Startups Explained

10 startups shaping the future: how venture studios accelerate success

Venture studios have been gaining immense popularity, and for good reason, data shows venture studio start-ups exit 33% faster than conventional startups. Some notable venture studio startups include Tinder, HelloFresh, Moderna, and Medium.
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Venture studios have been gaining immense popularity, and for good reason, data shows venture studio start-ups exit 33% faster than conventional startups. Some notable venture studio startups include Tinder, HelloFresh, Moderna, Medium, and more.

Venture studios and early stage startups


Venture studios are uniquely positioned within the venture ecosystem, complementing other key players like venture capital firms, incubators, and accelerators. Here's how we, at Appolica, see our role in this dynamic landscape:

Venture capital firms: These entities focus on identifying and investing in promising startups, betting on their future success.

Incubators and accelerators: These programs are designed to mentor and foster growth in early-stage companies, providing them with the resources and guidance to scale.

Venture studios: We're in the business of actively building startups from the ground up. We don't just bet on potential winners or mentor them; we roll up our sleeves and get involved in the creation process.

10 startups founded within a venture studio

With over 500 venture builders, startup studios, and incubators worldwide, it's surprising how little is known about their impact. The challenge often thrown at advocates of these incubators is to name truly successful startups they've launched. Accepting this challenge, we've compiled a list of ten notable startups, spanning various industries from e-commerce to fintech and logistics, which owe their beginnings to these innovation powerhouses. These companies debunk myths about venture builders and highlight their role in shaping today's entrepreneurial landscape. But first…

Zalando

Rocket Internet, as a venture studio, was instrumental in the founding and early growth of Zalander. It provided critical operational support, strategic investment, and infrastructure to help Zalando scale up rapidly. Rocket Internet initially played a major role as a shareholder but eventually reduced its ownership to a minor stake. However, Rocket's involvement was crucial in navigating Zalando through its early challenges and helping it to position itself for an IPO, demonstrating the profound impact venture studios can have on the trajectory of startups they support​

Bark & Co.

Prehype, a venture development firm, played a crucial role in the formation and success of Bark & Co., the company behind BarkBox. Henrik Werdelin, a founding partner at Prehype, used his innovation expertise to help establish Bark & Co. This included developing a structured methodology for idea generation and matching talented individuals with big problems that required innovative solutions. Prehype's approach often involves building companies from scratch and tailoring them to address specific market needs effectively.

For Bark & Co., this included identifying the unique needs of pet owners and creating products that directly addressed those needs, such as the Super Chewer line, which was developed in response to customer feedback. This shows how Prehype's involvement was not just in initial funding or basic support but extended into strategic market placement and product development tailored to evolving consumer demands. This hands-on incubation approach is central to their strategy, often resulting in successful, consumer-focused products and services that grow rapidly and sustainably​

Twill

BCG Digital Ventures (BCGDV) played a significant role in the creation and early development of Twill, a digital freight forwarder. Twill was launched as a venture by Damco, part of the Maersk Group, with the intention of simplifying the complex process of shipping goods internationally. Twill's platform offers a user-friendly interface where customers can get instant price quotes, track shipments, and manage documentation—all online, enhancing transparency and ease of operations for its users.

BCGDV's involvement included leveraging its expertise in innovation and digital solutions to build a platform that integrates all stages of the shipping process, thus addressing the inefficiencies typical in the traditional freight forwarding industry. This venture aligns with Maersk's strategy to transform into a global integrator of container logistics, providing comprehensive end-to-end solutions to enhance customer experience and operational efficiency.

The partnership between BCGDV and Damco enabled Twill to leverage cutting-edge technology and deep industry insights, making it a pioneering service that notably improves the ease of managing freight shipments, especially for SMEs. This strategic alignment and support from BCGDV were crucial in developing a product that effectively responds to the needs of the modern supply chain landscape

Medium

Obvious Corp played a critical incubation role for Medium, nurturing the platform through its early stages and providing the strategic direction needed for its growth. Initially, Medium was a key internal project under the Obvious Corp umbrella, which focuses on supporting innovative startups. The venture provided Medium with essential resources, including technology, expertise, and a strategic network that enabled the platform to scale quickly.

Under the guidance of Obvious Corp, Medium evolved into a standalone company, sharpening its focus on becoming a major content platform. The incubator facilitated Medium's infrastructure and business model development, which included experimenting with various content strategies and monetization methods to ensure sustainable growth. The strategic support from Obvious Corp was instrumental in enabling Medium to attract significant funding and to experiment with innovative features that enhanced user collaboration and content creation on the platform.

