Airbnb (YC W09) providing legal support for fined NYC Airbnb host Nigel Warren and landlord, files appeal

Airbnb is providing legal support for Nigel Warren, a host who recently was fined $2,400 by an administrative law judge. The company, which provides a peer-to-peer marketplace for people to make their homes available to rent to others, says it is committed to fight the ruling “until justice is done.”

To recap, two weeks ago the judge issued an interpretation of the “shared space” exception to New York’s short-term rental restrictions, which found that Warren was in the wrong for making a room in his apartment available for rent on Airbnb. The law in question was originally aimed at landlords who would buy up property to list spaces as hotels, making it illegal for people to rent out space for less than a month.

There were exceptions to the law to allow for shared spaces and occupancy. But though Warren only rented his room three times while he was out of town and had a roommate present the whole time, the judge issued a fine for violating the city’s hotel law.

It was actually Warren’s landlord who was fined, although he took responsibility for it. And, as a result, Airbnb wasn’t party to the case at the time. Now, however, the company is jumping in with support as Warren and his landlord file an appeal in the case.

Read the full article on Techcrunch

Stripe (YC S09) lets marketplaces send payouts

You can now use Stripe to programmatically send bank transfers to anyone with a US bank account. This makes it easier to build businesses like Lyft or Exec that involve sending many payments to others. You can use the API to transfer money to vendors, service providers, sellers, or anyone else you need to pay as part of your business.

To use it, charge your customers as you normally would. Once you’ve enabled transfers, you’ll be able to pay out to any number of accounts instead of having the funds automatically deposited in your main bank account.

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Lyft and Sidecar use the spare capacity of existing cars and drivers to provide transportation. Shoptiquesis creating a central hub for one-of-a-kind inventory from small boutiques. Exec creates a market for on-demand labor. These, and many others, are bringing networked efficiency to previously analog systems and are creating new kinds of marketplaces.

These marketplaces require payments on two sides. As ever, you have to charge the customer, but as the provider shifts from being a single entity to a multiplicity of suppliers, you also need to coordinate complex payouts.

Read the full article on the Stripe Blog

Thalmic Labs (YC W13) raises $14.5M from Spark, Intel, Formation8, First Round to make the MYO armband the next big thing

Thalmic Labs, the Waterloo-based startup working on an all new form of user input for computing devices with the MYO amrband, today announced the close of its $14.5 million Series A funding round, led by Spark Capital and Intel Capital. The round boasts a lot of others besides, including Formation 8, First Round Capital, FundersClub, and individual investors like Paul Graham, Garry Tan, Marc Benioff and more, and will be used to help spur product development of the MYO, and of other forthcoming Thalmic technologies.

MYO, for those who aren’t familiar, is an armband that measures electrical activity to detect fine movement from a wearer’s arm, making for sensitive, accurate gesture-based control of computing devices, including desktop computers, smartphones and tablet, as well as a range of other possible devices. Thalmic is co-founded by three graduates of the University of Waterloo’s mechatronics (yes, that’s a real word) engineering program, including Matthew Bailey, Aaron Grant and Stephen Lake. I spoke with Lake about his company’s funding, their plans fo the money and the challenges yet to come for MYO, which is still in the pre-order stage, with a launch intended for late 2013.

Read the full article on Techcrunch

Interview with Stephen Lake (shoplocket.com)

Heap (YC W13) launches analytics for iOS apps that don't require instrumentation: Capture all the swipes and taps automatically

Heap launched a couple months ago with a new approach to user analytics: just capture everything. It lets businesses conduct event-based analytics without having to ship code or wait for data to trickle in.

Now we’re ready to bring Heap to native iOS apps.

Mobile analytics for iPhone and iPad can be particularly egregious. If you haven’t explicitly tagged the “invite friend” event, for instance, but you need to analyze what type of users most often invite their friends, then you’re forced to:

    1. Hunt down and manually instrument the “invite friend” event within your Objective-C code.
    2. Submit updated code for App Store approval.
    3. Wait.
    4. Wait.
    5. Once the app is pushed live, wait some more for data to accumulate on the tracked event.
    6. Finally ask your question.

Heap for iOS, on the other hand, automatically captures native interactions such as taps and swipes, so that the process above reduces to “ask your question”.

Just like the Heap web analytics package, all you have to do to start capturing all events is add one Heap library:

Read the full article on the Heap blog and sign up for an invite

Referly (YC S12) becomes Mattermark, the way VCs and angels can prospect for the best companies to invest in

It’s no secret these days that VCs are getting into data in a meaningful way. Firms can no longer afford to wait for companies, people and trends to come to Sand Hill Road. To start competing for deals, VCs have to be prospecting people, companies and trends well before events like Y Combinator’s Demo Day. Many VCs have built their own data-parsing platforms internally, but one startup launching today, Mattermark, is hoping to be the go-to software for firms to use when quantifying signals of growing and potentially lucrative startups.

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Morill, who is a graduate of Y Combinator via Referly, became increasingly intrigued by how VCs could mine data to identify companies. She was previously the Editor of Seattle 2.0 and helped produce Seattle 2.0 Index, which was a monthly ranked list of all the local startups. Based on her experiences, she realized there was an opportunity to use some of this data in the VC world. As she explains, “If VCs don’t see a company until YC’s Demo Day, they have less of a chance of winning the deal. So investors need to get smart and identify these opportunities beforehand,” she says.

