Auro Robotics (YC S15) Makes Autonomous Shuttles For Getting Around On Campus

Current shuttle prototype from Auro Robotics founded by Nalin Gupta Jit Ray Chowdhury and Srinivas Reddy

Self-driving cars have a lot of potential, but due to regulatory hurdles and public safety concerns, it's likely to be at least another decade or more before they become truly mainstream.

Auro Robotics is a company in our current batch that is looking to launch fully functioning autonomous vehicles much sooner, by building them specifically for contained areas and campus environments. By targeting private areas such as colleges and amusement parks, Auro Robotics avoids many of the issues that are currently keeping self-driving cars from being more widely adopted.

Auro Robotics is currently operating pilots at five college universities, and plans to launch into other verticals in the coming months.

TechCrunch's Lucas Matney wrote about Auro Robotics in an article published this week:

"'The unique advantage this strategy gives us is that we are able to mobilize the shuttles now instead of waiting for the next five or ten years for laws to get through,' Auro Robotics CEO Nalin Gupta said.

Gupta told me that the main challenge in designing an autonomous vehicle for this sort of area is building one that can smartly and safely navigate heavy pedestrian traffic, something he said their team has been finessing for some time.

The team actually creates a three-dimensional map of the environments that they’re deploying the shuttles in, so that the vehicles can be as responsive and aware of their surroundings as possible."

Read the full story on TechCrunch here, and participate in the Hacker News discussion here.

appCanary (YC S15) Makes Sure Your Company Is Safe From Security Vulnerabilities

With each day come multiple new zero-days, or potential software security exploits, putting companies running even slightly out-of-date software perpetually at the risk of being hacked. But keeping on top of the latest security vulnerabilities is a full-time job that can take up valuable engineering resources. And many companies, especially startups, don't have those kinds of resources or headcount to spare.

appCanary is a company launching out of our current Summer 2015 class that can help with all that. Founded by former security consultants Phillip Mendonça-Vieira and Max Veytsman, appCanary has built a service to allow operations teams of all sizes to make intelligent decisions about how to secure their infrastructure and the threats that affect them, without having to constantly monitor the ever-expanding infosec landscape themselves.

To start using appCanary, a company simply has to install appCanary's agent on their servers, a process which takes just a few minutes. appCanary then assesses all of the company's software inventories, and keeps running tabs on all of the latest security vulnerabilities that could impact the company's software infrastructure. appCanary provides real-time notifications to let the company know whenever its infrastructure might be vulnerable.

appCanary's pricing starts at $29 per month for companies with up to five servers, and increases on a sliding scale based on the number of servers a company has to monitor. More than 40 companies are currently using appCanary in its pilot program, many of them growing tech companies and startups. "appCanary is for anyone who is writing lots of custom software available on the Internet," Veytsman says. 

Read more about appCanary here.

L. (YC S15) Is A Condom Subscription Service To Make Safe Sex A Global Human Right

Most of the major condom brands are marketed with a sense of aggressive masculinity: Take the Trojan Man, for example.

L. is a startup launching out of our Summer 2015 class that's making condoms with both men and women in mind. L. makes discreet, stylishly designed all-natural and vegan-friendly condoms that prioritize women's comfort. L. has a quickly growing e-commerce subscription service, and its products are also on sale in more than 1,000 brick and mortar stores including CVS, Target, and Whole Foods.

Also, L.'s business model comes with an important perk: For every condom purchased here in the United States, L. sends one to a developing country in need. L.'s larger aim is to make safe, healthy, female-friendly sex a global human right.

TechCrunch's Sarah Buhr wrote about L. this past week:

"L. founder Talia Frenkel was a busy photojournalist, documenting the latest floods, fires and other natural disasters for the United Nations and the Red Cross when she was sent to photograph women and girls dying of HIV/AIDS in Africa in 2008. This sexually transmitted disease is the No. 1 killer of women of reproductive age on a global scale, according to the World Health Organization.

That sobering statistic stirred something inside of Frenkel. 'I didn’t realize the No. 1 killer of women was completely preventable and I think that really inspired me to action,' she told TechCrunch.

Frenkel bootstrapped L. more than a year and a half ago with the goal to save these women from a disease they didn’t have to get with the proper use of contraceptives. She does this with a one-to-one purchase model. One L. condom is donated to a woman in Uganda for every condom ordered through the L. platform.

L. deploys the condoms through a network of more than 2,000 female entrepreneurs working on the ground in Uganda. The women sell the condoms at a low cost, thus creating a long-term and sustainable business that can empower these women and help educate others on the proper use of the condoms."

Read the full story on TechCrunch here.

