Autoimmune diseases trick the body’s immune system into attacking its own healthy cells. These diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, eczema, celiac disease and lupus, account for a combined $100 billion in annual U.S. healthcare costs. Current treatments for these autoimmune diseases are ineffective because they cannot target the compromised immune cells with enough specificity or effectiveness.


Two Dartmouth students are looking to tackle this monumental problem in healthcare. Meet Jayanth “Jay” Batchu ‘18 Th’19 and Brenda Miao ‘19. Valkyr, their startup, seeks to develop a “targeted therapeutic platform that selectively removes autoreactive immune cells – reducing side effects and potentially increasing treatment efficacy.” Valkyr’s secret weapon is a targeted cell therapy platform that leverages healthy immune cells and essentially reprograms them to target and kill a specific type of cell. This technique has already been developed and used for cancer treatment, but it has not yet entered the autoimmune space. The pair are currently working with faculty at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC) to specifically adapt the technique to treat rheumatoid arthritis.


Both Batchu and Miao have backgrounds in biomedical engineering. Miao previously conducted autoimmune disease research and Batchu has worked with cancer cell therapy. Last fall, they decided to combine their skillsets to address this unique health problem. Both also have interests in entrepreneurship. Batchu chose Dartmouth over Johns Hopkins because of the many entrepreneurial support and networking resources available through the Magnuson Center for Entrepreneurship and the Tuck School of Business. Batchu and Miao were both members of the new TuckLAB entrepreneurship program at the Tuck School this past winter where they put forth Valkyr as their venture idea in the program’s entrepreneurship challenge and ultimately won the final competition.


As a biotechnology startup, Valkyr is still in its very early stages: pre-revenue, pre-funding, and pre-clinical. The general lifecycle for startups in this space is typically much longer than the countless, fast paced startups in the software industry. Biotech startups pose unique challenges for entrepreneurs due to the high upfront costs needed for scientific research and the high risk of failure. Batchu believes that it is “like buying a lottery ticket.” One option for many startups in this space is to pursue partnerships with Contract Research Organizations (CROs) that provide the necessary funds in exchange for startup equity. Valkyr has already received funding from the DEN and Tuck School of Business but is currently looking to raise more capital through cultivating such partnerships. In the end, the ultimate goal for most startups in the biotech space is to be acquired by a larger pharmaceutical company with the resources to bring the treatment to market.


One business challenge Batchu is trying to address is Valkyr’s pricing strategy. From discussions with a Tuck professor, Batchu explains that the price of Valkyr’s product essentially varies from day to day based on the progress of the pre-clinical research. Figuring out this strategy is important for determining an accurate valuation of the company that can be presented to potential partners or investors. Batchu predicts that ultimately, the price of Valkyr’s product will be similar to existing cancer cell therapies.


Valkyr is still years away from clinical trials and Batchu and Miao will likely face many more challenges along the way. However, with the many resources available at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Magnuson Center and Tuck School, the pair is hopeful that their work will eventually make it to the market and revolutionize the treatment of autoimmune diseases.

User data is precious yet powerful. Tech giants go to great lengths to collect every byte of their customers’ personal information. Often buried deep in the “privacy policy” which is rarely read are agreements that give companies like Google and Facebook access to user data, which is owned by the consumer. These companies apply artificial intelligence (AI) models onto this data to unearth insights that can greatly improve their products and business strategy. Consumers, however, are never compensated for their personal information. Moreover, consumer privacy rights prohibit this precious data from being shared with third parties, so they remain locked up in highly-protected databases of corporate R&D departments. The result is a monopolistic control over consumer data held by few powerful firms, and a lack of compensation for the consumers that are the root source of these corporate insights.

Artificien, a startup founded by Jake Epstein ’21 and Matt Kenney ’21, seeks to give the ownership of personal information back to the consumer and democratize access to user data. Leveraging sophisticated blockchain technologies, Artificien is building a platform to allow users to “sell” access to their de-identified consumer data to interested buyers, who can use these data to derive information that will better guide their businesses.

Who are the interested buyers? They are usually firms that lack access to big data needed for developing advanced AI models. Today’s AI technologies such as machine learning require vast training datasets for development. For example, YouTube’s curator feature, which recommends new videos based on your view history, has great accuracy in predicting user preferences because the AI has been trained over large amounts of historic user data.

Access to insightful user data is often limited to a few giant technology conglomerates. Hence, it is exceptionally difficult for small and emerging companies or research scientists to build and train AI technologies due to their lack of scale and access. Artificien seeks to change this by giving users the power to decide whether they would like to sell access to their anonymized consumer data to willing buyers.

