Female Founders Conference 2015 applications are open

We’re delighted to announce the second Y Combinator Female Founders Conference, on Saturday, February 21 in San Francisco. 

Once again, we’ll bring current and future founders together to share their stories, give advice, and make connections. 

At YC, we have the honor of working with a lot of incredible female founders, and this is our chance to introduce some of them to you. If you are thinking about starting a startup or are in the midst of running one, we hope hearing stories from other women will inspire you to take the leap (or keep going!). 

We'll also be joined by distinguished guests like Kimberly Bryant (Black Girls Code), Ruchi Sanghvi (the first female engineer at Facebook and founder of Cove, acquired by Dropbox), and a few more, whose stories we're excited to hear ourselves.  

If you're a woman interested in learning more about building startups or non-profits, we encourage you to apply.

YC Digest -12/10-12/17

Top Stories from the YC World - 12/10-12/17

Amazon Not As Unstoppable As It May Appear - Instacart (YC S12) in the NYT 



Essays
> "How You Knowby Paul Graham: "Your mind is like a compiled program you've lost the source of. It works, but you don't know why." 

Launches

Fundraising






Hiptic Games (YC S11) Launches Its GameThrive Push Notification Service

Congrats to Hiptic Games on the launch of GameThrive

Hiptic Games, a Y Combinator alum that’s been operating in stealth since the summer 2011 batch, has launched GameThrive, a push notification service that aims to help developers engage players when they’re least likely to be annoyed.

Originally built for the team’s own needs, the service combines push-notification delivery automation with analytics tools to avoid overwhelming users to the point where they delete an app. Looking at things like playing habits and response rates to different notifications, the service schedules messages for in-game deals or events at times when players will be mostly likely to engage with them and come back to the game.

Read the full story on TechCrunch

Bettir (YC W15) Wants To Chat With You About Your Blood Pressure

Meet Bettir, the first YC Winter 2015 company to launch. Bettir is an app that lets you record your blood pressure and get daily feedback from experts. 

Chances are you only get your blood pressure checked maybe once or twice a year at the doctor’s office. You sit down in a relaxed setting near the waiting room while a nurse wraps a black velcro unit around your upper arm and pumps away. Perhaps the reading comes out a little high, but nothing to worry about. At least until you find yourself in a high stress situation, your blood pressure spikes and you end up having a stroke.

Going to your doctor twice a year isn’t the ideal way to get an accurate reading, says Bettir CEO Mike Chen. He and his four other co-founders, David Merriman, Ben Godlove, Nic Novak and Michael Rubin, were all friends at Oberlin when they started discussing the idea of going the startup route together. The band formed and through some health research, Bettir was born. It’s now Y Combinator-backed and ready to ship.

Transcriptic for YC biotech startups

Reducing cost and cycle time as much as possible is one of the highest-leverage things anyone can do to help startups.  A few years ago, we rolled out deals with Amazon, Heroku, Microsoft, and Rackspace to make web hosting available for free to the startups we fund.

As we expand into new areas, we’ll put similar relationships in place.

I’m happy to announce a partnership with Transcriptic for our biotech companies.

YC biotech companies will get $20,000 of free credit from Transcriptic to run experiments on their platform.  Transcriptic is a remote, robotic life science research lab that lets a user type an experiment into a web browser and run it in the real world.  Transcriptic will hopefully do for biotech startups what AWS has done for web startups.

(In the interest of disclosure, Transcriptic is also in the upcoming YC batch.) 

We’ll be doing sharing some news along the same lines for hardware startups soon, and as we continue to expand into new areas we’ll continue to add new partnerships. 

Welcome Michael, Jon, and Ilya

I’m delighted to share that Michael Seibel (formerly a part-time partner at YC) and Jon Levy (formerly a part-time lawyer for YC) are becoming partners.

Additionally, Ilya Sukhar (CEO of Parse, which was acquired by Facebook) is becoming a part-time partner. 

