Although the coronavirus pandemic brought about a number of challenges for companies in 2020, it also brought about new opportunities to learn and adapt to the changing business landscape in 2021.
One such company that adapted its strategy to fit the new business landscape is AvantStay, a short-term rental and hospitality startup. It’s using a large number of remote workers to its advantage by offering work-friendly spaces, enhanced cleaning protocols and add-on services such as fridge stocking and pet packages so customers can virtually work from anywhere — even the beach.
AvantStay isn’t the only company making moves in the new year. We rounded up eight more companies across LA that are using the lessons they learned in 2020 to dive headfirst into 2021.
In 2021, InStride, an edtech company that enables employers to provide career-boosting degrees and credentials to their employees, is focusing its efforts on delivering education in a way that creates a win-win scenario for both employers and employees, Chief Customer Officer Sean Flynn said.
What is one of the most important focuses for InStride in 2021?
With the unprecedented challenges of the last year, many employers are looking to deliver meaningful social impact. Few things offer as much opportunity for transformative impact as access to education. InStride works with companies on strategic education programs that impact the lives of their employees while delivering real business results.
With a network of top-tier academic institutions, InStride helps employers tailor workforce education programs to high-demand skills and critical needs. Think of skills that are becoming more and more critical, like IT and data analytics or industry certifications in nursing and manufacturing. We help companies design programs aligned with their strategic objectives and then help learners earn degrees and credentials that open new doors.
I am fortunate to be surrounded by a team at InStride that believes in our mission to deliver life-changing education. In 2021, our most important focus is delivering that education in a way that creates a win-win scenario for employers and employees alike. When we get that right — with each company and every learner — we bring to life the idea of “doing well by doing good.”
Imagine the possibilities if this model of investing in your business by investing in your people’s education becomes the standard across all industries.”
What impact will this have on InStride and your industry?
Since our founding, more than 26,000 people have enrolled in higher education programs through InStride’s partner network. While these programs have saved learners more than $200 million in student debt, we are just scratching the surface of what is possible in reducing the $1.6 trillion deficit in national student loans. We are fortunate to have been recognized by both Fortune Magazine and Inc. Magazine in 2020 for our efforts in creating meaningful social impact. Our hope is that this commitment of combining profit and purpose will serve as a model for others.
Imagine the possibilities if this model of investing in your business by investing in your people’s education becomes the standard across all industries. Employers develop skills needed to stay competitive, while employees get access to lifelong learning that is increasingly essential in the modern workplace. At the same time, we can improve access to education for diverse learners while erasing millions of dollars of student loan debt in the process.
We are passionate about what life-changing, career-boosting education can do for corporations, their employees and their communities.
As part of its 2021 business strategy, Neel Palrecha, CTO at PlayVS, a platform that operates and hosts nationwide high school and collegiate esports leagues, said that they are focusing on continuing to grow their player base and provide a one-of-a-kind experience for all.
What is one of the most important focuses for PlayVS in 2021?
Our single biggest goal as a business is to continue growing our player base while providing an unrivaled competitive experience. Determining how to best expand the opportunities esports provides to a wider audience informs most of our day-to-day decisions.
Determining how to best expand the opportunities esports provides to a wider audience informs most of our day-to-day decisions.”
What impact will this have on PlayVS and your industry?
By keeping player experience top of mind, we will set the industry standard for esports. Through our partnerships with publishers, we’re able to offer a one-of-a-kind experience to players. We put the games players love together with the premium competitive experience our platform provides. PlayVS standardizes esports and unlocks previously unavailable opportunities to any player who wants them.
As the company continues to scale, SmartFinancial, a fintech company that helps users compare insurance quotes, is focusing on employee development and team growth in 2021, CEO Lev Barinskiy said.
What is one of the most important focuses for SmartFinancial in 2021?
As a fast growing technology company, one of the key focuses for us is employee development and team growth. In today’s dynamic business environment, it’s important to create a company culture that focuses on flexibility, transparency and innovation.
