SoundFocus (YC S13) launches iPhone Amp for amazing speakerphone calls with better mic, speakers and software

Is there a more loved, yet deeply hated part of the iPhone than the speaker? On one hand, it lets you take your calls without holding the phone up to your face. You can also use it while watching videos or listening to music without headphones, and — of course — hear calls coming in from afar. On the other hand, it’s pretty terrible for listening to music, if you’ve ever tried to use it for music at a barbecue or, god forbid, on public transit.

Inventors Alex Selig and Varun Srinivasan have come up with a specialty iPhone case that they believe solves both these problems. It’s called the Amp and it’s one part speaker, and one part microphone. It listens to ambient noise and adjusts what you’re playing to compensate. It’s not really noise cancellation; think of it more like adaptive EQ.

Selig and Srinivasan, who met while working at Microsoft, call the feature dynamic noise reduction. It analyzes music and noise, and tunes elements of the music accordingly. It’s constantly listening to what’s around you using the microphone array built into the Amp case, and it compensates for what it hears during the last 10 seconds, making changes within 5 seconds of noticing a difference in ambient noise. How does this work in real life? Say you’re walking along the city street and bunch of cars and buses start driving by. The sound will get adjusted in a way that’s not louder, just more discernible, Srinivasan says.

Read the full article at The Verge

BuildZoom (YC W13) raises $2.15M from Formation 8, others for its home improvement contractor platform

As if big data and data science haven’t been reshaping every service and product we use already, it’s about to make shopping for a home improvement contractor hopefully that much better.

BuildZoom, a Y Combinator-backed startup that announced today it has raised $2.15 million, uses big data to find you the most suitable home improvement professionals based on their permits and history of projects.

Read the full article at VentureBeat

PlanGrid (YC W12) adds Android, now used on 125,000 construction projects, adds 20K new blueprints a day

For the last two years, Y Combinator alum PlanGrid has helped modernize the construction industry by moving blueprints to tablets. After originally launching on the iPad, the company will now offer all the same features and capabilities on a wide variety of Android tablets.

At the end of the day, PlanGrid’s mobile app enables construction teams to cut paper out of their blueprint plans. Instead of printing out new versions of a blueprint every time it gets updated and sending them out to all the people on site, images can be uploaded and then viewed on tablets.

By moving blueprints off paper and onto tablets, PlanGrid helps to save construction teams a ton of money. But it also enables PlanGrid users to more efficiently use the blueprints they have, and more quickly update or make changes to them.

Last summer it added hyperlinking between plans stored on the app. Users can also mark up blueprints and quickly share changes or annotations with others.

Since launch, the company has been used on more than 125,000 construction projects, and more than 20,000 blueprints are uploaded every day to its network.

Dropbox (YC W07) releases Dropbox for Business: Remote wipe, account transfer, now coexists with personal

Via the Dropbox Blog:

We’re happy to announce that starting today, the all-new Dropbox for Business is available to everyone. We’ve rebuilt the product to give users one Dropbox for personal stuff and another for work stuff. Users can easily access both Dropboxes from any of their devices.

We did this to give admins more visibility and control over their company’s data. Remote wipe helps protect confidential information, account transfer helps you maintain business continuity, and sharing audit logs let you track how your Dropbox for Business information is being accessed.

Egomotion (YC S11) Raises $750K From Android’s Co-Founder And Others To Make Your Smartphone Smarter

Greg Kumparak writes:

Back in November, I wrote about an Android app called Agent. Agent uses your phone’s myriad sensors to make your Android smartphone just a wee bit smarter.

It’ll detect when you’re driving, and automatically respond to texts to let people know you can’t type right now. During the hours you normally sleep, it’ll auto silence your phone (but still give people a way to ring through in case of an emergency.) When your battery is low, it can flip the switches to turn off things like Bluetooth and auto-sync to eek just a liiiittle more life out of your phone.

