FarmLogs (YC W12) Raises $4M Series A To Further Advance Farming Into The Age of Apps

Just a year after securing $1 million in seed funding, Michigan-based FarmLogs is announcing a $4 million Series A led by Drive Capital. The company says it is looking forward to a big 2014 and the co-founder and CEO tells me the company will use the influx of cash to execute on an aggressive product growth plan for the upcoming year.

Jesse Vollmar, CEO and co-founder of FarmLogs, explained to me that the company is building out its product to intelligently predict and optimize crop rotations as well as automate activity data collection. FarmLogs is also looking to ingest data collected by modern farming equipment that he tells me traditionally is rarely exported. By using low-cost Bluetooth hardware, the company expects to be able to analyse and upload this data in real time.

The Y Combinator alum touts the fact that 5% of farms in the US. are currently using its software. It’s an impressive stat considering the startup just graduated from YC in early 2012.

Airware (YC W13) Demos Its Drone Platform By Protecting Rhinos From Poachers


Airware wants to prove drones have plenty of uses beyond killing people. Today the unmanned aerial vehicle hardware/software/firmware startup detailed how it’s built and deployed special drones to thwart animal poachers in Kenya, Africa. The demo could build interest for the launch of Airware’s commercial drone platform later this year.

Airware was founded in 2010 and graduated from Y Combinator in March 2013 with the goal of bringing the drone revolution to a wide variety of businesses and other areas such as precision agriculture, land management, infrastructure inspection of power lines or oil derricks, and search and rescue.

E la Carte (YC W10) on the right way to go after big clients

A year after starting a restaurant-technology firm, Rajat Suri got an introduction to what would become by far his biggest client—the casual-dining chain Applebee's International.

Mr. Suri's startup, E la Carte, makes software for tablet devices that allows diners to order and pay for meals from their tables without the aid of restaurant staff. The 28-year-old came up with the idea after he and about a dozen friends struggled to divide up a tab at a restaurant.

While the introduction to Applebee's resulted in a lucrative outcome, Mr. Suri says striking a deal with such a big corporation required a lot more time, effort and risk than he anticipated.

The sale took three years to complete, compared with as little as one hour for deals with smaller clients. What's more, Applebee's required E la Carte to spend a full year testing its software at select outlets—and it had to compete against a rival business for the same opportunity.

FOBO (YC S11) Launches In San Francisco To Become The Fastest, Easiest Way To Sell Your Consumer Electronics

By now you probably know that Craigslist sucks as a way to sell stuff. You have to contend with spam emails, buyers who promise to purchase your goods but flake, and people who show up then try to haggle down the price after the fact. But somehow, no one has figured out a way to make it better or provide a real alternative.

Well, there’s a new app out called FOBO that aims to solve all those problems, providing users with a local marketplace for selling consumer electronics.

FOBO launches in San Francisco today, offering its users a new way to sell goods via mobile app. It gets rid of all the hassle that is usually associated with local marketplaces and makes it ultra-simple and ultra-fast to do so. The app guarantees sellers will get a certain price for their devices and will be paid upfront, and ensures that their product is sold fast — within 97 minutes.

Overstock.com becomes the first major online retailer to embrace Bitcoin powered by Coinbase (YC S12)

Overstock.com is now accepting payments in bitcoin, making it the first major online retailer to embrace the increasingly popular but controversial digital currency.

Since December, Overstock’s free-thinking CEO and chairman, Patrick Byrne, has been telling anyone who would listen that his company would adopt bitcoin sometime in the next six months. But Byrne is an impatient man. Last Tuesday, the company struck a deal to handle bitcoin payments through a service operated by the suddenly hot San Francisco startup Coinbase, and since then, a team of Overstock engineers has worked almost every waking hour to prepare the site for what is undeniably a key moment in the digital currency’s short history.

“I felt I had tipped my hand,” Byrne says. “I didn’t want someone else to beat us.”

So, just minutes ago, Overstock started accepting bitcoin payments for everything it sells, from laptops and TVs to faucets and bar stools. Byrne believes this can ultimately boost the company’s bottom line, but that’s not his only aim. For Byrne, a rather opinionated libertarian who’s unafraid to take his company places others fear to tread, embracing the cryptocurrency is as much a political statement as a business decision. Like so many others, he believes bitcoin can free the world from the control of big banks and big government. “It helps us fight the machine,” he says.

