For some, 2019 was a tumultuous year, looking at companies like Barneys and Sugarfina here, but for others, it was a year of huge growth. We’ve rounded up a list of 20 companies who killed it in 2019 and are set to keep the momentum in 2020. Some are new to the scene, while others have been around a while and are just starting to hit their stride, but all have proven that they understand what it takes to gain market share in the world today. Below we take a look at their founders, funding, strategies, and growth in organic traffic from December 2018 to December 2019.
Founders: Eran Zinman, Roy Man
The exception to the productivity tool rule, Monday.com has found a way to break away from the crowd. There is even potential for an IPO in 2020 if they continue to play their cards right. With a $1.7M/month marketing budget, the team at Monday.com focuses on doing a few channels really well. And those channels are just what you would expect: Adwords, Facebook, Instagram, Capterra, Outbrain, and Bing. Using hyper-targeted lookalike audiences on Facebook has contributed largely to their success as well as focusing on intent-based searches on Adwords.
An Adwords feature they leverage that can often be overlooked is the day of the week intent. A product used most frequently at work, it would make sense that Monday to Friday audiences are more likely to convert. A discovery they made, which should make us all rethink our personal bias when crafting brand personas, is that the majority of the Monday.com customer base comes from non-tech industries, construction, churches, and wedding planners to name a few. With their most recent Series D funding ($150M) in July 2019, 2020 is already setting itself up to be yet another year of massive growth for Monday.com.
Founders: Bruce Johnson and Scott Voigt
Organic Traffic: ⬆23%
Launched in 2012, Fullstory received its largest round of funding yet in 2019. A Series C round worth $32M has allowed the customer experience company to make serious plans for the future. Analyzing their own customer journey and leveraging a/b testing across outbound enterprise customer leads were both key to their current success. In 2020, we expect to see even more growth from Fullstory as they turn their current platform into “an engine for digital intelligence.”
Founders: Alex Shevchenko, Max Lytvyn
Organic traffic: ⬆35%
With 7 million daily active users, it’s no surprise that Grammarly would make this list. But how you ask? An SEO driven content strategy paired with PPC and podcast advertising. They have over 2000 posts on their blog and each one is strategically written for specific high-intent keywords. We also saw an increase in PPC ads in September through November of 2019.
Experts at the freemium model, Grammarly first get users to adopt their technology through a free browser extension before subtly asking them to upgrade to a paid version. Continuous product upgrades have also driven growth for Grammarly this year, the most critical being tone detection. A feature that provides insight on how the writer’s work will be interpreted, the future is nothing but bright for Grammarly. They collected an additional $90M in funding this past October, giving them the budget to explore new channels and product updates in the new year.
Founders: Andrew Bialecki
Organic traffic: ⬆79%
This year popular email service provider Klaviyo went all-in on their owned marketing crusade. Owned channels – email, mobile, and website are what they consider the most critical way to drive growth as other paid channels continue to get more and more expensive. “In 2019, with the three biggest months of the year to come, [customer owned revenue numbers are] already over $3 billion and it’s on pace to double. That owned revenue number is our north star and what we focus on to help you grow,” Klaviyo’s CEO, Andrew Bialecki said at their recent conference.
A $150M fundraising round in 2019 is sure to help them skyrocket in 2020. Bialecki hinted at product developments that will “make owned marketing easier and a more scalable way to grow than selling through Amazon or running ads on Google or Facebook.” They are also hiring like crazy with special attention given to engineering, design, and customer-focused roles.
Founders: Stephen Hawthornthwaite and Roth Martin
Organic Traffic:⬆479% (2018 v 2019)
Founded in 2012, Rothy’s is a DTC footwear brand making shoes out of 100% recycled plastic water bottles and post-consumer recycled materials. Its growth has been rapid over 2019 with the introduction of a brick-and-mortar store as well as several new styles.
Growth for them was a function of 3 main areas according to their VP of Growth, Matt Gehring. The first is personalized journeys. By paying attention to context and channel they were able to pinpoint what messaging works at each stage of the funnel. The next was non-branded search. Focusing their search campaigns on those searching for keywords like sustainability and machine-washable they found a cost-effective way to find new customers. Lastly, an emphasis on retention gave them insight on users who interacted with specific silhouettes and allowed them to retarget with specific messaging.
Rothy’s has exploded in 2019 and it will be interesting to see where they take the brand in 2020.
Founders: Stephanie Korey and Jen Rubio
Organic Traffic: ⬆ 61%
Away is a startup founded in 2015 that specializes in luggage and other travel products. The company was created to build a lifestyle brand around the concept of modern travel and luggage. Their growth strategy is built completely on the outside impression of the brand and leveraging influencers, social media, and content to drive growth. Some recent news about the brand may set them back in 2020, but only time will tell.
