5 High-Climbers from YCombinator’s Latest Startup Class
In the world of high-powered, sometimes insular, Silicon Valley-based tech accelerators, YCombinator is often considered preeminent. The program, founded by Paul Graham, Jessica Livingston and others back in 2005, is known for giving seed money and 3-month boot campsto top tech startups. Some of the more well-known alumni of this club are Reddit, Airbnb and DropBox. This week YC held a "demo day" for recent graduates. Some of thecompanies walk away with millions of dollars from interested investors. For many it is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Only a small number of well-connected, well-heeled folks usually get in to these events, so it's hard for the average investor or other member of the tech community to know what types of companies pitch. While it's not easy to say just yet who sparked more interest than others at demo day, it's possible to examinesome of the more enticing startups that pitched. Here are five of the more well-regarded companies, based on factors like user growth numbers, positive community feedback and number of Fortune 100 clients.
One of the more talked-about trends within startup communities these days is "the marketplace company." Following the path of firms like Uber or Airbnb, this type of startup attempts to connect buyers and sellers of a specific product or service. They tend to challenge the status quo of entire industries, sometimes sparking great controversy.
Bannerman is considered by many to be one of these companies. You might call it "Uber for security guards." It provides on demand security services for anyone who wants to be protected. The focus of the company currentlyseems to be on Silicon Valley tech startups but Bannerman is said to be going after the consumer market as well which includes private parties or the manysecurity guards stationed in lobbies of condo complexes. Early adopters have said that the guards, many of whom haveserved in the military, are effective and courteous.
mTailor is an iOs application that uses the camera of your phone to take measurements for a custom-made shirt in under five minutes. The founders claim the software is 20 percent more accurate than a tailor. After placing an order, your shirt arrives in under two weeks. The startup's founder, Miles Penn, has been making the rounds on numerous television programs such as Jim Cramer's Mad Money in order to drum up interest. There has, however, been criticism from those who prefer to try on a shirt in person before buying. The companymayeventually expand into suits and other garments as demand dictates. Prices start at $69 including shipping and go to $89 if your fabric is more luxurious.
Traction is another marketplace startup. The company sets up a platform where marketing departments and otherscan hire any type of marketer to achieve marketing goals. If you are in urgent need of a social media, content marketing or search marketing professional, this could be a go-to site. Co-founder Ken Zi Wang says the system "intelligently matches" brands with the best marketer based on info you provide, including demographic targets. The company claims you can start a campaign in about 10 minutes. Traction is already providing the service to several large companiesincluding Unilever, CBS and Sony.
Product Hunt has been described in the media as a kind of"Reddit for any product." Users can comment, "upvote" and "downvote" favorite new products and share information with their friends. The site generated interest ahead of demo day by giving startup founders a new way to market their products and companies online. The company reports that it has sent 1.8 million visits to products featured on the site in the last month and has gained more than 50,000 email subscribers.
When I saw uBiome for the first time I thought of it as a kind of "23andMe for gut bacteria." That may be an uncomfortable subject, but it's highly relevantwhen you consider that bacteria cells in and on our body outnumber human cells 10 to 1. Apparently the little critters have a big effect on our health and influenceeverything from digestion to immune response. Users get at-home kits to test various cellular samples on their skin, inside their mouths or other areas of their bodies.You then send the samples back to the lab for results and mapping. That information can be used to see how susceptible youare to various diseases, such as cancer or chronic fatigue syndrome. Thousands of people who have bought the kits have become members of a community that shares and compares results.
Even though there are many other highly successful seed accelerators out there, including AngelPad and TechStars, YC is perhaps the most copied. Companies in the program are said to grow 5-7 percent a week, just one of many reasons why entrepreneurs flock to the program. Consequently, what you find at demo days now is a strong group of intelligent founderswho generally know their target markets and are constantly checking back with customers to ensure their satisfaction. Which of these startups might become a household name due to thatdiligence? Only time will tell.
JOHN BOITNOTT | Columnist
A journalist and digital consultant, John Boitnott has worked at TV, newspaper, radio, and internet companies in California for 20 years.