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

Grouper (YC W12) launches its social club in the UK — now available in London

From Tab.co.uk

Feeling spontaneous? Pick two of your mates and get on Grouper, a new “social club” that matches you and two of your wingmen or wingwomen with another trio of the opposite sex for a night out on the town.

After launching in New York in the summer of 2011 and expanding into 25 cities across the U.S., Grouper is now in the UK, gaining fans and swift momentum across the different neighbourhoods of London. To date, we have proudly hosted tens of thousands of nights out and hangovers worldwide.

Matterport (YC W12) in the San Jose Mercury News: A New 3D Modeling System

Matterport in the San Jose Mercury News:

The next time you move, you may be able to give friends and family members a virtual tour of your new house, thanks to new technology from a Silicon Valley startup.

Mountain View-based Matterport on Thursday is set to begin offering for sale a camera and a service that can create 3-D models of interior spaces or outdoor scenes.

At $4,500, the camera is not priced for consumers. But Matterport hopes it will appeal to professional photographers, real estate companies and other businesses that could use it on websites targeted at consumers. In the near future, when smartphones have 3-D cameras built into them, consumers might be able to upload their pictures to Matterport's service directly.

"It will be like taking a movie," said Bill Brown, Matterport's CEO. "You can capture a place and explore it later."

Sendhub (YC W12) launches iOS 7 app, with improved call notifications and Groups

From the SendHub blog

Today we’re excited to announce the newly re-designed SendHub app for iOS 7.  It’s available for iPhone and iPod Touch, it’s free, and you can download it here.  At SendHub, we strive to make business communications fast and simple. Our latest iOS 7 update brings simplifications to our user interface, making it even easier to communicate with your customers and coworkers.

What’s New

    • A fresh, brand new iOS 7 style design
    • Easier to use, more accessible Groups
    • Improved call notifications, so you never miss an important call
    • A unified Contacts list which lists your Favorites at the top
    • Improvements in speed and reliability

We’re excited to share the new app update with our thousands of customers who have come to trust SendHub for their telephony. We hope you enjoy the new iOS 7 app!

Female Founders Conference videos are now online

Videos from YC's first Female Founders Conference are now up on our YouTube page.

Apologies for the delay in pushing the talks live. We hope you'll take away some great lessons from the speakers. 

Jessica Livingston - Founder, Y Combinator

Adora Cheung - Founder, Homejoy

Julia Hartz - Founder, Eventbrite

Elli Sharef - Founder, HireArt

Kathryn Minshew - Founder, The Muse

Dr. Elizabeth Iorns - Founder, Science Exchange

Fundraising Panel 

Jessica Mah - Founder, inDinero
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YC-Backed Orankl (YC W14) Gives Small Vendors The Same Tools As Amazon

Customer reviews are the backbone of sites like Amazon (where they have turned into a platform for some of the most inspired comedic writing on the Internet), but it can be difficult for smaller retailers to convince shoppers to leave feedback. Orankl, a Y Combinator-backed startup, wants to give all e-commerce businesses the same tools as their larger rivals.

The company’s first product is a review system that can be installed with one click on supported platforms like Shopify or by copying-and-pasting a few lines of code. Feedback forms automatically match the style of each site and the system generates emails that remind customers to leave a review. The startup says some of the sites that have already installed its review system have increased sales by 15% to 20%.

Intern at a YC Company

Would you like to intern at a YC company this summer? We're helping place paid interns at YC-backed companies like Dropbox, Stripe, Optimizely and others. 

You'll get: 
> A chance to work with one of Silicon Valley's most exciting companies
> An invitation to YC's intern conference 

Please fill out our application by March 21, 2014. We'll notify you by March 31 if you've been accepted.

AirPair (YC W14) Expands Its Live Programming Assistance By Partnering With Stripe, Twilio, And Others

"AirPair, a startup that offers live, online consultation with programming experts, is announcing today that it has partnered with more than a dozen companies. Those partnerships are supposed to connect people having difficulty using a certain API with others who can help...

Co-founder Jonathon Kresner told me that one of the main ways customers use AirPair is to get help integrating an API like Stripe’s. He argued that this is part of a larger trend that he described as “the API-ification of the web.” By making more services and integrations available via APIs, companies are “empowering people” by “lowering the bar for them to build useful things,” Kresner said, but this also creates its own technical challenges.

So AirPair has formalized its efforts in this area by partnering with the companies that built the APIs in question. Those companies can now identify experts in their larger developer communities, and if those experts are willing, AirPair can then connect them with users who need help with a specific API, and who are willing to pay for the experts’ time. AirPair’s initial partners include Algolia, TwoTap, TrueVault, Unbabel, Balanced, Evernote, Searchmetrics, Stripe, Keen IO, Twilio, Sendwithus, TokBox, Framed Data, SendGrid, Human API, Vero, the Echo Nest, and AdRoll." 

Read the full story on TechCrunch 

Read more about AirPair's Trusted Partner Community Experts on their blog

ZenPayroll's (YC W12) advice for B2B companies

Above: ZenPayroll founders Edward Kim, Joshua Reeves and Tomer London (Photo credit: ZenPayroll)

Joshua Reeves wants to change the way you think about payroll. Joshua and his co-founders Edward Kim and Tomer London banded together in October 2011 and started ZenPayroll (YC W12), a modern payroll solution designed to disrupt the behemoths in the space. 

