We’re in the middle of YC’s W17 batch. As companies launch they’ll be doing a Q&A on Hacker News – aka Launch HN – in addition to being included in a roundup on the blog. Here are the companies that have recently launched.


Claire

What are you making?
Claire helps brands & retailers test physical products over chat. We help them predict what products to make next, how many to make, and how much to charge for them.

What problem does it solve?
Revenue and profit lost to clearance and overstocks. About 60% of new physical products fail, which amounts to a $1.5T loss in the retail industry. Inventory management is the single biggest problem in retail.

How does it work?
Claire works like a scalable focus group over chat. Brands send their consumers to the Claire chatbot (hosted on FB Messenger, Kik, WeChat, etc.), we show consumers products, and ask them questions about each product. We use machine learning to identify relevant user responses and predict inventory levels for the products tested.

Why is it better than what’s currently in the market?
Claire is 2-5X more accurate at allocating inventory than current solutions, which include historical data analysis, focus groups / surveys, and intuition. Claire is also the only solution that scales across large product lines, which require large consumer sample sizes to be statistically significant.

Why is this valuable?
It allows brands optimize entire product lines quickly. Software businesses have tools that allow developers to iterate & optimize product fast (Mixpanel, Google Analytics, Optimizely, InVision, etc) – companies that make physical products do not. Claire is the only solution that predicts inventory levels accurately and scales across large product lines.

Why are you the team to win?
We are a team of product development and data science experts. Marta, who leads our sales team, created the department in charge of launching new products for a Fortune 100 CPG company. She knows the problem first-hand and how to sell the solution into large enterprises.

Our technical team members, lead by Misha, were all theoretical physicists from the University of Chicago. Before Claire, we were solving some of the most difficult data science problems in academia. Predicting inventory levels accurately is the most difficult data science challenge in retail.


Peer5

What does your company do?
Peer5 is the world’s largest P2P video CDN. We stream over 30 million hours of video every month at half the price of our nearest competitor. Unlike previous P2P CDNs, watching video on our network requires no special plugins or downloads.

Who are your customers?
Companies like Dailymotion (UGC), Sony (OTT), Artear (Broadcaser) that broadcast to millions online.

What is the primary problem you are solving and why has no one solved it before?
The most popular streams in the world are on TV and reach over 100M concurrent users. There’s no cdn in the world or platform that can support that audience. A p2p cdn is the only solution that can deliver video on the internet to a broadcast sized audience.

Why now?
WebRTC has just been released by browser vendors around the world and it allows direct p2p streaming. There are now billions of devices that can support this technology.

Why did you decide to start Peer5?
We have backgrounds in networking and distributed computing. When we first heard about WebRTC, we immediately saw how it might change the way the web works. The Internet was supposed to be decentralized and we hope that Peer5 can move the world more in that direction.


WaystoCap

What does your company do?
WaystoCap is a B2B marketplace where businesses in Africa can buy and sell products. We are building Alibaba for Africa.

Who are your customers?
For example, we will be working with an importer in Ivory coast who purchases canned sardines from Morocco and sells them to grocery stores & local markets. We are also facilitating a deal between a Turkish supplier and an importer of pasta products in Burkina Faso. There is a large network of these food importers in every African country with large quantities imported for food rather than grown locally.

We have also started working with importers and suppliers in other industries such as construction and manufacturing goods.

What is the primary problem you are solving and why has no one solved it before?
We want to enable importers to find reliable, affordable, good quality goods. On the flip side, we have suppliers who are looking for new markets.

Who are your competitors? What is the primary reason why people use your product over a competitor?
Our competitors are like Craigslist. They are about connecting suppliers and buyers and not about the transaction.

There are competitive aspects to WaystoCap in Esaja.com, espace agro, and Dobiza. However, they are listings/contact focused websites, where simply a buyer and a seller find each other’s details and hope for the best.

Messaging apps also have competitive aspects, but they are not fit for purpose as a trading platform.

