NexTravel (YC W14) Wants To Change The Way Corporate Travel Is Booked

"Booking travel is never easy, but booking travel for work is even worse. NexTravel wants to provide a better way for employees to search flights and hotels, while giving employers the ability to track and manage costs.

Even as consumers have gotten used to using simple online platforms for booking their own travel, the corporate travel world has failed to catch up. Employees are asked to navigate archaic travel booking websites or talking to travel agents for hours trying to get the right hotels or flights confirmed.

Meanwhile, many small- and medium-sized businesses don’t have a good travel-booking platform. That means employees usually end up booking their own work travel, but managers have few tools to track, approve or control travel expense costs.

NexTravel hopes to offer the same sort of ease and convenience users have grown to love from consumer platforms, while giving employers ways to track and lower the cost of corporate travel. It provides a way for businesses to centralize their booking process in a fast, cost-effective way."

Perceptiv’s SHIFT (YC W15) Turns Drones Into Smart Dollies For Filmmakers

Drone tech is exciting and full of potential, but few companies are focusing on tech that provides benefits drone users can enjoy now, without spending a fortune or managing an architectural firm or large-scale agricultural concern. Perceptiv Labs, a YC Winter 2015 cohort startup with a founding team out of Waterloo’s top-flight robotics engineering department, is offering high-flying drone hobbyists, filmmakers and journalists a relatively affordable, yet advanced way to introduce some highly intelligent automation into their high-flying video antics right now.

Perceptiv, which also has funding from Version One Ventures, is launching SHIFT today via pre-order campaign, a $600 accessory (which will retail post-campaign for $800) that works with the DJI Phantom and 3D Robotics Iris, providing a vision sensor, processor and autopilot program for capturing amazing aerial shots via subject tracking. Essentially, it turns these hobbyist drones into robotic flying dollies for capturing great pans, zooms and fly-by shots, with computer vision tech making sure to keep a user-defined subject exactly where it needs to be in the frame along the way.

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Luka (YC W15), The App That Replaces Your Foodie Friend, Goes Live In SF

"IO, the company that launched on stage at Disrupt Europe and is looking to replace Yelp with a natural language recommendation engine, is today launching its service publicly in the Bay Area.

The app, re-branded from IO to Luka, is going live with more than 2,000 restaurants signed on in the Bay Area. But how does it all work?

Luka is an app that looks a lot like an SMS conversation. Users can message Luka with questions like “Anything fun to do tonight?” or “I have a date tonight. Where should we go?”

Luka then processes those requests and sends back recommendations that are based not only on the request itself but your history and preferences. Luka learns that you are a vegetarian or that you’re addicted to cheese or that a good fried fish taco is your reason for living. Knowing these things, Luka transforms what is usually a tedious browsing experience on Yelp into a relaxed experience in which Luka is doing the work."

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Rescue Forensics (YC W15) Aids Law Enforcement In Finding Victims

Rescue Forensics, a web intelligence company dedicated to helping the government fight crime, has joined the Winter 2015 batch of YC. Read more about what they're building: 

“Human trafficking is no longer on the streets where police can observe and monitor it,” he said. “It’s gone to the Internet.”

After finishing law school, Ryan Dalton and co-founder Brandon Hamric started working part-time on tools that could filter, track and record escort listings for potentially suspicious behavior involving minors. They applied for Y Combinator and vowed that if they got in, they would quit their jobs and do this full-time as a company, calling it Rescue Forensics.

Basically, Rescue Forensics builds search software that helps law enforcement officials collect and document online evidence that could be used to prosecute traffickers in court. The company itself doesn’t make any judgments about what might constitute illegal trafficking behavior. That’s up to investigators to determine, as there are adult women who want to do sex work and aren’t being trafficked.

But Rescue Forensics does provide a way to document and manage listings that can quickly pop up and disappear on Craigslist or other listing sites across an entire region. Dalton said that so far, nine victims have been rescued.

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YC Digest 2/13-2/19

Top Stories from the YC World - 2/13/15-2/19/15

YC's Female Founder's Conference is tomorrow (2/21)! Watch the livestream at femalefoundersconference.org.

How, and Why, Y Combinator Got Serious About Diversity by Fast Company


YC is hosting office hours at Stanford on 3/5. Sign up for a slot here

Kuhcoon (YC W15) Promises To Automate Facebook Ad Campaigns For Small Businesses

"A lot of ad tech companies like to talk about automation, but Andrew Torba, co-founder and CEO of Kuhcoon, seems particularly enthusiastic: “Our grand plan is to automate all of paid media spending on the Internet.”

The startup isn’t quite there yet, but it says it’s already working with more than 6,000 advertisers in 90+ countries. (Those advertisers include a number of startups at Y Combinator, where Kuhcoon is part of the winter class.) It’s currently limited to Facebook advertising, but Torba said Kuhcoon’s Google Adwords launch is imminent, and there are plans for Twitter and Pinterest as well.

Torba and his co-founder/CTO Charles Szymanski acknowledged that there are other Facebook ad automation products out there. However, Szymanski suggested that the ones that offer “full automation,” like Nanigans and Kenshoo, are focused on huge advertisers. When it comes to small and medium businesses (Torba said Kuhcoon serves advertisers who spend between $20,000 and $1 million a month, with a focus on those who spend less than $100,000), the available tools are more manual." 

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Transitmix (YC W15) Cuts The Paper Out Of Bus Route Planning

'YC-backed Transitmix, which is in the middle of the three-month accelerator program, is building a business out of helping city planners make smarter choices when configuring bus routes. The fix? An online mapping tool to speed up the process of devising and comparing bus routes.

It’s a simple sounding problem with some complex implications — given the various socio-economic factors in play. So anything that makes it easier for route planners to weigh and weight different considerations — such as the cost of operation; how many people a bus route might serve; and how many jobs are in the commuter vicinity — has axiomatic utility.

Frankly it’s hard to believe that something like this doesn’t exist already. But, says Transitmix co-founder Sam Hashemi, the tool’s ‘competition’ is mostly paper-based maps and spreadsheets “containing hundreds of tabs”, coupled with manual cross-referencing of Google Earth. In short: a legacy process nightmare desperately in need of data-rich digital optimization."

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Level Frames (YC W15) Launches Because All Art Deserves Its Frame

Welcome to YC, Level Frames!

"Wall art is relatively easy to acquire. You buy posters at concerts, prints from random stores, or even buy the street art that is sold on the curb. Most times, the art itself is pretty cheap and you end up with stacks of rolling tubes piled in a corner. Why? Because finding a nice frame for your art is a total pain.

Local frame shops can be overwhelming, and even then the prices are exorbitant. Plus, you never know what it will actually look like. But YC-backed Level Frames is launching to solve that mess through tech.

Level is an online platform that allows anyone to find the right frame, at the right size, and even get an idea of how the art will look in different frames. Level then handles packaging and shipping and can, in some circumstances, get your frame to you within two business days."

Seed (YC W15) Wants To Reinvent Business Banking

"Seed thinks that business banking is opaque, expensive, and behind the times. The company, which is part of the Winter 2015 Y Combinator class, wants to shake up banking, bring it into the API era, and rip out unnecessary fees to make it, according to its CEO Brian Merritt, as “easy as possible to start and manage a business.”

Merritt and his co-founder Ryan Hildebrand are both former Simple denizens, a consumer-facing banking tech firm that sold in 2014 for more than $100 million.

The company has operated in stealth for some time, but is walking out of the shadows today to launch a banking API that will allow its early beta customers — its service is currently only available in the United States — to integrate Seed’s financial services into their own set of apps and tools."

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