Agent (YC S11) launches helping Android phones anticipate user needs, makes your phone a lot smarter

It would be nice if our phones knew to read our text messages aloud when we’re busy driving, or to silence themselves when we’re sleeping, but all too often that kind of stuff doesn’t just work out of the box.

While apps like Google Now — apps that assist users proactively and are contextually aware — are one of the trendiest things in tech, they’re usually either only helpful in theory, or entirely too complicated.

Agent, a new app from Tagstand, aims to be a smart personal assistant that actually helps get things done without requiring tech know-how, extensive configuration, or the powers of imagination to dream up what your phone could automate for you.

Agent costs $1.99, and it’s only available for Android. Compared to alternatives like IFTTT for iOS and Tasker for Android, it is built to have more mainstream appeal.

“What we’re doing is quite complicated and requires a lot of calibration,” said Tagstand co-founder Kulveer Taggar. “But we want you to install it and then not have to think about it.”

Read the full article at AllThingsD

Scribd (YC S06) launches a Netflix-like subscription service for digital books

Scribd, long known for being a YouTube for online documents, is today launching a book-subscription service.

The key details: It costs $8.99 per month, includes unlimited online access and an offline library of 20 books at a time, the only major publisher participating is HarperCollins, and the available books from HarperCollins will be those that are at least a year old.

Will that description, at that price, appeal to avid readers? Perhaps. Scribd notes that work from authors including Paulo Coelho, Neil Gaiman, Marian Keys and Elmore Leonard will be included. (Writers will be paid based on how much their work gets read, just like a book sale.)

And, after all, Netflix’s successful subscription-video service doesn’t have all the new hits, either.

But perhaps if people like renting books that much, they can invest in a free local library card.

“We don’t have all of the books in the world, but we have enough that it’s a really interesting product for $8.99,” said Scribd CEO Trip Adler in an interview about the launch.

“By having a book-subscription service, we can create an interesting experience around book discovery,” Adler said. “There’s no obligation to finish, so this really changes book discovery — you can sample, browse and read in parallel.”

Read the full article at AllThingsD

DoorDash (YC S13) raises $2.4M to improve food delivery — growing over 20% weekly

DoorDash has raised a $2.4 million round led by Khosla Ventures’Keith Rabois and Charles River Ventures’ Saar Gur. SV Angel’sDavid Lee, YC partner Paul Buchheit, Benchmark co-founder Andy Rachleff, angel investor Russell Siegelman, and Pejman Nozad‘s new fund Pejman Mar Ventures were also in on the round. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The company, which was in Y Combinator’s summer 2013 batch, delivers food from 70 restaurants in Palo Alto and Mountain View to nearby towns for $6.

The DoorDash team tells me they will use the capital to grow the engineering and operations teams.

Read the full article on TechCrunch

99dresses (YC W12) launches iOS app and goes mobile-only for clothing swaps

99dresses, the Y Combinator graduate that gives women the ability to hit “refresh” on their wardrobes as often as they like through clothing swaps, has gone mobile-only with the launch of its new iOS app. The startup has fundamentally reworked the virtual currency system on which its swaps operate, due to the fact that U.S. users didn’t take to it the same way that the startup’s original Australian user base had.

99dresses recreates clothing swap parties in a digital format — the main point is to unload pieces you don’t like any more with the possibility of picking up a cute new piece for free.

When 99dresses launched, it was based on a “button” economy in which users received buttons in exchange for each piece they sold to another user, which could then be used to purchase another item. The site sold additional buttons for $1 a pop, in case someone wanted to go for a bigger buy.

But while that system worked well in 99dresses’ native Australia, it didn’t work so well when operations moved to the U.S., founder Nikki Durkin explained. The startup no longer operates in Australia.

“We wanted something in America that was more about instant gratification,” Durkin said.

Read the full article at Techcrunch

YC-funded Twitch raises $20M for live video gaming, doubled viewers to 45M monthly in the past year

Live video gaming platform Twitch has been on a growth tear this past year and has raised $20 million from investors to rip it up some more.

Unlike competitors Ustream, LiveStream, YouTube and others enabling individuals and companies to broadcast video to the masses, Twitch is focused on just one category: gaming.

The company provides an online platform and community for gamers that features live streaming gaming events, personal streams of individual players in action, and talk shows dedicated to gaming.

Individual players who bring in large audiences to watch them play get a portion of revenue generated from advertisements on their stream. The company says some gamers are earning six-figure salaries by gaming full time on the Twitch platform, and it expects the number of gamers to grow when Microsoft’s Xbox One and Sony’sPlayStation 4 consoles launch this fall and gamers can broadcast and view Twitch content with a single button.