The company behind Agent, Egomotion, recently raised $750k. While it’s not a massive round (Egomotion calls it a “second Seed” rather than a Series A), what I find particularly interesting is who invested.

The round was lead by Google Ventures, and their investment was driven primarily by Rich Miner, one of Android’s four co-founders. When a guy who helped create the platform you’re trying to improve pushes an investment in your company, you’re probably on to something.

Pebble (YC W11) sells 400,000 smart watches in its first year

 Wearable tech start-up Pebble enjoyed a successful first year for its smart watch range, shipping 400,000 since January 2013 and earning an estimated US$60m in revenue. Investors are confident of continued success in 2014, despite increasing competition.

For CEO Eric Migicovsky, Pebble started out in 2009 as a school project while at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. The company then joined the Y Combinator programme, one of the world’s top start-up incubators, before it launched a Kickstarter campaign in April 2012.

The crowdfunding campaign was a runaway success, raising 100 times its original target at US$10.3m. Pebble started shipping to its Kickstarter backers in January 2013, followed by public availability in July. It sold out in five days.

Some 400,000 smart watches later – according to figures cited in a Fortune Tech interview with Migicovsky – Pebble is now facing stiffer competition in 2014, the year wearable tech is expected to hit the mainstream.

Read the full article at Silicon Republic

Upverter (YC W11) raises $2.3M for cloud-based engineering tool

Toronto-based startup Upverter, a GitHub-like platform for hardware engineers, or an online design automation platform, has raised $2.3 million from Version One Ventures, Tom McInerney, Autodesk CEO Carl Bass, Amol Sarva (Peek proto-smartphone device), David Lerner and Golden Venture Partners.

The company will use the money for growth as it pursues the status of a profitable business.

Originally it was a cloud-based engineering tool for these hardware designers, but the company “evolved considerably”, wrote Techcrunch’s Darryl Etherington, and began earning revenue from from enterprise clients seeking access to its cloud-based tools.

“Over the summer, we really started to double down on what needed to exist to take the Upverter platform from this hobbyist hacker with open source tool, to this real-deal professional design suite to compete with the big boys, or to become complementary to them,” CEO Zak Homuth told Etherington.

Read the full article at Betakit

Wit.ai (YC W14) is Twilio for natural language — lets anyone add voice interfaces to their app

Last year, voice technology giant Nuance quietly acquired VirtuOz, a developer of virtual assistants for online sales, marketing and support — a “Siri for the enterprise” that counted with the likes of PayPal and AT&T as customers. Now, Alexandre Lebrun, the founder and CEO of VirtuOz, has taken a dive back into the startup world to launch Wit.ai, a platform and API that will let a developer incorporate speech recognition and a natural language interface into any app or piece of hardware.

In Lebrun’s words, the idea here is to apply, effectively, a “Twilio or Stripe model” to the world of voice interfaces, where Wit is able to understand the intent of users, as well voice recognition.

Developers who want to incorporate this into their apps entering a few lines of Wit.ai code; for the first time, the developers themselves do not have to be experts in the field, or face the prospect of huge expense to bring in that technical knowledge from elsewhere.

Read the full article in TechCrunch

FOBO (YC S11) pushes over $1M run rate, featured on TechCrunch Video

Ryan Lawler writes:

It’s been just about two months since FOBO launched its local marketplace app for consumer electronics. But already, the app has proven wildly successful in its home market of San Francisco, where it’s pushing a $1 million run rate and spreading just by word-of-mouth.

FOBO is an ultra-simple app for buying — and selling — consumer electronics from your mobile phone. Aiming to be a Craigslist competitor, the app does away with many of the problems that users of that marketplace run into — i.e. lack of a guaranteed price, flaky buyers, and those who like to show up and haggle after the fact.

Here’s how it works: Sellers list their consumer electronics on the app, and FOBO offers them a guaranteed minimum price for each device. Then, the items are put up for 97-minute auctions, during which time local buyers can bid to purchase the goods for anything above the minimum price.

Watch the video at TechCrunch