Y Combinator and Imagine K12 at Princeton, Harvard, MIT & Dartmouth this week

How do you come up with an idea? 
Should you start a startup in college?
How do you raise money as an edtech company? 

Hear short talks from YC partners Sam Altman, Qasar Younis and Geoff Ralston (YC partner and founder of Imagine K12).

Wednesday, March 4 - 6:30pm ET
Dodds Auditorium, Robertson Hall
More info here

Thursday, March 5 - 5pm ET
Room 54-100
More info here

Thursday, March 5 - 7:30pm ET
Northwest Labs B101 
More info here

Friday, March 6 - 2pm-3pm ET 
DEN Innovation Center (4 Currier Place, Hanover, NH)
More info here

Questions? Send them to info@ycombinator.com.

Shift Messenger (YC W15) Makes It Easy For Workers To Swap Hours

"Anyone who has worked a retail job knows what a pain it is to take time off. You usually have to find someone to cover your shift and, unless you’ve managed to arrange your schedule in advance, that often entails panicked texts and phone calls to co-workers. A new startup called Shift Messenger wants to make the process less painful.

Backed by Y Combinator, Shift Messenger was founded by Austin Vedder and Matt Tognetti. Former Redbeacon employees, the two got a look at the scheduling problems faced by retail workers after the home services marketplace was acquired by Home Depot."

Read the full story on TechCrunch

YesGraph (YC W15) Raises A Million To Build A Better Referral System For Mobile Apps

"When launching a new consumer application, especially those in the social space, many developers today rely on an invite mechanism that has the app’s initial user base reaching out and recommending the app to their friends. But today, these invite systems are often fairly basic – they connect to a phone’s address book and then force the user to sift through their hundreds of contacts for those they think would be interested in joining the new app, too.

A Y Combinator-backed startup called YesGraph wants to make these invite and referral systems more intelligent, with a tool for developers that puts the best contacts – meaning those who are most likely to accept an invite – at the top of the list provided to users.

The company has also now raised a $1 million seed round led by Bloomberg Beta to fund the service’s further development."

YC Digest - 2/20-2/26

Top Stories from the YC World - 2/20/15-2/26/15
Videos from the Female Founders Conference are now online



Where to start a startup by Yuri Sagalov

Booktrope (YC W15) Rethinks Book Publishing

If you’re a writer, you’ve probably heard horror stories about the publishing industry — books that are rejected by publisher after publisher, books that sit in submission piles for years, books that are published but basically disappear without publisher support.

At the same time, self-publishing has its risks for authors, too. You could end up paying a lot of your own money to an editor and/or a designer, and if you don’t, you could end up with a poorly edited book and a lame cover that looks, well, self-published.

So Booktrope, part of the current class of startups at Y Combinator, is taking a different approach. On one level, Booktrope is a publisher itself, but one that allows authors to go around the gatekeepers of traditional publishing while still working with a professional team.

Open Listings (YC W15) Enables Home Buyers To Purchase Houses Without Real Estate Agents

"Open Listings is a startup fresh out of the current Y Combinator batch that’s easing the home buying process by letting people move forward without real estate agents.

Because two-thirds of the overall residential market involves repeat buyers, some people may not want to rely on agents because they’re already familiar with what to do. So instead, Open Listings will refund the 3 percent agent commission, which can amount to tens of thousands of dollars here in California, and charge a flat fee instead. It’s basically a self-service platform with on-demand human experts.

Their belief is that the Internet is diminishing the role of the real estate agent by making it a lot easier to find homes, but commissions are getting out of control as they rise with the overall (insane) cost of real estate. (I’m mostly referring to California, which is Open Listings’ first market and makes up about 15 percent of national home sales.)"

Read the full story on TechCrunch

20n (YC W15), A YC Synthetic Biology Startup, Uses Software To Engineer Microbes For Chemical-Making

"20n, one of a wave of biotech-related startups that Y Combinator is starting to fund, is the brainchild of a UC Berkeley professor and a post-doc.

Saurabh Srivastava and J. Christopher Anderson have worked together for several years developing software that can design genetically engineered microbes to make specific chemicals. While at their DARPA-backed lab at UC Berkeley, they created bacteria that could produce acetaminophen or Tylenol.

Their special sauce is their software platform. While there are companies that do license out ways to create bacteria that produce specialty chemicals, the process of identifying how to create these microbes is tedious. 20n says its data mining technology can get to 100 times more chemicals than were previously thought possible."

Read the full story on TechCrunch

Bright (YC W15) Aims To Bring Solar Power To Mexico

"Jonah Greenberger envisions Mexico’s rooftops covered in cost-effective, environmentally friendly, dark blue solar panels. The 28-year-old founder of Y Combinator-backed solar power startup Bright left his job working in fossil fuels at Chevron to work on lowering exorbitant energy costs for the people of Mexico.

“The third world pays the most for electricity. Mexico has the most potential to be disrupted because it’s really sunny there,” he told me over the phone.

The electric system in Mexico is both expensive and complicated. The government subsidizes the poorest people, and the wealthier citizens end up paying the most. Fees can get up to over $4,000 USD in the hot month of August when not subsidized, according to the Mexican Federal Electric Commission."

Answerbook (YC W15) Helps Retailers Automate Personalized Email Campaigns

"A team of e-commerce vets is today launching a new service aimed at online retailers called Answerbook which allows companies to better target shoppers with highly personalized emails based on those customers’ website and email interactions as well as their purchase history. The solution today is largely aimed at smaller retailers, like those hosting their sites on e-commerce platforms like Shopify, where they have somewhere between half a million to a million in sales.

However, the company is already talking to larger businesses in an effort to develop an enterprise tier to its service, we’re told.

Answerbook was founded last year by Chris Nguyen and Lee Liu, both of whom have backgrounds in e-commerce and using data for targeting purposes. The two had previously built and sold their recruiting site JobLoft to onTargetjobs in 2007, and then sold dating site Cupid.com to EasyDate. They also founded a social commerce site called TeamSave in 2010."

Read the full story on TechCrunch

For Y Combinator-funded influencer startup Themidgame (YC W15), it’s about more than money

"This story is not just about a startup that wants to redefine its category. 

This story is about a startup that wants to redefine its category — and become a model to spark the startup scene in the home country of its cofounders, Colombians Andrés Felipe Diaz and Carlos Saavedra.

The company, Themidgame, has just scored $120,000 from famed seed accelerator Y Combinator — and gained access to the accompanying ecosystem of contacts — so it can add human interaction to the management of influencers. Next month, it presents at the accelerator’s Demo Day."

Read the full story on VentureBeat