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Here Are the 100 Cutting-Edge Start-ups Reinventing D2C, Says The Lead

The Leading 100 List of start-ups spotlights a new class of trailblazers — and how deeply AI has moved into retail.

Here Are the 100 Cutting-Edge Start-ups Reinventing D2C, Says The Lead

The 2024 honorees will be featured on the NASDAQ Times Square Tower in New York City. (Pictured: The 2023 list.)

AI looms large on this year’s The Leading 100 List, a yearly lineup of startups at the cutting edge of the direct-to-consumer business, according to research, media and events firm The Lead.

Now in its third year, the list recognizes innovators that are breathing new life into multiple areas of brand-to-consumer retail. “The gamut of solutions we cover in the list runs from marketing and e-commerce to inventory, merchandising and last-mile logistics,” Sonal Gandhi, chief content officer at The Lead, told WWD.

Gandhi led the selection committee, which included New York Fashion Tech Lab and Retail Industry Leaders, in an analysis of candidates, gathering data from chief executive officer interviews, nominations and publicly available market data. Then it evaluated their innovation, business impact, commercial viability, customer engagement, team expertise, competitive positioning, media attention and investor interest.

The final list features young companies that have achieved notable fundraising at the seed or Series A stage of growth, and use next-generation technology to help brands crack some of their deepest challenges.

“Brands are operating in a very dynamic environment,” continued Gandhi. “They need to show up where their customers are, constantly serve up engaging content to stay top of mind, manage a host of channels, deal with the demise of third-party cookies, differentiate through elevated customer experience in stores and online, reduce waste and returns all while staying true to their ethos.”

They don’t have to go it alone, especially today, with artificial intelligence and machine learning giving rise to a pioneering class of solutions providers and emerging platforms.

The list of honorees tells the tale. A quick glance shows numerous business names that include “AI,” and that’s just for starters.

Dig deeper, and there are plenty more — from FindMine, which blends old-school AI with newfangled large language models to offer styling services, to Velou, an AI-driven, online product-discovery firm specializing in luxury. Business intelligence firm Zenlytic courts brands and retailers with analysis and AI-driven self-serve features, and Zowie earned its place by developing generative AI for customer service.

“Many of the companies on the list are using advanced machine learning, computer vision and genAI technology to offer solutions to brands,” said Gandhi.

AI isn’t the only advanced tech on parade. VLGE (pronounced “village”) promises quick and easy experiential virtual worlds that are interoperable, hyper-personalized and gamified environments, while fintech start-up Skipify seeks to turn “the connected wallet” into a standard.

Of course, plenty of traditional retail challenges are ripe for cracking too. For instance, Treet takes aim at branded resale, while Trexity takes on local delivery services.

But across the board the announcement described the companies as “high-impact technology start-ups that are reshaping the business landscape,” and Gandhi called them “the architects of tomorrow, creating solutions that will ensure the fashion, beauty, and consumer industries not only meet but exceed the expectations of a digital-first world.”

The start-ups are set to be featured on the NASDAQ Times Square Tower in New York City, as well as at The Lead Summit, which will celebrate the honor this July.

Although they may be young, several of the businesses already work with noteworthy names or large brands.

Here, the full list:

The Leading 100 List of 2024:

  • Adrich
  • Aidaptive
  • Alby
  • Alembic
  • ALL3D
  • Archive Resale
  • Ariadne
  • Arkestro
  • Binkey
  • BODS
  • Bonsai
  • Brij
  • Butter Payments
  • ByondXR
  • Carbonfact
  • Change
  • Checkmate
  • CIPIO.ai
  • Cohley
  • Conative AI
  • Confer With
  • Conjura
  • Consumr.ai
  • Croissant
  • DashLX
  • Dayta AI
  • Decommerce
  • Dragonfruit AI
  • EcoCart
  • Emperia
  • Endear
  • Everangle.AI
  • Factored Quality
  • Fenix Commerce
  • Fermat Commerce
  • FindMine
  • flex
  • Gather AI
  • Hang
  • Hark
  • Haus
  • Hippoc.ai
  • Hue
  • Impacked
  • Intelligems, Inc.
  • Inveterate
  • Kahoona
  • Kard
  • Krateo.ai
  • KSI Vision
  • LightSource
  • LiquiDonate
  • Lyric
  • MadeMeBuyIt
  • Manifest.eco
  • Metrical
  • MidMetrics
  • Miros
  • Newmine
  • Node
  • Noogata
  • Nostra
  • Ocula Technologies
  • Optiversal
  • OwnId
  • Pairzon AI
  • Paramark
  • Particular Audience
  • Pipe17
  • Pockyt
  • Portless
  • Prescient AI
  • Purple Dot
  • Qalize
  • Raspberry AI
  • Rep AI
  • ReturnGo
  • Returnity
  • Selectika
  • Skeps
  • Skipify
  • SparkPlug
  • SpeedSize
  • Synapbox
  • Syrup Tech
  • The Good Face Project
  • Tracer
  • Treet
  • Trendsi
  • Trexity
  • Turbyne
  • Two Boxes
  • Velou
  • Visual Feeder
  • Vizit
  • VLGE
  • Zenlytic.com
  • Zowie