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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Plenty of garbage startups have been funded over the past decade, including a couple of outright frauds — and tech innovation doesn't always move as linearly as we'd like, or replicate the future as imagined by TV scriptwriters.

Yes, but: While startups and their investors were being bashed on social media, at least a few of them were laying the building blocks for technologies that could help let humanity recover its ability to work, play and spend time with loved ones.

Moderna Therapeutics was founded in 2010 in the conference room of Massachusetts-based venture capital firm Flagship.

  • It raised $2.1 million in first-round funding at an $8.4 million pre-money valuation.
  • The company is currently valued at around $37 billion, and may have just created a vaccine that will defeat the most devastating global health crisis in more than a century.

Lucira Health was founded in 2013 in Emeryville, Calif.

  • It joined the StartX accelerator program, and later raised first-round funding from firms like DCVC, Seraph Group, Danhu Capital and individuals like Pierre Lamond.
  • On Tuesday, it became the first company to receive FDA approval for a COVID-19 test that can be self-administered at home. It only will be available via prescription, at least for now, but this may be the bleeding edge of innovation that helps school and offices reopen.

The bottom line: We all hope to never again experience anything like this pandemic. Chances are, though, that some currently unknown founders and investors are preparing for it anyway.

Go deeper

Pelosi, Schumer call on McConnell to adopt bipartisan $900B stimulus framework

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Nov. 20. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Wednesday urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to use a $908 billion bipartisan coronavirus relief framework as a basis for jumpstarting negotiations.

Why it matters: The framework, introduced by a group of bipartisan lawmakers on Tuesday, calls for significantly less funding than Pelosi had previously demanded — a sign that Democrats are ready to further compromise as millions of Americans endure economic hardship.

Bipartisan group of lawmakers unveils $908 billion COVID stimulus proposal

Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) in the Capitol in 2018. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

A bipartisan group of lawmakers on Tuesday proposed a $908 billion coronavirus stimulus package, in one of the few concrete steps toward COVID relief made by Congress in several months.

Why it matters: Recent data shows that the economic recovery is floundering as coronavirus cases surge and hospitals threaten to be overwhelmed heading into what is likely to be a grim winter.

22 hours ago - Health

U.S. exceeds 100,000 COVID-related hospitalizations for the first time

People wait outside the Emergency room of the Garfield Medical Center in Monterey Park, California on Dec 1. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/Getty Images

More than 100,200 Americans were hospitalized as of Wednesday due to the coronavirus for the first time since the outbreak began in early 2020, per the COVID Tracking Project.

The big picture: The milestone comes as health officials anticipated cases to surge due to holiday travel and gatherings. The impact of the holiday remains notable, as many states across the country are only reporting partial data.