Read the full article at Wired

Second leg of Alexis Ohanian's Without Their Permission tour starts next week

The second leg of Alexis Ohanian's Without Their Permission tour kicks off next week. YC will be joining Alexis at the following stops: 

> Monday, January 13: University of Toronto - Fireside with AeroFS founder and part-time YC partner Yuri Sagalov

> Thursday, January 23: CalTech - Office hours with YC partner Kevin Hale

> Friday, January 24: UCLA - Office hours with YC partner Kevin Hale

> Sunday, January 26: University of Washington - Fireside with Sift Science cofounder Jason Tan

> Monday, January 27: Stanford University - Fireside with YC partner and Posterous cofounder Garry Tan and office hours with YC partners

> Tuesday, January 28: UC Berkeley - Fireside with Caviar cofounder Jason Wang and office hours with YC partner Kevin Hale

> Wednesday, January 29: University of Oregon - Fireside with Wevorce cofounder Jeff Reynolds 

> Monday, February 3: Dartmouth College - Fireside with Priceonomics cofounder Rohin Dhar

> Tuesday, February 4: Syracuse University 

> Wednesday, February 5: Cornell University

> Tuesday, February 18: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne - Office hours with YC partner Sam Altman

> Wednesday, February 19: Northwestern University - Fireside with YC Director of Outreach Kat Manalac

> Wednesday, February 19: University of Chicago - Office hours with YC partner Sam Altman 

SEE THE FULL TOUR SCHEDULE HERE


Happy New Year from Y Combinator

We’ve collected advice from the founders of a few YC companies that can help you with some common New Year’s resolutions.

> Land a new job

HackerRank: A community of programmers who solve interesting problems for fun, prizes and jobs.

“Companies are beginning to place more importance on the stuff you have done rather than academic credentials (example: https://www.hackerrank.com/blog/jinfu). Here are some of the things you can/should do:

- Pick a project or app that you’d really like to build; build a prototype version of that and keep improving on the concept/idea.

- For programmers, knowing basic data structures and algorithms is essential for any job or interview. Read through Tim Robertson’s awesome comment on it. Some books that'll be of great help are Introduction to Algorithms and Cracking the Coding Interview.

- More and more companies are hosting programming challenges on their careers page (e.g., QuoraEvernoteFacebook). This is a great opportunity to get noticed by these companies.

- Practice, practice, practice. There are a number of high profile contests coming up. We have a running contest calendar which aggregates all contests happening across the world. Pick different kinds of challenges, try to solve them on your own and then look at the best solver's solution."

- Vivek Ravisankar, Cofounder, HackerRank

Other resources to help you get a new job:
Hire Art: Find startup jobs (marketing, sales, customer service & operations, biz dev) and learn more about the startups who are hiring.

The Muse: Learn about job opportunities and career paths, get career advice from experts and read profiles of the most interesting places to work.

> Learn to code

Codecademy: An easy, interactive way to learn to code.

“Learning to code is a lifelong journey—starting small and making it a habit early on is super important.  Pick a small and achievable goal, build a simple website or an easy game, and commit to it on a timeline. Focus on internalizing what you're learning and all your progress, and don't give up!”

- Zach Sims, Cofounder and CEO, Codecademy

CodeCombat: Learn to code by playing a game.

“Here are the things I wish someone had told me about learning to code back when I was first learning:

1) Don't worry about the language you learn, it doesn't matter. If you spend more than 10 minutes thinking about this, just learn JavaScript.

2) Stick with it.  Like a musical instrument or sport, programming isn't a skill you can acquire in an hour. Set a goal (perhaps to make a website) and move toward it regularly.

3) Programming can be hard and frustrating. No matter how easy it looks, every new programmer struggles, and every new programmer debugs. It's part of the process.”

- George Saines, Cofounder and CEO, CodeCombat

Hacker School: A free, 3-month school in New York for becoming a better programmer.

On learning to become a better programmer:

“Get your code reviewed regularly, ideally by someone who knows the language you're using better than you do. A good way to do this is to ask your reviewer to do a pull request and then discuss the changes in person or on Skype.

