Thunkable (YC W16) Makes it Super Simple for Anyone to Build a Mobile App

It used to be that only programmers could make websites. But in recent years, millions of websites have been created by non-programmers, as the barrier to entry has been significantly lowered by helpful website building tools.

Thunkable is a company in our current Winter 2016 batch that wants to help facilitate the same phenomenon for building mobile apps: making it so easy that anyone can do it, with a simple drag-and-drop interface.

Thunkable is the commercial version of the MIT App Inventor, a hugely successful project that launched out of MIT five years ago. TechCrunch's Natasha Lomas wrote about Thunkable and its origins in a recently published story:

"So why the fork of the original MIT project now? The success of MIT’s App Inventor meant it had outgrown the resources afforded it within academia, say Thunkable’s co-founders Arun Saigal (CEO) and WeiHua Li (CTO).

Hence the decision to seek to commercialize the core technology under a new name, building atop the MIT open source code with new features they hope will also support their intention to monetize down the line. (To be clear, Thunkable’s code will not be open source, although they say they do hope to take in community contributions in future.)

While MIT App Inventor’s original target was educators and students, offering a free learning tool to lower the barrier of entry to coding, the pair say the success of the software — which has been used to make some 13 million apps at this point, and garnered 4.3 million registered users — called for spinning out of the academic setting."

Read the full story about Thunkable and how it works in TechCrunch here.

Nova (YC W16) Helps Salespeople Send Highly Personalized Emails, at Scale

Many salespeople send out hundreds of impersonal, template-based emails per day in an effort to garner more sales. This is bad for business: It makes a bad first impression, triggers spam blocking, and wastes leads. More personalized emails are vastly more effective, but naturally require much more time.

Nova is a company launching out of our Winter 2016 class that provides an alternative. Nova is a tool that creates and sends highly personalized emails on behalf of salespeople. According to Nova, this leads to salespeople booking 3x as many meetings by spending half of the time they normally would.

TechCrunch's Lucas Matney wrote about Nova in a story published recently:

"Sometimes generating leads is about finding connections wherever you can. I went to school at X too!' 'X is a great cause, my brother has done some work with them also.' And so on and so forth.

The problem for salespeople is braving the firehose of information available online to find these connection points easily and quickly. YC-backed Nova is an email analytics platform that also uses artificial intelligence to scrape through a contact’s online identity and generate a personalized introductory paragraph that salespeople can add to their pitches.

The software, which integrates directly into a user’s inbox, tracks the rate of opens, clicks, replies and bounces for sales pitches. A key to boost those numbers, Nova CEO Will Dinkel tells me, is email personalization."

Read the full story on TechCrunch here.

flexReceipts (YC W16) Helps Retailers Re-engage with Customers After a Sale

Although consumers increasingly like to shop online, over 90% of purchases made today still occur offline, in physical stores. Even so, the growing field of targeted digital marketing is primarily focused only on driving online purchases -- completely ignoring a big part of the industry's shopping activity.

flexReceipts is a company launching out of our current batch that bridges this divide, helping retailers understand who their offline customers are and effectively target them online to drive engagement and repeat sales -- all by leveraging the data rooted in good old fashioned receipts and bringing it up to modern times.

Ken Yeung at VentureBeat wrote about flexReceipt's very clever solution in a recent article:

"At a time when everything is being made 'smarter,' the time has come for a smart receipt. That note you receive in paper format or electronically after making a purchase hasn’t really evolved for decades, and merchants are losing out on a potentially valuable touch point. FlexReceipts enables retailers to exploit this proof of purchase with targeted offers based on data they know about the customer.

This Y Combinator startup provides a marketing platform that captures a customer’s email address at the point of sale and combines that with any known information to engage them through the electronic receipt. The company leverages the data gleaned to embed custom promotions, product recommendations, videos, surveys, and more, all with a focus on growing loyalty. So if you happen to buy a shirt from Macy’s, for example, and then enter in your email address to receive an electronic receipt, FlexReceipts may include a coupon toward your next purchase or notify you of other clothing that goes with the shirt you just bought.

'On a website, retailers know who you are and can tailor the experience for you. FlexReceipts is very similar to that but with receipts. We know who you are, what you’ve purchased in the past, and can better pinpoint you with the right targeted promotions, discounts, and more,' cofounder Jay Patel told VentureBeat in an interview."

Read the full story about how flexReceipt works in VentureBeat here.