PlateJoy (YC S15) Delivers Fresh Food To Help You Meet Your Weight Loss And Health Goals

Launching this week as part of our Summer 2015 class, PlateJoy is a delivery service focused on providing customized, local, healthy ingredients for meals tailored to each individual's weight loss and lifestyle goals. 

PlateJoy has been providing a meal planning and fresh food delivery service since 2013. While in YC over the past several months, the company has renewed its focus more specifically on providing foods and meal plans that fit each customer's lifestyle and fitness plans.

VentureBeat's Ken Yeung wrote about PlateJoy and its new features in a story this past week:

"Starting today, it’s all about a directional focus towards weight loss and health. Users can log in and fill out an online questionnaire to receive personalized deliveries. It’s going to ask what your goals are, if you have any specific diet you’re undertaking, is there a specific weight you’re targeting, and more. Then, you decide when you want the ingredients delivered.

Are you looking for food that’s low in carbohydrates? Perhaps gluten free? Vegan? Kid friendly? All of these options and more are catered to by PlateJoy.

The packages delivered by the company will have fresh ingredients, delivered locally from Whole Foods, and with just enough packaging to ensure that there’s no waste.

PlateJoy also uses a waste-reduction algorithm that will analyze ingredients across all the order’s recipes in order to prevent ordering more than needed for all your meals. There’s also a digital pantry that will let you know what you have in the kitchen, how much, and whether or not it’s still good."

Read the full story on VentureBeat here, and read PlateJoy co-founder Christina Bognet's Medium post about her 50 pound weight loss that inspired her to start the company here.

Branch8 (YC S15) Helps Merchants Sell Across Asia's Many E-Commerce Platforms

In the United States, the e-commerce market is largely dominated by a few key players. But in Asia, there are multiple online marketplaces and no clear dominant leader. Merchants looking to optimize their sales in Asia need to list their products across multiple sites, which is a lot of work and maintenance.

Branch8 is a company that takes care of all that work. Launching this week out of our Summer 2015 class, Branch8 has built a platform that helps sellers easily list and manage products on the wide variety of e-commerce marketplaces in Asia.

TechCrunch's Jon Russell wrote about Branch8 in an article published this week:
"Branch8, which is based in Hong Kong, is part of Y Combinator's current Summer 2015 class. It opened the doors to its service on an invite-only basis back in May, but today it is now publicly available to all merchants. Chan told TechCrunch that, right now, Branch8 has nearly 1,000 sellers (and over 600,000 products) who are processing over $1 million in sales per month on its platform.

Beyond consolidating the basic processes beyond selling via multiple services — Amazon, Lazada, Rakuten, eBay and Jumia are among the initial platforms supported — Branch8 also provides analytics to track traffic, it automates price checking and product migration, and connects to third-party logistics services. Those value-adds, [Branch8 CEO Elton] Chan said, are where it believes it can really stand out for merchants.

'Our differentiator is analytics,' he told TechCrunch in an interview. 'Few tools track traffic via SKU. While our price tracking tool and the convenience of migrating to new platforms, this process is very manual, are specifically designed to meet merchants’ pain-points.'"

Read the full story on TechCrunch here, and additional coverage on Tech In Asia here.

SourceDNA (YC S15) Helps Developers Make Their Apps Faster, Better, And More Secure

There are a number of tools out there aimed at helping developers improve their apps. But for the most part, they're focused on detecting crashes or performance problems after they occur.

SourceDNA is a startup in our current class that has created a private app review service called Searchlight that helps developers improve their code and address security flaws before they cause problems for users. Searchlight also provides proactive monitoring, continually scanning iOS and Android apps and generating intelligence from an index of millions of binaries to keep developers updated on new potential issues.

VentureBeat's Ken Yeung wrote about SourceDNA and Searchlight this week:

"Available in both free and paid versions, Searchlight gives developers a better look into what could potentially go wrong with their app.

SourceDNA chief executive Nate Lawson cited an example of Searchlight’s potential: when Google replaced OpenSSL in Android M, there was a private API in use that wasn’t intended for use by apps. Apps using this API ran the risk of eventually crashing as a result. Lawson provided VentureBeat with a partial list of apps that are affected: UC Browser (over 100 million installs), Waze (at least 50 million installs), HBO Go (more than 5 million installs), and Modern War (more than 10 million installs). More than 3,000 people signed up for Searchlight after the company published details about this issue.

The point here is that Searchlight allows developers to proactively improve their apps without worrying about problems that may crop up in the future, freeing them to concentrate on providing the best user experience possible."

You can read the entire VentureBeat article here, and see the related discussion on Hacker News here.

Xfers (YC S15) Wants To Be The Go-To Payment Platform For South East Asia

Collecting payments and making online purchases in South East Asia can be challenging, as credit card penetration in the region is relatively low, with many consumers preferring to use cash.

