Startups

Our 10 favorite startups from YC’s S22 Demo Day: Part 2

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Image Credits: Getty Images

And we’re back! Yes, today was the second day of pitches from Y Combinator, a U.S. startup accelerator with global outreach that conducts demo days twice a year. This year’s Summer 2022 cohort gave us hundreds of batch companies to consider. For participating founders, it’s a critical day; for investors, it’s a buffet; for us in the media, it’s a chance to look at lots of companies, each hoping to be the next hit from the well-known startup backer.

TechCrunch has coverage on discrete areas of startup work that were represented, including geographic breakdowns, a dive into AI startups and a look into fintech’s future. But here, we’re detailing a few startups from the batch that caught our eye.

Where is Y Combinator startup-hunting in 2022?

As always, this list is for fun, in no particular order — just startups that stood out to TechCrunch reporters for one reason or another. You can find all of our coverage here and our favorites from the first day here. An entire list of all startups in the batch, provided by YC, is here as well.

Kashin

Who picked it: Mary Ann Azevedo

What it is: Kashin said its goal is “to give access to financial products — not just bank accounts — to the informal economy in Latin America.” Its core product is a digital wallet, but instead of focusing on basic banking needs initially, its main focus upfront is to offer small business owners  — mostly micro-entrepreneurs — a way to easily apply for micro-loans through its app.

Why it’s a fave: Kashin claims that its default rate is 8%, compared to an industry average of 15% in this segment. It is also entering into Square territory in that it’s developing a soft POS so that its users can receive credit and debit card payments immediately from its app without any initial cost. The company is two years old and says it has 10,000 users and close to $1 million in annualized revenue. During Demo Day, CEO Christophe Robilliard said that it’s making $60,000 in monthly revenue across over 10,000 users.

Impressively, it’s growing at 51% month over month from its working capital product. There is a growing number of micro-entrepreneurs in LatAm, so the total addressable market, or TAM, is large.

Axle

Who picked it: Alex Wilhelm

What it is: A software service that allows external parties to verify consumer insurance coverage without paper cards.

Why it’s a fave: While digitizing antiquated industries is not a new startup trend, it’s just now picking up steam in the insurance world. Startups like AgentSync have shown that there is big business in building connections between different parties in insurance land. So while it appears that’s where Axle is starting doesn’t directly compete with other companies that I can name, I don’t expect it to stay in its lane; if Axle succeeds, it will add more types of insurance data to its system, eventually running up against other startups that we have covered. And nothing clarifies the TAM of a market — or, the amount of built-up pain present in that market — than startups battling it out for market share.

Hedgehog

Who picked it: Alex Wilhelm

What it is: Robot-driven mushroom farming.

Why it’s a fave: A micro-trend forming out of this year’s Summer Y Combinator is robots doing neat stuff. Not humanoid robots making us tea, sadly. But robots that have precise jobs that they can do better than humans and thus create better outcomes for humankind. Yesterday, we saw a fish robot that can kill the floppy little bastards better, thus improving the manufacture of fish products. Today, Hedgehog showcased its robot-powered mushroom-growing operation. While it is enough that the company’s tech claims that it can foment fungi for fewer francs than existing methods, it also claims that mushrooms “transform agricultural waste into protein-rich foods with near-zero environmental impact.” How can we not dig that? (Note: I find fish disgusting as a food source. Mushrooms are not much better. But, hey, my tastebuds aren’t very important.)

Deekard

Who picked it: Alex Wilhelm

What it is: A software service for uncovering and fixing data-quality issues.

Why it’s a fave: Something that Monte Carlo taught me is that data analysis is only worthwhile if the underlying data is trustworthy. If your data ingestion is whack, your resulting analysis will also be suspect. So, data quality is important. Monte Carlo calls this “data obs,” and it seems that Deekard is playing in a similar area. And as Monte Carlo has raised a pile of money while rapidly growing, the smaller company caught my eye. While I do not claim to be anything akin to a data obs expert — far from it — it seems notable that Deekard has “integrated plotting tool[s],” meaning that its remit could be a bit wider than what we might say we traditionally consider to be data obs. Cool!