At SmartFinancial, our focus is to build a strong foundation of values and processes that will allow us to scale our teams with the needs of our business. We approach our organizational growth in a very methodical way, dissecting every aspect of our people operations. Starting with finding and recruiting the right talent to successfully onboarding and developing people, every process has to be tracked and analyzed for optimization based on the feedback we get from our teams. Our opportunities lie with our people.
A foundation for employee development and engagement enables us to scale our distributed teams and foster a culture of innovation.”
What impact will this have on SmartFinancial and your industry?
Building a strong foundation for employee development and engagement will enable us to continue to scale our distributed teams and foster a culture of innovation. Our business is solving very challenging problems in our industry and building teams that are aligned with our vision and core principles is a key component of our growth strategy. By having a team that is dynamic and agile, we are able to better weather any unpredictable challenges that we may face.
In order to keep up with the growing popularity of their product, FightCamp, a platform that offers interactive boxing workouts, is focused on continuing to create an employee-centric culture in 2021, Principal Product Manager Josh Grayson said.
What is one of the most important focuses for FightCamp in 2021?
Given the high demand for at-home fitness products, our most important focus this year is growing to meet those demands. We’re scaling systems and processes, but most importantly, scaling the team by bringing in new, top-tier talent and continuing to invest in the career growth of the talent that I’m so lucky to be working with already.
FightCamp’s growth thus far has been nothing less than meteoric. I attribute that to the founding employees’ commitment to an employee-centric culture where the best and brightest are empowered and trusted to do what they do best. We are not afraid to innovate and take risks, exactly the way one should at a startup. When you combine a great market-fit with wonderful and motivated people, you are unstoppable, and that’s what we have going on right now.
Preserving that culture, and scaling it, will be a key focus for us. Of course, that’s no easy task, as is one of the biggest challenges a startup like FightCamp can face. From what I’ve seen so far, I could not be more confident that the right pieces have been put into place to grow this organization.
When you combine a great market-fit with wonderful and motivated people, you are unstoppable.”
What impact will this have on the business and your industry?
Getting scaling and growth right means everybody wins.
It means that consumers benefit from a greater pool of talent, all working hard to improve their overall experience. When scaling is done right, it means that we preserve all of the virtues of a startup like scrappiness, rapid iteration, innovation, risks and leanness which, in turn, brings more value to customers faster. We are committed to making that happen and staying true to our roots. Those virtues have gotten us this far and although more is needed to take us further, we embrace that change and the roots will always remain.
On the employee side, scaling and growth mean more opportunities. And this probably isn’t the first time you’ve heard a startup say something like that, but this is the real deal. Whether you’re looking to advance your career, explore new paths or hone your craft, FightCamp has systems in place to help you achieve those goals. There is a genuine belief that investing in employees creates a positive feedback cycle where everyone — the business, employees, customers and more — wins.
Cie, an innovation accelerator for large enterprises and a growth accelerator for emerging startups, plans on adding new startups to its portfolio and continuing to grow its existing companies in 2021, Founder and CEO Anderee Berengian said.
What is one of the most important focuses for your business in 2021?
Cie has transacted over $85 million in funding and exits in the past 12 months. Cie provides our startups with unfair advantages by accelerating from idea to market and matching the right industry knowledge, executional team and strategic partnerships. In 2021, we plan to add many new startups to our portfolio and to further scale our existing companies.
Each of the startups we’re currently growing, including those that are in stealth mode, are focused on solving real-world problems.”
What impact will this have on Cie and your industry?
Cie’s model enables us to de-risk startups for both entrepreneurs and our VC partners, bringing about results most founders only dream of (Cie went from a Series A to an exit in less than two years). In the past, we’ve driven impact for:
- TITAN, in which we scaled it into the school nutrition industry’s fastest-growing SaaS provider.
- Performa Labs, which we took from concept to pilot program in less than a year by identifying and refining a path to market.
- The direct-to-consumer Longève Brands, which we co-founded. Today, we’re now accelerating its expansion with $5 million in seed funding secured through Cie’s VC partners.
