The top 7 startups from Y Combinator S’17 Demo Day 1

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The top 7 startups from Y Combinator S’17 Demo Day 1

A stem cell cryobank, self-flying personal planes and an augmented reality data platform were amongst the highlights of the prestigious Y Combinator startup accelerator’s Summer 2017 Demo Day part 1. You can read about all 50 startups that launched today in verticals like AI and biotech, and check back later for the full list and favorites from day 2. For now, based on investor buzz and what caught the eye of TechCrunch’s writers, click or scroll through to see our picks for day 1’s top 7 startups.

Additional reporting by Ryan Lawler, Lucas Matney and John Mannes

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Pyka – Self-Flying Personal Planes

Pyka wants to make “flying cars” a reality with its auto-piloting single-person planes. The company has already built a 400-pound plane that flies itself, and can take off and land in 90 feet. But since regulators want to see tons of testing before allowing humans aboard, Pyka has developed a placeholder business doing crop dusting in New Zealand. That helps it earn $600 per hour while logging the hours necessary to prepare itself for the human transportation market. Crop dusting alone is a $1.5 billion business in the U.S. But with employees from Zee airplanes and Google’s Waymo, Pyka aims to become a first-mover in self-flying personal planes.

Why we picked it: This is the flying car we were promised, and rather than burning cash through years of development, Pyka has a sustainable path to regulatory approval.

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PullRequest – Code Review Marketplace

PullRequest is a marketplace pairing corporate code with freelance code reviewers looking for a side hustle. The team is recruiting reviewers that have experience from top tech companies like Amazon, Facebook and Dropbox to check a big company’s code for bugs. With this pedigree, PullRequest has managed to draw interest from 450 teams. Though only a portion of these are actually using the service, PullRequest touts a $136,000 annualized revenue run rate. Together, startups and Fortune 500 companies spend an estimated $40 billion on code reviews. The secret sauce of PullRequest lies in automation techniques that allow the startup to do reviews faster and more accurately.

Why we picked it: As software eats the world, every company will have to adopt computer science. PullRequest could allow companies without budgets for the best engineers to at least get high-quality code review so their programs don’t break.

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Zendar – All-Weather Radar For Self-Driving Cars

Zendar develops high-definition radar for autonomous vehicles. Today, autonomous vehicles rely on two main technologies: Lidar and traditional radar. Lidar can see in high definition, but does poorly in bad weather, while radar is great in bad weather conditions, but can’t see in high resolution. Zendar seeks to provide high-res imaging for self-driving cars in bad weather, allowing all-weather autonomy. In the next three years, Zendar says there will be 10 million autonomous vehicles made, and it’s hoping to be used by as many as possible.

Why we picked it: Next-generation sensors will be built into all sorts of vehicles, robots and cameras. Any startup making a better radar will have plenty of client and acquisition options.

Image via Sombre Lidar

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Gopher – App Platform Built On Email

We all hate email, but still spend most of our work day there. Gopher wants to make that time more productive by letting any developer build apps for your inbox. For example, you can forward it emails of data for entry into Salesforce, or collaboration plans to schedule a meeting. Its first extension for sending follow-up emails has earned it 1,300 monthly users, and 300 devs have signed up to build on the platform. Rather than forcing you to waste your hours hopping back and forth between email and other apps, Gopher will help you get things done all in one place.

Why we picked it: The Gopher team already built popular email-based app FollowUpThen. With LinkedIn buying Rapportive and Boomerang focused on specific functionality, the demand for email-based apps has been proven, yet there’s no cross-device dev platform.

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Modular Science – Farming Robots

Elon Musk may be concerned about robots taking over the world, but Modular Science just wants robots to farm our vegetables. The startup, which currently has robots out in the field (!) in Petaluma, Calif. is aiming to automate 99 percent of the processes involved in vegetable farming within the next six months with their specialized farming bots. Modular Science is looking to charge $2,000 per acre, which they say is half of what farms are currently paying for human labor.

Why we picked it: Grueling, repetitive manual labor jobs are sure to be taken over by robots, but the question is who makes them. And with the political climate turning against cheaper globalized labor, cheap robots could be rapidly adopted.

Image via Blue River Technologies

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Escher Reality – Augmented Reality Data Platform

To augment the real world, you need data about it. Escher Reality aggregates AR mapping data from people’s camera phone videos and pins it to locations so other developers can build better experiences on top. And while Facebook and Apple have their own AR platforms, Escher works across iOS and Android right inside developers’ apps. It now has 600 devs on its waitlist, 10 letters of intent from potential clients like game studios and a signed deal to power an AR app for blockbuster robot fighting movie Pacific Rim. If Escher Reality can become the device- and platform-agnostic engine for AR, it could become a gateway to tons of developer spending and consumer attention.

Why we picked it: AR is becoming the next big trend in consumer software. But the physical world is vast, and both developers and platforms will need assistance getting mapping data for everywhere.

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Forever Labs – Stem Cell Cryobank

Forever Labs wants to help users cryogenically freeze their stem cells, allowing them to save those cells to fight age-related diseases in the future. Stem cells have been shown to help improve the life of mice by 16 percent, but the older you are when they’re harvested, the less helpful they are in fighting disease. Now, Forever Labs has 20 doctors providing the procedure, but expects to be in every major U.S. market by this time next year. Stem-cell banking could be a $56 billion market, the company believes.

Why we picked it: We’re still learning about the incredible opportunities locked within stem cells, but many of us may be too old to bank them by the time their uses are revealed. Cryobanking now could give people a more affordable and reliable way to safeguard their future health without the faith in science fiction necessary for freezing your whole head or body.

Image via Cryostemcell

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