Videos from Startup School 2013 are now online

If you missed Startup School 2013, you can now watch videos from last week's talks on YouTube.

PHIL LIBIN - Founder, Evernote

DAN SIROKER - FounderOptimizely 

RON CONWAY - Partner, SV Angel

OFFICE HOURS with Paul Graham and Sam Altman

CHRIS DIXON - Partner, Andreessen Horowitz and Founder, Hunch and SiteAdvisor

DIANE GREENE - Founder, VMware

BALAJI SRINIVASAN - Founder and CTO, Counsyl and Lecturer at Stanford University

CHASE ADAM - Founder, Watsi

JACK DORSEY - Founder, Square and Twitter

MARK ZUCKERBERG - Founder, Facebook

NATE BLECHARCZYK - Founder, Airbnb

Automatic (YC S11) Now Available in Apple Retail and Online Stores

Automatic (YC S11) announced today that the Automatic Link is now available in more than 250 Apple retail stores nationwide, and on the Apple Online Store. The Link retails for $99.95, and the app and service are free.

New to Automatic?

Automatic is an iPhone app that pairs with a beautiful piece of intelligent hardware called the Automatic Link. The Link plugs into the OBD-II port of your car, connecting your phone to your car’s onboard computer while you drive. All cars since 1996 have an OBD-II port, and most cars are compatible with Automatic (please check to see if your car is compatible).

Automatic is a Smart Driving Assistant: It helps you adjust your driving habits to save gas, remembers where you parked, and helps you decode and clear your car’s “check engine” light. Automatic can also detect many kinds of serious crashes, call for help, and alert loved ones, without an expensive subscription fee.

ZenPayroll (YC W12) opens up its platform, promises efficiency through removing back office data silos

Modern software is all about interoperability and eliminating data silos, according to ZenPayroll founder Joshua Reeves. Today the founder and his company are putting their money where their mouth is, launching a payroll API that could allow their software to create a more connected back office. And with more than $150 million in annual payroll flowing through ZenPayroll today — that’s up 50 percent in the last two months — the news has the potential to make a big splash.

Read more on PandoDaily

Soylent (YC S12) raises $1.5M from Andreessen Horowitz and Lerer Ventures to be the future of food

Soylent, the drink that’s designed to fulfill a person’s nutritional needs, just raised $1.5 million in seed funding from investors, including Andreessen Horowitz and Lerer Ventures.

Yes, that’s right. The seemingly wacky personal experiment of YC-backed founder Rob Rhinehart and his team is becoming a full-fledged business with $1.5 million in pre-orders.

Chris Dixon led Andreessen’s involvement in the company. “He’s a straight shooter and he thought it had a lot of potential,” Rhinehart said. “They got in there pretty quickly.”

Read the full article in TechCrunch

Applying Data Analytics to Education, Panorama (YC S13) Wins Mark Zuckerberg’s First Public Angel Investment

Panorama product shots

There are so many things that could be done to make schools better — improving teaching methods, curbing dropout rates, cutting down on bullying.

“But there’s no way to understand what’s going on, because there’s not enough data analysis, not enough data being collected, and nobody there to analyze it,” according to Panorama Education co-founder Aaron Feuer. “This would never be acceptable at a company, because nobody would know what’s going on.”

That pitch worked on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who, along with his wife Priscilla Chan, is co-leading a $4 million investment in Panorama, which runs and analyzes surveys at 4,000 K-12 schools.

WePay (YC S09) API now handling 648% more volume every month than in 2012, up to $1.5M daily

When Occupy Wall Street decided to accept donations, the eclectic group of protestors turned to crowdfunding service WePay, which helped Occupy raise over $1 million with its donation tool across hundreds of campaigns.

But WePay isn’t interested in individual campaigns anymore.

Basic tools represent WePay’s legacy business, CEO Bill Clerico told VentureBeat. WePay’s primary focus now is providing services to other crowdfunding sites through its API.

It’s a narrower scope than e-commerce, but one that has paid off for the payments startup, which is processing an average 648 percent more crowdfunding volume every month than in 2012 — or up to $1.5 million daily.

“I don’t think the market realizes how big we are from a volume perspective,” WePay CEO Bill Clerico told VentureBeat. “A lot of people are paying attention to Braintree and Stripe, but I think we’re in the same league from a size perspective.”

Read the full article at VentureBeat

From shorthand notes to full blog post: A review of MobileWorks (YC S11) in Business Insider

I often find myself pressed for time. Wouldn't it be great to be in two places at once, being twice as productive?

This is where a company called MobileWorks comes in extremely handy. It's a crowdsourced virtual personal assistant platform that funnels your tasks to workers around the world based on who's best equipped to handle them for you.

I talked to CEO Anand Kulkarni to learn about the company, took some notes, and sent those notes in to MobileWorks to have them turn it into a finished piece of writing. (I didn't pay them for this, it was a free test-drive of the service.)

