Biotech, robotics, and fintech startups took the spotlight today at Y Combinator’s 26th Demo Day. This batch features 141 total companies from 23 countries, with presentations spread over two days. The house was packed at Mountain View’s Computer History Museum with wealthy investors forced to stand in the back or sit on the floor. Meanwhile, marijuana soda, wind turbine-cleaning drones, and indestructible panty hose startups demoed their products in the break room and parking lot. You can see our favorites here:
Y Combinator has made progress ramping up diversity in its startup school. Thirty-five percent of this batch’s companies are internationally based, 27 percent have a female founder, and 13 percent have an underrepresented minority founder. The 50-person YC team now includes 18 partners, with Eric Migicovsky of Pebble joining to help out hardware companies and explore the accelerator’s opportunities in China.
The question on everyone’s minds is which startups will join the 15 previous ones like Stripe, Dropbox, and Airbnb now worth over $1 billion. But with YC’s portfolio moving beyond social apps and enterprise tools towards hard science innovation, and 18 percent of this batch’s companies coming from health and biotech, many of the software investors seemed a little overwhelmed. We’ll let you choose your favorites from our write-ups of all 64 that pitched on the record today. Check out our top 7 picks from today’s startups, and our full coverage of all the startups from day 2. Come back Wednesday morning for our top picks from day 2.
Bear Flag Robotics
Bear Flag is building autonomous tractors. They claim to be able to reduce input by 20 percent and increase production yield by 11 percent. They’re already testing tractors in the field in California. They plan to charge about $4,000 per tractor per month.
A mobile app for building mobile websites. Who would have thought? Universe lets users build a personal portfolio site with the same ease of editing a photo on Instagram. Users can follow other sites, which creates a bit of a Tumblr-like network of personal blogs. Users have already built one hundred thousand sites with the iOS app which has expanded its functionality in recent months to let users build multi-page sites. The app currently has 2,200 paid subscribers paying an average of $3.40 per month to gain premium features on the app.
Juni is an online education program for kids that is targeting the $9 billion after-school market. The idea is to start with teaching kids computer science in a virtual, one-on-one setting by pairing them with tutors. It charges $250 per month for once-a-week classes Juni says it’s grown 25 percent month over month in the last six months. The company also says it’s profitable, with a 95 percent monthly renewal rate. Without adequate computer science courses in schools, and the skills becoming clearly critical future employment, Juni could educate the next generation of programmers.
There are 25 million digital nomads who move around the world while working on the Internet, and that can make health insurance complicated. SafetyWing offers $37 per month health insurance in 180 countries ($30 extra fee in the U.S.) that covers hospital visits and prescriptions but doesn’t cover preventative treatment or pre-existing conditions like cancer. SafetyWing has partnered with insurance giant TokioMarine to administer the plans. The goal is to build a global safety net for freelancers and digital nomads that the startup hopes will include banking and income protection in the future. The startup will have to convince travelers that health insurance is worth the price and hassle, but with a $15 billion per year market and the number of digital nomads doubling every five years, there’s room for a modernized vision for health insurance.
Macromoltek wants to “change the drug discovery process,” by building software that designs antibodies. The startup uses academic research combined with technology to help drug companies. So far, Macromoltek has ten paying customers, generating $50,000 in revenue for 2017. They’ve also secured $500,000 in LOIs (letter of intent) to design new antibodies.
Passerine makes unmanned aircrafts that take off and land like birds. They intend to sell it to companies to use for things like mapping large areas, light weight cargo delivery, lidar surveying, and powerline monitoring.
Visor wants to turn top gamers into even more skilled players. The startup analyzes eSports gameplay footage to help coach users on what gaming skills they need to improve on. The team analyzed 1.3 million minutes of footage in the past 30 days and they boast over 39 thousand monthly active users, growing 52 percent month-over-month since launching at the beginning of the year.
Proven uses data, artificial intelligence and machine learning to design individualized skincare products for consumers. To provide the best skin care products for people, Proven has built a database, which it calls the Beauty Genome Project, that uses 8 million reviews from people in conjunction with AI to understand what ingredients have an impact on people. The idea is to help find people the products that are best for their skin topology.
Vena Medical has created what they claim is the “world’s smallest camera” that is designed to help with medical treatments like liver cancer and strokes by looking at patient’s blood vessels. They’ve secured pilots with hospitals and believe there is a $5 billion market opportunity for their single use medical device. “Every patient treated is another camera used.”
