There are so many things that could be done to make schools better — improving teaching methods, curbing dropout rates, cutting down on bullying.
“But there’s no way to understand what’s going on, because there’s not enough data analysis, not enough data being collected, and nobody there to analyze it,” according to Panorama Education co-founder Aaron Feuer. “This would never be acceptable at a company, because nobody would know what’s going on.”
That pitch worked on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who, along with his wife Priscilla Chan, is co-leading a $4 million investment in Panorama, which runs and analyzes surveys at 4,000 K-12 schools.
When Occupy Wall Street decided to accept donations, the eclectic group of protestors turned to crowdfunding service WePay, which helped Occupy raise over $1 million with its donation tool across hundreds of campaigns.
But WePay isn’t interested in individual campaigns anymore.
Basic tools represent WePay’s legacy business, CEO Bill Clerico told VentureBeat. WePay’s primary focus now is providing services to other crowdfunding sites through its API.
It’s a narrower scope than e-commerce, but one that has paid off for the payments startup, which is processing an average 648 percent more crowdfunding volume every month than in 2012 — or up to $1.5 million daily.
“I don’t think the market realizes how big we are from a volume perspective,” WePay CEO Bill Clerico told VentureBeat. “A lot of people are paying attention to Braintree and Stripe, but I think we’re in the same league from a size perspective.”
Read the full article in Business Insider
I often find myself pressed for time. Wouldn't it be great to be in two places at once, being twice as productive?
This is where a company called MobileWorks comes in extremely handy. It's a crowdsourced virtual personal assistant platform that funnels your tasks to workers around the world based on who's best equipped to handle them for you.
I talked to CEO Anand Kulkarni to learn about the company, took some notes, and sent those notes in to MobileWorks to have them turn it into a finished piece of writing. (I didn't pay them for this, it was a free test-drive of the service.)
Here it is, my shorthand notes turned into a longer-form article by MobileWorks:"We’re making hiring obsolete," said Anand Kulkarni in a conversation with Business Insider. As CEO of MobileWorks, a fast-growing crowdsourcing company, he provides customized solutions for your business, guaranteeing accurate, high quality work with no stress on your part, and for a low cost. He’s changing the way business owners get work done.
"We’re making virtual staffers as reliable as everyday employees. We’re tracking workers all over the world to figure out who’s best for a given job," Kulkarni said. The MobileWorks routing system matches your tasks to the most qualified workers, which means you can rest assured that your job will be completed by someone with previous experience and expertise in your field.
I have something to get off my chest: I live in New Jersey, so by definition that makes me a “Jersey driver”. I’ve never thought of myself as the sort of manically aggressive road warrior that befits the stereotype (and I’d argue that Pennsylvania drivers are way worse), but Y Combinator-backed Automatic’s Link dongle begs to differ. It’s been plugged into my car for the better part of two weeks now, dutifully tracking all my hard stops, all my hasty starts at green lights, and all the times I’ve perhaps pushed the car a bit too hard.
And the verdict is in: I’m exactly what I thought I wasn’t. I’m a stereotypical New Jersey driver. As the old adage goes, the first step to recovering is admitting you have a problem, and Automatic’s neat little dongle + app combo has helped me to realize just that.
Ending a marriage has always been messy and complicated, but according to Wevorce, it doesn’t have to be. Founder Michelle Crosby, a family lawyer by trade, left her job at a large firm and started working in alternative dispute resolution. As a child of divorce, Michelle had seen firsthand how destructive the proceedings could be, and sought to change the system.
Michelle architected a six-step process that combined ”neuroscience, behavioral science, pattern recognition, tools and technology to predictively and proactively manage the emotional, financial and legal issues inherent in ending a marriage.”  She wanted to establish an affordable system that focused on the well-being of the kids and kept families out of court.
Michelle realized she was on to something exciting when she mapped out her vision on the back of a napkin, and Jeff Reynolds (now her co-founder) exclaimed, "This is going to change the world." The two began building Wevorce, and applied to Y Combinator a year later.
We sat down with Michelle to talk about making a dent in the universe, managing intangibles, and advice for the next batch of YC applicants.
YC: How did you decide to apply to YC?
Michelle: A year after we started working on Wevorce, Jeff and I sat down for breakfast. We had just finished reading a biography of Steve Jobs and were talking about how we wanted to grow a really big company. Jeff had said, “I want to make a dent in the universe.”
My brother was an early YC grad. He and his cofounder started Zenter back in 2007, which was acquired by Google right after Demo Day. He had a YC success story, but because I had a background as a lawyer, I always thought his world was very different from mine. When I decided to apply to YC, I didn’t think there was a chance in hell we’d get in. But my brother said we had to try.
