Perlstein Lab (YC W16) Automates Drug Discovery for Rare Diseases

Major pharmaceutical companies rarely focus on orphan diseases, conditions that affect less than 200,000 people nationwide. While many are complex, around 4,000 orphan diseases are caused by only one mutation in a single gene.

Perlstein Lab is a company launching out of our Winter 2016 class that has built an automated drug discovery platform for all rare diseases. It screens for model compounds that can reverse a disease in simple model organisms like yeast cells and nematodes. If a compound is found, this drug candidate can then be tested with patients. 

Jay Donovan wrote a story about Perlstein Lab on TechCrunch:

“First of all, it is important to know that, according to Perlstein, there are about 7000 diseases classified as rare and 95% of these have no FDA approved cure. This is PLab’s area of focus. This is a much different model than Big Pharma which usually focuses on more common illnesses where the research ROI stands to be much greater.

Of these 7000 rare diseases, about half are caused by a single broken gene. These are usually inherited diseases and affect children.

PLab focuses on single broken gene diseases initially because they are obviously less complex and easier to approach. Using a molecular apparatus known as a CRISPR—which Perlstein likened to a command line editor for animal genomes—PLab alters the genome of test animals (yeasts, flies, worms, fish and sometimes mice) to mimic the broken gene disorder…to essentially, make them ill. Because many of these animal are small, even microscopic, PLab can have large numbers of them to test against. 

Then, using an automated platform, they apply thousands of chemical compounds to these animals to see which compounds are effective at reversing or bypassing the loss of the broken gene’s function.”

Read the full story here and learn more about Perlstein Lab through their blog.

StrongIntro (YC W16) Boosts Employee Referrals for Finding and Hiring Engineers

Recruiting is hard, especially for technical employees. Everyone in the startup world knows that.

The best way to tackle this problem is to tap into the personal networks of your existing team members. In fact, employee referrals are often referred to as "hiring gold" because they build culture, retention, and engagement, all at a cheaper cost and faster-to-hire rate than alternative recruiting pipelines. The problem is, most companies don’t have the bandwidth or resources to create a robust referral program that competes with larger industry players.

StrongIntro is a company in our Winter 2016 class that wants to be a startup’s secret weapon, helping them bring in employee referrals and hire as effectively as top companies.

StrongIntro hosts a sourcing party at a startup's office, and uses its software to parse staffers' social connections to intelligently identify engineers and enable employees to easily recommend connections. This approach sources between 50 to 100 warm candidates for every five employees. StrongIntro also provides a dedicated recruiter to help build the key components of a successful referral program, including customized outreach, education of employees, and implementing best practices.

Using StrongIntro has zero upfront costs  -- they only take a performance fee if one of their referrals is hired.

StrongIntro has funding from the Thiel Fellowship, YC Fellowship, and YC Core, and has already helped companies like Segment, Raise.me, and Teespring discover and engage hundreds of new candidates. For more information or to book a sourcing session see http://www.strongintro.com.

Q&A with YC/Imagine K12's Geoff Ralston and Tim Brady

Geoff Ralston and Tim Brady, YC partners and Imagine K12 founders, hosted a Twitter chat and AMA on r/entrepreneur last week to answer questions from edtech startups applying to YC. Here are the highlights below:

1. The criteria for being accepted into YC or IK12 haven't changed.


2. We work with edtech startups that are considering all kinds of revenue models: freemium, direct-to-schools, parents, or otherwise.


3. We work with edtech startups that serve the entire spectrum of the learning process (pre-K, K-12, post-secondary, life-long learning) and any geographical market (US and International). 

5. And some final application tips.

For a more comprehensive look at the conversations, visit the archived Twitter chat and Reddit AMA.

The application deadline for the Summer 2016 batch is March 24. Apply now.

Good luck edtech applicants, hope to see you at interviews!

Chatfuel (YC W16) Builds Chatbots to Help Companies Engage with their Users

Businesses and media organizations want to be where their users are. In the past, they'd often do this by building a website or an app, but there are big problems with both of these approaches: With websites, re-engagement with users is very difficult; and there is so much friction around app installation it's difficult to acquire users. So today, many companies are realizing that bots on messaging platforms are the fastest and simplest way to engage with users.

Chatfuel is a company in our Winter 2016 class that has built a self-service platform that lets companies create these kinds of chatbots in minutes. 

Jon Russell of TechCrunch recently wrote a story about Chatfuel:

"Chat has become the center of the smartphone universe, so it makes sense that bots are being used to deliver information in a convenient and engaging manner. But how do brands or media companies get started and create a bot? That’s where Chatfuel, a company that’s currently going through Y Combinator, is looking to make its mark.