Haiku wants to do for apps want Unity did for games. It’s a simple app creation tool, meant for developers and designers to use together. The apps it creates are cross platform across both iOS and Android
Patchd has built a chest-worn device that detects sepsis, the No. 1 cause of death in hospital patients. The idea is that patients would no longer have to stay in the hospital for monitoring, as the device can record and analyze vital signs and send results back to doctors. They currently have a paid pilot in Australia, and are currently testing the device with 20 people. They’ll conduct a clinical trial in 2019. If the product can reliably predict sepsis, patients will be able to get back to the hospital in time if they have complications. Patchd’s device could save tons of money for hospitals and insurers while getting sick people home where they want to be.
Proof helps websites turn their visitors into purchasing customers. As an example, websites can show visitors how many people are currently viewing a product. The idea is for those notifications to help convert people into buyers. Proof currently has 2,700 paying customers, who see an average 10 to 15 percent lift in conversions. Proof’s long-term goal is to personalize the entire marketing funnel.
Openland wants to create a better way for real estate developers to acquire properties. It does this through a slick interface that allows builders to sort through available lands and connect quickly with landowners, evaluate the properties and get through the paperwork. Openland’s co-founder called the fact that 90% of buildable space isn’t for sale the “biggest roadblock for the real estate industry.”
The biggest tech companies in the U.S. — the so-called FAANGs, or Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google — have massive recruiting efforts on university campuses and around the world. But SharpestMinds wants to build a set of tools to help the rest of those tech companies that don’t have those recruiting resources find talent before they get snatched up. SharpestMinds matches up students that apply on their site with companies where they can work on a trial basis, building up that early relationship that could lead to a job down the line.
Curious Fictions is an mobile-friendly site where readers can find, read and pay for short stories. You can pay $5, $10 or $15 per month, and then the money is distributed to the authors of the stories that they liked that month. You can also tip authors for individual stories.
Culture Robotics is growing organisms for biotech companies. It claims to have built “the first cloud bioreactor farm” and compare themselves to Amazon Web Services, but for biomanufacturing. Its technology creates bacteria like collagen for beauty companies. Culture Robotics believes its applicable for synthetic biology, microbiome and cellular therapy. So far, they’ve secured three paying customers and are generating $50k in revenue per month.
Qulture.Rocks is HR management for Latin America. They’re have grown about 20% month over month for the past 2 years, and have hit the break-even point.
A bio-tech startup that aims to create a more patient-friendly way to deliver drugs. AesculaTech has invented a temperature responsive material that enables the company to make customized medical devices inside the body. The company’s first use of its technology is going toward the treatment of dry eye syndrome, which the founders say affects more than 20 million people in America. The goal is to become the go-to material used to make medical devices.
Evry Health wants to take on the employee health insurance market by tackling a specific type of customer. The startup is specializing in working with customer companies that have between 200-1,000 employees. They boast that their product is 20 percent less than competitors and offers enhanced coverage. They’re tackling the $10B Texas health care market when they launch at the beginning of next year.
Aspire provides loans to small businesses in Southeast Asia. Its team of “credit experts” promise to make a decision within two hours and have cash disbursed by the next day. So far, they’ve secured $500k in loans in just eight weeks. They support banks like Citi, Maybank and HSBC.
Sudden makes instant coffee that the company claims is “better than fresh Starbucks” – backing it up with what they say was a blind test in which 8 of 10 coffee drinkers chose their instant stuff. They’re currently in 20 retail stores, and will soon be sold in REI. Their secret sauce, as they explain it: they’ve found a way to make instant coffee without requiring any boiling.
CoinTracker is a platform to track your crypto across all exchanges, wallets, and even currencies. Today most crypto-enthusiasts try to do this using complicated and bloated Google spreadsheets, so an automated solution has the potential to save a lot of people a lot of time. CoinTracker also has the ability to optimize tax filings by computing capital gains reports using FIFO, LIFO or HIFO accounting.
Supermedium is a web browser built natively for virtual reality. The team behind the browser was previously working at Mozilla working on A-Frame defining the WebVR standard which aims to get apps and games off your hard drive and onto the world wide web. Supermedium is working with developers to make their browser the default hub for quick and impactful games and demos. A beta of the app is available now on the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive VR headsets.
Sheerly Genius manufactures and sells rip-proof, snag-proof and “lifeproof” pantyhose that last up to 50 wears. The pantyhose are made with the same type of fiber found in bulletproof vests and climbing equipment. Right now, Sheerly Genius sells basic black, sheer pantyhose. Down the road, Sheerly Genius plans to move into the “nude” option, which entails a number of different colors.