The founders’ plan is to implement this revolutionary, patent-pending technology via a simple interface: users can choose what kind of data they would like to sell, and Artificien will handle the match-making between the user and potential buyers. Types of data include usage data, such as music preferences on Spotify or Amazon shopping preferences. Such data will all be anonymized because Artificien employs a technique called federated learning which trains the AI model directly on the users’ devices. Thus, the consumers’ data never leave their devices. Compensation delivery will also be seamless, immediately credited to the user’s account from which they can withdraw. Usage of a blockchain network provides a flexible architecture, meaning participants can join and leave actively, seamlessly and anonymously.

Artificien’s mission is not only to fairly compensate users for their personal information, but also to open the avenues of AI development to all organizations, not just giant technology companies. In turn, the field of AI can advance at a much faster pace. Increased access can fuel the rapid growth of new startups that can utilize AI technologies towards developing innovative products for the world. Artificien is essentially commoditizing data access with the hopes that increased data accessibility will further spur innovations in user-tailored products and services.

The Artificien team consists of Epstein, Kenney and Tench Coxe ’21. The young entrepreneurs have met and discussed their vision with numerous venture capitalists. Although they have not yet begun funding rounds, they have received invaluable advice from successful entrepreneurs and startup investors. The two founders frequently work in the Hanover downtown Magnuson Incubator Space and are members of the Magnuson Student Leadership Board. Here, they contribute towards planning various programs hosted by the Magnuson Center for Entrepreneurship (formerly the Dartmouth Entrepreneurial Network, or the DEN) that seek to promote the entrepreneurial culture at Dartmouth. The two sophomores have enjoyed the variety of resources provided for student-entrepreneurs at the Center, including exclusive networking opportunities with Dartmouth alumni entrepreneurs and investors.

Both Epstein and Kenney were interested in entrepreneurship since they stepped onto campus their freshman year. They first launched a coffee brewing and distribution company called Top Floor Coffee from their dorm room, serving Dartmouth students around campus via a delivery and subscription model. They invested in brewing equipment and supplies, and they quickly became experts in the practice. They were approached by Leanbox for a buyout and “hireout” offer, where they would be positioned to spearhead Leanbox’s newest product line of hyper-concentrated caffeine drinks, in return for a combined 30 percent stake in the division. They would, however, have to put their academic careers on pause and work full-time for the company.

Ultimately, Epstein and Kenney declined the lucrative offer. The idea for Artificien was born the summer thereafter, when the sophomores returned from their summer internships. Kenney worked at a bioinformatics laboratory, which designed specialized antibodies using machine learning. This is where Kenney realized the difficulties that labs and small organizations had in accessing the data necessary to train AI models. Epstein worked at a family office that invested in the blockchain space, where he became familiar with the inner mechanisms of blockchain – the technology that makes cryptocurrencies possible. The two founders shared their experiences over the summer and from there arose the idea for Artificien.

Epstein, Kenney, and Coxe have a big vision for Artificien. The team plans to utilize Dartmouth’s flexible graduation timeline, which allows student entrepreneurs to postpone their graduation while they pursue their ventures, to their advantage. They are preparing to begin initial venture rounds this year, hoping to raise enough money to work on the company full-time. Furthermore, the founders hope to impart their wisdom and experiences on like-minded students through their involvement with the various programs at the Magnuson Center for Entrepreneurship. As the only known firm in its niche industry with a provisional patent on the novel technology, Artificien is very well-positioned to revolutionize the big data space.

Most people have accidentally mispronounced a word or stuttered a bit in an intensely stressful interview. They momentarily experience the struggle to clearly and effortlessly communicate their thoughts, but this feeling is a constant reality for those who suffer from a speech pathology.

According to studies conducted by the National Institute of Health, nearly one in 12 children aged three to 17 suffer from some sort of speech pathology. Yet, according to the National Institute of Health, only 55 percent of the affected children receive any treatment. Why? Because speech therapy is expensive. A single session can cost over a hundred dollars and this cost is not covered by most insurance providers. Moreover, access to speech therapists is limited for children who live in rural neighborhoods. Without early therapeutic intervention, early signs of speech disorders can grow into larger problems later in life.

Dartmouth sophomore Ayan Agarwal had a speech disorder as a child, which fortunately was cured through early speech therapy. Now, as the founder of Blabl, a startup aiming to fix this problem, Agarwal wants to help those 45 percent who cannot afford or do not have access to professional treatment. Blabl is a speech therapist on-the-go, where children can use the mobile app to practice their speech with an avatar companion by telling it a story. The app will track the child’s speech performance over time and report progress to the parent or speech pathologist. It is free, is convenient and can be used at home.