The company is currently focused primarily on Telegram, which is the only chat app to open its bots to all. It has created bots for the likes of Forbes and TechCrunch — hey, that’s us! — but, beyond focusing on media, it has a self-service platform anyone can use. Thus far, that’s been used to make over 120,000 bots which serve over five million users.

It’s more than just basic bots that simply send information to users based on offering them two kinds of responses. Chatfuel is a little more intelligent. Its bots serve up news, lets users narrow down on topics, and even just ask questions about items or people in the news."

Read the full story here.

Secful (YC W16) Prevents API Attacks Automatically and in Real-Time

In recent years, it's become clear that APIs are very vulnerable to security breaches. Facebook, Snapchat, Marriott, Delmarva Power, TurboTax, and Twitter are just a small portion of the growing list of companies that have been breached through their API. Research indicates that 84% of all cyber-attacks are happening at the application layer, rendering companies' existing network security protections insufficient.

Secful is a company launching out of our Winter 2016 class that prevents API attacks, automatically and hands-free. Secful secures enterprises' APIs by detecting and profiling attackers in real-time and creating custom-tailored protection against them.

Every attack begins with the same phase: Reconnaissance. During this time, an attacker understands how the API should be used. Afterwards, the attacker actively researchers a company's endpoints for vulnerabilities. Usually these trial-and-error attempts go unnoticed until a breach actually occurs. Until now.

Secful tracks all of the attacker's activity from the very beginning, and creates a profile that contains an up-to-the-minute attack timeline, along with essential information to prevent the attack. Most importantly, Secful highlights the most dangerous potential attacks so that companies can handle them first.

Find out more about Secful and request a demo at Secful.com, and check out the video below.

Kisan Network (YC W16) is an Online Marketplace for Indian Agriculture

Kisan Network is a startup in our Winter 2016 class that enables farmers in rural India to sell their produce directly to institutional buyers, such as producers of packaged foods -- bypassing the traditional network of opaque local negotiations and middlemen who often take outsize commissions.

With the rise of affordable smartphones and data connectivity in rural India, farmers have realized that the internet provides a platform to get information from beyond their local community. Kisan Network aims to be the go-to web platform for the farming industry in rural India.

In a few seconds, a farmer can open Kisan Network’s Android application, take a picture of his or her crop and post details about the harvest and its next availability. Buyers on the platform can browse available options on the app or web, and pay the farmer via Kisan Network at the time of delivery.

Jonathan Shieber recently interviewed Kisan's founders and profiled the company in an in-depth story for TechCrunch:

"With a market size of roughly $260 billion for agriculture and ag-related services, it’s little wonder that the national breadbasket for 1.2 billion people and a regional food exporter to another 3 billion people on the Asian continent would be of interest to investors.

Kisan Network wants to be the logistics provider and central marketplace for a large percentage of all of that produce. Already the world’s largest producer of milk and spices, the possessor of the largest herd of buffaloes in the world and the largest area of wheat, rice, and cotton cultivation, India’s position could rival the U.S. as the world’s breadbasket should the right incentives fall into place.

And it’s a market that’s ripe for disruption given the historic information imbalance between buyers and sellers. That’s a problem technology has been solving for generations. Aditya [Agarwalla, Kisan Network's co-founder] was so convinced of the company’s viability, and the need for its service, that he’s dropped out of Princeton to build the business."

Read the full story on TechCrunch here.

Meter Feeder (YC W16) Replaces Parking Meters with a Mobile App

Meter Feeder is a company launching out of our Winter 2016 class that replaces the hassles of traditional parking meters by allowing people to pay with their smart phones.

To use Meter Feeder, all you have to do is enter your license plate and tap a button to pay with Apple Pay, Android Pay, or a credit card. Notifications tell users when they have 5 minutes left, so they can add more time if needed.

Current competitors in this space only solve half of the problem: They either offer tools for traffic officers, or payment processing for parkers. Meter Feeder is the first to offer both -- and this means huge cost savings for government.

TechCrunch's Josh Constine wrote about Meter Feeder in a story this week:

"More big cities are switching to credit and mobile-enabled meters that aren’t nearly as awful as the old coin-only ones. Companies like PayByPhone, Pango and ParkMobile make the payment systems, while t2, Duncan and United Parking Safety handle enforcement. But many smaller cities often can’t afford these intensive hardware updates.

