Balanced (YC W11) partners with Coinbase (YC S12) to help two-sided marketplaces accept bitcoin

Payments platform Balanced has been gradually adding features to enable marketplaces to accept and make payments out to their users. Today the company is announcing that it’s integrated with Coinbase and will allow its customers to accept Bitcoin.

Now usually when we get pitches on new businesses “accepting Bitcoin” — like when acrappy NBA team or a space travel company does it — I’m inclined to pass on the news because it’s just a marketing gimmick and really, who cares? Bitcoin has hardly hit mainstream adoption and so as a practical matter, the number of users buying NBA seats or booking space travel via Bitcoin is pretty insignificant.

But Balanced’s integration with Coinbase and its support for Bitcoin is a bit different.

That’s because, for one thing, Balanced operates as an API platform for two-sided payments transactions. In that way, its support for Bitcoin is mainly to enable its clients — the companies accepting payments from one party and making payouts to another — to use the feature.

Currently Balanced has more than 450 marketplaces using its payment solutions, and now any of them can easily accept Bitcoin as a payment option. It does that by connecting with end users’ Coinbase digital wallets.

Read more in TechCrunch

SoundFocus (YC S13) raises $1.7M from Kapor Capital, Vegas Tech for hardware and software for hearing impaired

I generally enjoy writing about startups, but I love writing about startups that are working on something undeniably good for the world. This is one of those.

SoundFocus is trying to improve the experience of listening to music for people who are hard of hearing, or unable to hear certain frequencies. They’ve just raised $1.7M to get it done.

The investors in this round were Kapor Capital (Lotus and EFF Co-Founder Mitch Kapor’s fund), Y-Combinator, Greg Badros, Ovo Fund, RTA Capital, Vegas Tech Fund, Garry Tan, Alexis Ohanian, and Harj Taggar.

We first wrote about SoundFocus back at the tail end of 2013, just after they’d first launched their iOS application.

The app, compatible with both your iPhone’s built-in music library and tracks streamed down from Spotify, automatically adjusts music based on a person’s unique abilities to hear different frequencies.

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You can find SoundFocus (currently iOS only) in the App Store right over here.

Read in TechCrunch

Chute Commerce (YC W12) lets online stores make more money by curating user-generated photos on their product pages

Chute, a visual marketing and media-sharing platform, today launched a new product aimed at helping online retailers leverage user-generated content to help improve sales. Chute Commerce allows marketers to transform the traditional shopping experience that consumers have when viewing products online away from a static, non-engaging experience to one much more social and highly visual.

There’s no doubt that more people are doing a lot of their shopping online. In 2013, eMarketer estimated that US online retailers would bring in $259 billion in sales, a 14.8 percent increase from 2012. This percent is expected to increase at a 14 percent compound annual growth rate through 2017. But eventually, all shopping sites will become very similar, so how can consumers differentiate between buying clothing on Overstock.com, Amazon, Target, Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, or the Gap?

Read more in TNW

Waterloo robotics company Clearpath uses Thalmic Myo Armband (YC W13) to pilot its robot

The Thalmic Myo armband promises to let you control pretty much anything computerized with simple hand gestures, and the videos that Thalmic itself has shown display impressive potential. But this new video from Waterloo-based robotics company Clearpath gives a glimpse of what it can do in the hands of outside developers. Outside developers who build awesome robots.

Read more in TechCrunch

InstantCab (YC W12) rebrands as Summon, raises venture funding from BMW and Khosla Ventures

San Francisco-based InstantCab has raised some new funding, which it plans to use to expand into new markets. But first, the company has rebranded its service as Summon, and is announcing a new app and lower-cost pricing scheme for rides from “personal drivers.”

Summon is one of the newer on-demand transportation startups that have emerged over recent years, competing with companies like Uber, Lyft, and SideCar. Launched in the San Francisco Bay Area, its differentiating factor was a sort of hybrid approach that combined the ability to hail either a taxi or a peer-to-peer ride share driver.

