80,000 Hours (YC S15) Helps Top Graduates Choose Careers That Matter

Nowadays, many of the best-performing college graduates don't simply want to go into the most highly-paid jobs -- they want to do things that will make a positive difference in the world. 80,000 Hours is a company in our current class that wants to help top graduates find the kinds of jobs where they can do the most good.

TechCrunch's Anthony Ha explained how 80,000 Hours works in a story published today:

"People in the tech world like to talk about doing great things. But what does that actually mean for your career? If you’re serious about making a positive impact on the world, should you go work for a startup? A nonprofit? Or none of the above?

80,000 Hours is an organization aiming to help with those decisions. It’s a nonprofit in the current class of startups incubated by Y Combinator, but it was founded back in 2011 by Ben Todd (the organization’s executive director) and Will MacAskill (its president).

MacAskill is an associate professor of philosophy at Oxford University, and he said that when they met, Todd was a student wrestling with many of these questions. They ended up forming a discussion group and giving lectures on the topic, then eventually creating 80,000 Hours to spread their ideas. (The name refers to the number of hours in your career.)"

You can read much more in-depth about 80,000 Hours and how it works in TechCrunch here.

Oolu (YC S15) Supplies Affordable Solar Energy To Off-Grid Villages In West Africa

Though West Africa has some of the best conditions for solar power on the planet, the penetration of solar home systems in the region is extremely low -- and some 150 million people in West Africa are currently without any electricity at all. Families in off-grid West Africa are forced to use expensive, poor quality lanterns and flashlights or dangerous candles and kerosene to light their homes. Often, residents travel many miles just to charge their cell phones.

Oolu is a startup in our current class aiming to change all of this, by renting solar home systems to off-grid families in West Africa at a rate nearly all can afford to pay.

TechCrunch's Christine Magee wrote about Oolu in a story published recently:

"Oolu’s in-home solar system is composed of three adjustable lights and two USB plugs, powered by a battery that holds a charge for up to six hours with maximum output. For a low monthly fee, Oolu will install the system and perform all necessary maintenance, including free battery replacements and system upgrades.

... Oolu’s innovation isn’t the technology behind the solar products that they’re dispensing. The systems are produced by a large manufacturer, and similar products are already being used in areas of East Africa.

Instead, the company’s true feat is setting up a distribution model and payment infrastructure that West African families and community leaders are comfortable with. Oolu has partnered with Orange Money, a Senegalese money transfer company, so that customers can pay the monthly subscription fee from their mobile phones.

'We’re working with Orange Money to bring not only solar, but also mobile payments and mobile banking to millions of rural people,' says [Oolu co-founder Daniel] Rosa. 'People talk about a solar revolution, but really it’s a solar mobile revolution.'"

Read the full story on TechCrunch here.

Shotput (YC S15) Is Like AWS For Warehousing And Fulfillment

It's become easier for small companies to make and sell physical products in recent years, thanks to innovations such as crowdfunding and 3D printing. But once a product is manufactured, there is still a lot of work to be done -- finding freight services, securing warehouse space, packing and quality assurance. All of this is known as "logistics" in the supply chain world, and finding partners to handle these services can be very difficult and time-intensive for a startup.

Shotput is a company in our current class that makes it easy for companies of any size to find and manage logistics services.

VentureBeat's Ken Yeung wrote about Shotput in a story this week:

"Shotput cofounder James Steinberg describes it as 'Amazon Web Services for fulfillment' in that his service can scale to meet the needs of any company’s products.

Companies that need fulfillment assistance can go to Shotput’s website, enter in their product information–including the weight, size, and amount–and the service will tell you the cost. It’s pay as you go, so there’s no long-term contract. Steinberg claims that his service is better than a typical warehouse as the latter may give you a quote, but once your product arrives, that rate could change and end up costing you more.

Shotput will handle freight to and from the fulfillment center and shipping. Once an order has been placed, the company will pick up your product from the manufacturer and deliver it to the one of its partner warehouses in the U.S. — the closest one to the company’s bulk of customers. The average time for shipping from manufacturer to warehouse and then to customer is approximately 10 days."

Read more about Shotput in VentureBeat here.

Locent (YC S15) Is An E-Commerce Platform That's Powered Entirely By Text Messages

Launching out of our Summer 2015 class, Locent has created a platform that lets brands and individual "influencers" sell things through an easy-to-use, entirely mobile interface.

TechCrunch's Fitz Tepper wrote about Locent and the problems it is solving in a story published recently:

"One of the biggest challenges for online retailers is shepherding customers through a lengthy checkout process. By providing businesses with a custom, text-enabled phone number, Locent turns the checkout process into just a text message.