YC: What was the most surprising part of the program?
Michelle: You become somewhat fearless. Building something new is nerve racking, but Y Combinator gives you the audacity to fail fast. They completely reframe failure. Failure isn’t failure, it’s an opportunity to learn. When you start thinking about it that way, you start moving faster.
YC: What was the most useful piece of advice you heard from a Tuesday night dinner speaker?
Michelle: The line that sticks with me is from Brian Chesky of Airbnb. The week he spoke, he was on the cover of Forbes and they’d just pulled a billion dollar valuation. He talked about the discrepancy between how people see you as you gain traction, versus how you view the experience as a founder. He said, "Everyone sees us as this overnight success, but really it’s 1000 nights of misery."
That’s helped me so many times. You have days where you think you’re going to be the next Google and the next day you think it’s coming off the wheels. Tuesday dinners were our medicine for getting through the week. After interacting with the other founders, we came out feeling motivated, normalized. We realized we weren’t going crazy—it’s all just part of the process.
YC: What's been the hardest part of running a startup so far?
Michelle: Managing intangibles. As a founder you get great at measuring tangible things, like metrics. It's harder to measure intangibles like: What’s the morale of the team when you’re driving them hard? Is everyone clear on the benchmarks? When you’re in YC, you get 3 months of undivided focus and it’s awesome. Then you’re off, and you still have to build a company and life happens.
I believe the ability to move through those intangibles is what makes great companies. It’s not robotic. The real art of running a company comes down to managing those intangibles for yourself and for your team.
YC: What do you wish you'd known when you first started?
Michelle: I had no idea how much my perspective would change—in a good way. In YC, you walk through this process of getting things done and building a company, and when you come out of it, the world looks different. Everything feels a little more like “Why not try?” You have more optimism, you learn to fail fast, you learn to reframe failure. There’s nothing you can’t try.
YC: What advice would you give to founders applying to the next batch?
Michelle: Swing for the fences. It’s an amazing opportunity, and you have to give it all you’ve got. You will be surrounded by people who are smarter than you—take advantage of that—and you have this opportunity to learn at a rate that most people can’t even fathom. Have the audacity to try and the humility to learn, and enjoy it. Don’t take yourself too seriously. It’s a daily dance between self confidence and humility, and between those two you end up becoming a leader—a leader of a vision, and a leader of a company.
 A line from Wevorce’s original application. More excerpts from Wevorce’s application below.
Excerpts from Wevorce’s application:
John Milinovich, cofounder of URX, posted a story about their YC experience on his blog.
Read more on John Milinovich's blog
"On my first day as, “John Milinovich, Startup CEO” I was shell-shocked. I stared at an empty GMail inbox, unsure of where to start. The novelty quickly faded to the reality of the situation: I needed help. In the early days of a startup, you are battling inertia: how do you force something into existence that doesn’t exist yet?
I reached out to all of the mentors, friends and peers whose opinions I trusted to better understand how to get started. I was humbled by people’s response—people were so excited that I was going after my dreams and were willing to do whatever they could to help out. This led to several introductions, including to potential customers, investors and advisors.
At first, I was scared to share our idea with people. What if they didn’t like our product? What if they thought it wasn’t useful? What if they actually wanted to use it? I didn’t feel we were ready yet, but decided to put ourselves out there anyways.
This process taught me the most valuable lesson I learned early on: no matter what you’re building or “how early” you are in your development, it is never too early to start talking to potential customers. Customers (or users, in B2C companies) are the lifeblood of startups, and step 0 is to understand their problems and feel their pain. The more customers you speak with, the more perspective you gain—if you hear the same things multiple times, it’s probably something you should take into account.
In mid-April, I had the chance to meet Dave Fowler, the CEO of Chartio. Chartio was one of our neighbors in South Park, and had gone through YC a few years prior. It was a beautiful day outside, so we decide to walk around the Park. We ran into Max Mullen, one of the founders of Instacart (also YC) and we hit it off right away. I shared a bit about what we were working on at URX, and within 5 minutes Max said, “Yep, that sounds awesome – we would totally use this, sign us up.” Serendipity had played its hand again, and we had just landed our first customer. Our product wasn’t fully built yet, but Max was committed to working with us to fully help us understand Instacart’s needs.
