When a toilet brush becomes a Homejoy (YC S10) CEO Adora Cheung's secret ROI weapon

In the Upstart Business Journal, Homejoy CEO Adora Cheung writes:

The company I founded with my brother is a new take on one of the oldest businesses around—home cleaning. What distinguishes our business, Homejoy, from others is a simple philosophy: We clean.

I’m not talking about just our base of contract partners, the hundreds of independent cleaning professionals in the 14 U.S. cities where we do business. I mean everyone in our entire office: the client services team, the recruiters, the engineers and the five members of our leadership team are all required to whip out the vacuum, grab a microfiber cloth, and scrub away at our clients’ homes. We've found that having all 30-plus people at our San Francisco headquarters clean and cross-train at work helps us all make better decisions and ultimately improves our bottom line.

Does having our whole team scrub floors really result in an increased return on investment, that often elusive ROI that every new company is going after? We believe so.

Read how at bizjournals.com

Airware's Jonathan Downey (YC W13) interviewed in Wired: Envisioning the Future Drone Workforce

Jonathan Downey is the kind of guy you want flying you around. The 29-year-old MIT-educated engineer not only has a commercial pilot’s license, but he also helped set the record for longest unmanned helicopter flight (18.7 hours) and pulled off among the highest hovers out of ground-effect (20,000 feet). You also get the feeling he’d knock out a barrel roll if you asked. Downey has taken his pilot and pilotless chops and turned them toward his own commercial drone company, Airware. Airware doesn’t build drones; it builds in software and hardware the brains that fly the machines and a platform on which others can build. Think of Airware as an operating system with some hardware thrown in. Wired Business caught up with Downey to talk the commercial case for robotic planes, and whether we’re going to see pilotless planes before driverless cars.

Read the interview in Wired...

Remote work done right: How Janine Yoong uses the Double Robotics (YC S12) Double at TokBox

The first time I had an inkling that J9000 was going to make a real difference was at an engineering meeting that I was politely invited to, attendance optional. I drove into the conference room anyway and parked in a corner. Some of the engineers nodded at me, a couple grinned, but there was no awkward shifting or chuckling. I turned toward the presentation on the screen and watched. I didn’t understand some of the content and asked a couple of questions. Some one answered. The meeting adjourned and I rolled myself out.

And that was pretty much what it would have been like in person. No pre-meeting fiddling to make sure I was on, or slowing down in case I wasn’t following along with the presentation, or post-meeting recapping of anything I missed.

When Lauren and I put together case studies with partners using OpenTok, we try really hard to get the Holy Grail of success stories — measurable data. With our Double, I’m stumped. What’s the ROI of being there? I’ve worked at TokBox for long enough to know that Important Stuff doesn’t always happen in meetings that get scheduled. It’s those meetings that you don’t need to be at but just want to sit in on. Or those meetings that aren’t planned at all but happen when people are working really late and start saying what they really mean. Sometimes it’s not meetings at all — it’s what people’s faces look like at lunch.

Read the full article at tokbox.com

PayDragon (YC S11) proves that mobile grocery ordering is sticky, growing revenue 35% per week

As we approach universal smart phone ownership among American consumers, retailers and startup entrepreneurs are scrambling for ways to integrate mobile into the everyday shopping experience. In April of last year, PayDragon launched its mobile food ordering and pre-payment platform allowing hungry restaurant guests to skip the lines at their favorite eatery. The service is now live in Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle, and Tucson.

The company followed this up with a September redesign that added the option to purchase non-perishable household products for home delivery as simply as scanning the barcode on the package already in their kitchen, bathroom, or garage. It has been a big hit. The marketplace currently offers 10,000 items which effectively includes every shelf-stable product you can buy at Ralphs, Trader Joes, Whole Foods, and Walgreens, or their local equivalent – all available via iOS and Android apps

Since its re-launch last fall, the company has seen this mobile ordering activity explode, with revenue growing at 35 percent per week on average for the last seven plus month, with “thousands of orders” now placed each month, according to founder and CEO Hamilton Chan. Unlike many personal shopping platforms, PayDragon is not taking a slow and steady approach to its geographic roll out. The service is available throughout the US and has completed orders in 45 of the 50 states.

“We would like to be known as the definitive app for buying anything quickly,” Chan says, adding that the groceries service is most popular among affluent males. “We like to joke that we’re ‘maximum laziness enhanced.’”

