In the past few years, it seems like there’s been the explosion of startups trying to convince local businesses to sign up for their marketing or loyalty tools, especially in the San Francisco Bay Area. In fact, LocalOn co-founder Shahbano Imran recalled going door-to-door trying to convince businesses to sign up and discovering that “small businesses are getting pitched by 20 startups a day.”
As a result, she said LocalOn’s initial efforts were “a complete failure” because “nobody wanted to hear from us.” Then she and her co-founder David Tolloupov came up with a better way to reach those businesses — working with local newspapers and merchant associations.
So instead of getting pitched by a random startup, businesses are offered a set of white labeled tools from a publication or an organization that they already trust. (The revenue is split between LocalOn and its resale partner.)
The approach seems to be working for the startup, which is part of incubator Y Combinator’s current class of companies. It has already partnered with 40 merchant associations and two newspapers in the Bay Area — apparently the partnership has generated $50,000 in new business for the East Bay Express newspaper over the past six months, and the OaklandGrown merchant association has seen a 20 percent increase in revenue from annual memberships.
Siasto has received some more support to build out its task management service with $750,000 from One Asia Investment Partners, Y Combinator, Start Fund and other angel investors.
Siasto has developed a robust platform that TechCrunch’s Eric Eldon wrote about in detail last year. Last November, the company added a news feed to the service. With the new funding, Siasto will now extend its development to focus more on its mobile collaboration service. The funding will also be used to expand its service into Asia.
Co-founder Niccolo Pantucci says its mobile strategy is to build an app store in Siasto that features distinct apps that take from Siasto but that have specific functions. There might be linking between different components but each will act as a separate app.
New hardware startup and Y Combinator Summer 2013 cohort member Senic is launching pre-orders for its first product today, a laser rangefinder like the ones sold in hardware stores around the world and used every day by contractors and DIY enthusiasts. The difference is that Senic’s device uses Bluetooth Low Energy to communicate with iOS and Android devices, recording measurements instantly and syncing them to the cloud.
The use of a cloud-based platform for collecting and storing measurement data, as well as Senic’s plans to expand their hardware catalog to include a number of different hardware devices, including micrometers, gauges, and other tools that builders and engineers use regularly in their work. Senic co-founder Toby Eichenwald explained that he got the idea working for his father’s company in Korea, and learned from its customers that the measurement industry was essentially “stuck in the 80s.”
Streak has embedded Gmail into its new iOS app in a novel way to create a service that is turning the 600-million-user platform into a powerful CRM environment.
Nathan Wenzel and Patrik Outericky had a successful services business called Edge Solutions that helped enterprises — especially insurance companies with large portfolios of cases — sort out their legal bills. Although the business wasn’t sexy, it was profitable. But Wenzel and Outericky decided to wind that company down and go into Y Combinator to turn that review process into a scalable product instead. They are now emerging from the accelerator with a new company,SimpleLegal.
SimpleLegal takes as much friction out of the bill review process as possible. All a customer has to do is ask their law firm to copy SimpleLegal on each invoice, and then the magic starts to happen. SimpleLegal’s system ingests the invoice and parses each line item into its database. Natural language processing systems figure out who billed what and for how long — and then that data is run through a machine learning system that flags outliers. One example: the system flagged a line item where a professional billed a half hour for mailing. That might not be too unusual but for the fact that the system knew the thing being mailed was a one-page form. That’s pretty smart.
Even though Yelp is almost a decade old, the business model it pioneered with crowd-sourced local listings has yet to permeate the rest of the emerging world.
A Y Combinator-backed startup called Glio is betting that it has a chance to dominate Brazil’s fractured local listings market.
Co-founded by Roberto Riccio, a former professional poker player who entered college at 16, the site is just open to a few major cities in the country like Rio De Janeiro and Sao Paulo.
But eventually, the company plans to expand beyond into Brazil’s mid-size cities and then into other Latin American markets like Argentina and Chile.
Glio’s team got into Y Combinator on the third try, about two years after they originally launched the service. They now have about 10,000 reviews for restaurants and venues in Rio De Janeiro. They just launched a mobile app a few months ago.
A new startup currently participating in the Summer 2013 cohort of Y Combinator called Weilos wants to make weight loss attempts more sticky and more accountable by pairing those with weight loss goals with coaches who have already achieved theirs for personalized, one-on-one training. It’s yet another example of the crowdsourced services economy at work, and one that also hits the current hot spot of health, diet and fitness.
Weilos is the product of a union between co-founders Ray Wu, an MD from Cornell, and Alex Perelman, a former Activition employee with an MBA and a degree in Computer Science from Berkeley. Both wanted to effect change in the world to address the growing concern of obesity in the U.S., in a way that would actually work; it’s an oft-repeated refrain, but the fact that obesity levels continue to rise proves that no one yet has come up with a good solution.
Where Wu and Perelman’s concept differs from most is that it recognizes 1) there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution to well-being and weight loss, and 2) the best way to promote continued use of a program is to build in some kind of direct personal interaction, and personal accountability, rather than just trust users to follow a program on their own.
It’s almost a cliche to complain about the alienating effects of technology, but the Internet is an amazing resource for combating isolation. Sites and online forums mean people who suffer from stigmatized conditions like depression can find support that was unavailable just a decade ago. Now Y Combinator startup 7 Cups of Tea wants to help connect people in need of emotional support with the site’s trained listeners.
Founded by clinical psychologist Glen Moriarty, 7 Cups of Tea positions itself as an alternative for people who need more immediate support than an online forum but don’t want to see a therapist (though if necessary, listeners will refer callers to mental health professionals). Users can start with text chats and then switch to voice calls when they feel more comfortable, as well as request specific listeners. 7 Cups Of Tea, which is named after a poem by Chinese poet Lu Tong and soft-launched at the end of July, currently has over 100 listeners and gets 1,000 call requests a week.
“The vast majority of people are not struggling with any really significant disorders. They are just going through a hard time. Maybe their kids are overwhelming them or their marriage is not working out right. They might have a lot of questions about things, like ‘is this normal?’ and feel like they can’t talk to anyone about it,” Moriarty says. “They just want to share it with someone.”
Webflow, a Y Combinator-backed startup offering creative professionals an easier, more visual way to design and host responsive websites, is launching out of its closed beta, with already some 10,000 users signed up. It’s an idea whose time has come, as more of the world now interacts with the web through a variety of devices and screen sizes, including desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones – the latter two of which can also be turned and viewed in either portrait or landscape modes.
To date, web designers often simply outsource the work of coding a responsive site after first using something like Photoshop or Illustrator to create the design itself, or they use frameworks like Twitter’s Bootstrap or Zurb’s Foundation for front-end development. But Webflow is different, in that it not only offers a visual editor which lets you drag-and-drop, customize responsive layouts, and define CSS styles for each device you want to support, but you can also publish your site immediately upon completion.