These are the favorite app discoveries of execs at 20 hot startups

Check out the new and lesser-known apps found on the phones of executives from Slack, Airtable, Zoox, American Well, Lumentum, and others.

These are the favorite app discoveries of execs at 20 hot startups
[Photo: Rodion Kutsaev/Unsplash]

Here at Fast Company, we’re always on the hunt for companies that are hatching big ideas and acting on them. In the course of our conversations, the subject of apps often comes up: the best time savers, the most innovative ideas, the ones that are just plain cool. So I asked executives at some of these companies to recommend new and unique apps–particularly ones that people may not have heard about. They responded with a wide variety of picks for everything from productivity to entertainment to communication to relaxation. Except as noted, all are available for Android and iOS.

Ritual makes it easy to order food to the office.


“I regularly use the Voxer walkie-talkie app to communicate with my executive coach between our scheduled calls and meetings. While you can record short voice notes using the iPhone Messages app, I like that I can compartmentalize these recordings specifically for this purpose using the Voxer app.”–Luke Droulez, CMO, Parachute

Overcast (iOS only)
“There are multiple options for anyone looking to listen to podcasts, but I’ve personally become dependent on Overcast as my podcast app of choice. Between their unique features of “Smart Speed” (which doesn’t just speed up playback like other apps but instead removes silence/pauses) and “Voice Boost,” I’m able to listen efficiently to a number of podcasts no matter the setting—perfect for anyone constantly shifting gears throughout their day.”–Sam Yam, cofounder and CTO, Patreon

“Ritual makes it easy to order lunch at work, so you get there and it’s ready.”–Mike Putnam, senior VP consumer markets, American Well


“It automatically blocks telemarketer calls. It also can answer the calls and pretend to have a conversation to slowly waste their time–making telemarketing less and less profitable over time. I’m reluctant to pay for anything but I upgraded to premium so that I could reward the company for building such a great product.”–Zachariah Reitano, CEO and cofounder, Ro

Genius Scan
“A lot of companies don’t have scanners and fax machines anymore, so this app can be a real lifesaver. It’s also helpful when you’re traveling or away from the office and need to send a document on the go.”–Luke Droulez, CMO, Parachute


“Be transported through time and space with music. Ever wondered what Austrians were listening to in the 1950s?”–Adelaide Daniell, art director, Zoox


Traeger (companion app for Traeger grills)
“This app is incredible. I can season meat in the morning, throw it in the smoker, and I know the exact temperature that the meat is at and I can do absolutely anything else I want.”–Joey Zwillinger, cofounder and co-CEO, Allbirds

YouTube TV
“YouTube TV is the best smart TV platform that is well designed from a functional user-experience standpoint on mobile in my opinion. The content package makes it viable for actual cord cutting, especially if you want to watch live sports.”–Kyle Kiang, Head of North America, OnePlus

DJay Pro2
“As a busy exec and father of two, DJay Pro2 lets me dust off my old turntables and efficiently relive my 20s, playing house records in the dark underground bars and clubs of San Francisco. The app’s Spotify integration is vital, saving me countless hours of laboring through record crates under the condescending gaze of the bearded, beanie-wearing teenager at the local record shop.”–Chris Haseman, CTO, Hello Alfred


“I love listening to podcasts while I’m on the road–they’re a great way to switch off after a busy day of meetings. Himalaya is a very interesting podcast platform concept because it also promotes fans to tip the creators and support their favorite shows. Digital tipping is already big in the publishing world in China, and I think it’s something we’ll begin to see more of [in the West]. It brings people back to the idea that creative and content matters.”–Caspar Thykier, cofounder and CEO, Zappar

“Voicea is a great meeting recording and productivity app. Well executed.”–Sasha Sanan, head of sales, Airtable

Warby Parker’s app takes some of the guess work out of buying frames.

