Y Combinator Backs Its Next Nonprofit, Coding Education Program CodeNow (YC W14)

"CodeNow is announcing that it has joined incubator Y Combinator — a move that founder and CEO Ryan Seashore said will help with the programming education nonprofit’s ambitious plans for growth.

CodeNow aims to teach programming basics to high schoolers, particularly girls, ethnic minorities, and other underrepresented groups. It launched in Washington, D.C. in 2011 before expanding to New York City and San Francisco last year." 

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Summon (YC W12) is the first transportation app fully licensed as a TNC in California

From the Summon / InstantCab blog:

Today, Summon has become the first Transportation Network Company (TNC) to receive apermit from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) allowing it to operate in California.

On-demand transportation apps form a new, exciting, and growing industry. California was the first state in the nation to pave the way for legalization of these types of apps, and Summon was the first company to meet each of California’s requirements and obtain an operating permit. Last September, the CPUC issued a decision requiring TNCs to obtain insurance to protect riders and members of the public in the event of an incident, conduct stringent background checks on drivers, have driver vehicles inspected, and complete several other safety-related steps to operate in California. 

42 (YC W14), An Online Platform Bringing Big Data To Brick-And-Mortar Retailers, Makes Its Debut

"Y Combinator-backed online retailer platform and former TechCrunch Disrupt participant42, is today making its official debut. The company, founded only a year ago, is working to turn raw point-of-sale data into actionable insights for brick-and-mortar businesses that can help them boost their sales.

This includes details about a store’s best customers or which products are top sellers, among other things.

The data is something that retailers have access to, but may have a hard time making sense of on their own. Or they may have limited resources to do the kind of analysis that allows them to draw the insights 42′s software-based solution can provide. Retailers might try importing their own data into Excel, which can crash and cause headaches, for example. Meanwhile, their other options for this kind of analysis have traditionally been more expensive, custom software integrations."

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Superhost (YC W14) Is A Property Management Service For Airbnb Listings

"Airbnb is officially no longer just a cute way to make some extra cash by renting out a spare room in your apartment. It’s a big business now. And like most other big businesses, it’s entered a period where managed services have emerged to support super users on the platform.

Enter Superhost, which has quietly emerged as a property management service for Airbnb hosts.

Superhost reduces the pain associated with managing your Airbnb listing — like updating your listing’s calendar and responding to guest emails, as well as setting up cleaning services for your listing in between guest stays. That’s important because the faster a host responds to a guest request, the more likely they are to stay at a certain place. And cleanliness is increasingly becoming an important part of boosting ratings of your listing." 

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Ambition (YC W14) Offers A Fantasy Football-Style Approach To Motivating Sales Teams

"Ambition says it’s taking the process of tracking and motivating sales teams beyond white boards and gongs.

The startup, which is part of the current class at incubator Y Combinator, launched its product last August, but has been “flying under the radar” in the press until now, said co-founder Travis Truett. He compared Ambition’s approach to fantasy football — he’s hoping Ambition users will be excited to log in every day and see how their team is doing.

Unlike fantasy football, however, Ambition isn’t tracking professional athletes competing against each other in imaginary matches. (At least, that’s how I remember fantasy football — it’s been a long time since someone strong-armed me into participating.) Instead, it looks at the performance of different sales teams within the company, allowing them to compete for limited “seasons”, with rewards for the winners.

Each team member is assigned an “ambition” score. The specific metrics that are used to calculate the score can be customized for each company and each position, so Truett suggested that it’s a way to compare people who are doing different positions."

Sam Altman for President

I'm delighted to announce that Sam Altman has agreed to become president of Y Combinator starting next batch.  I'll continue to do office hours with startups, but Sam is going to lead YC.

Why the change?  Because YC needs to grow, and I'm not the best person to grow it.  Sam is what YC needs at this stage in its evolution.

I'm convinced there's a fundamental change happening in the way work gets done.  It's becoming normal to start a startup.  There will be a lot more startups in 10 years than there are now, and if YC is going to fund them, we'll have to grow proportionally bigger.

Of all the people we've met in the 9 years we've been working on YC, Jessica and I both feel Sam is the best suited for that task. He's one of those rare people who manage to be both fearsomely effective and yet fundamentally benevolent–which, though few realize it, is an essential quality in early stage investing.  Sam is one of the smartest people I know, and understands startups better than perhaps anyone I know, including myself.  He's the one I go to when I want a second opinion about a hard problem.  And his association with Y Combinator is only about a month shorter than mine, because he was one of the founders in the first batch we funded, in 2005.

