In this age of AI, it is amazing to see the variety of products and services that startups are delivering to different industries. From drawing actionable insights from the world’s activity to synthesizing new microbes from nature, AI is driving these emerging fields at its core. However, in Q2 2020, according to CB Insights investment in AI-startups saw a 3-year low with only 458 deals worth $7.2B. And yet, according to Forbes, the COVID-19 pandemic has only affirmed the position of AI in our lives and are expecting that the top AI trends for 2021 will be in AI-driven investigation, surveillance, behavioral analytics, and predictions.

As part of our advisory activities at Mind the Bridge, we are continuously looking for the most innovative startups around the world that fit the verticals we focus on. 

This shortlist focuses on North American startups that according to us are worthy to be tracked. They have either received notable investments recently and/or provide solutions that promise to be increasingly important in our post-Covid world. Take a look at who is making an impact and how:


Affectiva: Detecting human emotion from facial expressions

HQ: Boston, MA
Founded: 2009
Funding: Series B

Affectiva built an emotion AI that can perceive human emotion and cognitive state for better consumer engagement in verticals like automotive, media, and social robotics.

What’s the value

By leveraging their Human Perception AI software, they are bringing emotional intelligence to the digital world by detecting nuanced facial expressions to understand consumer’s mental state. For example, their in-cabin sensing solution can analyze occupants’ moods to offer better mobility experiences and improve road safety. 

Worth Mentioning

  • Affectiva is used by 25% of Global Fortune 500 companies
  • Founder & CEO, Rana El Kaliouby, made it in BBC’s 2019 list of 100 inspiring and influential women from around the world (link)
Beyond Limits

Beyond Limits: Cognitively solving complex enterprise challenges

HQ: Glendale, CA
Founded: 2014
Funding: Seed

Beyond Limits creates automated solutions with human-like reasoning for industrial challenges in Energy, Healthcare, Finance, and Logistics.

What’s the value

Their Cognitive AI software offers reliable guidance and explainable recommendations for everyday operational challenges and mission-critical situations. They provide automated business processes, predictive analytics, virtual assistance, and security for mitigating risk and optimizing performance. This enables businesses to get new levels of operational efficiencies and revenue profits.

Worth Mentioning

  • Beyond Limits is named in CB Insights’s 2020 List of 100 most innovation AI startups (link)
  • They recently raised $133M (Series C) to expand globally (link)

Miles: Rewarding everyone for any mode of transportation

HQ: Redwood City, CA
Founded: 2016
Funding: Seed

Miles is a rewards app for smartphones that allows a commuter using any form of travel to earn miles and redeem them from select retailers. 

What’s the value

Miles delivers value through their predictive marketing AI platform that matches anyone using the app with appropriate deals for the miles they traveled via any transport or on foot. The greener the transportation method the bigger the miles earned. They can be saved or redeemed anytime and the value increases as more merchants accept them as a form of payment. Some of the partners through which an app user can redeem their miles are Postmates, Garmin, Reebok, Pandora, HP. 

Worth Mentioning

  • They had a notable momentum during the COVID-19 pandemic with nearly 200 partners, and their user redeemed over 500,000 rewards (link)
  • They recently received a strategic investment from Lill Ventures to expand in European Union and Latin America (link)

Orbital Insights: Understanding activity on Earth to help make big decisions

HQ: Palo Alto, CA
Founded: 2013
Funding: Series D

Orbital Insights built a geospatial data platform that understands the world’s physical activity and provides actionable insights to decision-makers in data-driven organizations. 

What’s the value

Their cloud-based SaaS technology takes data points from satellite, AIS, SAR, aerial and connected devices to analyze socio-economic and geopolitical trends. This allows businesses, governments, NGOs, and policymakers to make better decisions in terms of improving costs and creating new opportunities. Some of their proven use-cases include forecasting outages in the supply chain, detecting anomalies in military bases, understanding customer visitation for real-estate planning, and human behavioral trends for city planning, etc. Their customers include Unilever, Airbus, The World Bank, RBC Capital Market, and the U.S. Department of Defense.

Worth Mentioning

  • Their pilot project with Unilever aimed towards a deforestation-free palm oil supply chain (link)
  • US Air Force awarded them a strategic financing SBIR Phase II contract to help detect anomalies across the world. (link

Zymergen: Creating unimagined products from nature

HQ: Emeryville, CA
Founded: 2016
Funding: Series D

Zymergen is a biotechnology company that creates new materials and products that are sustainable for agriculture, electronics, pharmaceuticals, consumer care, etc.

What’s the value

By leveraging their proprietary simulation software powered by AI and deep learning, they prototype candidate molecules to create a microbe with desired properties to solve a problem. They have over 250M sequenced genes and 100K+ unique microbial strains built, delivering over $1B worth of their products to Fortune 1000 companies. Some of their partners include Mitsubishi Chemical, FMC, Sumitomo Chemical, ADM. 

Worth mentioning 

  • They are a World Economic Forum Tech Pioneer (link)
  • Zymergen and its partners recently got awarded a 7-yr, $87.5M grant from the US Dept. of Defense to establish a Bioindustrial Manufacturing and Design Ecosystem (link)

Final Conclusions

Clearly, some of the startups are taking the ongoing pandemic situation to their stride and are offering impactful solutions in core sectors like healthcare, automotive, energy. 

Despite a dip in AI deals, this year we saw big exits from startups like Zoox and Lemonade, and we can see 10 unicorns in CB Insights 2020 AI 100 list

From our side, we will keep looking for the most interesting innovators around the globe that can support our clients’ efforts with AI.

Schedule a call HERE, if you are

  • a startup and interested in being a part of our next top 5 articles or interested in taking part in our activities.
  • a corporation interested in Innovation!

Stay tuned for our next Scaleup Summits:

*sources: Mind the Bridge, CB Insights, Crunchbase, Techcrunch, Forbes

About the author: Jyotsna Kadimi | Innovation Advisor, Data Analyst, and Product Manager
Jyotsna has 4 years of experience in the media and creative tech industry. She worked in the R&D labs of Disney ABC, Warner Bros., and USC before starting her career in Silicon Valley as a Product Manager for a Virtual Reality startup. At Mind the Bridge, she is building their internal data platform and focuses on advisory activities for verticals such as energy, smart cities, mobility, and digital media. Feel free to schedule a call with her at