Augmented Reality

Warby Parker with Virtual Try-on
“Warby Parker recently released an augmented reality app that lets their customers try on glasses using just their phone. I love the approach they took: Solving a consumer pain point (fit and aesthetics for eyewear) with technology that already exists on an iPhone. They did it in a way that’s super simple and easy to use to boot.”–Aaron Grant, cofounder, North



Sound Meter (Android only)
“The Sound Meter app lets me know exactly how loud it is wherever I am. Once I realized how dangerously loud most concert venues and nightclubs are, I actually helped start a quieter music venue that doesn’t leave your ears ringing!”–Roddy Lindsay, cofounder and CEO, Hustle

“Mayo’s GeneGuide is a great introduction to how DNA impacts your health. The app contains many educational modules to explain what DNA is and then provides results detailing your risk of certain cancers and genetic conditions. They also provide tools, like the risk calculator for breast cancer, to help you understand how non-genetic factors influence your risk.”–Sharon Briggs, product designer, Helix

AutoSleep (iOS only)
“This is the best sleep-tracking app for the Apple Watch out there. I found it through a recommendation on Twitter, and I’ve been using it ever since. It works to demystify sleep for anybody who has struggled with sleep issues. It helps visualize your sleep throughout the night and figure out what’s happening and when. Good sleep is critical to healthy metabolism, so as a person with diabetes, this app has been clutch.”–Jeff Dachis, founder and CEO, One Drop


“Human tracks and contextualizes your daily activity, showing you what you’ve done and where you’ve gone. It’s one of the better examples of an app that gives back as much as it gets. It’s a natural successor to Moves, the wonderful tracking app that was unfortunately acquired and subsequently shut down by Facebook.”–Timoni West, XR director, Unity

“As a frequent international traveler, I’m always looking for ways to better acclimate to new time zones. Clean design coupled with the option to mix white noise and natural sounds helps me fall asleep.”–Kyle Kiang, head of North America, OnePlus

The Human app will help you stick to your health routine.

News & Information

“You’d think that everything that could be done for a news app with comments has already been done. Not so. The Quartz app gets the balance right between curated news stories (from internal and external sources), and both expert and regular commenters. Commenters identify stories to be highlighted and make comments. They are encouraged to give insights about the stories themselves and less about what others are saying. Quartz is everything Twitter should have been if it had exerted some level of control and civility–and focused on real news.”–Shane Green, CEO, personal data management company


“Blinkist offers bite-size audio and text from non-fiction titles for quick consumption by mobile listeners. Almost none of us have the time to read everything we’d like to read. Yet we lose countless hours to activities that bring us little joy, such as commuting, chores, and staring at our phones.”–Kristo Ovaska, CEO & cofounder,


Concepts for iPad (iOS only)
“Lots of well-developed writing/drawing/note-taking apps at this point; Concepts has great fluid engine/drawing and Apple Pencil support. The infinite-scroll canvas is a much better medium for brainstorming than fixed notebook/page/sheet metaphor alternatives. It’s very well executed and great for unrestrained ideation.”–Sasha Sanan, head of sales, Airtable

Brainsto  (web and Slack only)
“Brainsto is a quick way to run asynchronous brainstorms with your team. It’s got a fluid interface on the web or in Slack for collecting ideas and ways to evaluate those ideas’ benefits and risks. The flow of the app keeps the thought exercise structured, so participation is fast and focused. It’s a great way to get creative as a team while avoiding yet another meeting.–Bear Douglas, director of developer relations, Slack

Spaceteam is a space epic that two to eight people play together. 


“Spaceteam is a group game where you’re all helping to pilot a spaceship together while relying on your ability to communicate with each other to successfully avoid disaster.”–Philip Kimmey, cofounder and director of software development, Rover

“Rymdkapsel is a relaxing, beautifully designed game where you build structures to fight off invaders, while researching new technologies.”–Mike Putnam, senior VP of consumer Markets, American Well

Arena of Valor
“I think the first killer AR app won’t come in this country. It will probably come in China…Like there’s a game called Honor of Kings [known as Arena of Valor in the U.S.] that’s sweeping China by storm. It’s created by Tencent. It’s played on your phone and characters are based on Chinese mythical figures that fight each other.”–Dr. Andre Wong, VP of 3D Sensing, Lumentum


Alto’s Odyssey
In this award-winning “endless runner” game you guide Alto through sand dunes, a temple city, and canyons amid cool graphics and a soothing soundtrack. “Beautiful, delightful gaming at its simple and finest.”–Sasha Sanan, head of sales, Airtable


About the author

Fast Company Senior Writer Mark Sullivan covers emerging technology, politics, artificial intelligence, large tech companies, and misinformation. An award-winning San Francisco-based journalist, Sullivan's work has appeared in Wired, Al Jazeera, CNN, ABC News, CNET, and many others.