Undo

Undo was established in 2016 by CEO Sophie Bohr Grønbæk with a mission to simplify insurance for millennials, primarily offering personalized and mobile-first insurance services. The startup was incubated by Rainmaking, a venture development firm known for its role in promoting entrepreneurship and innovation in the corporate sector. Undo distinguished itself by creating a highly user-centric insurance application, which simplified the process of purchasing insurance to a few minutes on a mobile device, reflecting the preferences of younger, tech-savvy generations.

Rainmaking played a significant role in Undo's development, providing not only the initial conceptual and strategic support but also teaming up with the established Danish insurer Tryg. In 2018, Tryg invested in Undo, acquiring a 50% stake and providing substantial financial support to help the startup scale its operations. This partnership allowed Undo to leverage Tryg's extensive industry experience and customer base while continuing to innovate under the guidance of Rainmaking.

The collaboration with Rainmaking enabled Undo to effectively reach and engage its target demographic, leading to impressive growth rates in customer acquisition and policy sales. The venture studio model employed by Rainmaking, which involves co-creation and shared risks and rewards with startups, proved essential in aligning the interests of all parties involved, thereby driving Undo's rapid expansion and success in the competitive insurtech landscape.

Affirm

Affirm, a financial services company that focuses on improving the transparency and fairness of consumer credit, was founded by Max Levchin through his venture studio, HVF Labs. Established in 2012, HVF Labs was created to develop solutions that leverage data significantly, focusing on solving complex challenges in various industries.

The venture studio model used by HVF is particularly notable for its focus on ideation and rapid prototyping, aiming to foster significant industry changes through technology. Affirm exemplifies HVF Labs' approach by offering a consumer-friendly alternative to traditional credit options with transparent terms that are easy to understand, which helps to improve financial inclusion and literacy.

Under Levchin's leadership, Affirm was crafted to revolutionize the buy-now-pay-later sector, providing users with flexible payment solutions without hidden fees. This approach has not only catered to consumer needs but has also aligned with HVF Labs' mission to create impactful and enduring businesses. Affirm's success is a testament to HVF Labs' effective model of working closely with its ventures, providing strategic advice and technical expertise to ensure they grow and succeed in their respective markets

BondIT

BondIT, developed with the support of BCG Digital Ventures, is at the forefront of modernizing fixed income investing by leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. The company provides a robust technology platform that enhances portfolio construction and risk analysis for fixed income investments. BondIT's advanced tools and analytics allow financial professionals to efficiently build and optimize portfolios, significantly reducing the time and complexity traditionally associated with fixed income investment processes.

One of the key innovations of BondIT is the integration of AI to offer predictive credit analytics, which helps investors manage and anticipate risks more effectively. The platform supports dynamic portfolio construction, allowing users to adapt investment strategies quickly to changing market conditions and individual investment goals.

In 2020, BondIT merged with Scorable to further enhance its capabilities in AI-driven credit analysis. This merger integrated Scorable’s expertise in automated credit risk analysis with BondIT’s portfolio management solutions, creating a more comprehensive service offering for asset managers and financial advisors. This strategic move was aimed at boosting the efficiency, performance, and scale of fixed-income investment processes, reflecting a significant step forward in the digital transformation of the sector.

BrainCo

BrainCo, developed within the ecosystem of the Harvard Innovation Lab, exemplifies how venture studios can significantly influence the growth and direction of technology startups. The Harvard Innovation Lab serves as a venture studio by providing a nurturing environment where ideas are developed into products with market viability.

At its core, the Harvard Innovation Lab offers resources such as mentorship, technology support, and a collaborative environment that is essential for early-stage startups. BrainCo leveraged these resources to innovate and refine its brain-machine interface technology, which has applications in improving cognitive functions and managing stress through neurofeedback.

The support from Harvard Innovation Lab was crucial in transitioning BrainCo from concept to product development, allowing the company to harness cutting-edge research and development in neuroscience and machine learning. This kind of incubation is instrumental in enabling startups like BrainCo to navigate the challenging early phases of product development and market entry.

Buzzmove

Offers innovative solutions for home moving and insurance through its app technology. It includes a price comparison and booking service for moving, a video survey app for obtaining moving quotes (Buzzsurvey), and a digital inventory-based home insurance service. With over 300,000 customers served and significant investments, Buzzmove simplifies the moving process and personal asset protection.

