URX (YC S13) raises $3.1M seed round from First Round, Google Ventures, SV Angel, Crunchfund, Greylock

Mobile deeplinks open specific pages within apps, and they’re about to transform ecommerce.URX is a new deeplink mobile advertising startup that’s raised $3.1 million from A-list investors to help ecommerce companies get existing users back in their apps and spending money. URX places ads on other mobile properties that deeplink to purchase pages in apps like Hotel Tonight and LivingSocial.


Investors in Y Combinator Summer 2012 startup URX’s $3.1 million seed round include First Round Capital, Maverick Capital, Google Ventures, SV Angel, Betaworks, Crunchfund (Disclosure: run by TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington), Greylock, CyberAgent, Fuel Capital, Garry Tan, Alexis Ohanian, Charlie Cheever, Sam Altman, Paul Bucheit, Geoff Ralston, Gus Fuldner, Plug & Play Ventures, Paul Sethi, Bill Peckovich, Joe Montana, Mehul Nariyawal, Dalton Caldwell, Virginia Turner, Andre Ranadive, Linda MacKenzie, Jamie Lee Curtis, Christopher Guest, Sumon Sadhu, Bruno Bowden, Chris Look, Nicholas Smith, and the Erickson Family.

Read the full article in TechCrunch

Science Exchange (YC S11) gets $1.3M grant to validate 50 major cancer studies

Congrats to the Science Exchange team:  

"Over a year ago, I began my mission to improve scientific reproducibility. I created the Reproducibility Initiative with PLOSfigshare, and Mendeley to provide a mechanism for scientists to independently replicate findings and be rewarded for doing so. We have made great strides in our effort, such as the validation of more than 1000 antibodies for antibodies-online. However, today is the day that I have made progress very near and dear to my heart. The Reproducibility Initiative has received a $1.3 million grant from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation to validate 50 landmark cancer biology studies.

As some of you may know, in my life before Science Exchange I researched breast cancer. There were several times during the course of my research where a study I relied on failed to be reproduced.

I believe the lack of reproducibility in cancer studies is a major obstacle in the development of viable therapies to cure cancer. The funding will be instrumental in not only verifying landmark cancer studies, but also helping to institutionalize scientific replication." 

- Elizabeth Iorns, Cofounder & CEO of Science Exchange

Read more on Science Exchange's blog

RentHop (YC S09) launches a new app that connects landlords and renters

RentHop, a rentals listing site covering New York City, Boston and Chicago, has launched a free iPhone and iPad mobile app for property managers that allows them to “check in” to properties to advertise their geotargeted availability to consumers.

The professional-focused app pairs with a new Google Maps feature on RentHop’s website, “Appointment On-Demand,” that shows consumers in real time where and how long ago property managers have checked in to a property using the app.

The new app, which also allows rental pros to update their listings on the fly, was a way to bring the on-demand world to the rentals space, said Lee Lin, RentHop’s CEO.

Consumers can see where and when property managers checked in to a property and know their availability without having to call or email, which was the whole point, Lin said.

Read more on Inman News

Zenefits (YC W13) launches its HR and benefits automation services for businesses in all 50 states

Back at TechCrunch Disrupt NY in April, a company called Zenefits debuted a service that aimed to automate away many of the most annoying bits involved with running a startup or small business. Hire someone? Give Zenefits the basic details, and they’ll get them insured, on payroll, etc. Fire someone? Click a button to pull them off payroll and send out the COBRA details. Life event changes? They handle it. And they do it all for free.

If your company doesn’t have group health coverage, Zenefits can fetch all the quotes you need and help you pick a plan. If your company does already have health covergae, Zenefits still works — they’ll just take over as your insurance broker.

At the time, Zenefits only operated in two states: California, and New York. Today, they’re rolling out to all 50.

There’s one catch, though: for now, they’re only rolling out to the other 48 states for companies with 20+ employees. Come January 1st of 2014, however, they’ll be in all 50 states for all companies with at least two employees.