Founders: Rich and Vicki Fulop
Organic traffic: ⬆56%
Word of mouth and a digital-first approach has driven the bedding and associated luxuries company Brooklinen to a 56% increase in organic traffic over 2019. In October 2019 they also launched Spaces, an online marketplace for bedroom products that allows users to show by beautiful rooms curated by aesthetic. After receiving a $10M Series A in 2017, Brooklinen has shown they were a good investment. In 2020, there are talks of a brick and mortar in Brooklyn as well as expanding their current retail assortment.
Founders: Jesse Horwitz, Ben Cogan
Contact lens DTC startup has gone all-in on social media to drive rapid growth throughout 2019. In a market full of massive competitors, Hubble Contacts leverages their ability to filter and qualify paid social particularly on Facebook. An attempt to both educate customers and drive sales with an emphasis on quality leads over quantity. With $73.3M in funding, they certainly have the means to not only continue but to ramp up their paid social efforts in 2020.
Founders: Stuart Landesberg, Jordan Savage, Chris Clark
Organic traffic: ⬆55%
A well-funded natural home and personal care site that launched in 2012 continued on it’s path to massive growth in 2019. An emphasis on paid channels and giving away a free Mrs. Meyers cleaning set has been a huge success for them. Retention isn’t much of an issue as the items you purchase are then put in your account monthly with autoship. Customers are free to remove items from their cart, but if not, they will be shipped on time like clockwork every month. In 2020 they will use their most recent round Series D funding ($150M) to expand into clean beauty, develop sustainable packaging, improve their supply chain, and grow their home concierge business.
Founders: Arnaud Plas, Catherine Taurin, Nicolas Mussat, Paul Michaux
New to the DTC crowd is recently launched Prose. A customizable haircare startup that matches users’ answers to unique product formulations, Prose has seen exceptional growth over the last twelve months. A strategy heavily reliant on paid social and content, the company sold only 3 products until October of this year. Their fourth-quarter growth was largely driven by new product launches. First, a custom dry shampoo and then an engravable hairbrush perfectly timed for holiday gifting. In their first year of existence, Prose has proven the potential of the customizable beauty concept and 2020 is set to be their best year yet.
Founder: Rachel Drori
Organic traffic: ⬆ 37%
A company founded on the idea of solving an actual problem faced by its founder, it’s no wonder why it’s taken off. Daily Harvest has been a game-changer for the meal prep industry as they found a way to create, freeze, and ship individually portioned smoothies for thousands of time-starved humans.
They have since launched a large range of products to supplement, but a great product alone won’t necessarily drive rapid growth. The team at Daily Harvest relied heavily on Pinterest. A perfect channel for food and visual products, they receive approx. 4.1M monthly unique viewers on Pinterest. Understanding their unique customers and knowing when, where, and most importantly how to communicate with them has been instrumental in driving growth for Daily Harvest.
Founders: John Foley
Organic traffic: ⬆ 24%
With the IPO in 2019, we’ve covered Peloton’s growth strategy extensively and have essentially narrowed it down to 3 key factors. Community, content, and product experience. By building an extensive and deeply involved community, Peloton allowed its customers to do the talking for them. From there, they upped the ante for at-home fitness content. Celebrity instructors and a state-of-the-art studio to film in mean they can produce content at a quality never reached before. While they were building community and developing huge amounts of great content, they also perfected their product. And we don’t just mean the bike. The interface is also key to their growth as they developed acquisition loops right into the experience.
2020 will be an interesting year for Peloton as they discover what a post-IPO world looks like for them. The PR surrounding their 2019 holiday ad certainly added some fuel to the Peloton fire, but only time will tell how they manage the publicity and attention.
Founders: Baiju Bhatt, Vladimir Tenev
Organic traffic: ⬆70%
With a mission to “democratize the stock market,” Robinhood was the darling of the fintech world in 2019. Grounded in their mission to make investing available to anyone interested, they used a few strategic tactics to achieve unparalleled growth over the past year. Similar to Peloton, Robinhood put in significant effort in 2019 to develop a community. Because of this approach, their referral program is arguably one of the best. When a referral is given, both sides of the transaction receive a free stock. A unique but high-value offer has helped them to see success.
After receiving an additional $50M in funding in late 2019, the company has big plans for 2020. Specifically, expanding into dividend reinvestment plans and recurring investments, which help customers put money into stocks and ETFs on a regular basis (daily, weekly, biweekly, or monthly).
