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Y Combinator Demo Day At The Computer History Museum In Mountain View

On Tuesday, March 25th, a new batch of 75 startups will present their products at Y Combinator's demo day. Fast Company's Alice Truong will report live from the event and highlight some of the standouts.

First batch of startups on stage.
by Alice Truong

One of the most aspired-to accelerators in the Bay Area, Y Combinator isn't known for doling out huge amounts of money--about $18,000 on average--yet it attracts early startups across the country that hope to breakout big like some Y Combinator alums have, including Dropbox and AirbnbTo date, the accelerator cofounded by venture capitalist Paul Graham has funded more than 600 startups, including RedditTwitchStripe, and Homejoy. What makes Y Combinator so attractive in part is its powerful alumni network--some of whom have attended each other's weddings, played poker together, or shared an RV at Burning Man. 

On Tuesday, a new batch of 75 startups will present their products at Y Combinator's demo day. Fast Company's Alice Truong will report live from the event from the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif. and highlight some of the standouts. Stay tuned! The event begins at 10am Pacific.

  • Y Combinator Demo Day kicks off Tuesday morning.

  • These pitches are just a few minutes a piece, happening one right after the other. Stay tuned for slightly more fleshed out stories.
  • YC S14 applicants: If you get an exploding offer from another accelerator, email us and we will try to look at your application.
  • i think there are more potential billion dollar cos in this YC batch than ever before. hope i will say this many more times.
  • It has been an interesting mix of companies in this first batch of demos, including those in the health care, b2b, and retail/consumers sectors. Some highlights:

    • Weave is a phone system for dentists. Though it isn't the sexiest pitch, it's straightforward and effective: "Dentists make a lot of money. There are a lot of dentists. And the industry is not highly regulated like medicine, for example," says founder Brandon Rodman. The company charges dental offices $300/mo to take care of their phone services, and it plans to expand to other types of medical offices.
    • TrueVault helps developers build HIPAA-compliant health applications, and is used by Novartis, Pearson, Quantum Health, among other health companies. 
    • CareMessage, the first nonprofit to present, is using text message to connect hospitals with patients. The company's seen 100% patient growth week over week. Using its service, 97% of patients have reported doing more physical activity, says the founders.

    • Piinpoint helps businesses find locations for expansion. Starbucks, for example, opens up two locations every day, says the founders. Typically, this process can cost $100,000 in research.
    • Boostable does advertising for marketplaces, automatically creating and targeting ads, such as those on Facebook. One of its clients is Airbnb, a YC alum.
    • SendWithUs optimizes transactional emails (basically any email where there's a call to action, such as accepting a friend request on Facebook).
    • TradeBlock aims to become a Bloomberg terminal for Bitcoin. The founders see potential because financial data represents a $25 billion market.
    • Taplytics does A/B testing and optimization for mobile apps.
    • Airpair is a "microconsulting" marketplace that connects developers with domain experts over video chat.
    • StackLead does automated lead research, pulling complete research reports on people. The company says it has grown the number of leads researched by 150% each week. More than 1,000 companies have signed up for its service, including one customer that's paying $25,000 for an annual contract.

    • Zinc is a browser plug in that aims to help shoppers save money online. When they're getting ready to place an order, they'll see a new button from Zinc with a lower price. The company fulfills this order automatically, scouting them using data and crowdsourcing, and in the six weeks since its launched, it has had 12,000 users.
    • BatteryOS says it can optimize lithium-ion batteries to charge at 100% without deteriorating their lifespans. If it were on the Chevy Volt, the founders say BatteryOS can increase the car battery's by eight years.
    • SuperHost automates Airbnb hosting and takes care of all steps required, from replying to inquiries to scheduling cleanings.
    • Memebox is a cosmetics company. One of the most unexpected from the bunch, the company aims to sell beauty products in between the cheap drug store versions and the luxe name-brand cosmetics. The company says it expects to make $150 million by the end of the year.
  • Startups, Role Models, Risk, and Y Combinator:…
  • It's now lunch time, aka time for the startups to rub shoulders with monied investors. In the meanwhile, we wanted to point out some companies from the second batch of demos.

