TechCrunch’s Picks: The Top 7 Startups From Y Combinator’s W13 Demo Day

Y Combinator was tougher to get into than ever this season, and the quality showed on stage. Thirty-three startups presented on the record at the incubator’s Winter 2013 Demo Day today. Picking the most promising ones was no easy task. But after a team huddle and taking input from VCs and founders, TechCrunch has chosen seven startups that have the potential to disrupt big businesses and make the world a better place to live.

YC’s head honcho Paul Graham said that he and his partners were pickier than ever about which startups were admitted to the Winter 2013 class. YC sported an all-time high of female co-founders this time around, though they still only make of 10 percent of the class. Fourteen of the 47 startups have refused press for now, but you can read about all 33 of the startups that demoed on the record in our write-ups about Batch 1 and Batch 2. You can also check out our thought piece on a leaner, stronger, more modest Y Combinator.

Congratulations to everyone who presented. But now, on to our favorites.

Thalmic: A wearable gesture device

thalmic logoThalmic Labs has developed a sensor you wear on your forearm designed to detect electrical signals that map to movements in your hands. The device, called the MYO, is a gesture controller that doesn’t require a Kinect-style camera. The limitation with camera-based systems like the Kinect is that you have to perform a limited set of gestures in a fixed space. Thalmic is pitching this as a “once in a generation” shift in human-computer interfaces. It can be used to move through a slide presentation, play games, or control other wireless devices via Bluetooth.

When it opened pre-orders in February, people bought 10,000 MYOs at $149 a pop in just two days, which adds up to $1.5 million in sales. You can read more TechCrunch coverage of Thalmic and the MYO here and here.

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Watsi: A non-profit to fund treatments

Watsi is Y Combinator’s first non-profit. (Or, as YC’s Paul Graham joked, it’s the incubator’s first company that’s “intentionally” not-for-profit.) It’s a crowdfunding platform for global health care. Essentially, people can pool funds to pay the medical bills of someone in need. For example, the first patient it helped was a 12-year-old girl in Nepal whose parents couldn’t afford transportation to the country’s capital for surgery. Watsi’s community crowdfunded the project in eight days.

The company says that it’s working with 13 medical organizations, and that it funds 17 patients per week on average. And 100 percent of the donations go directly to fund the medical care, with Watsi planning to cover costs several ways, including optional tips. You can read more of our coverage here.

Lollipuff: Authentic product auction

lollipuff logoThe eBay of designer goods, Lollipuff attempts to take the risk out of buying designer goods online by serving its customers with an authentication layer on luxury items from Chanel, Louboutin, and Herve Leger. That means zero counterfeits, so you can buy luxury items with confidence.

Since its soft launch in January, the platform has fulfilled over $45,000 in orders, growing 10x in 3 months. The startup has also seen 13 percent week-over-week user growth in the same amount of time. Founder Fei Deyle came up with the idea after starting a successful blog as a designer authenticator. Deyle brings up the crux of the buying-designer-goods-online problem in one statistic: 75 percent of Herve Leger sold on eBay is fake. “Would you spend $3k on ‘Chanel’?” Eventually she’d like to scale this authentication process by a combination of software and human expertise. “Over half of our users have never used eBay before,” she says, estimating the authentic designer retail market to be at $30 billion. Read more coverage of Lollipuff here.

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Semantics3: Product data

semantics3 logoHow do e-commerce shops know which products to sell and how much to sell them for? Semantics3 wants to use big data to answer those questions. Its audacious goal is to index all the products and all the prices on the web in one centralized location. It then sells a data license or API access to e-commerce merchants. This lets them see who else is selling the products they’re selling, how much they’re charging, how their prices are changing, and what products are doing well. And beyond traditional e-commerce, Semantics3 wants to help app developers and other verticals, as well.

If it can sell a $12,000 a year license to just the top 1 percent of the 2 million U.S. e-commerce market, it could start earning $240 million a year and help a new wave of commerce entrepreneurs succeed. Read more coverage of Semantics3 here.

Wevorce: The tech-powered standard for civilized divorce

wevorce Wevorce offers a system for handling divorces that attempts to avoid the pain and cost of going to court. It covers six broad steps — divorce planning, co-parent planning, a parenting agreement, financial mapping, financial agreements, and divorce settlement. Its service is a combination of divorce professionals and online tools. Apparently, the system is working for early customers. The company says that 109 out of 110 Wevorce clients have never gone to court with their divorce cases. Divorce has become an institution of modern culture as people search for fulfillment even if it requires some tough decisions. If Wevorce can smooth the process, we’ll be a happier, better-adjusted society.

SimplyInsured: Kayak for health insurance

simplyinsuredSimplyInsured wants to make buying health insurance as easy as booking a flight. The company says that the process normally goes through a health insurance broker, and between paper copies, phone calls and faxes, it can take two to three days to get a quote. Plus, it says that thanks to Obamacare’s reduction in commissions, there are 20 million policies that can no longer be served by traditional brokers. With SimplyInsured, you don’t need a broker. You just go online and get side-by-side comparisons of all the major providers.

The company has been seeing 60 percent monthly growth in recurring revenue for the past six months. Many people see health insurance as so complicated that they fail to make the best decisions about it, despite it being a huge cost to them or their employer. SimplyInsured could guide people to the most affordable and effective plan so when they get hurt, they’re taken care of.

FlightCar: Airport car sharing

flightcar-logoFlightcar is a car-sharing startup that is specifically focused on travel around airports. Car owners drive to the Flightcar location that’s five minutes away from a given airport, drop off their cars and get black car service to their flights. With Flightcar, owners are guaranteed free parking, a free car wash, and curbside pickup and dropoff. In exchange, users authorize Flightcar to rent out their cars out to other travelers while they’re gone. From the rentals side of the business, Flightcar is the cheapest car rental agency at SFO.

Launched 10 weeks ago, the startup has seen 450 rentals of over 220 vehicles — since then it’s seeing 10 percent week-on-week growth in revenue, and it’s currently making $12,000 in revenue per week. Seventy-five percent of the cars parked at Flightcar have been rented so far. The founders see the market as a combination of the $11 billion a year rental market and $5 billion a year airport parking market. “A huge opportunity,” they said. Read our earlier coverage of FlightCar here.