Today there are dozens of services, products, and industries that could be upended by an up-and-coming competitor at a moment’s notice. That reality represents an opportunity for such a company, its early customers, and investors alike. But not everyone is taking full advantage.

I’ve been an angel investor for years. When I look for businesses to invest in, I seek companies that are doing something meaningfully different. The novelty of an idea, solid leadership, and a willingness to challenge how things are done all matter a great deal, regardless of the industry.

In 2020, young companies that I plan to keep an eye on include Packsize, Klipfolio, Lucerna Health, and Guideline. I am an investor in none of them, and indeed, all startups face immense challenges. So far, though, these four are doing impressive, impactful things.

PackSize

In the era of Amazon, shipping has exploded; nearly 34 million packages are sent each day. Unfortunately, that has led to massive waste.

About one-third of the average garbage dump is made up of packaging material. Most boxes are far larger than the item being shipped and require additional padding, and delivery trucks are not the most fuel-efficient vehicles.

The entire shipping industry hasn’t evolved much in the last 20 years. Enter PackSize. It creates packaging that fits products of every size, from bicycles to guitars, cutting down on waste and cost. And for companies that handle all their own packaging, PackSize even offers machines that can 3-D scan products and generate packaging on demand. That could help thousands of businesses across the country struggling to be sustainable and cost-efficient.

Klipfolio

Every modern business works with data, metrics, or financial information. Any platform that helps a growing data-focused company manage that information is a necessity.

For years, companies like Domo have been well-known in the market, offering custom dashboards and visualizations that consolidate data sources (Google Analytics, spreadsheets, financial/accounting systems, etc.) at a hefty cost.

The market should pay attention to one of Domo’s competitors, Klipfolio. It offers functionally the same service, but at a dramatically reduced cost, making it accessible to growing start-ups. As companies increasingly rely on data, that access should lead to a more level playing field, more dynamic competition, and more innovation.

Lucerna Health

There are few things more personal than health. Unfortunately, over the last decade, most people’s medical history and health data have been scattered across a number of incompatible digital systems.

These competing systems force some hospitals and doctors to use fax machines rather than digitally share records, wasting time that could be used to improve the quality of care and save lives.

Lucerna Health offers a solution for this problem: a platform that connects the various health data systems, making them all compatible. For the first time since health records went digital, doctors, insurance companies, and hospitals can access a complete picture of the patient’s medical history. That means more effective, efficient care at a lower cost.

Guideline

When I started my first company, I was more worried about how we were going to keep everything running for another year. I cared about my employees, but my focus was not on their retirement.

Most small business owners feel the same. In fact, the General Accounting Office found that only 14% of small employers sponsor retirement plans. Speaking from experience, setting up and managing retirement plans can be overwhelming. For smaller, newer companies, Guideline could be a godsend.

The company has modernized the 401(k), one of the oldest investment vehicles out there. Nearly everything, from plan administration to compliance, to investment choices, is managed with software and automated for optimization.

On top of that, Guideline is one of the only 401(k) providers that doesn’t charge fees on investments, allowing employees to save more in the long run. Their attention to small businesses’ unique needs may pay off down the line.

Final Thoughts

In an incredibly crowded entrepreneurial field, where business ideas and venture capital are flowing at an unprecedented rate, the best thing a company can do is stand out.

Not every company ends up on “Shark Tank” or on the front page of The Wall Street Journal, but the above-described companies have the potential to change the status quo in their respective fields.

Brett Derricott, a longtime angel investor, founded and is CEO of Built for Teams, a human resources software platform.

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