Hexel lets any web community launch its own immediately-usable cryptocurrency. The idea is that sites could reward their own users for engagement or let them buy tokens for different purposes, but that they could also trade them for other sites’ currencies on the Hexel exchange. For example, Quora could reward you tokens for having the top answer to science questions. Those could potentially be used to promote your own answers or questions, or you could trade them in via Hexel for hypothetical Reddit tokens that would let that user post on science subreddits reserved for experts. Hexel will earn a fee when use use its exchange. While 300 currencies have been created since Hexel’s launch six weeks ago, the startup will have a tough time persuade popular web platforms to complicate themselves with tokens. Most people still only understand cryptocurrencies as stores of value like Bitcoin, so lots of user education would be required too.
A mental health benefit platform for employers and their employees. Modern Health connects employees to a healthcare professional or digital tools to address things like depression, anxiety
Since launching four weeks ago, Modern Health has posted $37,000 in annual recurring revenue. So far, employee engagement comes in at 30 percent.
One in five American households now have a new family member in the house named Alexa, Siri or Google. Volley wants to build a platform for voice-based gaming on home assistant hardware. The company has the number one game for Alexa and has 900k MAUs since they launched last April.
Repl.it is an instant serverless computing platform. It lets you write and deploy apps for your browser. They claim to be the “easiest way to start coding,” letting users build “complex applications with thousands of lines of codes.” Repl.it believes its cloud platform is perfect for building games and other interactive programs.
“Borderless shopping for Asia”. Trusu says that getting Western products in Asia is often difficult, requiring you to use a package forwarding service at a costly premium. They import products in bulk once a week, allowing their prices to be up to 75% lower than alternative services.
Leap is a private social network for women in tech. Designed by and for women, Leap could help people find investors, co-founders, mentors, jobs, and more. Leap uses a real names but allows some anonymous posts, and employs a light touch in moderation but with the perspective on abuse lacking at most male-run social networks. Leap now has 2000 users, but has plenty of room to grow with 4.8 million women in tech in the U.S. Social networks do have outstanding lifetime value if they can retain their users and understand what they buy.
The question will be whether one-off, niche social networks can succeed in the face of massive networks like Facebook and its Groups feature by focusing on thwarting abuse and creating a more civil discussion space. The private beta for Leap is now accepting signups.
Avro Life Science
A life science company that develops skin patches for drug delivery. Skin patches work by allowing the drugs to deliver through your skin, directly into your bloodstream. That means Avro’s skin patches eliminate the need to swallow pills and involve the GI tract.
Avro makes patches for hundreds of drugs, like Benadryl, Zyrtec, Claritin and Aerius. Avro’s research has shown effectiveness in terms of relieving seasonal allergies. Avro says it’s on track for FDA approval by Q2 of 2019.
Sourcify wants to be the Flexport for product sourcing by tackling how companies get in touch with manufacturing pipelines. They want to take manufacturing sorting out of Excel and stick into its software. The startup says that they can add visualization and transparency to the industry as it has already “pre-vetted” more than 700 factories.
Lawyaw builds “intelligent templates for law firms”. Built by an ex-law firm partner and an ex-Google engineer, it uses natural language processing to create new legal documents from a lawyer’s existing documents, allowing it to be re-used later as a template. 800+ lawyers are currently using the service, with 23,000 templates made so far.
The Lobby helps job applicants secure one-on-one calls with company insiders. With resume critique and mock interviews, the startup helps job seekers get advice “from a real human who has the job they want.” They already work with insiders at top investment banks like J.P. Morgan and Barclays and have a $100,000 gross merchandise volume (GMV) run rate, taking 45% margins on the calls. With 40 million Americans looking for high-skilled jobs, they hope that this is a $2.4 billion market opportunity. The Lobby “turns employes into talent scouts.”
Vathys is an artificial intelligence startup that makes a deep learning chip that is supposedly 10x faster than the competition. Computation accounts for 8 percent of power consumption of a chip. The rest is data movement, according to the founder. By addressing data movement, Vathys has created a processor that is 10x faster than the competition. The company already has a purchase order for $50K.