Is data observability recession-proof?

Momentu

Who picked it: Natasha Mascarenhas

What it is: Momentu connects with insurance companies and employers in Latin America to offer mental health support to employees.

Why it’s a fave: Workplaces need to prioritize mental health services for their employees, so I’m always happy to see more startups optimizing the back end. Despite some progress, a stigma continues to exist around these topics. Corporate-branded mental health support does have room to fight the stigma, so it’s key for companies like Momentu to make sure there’s a good balance between integration and privacy.

Tangia

Who picked it: Amanda Silberling

What it is: Interactive, Minecraft-centric monetization opportunities for Twitch streamers.

Why it’s a fave: Basically, the premise is that someone can pay you 10 bucks to drop a grenade into your Minecraft stream. It’s pretty hilarious. But it’s also a smart idea and one that has the potential to help video game streamers boost their income. People like to watch Twitch streams because of the interactivity, but there’s only so much that Twitch can do on-platform. But Tangia’s integrations with Minecraft, Twitch, Discord and Stripe create another monetization option that fans actually want. Their product might be hard to integrate outside of sandbox-style games like Minecraft, but Minecraft has enough of a foothold in streaming culture that it’s an entire market in itself. Tangia is far and away the most interesting creator economy company that presented this week.

https://techcrunch.com/2022/09/07/yc-demo-day-found-podcast/?utm_source=internal&utm_medium=WPunit

Paigo

Who picked it: Kyle Wiggers

What it is: Automates billing for software-as-a-service (SaaS) businesses.

Why it’s a fave: How does a company figure out what to charge customers for its services? That’s the age-old question. Paigo promises to abstract it away, automatically determining customers’ usage, recommending a price to charge and handling payment. While there’s reason for skepticism — after all, not all SaaS businesses have the same operating expenses — Paigo claims its platform can support data products, software infrastructure and platform SaaS. We’ll see. But it’s an exciting prospect.

Illuminant

Who picked it: Kyle Wiggers

What it is: Using computer vision algorithms and off-the-shelf hardware, Illuminant claims to be able to display visual guidance such as X-rays and CT scans directly onto a surgical patient’s skin. The startup’s projection system can ostensibly also show notes from pre-operative planning sessions as a surgeon operates, like needle depth and tool trajectories — the idea being that it helps surgeons perform safer and more efficient surgeries.

Why it’s a fave: Surgical errors are somewhat common — one estimate pegs the number at 4,000 each year in the U.S. alone. Assuming Illuminant’s technology works as advertised, it could be a highly useful tool in the operating theater, potentially even opening up a new class of minimally invasive techniques.

Drip

Who picked it: Anna Heim

What it is: Drip is BNPL for Brazil, a country where paying in installments is already common but typically involves credit card fees — and requires a credit card in the first place.

Why it’s a fave: I have fewer qualms about the buy now, pay later model when it is applied to Latin America, where it seems less of a bad habit and more of a cultural thing — but made less costly. Drip isn’t the first startup to tropicalize BNPL for the region — there’s also Addi, Aplazo and Nelo. But the fact that Drip’s three co-founders worked at Nubank caught my attention; this background is a good fit for the problem they are tackling and illustrates the neobank’s multiplier effect for entrepreneurship.

The Nubank EC-1

Birch Biosciences

Who picked it: Andrew Mendez

What it is: Birch Biosciences engineers enzymes with the potential characteristics to break down plastics naturally through AI machine learning and synthetic biology. This would help contribute to reducing plastic waste and modernize society’s view of conservation.

Why it’s a fave: Although Birch Biosciences’ approach may seem far-fetched, it’s pushing the envelope of what it means to conserve. Growing up in Nevada, we never really recycled despite hearing the grand old slogan “reduce, reuse, recycle.” It was just never practical in the communities I grew up in. Now, society sees the effect plastic as a whole has on the planet. So the idea of developing an enzyme that is meant to break down plastic waste is pretty neat. A solution to this problem is overdue.

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