Justin Time

Justin Kan is going to be the new spokesman for YC and handle the PR requests we get.

You should probably follow him on Snapchat (username: justinkan).

On a more serious note, I'm always impressed with how well-spoken Justin is, and how well he is able to connect with both reporters and founders.

Gecko Robotics (YC W16) Builds Robots to Automate Infrastructure Inspections

Gecko Robotics is a company launching out of our Winter 2016 class that develops and operates robots to automate infrastructure inspections. Today, Gecko is focusing on power plant inspections.

Plants are required to shut down at least once a year to check for damage to their boilers. To do these inspections, crews install 150 foot tall scaffolds and climb up the walls in search of damaged areas in need of repair. These inspections are slow, inaccurate and dangerous. A typical inspection takes several days, and every hour a power plant is down costs tens of thousands of dollars -- in aggregate, power plant shutdowns cost power plants some $12 billion a year.

The Gecko solution is to send certified inspectors robots into these confined, dirty, and dangerous places.

TechCrunch's Sarah Buhr interviewed Gecko for a story published this week:

"Gecko’s proprietary magnetic adhesion technology works much like the sticky foot of a gecko, allowing its robots to crawl up walls to inspect for damage along the way.

A human would normally be the checker, but that presents an often dangerous situation. According to Gecko, most plants must shut down at least once a year to check for damage to the boiler. To do these inspections crews install 150-foot scaffolds and climb up the walls in search of areas in need of repair. On top of that, inspections can take up to seven days, with plants losing up to $1 million per day, says Gecko.

But for $50,000 to $100,000 Gecko deploys robots to do the work of human inspectors, saving time and money in the process."

Read the full story and see a video of the Gecko machine here.

NURX (YC W16) Prescribes and Delivers Medications On-Demand, To Your Door

NURX is a company launching out of our Winter 2016 class that aims to reduce the barriers to getting medications such as birth control for everyone, regardless of where they live.

NURX prescribes and delivers medication without you ever having to set foot in a doctor’s office. The company is starting by prescribing and delivering birth control and emergency contraceptives, and next plans to expand to offer HIV prevention medications Truvada and PReP.

7x7 Magazine wrote about NURX in a story published earlier this year:

"If you're a woman living in the United States, you already know that getting your hands on birth control can be a complex and expensive process. A new SF-based app called Nurx is offering a digital solution to getting your b.c. on time and at an affordable price. 

Founded by Hans Gangeskar and Dr. Edvard Engesaeth, Nurx is the newest white glove service to offer home delivery in the Bay Area. But instead of clothes or food, Nurx is offering to deliver the ring/pill/patch straight to your door in less than 48 hours. Plus, it's free to use with insurance. 

'Research shows that the easier and more affordable birth control is, the more women will use it. Women should not have to jump through unnecessary hoops, just to access birth control,' said Dr. Edvard Engesaeth, co-founder of Nurx.

Here's how it works: You choose your preferred brand of birth control, answer a few questions, enter your insurance information, and place your order all on the website. A Nurx physician will review your order and write your prescription, and the medication is delivered to you at no cost, if you have insurance. If you don't have insurance, the prescription and delivery are still free, and the medication itself starts at $15. It's that easy."

Read more about NURX in 7x7, CNN, and Elle, and visit their website at Nurx.co.

TRAC (YC W16) Brings Race Timing and Analytics Into the 21st Century

Over 26,000 running races occur within the United States each year, and worldwide, road races generate an estimated $8 billion annually in fees. However, this fast-growing segment of the sports industry has missed out on advances in innovation that have begun to transform other parts of the entertainment and wellness industries.

TRAC is a company launching out of our Winter 2016 class that wants to finally bring race timing and analysis into the 21st century, with a proprietary, flexible, on-demand race timing solution.

Deborah Gage at the Wall Street Journal wrote a story about TRAC this week:

"In a sparsely furnished apartment in Mountain View, Calif., Griffin Kelly and Elliot Hevel, both 24 and shoeless, are working on their first startup --Timing and Racing Around the Clock Inc., which makes a timing device, TRAC, that measures runners’ speed.