California Dreamin’ is a cannabis-infused THC sparkling juice beverage designed to get you a little high the same way a beer gets you a little drunk. Marijuana legalization has opened the door to a massive new industry, including psychoactive products for people who don’t want to smoke anything. Each bottle retails for $8 to $10, and contains 10mg of energizing sativa THC — one standard dose. It tastes sweet but with a hint of earthy plant notes, and you can drink a whole bottle without ending up locked into your couch like some competitors that put 100mg in a bottle. If California Dreamin’ can appeal to baby boomers and soccer moms looking to avoid the hangovers of alcohol while still imbibing something to relax, the business could blossom. California Dreamin’ is now delivering its first cases to recreational dispensaries in SF after selling $10,000-worth in its beta program. The legal cannabis business is $10 billion per year and growing 30 percent each year, but California Dreamin’ wants to nab part of the $210 billion alcohol market by getting people to switch to cannabis.
Rhythmm wants to take live chat conversations from experts and interesting people and let others follow along. The startup wants to take the insights people are getting from chat groups on Telegram and remove all the noise with their own platform. Only people who have been invited by the chat creator can participate, everybody else just follows the conversations.
Algosurg has built algorithms to simulate surgeries. They believe that “robotics is the future of surgery,” and have developed something called Tabplan3D, which uses cloud technology instead of Xrays to help orthopedic surgeons prepare using a 3D virtual surgery plan. They have four patents filed and FDA approval in process.
OSIMple helps build automated infrastructure inspections — in other words, software that helps optimize the inspection of things like roads, railways, bridges, and dams. 500 different bridges were inspected with their software in the last 6 months, and they have letters of intent from 2 large companies.
Orangewood Labs uses massive 3D printer-esque wood-cutting robots to make on-demand furniture. With no inventory, Orangewood avoids the costs of unsold goods or massive warehouses. It crowdsources 3D designs which it can tweak into different styles, colors, and sizes to fit your home. As more of commerce moves online, customers no longer expect to be able to test everything in person before they buy. Perhaps Orangewood will use augmented reality to virtually try its desks and chairs in your home. The startup has already scored $2 million in orders.
OpenSea is a peer-to-peer marketplace for buying, selling and discovering crypto assets and collectibles. Just as Coinbase operates as an exchange for cryptocurrencies, this is a marketplace for all other asset types on the blockchain, like software licenses, collectibles, Cryptokitties and other digital goods on the blockchain. In the last two months, Open Sea has done $500,000 in ethereal volume.
Playing Viral is an Indonesian startup that assists online publishers through delivering leads for advertisers. The team works with surveys over visual ad units and can analyze the text to ensure that users are getting surveys in their language and dialect.
Spun out of bioengineering research at UC Berkeley, Correlia Biosystems is able to analyze microsamples of blood, making it “easier to get more data from a tiny drop.” They claim to be “opening the space to next gen protein detection,” by reducing the time and cost for quantifying proteins for pharmaceutical applications. So far, they have brought in $55,000 in revenue in three months and have also secured $9.3 million in LOIs. Correlia believes this is a $11.6 billion market opportunity.
Sqreen is a tool that sits in your web app and tries to prevent attacks. It watches the behavior of users within your app to identify and block against SQL injections and cross-site scripting attacks. It currently works with apps built on Ruby on Rails, NodeJS, and Python.
Sqreen was in the TechCrunch Disrupt SF Battlefield in 2016. You can read more about Sqreen on TechCrunch here.
Voice assistants may be the home product du jour, but Piccolo wants you to control your smarthome with your hands. No, not like you already do, but by using gestures. Point at a light to turn it on, scrub through a video on your TV by moving your hand in front of you etc etc. The company is building a smart camera that can map a user’s skeletal geometry and see what the user wants to control.
Bootcamps became insanely popular in the mid 2010s, but there’s been a big shakeout since then — and NexGenT hopes to take the fundamentals of getting an engineer production ready, but with a different approach. Rather than try to have somoene ready to be a full-scale developer in 3 months, NexGenT focuses on just certificate programs to get people ready to be network engineers. The process is longer, but hopefully more robust as well.
Voicery synthesizes ultra-realistic computer voices that can use natural emotion and inflection, and whisper or joke. 70 percent of people prefer its voices to Amazon Alexa’s. Voicery analyzes hundreds of human voices to train deep neural networks that power its product, rather than trying to train a computer to mimic a single specific voice. Voicery could be used to generate voice overs, read the news, dub television shows and more. It’s already got a letter of intent for $300,000 to make audio books. With more speech-enabled devices coming on the market every day, there could be a big market for giving different brands their own voice.
A marketplace for endurance events, like 5ks, half-marathons and other races. Let’s Do This says revenue has doubled every two weeks since launching. So far, it has partnered with over 850 races, like IronMan and The Color Run.
