It’s Demo Day time once again for Y Combinator, the startup incubator that has become a Silicon Valley institution since shaping its first class of startups back in 2005.
A handful of us TechCrunch writers are here in Mountain View, Calif, at the Computer History Museum, where the 47 startups that made up YC’s Winter 2012 class are set to pitch to a room filled with tech investors, executives and press (as you’ll see from our co-bylined posts, covering YC Demo Day is a group effort.)
This is the 16th ever Demo Day being put on by YC, and this class is notably smaller than the past two startup classes to graduate out of the program — 66 startups graduated from YC’s Winter 2012 class, and 84 startups graduated out of Summer 2012.
Kicking off the event with onstage remarks, Y Combinator founder Paul Graham said that he feels like the contracted size of this class means that there are essentially no weak startups in the bunch — which will make it more competitive for the investors on hand. All of YC’s Winter 2013 companies are in the process of raising equity funding, aside from one company that is a non-profit, which is looking for donations. All the founders will be adhering to the recently composed “Handshake Protocol” when negotiating investments on-site, he said.
As always, TechCrunch will be on hand with full Demo Day coverage. Not all of these startups are ready for publicity — so some are presenting their apps on an “off the record” basis — but we’ll be covering all the on the record pitches in a series of posts. You can also check out our picks for the top seven startups from Demo Day, and our thought piece on a leaner, stronger, more modest Y Combinator.
Here are the 16 companies that presented in the first on-the-record batch from YC Winter 2013 Demo Day:
Wevorce: The tech-powered standard for civilized divorce
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.
Airware: The DOS of drones
Designed to be the DOS of drones, Airware is building an app development platform for unmanned aircraft. While drones have historically been expensive and predominantly for military use, they’re getting cheaper, smaller, and used for commerical purposes like search and rescue, infrastructure inspections, open air mining operations, and much more. While other companies are building the software that handles the basics of keeping a drone in the air, Airware’s platform is for designing apps that tell drones where to fly and what to do. It works with a drone’s sensors, navigation, and communication systems to help developers create powerful apps. Airware expects to have 20 customers and $4 million in revenue in 2013. The fact is that drones are going to change a lot of businesses, but the technology’s application creates a big barrier to entry. Airware could help businesses fly right into drone tech.
FlightCar: Airport car sharing
Flightcar 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, curbside pickup and dropoff and even make make money if the car is rented. 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 launch it’s seeing 10 percent week-on-week growth in revenue, and it’s currently making $12,000 in revenue in just a 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.
Fivetran: A spreadsheet for number crunchers
There’s a big hole in the spreadsheet market. There’s easy, but weak Excel on the low end, and powerful but complicated MatLab and SPSS on the high end. Fivetran wants to combine professional functionality with consumer-level accessibility to create the spreadsheet for the big data era. Fivetran’s founder explained that once upon a time, there were typists, but now everyone does their own word processing. He believes that though today there are data scientists, everyone will eventually work with data themselves, and Fivetran could be their tool. For more info, read our launch story for Fivetran.
Thalmic: A wearable gesture device
Thalmic Labs is developing the MYO, a device for gesture controls — it’s an armband instead of a 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. The company is pitching this as a “once in a generation” shift in human-computer interfaces. You can read more TechCrunch coverage of Thalmic and the MYO here and here.
CircuitLab: Circuit design tools
CircuitLab makes browser-based circuit design tools, aiming to replace the painful DOS-era tools still being used by electrical engineers. Already CircuitLab says it has become a de facto standard of where people talk about circuits online according to its founders — “a tool that stays with you for decades.”
The founders estimate their market to be $500 million, because of CircuitLabs’ influence over which components the developers using the platform choose and targeting companies like Nintendo who compete to sell parts. They describe the product as “Adwords inside an engineering tool.” Upstream of the supply chain, the startup is seeing 15 percent week over week growth, with 80,000 users since its launch a year ago. Read our previous coverage of CircuitLab here.
SimplyInsured: Kayak for health insurance
SimplyInsured describes itself as the Kayak for health insurance. The company says that the process normally goes through a health insurance broker, and thanks to the involvement of paper, 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.
Zaranga: Vacation rental marketplace
Zaranga wants to bring demand-based dynamic pricing to the vacation rentals market. It wants to do what Airbnb did to Craigslist, but to incumbent vacation rental-by-owner site VRBO. Zaranga addresses the special needs of property managers including special integration, custom terms and conditions, and variable pricing to make sure they get the highest rate possible. The site’s listings are nearly doubling each month. The “Airbnb for…” model might seem a bit tired, but there’s still unused inventory in plenty of verticals. So while Silicon Valley might want something fresh, it doesn’t mean Zaranga won’t succeed. Check out our launch story for more info on Zaranga.