Here it is, my shorthand notes turned into a longer-form article by MobileWorks:

"We’re making hiring obsolete," said Anand Kulkarni in a conversation with Business Insider. As CEO of MobileWorks, a fast-growing crowdsourcing company, he provides customized solutions for your business, guaranteeing accurate, high quality work with no stress on your part, and for a low cost. He’s changing the way business owners get work done.

"We’re making virtual staffers as reliable as everyday employees. We’re tracking workers all over the world to figure out who’s best for a given job," Kulkarni said. The MobileWorks routing system matches your tasks to the most qualified workers, which means you can rest assured that your job will be completed by someone with previous experience and expertise in your field.

Read the full article in Business Insider

Automatic Link (YC S11) reviewed in TechCrunch: "Worth the asking price."

I have something to get off my chest: I live in New Jersey, so by definition that makes me a “Jersey driver”. I’ve never thought of myself as the sort of manically aggressive road warrior that befits the stereotype (and I’d argue that Pennsylvania drivers are way worse), but Y Combinator-backed Automatic’s Link dongle begs to differ. It’s been plugged into my car for the better part of two weeks now, dutifully tracking all my hard stops, all my hasty starts at green lights, and all the times I’ve perhaps pushed the car a bit too hard.

And the verdict is in: I’m exactly what I thought I wasn’t. I’m a stereotypical New Jersey driver. As the old adage goes, the first step to recovering is admitting you have a problem, and Automatic’s neat little dongle + app combo has helped me to realize just that.

Read the full article on TechCrunch

Founder Stories: Michelle Crosby, Wevorce (YC W13)

Ending a marriage has always been messy and complicated, but according to Wevorce, it doesn’t have to be. Founder Michelle Crosby, a family lawyer by trade, left her job at a large firm and started working in alternative dispute resolution. As a child of divorce, Michelle had seen firsthand how destructive the proceedings could be, and sought to change the system.

Michelle architected a six-step process that combined ”neuroscience, behavioral science, pattern recognition, tools and technology to predictively and proactively manage the emotional, financial and legal issues inherent in ending a marriage.” [1] She wanted to establish an affordable system that focused on the well-being of the kids and kept families out of court. 

Michelle realized she was on to something exciting when she mapped out her vision on the back of a napkin, and Jeff Reynolds (now her co-founder) exclaimed, "This is going to change the world." The two began building Wevorce, and applied to Y Combinator a year later.

We sat down with Michelle to talk about making a dent in the universe, managing intangibles, and advice for the next batch of YC applicants.

YC: How did you decide to apply to YC? 

Michelle: A year after we started working on Wevorce, Jeff and I sat down for breakfast. We had just finished reading a biography of Steve Jobs and were talking about how we wanted to grow a really big company. Jeff had said, “I want to make a dent in the universe.”

My brother was an early YC grad. He and his cofounder started Zenter back in 2007, which was acquired by Google right after Demo Day. He had a YC success story, but because I had a background as a lawyer, I always thought his world was very different from mine. When I decided to apply to YC, I didn’t think there was a chance in hell we’d get in. But my brother said we had to try.

YC: What was the most surprising part of the program?

Michelle: You become somewhat fearless. Building something new is nerve racking, but Y Combinator gives you the audacity to fail fast. They completely reframe failure. Failure isn’t failure, it’s an opportunity to learn. When you start thinking about it that way, you start moving faster.

YC: What was the most useful piece of advice you heard from a Tuesday night dinner speaker?

Michelle: The line that sticks with me is from Brian Chesky of Airbnb. The week he spoke, he was on the cover of Forbes and they’d just pulled a billion dollar valuation. He talked about the discrepancy between how people see you as you gain traction, versus how you view the experience as a founder. He said, "Everyone sees us as this overnight success, but really it’s 1000 nights of misery."

That’s helped me so many times. You have days where you think you’re going to be the next Google and the next day you think it’s coming off the wheels. Tuesday dinners were our medicine for getting through the week. After interacting with the other founders, we came out feeling motivated, normalized. We realized we weren’t going crazy—it’s all just part of the process.

YC: What's been the hardest part of running a startup so far?

Michelle: Managing intangibles. As a founder you get great at measuring tangible things, like metrics. It's harder to measure intangibles like: What’s the morale of the team when you’re driving them hard? Is everyone clear on the benchmarks? When you’re in YC, you get 3 months of undivided focus and it’s awesome. Then you’re off, and you still have to build a company and life happens.

I believe the ability to move through those intangibles is what makes great companies. It’s not robotic. The real art of running a company comes down to managing those intangibles for yourself and for your team.

YC: What do you wish you'd known when you first started?

Michelle: I had no idea how much my perspective would change—in a good way. In YC, you walk through this process of getting things done and building a company, and when you come out of it, the world looks different. Everything feels a little more like “Why not try?” You have more optimism, you learn to fail fast, you learn to reframe failure. There’s nothing you can’t try.

