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.

Read on TechCrunch

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.

Read on TechCrunch

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.

Read more in TechCrunch

SoundFocus (YC S13) raises $1.7M from Kapor Capital, Vegas Tech for hardware and software for hearing impaired

I generally enjoy writing about startups, but I love writing about startups that are working on something undeniably good for the world. This is one of those.

SoundFocus is trying to improve the experience of listening to music for people who are hard of hearing, or unable to hear certain frequencies. They’ve just raised $1.7M to get it done.

The investors in this round were Kapor Capital (Lotus and EFF Co-Founder Mitch Kapor’s fund), Y-Combinator, Greg Badros, Ovo Fund, RTA Capital, Vegas Tech Fund, Garry Tan, Alexis Ohanian, and Harj Taggar.

We first wrote about SoundFocus back at the tail end of 2013, just after they’d first launched their iOS application.

The app, compatible with both your iPhone’s built-in music library and tracks streamed down from Spotify, automatically adjusts music based on a person’s unique abilities to hear different frequencies.

...

You can find SoundFocus (currently iOS only) in the App Store right over here.

Read in TechCrunch

Chute Commerce (YC W12) lets online stores make more money by curating user-generated photos on their product pages

Chute, a visual marketing and media-sharing platform, today launched a new product aimed at helping online retailers leverage user-generated content to help improve sales. Chute Commerce allows marketers to transform the traditional shopping experience that consumers have when viewing products online away from a static, non-engaging experience to one much more social and highly visual.

There’s no doubt that more people are doing a lot of their shopping online. In 2013, eMarketer estimated that US online retailers would bring in $259 billion in sales, a 14.8 percent increase from 2012. This percent is expected to increase at a 14 percent compound annual growth rate through 2017. But eventually, all shopping sites will become very similar, so how can consumers differentiate between buying clothing on Overstock.com, Amazon, Target, Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, or the Gap?

Read more in TNW

Waterloo robotics company Clearpath uses Thalmic Myo Armband (YC W13) to pilot its robot

The Thalmic Myo armband promises to let you control pretty much anything computerized with simple hand gestures, and the videos that Thalmic itself has shown display impressive potential. But this new video from Waterloo-based robotics company Clearpath gives a glimpse of what it can do in the hands of outside developers. Outside developers who build awesome robots.

Read more in TechCrunch

InstantCab (YC W12) rebrands as Summon, raises venture funding from BMW and Khosla Ventures

San Francisco-based InstantCab has raised some new funding, which it plans to use to expand into new markets. But first, the company has rebranded its service as Summon, and is announcing a new app and lower-cost pricing scheme for rides from “personal drivers.”

Summon is one of the newer on-demand transportation startups that have emerged over recent years, competing with companies like Uber, Lyft, and SideCar. Launched in the San Francisco Bay Area, its differentiating factor was a sort of hybrid approach that combined the ability to hail either a taxi or a peer-to-peer ride share driver.

...

For taxi rides, Summon charges a $1 fee over the amount that a ride usually costs. But personal drivers cost up to 30 percent less, based on per-mile and per-minute rates. That price comes after the company issued a pretty significant fare reduction for personal rides a month ago.

One other way that Summon hopes to differentiate is a lack of surge pricing on its rides. While Uber recently lowered rates, regular users have noticed that there are significant increases in the cost of fares during rush hour and other peak times. Even Lyft has implemented its own version os surge pricing, which it calls Prime Time Tips, to have more driver supply on the road during peak times.

Read more in TechCrunch