ZenPayroll (YC W12) and Zenefits (YC W13) featured in VentureBeat's "best back-office software for small businesses"

ZenPayroll

ZenPayroll focuses on one key business process and does it well: payroll.

This Y Combinator-backed company presents an easy signup process: Administrators enter data about employee hours, overtime pay, bonuses, and reimbursements, and the platform automatically calculates and pays your state and federal payroll taxes. It also enables direct deposit and gives employees direct access to their pay stubs, pay history, and information. More...

Zenefits

A second Y Combinator financial services startup with “zen” in the title, Zenefits' speciality is, you guessed it, paperwork-free benefits.

Benefits are extremely complicated and confusing. Zenefits makes it super easy to set up group benefits programs for employees, including medical, dental, vision, 401(k), and stock options. Rather than replacing an accountant, Zenefits is more of a replacement for an HR representative, although it also takes care of payroll. More...

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Cambly (YC W14) Offers On-Demand Access To Language Tutors On iPad, iPhone, And Desktop

There’s no better way to learn a language than by talking with a native speaker. But let’s face it — it’s not always easy to find or connect with those speakers. Cambly solves that problem by creating an on-demand marketplace of native English and Spanish tutors that students can instantly connect with online or through their mobile phones or tablets.

Cambly provides a two-sided platform through which those interested in learning a new language can do so through conversational video chat with a native speaker. Thanks to the beauty of its mobile and tablet apps, students can access personal tutors wherever and whenever, with just one click.

MemSQL (YC W11) in Forbes: Helping big data costs drop 96% from $100,000/TB to $4,000/TB

Peter Cohan writes in Forbes — MemSQL brings Facebook-style big data analysis to the masses:

Big companies are so worried about risk these days that it is a miracle any of them ever buy anything from a startup. That’s probably the reason that people used to say you can never get fired for buying from IBM. But a little San Francisco-based database startup is giving big competitors like IBM and Oracle a run for their money when it comes to selling databases to big organizations.

Why would a big company take a chance with a small startup? In the case of real-time big data analysis software provider, MemSQL, the answer is that it delivers better performance at a lower price compared to Oracle. Oracle charges customers “about $100,000 per terabyte (TB) when you break down its $3 million hardware cost” said Eric Frenkiel, MemSQL CEO, in a January 22 interview. Random Access Memory (RAM) on a commodity server goes for $4,000 per TB.

That 96% lower cost per unit of data stored is an excellent example of what I call a Quantum Value Leap (QVL). And evidently that QVL is enough to persuade otherwise reticent companies to buy MemSQL’s product. So far, MemSQL’s customers include “Comcast, Zynga, Shutterstock and Ziff Davis,” notes Frenkiel.

Codecademy (YC S11) selected for Apple's 30 Years of Mac

YC alums Zach Sims and Ryan Bubinski were recently honored in Apple's 30 Years of Mac campaign. 

After he dropped out of Columbia University, Zach Sims — along with his former classmate Ryan Bubinski — started Codecademy, an online platform that teaches aspiring engineers to write code. Inspired by how the Mac allowed anyone to master technology, they used it to design a friendly interface with simple, interactive lessons. An instant Internet sensation, Codecademy would become the most popular way to learn what some call the most valuable language of the 21st century.

Read more on the Apple 30 Years of Mac website

Double Robotics (YC S12) takes preorders for Charging Dock—now telepresence robots can charge themselves

From the Double Robotics Blog:

Double Robotics, Inc. today announced at the 2014 International CES that the charging dock accessory for the Double telepresence robot is now available for pre-order through www.doublerobotics.com

“The charging dock has been the most requested accessory for Double,” said David Cann, CEO and Co-founder of Double Robotics, Inc.  “We’re excited to provide our customers with an accessory that makes it even easier to connect remotely.  Our ambitious engineers designed Double to be future-compatible with the charging dock, so that even our earliest customers can take advantage of this powerful upgrade.  The dock is designed around a single beautifully sculpted block of aluminum, so customers can proudly park their Double in the office.”