YC: What advice would you give to founders applying to the next batch?

Michelle: Swing for the fences. It’s an amazing opportunity, and you have to give it all you’ve got. You will be surrounded by people who are smarter than you—take advantage of that—and you have this opportunity to learn at a rate that most people can’t even fathom. Have the audacity to try and the humility to learn, and enjoy it. Don’t take yourself too seriously. It’s a daily dance between self confidence and humility, and between those two you end up becoming a leader—a leader of a vision, and a leader of a company.


[1] A line from Wevorce’s original application. More excerpts from Wevorce’s application below.

Excerpts from Wevorce’s application:

What do you understand about your business that other companies in it just don't get?
The democratization of information means the horrors of the adversarial system (“Divorce Machine”) are now common knowledge—and couples are hungry for an alternative. But they don’t just want a different method, they want a different ethos. This means you can’t put lipstick on the pig. You must replace the pig with a lamb. Or even better, an iPad. The Family Blueprint is built on the the predictable patterns of divorcing families so we can replicate it by combining technology with humanity which is far outside of the existing adversarial divorce system.

How far along are you? Do you have a beta yet? If not, when will you? Are you launched? If so, how many users do you have? Do you have revenue? If so, how much? If you're launched, what is your monthly growth rate (in users or revenue or both)?
We’ve been in beta for a year, growing revenue 500% over that period. We have run over 100 families through the Family Blueprint. We’ll book approximately $130k in revenue in 2012. Our focus over the last year was proving that the system was replicable. We have removed founders from day-to-day operations and are operating at break even with negligible investment in customer acquisition.

If you had any other ideas you considered applying with, please list them. One may be something we've been waiting for. Often when we fund people it's to do something they list here and not in the main application.
Mint for divorced families—help them manage schedules, holiday kid swaps, finances, etc.

Please tell us something surprising or amusing that one of you has discovered. (The answer need not be related to your project.)
That by starting Family Architects we are working on our own version of world peace. We believe that peace starts within the walls of our homes and have created a way to keep peace in families during the second most stressful event of their lives.  

People and Pine Cones: URX’s (YC S13) Y Combinator Story

John Milinovich, cofounder of URX, posted a story about their YC experience on his blog. 

"On my first day as, “John Milinovich, Startup CEO” I was shell-shocked. I stared at an empty GMail inbox, unsure of where to start. The novelty quickly faded to the reality of the situation: I needed help. In the early days of a startup, you are battling inertia: how do you force something into existence that doesn’t exist yet?

I reached out to all of the mentors, friends and peers whose opinions I trusted to better understand how to get started. I was humbled by people’s response—people were so excited that I was going after my dreams and were willing to do whatever they could to help out. This led to several introductions, including to potential customers, investors and advisors.

At first, I was scared to share our idea with people. What if they didn’t like our product? What if they thought it wasn’t useful? What if they actually wanted to use it? I didn’t feel we were ready yet, but decided to put ourselves out there anyways.

This process taught me the most valuable lesson I learned early on: no matter what you’re building or “how early” you are in your development, it is never too early to start talking to potential customers. Customers (or users, in B2C companies) are the lifeblood of startups, and step 0 is to understand their problems and feel their pain. The more customers you speak with, the more perspective you gain—if you hear the same things multiple times, it’s probably something you should take into account.

In mid-April, I had the chance to meet Dave Fowler, the CEO of Chartio. Chartio was one of our neighbors in South Park, and had gone through YC a few years prior. It was a beautiful day outside, so we decide to walk around the Park. We ran into Max Mullen, one of the founders of Instacart (also YC) and we hit it off right away. I shared a bit about what we were working on at URX, and within 5 minutes Max said, “Yep, that sounds awesome – we would totally use this, sign us up.” Serendipity had played its hand again, and we had just landed our first customer. Our product wasn’t fully built yet, but Max was committed to working with us to fully help us understand Instacart’s needs.

By this point, we had been invited to interview for the Summer 2013 class of Y Combinator and decided to, “make our own luck” and talk to as many YC founders as possible to get a grasp on the interview process. Bruno introduced us to Sumon Sadhu, who founded Snaptalent out of YC’s S’08 class. Sumon is, single handedly, the most talented strategist and persuasive communicator that I’d ever met. He taught us how the Y Combinator interview process works and hammered it into our heads that, no matter what, we need to clearly articulate our 5 Main Points in our interview. We boiled down the entirety of “Why we should be in YC” to five bullet points and committed them to memory.

A few days later we interviewed with Geoff Ralston, Sam Altman, and Garry Tan and it was the most intense 10 minutes of our lives. The interviews are as difficult as they are made out to be, but we crushed it. We got our points across and walked out confident that we had made a good impression. (In retrospect, I’m proud that all of the YC partners we interviewed with ended up becoming investors in URX, along with Sumon)."

Read more on John Milinovich's blog