Refactor or rewrite code you wrote at least three months ago. It's a good sign if you think your old code is kind of gross, since that means you've improved since you wrote it. Ask yourself what you could have done differently to make your code easier for you to read and understand now and then do it. (Bonus: repeat this process in another three months.)

Most importantly: Write lots of code. Programming is a craft and the best way to get better at it is to actually do it.”

- Nicholas Bergson-Shilcock, Cofounder, Hacker School (you can find more advice in the Hacker School User's Manual)

One Month Rails: Build a live prototype of a web application in less than a month.
"Taking small steps to get involved in the tech community can help you tremendously if you run into problems while you're learning how to code. Sometimes you won't understand something, or run into an error that may be scary for a beginner but very easy for a more experienced coder to quickly help you out with. Find some meetups in your area on meetup.com, get comfortable posting questions on StackOverflow, and subscribe to coding subreddits like r/learnprogramming/ or r/learnruby. Having an active community for support makes a huge difference when you're learning any new skill."

- Mattan Griffel, Cofounder and CEO, One Month

> Take a trip

Vayable: A travel experience marketplace powered by locals.

“The opportunity to travel is rare for most of us, so making the most of the experience is important. Don't be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone and off the beaten path—that's when the best memories are created and highest levels of sustained happiness are achieved. Talk to as many new people as you can and embrace the fact that public wifi is still scarce and roaming charges are so expensive as a gift that forces you to be present and soak in your surroundings.”

- Jamie Wong, Cofounder and CEO, Vayable

Other resources to help you plan your travels:

Airbnb: Vacation rentals, apartments and rooms for rent from people in over 34,000 cities and 192 countries.

Hipmunk: Online travel search designed to take the agony out of travel planning.

> Be smarter with money

ReadyforZero: Online tools that will help you manage and pay off credit cards, mortgages, student loans and other loans.

“Tackling debt (just like with entrepreneurship) requires focus and persistence. To pay off debt faster in 2014, the three most important actions to take are:

1) Figure out exactly where you stand i.e. how much you owe including the interest rates and to whom you owe it

2) Commit a total monthly debt repayment amount you can afford then automate your payments while watching your cash closely

3) Track progress on both your credit score and debt repayment often to stay motivated.

We wrote software that can help you do all this, but it's certainly possible to do it on your own as well!”

- Rod Ebrahimi, Cofounder and CEO, ReadyforZero

FutureAdvisor: An online investment advisor that automatically manages your investments to help you do better with your money.

“Investing in your financial future is a project with a very long lead time, so starting early will be more powerful than almost any measure of last-minute heroics. The best way to succeed in your "invest for my retirement" new year's resolution is simply to start early and continue to contribute regularly to your 401(k), IRA, and other accounts. Start early, rebalance regularly, and keep an eye on taxes - do this yourself or have a service like ours do it for you, but either way, your future self will thank you.”

- Bo Lu, Cofounder and CEO, FutureAdvisor

> Make a positive impact in the world

Watsi: Directly fund low-cost, high-impact medical care for people in need.  

"Studies show that generosity makes us happier, helps us live longer, and is an important part of the human condition. But it can be challenging to decide who to support and how to give. If one of your resolutions is to help others in 2014, my advice would be to listen to the people around you. Usually the best opportunities to give find you."

- Chase Adam, Cofounder, Watsi

Microryza: Discover, fund and experience new scientific discoveries.

“Do things that are initially uncomfortable. The world will be better for it. Our greatest source of inspiration comes from the researchers who leave their comfort zones to get their projects successfully funded. Most scientists would prefer to be left to their research, but the greatest value we've seen so far has come from creating communities that also believe in pushing the boundaries of human knowledge."

- Skander Mzali, Cofounder, Microryza


Clever (YC S12) featured in the NYTimes: A Start-Up Moves Teachers Past Data Entry

Using computers to improve education has been one of the great unmet hopes of the technology revolution. Billions have been spent and machines have deployed everywhere, but most fundamental measures of student achievement haven’t particularly improved.

Maybe we’ve been looking in the wrong places for improvement. In at least one success story, cloud-based computing systems appear to help free teachers focus on their core job of teaching students, instead of entering data about them.

Clever, a San Francisco company, recently put its online software into 15,000 schools. That is slightly more than one in nine American schools. Not bad for a product released less than two years ago.