The software allows VCs to access data from Twitter, news sites, SEC filings, LinkedIn, AngelList, CrunchBase, and the company’s own propriety Startup Index in order to spot potential opportunities and track existing startups. Here is an interesting example of some of the data dives that Morill and her team are experimenting with.

Read the full article on Techcrunch

PlanGrid (YC W12) launches hyperlinking and web-based markup for blueprints, now used by 35K construction projects

PlanGrid, a startup that hopes to replace blueprint printouts on construction sites with those that can be viewed on an iPad, has just released its latest app update. PlanGrid version 3.0 is designed to make it easier to find connections between plans, with an automatic hyperlinking feature, as well as improved collaboration with web-based markup.

Since being launched early last year, the startup’s app has been quickly adopted by a number of big construction agencies and major brands. It’s now been used on more than 35,000 different construction projects, including some major retailers you may have heard of — like Starbucks and Nordstroms. Its system now stores more than 2 million pages with blueprints — with more than 10,000 new pages being added every day.

Segment.io (YC S11) launches single analytics solution for mobile app, sees over one billion API calls a month

Five months ago, Segment.io‘s business just wasn’t getting traction. But an open-source library the team had released in 2012 that enabled web developers to drop in site analytics code once, and integrate dozens of analytics tools immediately, was seeing surprising momentum. So the team changed directions, built a hosted version, and today is serving “over a billion API calls a month.”

Zero to a billion in five months sounds good, so Segment.io is trying it again.

The Y Combinator-funded startup is launching a single analytics solution for mobile apps. Similar to its web version, the Segment.io’s mobile analytics SDK enables developers to implement just a few lines of code and then toggle any analytics service on or off instantly. No recompile, no resubmission to the app store, no re-installs on user devices.

Read the full article at Venturebeat

HireArt (YC W12) featured in NYTimes Op Ed by Thomas L. Friedman: How to Get a Job

Thomas L. Friedman writes: 

One of the best ways to understand the changing labor market is to talk to the co-founders of HireArt (www.hireart.com): Eleonora Sharef, 27, a veteran of McKinsey; and Nick Sedlet, 28, a math whiz who left Goldman Sachs. Their start-up was designed to bridge the divide between job-seekers and job-creators.

“The market is broken on both sides,” explained Sharef. “Many applicants don’t have the skills that employers are seeking, and don’t know how to get them. But employers also ... have unrealistic expectations.” They’re all “looking for purple unicorns: the perfect match. They don’t want to train you, and they expect you to be overqualified.” In the new economy, “you have to prove yourself, and we’re an avenue for candidates to do that,” said Sharef. “A degree document is no longer a proxy for the competency employers need.” Too many of the “skills you need in the workplace today are not being taught by colleges.”

The way HireArt works, explained Sharef (who was my daughter’s college roommate), is that clients — from big companies like Cisco, Safeway and Airbnb, to small family firms — come with a job description and then HireArt designs online written and video tests relevant for that job. Then they cull through the results and offer up the most promising applicants to the company, which chooses among them.

Read the full article at the NY Times

Coinbase (YC S12) is becoming the most trustworthy consumer brand in Bitcoin

Alexia Tsosis of Techcrunch writes: 

I would not have bought my .1 ($13.17) in Bitcoin if it weren’t for a startup called Coinbase, which is “one of the places that looked less sketchy,” according to TechCrunch editor and Bitcoin bug John Biggs. “It’s one of the ones I would tell my Mom to use,” Biggs insisted. Indeed, if your mom knows how to link a bank account to a Fidelity or Charles Schwab account and buy mutual funds, buying Bitcoin through Coinbase is a similar deal. Just input her account and routing number, verify a couple of small transactions and your mom will be one step closer to Silk Road.

In addition to investor interest, the startup is beginning to see some traction. In January, it launched its Bitcoin-to-US-dollars exchange feature, and saw $1 million converted in and out of Bitcoin. In February it saw $2.5 million, and this April the startup saw $15 million — figures inevitably increasing with the rise in the Bitcoin exchange rate. Armstrong holds that the company, which takes a 1 percent transaction fee from all conversions, is growing 15 percent week-over-week in terms of transaction volume, revenue and users signing up. “Coinbase is becoming the most trustworthy consumer brand in Bitcoin,” investor Bobby Goodlatte told me.

Read the full article and watch Alexia's interview with Coinbase cofounder Brian Armstrong

When a toilet brush becomes a Homejoy (YC S10) CEO Adora Cheung's secret ROI weapon

In the Upstart Business Journal, Homejoy CEO Adora Cheung writes:

The company I founded with my brother is a new take on one of the oldest businesses around—home cleaning. What distinguishes our business, Homejoy, from others is a simple philosophy: We clean.

I’m not talking about just our base of contract partners, the hundreds of independent cleaning professionals in the 14 U.S. cities where we do business. I mean everyone in our entire office: the client services team, the recruiters, the engineers and the five members of our leadership team are all required to whip out the vacuum, grab a microfiber cloth, and scrub away at our clients’ homes. We've found that having all 30-plus people at our San Francisco headquarters clean and cross-train at work helps us all make better decisions and ultimately improves our bottom line.

Does having our whole team scrub floors really result in an increased return on investment, that often elusive ROI that every new company is going after? We believe so.

Read how at bizjournals.com