GrepBeat’s Startups to Watch 2021: Introducing The First Class Of Honorees

GrepBeat’s “Startups To Watch” recognizes early-stage tech startups that we believe are going to make big news going forward—maybe unicorn-big. This is the first year we have published the list of 10 startups, which we revealed at an invite-only event on Sept. 23 at The Pit in downtown Durham. The event was sponsored by Hutchison and Dualboot Partners.

The field was restricted to early-stage tech or tech-enabled startups—so no agencies or consultancies, and no life sciences/medical devices/biotech startups—with annual revenue <$5M. We also recognized three more super-early-stage startups; read until the end for them.

We received a total of 88 nominations for 71 different startups. Then we had the tough task of narrowing the field!

Here are the 2021 Startups To Watch, in alphabetical order:


HQ: Durham
Year Founded: 2018
CEO: Colin Tai

Description: Alcove offers rentals of private, furnished rooms in homes and apartments geared towards healthy roommate relationships alongside personal and professional growth opportunities. The company’s leases are flexible and range in pricing based on size and provided benefits. 

Read more about Alcove in our January 2018 article.


HQ: Durham
Year Founded: 2017
CEO: Jon Woodworth

Description: biospatial aggregates data from a network of EMS calls and uses AI to cross-reference it with other health data in order to support hospitals and public health initiatives. The company’s recent efforts have included Covid case tracking for state entities and beyond.


HQ: Durham
Year Founded: 2017
Co-Founders: Brandon McCarthy (CEO) and Chris Rathgeb (CTO)

Description: CureMint looks to simplify the process of procuring products and technologies for dental care providers. The company’s specially tailored ecommerce platform is designed just for the dental industry, and grew from 10 to more than 120 customers all over the country in just under a year of service.

Read more about CureMint (which, by the way, is named as an ode to the “procurement” it facilitates) in our May 2020 article.

Cycle Labs

HQ: Raleigh
Year Founded: 2021 (spinout)
CEO: Josh Owens

Description: A spinout of supply chain consulting firm Tryon Solutions, Cycle Labs was officially launched as a standalone startup in 2021 in order to focus efforts into further developing the company’s industry-leading platform, Cycle. The product, which is used by Fortune 500 companies around the globe, is a continuous testing platform designed to support business-process automation. 

Read more about Cycle Labs and its July 1, 2021 launch, in this GrepBeat article.


HQ: Raleigh
Year Founded: 2018
CEO: Ardis Kadiu

Description: Element451 helps to give colleges an admissions edge by providing them with the technological tools to market themselves effectively. The SaaS CRM (customer relationship management) product helps universities market themselves to students from the beginning of the recruiting process to the moment they enroll. Offerings include landing pages, application management and event management, all personalized to each university’s needs. 

Read more about Element451 and its journey to Raleigh in our February 2020 article.


HQ: Carrboro
Year Founded: 2013
CEO: Fred Stutzman

Description: Freedom is a platform that allows users to block all distractions on all of their electronic devices—Mac, Windows, iOS, Android, and Chromebooks—and maximize productivity. Freedom makes it easy for over a million users to “turn off the noise” by putting temporary blocks on distracting websites and apps, like social media and streaming platforms.

Read more about Freedom’s early stages in this 2019 GrepBeat interview with founder Fred Stutzman.


HQ: Morrisville
Year Founded: 2020 (spinout)
CEO: Erkang Zheng

Description: After emerging from under the LifeOmic umbrella with its $19 million Series A round in October, 2020, Morrisville’s JupiterOne caught GrepBeat’s eye with its complex cybersecurity asset management solutions. JupiterOne focuses on not just the discovery of assets and resources but on mapping out the connections and relationships as well to give organizations a full picture of where they stand.

Read more about JupiterOne and its rapid growth potential in this October 2020 GrepBeat article. 


HQ: Raleigh
Year Founded: 2018
Co-Founders: Will Bowen (CEO) and Matt Harrell (VP, Customer Success)

A PTA management platform (yes, you read that right —Parent Teacher Association) out of Raleigh, MemberHub looks to provide school-adjacent organizations with solutions for the 21st century. The platform—which facilitates membership management, some ecommerce and fundraising—enhances communication among members in community organizations.

Read more about MemberHub in this GrepBeat article from November 2019.


HQ: Durham
Year Founded: 2017
Co-Founders: Chris Geiss and Marc Baumbach

Description: A email marketing platform built exclusively for vendors who sell on Shopify, Seguno offers over 150 email marketing templates as well as other solutions including email automation, any easy-to-use editor and email marketing education. 

Learn more about the Bronto alum-led company in this Friday Nooner episode and this 2020 GrepBeat article on their “Hiring Hackathon.” 

Tumult Labs

HQ: Durham
Year Founded: 2019
Co-Founders: Gerome Miklau (CEO), Ashwin Machanavajjhala (Chief Scientist) and Michael Hay (CTO)

Arising from the research of a trio of professors hailing from Duke, UMass-Amherst and Colgate, Tumult Labs’ software focuses on tackling differential privacy—the ability to hide personally identifiable information within a data set while still being able to make aggregate data analysis. From collaborations with the US Census Bureau to private industry applications, Tumult’s unique approach to differential privacy is making a splash.

Read more about Tumult in our article from earlier this month.

Now here are the three additional startups we recognized as “Startups To Watch, To Watch,” or for the more mathematically inclined, “Startups (To Watch)2This honor recognized some very early-stage startups—less than a year old—that showed great promise, but weren’t quite mature enough to compare apples-to-apples with the others.

Green Places

HQ: Raleigh
Year Founded: 2021
CEO: Alex Lassiter

Description: Green Places helps small businesses make effective sustainability plans by calculating a company’s carbon footprint and investing in carbon-negative projects on behalf of the company to achieve carbon neutrality. Any office-based or non-manufacturing company can calculate their carbon footprint now, for free, on the Green Place website.

Read more about this up-and-coming company in our July 2021 profile. 


HQ: Durham
Year Founded: 2020
CEO: Liliana Cantrell

Description: iMama’s B2B SaaS platform is a win-win for employers and new moms alike. Through iMama, new mothers can request lactation consulting on-demand while at work, thereby helping more women return to work and prolong the breastfeeding cycle. Mothers can schedule an appointment with a consultant on the app, take the appointment via video or phone and follow up via in-app messaging.

Read about iMama in this June 2021 GrepBeat profile.

Tiny Earth Toys

HQ: Durham
Year Founded: 2020
CEO: Rachael Classi

Description: Looking to create a more sustainable play experience for her own children and others, former Teamworks exec Rachael Classi founded Durham’s Tiny Earth Toys in 2020,  the world’s first circular toy subscription business. Families receive a rotation of different high-quality, wooden box toy sets for children aged from birth to five years that are exchanged every four months, helping them playtime keep fresh while providing parents with a clean environmental conscience. 

Read more about Tiny Earth’s mission and fast growth in our January 2021 article. 

About Suzannah Claire Perry 74 Articles
Suzannah "Claire" Perry is a senior Journalism and Peace, War and Defense major at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. When she isn't at GrepBeat, you can find her in a coffeeshop, her hometown of Cary, N.C., or on Twitter @sclaire_perry.