Paul Graham kicked off his accelerator Y Combinator‘s 15th Demo Day saying that though 75 startups will present today, this summer 2012 class has the “smallest percentage of applicants that we’ve ever accepted.” It’s clear that YC’s notoriety for getting founders in front of top investors is growing, and it’s becoming harder for startups to come out to succeed without support from accelerators like Y Combinator, 500 Startups, and TechStars.
Here we’ll give you a preview of the first 17 companies showing their stuff to VC firms, angels, and press, plus give our analysis about which have the biggest potential to change the world, or at least make a lot of money.
Graham stressed that the hottest funding rounds might fill up today, so investors shouldn’t delay. And while we’d love to write about every startup demo’ing, there’s several big ideas that are off the record that only people here in person get to hear about.
BufferBox is building a network of big green lock boxes scattered across cities and transportation networks like train lines where you can get packages securely delivered. That means you don’t have to sit at home weighting for your shipments, and shipping companies don’t waste money on multiple delivery attempt or end of with dissatisfied customers.
BufferBox is based out of Waterloo so its first rolling out in Toronto’s Union Station. It plans to have BufferBoxes in 100 locations by the end of the year. Today the startup announced that Google has signed up, in addition to Walmart, to allow ecommerce customers to give packages delivered to the boxes. Read more about BufferBox.
Kippt is a collaborative bookmarking system for professional networks. It lets employees teach and share with each other on a dedicated platform. And it’s growing fast. The founders announced that their weekly active user count is growing 22% per week. Last week users shared 300,000 links, and users love the service so much they’ve built their own iOS, Android, and Windows Phone 7 apps for it on the APIs the team released.
Kippt will support itself with a pro version including advanced features like indexing users’ imported clips for easier searching that costs $25/year. Read more about Kippt.
70% of ecommerce stores can’t go mobile because of inflexible legacy software. That’s where Airbrite comes in. It’s attacking the middle market which have the most pain and the most outdated software. The founders say 3,000 brands are spending $500,000 per year on setup and maintenance fees alone – a $3 billion market.
Airbrite now has Jennifer Lopez’s stores and 15 brands in its pilot and is onboarding 30 more. And it’s designed to work with booming world of APIs. It’s already got support from SV Angel, and is looking to close a round.
MicroEval says it’s created software to bring the employee performance review process into the web-focused era. “Everyone hates performance reviews, but every company does them, and spends tons of money and time on performance reviews every year,” co-founder Samantha O’Keefe said in her presentation (in the tech space, at least, that is certainly true.)
MicroEval’s software can be customized by each company to evaluate employee performance on their terms. MicroEval is targeting a $4.2 billion market, and has already run trials with companies including Square and Zappos. Read more about MicroEval.
Vastrm has a very simple goal: to get you the perfect fitting shirt. Founder Jonathan Tang (who, it should be mentioned, can convincingly rock a pair of pink pants while giving an investor presentation) has quite the pedigree: His family has been in the fabric business for years, and he says they now make one out of every six t-shirts worn in the U.S. today. According to Tang, the holy grail of the garment industry is getting the right fit.
Vastrm aims to solve that problem by providing a unique suite of t-shirt sizes, and let customers find exactly the size for them by trying several on at home until they find one that’s just right. Vastrm also has hook-ups with the whole garment industry supply chain, which will be helpful for the company’s margins. The potential market here is bigger than Warby Parker, Tang says, because “not everyone wears glasses, but everyone wears a shirt.” Read more about Vastrm.
VoiceGem has made a simple app for the web and the iPhone that lets you send a voice message to anyone without the sender or receiver having to install any special software or have a phone or data plan. It basically lets anyone send an asynchronous message, like an email or a text, but by using their voices instead of written words.
People who use it seem to dig it: Since launch, VoiceGem has seen 11 percent growth each day in the number of message minutes it processes, and on average 93 percent of people who use VoiceGem once come back to send more messages. It’s especially useful, the founders say, for sending messages to friends and family who live far away. Read more about VoiceGem.
imgfave is touting itself as a hybrid of Imgur and Reddit in hopes of becoming the place to explore interesting images and share them online. By collecting the most popular, meme-tastic images online in one place, imgfave says it’s made “the most addictive image-sharing experience on the web.”
So far, imgfave founder Gabe Ragland says, the site has had some serious traction — 30 million pageviews a month, with visitors browsing on average for more than 12 minutes per session. Also, the company is already profitable, and two weeks ago it released a native app for the iPhone. Read more about imgfave.
Last year non-profits spent $60 billion on fundraising through inefficient cold calls and cold mail pieces. But friends referring friends is the winning formula, and Amicus is bringing that model to non-profit fundraising. It allows non-profits and universities to turn their supporters into evangelists and volunteers.
Amicus is already profitable, with monthly recurring revenues of $60,000, growing 80% month over month for the past four months. And it got a big laugh from the YC crowd with the closing line, “We’re Amicus. We’re making social good and we’re going to make a shit ton of money in the process. Read more about Amicus.
You hear about Twilio all the time, but the founders of Plivo say that’s just because it was first in a market that’s growing incredibly quickly. However, they argue that Twilio’s platform has several weaknesses, namely the fact that it’s built on Asterisk on Amazon’s cloud. That supposedly means Twilio will have trouble scaling, and the quality of its calls will suffer, especially as it moves into voice. [Update: Twilio says this is not the case, though]
Plivo offers its own Internet telephony platform, built a custom stack that runs on “bare metal” servers, and promises better scale and higher call quality. The company says its platform has already hosted 25 million voice minutes, and that it’s bringing in $52,000 in revenue per month. Oh, and it’s already profitable.