Both are runners who graduated from Northwestern University in 2013 with masters’ degrees in engineering. They have made a software-powered device that can be mounted on a tripod and operated by a smartphone, remotely if necessary, reading runners’ RFID chips as they cross the finish line and at various points along a race to calculate their times."

Read the full story here.

Boom (YC W16) is Building an Affordable Supersonic Aircraft

Boom is a company launching out of our Winter 2016 class that is building a 40-seat supersonic plane for business travel. The current prototype has a maximum speed of Mach 2.2, making it the fastest passenger aircraft. 

Ashlee Vance wrote a story on Boom for Bloomberg Business:

“The Boom engineers say new materials and software made a Concorde replacement viable only in the last 10 years. Their plane will be built using a carbon-fiber composite instead of aluminum, making it lighter and able to travel faster. (Because of the heat generated by intense friction, aluminum softens at speeds higher than Mach 2.) Boom’s software can also run millions of computer simulations a day on its designs, so the startup doesn’t have to spend months tweaking things in wind tunnels.

According to the simulations, Boom’s design is quieter and 30 percent more efficient than the Concorde was. Its 40 seats will be split into two single-seat rows, so everybody has a window and an aisle. To reduce weight, the seats are of the standard domestic first-class variety, so no laydown beds. To cut flight time, Boom’s plane will cruise at 60,000 feet, where passengers will be able to see the curvature of the earth, while going 2.6 times faster than other passenger planes. Scholl says about 500 routes fit the craft’s market, including a five-hour trip from San Francisco to Tokyo and a six-hour flight from Los Angeles to Sydney.”

Read the full story here.

Perlstein Lab (YC W16) Automates Drug Discovery for Rare Diseases

Major pharmaceutical companies rarely focus on orphan diseases, conditions that affect less than 200,000 people nationwide. While many are complex, around 4,000 orphan diseases are caused by only one mutation in a single gene.

Perlstein Lab is a company launching out of our Winter 2016 class that has built an automated drug discovery platform for all rare diseases. It screens for model compounds that can reverse a disease in simple model organisms like yeast cells and nematodes. If a compound is found, this drug candidate can then be tested with patients. 

Jay Donovan wrote a story about Perlstein Lab on TechCrunch:

“First of all, it is important to know that, according to Perlstein, there are about 7000 diseases classified as rare and 95% of these have no FDA approved cure. This is PLab’s area of focus. This is a much different model than Big Pharma which usually focuses on more common illnesses where the research ROI stands to be much greater.

Of these 7000 rare diseases, about half are caused by a single broken gene. These are usually inherited diseases and affect children.

PLab focuses on single broken gene diseases initially because they are obviously less complex and easier to approach. Using a molecular apparatus known as a CRISPR—which Perlstein likened to a command line editor for animal genomes—PLab alters the genome of test animals (yeasts, flies, worms, fish and sometimes mice) to mimic the broken gene disorder…to essentially, make them ill. Because many of these animal are small, even microscopic, PLab can have large numbers of them to test against. 

Then, using an automated platform, they apply thousands of chemical compounds to these animals to see which compounds are effective at reversing or bypassing the loss of the broken gene’s function.”

Read the full story here and learn more about Perlstein Lab through their blog.

StrongIntro (YC W16) Boosts Employee Referrals for Finding and Hiring Engineers

Recruiting is hard, especially for technical employees. Everyone in the startup world knows that.

The best way to tackle this problem is to tap into the personal networks of your existing team members. In fact, employee referrals are often referred to as "hiring gold" because they build culture, retention, and engagement, all at a cheaper cost and faster-to-hire rate than alternative recruiting pipelines. The problem is, most companies don’t have the bandwidth or resources to create a robust referral program that competes with larger industry players.

StrongIntro is a company in our Winter 2016 class that wants to be a startup’s secret weapon, helping them bring in employee referrals and hire as effectively as top companies.

