Pulitzer prize-winning author Junot Díaz uses Rap Genius (YC S11) to creatively annotate his works

Pulitzer prize-winning author Junot Díaz has laid bare the inspirations behind parts of his celebrated 2008 novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao in a series of annotations to the text posted on a social media site that lets rap, rock and poetry fans share their passions.

The site, Rapgenius.com, taps into fans' enduring thirst for knowledge about the inspirations of their creative heroes, and enables users to post song lyrics, poems or passages of prose and to "collaboratively annotate" them.

Díaz's prize-winning novel follows the life of Oscar de León, a boy growing up as a Dominican immigrant in New Jersey who is obsessed with science fiction and fantasy novels, and is also falling in love. Diaz took to Rapgenius.com to share the backstory to one of the book's footnotes, which relates to "Outer Azuo", the remote reaches of the Dominican Republic's Azua province, and Oscar's perceptions of it.

Read the full article at The Guardian
Hat tip Alexis Ohanian

Machine Zone (YC W08) debuts Game of War iOS MMO game, supports hundreds of thousands of players simultaneously

While iOS games started out as either simple physics or casual simulation titles when the platform launched about five years ago, the bar has gotten steadily higher and more hard-core. Midcore studios like Kabam started to rise in prominence.

Now the iOS platform might be seeing is most hardcore title to date — a very, very massive multi-player title from YC- and Menlo Ventures-backed Machine Zone.

The company, which started out doing text-based RPGs a couple years ago like iMob, is launching Game of War: Fire Age. It’s a title where players build and grow empires, train massive armies, forge alliances with other players to win kingdoms.

The game can handle hundreds of thousands of players concurrently in the same universe, which is not an easy technical feat. Blizzard’s World of Warcraft, in contrast, typically handles a few thousand players simultaneously in a single realm. All movement on the game’s map is visible to everyone else.

“We wanted to take the company to the next level and be really ambitious,” said Machine Zone CEO Gabriel Leydon. “We decided to build some things that had never been done before. We had the capital to do it and the willpower.”

Read the full article at Techcrunch

Lob (YC S13) launches a cloud printing and shipping service for developers

Want to build your own Postagram? You could with Lob, a new developer API for integrating printing and shipping services into applications that’s officially opening its doors today. The company makes it possible for a business to implement a programmatic means of printing, packaging, and shipping items on demand, including things like business cards, photos, posters, letters, postcards, checks, stickers, and more. During its brief testing period, Lob saw sign-ups from customers like CrowdTilt, ZenPayroll, LendUp, and others.

Founded just a couple of months ago by University of Michigan grads Harry Zhang and Leore Avidar, Lob is participating in Y Combinator’s summer 2013 program. Today, it already has hundreds of customers and is generating revenue, the founders say.

Read the full article at Techcrunch

Try Lob now for your printing needs

How Asana does marketing analytics: Google Analytics + Optimizely (YC W10) + Swiftype (YC W12)

Analytics: Google Analytics + Optimizely + Swiftype

Effective marketing is data-driven, and the best tools help teams not just capture data, but drive insights and action.  We use Google Analytics extensively, and we have customized it to help us segment visitors, capture events, and measure the success of campaigns. When we want to A/B test different content and messages, we use Optimizely, which is one of the best tools we’ve found for driving actionable insights (and is insanely simple to use, even for marketers not comfortable with code).

Our support and learning site, the Asana Guide, features site search by a company called Swiftype. Somewhat unintentionally, we’ve found Swiftype to be a goldmine of analytics data – seeing what people are searching for, finding, and not finding.  We share these reports with the product team to illuminate user confusion and pain points, and we use the data to add support content and make product changes.  Additionally, Swiftype lets us adjust search rankings, so we can point the most popular searches to the most relevant content.

Read the full article at the Asana blog

Watsi (YC W13) raises a $1.2M philanthropic seed round from PG, Tencent, YC, Conway, Khosla, Draper Richards Kaplan

We dropped everything for Watsi. We quit our jobs, moved across the country, and worked hundred-hour weeks to prove that by connecting people, we could change the future of healthcare.

Three months ago, we had the opportunity to pitch Watsi to the titans of Silicon Valley at Y Combinator’s Demo Day. Today, we’re excited to announce that 13 of the world’s most innovative philanthropists have contributed $1.2 million to fund Watsi’s operations.

Read the full announcement at the Watsi Blog

PaaS pioneer DotCloud (YC S10) brings on new industry vet Ben Golub as CEO

DotCloud, which was a multi-language PaaS before multi-language PaaSes became all the rage, has a new CEO in Ben Golub. He was formerly president and CEO of Gluster and before that of Plaxo, where he replaced Sean Parker. Gluster, a provider of scale-out storage, sold to Red Hat for $136 million two years ago.

Golub’s big ambitions for PaaS go beyond multiple language support, according to his blog post announcing the move. Developers also want to use multiple stacks, he wrote, and to deploy apps on any hardware.