Here’s how retailers use the [Locent] service: After creating an account and being assigned a custom number, stores can use Locent’s backend to create different items, complete with price, photo, and keyword. When a user texts that keyword to a store’s number, they automatically get a link to a payment form to complete the transaction from their phone.

...Matt Joseph and Ryan MacInnes, co-founders of Locent, explained that their service lets any marketing channel become a one-click point of sale. The company is also looking into using Locent as a donation platform, especially with 2016 presidential candidates as they begin fundraising campaigns."

Read the full story in TechCrunch here.

GrowSumo (YC S15) Helps Companies Create And Manage Partner Programs

Sales partner programs can be hugely beneficial to a company's bottom line. Unfortunately, they can be time- and labor-intensive for companies to establish and maintain -- often prohibitively so for smaller businesses.

GrowSumo is a startup in our current class that makes it easier for companies of all sizes to create their own sales partner programs.

TechCrunch's Anthony Ha recently interviewed co-founder Bryn Jones, who started GrowSumo after seeing how difficult it was to establish sales partnerships at his previous company:

"'In order to scale our business, we needed to manage this complicated partner program… and there was nothing on the market that supported that,' Jones said. 'There were tons of referral marketing tools, like influencer tools, but there wasn’t anything that somebody could build their business around.'

...With GrowSumo, a company can create a page where new partners apply to work with them, then train and reward those partners while tracking their progress from a single dashboard. On the flip side, potential resellers can browse different companies on the GrowSumo platform and find products that their clients might be interested in.

GrowSumo is focused on businesses that are selling products to other businesses (rather than consumers). It’s already working with about 40 companies, including Swiftype, Layer, FreshBooks and Expensify. Jones said that on average, each company works with about 3,000 resale partners — those partners include independent consultants, web developers, human resources representatives and the most popular category, accountants."

Read more about GrowSumo in TechCrunch here.

Saida (YC S15) Helps People In Emerging Markets Get Credit Through Their Mobile Phones

Saida is a startup in our current class that has created a mobile-baased lending platform targeted at people in emerging markets.

Launching first in Africa, Saida has created a mobile app that connects people with short-term loans that are approved based in part on each person's phone activity.

TechCrunch's Matthew Lynley wrote about Saida:

"Saida can see how a person, for example, uses their prepaid cellphone plan, such as how often they recharge that plan and what proportion of the plan is spent on data services, voice or text messaging. Users give Saida some information that helps handle all the approval for the loan on a mobile device. Software installed on those phones can help give users a 'credit score' of sorts and help them get approved for a loan that can be paid back in 30-60 days.

'Right now most of our customers are people who have a smartphone, who are running their own business or who are employed, and people who basically don’t have a credit card,' [Saida co-founder Kenneth Ngetha] said. 'That’s the three or four pieces of info from our demographic. The information that they’re able to share is how they are using their cellphone plan. That tells us a lot about their income cycle and how much they earn. We also look at how they use their expenditures — if they have any receipts or the type of phones they own.'

Read more about Saida in TechCrunch here.

Joining A Different YC

I’m thrilled to announce that I’m joining Y Combinator full-time. My job is to help our companies make hardware people want faster and better than ever before. Fortunately, our alumni are the best resource in the world for this: they’ve built some of the most innovative startups of the last decade. Coupled with our growing ecosystem of partners, our hardware startups are able to get more done during YC than most companies ever achieve. We have a record 22 companies making physical products in this batch, and you'll use many of these in your home or neighborhood within the next 12 months. 

In biotech, the opportunity may be even greater. Why give half of the money you raise to your university when you can rent lab space for hundreds of dollars a month? We expect to help many more scientists choose entrepreneurial paths. With Elizabeth Iorns and our other scientist-alumni, I'm going to help our biotech startups find the partners and tools they need to make wetware at software-like speeds.

This is a good fit for us because both biotech and hardware are becoming increasingly like software at the earliest stages: you can make things good enough to show potential users faster and more cheaply than ever before. There are real regulatory and logistical differences, but many of these matter only after achieving product-market fit. 

We’re just getting started. The YC you know created a new model for funding early stage startups. The YC I joined is creating a new model for innovation. Over the next year, you’ll see us introduce several features that make YC the best place in the world for people who want to make something new. Over the next decade, you’ll see some of these entrepreneurs create companies at YC that rival Airbnb’s social (and financial) impact.

There’s never been a better time to start a startup, and it’s getting even better. Get started, and tell us about it. If it’s a physical thing, show it to me. We’re at the start of a wave of real-world innovations that will approach that of the IT revolution, and we hope you’ll join us.

Klarismo (YC S15) Uses 3D Scanning To Make A Model Of The Inside Of Your Body

Launching out of our current summer class, Klarismo has developed a way to create 3D models of the inside of the human body to help people analyze and track their fitness goals and monitor their overall health.

