Petcube (W16) Lets You Play With Your Pets While Away from Home

Petcube is a company launching out of our Winter 2016 batch that makes it easy to keep tabs on your pets -- and even play with them -- when you're away from home.

Petcube's first product, the $199 Petcube Camera, is an interactive Wi-Fi pet camera with real time video, media sharing functionality, and a built-in laser toy that's safe for animals.

TechCrunch's Anna Escher wrote about Petcube and its latest funding round in an article this week:

"Any pet owner can relate to the remorseful feeling of leaving your pet behind when you go out for the day. So naturally, we want to know what our furry friends are up to when we aren't there. The idea for Petcube came from co-founder Alex Neskin, whose puppy Rocky suffered from separation anxiety and boredom when left alone. If only there were a way to keep in touch with his puppy throughout the day. Thus, Petcube was born, and CEO Yaroslav Azhnyuk and CDO Andrey Klen jumped on board to bring the idea to fruition.

...It’s also worth noting that Petcube had quite the successful Kickstarter launch for the Petcube Camera. The campaign blew past its $100,000 goal to raise over $250,000 from eager buyers, solidifying the notion that staying connected with your pet throughout the day was something many pet owners desired."

Read the full article here. You can also watch Escher interview Petcube's CEO and get a look at how the device works in the TechCrunch TV video below:


Instabug (W16) Helps App Developers Find and Fix Bugs

With thousands of apps being released every single day, the competition to stand out and receive 5 star reviews is tougher than ever. And nothing hurts an app's review rating more than unsolved bugs at launch.

Instabug is a company in our current Winter 2016 class that helps developers position their apps for success both pre- and post-launch.

Mike Butcher from TechCrunch wrote about Instabug in a story published this week:

Incredibly, Instabug started building the app during the turmoil in Egypt back in 2012 and made it out of the chaos of the Egyptian revolution to make it to, and through, YC. That’s True Grit.

...It helps app developers fix bugs before even submitting their apps to the store, while still engaging their users after the app is launched. They claim they can thus cutting the number of negative reviews by 80%.

Users can report bugs, send feedback and ask questions by just shaking their phones, without the need to leave the app. They can also attach screenshots, images and voice notes. Instabug then captures the steps to reproduce the problem and all other device details so that developers can fix the bug faster.

Read the full story on TechCrunch here.

OpenTrons (W16) Does Lab Grunt Work so Scientists Can Focus on Bigger Things

Despite all the technological progress that has been made in recent years, an astonishing amount of life sciences lab work is still done by hand. Many biology experiments require the mixing together of fluids very precisely under specific conditions -- and very often, the bulk of this work is still done by human researchers using manual micropipettes.

OpenTrons is a company in our current Winter 2016 class that makes an affordable robot that can take care of this basic lab grunt work, allowing scientists to focus on more important things.

TechCrunch's Sarah Buhr interviewed OpenTrons' co-founder in a story published this week:

"'Basically, if you’re a biologist you spend all of your time moving tiny amounts of liquid around from vial to vial by hand with a little micro-pipette or you have a $100,000 robot that does it for you. We’re a $3,000 robot,' OpenTrons co-founder Will Canine explained to TechCrunch.

Canine refers to these more expensive machines as ‘mainframe’ machines – or computers that existed before the PC came about. He believes his machine is more like an actual PC.

These older, more expensive machines require engineers to run them on the backend, but Canine says OpenTrons is 'democratizing the tools' that allow for sharing protocols. In other words, his $3,000 machine is controlled by your web browser and allows researchers to download protocols from the cloud to run experiments without the need for an engineer to create the code first."

Read the full story in TechCrunch here.

$250k of DigitalOcean credits for YC startups

We're excited to announce that DigitalOcean will be giving $250,000 in cloud hosting credits to YC's W16 batch and alumni. 

Lots of YC founders are already huge fans of DigitalOcean. Their cloud control panel is dead simple, their customer success team offers excellent support, and they provide a great price-to-performance offering.

Thanks to DigitalOcean for this offer—hosting is often one of the biggest expenses for early stage companies.

Poppy (W16) Provides Trusted Childcare, On-Demand

For many families, finding a babysitter is still a slow and time-consuming process. Busy parents still spend weeks finding and vetting potential childcare providers, and hours checking in with multiple sitters to see who is available at any given time. 

Poppy is a company in our Winter 2016 class that connects parents with a team of trusted sitters they can access with just one text. Poppy vets all caregivers on its platform through a rigorous 7-step process, ensuring that all its sitters have certifications such as CPR and First Aid and extensive childcare experience. Poppy is currently available in several neighborhoods in Seattle, with plans to launch in more areas soon.

Geekwire wrote about Poppy and its founder Avni Patel in a story published this week:

"Poppy curates a list of verified caregivers, by neighborhood. When parents need childcare, they can access a roster of sitters they’re familiar with via text or the Poppy app.