By this point, we had been invited to interview for the Summer 2013 class of Y Combinator and decided to, “make our own luck” and talk to as many YC founders as possible to get a grasp on the interview process. Bruno introduced us to Sumon Sadhu, who founded Snaptalent out of YC’s S’08 class. Sumon is, single handedly, the most talented strategist and persuasive communicator that I’d ever met. He taught us how the Y Combinator interview process works and hammered it into our heads that, no matter what, we need to clearly articulate our 5 Main Points in our interview. We boiled down the entirety of “Why we should be in YC” to five bullet points and committed them to memory.
A few days later we interviewed with Geoff Ralston, Sam Altman, and Garry Tan and it was the most intense 10 minutes of our lives. The interviews are as difficult as they are made out to be, but we crushed it. We got our points across and walked out confident that we had made a good impression. (In retrospect, I’m proud that all of the YC partners we interviewed with ended up becoming investors in URX, along with Sumon)."
Read the full article in TechCrunch
Mobile deeplinks open specific pages within apps, and they’re about to transform ecommerce.URX is a new deeplink mobile advertising startup that’s raised $3.1 million from A-list investors to help ecommerce companies get existing users back in their apps and spending money. URX places ads on other mobile properties that deeplink to purchase pages in apps like Hotel Tonight and LivingSocial.
Investors in Y Combinator Summer 2012 startup URX’s $3.1 million seed round include First Round Capital, Maverick Capital, Google Ventures, SV Angel, Betaworks, Crunchfund (Disclosure: run by TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington), Greylock, CyberAgent, Fuel Capital, Garry Tan, Alexis Ohanian, Charlie Cheever, Sam Altman, Paul Bucheit, Geoff Ralston, Gus Fuldner, Plug & Play Ventures, Paul Sethi, Bill Peckovich, Joe Montana, Mehul Nariyawal, Dalton Caldwell, Virginia Turner, Andre Ranadive, Linda MacKenzie, Jamie Lee Curtis, Christopher Guest, Sumon Sadhu, Bruno Bowden, Chris Look, Nicholas Smith, and the Erickson Family.
Read more on Science Exchange's blog
"Over a year ago, I began my mission to improve scientific reproducibility. I created the Reproducibility Initiative with PLOS, figshare, and Mendeley to provide a mechanism for scientists to independently replicate findings and be rewarded for doing so. We have made great strides in our effort, such as the validation of more than 1000 antibodies for antibodies-online. However, today is the day that I have made progress very near and dear to my heart. The Reproducibility Initiative has received a $1.3 million grant from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation to validate 50 landmark cancer biology studies.
As some of you may know, in my life before Science Exchange I researched breast cancer. There were several times during the course of my research where a study I relied on failed to be reproduced.
I believe the lack of reproducibility in cancer studies is a major obstacle in the development of viable therapies to cure cancer. The funding will be instrumental in not only verifying landmark cancer studies, but also helping to institutionalize scientific replication."
- Elizabeth Iorns, Cofounder & CEO of Science Exchange
RentHop, a rentals listing site covering New York City, Boston and Chicago, has launched a free iPhone and iPad mobile app for property managers that allows them to “check in” to properties to advertise their geotargeted availability to consumers.
The professional-focused app pairs with a new Google Maps feature on RentHop’s website, “Appointment On-Demand,” that shows consumers in real time where and how long ago property managers have checked in to a property using the app.The new app, which also allows rental pros to update their listings on the fly, was a way to bring the on-demand world to the rentals space, said Lee Lin, RentHop’s CEO.
Consumers can see where and when property managers checked in to a property and know their availability without having to call or email, which was the whole point, Lin said.
Back at TechCrunch Disrupt NY in April, a company called Zenefits debuted a service that aimed to automate away many of the most annoying bits involved with running a startup or small business. Hire someone? Give Zenefits the basic details, and they’ll get them insured, on payroll, etc. Fire someone? Click a button to pull them off payroll and send out the COBRA details. Life event changes? They handle it. And they do it all for free.
If your company doesn’t have group health coverage, Zenefits can fetch all the quotes you need and help you pick a plan. If your company does already have health covergae, Zenefits still works — they’ll just take over as your insurance broker.
At the time, Zenefits only operated in two states: California, and New York. Today, they’re rolling out to all 50.
There’s one catch, though: for now, they’re only rolling out to the other 48 states for companies with 20+ employees. Come January 1st of 2014, however, they’ll be in all 50 states for all companies with at least two employees.
Why draw that line? Zenefits CEO Parker Conrad tells me it all comes down to changes in the health insurance system put into play by the Affordable Care Act. Many of those changes don’t go into effect until January 1st, 2014 — but once they do, it’ll be considerably easier for them to pull insurance data and quotes for smaller teams.