We're happy to announce that we're hiring Harjeet Taggar to work for YC. Harj was a founder of Auctomatic, which we funded in winter 2007, and which went on to be acquired by Live Current Media in 2008. Officially Harj is in charge of biz dev, but he's going to do pretty much everything we do, including selecting and advising startups.We've known Harj since he interviewed at YC in the fall of 2006. We liked him immediately, and that opinion hasn't changed. We think you'll like him too. He's exactly what we look for in a founder: smart and determined, but also a genuinely nice guy. If you're applying to YC this cycle, you may have noticed that on the page explaining how to apply, we say that "groups that apply early have a significant advantage." We're referring to Harj, who has already started to engage with groups that seem promising. If you live near Seattle, you can meet Harj in person tonight at the YC Meetup.
We finally got @ycombinator. Tell us on Twitter how you'd like us to use it! What would you want to hear about?
Recently we realized that the YC alumni network is now so big that we could start to organize entire conferences where the audience and the speakers were all YC founders. There are now around 450 alumni, most of them still in the Bay Area, and some of the older startups are now quite formidable. We had the first conference last night, about SEO, and it it seems to have been a success.The atmos at a conference where all the participants already have some connection to one another is much more productive. The speakers were completely open, because they knew they didn't have to worry about someone cherry picking quotes in a blog post to make them look bad. And the questions from the audience were much more focused. I learned a lot. In fact it was one of the most interesting conferences I've attended, and I'm not even interested in SEO.(Did you know Google actually has more like 85% market share, as measured by referral traffic? A lot of searches on Yahoo and Bing are actually internal searches. Even more interesting is that Google doesn't try to correct the public perception that their share of the search market is lower. They're so dominant they'd rather seem smaller.)The speakers included Ian Hogarth of Songkick (S07), Jared Friedman of Scribd (S06), Tony Wright of RescueTime (W08), and one person who wasn't part of the alumni network: Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz, whom Ian described as "the Jedi Master of SEO." When we were asking which of the alumni knew the most about SEO, a lot of people after recommending someone would add: "but Rand Fishkin is the guy you really want." So we asked Rand if he could come and were delighted to find he could. One thing I've learned from doing YC is to be able to recognize people who know what they're talking about, even when I don't understand the domain. Rand is a guy who knows what he's talking about.
He posted his presentation online: http://www.scribd.com/doc/27319437/SEO-for-Startups-YCombinator-February-2010
Since this worked so well we're going to organize more conferences. The next two will be about fundraising and acquistion-- two more topics where the experts know all kinds of interesting tricks, but will only talk candidly about them to people they trust.
Aaron Iba (AppJet), Drew Houston (Dropbox) and Adam Smith (Xobni) sent us this picture of them in Australia. Looks like fun!
Gift cards can be a double edged sword. I recently got married and received a number of gift cards to stores where I never shop. But at the same time, I don't want the value of the card to go to waste. There have been a number of auction-like marketplaces, such as Plastic Jungle and Rackup, that have popped up to allow users can buy and sell their gift cards to each other in an eBay like interface (you can also do this eBay itself). Y Combinator startup CardPool is entering the space but with a slightly different twist to its model. Card Pool allows users to both buy and sell gift cards.
Last December, mobile data swapping startup Bump opened up its iPhone API in a small, private beta. Today, they're opening the floodgates to everyone. Developers who implement Bump's API can use it to transfer data between two nearby phones simply by asking users to tap their devices together - a feat that's still remarkably difficult on most smart phones.
To kickstart its API launch, Bump held a contest that invited developers to work the API into their iPhone applications. You can see a gallery of the winners here. The winning apps include CheckOut, which lets you share gift cards with friends by tapping your phones together; CloudNote, which lets you swap digital Post-It notes; and SocialFuse, which allows you to connect on Twitter and LinkedIn with someone (again, by tapping your phones together). Be sure to check out the gallery page for a half dozen runners-up to get more ideas of what the API can do.