FiveStars (YC W11) raises $13.9M from Lightspeed Venture Partners and DCM

FiveStars, a loyalty program for local retailers, has raised $13.9 million in a first round of funding.

The Mountain View, Calif., company is trying to eliminate the need for loyalty punch cards in a very low-tech way — in other words, no fancy iPads or mobile applications.

Investors in the round include Lightspeed Venture Partners and DCM. Other investors include Y Combinator, Mayfield Fund, and angel investors Chamath Palihapitiya and brothers Hadi and Ali Partovi.

Read the full article on AllThingsD

VoiceGem (YC S12) launches the easiest way to send personal voice messages

Arda Kara and Alexander Blessing are from two pretty different places — Turkey and Germany, respectively — but as students pursuing master’s degrees in computer science at Stanford, they both faced very similar problems when it came to communicating with their family and old friends.

Because of the massive time zone differences between California and Europe, it was pretty much impossible to schedule a time to talk daily on the phone or via Skype. Texts and emails were a bit too cold. Video messages through mobile apps such as SocialCam and Viddy were just a bit too high-maintenance — who wants to have to shave before sending a quick “Hi” to mom and dad?

So they teamed up to build VoiceGem, a simple app for the web and the iPhone that lets you send and receive personal voice messages. VoiceGem, which is part of the current Summer 2012 class at Silicon Valley startup incubator Y Combinator, is launching in public beta today.

Read the full article at Techcrunch

Authy (YC W12) launches the simplest way to add Google-style two-factor authentication to your site or service

If you want to add two factor authentication to your own app but don’t know where to start, you’re in luck: Authy is a Y Combinator backed startup launching today that makes it easy to add optional two factor authentication to your application. You just add some API calls to your app and your users will be able to use their phones as a second layer of authentication.

Read the full article on Techcrunch

E la Carte (YC S10) launches restaurant tablets in 113 airports nationwide

Technology succeeds when it makes the everyday more magical, more efficient, just…more. E la Carte provides exactly that experience with its customized Presto tablets for restaurants.

The Y Combinator alumni company has been disrupting the everyday restaurant experience for just over a year by delivering menus, wine lists, nutritional info, instant ordering, play-while-you-wait games, and payment options tableside via touchscreen tablet.

Today, the company announced its biggest partnership to date. E la Carte has partnered with HMSHost, owner and operator of restaurants in 113 airports nationwide, including the 20 busiest airports in North America. Together, the companies plan to make in airport dining faster, more enjoyable, and less stressful. Evidence of this impact can be seen in E la Carte’s existing restaurant partnerships where tips increase by an average of 15% and sales by 10% with the introduction of the Presto.

Read the full article on Pando Daily

Kytephone (YC W12) launches Version 2.0: Adds SMS texting and new homescreen

We launched Kytephone four months ago with a simple vision: be the first smartphone every child gets. Despite kids growing up playing with touchscreen devices and getting phones at an increasingly younger age, parents are still rightfully hesitant to give a full smartphone to their kids. With Kytephone, we were able to offer kids a simple, child-friendly UI that ran all their favourite games, while parents got the call and app controls they needed to feel comfortable.

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We're very proud of our latest release, so check it out on Google Play. We'd love to hear your feedback.

Instacart (YC S12) brings one-hour delivery of groceries to SF, PA, MV, aims to be Amazon for one-hour delivery

Founded in early June, Instacart is the brainchild of Apoorva Mehta, an ex-Amazon Supply Chain engineer, who is leveraging his experience building Amazon’s own complex backend logistical system in the hopes of creating a more efficient back and front-end grocery delivery experience at Instacart.

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While Instacart eventually wants to be Amazon.com with one-hour delivery for anything and everything, the startup is currently focusing on groceries. This means that users can tap-to-order from tens of thousands of items, ranging from produce and booze to deli food, snacks and toiletries. Inventory is sourced from local grocery stores, and Mehta has put together a fleet of trained delivery personnel, who are paid by the hour to pick up the items from local stores and deliver them directly to you — at your home or office.

The service is currently live in San Francisco, Mountain View and Palo Alto and is available between 10am and 9pm. As for the pricing? Users pay a competitive amount for items as they would were they to buy at their local grocery store, plus $9.99 for one-hour delivery and $3.99 for three-hour delivery. 

Read the full article on Techcrunch

Sign up for Instacart (Available for iOS) here.

Zapier (YC S12) launches 3rd party developer platform - Now any app can zap data to 60+ services

Zapier, the Y Combinator-backed service that allows you to automate common tasks on the web and sync data between web apps, just announced the launch of its third-party developer platform. With Zapier, even non-technical users can easily create connections between the more than 60 apps the service currently supports. This means, for example, that you can push a notice to your Basecamp account whenever you sell a ticket on Eventbrite or get an SMS alert every time somebody signs up for your Campaign Monitor or AWeber email marketing campaigns.

With its new development platform, the Mountain View-based company says, developers will be able to easily add their own apps to the service instead of having to wait for the Zapier team itself to support them. Zapier currently supports over 60 services, including popular tools like Asana, Dropbox, Campfire, MailChimp, Salesforce, Stripe, Shopify and Zendesk. Developers will be able to hook into all of these apps, as well as any new ones Zapier itself adds in the future. This, says Zapier co-founder Wade Foster, will save “app developers weeks to months in developer time building integrations and lets an app developer spend more time focusing on their own apps.”

Read the full article on Techcrunch

WePay (YC S09) has a secret weapon: Better fraud detection = merchants get money faster

Wade Roush reports:

[WePay] has realized that its secret weapon—the thing it can do better than PayPal or any other online payment provider—is its ability to sign up new merchants quickly, without lots of paperwork or time-consuming background checks.

In fact, its onboarding process is so fast that other Web businesses that need to help their users process money—such as Fundable, a Kickstarter-like crowdfunding site for startups—are signing up by the dozens to use WePay as their payment infrastructure.

According to Clerico and Aberman, the startup is able to offer these quick sign-ups because it has figured out a fast and reliable way to evaluate whether new customers pose a fraud risk. Rather than running slow and expensive credit checks and other inquiries, it simply looks at applicants’ social networking profiles on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other sites. Says Aberman: “The benefit of digging into Facebook and Twitter is that when a new user signs up, they don’t have any transaction history on WePay. But they do have a history on other networks. We can see goodness or guilt by association.”

That means WePay can make a quick decision about whether a new applicant might be a fraudster. Assuming they’re not, it can enable them to receive money as soon as the day after they sign up.

Read the full article on Xconomy

HelloFax (YC W11) launches HelloSign, the easiest way to do e-signatures

The founders at HelloFax needed a simpler way to help customers get their documents signed. And so they developed a digital signature tool. In short time, they realized they had stumbled into a new space. The young YCombinator startup found that digital signing of documents was not just a feature but a market.

Today HelloFax is breaking into the digital signature category with a free service called HelloSign.

Read the full article on Techcrunch

Hiptype (YC S12) launches a Google Analytics-style service for e-books

A new startup called Hiptype wants to bring the bring all the analytics data that have become standard on the Web to the world of e-books.

Hiptype’s co-founders, James Levy (CEO) and Sohail Prasad (CTO), describe the product as “Google Analytics for e-books.” They say they were collaborating on an e-book of their own about big data, and they were surprised to find that the information available via the big e-book stores is limited to download numbers/sales, user ratings, and reviews. There are other products trying to provide more detailed analytics, but they require publishers to go through a specific store.

Read the full article on Techcrunch