Existing technologies that analyze body composition are able to tell a person's overall body fat percentage with varying degrees of accuracy. Since Klarismo uses MRI technology to construct a full 3D model of the body, it can provide detailed and highly accurate volumetric measurements of both muscle tissues and fat deposits.

TechCrunch's Matthew Lynley wrote about Klarismo in an article published last week:

"Klarismo is an online service where users are able to take a much deeper look at their body’s internal structure. It takes MRI scans and other kinds of scans that people are getting already and then uses that to build a 3D model of the person. That 3D model is then available online, where users can take a look at how their bodies have changed over time — from muscle growth and fat reduction to other things, like what their spleen looks like.

... [Klarismo CEO Marcus] Foster had ended up in several bicycle accidents and also discovered he had a tumor in his head. That made him question why he wasn’t able to look at a more comprehensive set of data he was generating anyway.

'Typically you get the scan done, a radiologist writes two sentences about it, and then prescribes you some treatment basically,' he said. 'You usually don’t get to interact with the data much, even though there’s amazing data about your body.'

Read the full story on TechCrunch here.

Startup School Radio, Episode 2: How Justin.tv Became Twitch

In Episode 2 of YC's Startup School Radio, a podcast that features stories and practical advice about starting, funding, and scaling companies, Aaron Harris sat down with entrepreneur, investor, and YC partner Justin Kan, and Mathilde Collin, the founder and CEO of collaborative email and text platform Front.

You can hear the episode in its entirety on SoundCloud here and on iTunes here, and read the full transcript here.

An especially interesting part of Kan's interview details how he and the other founders of Justin.tv decided to focus on two new projects that would become Socialcam, the mobile video platform that was acquired by Autodesk for a reported $60 million, and Twitch, the immensely live game streaming platform that was acquired last year by Amazon for $970 million:

Justin: Then to make a long story short, we were at a point where we were about 25 people. We were thinking, 'What do we do next?' The site had kind of tapped out. It turns out not everything type of content is good live, right? Only certain types of content are really good live, and so we tapped out all of these, all the live content, and we were having trouble continuing to grow. The site was probably about 30 million uniques a month at that point, which is pretty big website, but it wasn't growing. We started working on some new ideas of things that we could potentially be bigger than Justin TV and one of those was one of my co-founders Emmet came and said, 'Hey guys, I think we should work on the gaming section of Justin TV.' The gaming section was people playing video games and other people watching them. At the time, [co-founder] Emmett [Shear] came and said, 'This is the only content that I actually like on our site.'

Aaron: How big was that segment?

Justin: That was 3% of our traffic.

Aaron: Just 3%.

Justin: It was just 3%. It was a couple hundred thousand people a month. And Emmett was like, 'This is the only content that I actually want to watch. Let's focus on this content. Maybe we can be bigger.' The rest of us, so out of the four co-founders, I thought, 'Hey that could be something.' The other two co-founders were very skeptical. At the same time we had this other idea, my other co-founder Michael [Seibel]'s idea, which was, let's work on the mobile part because mobile is growing and there's no good way to get videos off of your phone. He was really selling mobile.

We were at this impasse, right? There were two ideas. We couldn't decide between which one was going to work and so we decided let's do both of these things simultaneously inside our company.

Aaron: That seems like a terrible idea. Like when we talk to startups and they say, 'We want to do two things at once' and they're a small team we say, 'Bad idea.'

Justin: Yes, we definitely tell startups not to do this and I actually think that's right. However, in this case it worked out.

Partnering With Insight Data Science

At YC, each one of our startups brings in valuable data each day that could be used to make their products better. But quickly-growing startups often don't have the time to focus on parsing that data. Early stage founders are fully immersed in building their core products -- and hiring a full-time data science team is not usually a realistic priority.

That's why we're excited to partner with Insight Data Science, the organization that runs a seven-week intensive fellowship for post-doctoral PhDs looking to make the transition from academia to the data science industry. Through this partnership, Y Combinator companies will get $25,000 in free consulting credit with Insight Fellows to work on tackling important data science and data engineering challenges. The partnership applies to active YC companies and alumni companies at any stage.

It's a win/win matchup: YC startups have a wealth of potentially meaningful data, and Insight has an office full of PhD data scientists ready to work on compelling, high-impact data problems full-time. Also, Insight is itself a YC alum from our Winter 2011 batch.

Over the past nine months, 26 YC companies including Pebble, Coinbase, and URX have collaborated with Insight Fellows to great success -- you can read about some of those case studies here. We're looking forward to many more success stories like these in the future.

If you're a YC company or alum interested in working with the Insight Data Science Fellowship, email yc [at] insightdatascience [dot] com.