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For taxi rides, Summon charges a $1 fee over the amount that a ride usually costs. But personal drivers cost up to 30 percent less, based on per-mile and per-minute rates. That price comes after the company issued a pretty significant fare reduction for personal rides a month ago.

One other way that Summon hopes to differentiate is a lack of surge pricing on its rides. While Uber recently lowered rates, regular users have noticed that there are significant increases in the cost of fares during rush hour and other peak times. Even Lyft has implemented its own version os surge pricing, which it calls Prime Time Tips, to have more driver supply on the road during peak times.

Read more in TechCrunch

TwoTap (YC W14) brings a two-tap checkout global shopping cart to over 100 merchants

Shopping cart abandonment is a massive problem on mobile, and the Y Combinator-backed Two Tap aims to improve this for merchants and affiliate sites.

It’s no secret that mobile checkouts are broken. Not only is putting your credit card info a major hassle on mobile, but many merchants don’t even have acceptable mobile sites. As users now often discover products they want to buy on social sites like Pinterest, making it fast and easy to also buy on mobile is becoming imperative for sellers.

Two Tap is essentially a mediator between the user and the company’s online ordering system. It doesn’t manage any money itself (though it stores credit card data on its PCI-compliant servers). Instead, it presents the user to the merchant and handles the checkout process for them. This way, you just sign in to your Two Tap account and you are done with the checkout in – you guessed it – two taps.

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SpoonRocket (YC S13) is launching in San Francisco—$6 meals in delivered to your curbside in 15 minutes

SpoonRocket is gearing up to launch San Francisco for its gourmet food delivery service next week. Renee Frojo of San Francisco Business Times reports:

A food fight could be on the brink of breaking out in San Francisco, as a new meal delivery service is entering the market promising cheaper, faster lunch.

SpoonRocket, the Berkeley-based purveyor of hot, healthy foods on demand, is gearing up to launch in San Francisco next week, entering an increasingly crowded arena of food delivery startups that include Luke’s Local, Munchery, Sprig, Square Meals and Debbie Does Dinner, among a dozen others.

Unlike the others, SpoonRocket promises hot meals delivered in less than 15 minutes for a mere $6 flat — the lowest price in the category, giving it a significant competitive edge. The startup has cut down on the cost of a normal take-out meal by limiting meal selections to two per day — one vegetarian and one non-vegetarian meal designed by executive chef David Cramer.

While there are nearly 20 companies offering a variation of the service in the city alone, convenience in this category will prove to be key as the competition for customers heats up. And ready-to-eat, hot food for cheap offers a pretty good value proposition.

“At the click of a button, food magically appears — you can’t really beat that,” said SpoonRocket Co-founder and President Anson Tsui.

Read the full article at SF Business Times

Instapainting (YC W11) makes it easy to turn any photo into a hand-painted canvas painting for under $100

Surprise! It’s Valentine’s Day, the stealthiest of all the holidays. Sneaks up on you, doesn’t it?

If you’re trying to get a gift today, you… might be a bit short on options. Will you go with the gas station teddy bear? The twice-crushed box of chocolates? A bouquet of acceptable-looking roses for $200?

If your nearly-forgotten flame would be content with the promise of a pretty cool gift in a few weeks, though, you might be set. Instapainting, a YC-backed company launching this morning, turns any photo into a hand-painted piece on canvas for under $100 bucks.

Read the full article on TechCrunch

Renthop (YC S09) launches its successful NYC apartment rental marketplace nationwide

Who likes Craigslist? No one! Who wants to see a startup succeed in providing a better alternative when searching for an apartment? Pretty much everyone! Will RentHop be that startup? I dunno, maybe.

RentHop, which launched in 2009 and has spent the last several years refining its marketplace for apartment rentals, is now moving beyond just that market and has opened up nationwide. In doing so, it will (hopefully) make apartment hunting more bearable to people outside of New York City.

The key to RentHop is in giving each listing a score, based on a lot of different data it has. That includes information about the apartment itself, its location, the property manager, the number of photos it has and how good they are.

Read the full article on TechCrunch