Previously, players had to use third-party software and install one or more hardware components to stream from a console.

The San Francisco-based company, which was spun off from Justin.tv, a Y Combinator startup that also hatched SocialCam, says it has more than doubled its monthly active viewers during the past year from 20 million to 45 million. The number of content creators, which include game developers, game publishers and independent gamers, have grown to 4,500 from 2,000 in September 2012.

Read more at WSJ Venturewire

Need leads for job candidates? HireArt (YC W12) launches a lower priced option for you

Y Combinator-backed HireArt, a job applicant screening service which today touts business customers including Airbnb, Cisco, eBay, Gap, Facebook, General Assembly and others, is today launching a second, less expensive pricing tier designed for those who don’t need a full-service recruiter, but rather a curated feed of potential job candidates they can review themselves.

Launched last year by three college friends from Yale, Elli Sharef, Dain Lewis and Nicholas Sedlet, HireArt has until today been focused on offering employers a contingency service, where it took a success fee of 10 percent of the first year salary from those job applicants it helped to place.

Read the full article on Techcrunch

Swiftype (YC W12) raises $7.5M from NEA for site search done right—now serving 200M queries per month, up 20x in a year

Swiftype, a Y Combinator-backed startup that creates a smarter search engine for websites, has raised $7.5 million led by NEA, with angel investors participating. The startup previouslyraised $1.7 million in seed funding from Andreessen Horowitz, NEA, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Ignition, CrunchFund and angel investors. NEA partner Jon Sakoda will join Swiftype’s Board of Directors as part of the financing.

Founded in 2012, Swiftype basically adds a more intelligent, high-quality search engine for mobile and web-based sites and allows users to query and collect information more efficiently. The startup actually builds search engines in real-time, organizing pages based on importance rankings from your site. After creating your search engine, the Swiftype dashboard allows you to customize search results by editing titles or deleting entries. You can even drag and drop queries from the dashboard in order of the ranking you want them to appear in. Installation is relatively simple — developers need to paste the supplied JavaScript code into a website.

Read the full article on Techcrunch

Mobile Deal-Finding App Shopular (YC W12) Raises $6.4 Million Series A From Sequoia

While most mobile applications today are heavily concerned with getting users to remember to open them regularly, mobile deal-finding application Shopular has been content to run in the background, alerting consumers to sales and discounts when they’re in a store or mall. Now, its focus on practicality over spammy behavior has paid off, in the form of a $6.4 million Series A round, led by Sequoia Capital. Sequoia’s Tim Lee will also join Shopular’s board of directors.

The startup had previously raised a seed round from Y Combinator and other angel investors, including Adam D’Angelo.

Shopular first emerged just ahead of the 2012 holiday season, after participation in Y Combinator’s Winter 2012 batch. Founded by former Shopkick engineers, Navneet Loiwal and Tommy Tsai, Shopular offers a different take on mobile deal-finding than their previous company’s solution.

Techcrunch goes hands on with home try-on custom fitted polo shirt service Vastrm (YC S12)

Y Combinator alum Vastrm has been pretty busy lately. In addition to locking up another $1 million in seed funding from A16z, SV Angels, Ignition Partners, and Will Smith (to name a few), the startup redesigned its website slightly modified its sense of purpose. The team has always been about giving its customers the perfect fitting polo, but now they’re working to make the process even more personal.

The process is largely unchanged from when Billy checked it out last year, but the biggest recent addition was the launch of a try-at-home option. In exchange for a $20 deposit, you’ll get a trio of shirts in sizes of your choosing so you can try to pin down your perfect polo. Vastrm toyed with the idea for a long while and tested it with a slew of early beta users (CEO Jonathan Tang said 55 percent of testers tried the feature), but the full-on launch took place fairly recently.

Read the full article at Techcrunch

Chute (YC W12) lets brands ask its fans for permission to use their photos

Chute is a startup aiming to become a “complete visual platform” for brands and publishers, initially by helping customers collect and publish user images and videos. Today it’s taking an important step in that direction by adding tools for companies to actually get user permission to republish their content.

There are companies, including Chute’s customers, who were already taking advantage of user generated content — one common approach is to ask users to share photos using a certain hashtag, and to treat the inclusion of that hashtag as “implied consent”. But co-founder and CEO Ranvir Gujral told me that as “bigger and bigger brands” want to use this content, and as they start using it in more commercial ways (such as incorporating them into ads powered by Chute), they’re also taking a “more conservative” approach to these issues.

Read the full article at Techcrunch