    • 42, perhaps one of the best names for a data analytics company, aims to help retailers maximize revenue in their brick-and-mortar stores. To prove her point, cofounder Cathy Han pointed to images from a furniture retailer during her demo. She surprises the audience by singling out napkins on a dining room table as the item with the highest profit margin.
    • Zesty delivers healthy food to businesses, a $15 billion market in the U.S. It's a way for startups to provide a Google-like food program.
    • Rickshaw is in the business of same-day deliveries for companies. "We represent your brand at the door, not ours," says cofounder Divya Bhat. The company has seen 60% monthly growth in the last eight months.
    • Nonprofit startup One Degree positions itself as a Yelp of social services. Cofounder Rey Faustino said his experience growing up in a low-income household made him realize how difficult it was for families to find after school programs, scholarships, homeless shelters, food banks, and other services.
    • Zidisha considers itself a better version of Kiva with lower fees on its microlending platform. The nonprofit says the average cost for a loan is 10% in fees, compared with the 30% to 80% charged by Kiva.
    • Style Lend is a peer-to-peer dress rental marketplace. At least one person has noted its similarity to Rent a Swag, a fictional startup featured in the show Parks and Recreation. Because women's closets are filled with clothes that are worn only once or twice, founder Lona Alia Duncan says they "are a secret gold mine" holding $50 billion worth of apparel in the U.S.
    • Povio is a photo-sharing app that's been taking over Slovenia. One of its founders, Matevz Petek, a professional snowboarder, says the company has targeted Santa Clara University in Silicon Valley for its U.S. expansion, and about one-third of the student body has the app installed. Furthermore, half of them are using Povio every day.
    • Dating Ring aims to make online dating more seamless with an Uber-like model. Working like a matchmaker, the company screens potential mates by meeting them for about five minutes. Afterward, they're able to find and book dates with a click on their phones. So far, 70% of users have gone on a second date, and the company reports revenue has grown 60% month over month.
    • AirHelp aims to help passengers whose flights have been delayed or canceled file for compensation. The startup recently pulled data for Fast Company on the airlines with the worst track records.
    • CodeCombat wants to teach kids how to program. "Players write Javascript to win the game." The multiplayer game has seen engagement increase 16% year over year, with play time doubling every five weeks. The company plans to add four more languages and 40 new levels.
    • MadeSolid creates better materials for 3-D printers. Though there's unlimited potential with 3-D printers, the output is usually shoddy because of the low-quality materials, often the same used in plastic lids and Lego pieces. MadeSolid has produced three durable and flexible materials that work with existing 3-D printers.
    • Bellabeat is a wearable device to track unborn babies' heart beats and movements. The company has signed 12 deals with retailers. Check out a story we ran in February about the Bellabeat Connected tool.
  • Impressed with new crop at #YCdemoday
  • Y Combinator just wrapped up its third and fourth batch of demos. The organizers said at the beginning of the demo day that part of the final group of presenters will comprise stealth companies, so that last part will be off the record--not blogged or tweeted.