Read the full article on PandoDaily

Loom (YC W12) is building a better iCloud

The new product, Loom, puts all your photos and videos in the cloud, allowing you to empty your Camera Roll and reclaim lost disk space. Designed to replace the native Photos app, Loom instead uses smart technology to intelligently cache photos and videos based on the size of the device that you’re using. In other words, if you’re snapping high-def photos with your 16 GB iPhone 5, you don’t really need the full resolution version of those photos in order to enjoy them on the small screen, or share them with others.

Loom also works even when it doesn’t have a network connection – like Apple’s own Photos app does. It will just sync everything you do while offline once the device is connected again. And it will support some of Popset’s old feature set around album creation and sharing.

Also like iCloud, media stored in Loom will be available on all your devices. A developer API will be available, too.

Initially, the service will work on iPhone, iPad, Mac and web, but the plan is to bring the technology to Android as well, where it will be able to more deeply integrate with the operating system. In addition, photos and videos are only the beginning – the long-term plan is to support other file types including documents, music, audio, TV and movies.

Read the full article on Techcrunch

Hipmunk (YC S10) takes aim at Kayak: Searches, bookings and revenue doubling every year

Hipmunk co-founder and CEO Adam Goldstein, 25, believes his flight and hotel metasearch company can one day be larger than Kayak, and with $20.2 million in funding and revenue that has trickled in from the moment Hipmunk debuted, he thinks he has the time to prove it.

“We think we can be bigger,” Goldstein says, referring to Kayak. “We think we can do it.”

With Priceline closing today on its $1.8 billion acquisition of Kayak, you can picture the Kayakers reading Goldstein’s boast, and breaking out in giggles as they pour their champagne (or whatever the favorite libation is over there).


As a private company, founded in 2010, Hipmunk doesn’t break out a lot of numbers, although Goldstein says the overall business, including searches, bookings and revenue, has been “more than doubling every year since we started.”

Instacart (YC S12) launches in Oakland and Berkeley

Today the popular on-demand grocery delivery service Instacart announced that it is bringing its service to two new cities: Oakland and Berkely. The two cities join its other active locations, all of which fall inside of the Bay Area.

Instacart appears to be succeeding where other firms have failed; it appears to have made grocery delivery economically viable. The service earns its keep by charging a fee for delivery – it costs more to get your goods sooner, and you tip delivery people on top of that – and by charging small markup on items sold.

Soylent taking pre-orders on Crowdhoster now: What if you never had to worry about food again?

What if you never had to worry about food again?

For many people, on many occasions, food is a hassle, especially when trying to eat well. Suppose we had a default meal that was the nutritional equivalent of water: cheap, healthy, convenient and ubiquitous. Soylent is perfectly balanced and optimized for your body and lifestyle, meaning it automatically puts you at an optimal weight, makes you feel full, and improves your focus and cognition.

Crowdfunding site powered by Crowdtilt's Crowdhoster

Soylent, now available for pre-order

Airbrite (YC S12) launches Celery, an online store builder that lets sellers easily accept pre-orders

Airbrite, a Y Combinator-backed e-commerce startup, is debuting its first product today called Celery (its name a play on the world “sell”). Celery is designed to be a “pre-commerce” store builder – or, in other words, it allows anyone to start selling ahead of having a product to ship. That means sellers can start taking credit cards now, then charge when their product is ready to launch. And in case you couldn’t figure it out by that description, Airbrite is hoping the product will be a hit with those raising funds using crowdfunding.

In fact, says Airbrite co-founder Chris Tsai, the company has already seen some traction with crowdfunders during its private beta, which rolled out to hundreds of users this March. But, he clarifies, Celery isn’t just designed for those merchants – it’s for anyone in any business who needs to enable pre-commerce on any platform.

Read the full article on Techcrunch

Crowdhoster by Crowdtilt (YC W12) launches custom reward levels, themes, and multiple campaigns

YC company Crowdtilt recently announced its $12M Series A with Sean Parker and Andreessen Horowitz and is on a roll with their latest updates to their open source self-hosted crowdsourcing platform, Crowdhoster.

Their latest updates include:

  • Multiple reward levels that are customizable
  • Custom themes and custom HTML/CSS
  • Multiple campaigns per site

You can request a Crowdhoster invite here

Read the full article on Crowdtilt's Blog