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

NexTravel (YC W14) Wants To Change The Way Corporate Travel Is Booked

"Booking travel is never easy, but booking travel for work is even worse. NexTravel wants to provide a better way for employees to search flights and hotels, while giving employers the ability to track and manage costs.

Even as consumers have gotten used to using simple online platforms for booking their own travel, the corporate travel world has failed to catch up. Employees are asked to navigate archaic travel booking websites or talking to travel agents for hours trying to get the right hotels or flights confirmed.

Meanwhile, many small- and medium-sized businesses don’t have a good travel-booking platform. That means employees usually end up booking their own work travel, but managers have few tools to track, approve or control travel expense costs.

NexTravel hopes to offer the same sort of ease and convenience users have grown to love from consumer platforms, while giving employers ways to track and lower the cost of corporate travel. It provides a way for businesses to centralize their booking process in a fast, cost-effective way."

Perceptiv’s SHIFT (YC W15) Turns Drones Into Smart Dollies For Filmmakers

Drone tech is exciting and full of potential, but few companies are focusing on tech that provides benefits drone users can enjoy now, without spending a fortune or managing an architectural firm or large-scale agricultural concern. Perceptiv Labs, a YC Winter 2015 cohort startup with a founding team out of Waterloo’s top-flight robotics engineering department, is offering high-flying drone hobbyists, filmmakers and journalists a relatively affordable, yet advanced way to introduce some highly intelligent automation into their high-flying video antics right now.

Perceptiv, which also has funding from Version One Ventures, is launching SHIFT today via pre-order campaign, a $600 accessory (which will retail post-campaign for $800) that works with the DJI Phantom and 3D Robotics Iris, providing a vision sensor, processor and autopilot program for capturing amazing aerial shots via subject tracking. Essentially, it turns these hobbyist drones into robotic flying dollies for capturing great pans, zooms and fly-by shots, with computer vision tech making sure to keep a user-defined subject exactly where it needs to be in the frame along the way.

Read the full story on TechCrunch

Luka (YC W15), The App That Replaces Your Foodie Friend, Goes Live In SF

"IO, the company that launched on stage at Disrupt Europe and is looking to replace Yelp with a natural language recommendation engine, is today launching its service publicly in the Bay Area.

The app, re-branded from IO to Luka, is going live with more than 2,000 restaurants signed on in the Bay Area. But how does it all work?

Luka is an app that looks a lot like an SMS conversation. Users can message Luka with questions like “Anything fun to do tonight?” or “I have a date tonight. Where should we go?”

Luka then processes those requests and sends back recommendations that are based not only on the request itself but your history and preferences. Luka learns that you are a vegetarian or that you’re addicted to cheese or that a good fried fish taco is your reason for living. Knowing these things, Luka transforms what is usually a tedious browsing experience on Yelp into a relaxed experience in which Luka is doing the work."

Read the full story on TechCrunch

Rescue Forensics (YC W15) Aids Law Enforcement In Finding Victims

Rescue Forensics, a web intelligence company dedicated to helping the government fight crime, has joined the Winter 2015 batch of YC. Read more about what they're building: 

“Human trafficking is no longer on the streets where police can observe and monitor it,” he said. “It’s gone to the Internet.”

After finishing law school, Ryan Dalton and co-founder Brandon Hamric started working part-time on tools that could filter, track and record escort listings for potentially suspicious behavior involving minors. They applied for Y Combinator and vowed that if they got in, they would quit their jobs and do this full-time as a company, calling it Rescue Forensics.

Basically, Rescue Forensics builds search software that helps law enforcement officials collect and document online evidence that could be used to prosecute traffickers in court. The company itself doesn’t make any judgments about what might constitute illegal trafficking behavior. That’s up to investigators to determine, as there are adult women who want to do sex work and aren’t being trafficked.

But Rescue Forensics does provide a way to document and manage listings that can quickly pop up and disappear on Craigslist or other listing sites across an entire region. Dalton said that so far, nine victims have been rescued.

Read the full story on TechCrunch

YC Digest 2/13-2/19

Top Stories from the YC World - 2/13/15-2/19/15

YC's Female Founder's Conference is tomorrow (2/21)! Watch the livestream at femalefoundersconference.org.

How, and Why, Y Combinator Got Serious About Diversity by Fast Company


YC is hosting office hours at Stanford on 3/5. Sign up for a slot here

Kuhcoon (YC W15) Promises To Automate Facebook Ad Campaigns For Small Businesses

"A lot of ad tech companies like to talk about automation, but Andrew Torba, co-founder and CEO of Kuhcoon, seems particularly enthusiastic: “Our grand plan is to automate all of paid media spending on the Internet.”

The startup isn’t quite there yet, but it says it’s already working with more than 6,000 advertisers in 90+ countries. (Those advertisers include a number of startups at Y Combinator, where Kuhcoon is part of the winter class.) It’s currently limited to Facebook advertising, but Torba said Kuhcoon’s Google Adwords launch is imminent, and there are plans for Twitter and Pinterest as well.

Torba and his co-founder/CTO Charles Szymanski acknowledged that there are other Facebook ad automation products out there. However, Szymanski suggested that the ones that offer “full automation,” like Nanigans and Kenshoo, are focused on huge advertisers. When it comes to small and medium businesses (Torba said Kuhcoon serves advertisers who spend between $20,000 and $1 million a month, with a focus on those who spend less than $100,000), the available tools are more manual." 

Read the full story on TechCrunch