Wit.ai (YC W14) is Twilio for natural language — lets anyone add voice interfaces to their app

Last year, voice technology giant Nuance quietly acquired VirtuOz, a developer of virtual assistants for online sales, marketing and support — a “Siri for the enterprise” that counted with the likes of PayPal and AT&T as customers. Now, Alexandre Lebrun, the founder and CEO of VirtuOz, has taken a dive back into the startup world to launch Wit.ai, a platform and API that will let a developer incorporate speech recognition and a natural language interface into any app or piece of hardware.

In Lebrun’s words, the idea here is to apply, effectively, a “Twilio or Stripe model” to the world of voice interfaces, where Wit is able to understand the intent of users, as well voice recognition.

Developers who want to incorporate this into their apps entering a few lines of Wit.ai code; for the first time, the developers themselves do not have to be experts in the field, or face the prospect of huge expense to bring in that technical knowledge from elsewhere.

Read the full article in TechCrunch

StoryWorth (YC W11) in the NYTimes: Preserving Family History, One Memory at a Time

Nick Baum, center, created StoryWorth, a website that allows people to collect family stories. Sam Parr and Jenna Pinedo, who share a work space with him in San Francisco, watched him demonstrate the site. (Photo: Jim Wilson/New York Times)

Until recently, Jessie Leiken, 27, a union organizer in Brooklyn, was confident that she knew about the major adventures of her mother’s life: a hot-air balloon ride in Egypt, a snowshoeing excursion in Montana, a camel-meat meal in Morocco. But two weeks ago, an email appeared in Ms. Leiken’s inbox from her mother, Nancy Mills, 64, that told an entirely new tale:

I do want to share one particular adventure that you may not know about: the one Antioch College demanded of all students who were planning to go abroad for part of their education. As I recall it, they gave us each $10 (or thereabouts) and drove us to a small, very small town in rural Ohio and dropped us off on the side of the road and told us they would pick us up at the same place 48 hours later.

Ms. Mills’s family has been receiving messages like this one, containing nuggets of her past, as well as memories of her own parents’ and grandparents’ lives, a few times a month since last April. That was when Ms. Leiken signed her up for a service called StoryWorth.

StoryWorth provides a selection of questions, chosen by Ms. Leiken, for her mother to answer each week. It then emails the questions to Ms. Mills, and when she replies, her answers go to her family and are stored on a website where they can read them privately. It is one of a handful of new companies focused on enabling people to collect their family histories.

FOBO (YC S11) pushes over $1M run rate, featured on TechCrunch Video

Ryan Lawler writes:

It’s been just about two months since FOBO launched its local marketplace app for consumer electronics. But already, the app has proven wildly successful in its home market of San Francisco, where it’s pushing a $1 million run rate and spreading just by word-of-mouth.

FOBO is an ultra-simple app for buying — and selling — consumer electronics from your mobile phone. Aiming to be a Craigslist competitor, the app does away with many of the problems that users of that marketplace run into — i.e. lack of a guaranteed price, flaky buyers, and those who like to show up and haggle after the fact.

Here’s how it works: Sellers list their consumer electronics on the app, and FOBO offers them a guaranteed minimum price for each device. Then, the items are put up for 97-minute auctions, during which time local buyers can bid to purchase the goods for anything above the minimum price.

Watch the video at TechCrunch

Meet Memebox (YC W14), Y Combinator’s Korean Beauty Import

"Not many companies in the Y Combinator stable have executives who’ve spent time at both Tom Ford’s fashion powerhouse and the Korean online ticketing platform TicketMonster. I’m betting Memebox is the only one.

It’s the first Korean company accepted into the Y Combinator program and arguably one of the more mature, with a $1.5 million round of venture funding already under its belt and a strong base of customers across Korea."

HoverChat (YC W14) For Android Lets You Message Your Friends Without Switching Screens

HoverChat, the first Egyptian Y Combinator startup and makers of an SMS replacement application currently available for Android smartphones, is focused on making messaging more of a multi-tasking experience. The app also has a familiar look: its avatars, called “hoverheads,” are a lot like Facebook’s “chat heads,” but HoverChat was actually released the week before Facebook Home’s debut.

To date, the app has seen over 200,000 downloads on Google Play, and is averaging around 8,000 new downloads per day. The majority of its users are under 25, according to data from Google Analytics.

Online Shopping Companion Zinc (YC W14) Automatically Finds Discounts For Puchases From Top Retailers

Online shoppers now have a new tool to help them save money at checkout, without having to do much work at all. Recently launched shopping companion Zinc helps you automatically find the best price for the items in your shopping cart, and then pay however you want, including via Bitcoin or Dwolla.