Founders: Patrick Collison, John Collison
Organic traffic: ⬆37%
A company with such significant investment dollars, something would be seriously amiss if Stripe didn’t make this list. Whether they know it or not, 84% of Americans have made a purchase using Stripe. Identifying a gap in the market for a payment processor not quite self-hosted and not quite 3rd party, Stripe introduced their own technology.
By focusing on a developer-first marketing strategy they engrained themselves into the community who would be making decisions about what programs to use in the future.
From there, they grew by leveraging word of mouth and by providing a delightful product experience.
Founders: Shai Wininger, Daniel Schreiber
Organic traffic: ⬆67% increase
Lemonade Insurance is the insurance of the future. It encourages users to “forget everything you know about insurance,” and is also taking advantage of growth marketing tactics usually used by DTC products. For example, they really leverage chatbots. Through this channel, they provide authenticity and introduce customers who may be new to insurance to a friendly face who will walk them through it without being pushy or too sale-sy. They have also taken advantage of machine learning and extensively use Facebook as a paid channel to drive new users.
Founders: Gary Vaynerchuk, Ben Leventhal, Michael Montero
Organic traffic: ⬆ 267%
Before being acquired by American Express in May 2019, Resy had already been growing rapidly proving that the restaurant industry is finally ready to take advantage of tech advancements. Resy, a restaurant reservation app, has become even more than what consumers see on their phones. They leveraged product development to drive growth in 2020 by launching programs to streamline the hospitality industry overall including a back of house program for inventory management.
As growth marketers, we often lean on specific channels or strategies but what is unique about what Resy has done, is to consider adjacent products within the industry and make them better as well. Product-led growth can be just as effective as other paid channels. With the additional resources American Express can offer, 2020 is sure to be another massive year for Resy.
Founders: Roni Frank, Oren Frank
Organic traffic: ⬆90%
Talkspace is the #1 rated online therapy platform. Launched in 2012, the company really hit its stride in 2019. By making use of several channels, they drove a 90% increase in organic traffic. In the last year, they have used subway ads, paid social, content, and PPC to drive growth.
Their most recent round of funding will go to growing their commercial business where they target employers.
Founder: Justin McLeod
Funding: $20.6M, acquired by Match Group in 2019
Organic traffic: ⬆40%
After being acquired by Tinder parent company Match Group in early 2019, Hinge was flush with resources this year. Branded as, “the dating app designed to be deleted,” Hinge went all-in on branded influencer content. Working with popular accounts like @betches and @fuckjerry, they use wit and humor to talk about the app and inspire new users to try it out. They are also very elusive with CTA’s across all ads and partnership posts. Not a tactic we usually recommend, but it’s important to remember to try new approaches and it seems that when Hinge did just that, they found great success.
Founders: Austin Rief and Alex Lieberman
Organic traffic: ⬆123%
The only company to make the list with $0 in funding is Morning Brew. Managing to drive a 123% increase in organic traffic in 2019, the growth of this email newsletter is astounding. How did they do it? A very well-executed referral program. By implementing a milestone-based reward system, members are incentivized to continuously submit referrals. They are also protective of their data and have implemented many safeguards to protect against unwanted actors. An important thing to consider when growing rapidly and giving away rewards.
After hitting 1million subscribers in 2019, 2020 is set to be another huge year for the company. Plans to expand into additional verticals such as retail and tech and even beyond written content, it will be interesting to see where Morning Brew takes us in the year ahead.
Founders: Vince Kadlubek, Caity Kennedy, Sean Di Ianni, Corvas Brinkerhoff, Benji Geary, Matt King, Emily Montoya
Organic traffic: ⬆25%
Meow Wolf is an arts and entertainment company based in Santa Fe, New Mexico that has recently been making waves in the immersive and multimedia exhibition space. Founded in 2008 as an arts collective, their success can largely be attributed to the growing experience economy and the new focus on Instagram-able moments.
The amount of funding they’ve received, while typical for a tech or DTC startup, is unique for the experiential art market. The money will be used to develop new experiences in both Las Vegas and Denver where they hope to continue to drive the massive revenue numbers they’ve gotten used to at their New Mexico location. A business dependant on construction success expanding into new markets, and Instagram likes is risky and it will be interesting to watch how they navigate in 2020.
That’s a Wrap!
The companies on this list are experts in growth strategy and tactics and have proven they know how to use advanced strategies in ever-changing markets. If they all continue to think outside the box and with a narrow focus on their customers, we see no reason why they shouldn’t kill it in growth come 2020.