Panorama Education (YC S13) makes polling easy for educators in 3,000 US schools, grew customer base by 100%

New Haven-based startup and current Y Combinator Summer 2013 participant Panorama Education is looking to address a major pain point for educators, students and parents around school with its polling app targeted at K-12 students. The technology is designed to replace cumbersome legacy players, and improve on less targeted, general-purpose tools like SurveyMonkey to really help survey provide meaningful insights for education.

Panorama came out of Yale alumni Aaron Feuer’s own personal frustrations with conducting surveys of classes. Feuer teamed up with fellow Yale students David Carel and Xan Tanner to create Panorama, drawing on their expertise with tracking and analyzing other types of data (sports) and their experience with the education system.

“We’re helping schools measure things, gather feedback and then use that data to improve,” Feuer said in an interview. “The big reason schools use us over SurveyMonkey is that we help them figure out what to ask, and we help them figure out what to do with the information. Tools like SurveyMonkey are great to just tell you the answers to whatever your surveying someone about, but if you want to understand what that actually means and how to interpret it, and you want to look at it in context with other data than you need something like Panorama.”

Though it’s new to YC, Panorama Education isn’t new entirely. The team started the company just before their senior year of college and have managed to sell their product into 3,000 schools in the U.S., and more than 500 abroad. Their annual recurring revenue run rate is currently at around $500,000, which is especially impressive as they only offer a paid product to the education market, which is traditionally reluctant about making budget bets on new products. During their time in YC, they’ve managed to increase their customer base by over 100 percent, and that’s a key goal they had coming into the program. But their ambition goes beyond that, Feuer says.

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Crowdery (YC S13) provides AB testing for a brand's physical products

Clothing sales can be awesome, but they can also mean racks on racks of ugly shirts that no one wanted to buy. While some customers will scoop a deal, inevitably someone gets stuck with a bunch of unwanted inventory. Crowdery, a Y Combinator startup, offers an e-commerce tool to help brands test out product designs before production to decrease surplus inventory.

Crowdery helps companies host contests, which last 10 days, on their websites to determine the most popular styles. Co-founder Maran Nelson says this approach is bringing A/B testing to physical products. While software and online platforms can beta test products before launching, industries such as clothing, furniture, jewelry and consumer electronics will end up slashing prices on unwanted inventory and losing profit.

“You have [companies] producing physical products, where these people are literally crossing their fingers and blindly making big financial decisions that they can’t iterate on,” Nelson tells me. “So we’re trying to step in and bring the user to the product at a point in the production cycle that’s still relevant.”

After a brand signs up, Crowdery sets up a white box widget for the company website, featuring several different styles for consumers to vote on. Participants are then asked for an email, age and gender, or to log in with Facebook. After the contest ends, anyone who voted for the most popular choice has the option to pre-order the item at a 30-50 percent discount. Crowdery then takes a percentage of pre-order sales.

Read the full article on Techcrunch

Swiftype (YC W12) raises $1.7M seed from A16z, NEA, Kleiner Perkins for rock solid site search

Swiftype, a Y Combinator startup that creates search engines for websites, has raised $1.7 million in seed funding from Andreessen Horowitz, NEA, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Ignition and several angel investors.

Founded in 2012, Swiftype 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 install the search engine simply by pasting the supplied JavaScript code into your website.

Co-founders Matt Riley and Quin Hoxie tell me the funding will go to developing products to improve mobile search and branding for the company. Riley says Swiftype wants to turn the search box into a strong marketing tool by offering customization and analytics. The team is also working on a tool to show what is trending on the search engine, so users can direct visitors to related content.

“With Swiftype, we’ve made it really simple to figure out what your users are searching for, what they’re searching for and not finding, and we give you the tools on the backend to make changes to the search engine itself,” Riley says.

Ink (YC S12) lets iOS apps talk to each other and share data

Ink, home to the Ink File Picker (formerly known as Filepicker.io), which lets developers integrate access to cloud services within their applications, is today launching its second product, Ink Mobile. This new iOS framework is designed to help mobile applications talk to each, too, rather than just with cloud services. And more importantly, it lets them share data.

Launch partners for Ink Mobile include Evernote, Citrix Podio, egnyte, SignEasy, and doctape – apps often used in a business or enterprise environment, where work is increasingly taking place on iPhones and iPads.

Read the full article at Techcrunch

Firebase (YC S11) leaves public beta, announces pricing for real-time backend

Firebase, a backend-as-a-service that focuses on serving real-time use cases, has finally launched to the public with a new pricing structure.

“We’re finally mature and ready for primetime,” cofounder James Tamplin told VentureBeat in a call yesterday.

“Since [Firebase's public beta in] February, we’ve had some great startups bet the farm on Firebase,” he continued, noting that some of those startups had gotten funding and even seen lucrative exits.