He continued:

“Operators both inside and outside of the enterprise want to be able to run applications seamlessly. Almost every enterprise wants its own PaaS-like environment. In other words, the industry seems to want not just a multi-language PaaS, but a limitless-language, multi-environment, and multi-enterprise PaaS.”

San Francisco-based dotCloud is the commercial force behind the open-source Docker.io community, which aims to build portable containers out of applications. The goal is to provide an application built on a laptop that can then run in large-scale implementations, on virtual machines, OpenStack clusters, and public clouds, according to the Docker.io web site.

GetGoing (YC S12) launches hotel search booking and lots of experience improvements

Coming out of beta four months ago, San Francisco start-up GetGoing has elicited buzz because of its unique opaque booking product for vacation packages: “pick two, get one.”

Today the San Francisco company adds traditional hotel booking to its menu of options — with an inventory of 140,000 hotels in 150 countries from Expedia Affiliate Network (EAN). It will mimick Hotels.com’s highly successful book-10-hotels-get-a-tenth-stay-free loyalty rewards concept.

The start-up, which has 35 full-time employees, is a graduate of the Y Combinator accelerator program and has received about $5 million in funding. In April it added ordinary flight booking.

We spoke with CEO Alek Vernitsky about the changes: "We integrated the historical weather for your dates of travel, to spare users from having to click over to Weather.com. The forecast is right there at the top of the search results. We have smarter Facebook relevance. We provide two metrics: How many of your Facebook friends live there and how many of your Facebook friends have been there. While some other sites tell you if your friends have been to a place, travelers often want to know whom they might be able to visit while they’re in town."
Read the full article on tnooz.com

Loom (YC W12) launches cloud photo sync done right: Don't fill your HD, store and view it all at any time on all devices

Loom, the new cloud storage and syncing service emerging from the ashes of Y Combinator-backed Popset, is today opening its doors and heading into beta. Though the company’s long-term vision for Loom is to offer users and developers a better alternative to Apple’s iCloud, the app that’s launching now on Mac and the iTunes App Store is only the first step. It allows users to sync their photos to Loom’s cloud storage, so they can delete the hundreds or thousands eating up space on their iPhone or iPad’s Camera Roll or computer hard drive.

When Loom first announced its plans in May, co-founder Jan Senderek had explained that the team had realized they were trying to solve the wrong problemwith Popset. People weren’t struggling to share photos with groups, they were in search of better tools to organize and manage their photo libraries. Chief among users’ complaints were their sometimes overwrought routines for backing up their phone’s photos: syncing to their computers or external hard drives, syncing through iTunes, and then losing too much room to store photos on their smaller MacBook SSD drives, for example.

Read the full article at Techcrunch

Try Loom now

Goldbely (YC W13) in Fast Company: "We let people travel with their taste buds."

David Zax of Fast Company writes:

The idea of pizza delivery is, of course, very familiar: Just call up Domino’s, wait 30 minutes (or so), and you’ll have it at your door.

But what if you're craving a very particular kind of pizza--deep dish pizza, say, from the famous Lou Malnati’s in Chicago? And, to complicate matters just a tad, what if you don’t live in Chicago, or anywhere near Chicago at all?

Enter Goldbely. Cofounder and CEO Joe Ariel was born in New York, but began to get a taste for regional American delicacies when he went to college in Tennessee. “My eyes were opened to all these foods I didn’t have growing up--pulled pork, BBQ ribs, country ham, biscuits and pie,” he says. Eventually, after founding Eats.com and running Delivery.com, he and three cofounders decided to launch Goldbely. The pitch was simple, if somewhat outlandish: a nationwide delivery service for delicacies and iconic dishes from all over the country.

Binary Thumb (YC S12) launches Grid for iOS, a beautiful collaborative grid-based spreadsheet

Designer Josh Leong was growing impatient with Microsoft. After spending a few years working his way up the chain from designing icons to helping design Flash Fill, one of Excel 2013's best new features, Leong didn't feel like he was making much of an impact. While working on Excel, he stumbled upon a Microsoft research paper titled "Excel: It's Not About The Math." It detailed how people all over the world were using Excel for everything from cataloging garage sales to keeping track of entire businesses on Etsy. Beyond that, these people were increasingly inserting images and other kinds of content into their spreadsheets, but with little success. The research paper was, for the most part, ignored. Microsoft's most lucrative customer, however, is the enterprise licensee, not the craftsman.

"You have to change the foundation and the frame to be able to put in more [than numbers]," Leong says, "to be able to put in all the things the internet gave us over the last twenty years." In an elevator one day, a senior colleague murmured "I promised myself I'd leave two years ago. It's been six years." Several months later, Leong has left Microsoft, founded a company called Binary Thumb, and is today launching his first mobile app Grid for iOS.

Read the full article at The Verge