...Rates for childcare are fixed by Poppy, at $16/hour for one child, $17/hour for two, and so forth. According to Patel, taking on the pricing and vetting process has provided value to both caregivers and parents.

'For us the singular thing that the whole team is focused on, every single day is: Where do we find the very best people? How do we set them up for success and give them what they need to make every single booking an amazing one for parents? Because that dedication is what has gotten our parents to rave about Poppy,' Patel said."

Read the full story here.

Shypmate (W16) Brings the Sharing Economy to International Shipping

Even today, it can be very hard to get access to certain consumer products in many countries. Many products aren’t sold everywhere, and if it’s possible to get them at all, they’re either super expensive or you have to wait many months for delivery.

Shypmate is a company launching out of the Winter 2016 Y Combinator class that allows people in Nigeria and Ghana to purchase items sold in the U.S. and get them delivered by travelers between the countries -- bringing the sharing economy business model into international shipping.

TechCrunch reporter Megan Rose Dickey interviewed the founders of Shypmate and wrote about the company in an article published this week:

Shypmate is a quick, low-cost international shipping solution that relies on everyday people to transport items from the U.S. to Ghana and Nigeria.

Why Ghana and Nigeria? Well, the founding team (pictured above) has members from both Ghana and Nigeria — two African markets they’re familiar with and have a need for this kind of service, Shypmate co-founder Perry Ogwuche told TechCrunch. On average, it takes shoppers Nigeria about five weeks to receive packages from the U.S., Shypmate says. It’s also a very costly process.

In Shypmate’s test with DHL shipping a $50 pair of shoes to Ghana, it took about a week and cost $250, Ogwuche said. With Shypmate, the cost of shipping is just $25. Shypmate guarantees deliveries within 5-10 days after receiving the item from the retailer, but has been averaging deliveries of just three to five days. Secondly, people in Nigeria and Ghana don’t have access to a lot of the items in the U.S. because some stores, like H&M and Zara, for example, won’t ship to those countries.

Read the full story here.

NetBeez (W16) Detects Network Problems Before They Affect End-Users

All too often, web companies only find out that they are suffering from a network slowdown or outage when they're notified about it by users. By the time this has happened and their engineers can address the issue, they've already lost precious time, money, and possibly customer good will.

NetBeez is a startup launching out of our current Winter 2016 class that helps diagnose and detect network problems well before they affect your end users.

VentureBeat's Ken Yeung wrote about NetBeez's seed funding and the launch of its free monitoring platform in a story published this week:

NetBeez has developed a system it says lets companies be proactive in identifying and resolving performance issues around enterprise infrastructure and cloud applications. Today it has launched a free tier version aimed at non-enterprise users and developer operations teams with few locations.

...Founded in April 2013 by [CEO Stefano] Gridelli, chief technology officer Panickos Neophytou, and chief operating officer Panos Vouzis, NetBeez utilizes hardware sensors such as Raspberry Pi to monitor a company’s network. Its goal is to reduce the amount of effort network administrators and IT teams will need to fix an outage.

NetBeez deploys network monitoring agents that simulate a real user on the network. By doing so, engineers and devops teams will be aware of potential problems that could affect the end user. Information is displayed on a browser-based dashboard so companies will know what needs troubleshooting.

Read the full story in VentureBeat here.

Basic Income

We’re going to try something new—our first Request For Research. 

We’d like to fund a study on basic income—i.e., giving people enough money to live on with no strings attached.  I’ve been intrigued by the idea for a while, and although there’s been a lot of discussion, there’s fairly little data about how it would work.
 
It’s true that we have systems in place to give people resources, but the bureaucracy and qualification requirements make it a very imperfect approximation of what most people mean when talking about a basic income.  We have some examples of something close to a basic income in other countries, but we’d like to see how it would work in the US.
 
I think it’s good to start studying this early.  I’m fairly confident that at some point in the future, as technology continues to eliminate traditional jobs and massive new wealth gets created, we’re going to see some version of this at a national scale.
 
So it would be good to answer some of the theoretical questions now.  Do people sit around and play video games, or do they create new things?  Are people happy and fulfilled?  Do people, without the fear of not being able to eat, accomplish far more and benefit society far more?  And do recipients, on the whole, create more economic value than they receive?  (Questions about how a program like this would affect overall cost of living are beyond our scope, but obviously important.)
 
50 years from now, I think it will seem ridiculous that we used fear of not being able to eat as a way to motivate people.  I also think that it’s impossible to truly have equality of opportunity without some version of guaranteed income.  And I think that, combined with innovation driving down the cost of having a great life, by doing something like this we could eventually make real progress towards eliminating poverty.
 