Previously, Michael was a co-founder and CEO Justin.tv and the co-founder and CEO of Socialcam (YC S2012, acquired by Autodesk).  In 2014 Justin.tv became Twitch Interactive and under the leadership of Emmett Shear Kevin Lin sold to Amazon for $970MM.  Michael graduated from Yale University with a bachelor’s degree in political science.  

Jon Levy previously counseled public and private companies as an attorney for WSGR and began consulting with Y Combinator in 2008.  Jon also worked in investment banking for many years.  Over the past several years, Jon has become one of the most trusted advisors to many YC startups.  Jon earned a J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School and B.A. in English Literature and Religious Studies from Wesleyan University.

Ilya is cofounder and CEO of Parse (YC S2011) which was acquired by Facebook in 2013. He continues to run the company as a subsidiary of Facebook and also works on other platform projects there. Prior to Parse, Ilya was the first employee at Etacts (YC W10, acquired by Salesforce) and an early employee at Ooyala.  He studied Computer Science and Operations Research at Cornell.

Flow (YC S13), an intuitive and precise wireless controller, launches today

Flow, a low cost, high precision wireless controller, launched on Indiegogo today. 

According to the team behind Flow (Senic YC S13), "We work on graphic design, video editing or CAD on a daily basis. Keyboard and mouse are great but they are far from giving you the same sensitivity and abilities as your hand. 

The same applies for music, browsing or presentations. We need a tool that gives us flexible shortcuts and perfect control, a tool that makes the things we love fast, precise, intuitive and fun." 

Flow has developed controls for more than 30 applications, including YouTube, Spotify and Photoshop, and early backers will get access to their developer platform in March 2015.

Learn more: 

Pre-order on Indiegogo

What We Learned From 40 Female YC Founders

We’re excited to launch Female Founder Stories, a collection of interviews with 40 of Y Combinator’s female alumnae.  We asked them about things like how they got started, their experience at Y Combinator, their experience as female founders, and what they wish they'd known when they were younger.  As you'll see, their answers are fascinating, both individually and in their variety.

This is the biggest collection of interviews with female startup founders I've seen in one place, and as a result we have an unprecedented opportunity to notice patterns in their experiences (and just as interesting, where there aren't patterns).

One of the most consistent patterns is how many founders wished they'd learned to program when they were younger. Some wished they'd even known it was an option, and many others knew it was an option but were either intimidated or felt they’d somehow missed the window. "Don't opt out of computer science because you think you are behind," one founder said. "You probably aren’t."

We got an interesting variety of responses when we asked the women whether being a female was advantageous or disadvantageous in their roles as founders. Some felt they had been harmed but as many felt it was an advantage. Interestingly, many said it got them attention for being unusual, and that they'd used this to their advantage. Others felt that being female did impose some barriers, but didn't let it get them down.  "Given how hard it is to be a founder (male or female)," one said, "gender disadvantages are probably just a rounding error."

One surprise was how varied the founders’ backgrounds were. I know all these women and even I was surprised how varied their paths to Y Combinator were.  If you wanted evidence contradicting the myth that YC only funds one type of founder, you could not do better than read these interviews.

Not surprisingly, most of the women were domain experts solving a problem they themselves had.  That's something that tends to be true of successful founders regardless of gender.

When I started Y Combinator back in 2005, I was one of a tiny minority of women in the venture business, and from the start I've made sure YC had an environment that is supportive of women.  It wasn't even a conscious decision.  To the extent there was one partner in charge of YC's environment, it was me, and as a woman myself I would not have tolerated anything else.  And as YC has grown, so has the number of female partners. Now there are four of us and we are not tokens, or a female minority in a male-dominated firm. At the risk of offending my male colleagues, who will nevertheless understand what I mean, some would claim it's closer to the truth to say that that we run the place. As YC funds more and more startups, Kirsty, Carolynn, Kat, and I are dedicated to maintaining an environment where women feel welcome and can succeed.