Agarwal first came up with this idea in high school and even won a pitch contest during his senior year with it. When he arrived at Dartmouth, Agarwal set off to turn his idea into a reality. He pitched to the Magnuson Center for Entrepreneurship (MCE, formerly DEN) and won the Founder’s Grant to kickstart his venture. In the Spring of his freshmen year, he pitched and won a partnership with the Dartmouth Applied Learning and Innovation (DALI) Lab. By then, Blabl had become well-known within the Dartmouth entrepreneurial community and Agarwal gained access to mentors from our faculty, alumni and entrepreneurs.

The DALI Lab space matches entrepreneurs with student-led software development teams. As a freshman who lacked an in-depth technical background, designing and coding a speech therapy app was a daunting task for Agarwal. The DALI Lab connected him to a team who provided the technical skills to transform Blabl from a concept into a working app.

This development process, however, was anything but trivial. The first roadblock that the DALI team faced was the inability to use natural language processing (NLP) algorithms to understand what the user says. The original idea of the Blabl app envisioned children having conversations with the avatar, saying anything they wished. However, since NLP does not function as well when used in instances of speech impairments, the team had to pivot. They designed a ‘choose your own adventure’ mode, where the child can create ‘paths’ in their story by reading off the text for each choice. The second challenge came about during the testing phases for the app. With such a niche market, it was difficult for the DALI team to conduct user-testing and receive constructive feedback. The team is finding ways around this obstacle by reaching out for expertise from speech pathologists and visiting local children’s hospitals.

Agarwal’s partnership with the DALI lab began this term and will likely continue into the spring as the app requires a multi-stage development process.

Agarwal also partnered with the MCE, which offers resources on the business side of Blabl. The MCE offers “Startup Office Hours” for student entrepreneurs like Agarwal as well as a 3-week “Introduction to Entrepreneurship” course. The MCE’s other asset is its powerful network of successful alumni entrepreneurs. At events such as the weekly Student Circle, students have the opportunity to meet and connect with alumni who can provide valuable advice from their own experiences.

The entrepreneurship culture at Dartmouth certainly has room to grow. When Agarwal first stepped onto campus, he recounts how difficult it was “to know who to talk to about entrepreneurship.” The MCE is tucked away at 4 Currier Place in downtown Hanover and not many students know of the MCE or the DALI Lab and the resources they offer. Agarwal feels that if he had not come to Dartmouth already passionate about entrepreneurship, he would not have found the resources at MCE and DALI.

Ultimately, entrepreneurship is a way to apply one’s studies in any subject area to the real world. It is a passion, a career path and a way of life open to students of any major of study, and more and more, Dartmouth students are able to explore these possibilities. As a result, it is clear that Dartmouth can benefit from growth in its entrepreneurship program. Ideally, the MCE should not just be a resource for students who already have an idea but should expand to help every student discover entrepreneurship as a part of their liberal arts education.

But, there is light on the horizon. With $45 million in recent donations to the MCE, the entrepreneurship culture at Dartmouth has an exciting future. Both the DALI Lab and the MCE reached their highest memberships ever this year. Earlier this fall, ten new campus startups pitched themselves to the MCE Campus Ventures program, hiring almost 50 students, including many enthusiastic freshmen.

Whether a student has an idea or not, opportunities to become involved in startups have never been more plentiful. At the beginning of every term, students can apply through the MCE to intern at campus startups like Blabl. Students favoring the more technical side of innovation can apply each term to become a student developer or designer at DALI. Finally, students who want to pursue their own startups can pitch their ventures to MCE and DALI to receive grants and technical partnerships. The entrepreneurship culture at Dartmouth, led by bold visionaries like Agarwal, is taking off.

Mark Zuckerberg’s vision of the nascent world of online social networking was a space where people could create and foster an online social persona to connect with friends. Jack Dorsey limited the length of a user’s tweet to 140 characters. Evan Spiegel further simplified social networks by replacing the emphasis on written messages with picture and video sharing. Thanks to their innovations, Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat are today important bedrocks of young adult social media. Contrary to what their creators might claim, however, none of these startups were founded with the purely altruistic goal of fixing a specific public issue.


Dartmouth student Sanat Mohapatra ’20 is bucking that trend with a new startup he co-founded called Unmasked. Founded as a non-profit, Unmasked aims to tackle a problem that exists on college campuses everywhere: hidden and pervasive mental health issues within the student body. The increased workload, the difficulty in responsibly handling newfound freedom away from home and the demanding academic environment make college campuses petri dishes for stress and depression. Nowhere is this truer than at elite, competitive colleges like Dartmouth.


Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat are all platforms where friends can share news or updates with one another. Unlike those, Unmasked has the explicit goal of hiding the identities of its users. Whereas many students are hesitant to display mental health issues publicly due to a widespread stigma surrounding mental health, students may feel free to discuss what is bothering them on the app. By masking their identity, struggling students will paradoxically be taking off their inner masks.


Creating an account on Unmasked, which Mohapatra is hoping to release to campus this fall, will require Dartmouth NetID credentials. Students operating the back-end of the app will not be able to see which accounts are associated with which students. Mohapatra and his team are still figuring out the logistics of implementation, but they expect to use some sort of encryption or randomly generated ID number to maintain anonymity.


In order to develop the app, Mohapatra is partnering with a team at the Digital Arts Leadership and Innovation (DALI) Lab. During weekly meetings, he provides DALI with content and direction so that they can turn his vision into a functional, user-friendly product. Additionally, he has communicated with the Dartmouth administration for some guidance. For instance, the IT Department has promised to help him integrate the app with Dartmouth’s Web Authentication system.


In trying to get approval to use the Dartmouth name in the app title, Mohapatra has also met with Dartmouth’s legal team. He hopes that if he can call the app Dartmouth Unmasked, students will feel more comfortable using it and will consider it a legitimate place to go to for support. Mohapatra discussed with Dartmouth’s legal department any potential liability issues that might arise for Unmasked. He is trying to avoid the mistakes that were made by Bored at Baker. A former anonymous posting app part of the “Bored at” network, which ran into troubles in 2014 when a user posted a detailed guide on how to rape a specific student. Dartmouth’s campus organized in protest after the student said she was sexually assaulted as a result of the post.


Mohapatra is pursuing methods to moderate the app in order to prevent that type of problem. A group of trained students will help run the app as moderators and supporters. This team, who will appear anonymous like any other user, will ensure that each student’s post receives a response. Additionally, Unmasked will rely on a community moderation ethic, so that each user is responsible for keeping the app a safe space for everyone. If that inappropriate Bored at Baker post were on Unmasked, it would quickly be flagged by a user, removing it from public view until a moderator reviews it. Users who post malicious comments could be permanently banned from the app. In addition, Mohapatra is considering pursuing punishments for students who post particularly inappropriate or offensive content. Those students may face disciplinary consequences as well as being blocked from creating a new account.


Mohapatra had the idea for Unmasked around a year ago. Using the now-defunct Yik Yak, he observed the well-known community of “trolls” on the app who just wanted to mess with other users. However, he also noticed another prominent group using the application.


“What is interesting is that with anonymity, there was another whole community of people who were looking for support on Yik Yak,” Mohapatra told me. “They saw this anonymous outlet as a good place to really be real and say what was going on.”


Unfortunately, the confluence of these two different groups of people led to some poor interactions. Mohapatra gave an example of one such interaction.


One student would post a message like this: “Hey, I just failed a test. I don’t know what to do. I’m struggling a lot.”


The trolls’ response: “Go kill yourself.”


Mohapatra imagined an anonymous community in which anyone could be “real” and discuss their issues without fear of social backlash. During the spring term of his freshman year at Dartmouth, Mohapatra began reaching out to struggling Yik Yak users via direct message. What he discovered were people with serious issues who had no one to help them. Mohapatra developed a supportive relationship with some of these Dartmouth students over the course of the term. Just before Yik Yak shut down in May 2017, Mohapatra posted a message to the app asking if people would be interested in using an anonymous app devoted to providing peer-to-peer support. He received a resoundingly positive response.


Referring to one particularly depressed student whom he was trying to support, Mohapatra said, “he reached out to me and he essentially said, ‘Hey. Obviously I’ve been struggling a lot, but I think your idea is really interesting. I’d love to be involved.’” Mohapatra said that this message showed him that “there’s a lot of value in creating community connections so that people who are struggling know they’re not alone, so that they could reach out and talk to people and have a level of empathy with one another.”


Mohapatra has been asked how Unmasked will differ from Dartmouth’s own mental health support pathways. The difference, he says, is that all of Dartmouth’s methods involve “vertical power relationships.” For sensitive issues, students might feel intimidated to share everything that’s bothering them to an employee at Dartmouth, especially if those issues involve drug or alcohol use. Unmasked, on the other hand, will be a “horizontal power relationship” so that students can feel comfortable going to peers for help.