“We’ve also got enterprise companies like Disney and CBS. … We’ve done a lot of work behind the scenes. With infrastructure, the developer only sees the tip of the iceberg, and there’s a lot more under the water.”

The company will offer 100MB of storage and 5GB of bandwidth per month free of charge to developers.

Read the full article at Venturebeat

SoundFocus (YC S13) launches the music app optimized for 600 million people with hearing loss

Alex Selig grew up with hearing loss, using hearing aids for most of his life. After studying engineering at Stanford University, he teamed up with Varun Srinivasan, a CMU computer science to build SoundFocus. Right now, SoundFocus is simply an app that tests your hearing capacity and tunes your music accordingly. But there are bigger dreams in the pipeline.

“This really started because, in doing some research, I found out that 600 million people in the world have hearing loss, yet only one in five people who need a hearing aid actually own one,” said Selig. “But getting a hearing aid isn’t like when you have bad vision and can stop into a drug store and pick up a pair of reader glasses. It’s much more difficult.”

...

The SoundFocus app lets you pull in music from your iTunes library on your phone, as well as your Spotify collection, as long as you have the premium mobile account on Spotify.

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Humble Bundle (YC W11) launches the Humble Origin Bundle including Mirror's Edge, Crysis 2

The folks behind the Humble Bundle have announced the Humble Origin Bundle, a set of games for EA’s Origin platform for which customers can pay whatever price they choose. In contrast to the indie-oriented bundles, Origin is giving the entirety of its share to charity.

The Origin Bundle includes a handful of high-profile titles, including Mirror’s Edge, Crysis 2 Maximum Edition, Medal of Honor, Dead Space, Dead Space 3, and Burnout Paradise. Customers who pay more than the average also get a copy of Battlefield 3 and The Sims 3, plus “some DLC." Those who pay more than a penny get a copy of the soundtracks for Battlefield 3 and The Sims 3.

Read the full article on Ars Technica

Plivo (YC S12) launches "bring your own carrier" so large companies don't have to switch

Cloud telephony has brought big benefits for companies, many of which can now trash their complex on-premises infrastructure in favor of cheaper cloud options.

But making that change is more complicated for large companies. Many cloud telephony providers require customers to use a telecommunications carrier that they provide. That’s a problem for enterprises that have already built infrastructure with another carrier. They also often are locked into contracts with these carriers. It’s analogous to consumers who are locked into mobile plans, except companies changing to another carrier often have to make big changes, moving many phone numbers and phone lines.

To address this, Y Combinator startup Plivo is launching its “Bring Your Own Carrier” model. Now large companies can bring a carrier they already work with, and use their existing phone numbers and outgoing phone routes.

Read the full article at Forbes

ixi-play (YC S13) launches an Android-powered smart robot for your kids for $299, now available for preorder

Isn't a baby monitor effectively a waste of technology? With a bit more thought and an operating system, couldn't it do much more with its components than just scope your infant? That's the premise behind Y Combinator-backed ixi-play, an Android-powered robot that just launched on the Crowdhoster crowdfunding platform. On top of Android 4.2, a dual-core ARM Cortex A9 CPU, 1GB RAM and a 720p camera, the owlish 'bot has face, card and object detection, voice recognition, a touch-sensor on the head, eye displays for animations, a tweeter/woofer speaker combo and child-proof "high robustness." For motion, the team adopted a design used in flight simulators, giving ixi-play "agile and silent" 3-axis translation and rotation moves.

All that tech is in the service of one thing, of course: your precious snowflake. There are currently three apps for ixi-play: a baby monitor, language learning and animal-themed emotion cards. As the video shows (after the break), the latter app lets your toddler flash cards to the bot to make it move or emote via the eye displays, matching the anger or happiness shown on the card. In baby monitor mode, on top of sending a live (encoded) video stream to your tablet, it'll also play soothing music and sing or talk your toddler to sleep. The device will also include an SDK that includes low-level motion control and vision programming, providing a way for developers to create more apps. As for pricing, you can snap one up starting at $299 for delivery around July 24th, 2014, provided the company meets its $957,000 funding goal (pledges are backed by Crowdtilt). That's exactly the same price we saw recently for far less amusing-sounding baby monitor, so if you're interested, hit the source.

Read the full article at Engadget

GoComm (YC S13) takes on Yammer Mobile for task management and event coordination

GoComm, a Y Combinator startup, is releasing an app to streamline communication and task management during high-pressure events. With a passive news feed, easy login and task assignments, GoComm aims to be a mobile-optimized Yammer for teams that need immediate collaboration and action.

Before an event, users download GoComm and login to the system with a secret password distributed to all participants. After being approved by the administrator, each user can fill in basic contact information including phone number and email for one-on-one contact. The app uses a passive news feed so people can check in with what is happening, but only get notifications when they are tagged in a post. Once in GoComm, you can view posts, tasks, participants and uploaded documents.