Early-stage venture firm Y Combinator‘s 15th Demo Day is underway with 75 startup presentations throughout the day. It’s the firm’s biggest and most selective class to date, and Mountain View’s Computer Science Museum is packed with roughly 400 or so investors and observers.
You can meet the startups from batches one, three, and four, plus read our coverage of how Y Combinator pitches are changing, but now let’s look at the second set of companies that demo-ed their work to VC firms, angels, and the press:
Flightfox says its search engine can be more efficient and and cost-effective than competitors like Expedia. It’s a marketplace of real people (like travel agents) who work competitively against each other to find you the very best flight. Basically the way it works is this: you put in your travel dates and places, choose an amount to award the finder of the best fare, and sit back and let the contest take place. The company says it has already made $120,000 in finder’s fees of about $30 or so. The company initially launched for the leisure market, but they eventually have plans to go into corporate flights. The company just closed an $800,000 round of funding from YC, 500 Startups, Kevin Laws (board member at AngelList), Matt Dickinson (early investor in Ark), Mick Liubinskas (from Pollenizer), and others.
This startup is tackling the very thorny problem of mobile advertising, which has vexed juggernauts like Facebook and Google because it is much harder to charge rates that are comparable to what is available on the desktop web. Mth Sense says that advertising is not as efficient as it could be because only 1 percent of ads come with any info about the users. Most ads served are blind. Mth sense’s solution adds demographic data to ads through predictive modeling based on app and device usage. For example, if you have the Pinterest, and Vogue apps, you’re more likely to be a soccer mom. The company generates about 10,000 profiles per day with trials seeing 35 to 65 percent click through rate increases. The say they can charge roughly a 4 cent cost-per-1,000-impressions for this data.
In a world where all consumer web products seem to have gone mobile-first, Scoutzie says that there are thousands of people looking for great mobile designers. There are brand agencies that could cost $50,000 and then there are marketplaces like 99Designs, which Scoutzie criticizes for focusing on cheaper labor. Since design is so vital to success of an app, paying $6 an hour is just not going to cut it. Scoutzie community vets all potential designers, either through a formal portfolio review or through a members-only invite process. This review process has resulted in 500 top notch members of the Scoutzie community and around 1,500 applicants who didn’t make the cut. The startup, which monetizes by taking a 10% cut of all projects arranged via the site (versus an agency’s traditional 50% cut), is currently focused on building community feedback tools to encourage its members to feel at home and valued — which even further sets it apart from 99Designs.
Instacart eventually wants to be an Amazon.com with one-hour delivery for anything and everything, but for now, it’s focusing on groceries. The startup says it has delivered thousands of items and orders are doubling weekly. “Every day is the largest day ever,” says founder Apoorva Mehta, who is a former supply chain engineer at Amazon. He made a winking reference to previous failures from the Web 1.0 era including Kozmo and Webvan. Mehta says what makes Instacart different is that it is entirely managed using software. The average order size is $55 and gross margins are 30 percent. He adds that best of all, users find Instacart addictive, with them using it on average 1.2 times per week. The service is now available in just three cities in California, but there are plans to launch in a new city every two weeks.
This startup just launched an instant virtual phone system for small and medium businesses. The service is geared toward companies and individuals looking for a professional phone solution without the cost and hassle of using legacy hardware and software solutions. For just $30 per month, Profig offers its users one toll-free number, two local numbers, 500 minutes of calling time and 250 text messages. The company says a custom call center can cost thousands of dollars to set up. A “holy grail” of phone system would be one that’s eight times cheaper than legacy phone systems, with a sales call center, a support center, customer advertising, all available in a single dashboard in the browser. Profig now has 62 businesses on its network and acquired all of them organically. The company says that its target market is worth more than $25 billion per year.
This startup makes it easy for businesses to automate common tasks on the web and sync data between different web apps. It recently announced the launch of its third-party developer platform. The company says the mass migration toward cloud-based services and a wealth of new web APIs have made it harder for services to connect with other applications. Zapier says its service acts as a hub and spoke for all of these different pieces.
From a Thiel 20-Under-20 fellow, the Coco is a case for your phone that provides all the tactile buttons you need for gaming. It communicates through the audio jack, so there’s no battery needed, no syncing required, no Bluetooth necessary. Ic can be sold for the price of normal phone case at a similar margin. The company says it’s already in talks with some of the largest retailers out there and by the holiday season, it should be the hottest gift. Right now, the Coco is a game controller, but if it gains wider distribution, it could become its own platform for new games. It has a central app that works in tandem with the controller. It can also connect to TVs, so the startup speculates that it could be competitive to the X-Boxes and consoles of the world. In the past month alone, the company has signed up 40 games to support the controller.