Xfers is a startup launching out of our current Summer 2015 that aims to solve these problems, providing businesses in South East Asia with the ability to collect both credit card and internet banking payments, and letting customers make purchases online using only their phone number.

At the moment, Xfers is launched in Singapore, and plans to expand to other locations throughout South East Asia in the coming months.

Tech In Asia's Michael Tegos wrote about Xfers in a recent post:

"Xfers founders Victor Liew, Wenbin Tay, and Tianwei Liu wanted to tackle this area after experiencing first hand the difficulties of such transactions. The two NUS (National University of Singapore) graduates were working in Silicon Valley, at Quora and Amazon. Part of a large community of Singaporean engineers working in California’s Bay Area, they were frequently asked by friends back home for items that were easier to find in the US.

But when payment time came along, there would be all sorts of problems. They’d have to chase people for payment, relay their bank account information, manually log in to their account every time to see if the payment came through, and manually keep track of who sent them what.

Like many a startup, Xfers was born after someone said, 'There has to be a better way!'"

Read the full story on Tech In Asia here.

Markhor (YC S15) Makes Handcrafted Luxury Shoes For Half The Price Of Top Brands

More than $15 billion worth of luxury shoes are purchased worldwide each year. But often, the bulk of that money goes to the brand middlemen, while the actual craftsmen live on less than $5 a day.

Markhor is a company in our current Summer 2015 class that's disrupting that system. Markhor contracts directly with the same craftsmen who make shoes for some of the top European brands, pays them up to 5 times more, cuts out the middlemen, and passes on 50% in savings to the final customer.

TechCrunch's Christine Magee wrote about Markhor in a story published this week:
"When you purchase a pair of Markhor shoes, you are immediately looped into the production, and you receive periodic updates about the craftsman’s progress. When the shoes arrive, included in the box is a profile of the craftsman responsible, [Markhor co-founder Waqas] Ali says, which also tells you how much he makes.'People like to know that these shoes are not made by a child or a pregnant woman in China,' says Ali. 'When you’re buying high-end shoes from big brands, there are so many layers that you don’t know where the shoes are made.'

Ali says that Markhor is currently working with 75 craftsmen in Pakistan, and plans to scale up as needed.

'There are thousands of craftsmen like this in Pakistan, and if you include India and Africa, where we plan to expand our production, there are millions,' he says."

Read the full story about Markhor in TechCrunch here.

YC Digest - 8/7-8/13

Top Stories from the YC World - August 7-August 13, 2015

YC News
A Conversation With Y Combinator’s President Sam Altman

Presumption of Stupidity by Aaron Harris

Projects and Companies by Sam Altman

YC S15 Launches
Auro Robotics Is Testing A Driverless Shuttle System On College Campuses

bitcodin Encodes Videos 100X Faster, At Netflix-Grade Streaming Quality

Branch8 Lets Merchants Sell Via Multiple E-Commerce Sites With Fewer Headaches

Convox Makes It Easier For Companies To Use AWS

L. Condoms Provides Safe Sex, On-Demand

Markhor Takes The Middleman Out Of Designer Shoemaking

MicroHealth Helps Manage Treatment For Patients With Chronic Illnesses

Nebia, a Shower Head Start-Up, Receives Funding From Timothy Cook of Apple

OnboardIQ (YC S15) Helps Companies Screen And Hire Their Workforces

With the rise of an increasingly fluid workforce, the way that many companies build and manage their teams is more complex than ever. Companies in the service economy today see an average 50% no-show rate to interviews, as many candidates have several jobs at the same time -- and even once applicants have been vetted and hired, many of them move on in less than a month, and the company has to start all over again.

OnboardIQ is a company in our current class that provides tools for operations and recruiting teams to build and manage a workforce, automating the screening and hiring workflow. The result is that companies can spend significantly less time and money on the hiring process, while keeping quality standards high.

Business Insider's Nathan McAlone wrote about OnboardIQ in a story published this week:
"'Sharing economy workers switch jobs, and work multiple jobs in a given week or even day,' [OnboardIQ co-founder Keith Ryu] says. The high turnover means that sharing economy companies have to be constantly bringing workers into the fold. This can be an immense burden, especially for a small company. OnboardIQ wants to make easier.

...OnboardIQ’s system automates scheduling phone interviews and orientations. It moves applicants through a series of 'stages,' reminding them of their various commitments primarily via SMS, which Ryu has found more effective than email. Among the over 100,000 steps OnboardIQ claims it automates are background checks and document collection — I9 forms, contracts, etc.

...When Ryu talks of expansion, he speaks of moving outside the 'on-demand' niche. Those companies — like heavyweights Shyp and Munchery  — have so far been OnboardIQ’s bread and butter, but there is no reason why the service couldn’t work equally well for any company with a large and transitory workforce."

Read the full story on Business Insider here.