Unmasked will also fix another issue with Dartmouth’s mental health support system. During test weeks, Dick’s House gets inundated with requests for support appointments. Since not all students can be seen in a timely manner — and since Dick’s House determines the urgency of who to help by a phone call, which could deter some people from seeking support in the first place — Mohapatra hopes that students will be able to use Unmasked to get help when other methods have failed.


During his freshman spring, as he was developing the idea for Unmasked, Mohapatra learned the lesson that many prospective startup founders have come to appreciate: having an idea is not the same as turning it into a real product. “How do I develop this app?” he asked himself. “I’m an English major, not a [Computer Science] major.”


He pitched Unmasked to the Dartmouth Entrepreneurial Network for funding but did not get selected. With no money to develop the app and no experience in coding, Mohapatra hit a dead-end and decided to put the idea on hold for the time being. During his sophomore year at Dartmouth, he joined Dartmouth’s Mental Health Focus Group. This past winter, a fellow member of the group approached him offering to help get the app off the ground.


That student, Jenna Salvay ’20, combined efforts with Mohapatra to apply to partner with DALI. When DALI accepted them, Mohapatra and Salvay had to come up with $7,500 to cover the partnership. Since they were accepted in March, they have been busy applying for grants and looking for other funding sources to meet that goal. Though they have not yet been awarded any startup grants, they have created a GoFundMe page, and they have partnered with Alpha Theta to raise money. For now, Mohapatra and Salvay are using DALI’s “rainy day fund,” which allows its partners to work with DALI without yet reaching their funding goal.


Fundraising is a huge challenge for any new startup. “Obviously funding doesn’t come overnight and I’m not necessarily surprised by how many different outlets you have to try to locate to raise money, but it’s definitely something to think about if you’re looking to do something like this,” Salvay said.


Mohapatra has been attending networking and entrepreneurial conferences at Dartmouth in the hopes of getting fundraising advice and finding alumni to provide funding. As much time and effort as finding funds takes, though, it is hardly all that Mohapatra and Salvay have to do. Mohapatra said that he spends hours each day working on networking, sending emails to directors of comparable programs at other schools, working through potential liability issues, planning for its release, brainstorming marketing strategies and more.


The Unmasked team is putting together ideas for a sort of viral marketing campaign this fall. For instance, Mohapatra is considering setting up a “confession booth” in Collis, where students could sit down, talk about their problems anonymously and leave (with encouragement from Mohapatra to get the free app if they wish to continue the discussion).


He wants students on campus to immediately notice the marketing tactics because he knows that Unmasked will benefit most from word-of-mouth recommendations. “Everyone knows someone who could be helped by getting the app.”


He is particularly concerned with getting word out to the new ’22s on campus. Without yet having a social safety net to rely on, freshmen at college campuses are most at risk of developing mental health issues. If freshmen were to use this app, he thinks they would realize that they are hardly the only ones going through troubles.


In the words of Oscar Wilde, “man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.” This quote was part of Mohapatra’s inspiration in finding an alternative to college-sponsored mental health solutions. For this app, though, Mohapatra’s time commitment is well worth it. With Unmasked, he is taking bold strides to provide a workable alternative to campus mental health issues, an alternative that could make a significant difference in the lives of countless students for years to come. Don’t be surprised to see Unmasked at colleges everywhere in the years to come.

Art Valuation

In the world of venture capital, there exists a special class of startups that attracts the attention of investors from nearly all backgrounds: Unicorns. These firms consist of private startups that are worth at least one billion dollars. The taxonomy goes further in order to identify the truly massive startups called “decacorns,” referring to their valuations in excess of $10 billion. Companies like Uber, Snapchat, AirBnb and SpaceX are among the best-known unicorns.
Conversations about the size of the valuations seem just as ubiquitous as the companies themselves. Headlines read of Uber’s $62 billion valuation, which easily surpasses Ford’s $50 billion market capitalization, and of AirBnb’s $25 billion valuation, which similarly trumps Hilton Group’s $22 billion market capitalization, despite having only eight percent of its revenue. In response to these astonishing sums, skeptics reverse engineered the growth expectations via traditional valuation techniques and found that, with astonishing frequency, unicorn valuation depends purely on optimism. Optimism, however, is not a new element in Silicon Valley’s expectations or in inflated valuations. The cause for this trend in inflating valuations is best explained by the changing nature of venture capital as it pertains to unicorns, and as a consequence, it is clear that valuations do not attempt to represent concrete value.