The service, which works as either a Google Chrome extension or browser bookmarklet, is currently supported on major retailer’s sites, including Amazon, Walmart, Macy’s, and Target.

The Y Combinator-backed startup, founded by three friends from MIT, Max Kolysh, Doug Feigelson and John Wang, emerged from an earlier idea they had about building an API for buying things online. “A lot of online retailers have APIs for data retrieval, but they don’t have APIs for actually making the purchase. We thought it would be cool to create that for them, as a third-party,” explains Kolysh.

Read the full story on TechCrunch

Hipmunk Anywhere launches—easily search from desktop, book on mobile instantly, which 60% of people do already

Hipmunk Anywhere Brings All Your Searches to All Your Devices (skift.com):

Travel companies are well aware of what’s been happening with travelers’ search and booking behavior — they search on one device, get back to looking around later for a flight or hotel multiple times on myriad devices and operating systems depending on convenience or whim, and ultimately end up booking the trip most often on a tablet or desktop.

Consumers usually have to restart their searches when switching devices, but now Hipmunk and, to a lesser extent, Expedia, are doing something about the search inefficiencies of cross-platform habits.

Flight and hotel metasearcher Hipmunk has launched Hipmunk Anywhere, which enables users who are signed into its desktop or mobile apps to find their recent searches on each device regardless if they initiated them on the desktop or mobile Web, Android or iOS apps, or tablets.


Hipmunk CEO Adam Goldstein says co-founder and CTO Steve Huffman took the lead on Hipmunk Anywhere, which was “a lot of work,” but built in a couple of months. There’s all kind of layers to the feature, Goldstein says, including logic about the user’s location, and of course the previous searches won’t be visible if the dates of the prospective flight or hotel stay have already passed.

“It’s a pretty significant shift and no one else in the industry has really been paying attention to the way that people are actually using these different devices,” says Goldstein, adding that comScore found that 60% of consumers launch searches on one device and then finish them on another.

Twitch.tv in Time Magazine: "Quickly becoming one of the hottest entertainment properties on the web."

This Is The Hottest Online Video Service You've Never Heard Of (time.com):

How many gamers does it take to catch a Pokemon? 1.1 million, apparently. That’s how many people played the Game Boy classic Pokemon Red—together—on the video game streaming website Twitch.tv in February. As the game streamed online, people used a chat client to submit 122 million button inputs, often simultaneously, to control the movements of the main character as he pursued his quest of becoming a Pokemon master. It was an impractical but oddly hypnotic way to try to beat a video game. After two and a half weeks of wildly scrolling through menus, running in erratic circles, and occasionally defeating enemies, the gamers collectively toppled the Elite Four and saw the end credits roll. But the true victor of the endeavor was Twitch.tv itself, which is quickly becoming one of the hottest entertainment properties on the Web.

Joe Ariel of Goldbely (YC W13) interviewed in Forbes — democratizing the food industry

Joe Ariel is a New York City transplant who opened up shop in San Francisco with his startup Goldbely. The idea is simple: a food delivery service.

That's not new, of course. But the company distinguishes itself by finding locally sourced gourmet foods from around the country and delivering them to a person's doorstep. And not just so-called gourmet food, either: Think cannolis from Carlo's Bake Shop -- of "Cake Boss" fame -- in New Jersey, sourdough bread from Boudin in the Bay Area, Blue Bell ice cream from Texas, or a pastrami and corned beef sandwich from Katz's Delicatessen in New York City.

Ariel, 37, wants to help local purveyors gain a national audience. He calls it "democratizing the food industry." And lest you think he is just one more in a long line of trendy food entrepreneurs, Ariel insists that he dislikes the pretension of the word "foodie" (preferring to call himself a "food explorer") and simply wants to share the best that America has to offer.

Ariel is a serial entrepreneur -- he was once the CEO of Delivery.com and Eats.com -- and holds a bachelor's degree in economics from Vanderbilt University. He spoke with us.

Read all 10 questions at Forbes

SketchDeck (YC W14) Turns Terrible Slide Decks Into Beautiful Presentations In Just A Day

A number of startups over the years have tried to reinvent PowerPoint with services that made it easier or quicker to create a slideshow presentation. Newly launched SketchDeck is taking a different approach: Instead of providing an alternative to PowerPoint or similar software applications, it’s offering a service that enables individuals or businesses to have their slides made beautiful by a team of designers who can turn around assignments within 24 hours.

Explains SketchDeck co-founder and CEO Chris Finneral, this kind of service actually already exists, but only within larger organizations, like banks or consultancies. He would know, as Finneral himself used to work as a business analyst at McKinsey in London where he made thousands of slideshows himself.

Read the full story on TechCrunch