Hykso (YC W16) Brings Tech and Data to Kickboxing, Boxing, and MMA Training

Hykso is a company launching out of our Winter 2016 class that helps boxers throw better, stronger punches -- and makes the sport more engaging for people watching at home.

With some 35 million people worldwide training in boxing, kickboxing, and mixed martial arts (MMA), Hykso brings a new level of data and technology to an increasingly popular sport. Hykso's wrist sensors track how fast and frequent punches are, allowing the fighter to improve his or her form and also providing data to broadcasters that can help engage viewers -- much like tracking a baseball's pitch velocity.

VentureBeat's Ken Yeung wrote about Hykso in a story published recently:

"Khalil Zahar started Hykso while he was a graduate student at the University of Toronto, where he studied micro-electro mechanical systems. As a boxer, he found the instruction to be 'extremely subjective' and decided to explore the use of a performance-tracking sensor he hoped would provide 'concrete, quantifiable feedback.' Working alongside cofounders Alexander Marcotte, Alexander Lapointe, Tommy Duquette, and Charles Lampert, Zahar wants to one day own the combat sports market.

'Our ultimate vision is to leverage our expertise in embedded system gesture recognition, motion tracking, and data analysis to move into other sports that are starving for better sports-specific metrics,' Duquette told VentureBeat in an email.

With Hykso’s mobile app, coaches and athletes are able to monitor punch output as it happens."
Read the story on VentureBeat here, and check out Hykso's pre-order campaign, which is selling the wrist sensor product for $131.95, 40 percent off of list price.

Elucify (YC W16) Is an AI-Powered Plugin That Keeps Sales Contact Lists up to Date

Over the course of one year, 30 percent of a company's contact data becomes invalid due to people changing jobs and leaving positions. The cleaning, sourcing, and researching of accurate data tends to fall to the company's salespeople, who spend over two-thirds of their days trying to find accurate information about prospects.

Elucify does those duties automatically, letting the salespeople get back to their real jobs -- selling. As an artificial intelligence-powered add-on to Salesforce, Elucify finds the most current contact information for prospective customers and updates a company's records within 10 seconds.

TechCrunch's Ron Miller wrote about the company in a recently published article:

"Elucify, a member of the Y Combinator Winter 2016 class wants to solve an annoying and persistent problem for sales people — making sure they have the most recent customer contact data.

To solve this problem, the company created a plug-in for Salesforce.com CRM based on machine learning and artificial intelligence. The system connects to various public and private data sources looking for the most current contact information, according to Gerald Fong, Elucify CEO and co-founder.

...'The pain point we are focusing on is the pain sales teams run into every day. They spend time hunting for [good contact] data every day. Instead of spending time on the phone, they are spending a lot of time on various websites trying to verify [contact] information,' Fong told TechCrunch."

Read the full story on TechCrunch here.

Castle (YC W16) is a Tech-Powered Rental Property Management Company

There are 43 million rental units in the United States, and most of them are currently managed with some combination of faxes, mail, and unreturned voicemails on the landlord’s personal phone. To avoid this mess, owners often spend 10 percent or more of their rental income on a traditional property management company, with frequently disappointing results.

Castle is a company launching out of our current class that manages rental homes for landlords using automation and on-demand labor -- allowing owners to kick back, relax, and never worry about their rental properties again.

TechCrunch's Fitz Tepper wrote about Castle in a story published recently:

"Property management is one of those industries that typically lags behind the rest of the U.S. economy in terms of technology, customer service and transparency.

Castle, part of YC’s Winter 2016 class, is trying to bring the industry up to date with its automated property management platform.

The site consolidates all of the hard parts of property management — like property listing and marketing, tenant screening, rent collection and maintenance — into an easy to use interface that doesn’t look like it was designed in the 1990s.

But how has Castle consolidated all these services into one platform? Mainly through a combination of technology and on-demand labor."

Read the full story on TechCrunch here.

Enflux (YC W16) Makes Workout Clothes that Double as a Personal Trainer

Hiring a personal trainer to monitor every move of your workout for safety and effectiveness is something so expensive that it's out of reach for most of us. Enflux is a company launching out of our Winter 2016 class that wants to be the always-available personal trainer for everyone.

Enflux makes smart athletic clothing that acts as a fitness coach, measuring the quality of your form, the intensity of your workout, and other advanced exercise metrics through 3D sensors.

VentureBeat's Ken Yeung wrote about Enflux in a story published recently:

"Started by Doug Hoang, Mickey Ferri, and Elijah Schuldt, this Y Combinator-backed startup has developed technology and clothing that could be akin to a Fitbit, but for your entire body. Its shirts and pants have at least five separate motion sensors connected together, tracking your movements and syncing the data with Enflux’s Android app via Bluetooth. There’s also a built-in oxygen and heart monitor, and the batteries should last up to a month, depending on how active you are.