    • Abacus aims to make expense reports less painful by using employees' smartphone. The startup charges companies $60 a person per year, and its service integrates with their existing accounting software. "We're making the expense report obsolete," says cofounder Omar Qari.
    • Algolia wants to help companies build better search tools. Most existing ones are used to search documents (Google performs document search), but more often than not, companies need smarter database search (searches on Amazon and LinkedIn are both examples of database search). With 80 customers, the company has seen 60% monthly growth in user queries and 50% monthly increase in revenue.
    • Ambition makes the cut-throat field of sales even more competitive by pitting employees against each other. "Ambition is in our DNA," says cofounder Travis Truett. The company has seen a 44% lift in sales in its pilot program.
    • Threadable is another attempt at fixing email. Employees can easily opt out of email chains that aren't germane to them with the click of a button. "Email isn't going anywhere, so we had to fix it," says cofounder Nicole Aptekar.
    • SketchDeck is a service that creates presentation decks. Cofounder Chris Finneral uses his demo as an opportunity to remind the audience that we sat through 39 presentations thus far. In nine weeks, SketchDeck has reached profitability, seeing $5,000 in revenue each week.
    • Two Tap wants to help developers monetize their apps. Traditionally, developers have relied on advertising revenue to support free apps. Positioning itself as a universal shopping cart for mobile, Two Tap replaces those ads with a buy button. Companies that have used Two Tap have seen 10 times more revenue from the same number of impressions.
    • Next Caller was created because cofounder Ian Roncoroni said his last name "was shitty to spell over the phone." To decrease the time companies spend asking people to spell their names during customer support, NextCaller has created what it says is the largest caller ID database with 220 million profiles--yes it is also able to identify wireless callers, something traditional caller ID still struggles with.
    • Eventjoy happens to be the platform Y Combinator is using to organize its demo day (eat your own dog food, right?). Using its app, event organizers can engage attendees and increase revenue by selling additional products. Since starting at Y Combinator, the company has seen 60% weekly growth in organizer signups. 
    • Kimono Labs makes it easy for companies to create APIs with a few lines of code. Only 0.0005% of websites have APIs, according to the founders who say writing custom web scrapers is like "reinventing the wheel every single time." In 10 weeks, the company has signed up 20,000 developers, seeing 15% weekly growth. To point to its success, Kimono says there were 11,000 public APIs on the web before its launch, and that number has tripled since.
    • Noora Health is a nonprofit company that aims to provide post-op care training for people in developing countries. The company has trained 7,000 families and has seen a 36% reduction in complications. To build a sustainable nonprofit, Noora also sells its service to hospitals in the U.S. looking to reduce readmission costs.
    • CodeNow is a nonprofit that teaches at-risk youth how to code. More than 300 students have learned the fundamentals of programming, and the company hopes to scale with a new product called CodeNow in a Box, which enables tech companies to host their own trainings for students. Read our past coverage here.
    • AptDeco is a marketplace for used furniture. An alternative to Craigslist, the company has seen a 27% growth in sales week over week in a New York City pilot and expects to rake in $1.3 million this year. "What's more remarkable is we've done this in New York City during the worst winter the city has ever seen," says cofounder Kalam Dennis.
    • Move Loot is another company targeting used furniture sales. The marketplace sells consigned furniture and vets the pieces it sells. Users can use the service by taking a picture of furniture they want to sell using the app. The company then picks up the furniture and it takes care of the rest, pocking 50% of the final sale price. 
    • Beacon aims to fix the broken journalism model that puts advertisers ahead of readers. Using a crowdfunding model, readers subscribe to a reporter for $5 a month but have access to all the reporting on the platform. The company has doubled its revenue every month since its September launch.
    • Minuum is a teeny tiny keyboard for screens big and small. "It used to be impossible to type on this [smartwatch] because a normal keyboard doesn't fit," says cofounder Will Walmsle, noting the keyboard can be used on devices from Google Glass to smart TVs. The company has seen more than 100,000 downloads since December--40% of them paid users.
  • There's a reason why 3-D printing is often used for prototypes. The quality of the product is typically shoddy because of the materials used, and MadeSolid is hoping to change that.

    Presenting at Y Combinator's demo day Tuesday, MadeSolid cofounder Lance Pickens said the company has researched and created three new materials that are compatible with existing 3-D printers. "It's essentially an upgrade for the 3-D printer you already have," he says. "The materials that are being used right now are essentially designed to be garbage. They spend most of their life in landfills."

    Brian Martinez, another cofounder of MadeSolid, told Fast Company existing materials used in 3-D printing are PLA, a type of thermoplastic used to make the lids of plastic cups, or ABS, another thermoplastic used to create Lego bricks. In contrast, the materials sold by MadeSolid are designed to be flexible, durable, and able to withstand impact. Below are some of the products created with MadeSolid's materials.