New considerations have been included into the valuation calculus. Average funding round size has increased dramatically in recent years, with some suggesting that “Series A round is the new Series B round,” referring to the notion that funding typically increases in each successive round. Over the course of 2014, average Series A funding rose 6 percent, Series B rose 20 percent, Series C rose 31 percent and Series D rose an astounding 100 percent. The increase in Series D funding picks up on a new strategy used by technology companies like Uber, in which mature companies stay private for longer and sustain operations with large, late-stage funding. Indeed, part of the inflation trend is due to the prestige of unicorn status itself, which is evidenced by the fact that Fortune Magazine lists just fewer than 100 companies that have valuations of one billion dollars, out of a total of 229 unicorns. CEOs and investors may see a startup’s unicorn valuation as a way to legitimize the company, attract new talent and over time, justify the overly ambitious valuation. Another part of the valuation inflation is due to the popularity of “downside protection provisions” as elements in funding agreements that shield investors from risk. For example, senior liquidation preferences are one common downside provision, and specify that an investor has its investment returned before other preferred stock or common investors should the company be liquidated. Another common downside protection is a provision that guarantees an investor additional shares if the company raises funds based on a lower valuation, thereby preserving the value of the investor’s stake in the company. Such stipulations have been increasingly popular as a method to shield against risk from investors, which consequently frees investors to make larger investments. As a result, it is clear that the inflation seen in valuations of unicorns represents the fact that the valuations are not pricing risk accurately.

Notable individuals from the worlds of technology and business have voiced concerns over some outlandish calculations. Jim Breyer, prominent investor and partner at Accel, a venture capital firm in California, commented early this year that he expects only 10 percent of current unicorns to survive and the remaining 90 percent either to fail or be revalued. Assuming his estimation is correct, only about 23 companies have accurate, or at least sustainable, valuations. In fact, skepticism is not uncommon. Bill Gates is wary of the future of unicorns as well, and warned of “overenthusiasm” in startups during a February interview with the Financial Times.

Regardless, some investors remain bullishly optimistic on unicorns. Scott Kupor, chief operating officer at venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, attempted to disabuse skeptics of the notion of a second tech bubble in a presentation this past year. He highlighted several key differences between 1999 and today, most notably the dramatic increase of Internet users (900 percent), the amount of funding (only 32 percent of the 1999 level) and the much lower median time to IPO (four years today versus 11 then), among other metrics. Evidently, he failed to convince many of his colleagues. A survey of 500 startups conducted by First Round Capital found that 73 percent of responders affirmed the existence of a technology bubble. The proportions of this bubble do not approach the frenzy of the late nineties, but there still remains an implicit understanding between startup owners and venture capital firms that valuations do not exactly equal value.

These mismatched valuations explain in part the scarcity of technology sector IPOs in 2015. Once public, markets will decide the true value of companies, so startups need to delay public offerings until fundamentals can support IPOs that reflect private valuations in order to protect investor value. Both Box, a cloud storage company, and Square, a payment service company, went public with offerings priced below their private valuations, providing a cautionary tale for executives and investors at other unicorns who have their eyes on the public market.

Like the valuations themselves, the disagreement over the existence of a second technology bubble can only be decided by the market itself in the years to come. Many of these unicorns have indeed reached incredible sizes with incredible speed. In seven years, Uber became the world’s largest taxi provider; it took AirBnB eight years to become the world’s largest hotel-provider. Perhaps it seems likely that the upper-echelon of the “decacorns” has substantial overlap with the ten percent mentioned by Jim Breyer. Yet, considering the 100 or so startups that may have wrangled for a billion-dollar valuation only for the title, many unicorns are simply overvalued, despite the “enthusiasm” attached to their future prospects. Silicon Valley and its bankrollers ought to remember that while enthusiasm is a critical asset for any startup, it is only as valuable as it is monetizable.

The mention of “Africa” typically does not echo back notions of “technology,” “innovation” or “entrepreneurship” in the minds of many people. Many countries within the continent are still associated with ideas of war, poverty and famine – but this is an incomplete story.

The so-called millennial generation is reshaping Africa’s entrepreneurship culture one startup at a time, with 90 tech hubs having already been established. Unlike previously when young talented entrepreneurs left their home countries, there is a greater incentive now for entrepreneurs to stay and establish their own companies.

“There is a paradigm shift [in Africa] from seeking employment or the opportunity to leave the continent to creating a future with opportunity,” Eric Osiakwan, co-founder of Angel Fair Africa, which invests in high tech and high growth ventures in Africa, said.

With a flurry of new startups and capital raising occurring on the continent, Africa has the potential become a hub for social entrepreneurialism that can support pioneers and help solve socioeconomic problems that hamper its growth and development.

