From Triceratops excavation to Anthrax therapeutics: Microryza (YC W13) launches a Kickstarter for scientific research

Do you want to know whether cannibalism existed amongst Tyrannosaurus Rexes or whether specific viruses contribute to lung cancer risk? Better yet, do you want to be part of making this research happen faster?

A Y Combinator-backed startup called Microryza is positioning itself as a “Kickstarter” for science research. The idea for Microryza sprouted when Cindy Wu, then an undergraduate at University of Washington, found that she had little hope of getting funding for studying a potential anthrax therapeutic.

She had discovered it after helping to create a video game that let regular people fold and create virtual enzymes. They came up with 87 different mutants that summer through the video game, and found that one could potentially treat anthrax infections after winning an MIT-based synthetic biology competition.

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Visit microryza.com and fund original scientific research

Thalmic (YC W13) launches the Myo armband for gesture control

As stuff like Google Glass becomes mainstream, we’re going to see a lot more wearable computing devices around. But one thing that isn’t clear is how we’ll control them. One idea is to use gesture control, which would enable users to communicate with wearable computers without having to use a whole separate smartphone or other device to do so.

But so far, gesture control for most devices — like the Xbox Kinect, for instance — has depended upon cameras watching user movement. That means remaining in a fixed space and using pre-programmed gestures that are not exactly natural, but can be picked up by cameras. As a result, today’s gesture control technologies are far from perfect. In fact, most to date are just downright bad.

Y Combinator-backed startup Thalmic Labs believes it has a better way of determining user intent when using gesture control. To do so, it’s developed a new device, called MYO, which is an armband worn around the forearm. Using Bluetooth, the armband can wirelessly connect to other devices, such as PCs and mobile phones, to enable user control based on their movements without directly touching the electronics.

See it in action here:

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Preorder at getmyo.com

Padlet (YC W13) brings drag-and-drop to collaborative website creation

WordPress, Blogger and Tumblr have done a great job of making website creation accessible to anyone, but the novice can still be a bit overwhelmed by sometimes sophisticated back-ends and CMS, especially when these platforms are built specifically to be as complex as they are simple, to expand the potential demographic.

But a YC-backed company called Padlet(formerly Wallwisher) is launching into public availability, and its intuitive drag-and-drop interface bests even the top platforms when it comes to quickly and easily building a website. What’s more, Padlet works a lot like Google Docs in that multiple users can modify and add to the page in real-time, forming a truly collaborative place to work and create.

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TrustEgg (YC W11) launches the the way for any parent to set up trusts for their children

TrustEgg, a Y Combinator-backed startup which lets parents set up trusts for their children is actually launching. That’s a milestone in and of itself, because, as a financial services company, it had been facing a lot of regulatory hurdles. The company has also recovered from the loss of its first co-founder, Gabe Krambs, who left CEO Jeff Brice to take a job that paid the bills. It has since added John Zdanowski, co-founder, CFO, and investor to the team, and has relocated operations to San Diego.

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Upverter (YC W11) raises $650K, running a hackathon at YC on Friday Feb 23

Toronto’s Upverter is a startup that’s poised to effect change that could reshape the landscape of entrepreneurship. That’s not something you can say about most of the businesses we cover on a daily basis, whether or not they have good ideas. But it’s definitely true of Upverter, the company that’s hoping to build a cloud-based hardware engineering platform that can match and overtake its desktop-based counterparts within the next few years.

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The rise of Upverter means a potential explosion on the horizon for hardware startups, which is why the company is hosting a hardware hackathon with Y Combinator on February 23rd. Making hardware engineering collaborative, affordable and easy to access can have a tremendous impact on the cost of doing business and risks associated with creating new hardware, which is why Upverter achieving its goals could lead to a new revolution for hardware startups, incubators and investors alike.

If you happen to be one of those hardware startups, Upverter is offering free team accounts to TC readers. Just follow this link to sign up.

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Citus Data (YC S11) launches CitusDB for Hadoop

Citus Data has launched CitusDB for Hadoop, a service that can process petabytes of data within seconds. The offering shows once again that the new class of analytics databases that can analyze everything from data to entire libraries of digital books are the next big thing.

CitusDB is based on Google Dremel, a real-time analytics database that has surpassed Hadoop’s analysis capabilities. The difference is in its parallel-computing capabilities and SQL-like functionality. Do a query across petabytes of data over thousands of servers and the results come back in real-time.

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Referly (YC S12) makes its first acquisition, LaunchGram

At just about a year of age, Referly may be a tad young to be making its first acquisition.

But the San Francisco-based startup is doing just that today with the purchase of 500 Startups-backed LaunchGram.

Basically, LaunchGram was a service that kept people up-to-date on upcoming product releases. Because Referly also appeals to people who like to curate products and earn extra cash off recommendations through affiliate revenue, there was a big overlap in their customer base, Refer.ly CEO Danielle Morrill explains.

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Codecademy (YC S11) launches API lessons for Twitter, Evernote, Box, WePay, Firebase, Github, more

Codecademy, the startup that aims to teach people everywhere how to code, wants to help make those APIs even more accessible. Today Codecademy is announcing that it has partnered with a number of established web companies to offer a host of new lessons that concentrate on the basics of building with their specific APIs.

Codecademy first launched API lessons last month, but this release brings a number of new big name API providers to the mix. Codecademy now has lessons for building with APIs from TwitterEvernoteBox, and Gilt. The full list of Codecademy’s new API partners is rounded out by WePay, Microsoft SkyDrive, 23andme, Mashape, Ordr.in, Firebase, Easypost, Github, MailChimp, and Dwolla.

Zenefits (YC W13) gives small businesses a one-stop shop for employee health insurance and all benefits

For startups and small businesses, providing and managing employee insurance and benefits can be a huge headache. In the early stages of business development, this responsibility generally falls into the hands of founders, who have to contact insurance brokers and manage the whole enrollment process themselves. It’s tedious and distracting, yes, but it’s also a critical part of running a business — and ensuring that your employees are happy, healthy and productive.

After experiencing this painful process twice (as a co-founder of Wikinvest and, again, at SigFig), Parker Conrad decided founders had been subjected to enough pain and set out to build a solution — “the product I wish had been available the first two times around,” he says. After recruiting Laks Srini, who had been a fellow software engineer SigFig, the two co-founded Zenefits to help startups and small businesses find insurance quotes and manage employee benefits in one place.

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FlightCar (YC W13) launches its 'Airbnb for airport car rentals' service at SFO

Airport car rentals are a $10 billion business. But until recently, most travelers were stuck with poor customer service and high rates from the incumbent rental car agencies. Y Combinator-backed startup FlightCar wants to offer a much cheaper alternative to those companies in airports around the country, and it’s starting in San Francisco.

FlightCar provides a peer-to-peer marketplace for car rentals at airports, connecting travelers with vehicles at much lower rates than they’d find if they went through one of the incumbent rental car agencies. It’s able to do that because it is renting out cars that would have otherwise been left in long-term parking.

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