What made the ZenPayroll team want to tackle this unsexy problem? I talked to Josh about what drove him to build ZenPayroll, what it means to build a values-driven business, and his advice for B2B companies.

Kat: What inspired you to start ZenPayroll?

Joshua Reeves: My co-founders and I had each run previous companies. We’d used other payroll systems and remembered feeling frustrated with the existing options.

Second, all of us have family members that run payroll. We thought this was a huge coincidence until we realized how many small businesses there are in the world. The manual nature of how small businesses are run affects lots of people. Almost half of the 6 million small businesses in the US with employees still do payroll manually, using paper and spreadsheets, and 1 in 3 small businesses get fined every year for incorrectly doing their payroll taxes. We knew it didn’t have to be this way.

We were also drawn together by a common desire to tackle a core foundational problem. We had sold previous businesses, and wanted to solve a problem that was so big, we could see ourselves spending the next 50 years working on it.

KM: You’ve written a lot about ZenPayroll’s culture on your blog. How have you scaled your culture as you’ve grown?

JR: Values are a key ingredient of ZenPayroll’s foundation. We wrote them down early in our history, and we try to make them a daily part of our lives.

The key to scaling:

1) Hire people who embody the company values. We look for people who want to be part of a team that has a lot of autonomy and personal accountability. Ownership mentality is one of our core values and it means that people on the team think like owners (they all have equity), not like employees.

2) We make sure that each of us (not just the founders) leads by example. Once you have a set of values, they can easily fall by the wayside. They’re only real when they drive your decision making, and come up in conversation daily.

KM: What are some of the main challenges you’ve faced as a B2B startup?

JR: One of the main challenges of startups in general is focus. You're going to have 10 million things to do. Early on, what you spend time on and how you prioritize is incredibly important.

One of the questions I like to ask the team a lot is not “What's important?” but instead, “What have you de-prioritized recently?” and “What have you decided to cancel or stop doing?” If you can't answer that quickly or succinctly, it means you're trying to do everything.

My advice to other entrepreneurs it to make sure you create a structure or an approach that forces you to revisit this question on a recurring basis. Never ever feel like you're “done” prioritizing. It’s an ongoing process, and done well, it can become a core competency of the company.

KM: Are there challenges you’ve overcome that are particular to B2B startups?

JR: 1) Hiring: There's a perception that it's hard for B2B companies to hire because people won’t be as interested in the type of problems being solved. We found that it's important to embrace what makes us unique. There's a type of person that's drawn to what we're doing. For example, we put up a job posting that said: "Do you like non-sexy problems?” The fact that we’re tackling something foundational, which can really change how businesses are run, resonates with many people.

2) Dealing with incumbents: Unless you're in an entirely new market, you're going to have 800-pound gorillas in your space. The key is understanding what makes you different, how you fit into the landscape, and leveraging what makes you different as an advantage.

In our case, I know very clearly how ADP and Paychex build their products and how they acquire customers. We're not using their playbook because they have tens of thousands of salespeople and a lot more money than we do. We have to approach things from a different angle. My advice is to understand a demographic or market that has never been served before, and focus on them. Or understand what makes your product different and how you can sell it differently as a result.

Square's a good example of this. Today, they have giant customers like Starbucks, and they’ve displaced many traditional POS systems. But that's not how they started. They started by going after micro-merchants who had never accepted credit cards before, and that was their entire focus.

3) Scaling user acquisition: The core puzzle of a B2B company is getting users, especially if you're trying to displace an incumbent. We look at what other folks are doing. Companies like Expensify and Bill.com, who are serving the back-office, but focused on different products than us. We’ve learned from them and applied a methodical approach to user acquisition. We come up with a thesis, see if it’s validated through experimentation, and expand once something starts working. We spent 2012 building out a product foundation. In 2013 our goal was to experiment, learn very quickly, and hire folks who could be owners of programs. In 2014, we’re accelerating our programs and really stepping on the gas pedal.

KM: What's the best way to make the most of YC as a B2B company?

JR: Early customers: YC is a great community to get your early customers from. Being a part of YC gives you this set of businesses that can use your product and give you feedback right away. Our first 7 customers were from the YC community. The key of course is quickly expanding beyond that audience. In our case, we’re 100% focused on mainstream business owners and we now have a wide variety of customers, including flower shops, bakeries, dentist offices, churches, and more, but having YC companies as our first customers was a great starting point for us.

Tap into the collective knowledge of YC: With B2B there are a lot of best practices -- whether it's how you scale a sales organization, how you build out a growth model, or how you set pricing. You don't have to reinvent the wheel. You can leverage the knowledge of others around you. Entrepreneurship is not a zero sum game and tapping into the entrepreneurial ecosystem is a key part of what makes the startup community so special.


When Airlines Screw Up Your Flight, AirHelp (YC W14) Gets You Paid

"Uh oh! Your flight was overbooked. You’ve been bumped off the flight, and they can’t get you another ride for hours.

Surely, the airline has to give you something, right? But what? A drink voucher? A few extra inches of leg room on a future flight?

Try a couple hundred bucks. AirHelp (part of Y Combinator’s Winter 2014 class) exists to help you figure out when the airlines legally owe you money — and they don’t get paid unless you do."

Read the full story on TechCrunch