Today, many African countries face critical socioeconomic issues, namely high rates of poverty and unemployment, and widespread inaccessibility to education. According to Gallup World, the ten countries with the highest number of residents living in extreme poverty, defined as earning less than $1.25 per day, were all from Africa. The World Review predicts that, by 2020, Africa will have more than 122 million jobseekers. These statistics demonstrate the need and market opportunity for entrepreneurial projects that will reduce unemployment, boost the continent’s economic growth and mitigate its socioeconomic problems.

Fortunately, there has never been a more willing generation of young Africans. The Future Awards Africa, an annual award ceremony that spotlights young Africans who have showcased exceptional vision, passion, and commitment to a social or developmental cause, received close to 800 nominations for last year’s count of Africa’s brightest young entrepreneurs below 30 years old. For instance, Alain Nteff, concerned by the high mortality rate of pregnant women and newborn born babies in his own local Cameroonian community created an app called Gifted Mom that helps mothers and health workers calculate due dates. According to Forbes, there has been a 20 percent increase in antenatal attendance rate for pregnant women in 15 rural communities due to the takeoff of the app.

Other impactful African startups include Eco Shoes Projects, which sells crafts made by artisans with disabilities, SunSweet Solar which builds inexpensive small-scale power plants for Tanzanian homes and businesses and Njorku which connects jobseekers with employers across Africa. Several startups, such as Obami and Shasha Iseminar, are geared towards making education more accessible for the masses.

Considering the potential power entrepreneurship has in shaping Africa, it is not surprising, then, that investments in African startups have increased. VC4Africa was founded in 2008 as an online community of venture capitalists, angels and entrepreneurs dedicated to building businesses in African countries. VC4Africa reported in 2015 that 104 investments in startups across Africa were listed in their platform, with a total amount of USD 27 million, which is more than double the prior year’s figures.

Yet, it would be premature to overstate that entrepreneurship will eradicate all of Africa’s problems. It is, however, reasonable to suggest that it will likely move the continent in a better direction socially and economically. Job opportunities are increasing in almost every African country due to the creation of new businesses. Approximately six jobs are created for every new venture, and that number is expected to quadruple resulting in about 4176 new jobs according to a report released by VC4Africa 2015.

The belief that investing in Africa is risky, however, stands in the way for obtaining yet more funding. The costs of service in Africa as well as the cost of electricity and Internet connection are extraordinarily high according to Global Risk Insights. There is a fear that these high costs will eat away at revenue for foreign companies.

Additionally, the majority of African entrepreneurs lack the formal education needed to succeed in the business world. Education is still inaccessible to many citizens in various parts of the continent and the quality of education is still subordinate to that of many non-African countries. The budget allocated to education of a single country such as France, Germany, Italy or the United Kingdom outweighs education spending across the entire sub-Saharan African region, according to a new report from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS). This naturally begs the question: is it realistic to expect people with an inadequate education to start a business and be successful? Shortage of local talent can be seen as a red flag, especially for investors and executives of foreign corporations.

But despite these systematic problems that might deter foreign investment, this generation of African entrepreneurs is attempting to find big solutions to big problems. Their positive impact is evident today as it pertains to the continent’s growth and development, and it is still possible that Africa will look drastically different years from now with its growing crop of entrepreneurs and investors.

Can you remember those miserable days before Venmo came around? The hassle and confusion that inevitably arose every time you and your friends split a cab and everyone had to figure out who owed whom? For millions of Americans (Venmo will not disclose exactly how many users they have), Venmo has become such an integral part of daily life.

Started in 2009 by two University of Pennsylvania students, Andrew Kortina and Iqram Magdon-Ismail, Venmo is now a must-have app that allows people to seamlessly and effortlessly pay back a friend for a drink, a meal or a wild night out. A bank account, debit card or a credit card is linked to your account, which you can then use to transfer money to anyone- even those without a Venmo account. At the tap of a finger, one can also request money, which can then be rolled back into a bank account.

Venmo, which was acquired by PayPal in 2013, is currently one of the fastest growing apps in the world by dollar volume. In the third quarter of 2015, it processed $2.1 billion dollars, triple the amount in the same quarter in 2014 and up from $1.6 billion in the previous quarter. In a bid to turn Venmo into a moneymaker, PayPal announced in its third quarter report this October, that it would allow merchants to accept payments through the service, charging merchants the same 2.9% transactions fees that Venmo’s sister, PayPal, charges.