Buzzmove participated in the Startupbootcamp InsurTech accelerator program which played a crucial role in its development. This accelerator provided Buzzmove with mentorship, strategic guidance, and a platform to refine its business model, which is focused on a digital platform for home moving and insurance services. The participation in this accelerator was a significant step in Buzzmove's journey, helping them secure a substantial funding round to enhance and expand their services.

Bungalow

Bungalow addresses the urban housing shortage for young professionals by offering shared living spaces in major cities. It fosters community-led homes, making city living more affordable and is expanding rapidly across over 20 cities.

Bungalow was supported in its development by Atomic, a venture studio. Atomic provided Bungalow with seed capital, operational support, and a strategic framework essential for its growth. This support helped Bungalow rapidly expand its business model, which focuses on making urban living more affordable and community-oriented. Atomic's role exemplifies the venture studio model of hands-on involvement in nurturing and scaling startups.

Why did we, at Appolica, choose to transform into a venture studio?

Short answer: You’ve seen the success stories. Why wouldn’t we?

Long answer: We've evolved from our origins as a mobile app agency to embrace our true passion. Our culture mirrors the dynamism and agility of startups — fast-paced, flexible, and always forward-looking. Our journey began with a simple yet ambitious goal: to craft scalable mobile applications that truly make a difference. This mission led us to the exciting world of startups, where we felt we could make the most significant impact. Recognizing the transformative potential of our work, we took on a new path in 2024, becoming a venture studio. This transition was driven by our desire to leverage our extensive expertise in technology, creativity, and business strategy to support innovative startups poised to disrupt their respective markets. 

Our approach is holistic and hands-on, guiding startups through every phase of their journey — from the initial spark of an idea through validation, development, and scaling. We're committed to iterative testing and refinement, ensuring that each product meets and even exceeds market demands and user expectations. Our venture studio is built on a foundation of technical excellence, innovative thinking, and a deep understanding of the business landscape, making us the ideal co-founders for startups looking to make a mark on the world.

If you're intrigued by the possibilities of what a partnership with Appolica could mean for your startup idea, we invite you to reach out. Our team is ready to roll up our sleeves and dive into the creative and building process with you. Let’s explore how we can transform your vision into a successful reality that stands out. Let’s build something remarkable together!

FAQ

What is a venture studio?

A venture studio is an organization that actively participates in building startups from the ground up. Unlike venture capital firms that primarily provide funding, or incubators and accelerators that offer guidance and resources, venture studios are hands-on, engaging in the actual creation and operational aspects of new companies.

How does Appolica differentiate itself within the venture studio space?

Appolica has evolved from a mobile app agency to a venture studio, bringing a strong technological and creative background into every project. Our approach is holistic, covering every phase of a startup's journey, from concept through scaling. We offer a unique combination of technical excellence, innovative thinking, and a deep understanding of business strategy.

What kinds of startups does Appolica work with?

We are interested in partnering with startups across a variety of sectors, including technology, fintech, healthtech, edtech, and more. Our focus is on innovative ideas that can disrupt industries and improve lives.

How can I collaborate with Appolica as a startup founder?

Startup founders looking to collaborate with Appolica can reach out via our contact email or through our website. We're looking for passionate entrepreneurs with bold ideas that need the right technical and business expertise to scale.

What is the benefit of starting a business with a venture studio like Appolica?

Partnering with a venture studio like Appolica allows you to leverage extensive industry experience and technical resources that can accelerate the development and scaling of your startup. This model significantly reduces the time and effort typically required to launch and grow a new business.

How does Appolica support startups in their growth?

Appolica supports startups by providing comprehensive services including product development, market analysis, business strategy formulation, and access to a network of potential investors and advisors. We engage in iterative testing and refinement to ensure products meet market demands and user expectations.

Are there successful examples of startups launched by venture studios?

Yes, some notable examples include Zalando, Bark & Co., and Medium, among others. These startups were built with the significant involvement of venture studios and have achieved substantial success in their respective markets.

How do I know if my startup idea is a good fit for Appolica?

If your startup idea is innovative, scalable, and has the potential to disrupt the market, it could be a good fit for Appolica. We recommend reaching out to discuss your idea in more detail so we can assess how our resources and expertise can align with your vision.

Can I join Appolica if I'm at the idea stage or do I need a fully developed business plan?

Appolica welcomes founders at the idea stage as well as those who have developed more detailed plans. We believe in the potential of early-stage ideas and offer the guidance necessary to refine and validate them.

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