Each of the startups we’re currently growing, including those that are in stealth mode, are focused on solving real-world problems — Cie accelerates the impact each startup can make.
Because the coronavirus pandemic shifted the way people view traveling, AvantStay, a short-term rental and hospitality startup, is focusing its efforts in 2021 on expansion to ‘drive-to’ domestic markets as people continue to opt for longer — but geographically closer — stays, Founder and CEO Sean Breuner said.
What is one of the most important focuses for AvantStay in 2021?
Traditional hospitality was built around place-based work and traveling in small groups. Being cooped up in offices meant travel was centered around short weekends or annual stays and people did not get the chance to connect with loved ones.
Our business has always been about bringing people together and in a post-pandemic world, this is more important than ever. With work continuing to be remote, we have an opportunity to reimagine what travel looks like.
Providing world-class accommodations where people have the opportunity to unwind, without any concerns for their health and with everything they need, is just the start. We provide a guest experience that’s tailored to the number of reasons people are traveling today — work from paradise, fitness and wellness retreats, long-awaited reunions, celebrations and much-needed rest.
In 2021 and beyond, we will continue to support our team to travel and work remotely from unforgettable places. The best way to build the leading hospitality brand of the future is by ensuring our most valuable resource, our people, experience first-hand what we are building, and we are heavily invested in refining our product for people like them.
What impact will this have on AvantStay and your industry?
We’re lucky to see travelers continuing to demand what has always been our mission — to make group travel more accessible than ever. Launching in more than 25 cities in 2021 means an opportunity to grow nearly four times year-over-year and expand our portfolio of unique, experience-first properties to more than 1,000 homes, totaling more than 5,000 rooms in more than 80 cities.
The demand for drive to domestic markets will be a priority as people opt for longer and closer stays, averaging 6.4 nights just two and a half hours from home. We’ve also rolled out new products such as curated hospitality communities in Nashville, Scottsdale and Palm Springs, as well as our first international destination in Cabo San Lucas.
Our business has always been about bringing people together and in a post-pandemic world, this is more important than ever.”
COVID-19 has undeniably set new standards for travel — we’ve enhanced our cleaning protocols, optimized the work-friendly spaces and enabled guests to apply add-on services such as fridge stocking and pet packages. Through our loyalty and customer referral programs, our product is capable of reaching more eyes than ever before. By simply providing a positive experience, our guests and homeowners have become our greatest promoters.
Last year, Ranker, a website that features polls on entertainment, brands, sports, food and culture, launched Watchworthy, a TV recommendation app that allows users to build their own Watchlist. So, as part of its 2021 business strategy, Founder and CEO Clark Benson said that they’re working on enhancing Watchworthy to showcase new social features and the inclusion of movies.
What is one of the most important focuses for Ranker in 2021?
Ranker is the leader in fan-powered rankings on just about everything. So it only seemed natural that we harness that data to create Watchworthy, a free, personalized TV recommendation app that allows users to build their own “Watchlist” from TV networks and over 200 streaming services like Netflix, HBO Max, Disney+, Hulu, Amazon, etc.
We successfully launched in 2020, powering Watchworthy with Ranker Insights, a proprietary machine learning platform applying first-party data amassed over a decade from 1 billion votes on Ranker.com. Watchworthy is the only statistically relevant, crowd-sourced recommendation app using psychographic correlation data. Critical to building the Watchworthy algorithm are the 1 million Ranker votes from high-intent TV fans voting on lists featuring 13,000 TV shows — creating a unique panel system for the recommendation engine.
Looking ahead, our 2021 roadmap expects the inclusion of movie recommendations and gamification features, programming Ranker’s votable lists to further enrich the content experience, and the continued development of deeper integrations for streaming partners like HBO Max, Netflix, Disney+, The CW and many others.
Watchworthy is more relevant to consumers and content providers during COVID-19 times as 2020 app downloads skyrocket .”
What impact will this have on Ranker and your industry?