Collections.me is a file manager connected to the cloud. The company says that there are more than 1 billion PCs in the world and every one comes with a file manager like Finder. Ten years ago, that was all you needed because files were housed on your computer. But now with cloud apps, those old file managers don’t cut it anymore. The “Collections” native app lives on your computer or mobile phone. The startup says it’s super fast and always available whether you’re online or offline. Launched in beta testing four weeks ago, the app has seen 8,000 downloads, and found five million documents and photos. The company has a freemium model and will charge for enterprise support and premium services. They say it could replace Finder on a Mac or the equivalent on a PC and become the one app that everyone uses to access their digital content.
This startup says it’s “going to eat ” a $150 billion-a-year market in the U.S., because this is what trucking brokers make in fees every year. The largest broker in the U.S. alone commands just 2.8 percent of market and last year, they did more than $10 billion in revenue. Trucking is an extremely fragmented marketplace. Brokers connect shippers with truckers, but they don’t know where the trucks actually are. Truckers are also fragmented and dispersed throughout the country through mom-and-pop shops. It can be hard to find a shipment, especially on a return trip. Keychain Logistics knows where the truckers are and says that one in every 500 trucks are already on the platform. They bring visibility into the world of trucking. Keychain takes $168 through $336 per shipment and is already attracting name partners like Tide and Kellogg’s.
This Israeli company says it handles parallel databases, with an initial use case being in massive-multiplayer online gaming. With new kinds of data and new ways of processing it, Parallel says new approaches are needed. But CPUs aren’t moving any faster and concurrency is very hard to do. The company’s first product is an offshoot of the military technology one of the co-founders developed. It offers server-side, in-memory, low-latency, dynamic, concurrent and distributed spatial data-store for 2D and 3D spatial objects. For example, a system that tracks large aircraft should be able to prevent two from colliding immediately. Parallel says its product Spacebase could be applied to self-driving cars or gaming.
Survata’s product replaces paywalls on premium content from online publishers with surveys that conduct market research. They say market research is a $7 billion per year industry. The company launched last month and says it has grown by 30 percent week-over-week in terms of questions answered. But it faces a formidable competitor in Google, which announced a very similar initiative just a few months ago.
A majority of the very largest companies have sponsored trade shows or conferences. Microsoft, for example, spent $30 million on conference sponsorships this year while Pepsico spent more. Sponsorfied says the problem is this market is stuck in the 1990s. It’s fragmented, offline and extremely hard to manage. Sponsorfied says it will centralize the market onto its network for sponsors and do for sponsorship what Google did for advertising. They’ve already done 200 deals with $400,000 in sponsorships and are working with brands like PBR, Popchips, and Red Bull. Two weeks ago, they signed an exclusive deal with a major sports team that sells over $100 million in sponsorships every year.
Filepicker says that web and mobile apps can only work with content on users’ hard drives and can’t access web-based files. Say, if a user wants to edit a photo on Facebook, it has to go back and forth with other applications. But if Facebook and a web app could speak to each other directly, it could be easier. Filepicker provides a single uniform API for developers, so that when they want to upload a file, they can pull them all directly from Facebook, Google Drive, Instagram, Box, and all the other places they have content stored online by just implementing a simple line of code. The startup says that developers love it, because it makes their applications better. The company has seen 20 percent week-over-week growth for last 12 weeks. The platform has 134 apps total, including Scribd, SurveyMonkey and Alfresco, and will be profitable next month.
Referly makes it easy to recommend products and take a commission from affiliate links, potentially opening the world of affiliate revenue to a much larger group of consumers. Users create special links that track whether they’re driving sales to other sites, displayed in a simple, consumer-friendly dashboard, then they take an average of 5 percent commission on those sales.
Since launching in May, the company says it has signed up 30,000 merchants and generated more than $100,000 in sales. You can also donate your earnings to charity. And last month, Referly launched an API that should allow any site to have a referral program. Read more about Referly.
Rent.io says it wants to “optimize pricing of the single biggest recurring expense in lives of 100 million Americans.” Apartment owners are losing tens of billions of dollars because they don’t have accurate pricing information, the company says — so it assesses the revenue potential of a property for those owners. Customers pay $25 per apartment per year. The company launched two weeks ago, and it says there are now 15,000 apartments in the system.
[Additional reporting by Anthony Ha, Colleen Taylor, and Josh Constine]
Now check out TechCrunch’s Top Ten Picks From YC Demo Day, and choose your own favorites from the other batches:
Y Combinator is a venture fund which focuses on seed investments to startup companies. It offers financing as well as business consulting along with other opportunities to 2-4 person companies looking to take an idea to a product. Y Combinator looks for companies with “good” ideas over companies with experience and a business model. The company made its first investments in Summer 2005. Y Combinator selects companies to finance and consult with twice a year. They are located in...