For example, a town with 250 spots would have to pay around $100,000 to revamp their meters, says [Meter Feeder co-founder Dan] Lopretto. But it would cost merely $3,000 to enable Meter Feeder. The only thing the cities pay for are the enforcement kits, which come out to about $1,500 each for the 7-inch tablet, printer, paper and Internet connectivity.

Big cities could see cost savings too. San Francisco is now using automatic license plate scanners that can cost tens of thousands of dollars each, and still take five seconds per plate scanned. Punching in the first few characters of a license plate with Meter Feeder takes the same amount of time, but is way cheaper."

Read the full story on TechCrunch here.

mRelief (YC W16) Helps Low-Income Americans Easily Find and Access Social Services


An estimated 46.7 million people are living in poverty in the United States. And each year, an average of 11.8 million of them leave almost $20 billion dollars of SNAP (food assistance) benefits for which they're eligible on the table. Often, these people don't realize which social services they are eligible to receive, and thus don't take full advantage of them.

mRelief is a non-profit launching out of our Winter 2016 batch that provides knowledge and power to this group of people. mRelief has built a platform that enables low-income Americans to discover and check their eligibility for social services both online and through text-messaging.

The company focuses on SMS in addition to web because 36 percent of Americans still do not have smartphones -- and low-income Americans send and receive 2 times more text messages than other groups. 

TechCrunch's Jon Shieber wrote about mRelief and its founders in a story published today:
"No organization exemplifies [the] notion of harnessing private industry tools for public good more than mRelief, a non-profit launching in the latest Y-Combinator batch of companies.

Founded by two friends who met at a coding bootcamp in Chicago, mRelief epitomizes the notion that technology can help to address the problems that are born from the bureaucratic worst tendencies of government assistance.

...Since they’ve joined Y Combinator the mRelief service has been posting impressive numbers. The service has seen 90% growth week-on-week, with 2,000 eligibility screening checklists completed in the last week alone, according to data provided by mRelief’s founders."
Read the full story in TechCrunch here.

iSono Health (YC W16) is Building an Affordable At-Home Ultrasound for Breast Health Monitoring

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer related deaths in women. One in eight women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in their lifetime. While mammograms are the current standard of care, they do have significant limitations. Mammograms fail to detect breast cancer in women with dense breast tissue, who are already at higher risk for breast cancer. Furthermore, insurance companies typically do not cover the cost of exams for women under 50.

iSono Health is a company launching out of our Winter 2016 class that wants to empower women to take charge of their health through proactive, at-home screenings. Their first product is an affordable and automated ultrasound device that only takes 2 minutes to use. This device captures 3D ultrasound images that can later be accessed through its secure app.

Using a machine-learning algorithm that track changes over time, iSono Health can detect abnormal growths at their earliest stages. If the app detects any abnormalities, it automatically shares the images with a radiologist, who then provides feedback directly to the user. With gradual monitoring, users have access to accurate and actionable data that can potentially save lives.

Both co-founders, Dr. Maryam Ziaei and Dr. Shadi Saberi, had close family members and friends battle breast cancer. As a result, they wanted to build an affordable solution that helps detect breast cancer early on. Dr. Ziaei graduated from Stanford University with a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering and developed sensors for consumer electronics. Dr. Saberi graduated with a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Carnegie Mellon and worked at Broadcom since 2012, developing circuits and systems.

iSono Health will be launching a crowdfunding campaign soon. Sign up for updates here.

Soundboks (YC W16) is Making the World’s Loudest Battery-Powered Speaker

Soundboks is a company in our Winter 2016 class that has created the first and only portable speaker capable of throwing a real party. It is shockproof, weatherproof, and temperature resistant.

Stanley Goodner wrote about Soundboks in Gizmag:

“For pool events, camping, or backyard cookouts, boombox-sized speakers can be found supplying ample amounts of audio. We've reviewed the audiophile-grade Nano HiFi NH1 as well as the rugged JBL Xtreme, both of which delivered appreciably well. But they likely pale in comparison to the Soundboks, which houses a pair each of 96 dB low-frequency drivers, 98 dB high-frequency dynamic drivers, sound pressure level (SPL) speaker units, and 42 W digital amps.

Soundboks uses custom-designed amplifiers that help to enhance battery life while optimizing sound for outdoor usage. With its dual-phase boost function, this speaker is designed to generate up to maximum 119 dB of sound. The volume dial – quite literally – turns to an 11 for an experience similar to that of a live concert.”

Read the full story here and learn more about Soundboks from their Kickstarter campaign