual trainers have started offering their work online.

Renaissance is a points program for listening to music. It tracks users’ streams on Spotify and YouTube and gives merchandise and other rewards for listening to certain artists (example: signed posters by the rap artist NF). Some users like Renaissance purely as a way to keep track of the songs they’ve listened to.   

What’s next: Rewards programs have become popular for many products outside of credit cards and air travel. Uber and Lyft, along with many smaller companies, are using them, as CB Insights recently detailed.


02  Inc.’s database is great. Our latest analysis of it is better.

This week we dig deeper into the Inc. 5000, providing a more comprehensive analysis of the fastest-growing companies than anyone (including Inc.).

Here’s what we found:

30+ Signals

Every week, we uncover 3 Signals. This week, we found 34 new Signals, inspired by the Inc. 5000.

We also created a search tool to help you toggle through the businesses and concepts getting the most search traffic. 

The fastest-growing industry

As we examined the highest-growth companies, we noticed that many of the highest-ranked were specialty food companies. We detail the path of these and other fast movers:

  • Cece’s Veggie Co., an organic meal company, this year’s third fastest-growing company (up 23,880% in 3 years)

  • Nutpods, a plant-based creamer (No. 13; up 11,623%)

  • Skinny Dipped, thinly dipped chocolate-covered almonds (No. 32, up 6,642%)

  • Chomps, which makes healthier versions of popular snacks, like beef jerky (No. 62, up 4,469%)

Repeat Winners

We review companies that have been battle-tested, having landed on the Inc. 5000 list 10+ times––many of which still grew rapidly through the last recession. 

The data from these 100+ companies shows that sometimes, slow and steady wins. 

$1B+ Companies

Speaking of winners, there are exactly 10 companies that gross over $1B on the list this year. We took a closer look at how these companies––including Allied Universal, Epiq, and Fortis Construction––have continued to grow.

$1B Companies on the Inc 5000, Rankings over Time
PS: We love data. If there are any specific industries or data sources you want us to dig into further, drop us a line at [email protected]

03  Gas stations are popular. Here’s how they could get even more traffic.

What’s the biggest business in your neighborhood? It might actually be the chain gas station/convenience store on the corner.

Our founder Sam recently discussed this in the Trends Facebook group, highlighting new opportunities for these thriving businesses.

Among his ideas:

  1. Create loyalty programs: Most gas stations don’t have programs encouraging customers to come back over and over. Costco and Kroger seem to be doing an interesting job at this, Sam writes: “Creating software specifically to create gas station loyalty programs, that’s interesting. There have been loads of these businesses. But I don’t think one has worked. But building one specifically for gas? That’s interesting.”
  2. Lounge/hangout spot: The two biggest stores in the country appear to be Love’s and Pilot. Both of these are mostly for truckers. They have showers and a place to sit. With the change in cars, will people be spending more time at these stations? Teslas take like 10-20 min to charge. Does this mean there’s an opportunity to retrofit some stations so consumers have a way to hang out more?

04  Ingestible medical devices (yes, you heard that right)

What they are 

These pill-sized devices––also known as smart pills––have tiny cameras that record the inside of somebody’s gastrointestinal tract. The market is valued at about $500m right now and could grow as much as 24% annually to $3B by 2026.

Why they’re needed

Ingestible devices are an alternative to many invasive procedures, including colonoscopies, endoscopies, and operations that would normally require anesthesia. They could also be used to track medication adherence, detect disease, and administer insulin. People with recurring health problems and the elderly will be most likely to use smart pills. As we detailed last week, about twice as many people will be over 65 in 2060 as there are now. 

What people are already doing 

In 2017, the FDA approved the first smart pill, Proteus’ Abilify MyCite. It tracks medication adherence for illnesses like schizophrenia, depression, and bipolar disorder. Major names in the space include giants like Cerner, GE, and Olympus, as well as Proteus, a digital health startup formed to make ingestible devices.   

What you could be doing

Play the long game and try to make a device that does something other than measures adherence, including detecting cancer or serious syndromes. Experts also say these smart pills need to become safer, easier to ingest and biocompatible. Mainstream usage of this technology could bring about greater changes to the medical and testing fields, which will have a greater demand for expertise on software and technology.


05  News You Should Know

Netflix co-founder on making luck (Quartz): Luck is crucial to success. Can you put yourself in position to get lucky? Netflix’s Marc Randolph says yes. It just takes a lot of fruitless preparation. “And just as preparation can help you take advantage of opportunities,” he writes, “a lack of it can spell real doom.”     

Andreessen Horowitz slides (The Information): VC fund Andreessen Horowitz rose to prominence quickly when it delivered 44% returns in 2009. But its 2010 and 2011 funds have returned 16% and 12%, about the same as a stock market index.

Use Hindi to find 500m customers (TechCrunch): India has been fertile ground for startups and businesses the last several years, but everyone has been chasing the 100m residents who speak English. Only now are well-known startups like Flipkart realizing they need to offer their tools in Hindi. Some 500m people speak Hindi in India, meaning businesses with a foothold in Asia or India could find a wide new audience.    


06  Jilliene Helman on building a $2B fund, the entrepreneur ‘disease,’ and how climate change could impact your investments

Jilliene Helman, 32, was working in wealth management for Union Bank when she realized all her clients invested in real estate. She is now CEO of RealtyMogul, a real estate investment firm that lets people with as little as $1k collectively invest in commercial real estate picked by RealtyMogul. 

The best opportunity in real estate, says Helman, involves climate change.

She advises clients to avoid investing in markets where extreme weather conditions (hot or cold) are likely to worsen.

Helman is also bullish on shared living units and modular construction (which we featured in a Signal last month). Read our full conversation for lessons on how she built her company and obstacles she’s overcome.

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