Why did you decide to start the company?
We originally got the taste for global trade by trying to facilitate a Used Cooking Oil deal between Egypt and Spain in 2011. While trading, we realized that a lot of the SMBs had the ability to import (as they were the ones doing the actual on the grounds distribution) but did not have access to suppliers, information and competitive financing; and suppliers did not have a direct channel to find these SMEs.


Symple

What does your company do?
Symple is Venmo for business payments.

Who are your customers?
We’re building this for all businesses – but we’re starting with a focus on SMBs, specifically restaurants and bars. Restaurants and bars pay the highest volume of invoices every week and pay $75-100k in invoices/month on average.

How does it work?
Invoice comes in –> Symple automatically processes the invoice and extracts due date, amount, vendor and invoice # –> As the due date approaches, Symple sends notifications to remind the payer.

What is the primary problem you are solving and why has no one solved it before?
The majority of businesses still use checks to pay invoices. Some use google spreadsheets to manage/track spreadsheets. Tracking invoices and following up with payers is a manual, time consuming process.

Why did you decide to start the company?
One of our founders Steven led the corp dev team at Box and worked in investment banking. He saw the resources and money available to big enterprise companies and decided that the tools available to them should be available to all businesses. We wanted to make digital storage of invoices as trivial as taking a photo.


RankScience

What does your company do?
RankScience grows search traffic for your business with automated, continuous split-testing for SEO. Companies route their web traffic through our SEO CDN and our software takes care of the rest.

Who are your customers?
Businesses who acquire customers through Google. Examples include but are not limited to: E-commerce, Marketplaces, Directories, Location-based pages, Q&A

What is the primary problem you’re trying to solve and why has no one solved it?
The primary problem is SEO is a major traction channel for most companies, but people don’t have much control over it. They’re afraid of making mistakes, and if it’s working okay for companies, they mostly leave it alone. It’s a full-time job to measure and stay on track of SEO. Somebody needs to be focused on it. People don’t have the tools to run SEO experiments, and they also don’t know what good SEO experiments look like.

No one has solved automated SEO because SEO is a software problem that non-technical marketers are trying to solve.

Who are your competitors?
SEO agencies and consultants. 100% of SEO software companies provide analytics and insights but don’t actually automate SEO work for customers, and RS does.

Why did you decide to start RankScience?
We’re software engineer-turned-SEO’s. During our SEO consulting days, our competitive advantage over other SEO agencies was our ability to code. Our customers would give us git access, and we could immediately implement our SEO recommendations in source, which no other SEO agencies ever did. Customers don’t want to be told what to do — they want the work done for them.


Kudi

What does your company do?
Kudi is PayPal for Africa, over messaging.

How does it work?
Users link a payment method to Kudi during their first transaction. Subsequently transactions are as simple as: “send 5k to mum”, “renew my dstv subscription” etc. Kudi is currently on Facebook Messenger so they chat with her there.

What is the primary problem you’re trying to solve and why has no one solved it?
Paying bills in Africa is surprisingly cumbersome – almost like filling out a DMV form every month. By leveraging a messaging UI, Kudi makes paying your bills as simple as having a conversation. Since it’s part of Facebook Basics, Kudi can also be used with zero data cost, which key to success in Africa. They’re also the only channel that allows users to transfer money for free to any bank account in Nigeria.

Why did you decide to start Kudi?
We started Kudi because of the first hand pain we alongside friends and family have experienced in making payments. Before Kudi, every month my mum texts me through whatsapp to help her renew some of her subscriptions e.g. pay TV. The alternative for her and my dad was to drive into town to make such payments with physical vendor.

While there are a few options of websites/apps where she can pay, they are a complete pain and require filling lengthy forms. Around that time Yinka had some thoughts around how we can make payments happen through messaging interfaces and shared them with me. While toying with those ideas we realised payments through messaging will make digital payments a lot more accessible to the general public in Africa, the messenger APIs were made public around that time. The fact that she texts me on whatsapp for those bills was proof that she can make payments on messenger without additional help.

We built a quick hack late last year and tried it with a few people, the ease of use was quite glaring so we decided to leave our jobs to focus on building Kudi. Needless to say my mum has used Kudi for all her bills from December till today.