The top 8 startups from Y Combinator Winter ’16 Demo Day 2

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The top 8 startups from Y Combinator Winter ’16 Demo Day 2

Supersonic planes, food harvesting robots and instant HIV diagnosis were some of the ideas that wowed us on Demo Day 2 for Y Combinator’s Winter 2016 batch. We queried investors and TechCrunch’s writers to come up with our top 8 picks from all 59 startups that presented. Check out our coverage of the 60 YC startups from Tuesday, plus our 7 favoritesAdditional reporting by Megan Rose Dickey and Sarah Buhr.


Iron Ox – Food-harvesting greenhouse robots

Over one-third of crop production costs are labor. Iron Ox is developing a set of robots that can run a greenhouse automatically. This way, orders can be placed and food gets shipped without human help. Iron Ox already has crop movement and transplantation robots that can cut 10% and 20% of farm labor, and it’s currently growing lettuce, basil, and bok choy. With talent from Google X’s drone delivery lab, Iron Ox wants to lead the future of farming automation. I tasted its mustard plant, and found it remarkably fresh and delicious.


Boom – Supersonic planes

Boom wants to be the fastest passenger airplane ever. It’s building engines that fly 2.6X faster than any other airliner, and 2.2X the speed of sound. Instead of an 11-hour flight from San Francisco to Tokyo, Boom could get you there in 4.5 hours, and aims to be cheaper than first-class. More than an idea, Boom just struck a deal with Virgin for options to buy its first 10 planes for about $2.2 billion, and it plans to start flying next year. Read more about Boom on TechCrunch here.

3/9 – Manage chatbots with artificial intelligence was the most popular Demo Day 2 startup amongst the VCs we asked. Chatbots could be the future of how businesses communicate with customers. But operating these chatbots on multiple platforms like SMS and Facebook Messenger simultaneously is complicated. offers a centralized dashboard with analytics and A/B testing to maximize sales. It can teach bots to answer customer service questions by integrating with Salesforce and Zendesk, and convince people on the fence to buy a product. By building backend tech rather than the bots themselves, has already signed tons of big brand customers and has $200,000 in monthly revenue.


Unima – Fast and cheap disease diagnosis on paper strips

Current lab tests costs $20 each, take hours or days for results, and must be sent to a lab. Unima‘s paper diagnosis strips costs $1 each, takes 15 minutes, and can be used on site by someone with no experience. That’s because Unima discovered the vNAR antibody that enables these tests. You take a blood sample and put it in the microfluidic paper device. In 15 minutes you take a photo with your smartphone and get results in 3 seconds. It’s first tests for HIV and tuberculosis had 96% accuracy vs 75% with the standard test. Unima expects to be on the market next year, and is planning tests for Influenza, Dengue, and STDs.


DeepGram – Smart speech-to-text search

Transcripts of audio and video are often inaccurate, making them tough to search. DeepGram can find not just exact keywords, but soundalike words too. That way, if a “Y Combinator” presentation is transcribed as “why commentator”, DeepGram can still find it, and skip you to that exact part of the video. Voice is becoming a more and more important software interface. Plenty of big platforms would love to get their hands on DeepGram’s tech, plus its team of dark particle physicists.


Copia – Earn tax breaks for donating leftover food

Businesses waste an unbelievable amount of food throwing out what’s unused. But this is quickly becoming illegal, with big fines levied on companies that don’t donate leftovers. Copia provides a service where businesses can call its trucks, get their leftovers picked up, have the food delivered to homeless shelters, and then have Copia do all the paperwork. This earns businesses big tax breaks, and Copia charges 25% of these plus a pick-up fee, The company has already saved companies $1.6 million in tax breaks, and has a $1 million revenue run rate for 2016. Copia makes it easy to earn money doing the right thing.


Birdly – Access other enterprise app data via Slack

Enterprises have their data buried in apps like Salesforce, Stripe, and Zendesk, but their employees are spending all their time in Slack. Birdly built a Slack chatbot you can ask questions in plain English and instantly get that data laid out for you. Just ask “What’s the state of my pipeline?” to be shown a Salesforce chart, or type “get me info about Dave McFadden” and Birdly pulls your Zendesk customer service data on him. Over 900 companies are already using it, and it’s the perfect candidate for the $80 million Slack Fund the work chat giant raised to invest in its ecosystem of developers


Mux – AWS for video

Investors were excited about Mux’s team, which built the video.js player used by Twitter and Instagram, and sold its last video business ZenCoder for $30 million. Traditional video broadcasters want to go online and offer Netflix-like services, but don’t have the technology. Mux wants to provide it, starting with performance analytics that lets companies understand buffer rates, load times, and user experiences with ads. Next it will move into hosting, streaming, and playback. Online video is exploding, and Mux could let less tech-savvy content producers harness the trend.


Honorable Mention: X-Zell – Early cancer detection

Tumors shed cancer cells before they present any symptoms, but they’re tough to identify amongst all the healthy cells. X-Zell has invented a patented technology that can “remove the haystack” so it’s easy to find the needle. Early tests showed X-Zell had a 90% success rate, and it can be safely run in a single day for under $100. By identifying cancer before you know you’d even need a biopsy, X-Zell could get patients treated earlier and save their lives.