We’re looking for one researcher who wants to work full-time on this project for 5 years as part of YC Research.  We’d like someone with some experience doing this kind of research, but as always we’re more interested in someone’s potential than his or her past.  Our idea is to give a basic income to a group of people in the US for a 5 year period, though we’re flexible on that and all aspects of the project—we are far from experts on this kind of research.  We’d be especially interested in a combination of selecting people at random, and selecting people who are driven and talented but come from poor backgrounds.  We're open to doing this in either one geographic area, or nationally distributed.

If you’re interested in running this project, please apply by February 15th.

Applications for YC S16 and Fellowship Are Now Open

Applications for YC Summer 2016 batch and YC Fellowship programs are now open.

Both programs will use the same application form. In the application, you’ll simply select which of the two you’re applying for. Here’s a brief description of each program:

YC Core:

  • 3 month program
  • $120k funding for 7% equity
  • The YC Core program funds companies from a broad range of categories (software, hardware, biotech, non-profit, etc.) and at any stage. Read more about what happens at YC here.

YC Fellowship:

  • 8 week program
  • $20k funding for 1.5% equity
  • Equity only converts if company hits $100M+ valuation event.
  • The Fellowship program is a lighter version of YC Core specifically for idea and prototype stage companies. That doesn’t mean idea stage companies can no longer apply to YC Core, but we want to create more opportunities for idea-stage companies to get started. Read more about the Fellowship program here.

If you’re unsure which program best applies to you, apply to both! The YC partners can decide which program your application is best suited for.

To apply, submit your application here by 8pm PT on March 24, 2016.

We can’t wait to see what you’ve been working on. Email apply@ycombinator.com with any questions.

Fellowship V2

Last fall, YC ran an 8 week experiment called The Fellowship to fund and work with startups at the idea or prototype stage. The goal was to see if we could create a program that could help more early-stage startups at scale. The experiment went well and I have a few annoucements about its future.

  • We’re going to do it again. In fact, we’ve already picked the companies for the second batch and we’re opening up applications for the third batch starting today.
  • We’re going to make it possible to apply to both the Fellowship and YC core program via one application.
  • We’re iterating quickly on the format and so the second and third batches will have a very different experience from the first.
  • We’re going to be taking equity.

I’m going to address these in reverse order.

Equity

From this point forward, we’re going to provide more money per team and take some equity in exchange. However, we’re going to try something we’ve never done before.

The new terms for the Fellowship are as follows: We’re going to provide $20K for 1.5%. Instead of taking our equity up front, we’re going to be issuing a convertible security that only converts into shares when the company 1) has an IPO or 2) has a funding event or acquisition that values the company at $100M or higher. 

Basically, YC only wins if you win big. I’m pretty excited about this because it’s both founder friendly and pushes us to build a program for the long term—not just one that is a lightweight version of our traditional model.

New format

Like any good startup, we’re doing our best to iterate quickly and will continue to evolve the program as we go. We’re going to be updating the Fellowship website in the next few days with more information, but here are the highlights:

  1. It will be primarily experienced remotely. This is so teams can spend as much time on product and customer development as possible. Office hours will be done over Skype or phone. We will bring all the teams together once, but only at the beginning of the cycle for an all day Kickoff Conference that will combine many of the workshops we provide our startups in the core batch into a single day.
  2. Fellowship teams will have a dedicated YC partner following their progress throughout the program. We'll also be visiting areas where multiple teams are located. For example, I'll be meeting teams in the Bay Area, Philadelphia, New York and Austin for the second batch.
  3. We’re going to host weekly talks with speakers that we stream live to companies online. This will allow us to invite speakers that can't come to YC in person.
  4. At the end of the program, the startups will be able to present their progress at a Virtual Demo Day to investors.
  5. If a Fellowship team decides to apply to the YC Core program, we'll provide early decision information about their interview status.

Single application

We were surprised at how popular the program would be. We gave very little notice up front for the first iteration and only opened up applications for a single week, but we got nearly the same number of applications for YC Core—over 6K! 

Once we realized we were going to do the Fellowship program again, we decided it would not be efficient for us to have separate application cycles and reading periods for the YC Core and for the Fellowship. 

Since that test went well, we’re going to make it possible to apply to both or either program through a single application. When you apply, you'll see a question on the application that'll let you apply to both or either program. If you're at a stage that is prior to product market fit, we recommend just applying to both.

Doing it again

After our experiment finished in the fall, 22 of the 32 startups that participated in the first Fellowship batch elected to apply to YC Core program and 6 of those companies are now part of the current Winter 2016 batch.

To test out our single application idea, we used the last application cycle to identify and invite teams that would be a good fit for the Fellowship to join the second batch. We ended up accepting 31 companies and they’ll be going through the new format starting February 1st. If all goes well, we hope to scale it up quickly on the next iteration.

Speaking of which, applications are now open today for both the third Fellowship batch and the YC Summer 2016 batch. If you’re interested, apply here.