Flexport showed how ripe the freight industry is for disruption, Shone is retrofitting old cargo ships with its proprietary technology that allows them to deliver shipping containers autonomously and by remote control.
Quit Genius is an app “that delivers personalized therapy to help people quit smoking.” It helps people identify the reasons they smoke and hopes to help them overcome them. They work with companies including a “technology giant” to pay for Quit Genius, in order to help employees. The startup says there is a $10 billion market for people trying to quit smoking, and wants to expand to alcohol and other addictions.
Molly uses AI to generate Q&As for people who are frequently asked the same questions — celebrities, field experts, etc.
Flint is a mobile banking solution for Mexico that lets people pay merchants and friends using scannable QR codes. And for the 56 percent of the population that is unbanked, Flint lets users deposit or withdrawal cash from their app’s account at local shops and restaurants. It’s essentially a crowdsourced ATM. Flint is growing payment volume 5X per month as it tries to do what WeChat and Alipay did for China.
A video platform for relaxation. Tingles is an iOS and Android app designed to help you relax and fall asleep. It’s a video genre called ASMR, which is supposedly growing 130 percent year over year. It currently has 60,000 monthly active users who view about 1.3 hours worth of content every day.
Runa HR wants to help small businesses in Latin America by automating payroll. The startup is pricing its product the same as US alternatives, but is seeking to strike a balance in Latin America between expensive, inefficient solutions and those that don’t solve all of their employees needs. The team at Runa believes it can eventually take over the entire software business for small businesses in Latin America.
Aerones has built drones that clean wind turbines. They believe this is a safer and more efficient alternative to humans cleaning them and that this is a $1.4 billion market opportunity. They have heavy lifting drones that they hope will eventually clean buildings and have applications for other industries like oil, gas and solar. Aerones says that so far it has received 7 LOIs for 5000 cleanings, a promise of $5 million in revenue.
Snackpass is a food ordering app focusing on takeout rather than delivery. They’ve been running a field test at Yale, where they say 50% of students are monthly customers. There’s a social network-driven loyalty card aspect that they say is driving growth.
Reverie Labs uses machine learning to scan public molecule research, modify and develop its own molecules, and license the drugs they create to big pharmaceutical companies. The startup claims it can sell molecule licenses for $100 million, and has already signed a milestone deal worth up to $87 million. It expects to have 3 drugs ready for clinical trials by the end of 2019, which is much faster than most pharma companies take. The Harvard and MIT team plan to use their engineering-focused startup identity to recruit ML talent the pharma giants can’t match. And eventually, it wants to go full-stack and sell its own medicines.
Worklytics wants to get rid of those boring team meetings, and the right place to look is probably at the management layer. The tool keeps track of the kinds of distractions that employees might get, as well as whether the right processes like one-on-one reviews and code collaboration, happen. It doesn’t track specific employees, but it uses the data it gleans from teams to figure out what works best to help companies run more efficiently.
A third-party, confidential software platform to solve workplace harassment. If an employee is feeling discriminated against or harassed they can open up the app to talk to a professional advisor, then create an action plan to either address the issue or file a formal complaint.
Then tEQuitable will aggregate the data and come up with ideas to fix the company culture. The company’s clients include Twilio, GitHub, Obvious Ventures in pilot programs worth $120,000.
Storyline wants to make it easy for people to build content apps for the Alexa platform without any coding. Storyline wants to power content across Alexa the same way YouTube powers video, they say. The startup’s apps already have 180 thousand monthly active users across 500 apps.
CaptivateIQ is software to calculate sales commissions. They believe that 80% of commissions have errors and there’s an opportunity to help companies get it right. They’re starting with the tech industry, but believe this is ultimately a $1.5 billion market opportunity. Beyond commissions, they think they can also help companies increase revenue.
Cricket farming for now may be an art, but Ovipost — starting with the rearing process — wants to turn it into a science. By first working to optimize hatching and egg yield, Ovipost wants to lower the labor costs to produce crickets, which could then be turned into direct consumer food sources or even feed.
Veriff wants to be Stripe for online identity verification, handling the processing of drivers licenses, passports, and IDs for websites. They did $60k in revenue in February, and are currently profitable. They charge ~$1 per verification.
ObserveAI is AI-powered quality assurance for call center agents. They use natural language processing to determine how call center agents are interacting with customers and offer up suggestions as to what they might be doing better. The company charges $1000 per customer service agent per year.
Check out the rest of TechCrunch’s YC Demo Day Coverage