Soylent (YC S12) Closes In On Finalizing Its Formula, Reaches $1M In Pre-Orders

Soylent, the seemingly wacky personal experiment of 24-year-old engineer Rob Rhinehart, is maturing into a full-fledged business.

Rhinehart and his team, who were running a Y Combinator-backed startup called Level RF last year, did what Paul Graham has called the “pivot of the century.”

Fascinated by inefficiencies in the industrial food system, Rhinehart designed and then started living off a meal replacement he cheekily named Soylent — after the dystopian movie Soylent Green where Charlton Heston discovers that society has been living off rations made of humans.

This Soylent, thankfully, is not made of humans.

It contains an assortment of carbohydrates,amino acids, proteins and dozens of other vitamins that are deemed medically necessary to for a person to live by the Institute of Medicine, plus other modifications Rhinehart made through the testing process.

“I’d like this to be something that is like coffee — a commodity something that’s available everywhere. Maybe a utility like water and power. Something that is ubiquitous and easy to consume,” he said. “I’d like to see it in grocery and convenience stores soon.”

Read the full article on Techcrunch

Asseta (YC S13) launches their open and transparent marketplace for the $6 billion used semiconductor market

Thank you, Y Combinator, for not just investing in a million photo-sharing apps. While you might not be personally excited about an online marketplace where you can buy and sell used manufacturing equipment – and, at launch, primarily semiconductor equipment – a new startup called Asseta demonstrates the potential in taking the now familiar concept of a transparent buyer and seller marketplace to a new vertical, which has yet to be flattened by the power of the web and the one-to-one connectivity it allows.

Like many traditional businesses which have since seen their old ways of doing things transformed in similar ways – anywhere there’s a middleman that can be eliminated, that is – Asseta, too, is taking on its own fragmented market of competitors. Today, there are hundreds of used equipment brokers employing sales people who manage the sale of these goods, often without letting buyers know where the equipment comes from, who the sellers are, and definitely not what the real, underlying price of the item is.

Asseta’s founders know how this works, of course, because three of the four worked for one of the largest brokers in the business – a company responsible for 1.6 percent of the $6 billion (as of 2010) market in used semiconductor equipment sales.

Explains CEO Anton Brevde, there was no specific event that prompted him and the other founders, including his ex-brokerage co-workers Jonathan Pease and Garrett Beck, or CTO Danial Afzal, to leave their current jobs and build Asseta. “It was just seeing how much money [our former] company was making, and how inefficiently the processes and the company was being run – it just didn’t make any sense,” says Brevde. “We realized there was a bigger opportunity here…we were all young, and understood the potential of technology. We decided we could do a better job.”

Read the full article in Techcrunch

True Link Financial (YC S13) is out to help the elderly avoid scammers with pre-paid Visa cards

It’s a heartbreaking and, unfortunately, common story: an elderly man receives a phone call from someone claiming to be his granddaughter asking for him to wire money to get her out of a sticky situation. A late night infomercial offers a deep discount on dishware without mentioning the hundreds of dollars in nonrefundable shipping fees.

These are the scams targeting the elderly that True Link Financial, a Y Combinator startup that launches today, is hoping to help families avoid by equipping prepaid Visa cards with personalized fraud protection.

CEO Kai Stinchcombe said he had been looking for a solution to this problem for a few years before founding True Link, after his 92-year-old grandmother began writing up to 75 checks a month for organizations posing as charities. Banks can’t do anything to reverse this kind of damage once the check is written and sent, he said. Families don’t have many options besides taking away their elderly family members’ checkbooks and depriving them of their sense of autonomy.

True Link develops risk profiles for elderly people, who are typically signed up by their adult family members. If an individual over-gives to charities, they can limit donations to a list of approved organizations while blocking payments to potential scams. Stipulations can be set on only allowing transactions made in person, and payments can be capped at a certain amount per purchase.

All this goes through a pre-paid True Link Visa card, filled through the person’s checking account, which is free for the first year and costs $20 annually after that. True Link acts as the preauthorizer, giving it the power to see incoming charges and approve or deny them accordingly.

Read the full article at Techcrunch

Sign up for the True Link Card

SlidePay (YC W12) launches the "Android" of mobile payments—now any app can take payments like Square does

Back in February, I wrote about a startup called Cube that was trying to build a point-of-sale system for small and medium-sized businesses that would eventually give analytics about inventory.

Cube has since pivoted, and now they’re going after a completely different market under a new name, SlidePay. They’re trying to offer a payments API for third-party developers that want the ability to accept credit card payments through a reader.

For example, Joist, an app for contractors who might do repair work on homes, now has a way to accept payments through a Square-like reader without kicking their customers out to another payments flow.

SlidePay is essentially a white-label version of Square. Square doesn’t currently offer an API for third-party developers, but hasn’t ruled out the possibility of building one. 