Microryza: Kickstarter for science
Microryza is essentially a Kickstarter for academic research, hoping to fund “the long tail of ideas,” according to its founders. Over the past five weeks the platform has doubled week over week in projects submitted, and already researchers from Stanford and Harvard have used Microryza to fund projects instead of getting grants. Coming up with the idea after difficulties getting grants for research around a treatment for Anthrax, the founders highlighted some notable projects raising money on the platform, including a project aiming to kill sperm with the cancer gene and around cannibalism in the Tyrannosaurus. The startup has also already seen some notoriety, having been one of the top stories on Reddit and even garnering a quote from Bill Gates: “This solution helps close the gap for potentially promising but unfunded projects.”
With Microryza, research is no longer limited to universities. “It turns everyone with a credit card card into a modern day patron of science,” the founder said. Read our launch coverage of Microryza here.
Buildzoom: Yelp for contractors
BuildZoom connects contractors with remodeling jobs. The goal, the company says, is to build “a national remodeling brand.” It also claims to offer more contractor listings than other sites (for example it has 20,138 contractor listings in San Francisco) and to offer deeper information in those listings. It started by pulling government listings on licensed contractors, and is now supplementing its information with data from the Better Business Bureau too.
The company makes money by partnering with contractors and charging them a 7 percent commission. You can read more in our launch coverage.
Errplane: Real-time application monitoring
When a developer’s app performance suffers, so does their wallet. They want to know immediately if something’s wrong. Errplane is a real-time application monitoring system that alerts developers via email, text, or chat when the performance of their app degrades. It’s been rapidly signing up customers, moving some to paid services, and 38 of the 300 that signed up in the week since its public launch already have Errplane deployed for their apps. That underlines how easy it is to set up the system. It also supports next-generation languages like Node.js. Right now it pulls in all of a developer’s data and crunches it itself to check for performance fluctuations. This year, it plans to start doing on-premise deployments so that huge developers with too much data to upload to the cloud, or security or regulation issues preventing them from doing so can crunch the data on their own servers.
In one of the most aggressive pitches of the day, Errplane lashed out at its incumbent competitor, saying “We’re going to turn New Relic, into a relic.” Check out our launch story on Errplane for more info.
Padlet: Put stuff online
Drag and drop website collaboration tool Padlet is “the easiest way to put stuff on the internet” according to its founder. Over 300K monthly users from 197 countries create content on the site every month, seeing 30 percent growth a month for the last seven months. The product is “deceptively simple” but the founder compares it to Twitter as such, “If something has enormous growth it means it’s solving a fundamental problem, so are we.”
The founders described the typical Padlet use case as needing to share images of Abraham Lincoln for a class, asserting that Google Docs or Facebook wouldn’t quite cut it. The company hopes to monetize by attracting hundreds of millions of people to its simple tool, 2 percent of which are (hopefully) paid. Read our earlier launch coverage of Padlet here.
BitNami: App store for server apps
BitNami is an app store for enterprise applications that runs in the cloud or behind your company’s firewall. The founders say that you can search for apps on the site, hit the “launch” button, and have an app that’s configured and ready to use in minutes.
The company is already profitable, with millions of dollars in recurring revenue (presumably annually). Customers include MasterCard, Boeing, and Fiat. And it says there are 1 million new deployments of its software every month. You can read more in our launch coverage here.
Teespring: Kickstarter for T-shirts
This clothing startup wants to make you proud of what you wear. Across the web and the world, there are communities rallying around interests and causes. Their members want to declare their affiliation, and would happily buy a piece of clothing with the group’s name on it. But producing and paying for the merch up front can be risky. Teespring lets any group upload a clothing design, like a slogan, to put on a t-shirt, and set up a page to sell it. They promote the page to their group members, and when people click to purchase, Teespring prints and delivers the clothing. Then it splits the profit with the group.
Teespring is one of the hot Demo Day startups because it joined Y Combinator when it was already earning serious revenue. Since then it’s been growing 46 percent per month and will do $750,000 in revenue in April alone. Its founder Walker Williams claims Teespring will be bigger than Threadless by the end of the year. The Internet is bringing together like minds, and Teespring could help people express their affinities in the real world, while funding the groups and earning a tidy profit itself. Read our earlier coverage here.
Posmetrics: POS feedback on tablets
Posmetrics is an iPad-based, real time feedback platform at point of sale. Making its public debut this march, the platform has already signed up 74 local SF businesses, including hotels, retail stores and restaurants, and is seeing 41 percent week over week growth. Twenty-three out of those businesses have converted to paid users.
The founders call the response aggregation tool a “real time pulse on location” and hope to pick up some of the millions that chains like Sears spend on broken feedback systems. Their research shows that 35.6 percent of customers give feedback when stories use Posmetrics to cull it, versus the very inefficient 1.9 percent that respond with email surveys. The product also alerts managers immediately to negative responses.
The founders assert that clients have seen a 1.5 Tripadvisor star increase since using the platform, and that even a one-star Tripadvisor increase results in 28 percent greater revenue. The startup hopes that its subscription model will eventually be used in over 1.1 million retail stores. Read our launch coverage of Posmetrics here.
Watsi: A nonprofit to fund treatments
Watsi is Y Combinator’s first nonprofit. (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. 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.