Why draw that line? Zenefits CEO Parker Conrad tells me it all comes down to changes in the health insurance system put into play by the Affordable Care Act. Many of those changes don’t go into effect until January 1st, 2014 — but once they do, it’ll be considerably easier for them to pull insurance data and quotes for smaller teams.

Read the full article in TechCrunch

Double Robotics (YC S12) reviewed by Mashable: "Most fun and effective telepresence robot I've ever seen."

Mashable just gave rave reviews to the Double Robotics telepresence robot:

While $2,499 (plus the cost of an iPad) isn't cheap, this is by far the most fun and effective telepresence robot I've ever seen — plus, it's the easiest to use. Even with the current iPad power issue, it's a great solution for widely dispersed companies.

Boris Jabes of Meldium (YC W13) in Geekwire: How to quit Microsoft and start your startup

Boris Jabes, cofounder of YC startup Meldium writes:

There’s always been a steady stream of talent leaving Microsoft, but after recent events, we’re certain to see more of an exodus. Picture this. You’re a young and ambitious Microsoft employee who joined out of college a few years ago. Some of your friends from school run startups, and every once in a while you see Facebook posts about them getting funded, getting their hundred-thousandth user, or maybe even exiting. Many of your other friends work at small companies where they enjoy huge scope and very little politics. They get to take advantage of the latest technology stacks and give back to open-source along the way. You read articles about quitting your job and starting your own company. You begin to wonder if the race to climb from level 59 to 65 is really the one worth winning.

Luckily, it’s never too late to get out and find a more fulfilling role, especially in today’s startup-rich landscape. Here are a few tips I’ve gleaned from my own experience and that of my friends on how to leave Microsoft and join the startup scene.

The first think to do is to ask yourself what you really want. Starting a company may seem like the glamorous path but it’s a huge leap. If you are passionate about solving a big problem, have found an amazing cofounder and are willing to live without a safety net then please don’t wait for anyone’s permission. Just go for it. If that’s not quite the case then joining a startup (ideally early-stage & fast-growing) will undoubtedly give you the crucial experience necessary to build your own business someday.

Read all the tips at Geekwire

Founder Stories: Walker Williams of Teespring (YC W13)

Teespring, a crowdfunding site for custom apparel, has created a new way for people to express themselvespromote causes and even celebrate their favorite 90s TV principal. When they applied to YC, Teespring had already built a significant amount of traction organically — in fact, they were profitable. Since going through the Winter 2013 batch, they’ve celebrated a few big milestones, and are currently shipping well over 100,000 orders a month. We sat down with cofounder Walker Williams and asked what inspired them to apply to YC, how the process helped shape Teespring along the way, and what advice he’d give to new applicants.

A quick origin story
Teespring was born when two friends at Brown University decided to design and sell a t-shirt to commemorate the closing of a beloved Providence bar. After realizing the tee selling process involved thousands of dollars in upfront costs, and a number of logistical nightmares, they figured they could build a better solution.

In under 12 hours, they hacked together a site that sold hundreds of shirts and grabbed the attention of student groups and nonprofits all over campus. Soon, requests poured in for Williams and Stites-Clayton to replicate their model for other groups. Thus the idea for Teespring, a crowdfunding site for apparel, was born.


YC: Tell us how you decided to apply to YC.

Walker: I got really interested in YC about six months into running Teespring. We were doing well, but we knew we hadn’t figured out some important pieces of the business. We didn’t feel like we had the mentorship structure to take us to the next level in Providence. It was a choice between staying where we were and grinding away, or joining the YC community where we could be a part of a network of thousands of entrepreneurs and mentors who we could learn from. Actually being able to hear from and talk to founders who’ve built billion dollar companies, who went through the same struggles you're dealing with today, that's invaluable.

YC: What about the YC program has surprised you most?