The athletic clothing is the latest iteration of Enflux over the past three years. The company had previously experimented with a strapped sensor and a live avatar that provided feedback. Eventually it developed a system of five independent sensors, integrated with each other by wire.

Enflux began when Hoang was training for triathlons and kept getting injured at the gym. He turned to Schuldt, an electrical engineer, for help, and the two began looking at using sensors to analyze Hoang’s motion.

'Form is everything for exercise,' Ferri told VentureBeat. 'What we do is analyze the quality of the form, improve workout efficiency, and reduce injuries.'"

Read the full story on VentureBeat here.

Compgun (YC W16) Makes Sales Commissions Clear, Simple, and Effective

In the enterprise software space, commissions pretty much make the world go 'round: In the United States alone, B2B companies spend some $800 billion on sales incentives annually. That's roughly three times what they spend on marketing. 

Compgun is a company in our Winter 2016 class that empowers companies to maximize ROI on their commission plans, making it clear and simple to gauge how much commission each salesperson has earned, and reward the highest performing staffers.

VentureBeat's Ken Yeung wrote about Compgun in a recently published story:

"'We’re trying to create the first sales commission software that everyone can love,' CTO Tim Sze told VentureBeat. Compgun functions as a self-serve platform with companies being onboarded in less than a day.

Founded by Sze and CEO Jake Seip, this Y Combinator-backed startup allows its customers to build, test, and administer their commission structures for salespeople. It also provides real-time analytics that lets you monitor individual performance and team rankings. Customized dashboards and graphs are also available in the subscription platform. Compgun will host your sales data and metrics, which it uses to build intermediate calculations and goals for your team to keep track of.

The founders are longtime friends, and when they started a previous business together, they discovered that sales commission is a giant pain point for businesses."

Read the full story and see screenshots of Compgun in action here.

Birdly (YC W16) Lets You Use Slack to Easily Access Data From Other Enterprise Apps

More and more companies are using Slack as a core communication tool, to help simplify their workflows and do more things in one central place.

Birdly is a startup in our current Winter 2016 class that helps companies do that even more, by allowing them to access customer data stored in other enterprise apps such as Salesforce and Zendesk inside their corporate Slack channels.

TechCrunch's Matthew Lynley wrote about Birdly in a recent story:

"The bots are coming, and Quang Hoang knows it — so much so that he’s willing to bet his entire company on it. So what once started out as an app like Expensify is now Birdly, a Slack bot that makes it easier to call up customer data directly within Slack from sources like Salesforce and Zendesk.

'It was really difficult for companies to adopt [the app] because you had to relegate to another mobile app, another password to remember, another process,' Hoang said. 'The second problem we had was for the manager and CFO, it was another tool to deploy, and just doing it on top of Slack is much easier because you just need two minutes and everyone can use it.'

Slack administrators log in to their accounts that they want to link to Birdly, like Stripe, Zendesk or Salesforce, and then anyone can use the bot to call up information from that account. They request info from the bot, which then returns it in-line in Slack, with an option to jump to those various services for more information."

Read the full story on TechCrunch here.

Pulpix (YC W16) Boosts Traffic and Engagement for Online Video Publishers

All online publishers are looking for ways to boost their traffic and revenue. Pulpix is a company launching out of our Winter 2016 class that does just that, helping dramatically increase publishers' views and engagement within their online video content.

Business Insider's Nathan McAlone wrote about Pulpix and the problem it's addressing in a story published recently:

"Pulpix has taken a different approach to the idea of video 'recommendations,' one that has more to do with design than math. In its beta, Pulpix has helped 30 partners like Vice, GQ, and Le Monde drive an average 20% increase in video views for users who interact with Pulpix's overlay technology.

'We felt there was something missing in video,' cofounder Sabry Otmani tells Business Insider. With text articles, you have links that can easily give you deeper information. You jump into a new article if you want and then come right back where you left off. It's not as simple for video. Most of the time, everything is tucked inside because it's painful to bounce around, Otmani says.

That has led most video publishers to just stick recommendations at the end of the video, to try and stop you from leaving.

But Pulpix’s main design thesis is that you, the user, don’t just want a recommendation to be the next thing you watch. Sometimes you want to see articles, social pages, or other types of information while you are still watching the video."

Read the full story about Pulpix and how it works here.