StrongIntro hosts a sourcing party at a startup's office, and uses its software to parse staffers' social connections to intelligently identify engineers and enable employees to easily recommend connections. This approach sources between 50 to 100 warm candidates for every five employees. StrongIntro also provides a dedicated recruiter to help build the key components of a successful referral program, including customized outreach, education of employees, and implementing best practices.

Using StrongIntro has zero upfront costs  -- they only take a performance fee if one of their referrals is hired.

StrongIntro has funding from the Thiel Fellowship, YC Fellowship, and YC Core, and has already helped companies like Segment, Raise.me, and Teespring discover and engage hundreds of new candidates. For more information or to book a sourcing session see http://www.strongintro.com.

Q&A with YC/Imagine K12's Geoff Ralston and Tim Brady

Geoff Ralston and Tim Brady, YC partners and Imagine K12 founders, hosted a Twitter chat and AMA on r/entrepreneur last week to answer questions from edtech startups applying to YC. Here are the highlights below:

1. The criteria for being accepted into YC or IK12 haven't changed.

2. We work with edtech startups that are considering all kinds of revenue models: freemium, direct-to-schools, parents, or otherwise.

3. We work with edtech startups that serve the entire spectrum of the learning process (pre-K, K-12, post-secondary, life-long learning) and any geographical market (US and International). 

5. And some final application tips.

For a more comprehensive look at the conversations, visit the archived Twitter chat and Reddit AMA.

The application deadline for the Summer 2016 batch is March 24. Apply now.

Good luck edtech applicants, hope to see you at interviews!

Chatfuel (YC W16) Builds Chatbots to Help Companies Engage with their Users

Businesses and media organizations want to be where their users are. In the past, they'd often do this by building a website or an app, but there are big problems with both of these approaches: With websites, re-engagement with users is very difficult; and there is so much friction around app installation it's difficult to acquire users. So today, many companies are realizing that bots on messaging platforms are the fastest and simplest way to engage with users.

Chatfuel is a company in our Winter 2016 class that has built a self-service platform that lets companies create these kinds of chatbots in minutes. 

Jon Russell of TechCrunch recently wrote a story about Chatfuel:

"Chat has become the center of the smartphone universe, so it makes sense that bots are being used to deliver information in a convenient and engaging manner. But how do brands or media companies get started and create a bot? That’s where Chatfuel, a company that’s currently going through Y Combinator, is looking to make its mark.

The company is currently focused primarily on Telegram, which is the only chat app to open its bots to all. It has created bots for the likes of Forbes and TechCrunch — hey, that’s us! — but, beyond focusing on media, it has a self-service platform anyone can use. Thus far, that’s been used to make over 120,000 bots which serve over five million users.

It’s more than just basic bots that simply send information to users based on offering them two kinds of responses. Chatfuel is a little more intelligent. Its bots serve up news, lets users narrow down on topics, and even just ask questions about items or people in the news."

Read the full story here.

Secful (YC W16) Prevents API Attacks Automatically and in Real-Time

In recent years, it's become clear that APIs are very vulnerable to security breaches. Facebook, Snapchat, Marriott, Delmarva Power, TurboTax, and Twitter are just a small portion of the growing list of companies that have been breached through their API. Research indicates that 84% of all cyber-attacks are happening at the application layer, rendering companies' existing network security protections insufficient.

Secful is a company launching out of our Winter 2016 class that prevents API attacks, automatically and hands-free. Secful secures enterprises' APIs by detecting and profiling attackers in real-time and creating custom-tailored protection against them.

Every attack begins with the same phase: Reconnaissance. During this time, an attacker understands how the API should be used. Afterwards, the attacker actively researchers a company's endpoints for vulnerabilities. Usually these trial-and-error attempts go unnoticed until a breach actually occurs. Until now.

Secful tracks all of the attacker's activity from the very beginning, and creates a profile that contains an up-to-the-minute attack timeline, along with essential information to prevent the attack. Most importantly, Secful highlights the most dangerous potential attacks so that companies can handle them first.

Find out more about Secful and request a demo at Secful.com, and check out the video below.