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.

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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.

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DataRank (YC S13) raises $1.4M for its online analytics platform for brands

Recent Y Combinator grad DataRank, which helps companies track online conversations related to their brands and perform other competitive analysis, has closed on $1.4 million in seed funding, the team is announcing today. The funding is led by New Road Ventures, and also includes participation from FundersClub and other angel investors.

Founded in October 2011 by Ryan Frazier, Chuong Nguyen, and Kenny Cason, and headquartered in Fayetteville, Ark., DataRank lives far outside the Valley, but its unusual home base is one that turned out to be more practical over the years, as the company shifted from its original focus of being a financial tool to one tracking data for consumer product companies.

That’s because the world’s largest brick-and-mortar retailer, Walmart, is also headquartered in nearby Bentonville. Today, there are roughly 1,400 consumer product companies with research teams in the area surrounding Walmart, explains Frazier, who is DataRank’s CEO. “Being able to walk into those places – sitting down, showing them your product and getting immediate feedback, has been immensely helpful,” he says.

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MemSQL (YC W11) in Forbes: Helping big data costs drop 96% from $100,000/TB to $4,000/TB

Peter Cohan writes in Forbes — MemSQL brings Facebook-style big data analysis to the masses:

Big companies are so worried about risk these days that it is a miracle any of them ever buy anything from a startup. That’s probably the reason that people used to say you can never get fired for buying from IBM. But a little San Francisco-based database startup is giving big competitors like IBM and Oracle a run for their money when it comes to selling databases to big organizations.

Why would a big company take a chance with a small startup? In the case of real-time big data analysis software provider, MemSQL, the answer is that it delivers better performance at a lower price compared to Oracle. Oracle charges customers “about $100,000 per terabyte (TB) when you break down its $3 million hardware cost” said Eric Frenkiel, MemSQL CEO, in a January 22 interview. Random Access Memory (RAM) on a commodity server goes for $4,000 per TB.

That 96% lower cost per unit of data stored is an excellent example of what I call a Quantum Value Leap (QVL). And evidently that QVL is enough to persuade otherwise reticent companies to buy MemSQL’s product. So far, MemSQL’s customers include “Comcast, Zynga, Shutterstock and Ziff Davis,” notes Frenkiel.

Codecademy (YC S11) selected for Apple's 30 Years of Mac

YC alums Zach Sims and Ryan Bubinski were recently honored in Apple's 30 Years of Mac campaign. 

After he dropped out of Columbia University, Zach Sims — along with his former classmate Ryan Bubinski — started Codecademy, an online platform that teaches aspiring engineers to write code. Inspired by how the Mac allowed anyone to master technology, they used it to design a friendly interface with simple, interactive lessons. An instant Internet sensation, Codecademy would become the most popular way to learn what some call the most valuable language of the 21st century.

Read more on the Apple 30 Years of Mac website

Double Robotics (YC S12) takes preorders for Charging Dock—now telepresence robots can charge themselves

From the Double Robotics Blog:

Double Robotics, Inc. today announced at the 2014 International CES that the charging dock accessory for the Double telepresence robot is now available for pre-order through www.doublerobotics.com

“The charging dock has been the most requested accessory for Double,” said David Cann, CEO and Co-founder of Double Robotics, Inc.  “We’re excited to provide our customers with an accessory that makes it even easier to connect remotely.  Our ambitious engineers designed Double to be future-compatible with the charging dock, so that even our earliest customers can take advantage of this powerful upgrade.  The dock is designed around a single beautifully sculpted block of aluminum, so customers can proudly park their Double in the office.”

...

A new iPad mount that supports iPad charging will be standard on all new units and included with a dock purchase free for customers with legacy iPad mounts.  The docking station is sold for $299 and will begin shipping in February 2014.

Zenefits (YC W13) raises $15M Series A from Andreessen Horowitz, Maverick, and Venrock

The thought of managing HR, benefits and payroll is enough to make most entrepreneurs grimace. However, time consuming and frustrating as it may be, it’s a part of the job description and something every startup and small business has to address sooner or later.

Having dealt with the paperwork and administrative headaches at startups before, Parker Conrad and Laks Srini launched Zenefits last year to take the pain of HR management out of the hands of founders and move it to the cloud. Beginning with a service that sought to automate the process of setting up and managing group health coverage and payroll, Zenefits enabled small businesses to transfer administration online, for free, and removed the need to dip into hiring budgets to hire a dedicated HR person.

However, the team quickly found that the opportunity extended beyond health coverage and payroll, as many of its early customers used Zenefits not just for its initial functionality, but as a full-on replacement for traditional HRIS or Human Resources Information Systems. As Zenefits looks to expand its coverage and help startups and larger businesses manage all HR-affiliated tasks, the company is taking on $15 million in Series A financing from Andreessen Horowitz, Maverick and Venrock to go after larger, enterprise customers and to begin tackling international markets.

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Apptimize (YC S13) raises $2.1M for Mobile A/B testing, launches a tool for non-developers

Y Combinator-incubated Apptimize is launching a new “Visual Apptimizer” that’s aimed at making A/B testing for mobile apps faster and easier — in fact, co-founder and CEO Nancy Hua suggested that it should make this kind of testing accessible to non-developers.

The company is also announcing that it has raised $2.1 million in seed funding from a number of big-name investors.

Apptimize launched last summer, pitching itself as an A/B testing platform (i.e., a system for testing out user response to variations of different features) that’s tailored to mobile. By inserting a small snippet of code, developers should be able to include multiple experiments in an app update that can be enabled and disabled at will.

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AeroFS (YC S10) releases iOS app for private clouds

In Ars Technica:

It has been a while since we last checked in with AeroFS, but the company has been busy. For those of you who don't remember, AeroFS bills itself as a Dropbox-equivalent for the privacy-minded—it allows you to sync files between multiple computers, using the AeroFS servers for authentication only. All of your data stays on your computers and is encrypted in transit, eliminating the risk that a hacked server (or an inadequate privacy policy) will compromise your control over your data.

Since exiting beta last April, the company has launched a new business-focused product called the Private Cloud. Like the Hybrid Cloud, it lets your users share data between multiple systems without ever touching a central server, but it allows you to use private servers and directory systems for authentication, keeping the entire system behind your firewall and never touching AeroFS' servers. Today, the company is announcing an iOS app for Private Cloud users, the first step toward addressing a longstanding criticism of the service—that it just isn't available in all of the places that public cloud services like Dropbox or Google Drive are.

Docker (YC S10) raises $15M Series B from Greylock Partners, IVP, Benchmark, Trinity for cloud containers

The shift to scale out architectures and an app-centric culture has turned out well for Docker and its lightweight open-source “container” technology designed for developers to quickly move code to the cloud.

That’s evident in today’s news that the company has raised $15 million in a Series B round led by Greylock Partners, with minority participation from Insight Venture Partners and existing investors Benchmark Capital and Trinity Ventures. Also participating is Yahoo! Co-Founder Jerry Yang, who has participated in previous rounds.

Docker will use the funding to push toward the general availability of the Docker environment, develop commercial services that pair with the open-source technology and build a team to support the growing community.

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