Watchworthy is more relevant to consumers and content providers during COVID-19 times as 2020 app downloads skyrocket due to new phone sales, social distancing and all this free time we now have. Just in 2020, SVOD (subscription video on demand) contracts shot up from 169 million to 308 million — meaning, the average household can stream 90,000 hours of content (that’s, like, 10 years of continuous playback!).
Watchworthy removes the guesswork of what to watch next providing an increase in audience engagement beneficial to content providers and platforms. This brings better retention rates when 30 percent of streamers said they’ll scroll through wall-gardened menus only to give up altogether. We’re hoping Watchworthy will ultimately take the place of what used to be DVR lists or cable TV channel guides.
The app offers a win-win solution for providers and consumers in the evolving streaming industry wars and an audience culture primed for more content.
Watchworthy was initially built for TV and movies based on my passion and that of our voters. However, the app itself is a model for many more applications, including a white label version tailored for streaming services or additional recommendation apps like gaming and music.
In order to support the growth of its clients in 2021, CreatorIQ, a cloud solution that enables brands to manage and optimize their influencer campaigns, is focusing on a data-first approach that powers predictive analytics and automated audience modeling, VP of Product Strategy Bhavin Desai said.
What is one of the most important focuses for CreatorIQ in 2021?
Last year was a breakthrough year within the influencer marketing industry as businesses reacted to the changing advertising landscape due to the pandemic, with a heavy focus on influencer marketing to reach their audience and build authentic relationships with their consumers. CreatorIQ is laser-focused on continuing to support the growth of our clients as they accelerate their programs in 2021.
As a critical part of driving this growth, CreatorIQ is continuing to focus on a data-first approach that leverages over 7.5 billion data points across organic social metrics, paid advertising performance, and conversion and attribution data to power next-gen capabilities such as predictive analytics, creator recommendation engine and automated audience modeling. These capabilities are critical in helping our clients scale their influencer programs and drive maximum ROI and business outcomes.
What impact will this have on CreatorIQ and your industry?
Over the last few years, the industry has been shifting from a tactical influencer marketing to an advanced consumer experience strategy that focuses less on short-term engagements and more on deeper relationships to build authentic, long-term influencer value. Our most advanced and successful clients are already leading the industry with a data-first approach that combines multiple data points within CreatorIQ to execute influencer marketing tactics as a unified, consumer experience strategy in an increasingly automated fashion.
CreatorIQ is laser-focused on continuing to support the growth of our clients as they accelerate their programs in 2021.”
We believe this will become the standard within the industry. As more clients across different verticals look for ways to accelerate and scale their programs away from tactical, short-term approaches toward global enterprise programs and operations across marketing, product, sales, innovation, insights and more, it will lead to a convergence of consumer experience and influencer marketing to deliver strategic, data-driven partnerships that deliver higher ROI for their business.
As consumer behaviors and preferences shift toward omnichannel marketplaces, GOAT, an e-commerce platform for sneakers, apparel and accessories, is focusing its efforts on global expansion as well as improving the experience for both buyers and sellers.
What is one of the most important focuses for GOAT in 2021?
In 2021, we will continue our expansion into apparel internationally by leveraging the momentum we experienced last year due to the massive shift to online platforms and away from traditional retail. Globally, we will continue to invest in expanding our footprint in additional key markets outside the U.S., further improving the GOAT experience for both buyers and sellers around the world. Most importantly, we will focus on delivering a premier end-to-end experience for our community of 30 million members and 600,000 sellers.
Expansion will allow us to continue to drive forward with our mission to bring the greatest products together from the past, present and future.”
What impact will this have on GOAT and your industry?
Category expansion will allow us to continue to drive forward with our mission to bring the greatest products together from the past, present and future, solidifying GOAT as the best place to shop for quality sneakers, apparel and accessories. Consumer behaviors and preferences are shifting towards omnichannel marketplaces like GOAT, and our category expansion as well as our global expansion will provide consumers with a one-stop shop for quality products.