So when Sam became available in 2012, I started trying to recruit him.  It took me over a year, but eventually I succeeded.

YC should feel the same to the startups we fund. Office hours are the way founders interact with me, and I'll still be doing those.  In fact, since I'll only be doing office hours and not also worrying about running YC, I'll probably be able to give better advice.

Sonalight (YC W12) team relaunches as a new mobile analytics service Amplitude

Amplitude, a Y Combinator-backed mobile analytics service aiming to take on the likes of Flurry and Mixpanel by offering advanced features at more competitive prices, is officially making its public debut today ahead of YC’s Demo Day. And the company has actually gone through this process before, as it turns out – it’s the same team from the text-by-voice Android app Sonalight, which was in the YC Winter 2012 cohort.

Explains Amplitude co-founder Spenser Skates, Sonalight did “decently” well, reaching hundreds of thousands of downloads, and some number of paying customers, but it never really became a mainstream success. However, the team, as a part of the process of building their own mobile app, had also spent a lot of time creating their own tools for analytics in order to examine their data in custom ways.

Other developers in Y Combinator were soon asking for that same product, after getting a look. So the team pivoted from Sonalight, and built what’s now called Amplitude.

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Benchling (YC S12) Is Modernizing Software For Biotech Labs

"After the last two decades of consumer Internet and mobile innovation, is biotech or bioinformatics the next wave?

There are a handful of San Francisco-based startups that cross the bridge between the worlds of biotechnology and computer science.

Benchling is one of them.

Backed with about $900,000 from YCombinator, SV Angel, Founders Fund’s angel investing fund, Draper Associates and other angels, the company offers DNA editing and analysis software to biotech labs and researchers. With the entire team coming from MIT with skills in both computer science and biology, they’re competing against older, more cumbersome software solutions in the space."

Crowdtilt (YC W12) launches open source customizable crowdfunding platform, now CrowdtiltOpen

Fresh off its $23 million in Series B funding from Andreessen Horowitz and others, crowdfunding platform Crowdtilt is opening up its open source, white-label platform CrowdtiltOpen to all interested business users as of today. This product, previously called Crowdhoster, has been rebranded and relaunched with several more features designed for those who want to better customize and self-host their own fundraising campaigns.

The company initially launched Crowdhoster, which is built using the Crowdtilt API, into private beta last August. To date, it has seen hundreds of projects on its platform, some of the more notable being that of YC-backed nutritional substitute startup, Soylent, which raised over $2.1 million; a software company GNS3 which raised $300,000+; and a health crowdfunding campaign called the Immunity Project, which raised over $450,000.

When discussing Crowdtilt’s funding in December, CEO James Beshara explained that he saw a lot of similarities between it and WordPress, calling it the “WordPress of crowdfunding,” in fact, as businesses could add their own branding, logo, and even modify the open sourced code. (Also of note: WordPress co-founder Matt Mullenweg happens to be a Crowdtilt investor.)

Today, rebranded to “CrowdtiltOpen,” the tool offers an expanded feature set which includes recurring billing, direct payments (Visa, MasterCard, Discover, Amex), full customization or a choice from provided themes, analytics integration (e.g. Google, AdRoll, Optimizely, etc.), reward tiers, no time limitations, PCI compliance, support for non-profits soliciting donations, multiple campaigns, and as, noted above, bitcoin integration. And it’s still open sourced.

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Balanced (YC W11) partners with Coinbase (YC S12) to help two-sided marketplaces accept bitcoin

Payments platform Balanced has been gradually adding features to enable marketplaces to accept and make payments out to their users. Today the company is announcing that it’s integrated with Coinbase and will allow its customers to accept Bitcoin.

Now usually when we get pitches on new businesses “accepting Bitcoin” — like when acrappy NBA team or a space travel company does it — I’m inclined to pass on the news because it’s just a marketing gimmick and really, who cares? Bitcoin has hardly hit mainstream adoption and so as a practical matter, the number of users buying NBA seats or booking space travel via Bitcoin is pretty insignificant.

But Balanced’s integration with Coinbase and its support for Bitcoin is a bit different.

That’s because, for one thing, Balanced operates as an API platform for two-sided payments transactions. In that way, its support for Bitcoin is mainly to enable its clients — the companies accepting payments from one party and making payouts to another — to use the feature.

Currently Balanced has more than 450 marketplaces using its payment solutions, and now any of them can easily accept Bitcoin as a payment option. It does that by connecting with end users’ Coinbase digital wallets.

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