It may seem like Twilio has an insurmountable lead at this market, but Plivo closed with a chart suggesting that Plivo is to Twilio what Google was to Excite. In other words, “You don’t have to be first, you just have to be last.” Read more about Plivo.
More than 90% of startup value creation happens within private markets which means lots of investors have been sidelined. Serious investors, especially those outside of Silicon Valley, can lack access to startups they believe in. So FundersClub has created a private marketplace where accredited investors with as little as $1,000 can fund private companies and startups, all through an online platform.
LendingClub and Kickstarter have shown it’s possible to pool capital in support of innovation. FundersClub has found traction too, raising over $520,000 for itself when it initially aimed for $250,000, and seeing $1.3 million flood in through the system in less than a month since launch. FundersClub could augment the best VCs and angels by giving founders access to crowd dollars that will let them fill out their rounds without adding noisy big-name investors who might not add value beyond their money. Read more about FundersClub.
9GAG aggregates memes and jokes from around the web — much like Reddit, but with a pure focus on funny stuff (gags, get it?) The site is already crazy popular: Its founders say that in July, 9GAG had more than 65 million unique visitors, compared to Reddit’s 39.7 million (that second figure was provided by 9GAG, so grain of salt, etc.) Its other metrics are similarly jaw-dropping: 3.8 million fans on Facebook, 920,000 followers on Twitter, and users on average spend more than 17 minutes on the site during each visit. The company launched its first mobile app three weeks ago, and it already has 750,000 downloads.
User-generated content is always a hit-and-miss game, but the 9GAG people say that on the whole, the site can churn out a lot of great stuff because of the immediacy of the Internet. “No studio in LA can be as timely… with creating this kind of funny content,” one of 9GAG’s founders said in the company’s demo.
Positioning itself as “Airtime for SMS,” Hubchilla pairs up users to text each other based on interest, gender, and location. Where other services such as Airtime and ChatRoulette demand that both people be online and ready to talk at the same time, texting allows for asynchronous communication.
According to the Hubchilla folks, it’s a big hit on campuses — 80 percent of its user base is college students. Hubchilla is also super viral, with the service spreading to 90 percent of a single college within 24 hours (which sounds crazy, but who knows with kids these days.) Lest you think that the college market is not valuable, the Hubchilla people would like to point out that that’s where Mark Zuckerberg started his empire.
Everday.me allows users to create a private timeline of their activity. It plugs into Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, allowing you to track all of your social data for your personal records and memory. You can also add posts through the app, website, or over email, and you can also organize posts with tags.
“We didn’t just build a diary, we built a personal timeline that captures your key life moments,” the team says.
Since launching two weeks ago, Everyday.me says users have already created 2.5 million entries, with 100,000 more every day. The company also says it’s seeing 14 percent daily user growth. As for making money, Everyday.me plans to offer additional features like extra storage and printed versions of your timeline. Ready more about Everyday.me.
Submittable makes it easy for any company to manage their submissions process and collect submissions fees. Customers already include Virgin, Harvard, and Playboy. What do those companies have in common? Nothing, which is why the founders think this could be a huge market: “If they could use it, anybody can use it.”
These submissions can take the form of everything from resumes to blog posts to job applications. Submittable allows companies to not just accept the submissions, but also to create tasks and workflows around them, for example handing off the review process between different editors. As for the fees, the company says it has processed $1.5 million in payments, and that its revenue is growing 16 percent per month. Read more about Submittable.
“Forget everything you know about telepresence robots.” Double Robotics has created a machine called The Double, which is essentially a drivable robot stand for an iPad — you just install an iPad app to start teleconferencing. With this approach, Double Robotics can offer a much more affordable telepresence robots, charging $1,999 per Double.
Beta testers included companies like Johnson & Johnson and Coca Cola.The first shipment of The Double should go out later this year, though the website says that first batch is already sold out. Double Robotics says it has already seen more than $500,000 in preorders, with orders coming from seven Fortune 500 companies. Read more about Double Robotics.
There’s no shortage of online financial calculators to help with decisions like buying a home, but SmartAsset executives argue that they’re “leftovers from 1990s.” For example, SmartAsset showed a screenshot from Bankrate.com stating that you can afford a $700,000 home with a $10 down payment. SmartAsset, on the other hand, offers up-to-date, interactive financial tools incorporating local data.
The company started out by targeting homebuying, and it now answers questions like “How much can I afford to borrow?” and “How much can I put down?” It eventually plans to answer 250 questions in 24 different topics. Since its launch the company has brought in 17,000 users and 200,000 page views. Those numbers may not seem amazing, but the company notes, “Our users are all in the process of writing the biggest checks of their lives …
These are literally the most valuable page views online.” SmartAsset makes money through lead generation, and it has already raised $900,000 in funding. Read more about SmartAsset.
SpinPunch wants to build “the infrastructure and distribution for a new generation of games.” There are other HTML5 gaming platforms, but SpinPunch aims to power games that can really compete with graphically intense, native titles.
As a proof of concept, the company launched its own game, called Mars Frontier, a real-time strategy game on Facebook. Since launching the beta in January, the game has grown to 140,000 monthly active users, those players are spending $1,700 per day. SpinPunch says it’s now being approached by big game studios that want to license the platform. Read more about SpinPunch.
Now read TechCrunch’s Top Ten Picks From YC Demo Day, and choose your own favorites from the other batches:
[Additional reporting by Anthony Ha and Colleen Taylor]