Venmo is just one of many financial technology companies – now fashionably referred to as fin-tech companies – that have revolutionized the way money changes hands. Long seen as a highly regulated field dominated by a few corporate giants, finance is now riding an entrepreneurial wave. Whether it be payment, peer-to-peer lending, crowd funding or wealth management, a new generation of startups is harnessing software and the power of the internet to take aim at the heart of the industry and a pot of revenue Goldman Sachs estimates at $4.7 trillion. Although the fintech industry remains small and many of the most talked about startups – including Venmo- have yet to turn a profit, pundits predict that Fintech will reshape finance in profound ways.

The Economist suggests that fintech disruptors, unburdened by the same amount of regulation, legacy IT systems and branch networks, will be able to cut costs and improve the quality of financial services. Lending Club, a peer-to-peer lending company headquartered in San Francisco, has expenses of about two percent of its loan balance versus an average five to seven percent for conventional lenders. IPOed in 2014, Lending Club operates as an online platform that allows borrowers to obtain loans and investors to purchase notes backed by the payment made on the loans. With lower operating costs for small loans, new peer-to-peer lending companies such as Lending Club can therefore offer better deals to borrowers and lenders.

Similarly, the Economist reports, other startups are improving the quality of financial services. Funding Circle, operating around the clock, receives half of its loan applications outside of normal business hours, improving the ease with which small businesses are granted loans. TransferWise, on its side, allow people to transfer money across borders at a fraction of the cost banks would levy for the same service.

Until recently, lending to individuals or small businesses was typically based on a single credit score and a meeting between a banker and a client. The cost inherent to this traditional form of relationship lending encouraged lenders to chase only big borrowers at the expense of small borrowers. With the advent of new data-driven and digitalized lending platforms, however, young borrowers who were previously on the fringes of the banking system are for the first time being given easier access to funding.

Prosper, another lending company, relies on over 400 data points including factors such as the applications relationship with suppliers, shipping companies and credit card processors, e-commerce activity and cell phone records to underwrite loans. Similarly, OnDeck has loaned over 2 billion to small businesses across 700 industries in the United States and Canada evaluating creditworthiness through a proprietary method that allows them swiftly process loans within a day. Affirm, Kabbage and Earnest are just a few more of a multiple of startups that have come up with clever new ways to compile vast sources of data to come up with more accurate assessment of borrowers riskiness.

The data these startups rely on, Steve Lohr from the New York Times reports, go substantially beyond credit history, and include subtle predictions about the borrowers’ behavior gleaned from a vast array of online and offline sources. It is not farfetched, Lohr believes, that bankers of the future may forego observing traditional metrics, and look to see if potential customers use only capital letters when filling out forms or the amount of time they spend online reading terms and conditions (metadata analysis has determined that these attributes are correlated with the likelihood of default) What does this mean for you? Don’t upload Facebook posts of you and your friends doing shots – it might not be good for your credit score.

Finally, automated investment services, frequently called “robo advisors” have been revolutionizing the field of wealth management. Built on the premise that many of the activities performed by a Registered Investment Advisor can be performed by software, these new technology backed advisors have drastically cut costs by providing automated, algorithm based portfolio management advice without the use of human financial planners. By eliminating the middlemen and cutting costs, robo advisors have widened the reach of the industry – traditionally reserved for the wealthy – making it for the first time accessible to anyone with an Internet connection.

Over the past few years, these robo advisors have been enjoying astronomical growth. Betterment and Wealthfront, both of which build and manage personalized investment portfolios with customized asset allocations based on an individuals risk score and account tax status, have grown to manage 3 and 2 billion respectively in just three years.

It goes without saying, that traditional wealth management divisions at many of the big banks are watching the emergence of the robo advisors with a heavy dose of unease. In the best case scenario for current wealth managers, robo advisors will merely put downward pressure on management fees, while in the worst scenario, robo advisors will make traditional wealth managers obsolete.

Financial advisors are finding it progressively harder to effectively market themselves, particularly to younger generations. Millenials, soon to become the largest client group, have a particularly strong distrust towards financial institutions, Deloitte noted in a recent report. As such, Deloitte predicts money management is going to be disrupted and reinvented in significant ways. Betterment, Wealthfront and tech driven personal finance startups, who have enjoyed particular success among younger generations, stand to benefit tremendously.

“Without a doubt the era of fintech is upon us” Dominic Broom, Head of Treasury Services at BNY Mellon wrote, in a 2015 report. Indeed, global fintech financing has dramatically increased from just 3 billion in 2013 to 20 billion in 2015. While there has been a lot of debate about the tech bubble bursting in 2016, many pundits see bright prospects for the fintech subsector. Dartmouth grads and MBAs who dream of a lucrative future at the traditional behemoths like Goldman or JP Morgan might want to have a plan B. Forty years ago, working at IBM and Xerox were dream jobs too.