Read the full article on Techcrunch

Try SlidePay

Grid (YC S12) raises a seed round from Phil Libin of Evernote, Jerry Yang, Yuri Milner, Founders Fund, others

Grid, an “Excel minus the equations” app that helps you plan and organize more effectively and beautifully, announced today that it has raised a seed round. The app, made by a former Microsoft Excel designer, is an interesting take on the way many people use Google Docs or Excel spreadsheets.

Investors in the round are Phil Libin (CEO of Evernote), Jerry Yang (founder of Yahoo), Yuri Milner (founder of DST Global), Innovation Endeavors, Founders Fund Angel, General Catalyst, Dan Rose (VP of Business Development at Facebook), Joshua Reeves (CEO of Zen Payroll), Jared Friedman (Founder of Scribd), John Suliman (Managing Partner at Step Partners), and

Floobits (YC S13) lets you write code with others directly in Sublime Text, Emacs, Vim—pair programming done right

Y Combinator-backed Floobits, a new startup allowing two people to write software at the same time on the same codebase — known as pair programming — is officially launching today to help better connect remote developers and distributed teams. What makes this company’s implementation interesting, however, is that instead of requiring developers to use a web-based editor as manypair programming solutions today do, Floobits users can pair program directly within the text editors they’re already comfortable using through the installation of plug-ins.

And for those who do prefer to work via an online editor instead of a native one, Floobits has integrated its web-based editor with one-click access to Google Hangouts for chat, audio and video conferencing.

Meanwhile, on the native side, the company currently supports plug-ins for Sublime Text, Emacs, and VIM. However, Floobits’ founders admit that some of these plug-ins work better than others at present, with Sublime Text being the least buggy, and VIM being the most difficult. In fact, the company may launch its own version of VIM in the future, as there were a number of “workarounds” (read: hacks) needed to make Floobits work.

Floobits was officially founded this February by former Rackspace engineers Geoff Greer (who came in viathe Cloudkick acquisitionand who built this) and Matt Kaniaris. But in reality, they’ve been working on the idea since last August — and yes, often via pair programming.

Read the full article on Techcrunch

Butter Systems (YC S13) launches, making restaurant experiences better with tablet menus, now live at Bumble in Los Altos

Sam And Jon’s company, Butter Systems (part of Y Combinator’s Winter 2013 class), wants to put a tablet at your table. The tablet would supplant (or augment) a restaurant’s paper menu, allowing customers to order food and drinks, or request their check without having to flag down a server. They’re quick to clarify that they’re not trying to replace the server — they’re just trying to make the server’s life easier, while bumping up the amount that restaurants pull in per table. As Sam put it, “We want to increase sales by making it easier to order more, all while keeping that human touch.”

Read the full article at Techcrunch

MakeGamesWithUs (YC W12) in the SF Chronicle: Giving young developers a home

Hidden at the end of a long driveway in Palo Alto, the five-bedroom house looks like a reality show set or the home of a strangely well-behaved fraternity.

Young men and teenage boys lounge in patio chairs in front, sit at long tables that fill the living room and family room, and sprawl in comfy chairs in the TV room.

But no one here is gossiping or plotting, and there's no keg in sight. In fact, for a house with more than 30 guys in it, ranging in age from 13 to 25, the headquarters of MakeGamesWithUs is bizarrely silent. Wearing earbuds and leaning over their laptop screens, each of these interns is creating an original game for the iPhone.

The intense productivity is great for Ashutosh Desai and Jeremy Rossmann, founders of the indie game-publishing platform, who opened their headquarters and home (they live upstairs along with various employees and girlfriends) to dozens of summer interns to build up the company's stable of games.

The interns aren't paid, but if they complete a game and publish it through MakeGamesWithUs, they'll keep half the revenue.

Read the full article in the San Francisco Chronicle (YC W08) launches v2.0—write JS apps that compile natively to iOS/Android, now with native modules makes it simple for web developers to create native mobile apps for iOS and Android by using JavaScript to compose different native features.

Today we release our v2 platform which enables developers to create and re-use native modules provided by 3rd parties.

In the past if you wanted to add a native feature to your app that was not supported by existing Forge APIs, you would have to dive down into native code yourself or hire a contractor to do that. v2.0 is a big deal since developers can now make the native modules they’ve built on top of available for re-use.

Ultimately this means you’ll be able to select from a much broader range of native features – both the core APIs built by our team and others contributed by 3rd parties – and combine them with the best of HTML5.

You can see some examples on modules page right now: have created a push notifications module powered by Urban Airship
Fetchnotes have created a module which lets you selectively hide the iOS form assistant
The team added a crash reporting module integrating the Crashlytics SDK

    Read the full article on the Blog