The number of startups we've funded with a female founder has grown from a trickle when we first started to about 19% in 2014. In the most recent batch (W15), we asked about gender on the application form for the first time. The percentage of startups we accepted with female founders was identical to the percentage who applied. (And this happened organically; we didn't check the numbers until after.)  Which implies the percentage of female founders we fund will increase in proportion to the percentage of female applicants.

There are two ways I think YC can have the most impact in increasing the number of female founders. First, we need to continue to do what we’ve always done: to help individual female founders’ startups succeed.  Those women will then become role models who inspire other women to make the leap and start startups too.  To serve as role models they need to be visible, so we're also focusing on showcasing YC’s female alumni through interviews like these and events like our Female Founders Conference.

I said at the first Female Founders Conference last March that I thought 2014 would be the tipping point for female founders. I still think I’m right, and our hope is that these interviews will be part of what makes things tip-- that they will both inspire more women to start startups (and please apply to YC!) and also inspire some who already have started to keep going.

Startups are hard. They are not the right thing for everyone. But what makes them the right thing for you is whether you are driven enough, not what gender you are, and that's one of the clearest patterns in these interviews.

Save the date: Y Combinator's second annual Female Founders Conference will be held in San Francisco on February 21, 2015.

An Update on Hacker News

I frequently get asked about the changes we’ve made and are making to Hacker News, so I wanted to share some updates.  A lot of people feel strongly about HN.  It’s an important part of the startup community and we want it to be both the best source of news and discussion about technology and startups and also welcoming for everyone, especially groups that have historically been marginalized in the tech industry.

First, I want to thank the community for all the work people have done over the past six months to downvote, flag, and comment on content that doesn’t fit the site guidelines.  It’s a lot of work, but it has a huge impact and we hope users will continue to do it. I’d also like to thank dang and sctb for all the work they’ve done as moderators and with software to increase story and comment quality.

Traffic is up about 30% over this period, and we'd like to think that the increase in quality and decrease in toxic comments is the main reason.

There is much more to do, of course, and there are still comments that have no place on HN, but we’re happy that we've heard from so many users that feel the quality has increased.

I'm sometimes asked how historically marginalized users can help shape the HN community when the karma threshold for down voting inappropriate comments is high. It's a fair question, and we are experimenting with lowering the downvoting threshold.  Also, the best way to deal with inappropriate comments is to flag them.  To do so, click "link" next to the comment timestamp and then "flag".  The threshold for flagging is low (only 30 karma), so nearly everyone can help there.

To prevent abuse, moderators review flagged stories and comments and revoke flagging privileges from users who flag inappropriately.

We changed two things about flagging recently. First, we lowered the threshold for flags to kill inappropriate comments. We're watching the data closely in order to unkill comments that have been flagged unfairly, but there are few such cases.  Most of the time this only happens to comments none of us want on the site.

Second, we've started indicating in the UI which comments/stories have been killed by user flags.

A third experiment didn't go so well: we briefly made the software kill comments that had been sufficiently downvoted. Many users objected, arguing that killing downvoted comments is too harsh a punishment for unpopular opinions, especially since downvoted comments get faded to begin with.  We heard that and reversed the change.

In general, though, these experiments in community moderation seem to be succeeding, and we plan to do more of them.

Welcome, Ali

I'm delighted to announce that Ali Rowghani is joining YC as a part-time partner.  He will mostly focus on helping our alumni that are a few years out of YC scale their companies, but I’m sure the current batch will enjoy getting to know him as well.

Though we've traditionally focused on helping very early-stage companies, our successful companies have asked for help on topics like scaling operations, managing hypergrowth, building out management teams, etc.

Ali is a perfect fit for helping YC companies with these scaling questions.  Ali was the CFO at Pixar, where he spent 9 years working closely with Ed Catmull and Steve Jobs.  In 2010, he joined Twitter as its first CFO, at a time when Twitter had about 100 employees, 20 million users, and virtually no revenue.  In late 2012, he became Twitter's COO and took on many additional responsibilities within the company.

Welcome, Ali!