    A lineup of some of the 3-D printed products created with MadeSolid's materials. Note the bust of Hank Schrader from Breaking Bad, second from the right 

    Based in Emeryville, Calif., MadeSolid has shipped its materials to 25 countries, reporting 16% growth week over week. Pickens says the company has 80% profit margins.

    "The ultimate value in a 3-D printer isn't the printer," he says. "It's in the output, and the output is ultimately determined by the input: the bits and atoms."
  • There are the people who like to scrape the Web for the best deals, and then there's the rest of us who don't have the same patience and diligence to save a few bucks. To take the pain out of frugality, Zinc lets customers know when they can find a product for less money elsewhere.

    A browser plug-in, Zinc shows up at the checkout page with an alternative order button that displays a lower price for the same product. "It's not an advertisement. It's not a referral to another retailer. It's an order button," says cofounder Doug Feigelson in his presentation to a packed audience at Mountain View's Computer History Museum.

    If users choose to order the cheaper products via Zinc, the company fulfills the order from the lowest cost vendor and also handles returns and other aspects of customer service.

    "It takes two clicks to install," cofounder Max Kolysh told Fast Company. "Customers often forget about the product until the next time they shop on Amazon." Kolysh said customers don't have to create an account to use Zinc, which also works on Walmart, Macy's, and Target online. 

    The company, made up of computer science graduates from MIT, is able to offer this service because it has built programs that crawl the Web searching for the best deals, while relying on human editors to vet them.

    Having launched six weeks ago, Zinc said it already has 12,000 users. "Yesterday, we did over $6,0000 in sales, and that number is doubling every week," says Feigelson.
  • Though some Airbnb hosts reportedly rake in six figures by renting out their homes, managing their bookings can become burdensome. "From replying to inquires to scheduling cleanings, it'a almost as much work as running your own small business," said Amiad Soto at Y Combinator's Demo Day.

    Founded by him and his twin brother Koby, SuperHost aims to help hosts provide better experiences for guests without lifting a finger. The end-to-end service available 24/7 has six employees who manage more than 450 properties, charging hosts 3% in addition to Airbnb's 3% fee.

    "Our users' guests get responses in minutes--sometimes even seconds--and this is unprecedented," Koby told Fast Company. "The way we see it, [SuperHost] is the front desk in your house."

    Though SuperHost has built its company atop Airbnb's platform, it has plans to expand to similar home rental services, including HomeAway and VRBO, a vacation home-listing site. "All of them could use us," Koby said, noting SuperHost has also attracted the attention of smaller hotels and hostels as well.
  • When Rey Faustino presented at Y Combinator's demo day, he knew how out of place his nonprofit would be among a sea of companies chasing investor dollars. Positioned as a Yelp for social services, One Degree aims to help low-income families find after school programs, food banks, affordable housing workshops, among other services.

    "It can be really jarring to see $5 million market size [in one presentation]--and then boom--breaking the cycle of poverty," Faustino told Fast Company. During his presentation, Faustino talked about his family's struggles after emigrating from the Philippines. He attributed his success to a high school teacher who took him under his wing and helped him find after school programs and scholarships.

    Being slow to adopt to the Web, social services can be hard to find online because nonprofits have traditionally relied on binders of papers to help families locate resources. "We're taking the social service sector out of the Internet dark age," he said.

    As one of five Y Combinator nonprofits, Faustino said he's learned a lot working alongside the accelerator's other startups. "Being around for-profit companies pushes us nonprofits to think differently. It's like a different standard for measuring our success. In the same regard, we push them to think about things that aren't not just profit," he said.

    Thus far, One Degree has integrated more than 6,000 resources on its website for San Francisco residents and plans to expand to the rest of the Bay Area by the end of the year. In a few years, Faustino said he wants to see One Degree in at least 20 cities.
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