...

A new iPad mount that supports iPad charging will be standard on all new units and included with a dock purchase free for customers with legacy iPad mounts.  The docking station is sold for $299 and will begin shipping in February 2014.

Zidisha (YC W14) Launches A Kickstarter-Style Micro-Lending Platform For Low-Income Entrepreneurs In Developing Countries

When it comes to lending and borrowing money, banks have long been at the center of the equation. However, with the proliferation of new information technologies, mobile devices and the good old Web, new methods of borrowing and lending have emerged that are slowly toppling the bank-centric model. The best and most promising example is peer-to-peer lending, which leverages technology to directly match those who need money with those who have money to invest, while cutting out the middle man.

By enabling the efficient flow of capital across international boundaries and wealth divisions, and by allowing lenders to connect with and send money directly to borrowers, peer-to-peer micro-lending has the ability to have an enormous impact — on a global scale. However, while a handful of organizations and institutions have attempted it, direct P2P lending across international wealth divides has never been done before at scale, says Julia Kurnia.

So Kurnia decided to change that. In 2009, she founded Zidisha, a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing direct, P2P lending to low-income entrepreneurs in developing countries. Without much of a roadmap to follow, Zidisha has spent the intervening years plotting its course, slowing developing a micro-finance model that could work at scale — through good old-fashioned trial and error.

If the Immunity Project (YC W14) crowdfunds this synthetic AIDS vaccine, they'll offer it free to everyone

What happens when you combine Microsoft e-Science machine learning, Harvard thinking, and a new medical device to tackle HIV-AIDS? The Immunity Project, a not-for-profit company developing the first ever synthetic HIV vaccine.

The Immunity project’s work is based on the discovery that there are people born with a natural immunity to HIV. After identifying these "HIV controllers" in the population, the team applied machine learning to reverse-engineer the biological processes HIV controllers use to defeat the virus, mimicking natural immunity.

They’ve developed a vaccine prototype and completed preliminary laboratory testing. And today, they went live with a crowdfunding campaign to support a demonstration aimed to prove the vaccine can successfully immunize human blood. It's the last step before they begin Phase 1 human clinical trials with the FDA. Their goal is to give the vaccine away to the world, for free.

Payments Startup Stripe (YC S09) Joins the Billion Dollar Club

In the crowded field of online payments, venture capitalists are betting Stripe Inc. is a standout worth more than a billion dollars.

The payments startup has raised about $80 million in new funding this week from venture-capital investors including Khosla Ventures, Sequoia Capital, and Founders Fund, said brothers John and Patrick Collison, the company's co-founders, in an interview. Stripe, at just over four years old, is now valued at $1.75 billion.

Zenefits (YC W13) raises $15M Series A from Andreessen Horowitz, Maverick, and Venrock

The thought of managing HR, benefits and payroll is enough to make most entrepreneurs grimace. However, time consuming and frustrating as it may be, it’s a part of the job description and something every startup and small business has to address sooner or later.

Having dealt with the paperwork and administrative headaches at startups before, Parker Conrad and Laks Srini launched Zenefits last year to take the pain of HR management out of the hands of founders and move it to the cloud. Beginning with a service that sought to automate the process of setting up and managing group health coverage and payroll, Zenefits enabled small businesses to transfer administration online, for free, and removed the need to dip into hiring budgets to hire a dedicated HR person.

However, the team quickly found that the opportunity extended beyond health coverage and payroll, as many of its early customers used Zenefits not just for its initial functionality, but as a full-on replacement for traditional HRIS or Human Resources Information Systems. As Zenefits looks to expand its coverage and help startups and larger businesses manage all HR-affiliated tasks, the company is taking on $15 million in Series A financing from Andreessen Horowitz, Maverick and Venrock to go after larger, enterprise customers and to begin tackling international markets.

Read the full article on TechCrunch