Walker: The community. I went through an incubator in college -- one local to the Brown area. It was fun and I learned a lot, but as soon as the program was over the founders all went their own ways. There was no ongoing communication.

We still talk to so many people in the YC community. We get invites to events, we meet with a lot of the mentors, especially PG and Sam. There’s something more lasting about the way YC sets things up, the way they build community.

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

Walker: The most useful piece of advice I got was from John Collison, the cofounder of Stripe. He stressed the importance of doing things that don’t scale -- of doing things you’re able to do now that big competitors can’t keep up with. I was building from the standpoint of efficiency and scalability. But I took this advice to heart, and it’s been one of the biggest competitive advantages we’ve had.

YC: What’s one thing you’ve done that doesn’t scale?

Walker: We have close relationships with most of the sellers on our platform. We'll teach them what we know about how to sell, what converts. I still get late night calls from some of our sellers looking for help or advice. We listen, gather feedback, and adapt quickly to their needs. It's that constant communication which allows us to build the platform the users need, rather than what we think they need.

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

Walker: Even though it seemed like we were growing from the start, there were months and months where we’d ask “Do people really need this? Am I doing something wrong?” There were points when we were almost out of money, or when business was stagnant. It’s hard being able to recognize when to persevere and when to give up.  But we made a decision to keep going. Once we joined YC we realized that every startup has these growing pains. They all go through the “Trough of Despair.”

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

Walker: Suck it up and get on the phone. I’m the worst sales guy in the world, but I had to get out there and sell. When you’re a builder and you love to build things, it’s easy to bury your head in that comfort zone. You say, “I’ll just program my way out of the fact that no one’s using the product. I’ll just add new features.” I was stuck in that zone for months.  But if you’re not out there making a pitch for why people should use your product, they won’t come.

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

Walker:  Be straightforward. Don’t try to put a marketing spin on your presentation. Just be very very honest. Be brutally honest about where you are, what your numbers are, what your challenges are, who loves it today, and who is going to love it tomorrow.

Read more about Teespring:
Origin Story: “Our Path to $1 Million in Sales”

Kippt (YC S12) goes enterprise with its newest team collab tool, in use at top design agencies like teehan+lax

They’re a talented team of two from Finland that got Y Combinator’s stamp of approval and built a promising product for storing and sharing content from across the web.

But consumer-facing browser extensions can prove difficult for growing a large user base, so this startup, Kippt, did a little pivot.

After launching more than a year ago, they refocused on the enterprise market with a new version of their product called Inc.

While Kippt’s earlier product was like a latter-day version of the social bookmarking service Delicious, their new product Inc is more competitive with Yammer or Convo.

They found that many startups were using their consumer-facing product Kippt for sharing links. Co-founder Karri Saarinen says creating a separate brand would make the product easier to market.

“There were quite many companies or teams using it for sharing, organizing and discussing content,” Saarinen said.

Read the full article in TechCrunch

Michael Arrington Unveils Stealth Y Combinator Startup URX (YC S13)

Twice a year Y Combinator shows off its most recent batch of startups at a packed-house demo day in Mountain View. The goal of these startups is to attract investor and press attention. Sometimes, though, a particular startup wants neither, and stays in stealth mode until some later date.

URX, from the last Y Combinator batch, is one of those companies. There has been no press about URX at all, until right now.

URX is a mobile advertising platform. But it’s not about pushing app installs (~$300 million/year just for Facebook, around $1.2 billion/year industry-wide). It’s about getting users who already have apps installed on their devices to actually use and make purchases in them via product advertisements in other apps and websites.

URX helps app developers showcase all of the products in their apps with targeted ads. The desktop equivalent of this is Google’s Product Listing Ads, which have greatly simplified ad management for e-commerce operators on the web. Deeplinks are particularly compelling for mobile commerce companies (Retail, Travel, Local, Food, Deals, etc.) that want to jump in and offer a product to one of their users in real-time.
Read more on Uncrunched