This startup wants to help you power driverless cars
Machines can learn, but not without a little help. The deep-learning algorithms that enable cars to drive themselves and smartphones to render speech as text need massive amounts of so-called training data to make sense of all the variations they encounter--for instance, what a car looks like from different angles, what a word sounds like in different accents. To the founders of CrowdAI, the solution to this deep learning problem was more deep learning. While other companies generate training data by paying armies of workers to tag images, CrowdAI’s software is able to categorize 70 percent to 99 percent of what it sees, bringing in humans only to assist with the hard stuff.
CEO Devaki Raj was working at Google on the energy team when she and her two co-founders realized a lot of other companies that lack Google’s resources are nonetheless going to need their own computer vision capabilities. They started CrowdAI to cater to those needs, with an initial focus on autonomous vehicles and satellite imagery. (* The 2016 revenue figure cited here reflects the company's first two sales closed during Y Combinator, not its full-year sales.) “For us, the marriage of the two is where we think we can find a very large place,” says Raj. --Jeff Bercovici
This $48 million luggage startup has big plans for your next trip
Steph Korey and Jen Rubio are a match made in airport heaven. After cutting their teeth at the direct-to-consumer juggernaut Warby Parker, the two young entrepreneurs turned their attention to the much-maligned travel business and launched Away. Founded in 2015, the direct-to-consumer luggage company aims to make getting out of town both stylish and cost effective. "The idea sprang from a broken suitcase," says Rubio, whose baggage malfunction turned a typical trek through an airport in Zurich into a nightmare travel story. "I did what a bunch of people our age do. I went on Facebook and asked: 'I need new luggage. Have any recommendations?'" The responses were tepid. That's when she realized the opportunity for Away and attempted to sell Korey on the idea, who at the time was at Columbia University elbow-deep in a dissertation about the potential for the direct-to-consumer business model. "There was definitely a need in the market for something that was well designed and well priced and had a thoughtful brand around it," says Rubio. The company, which has sold more than 100,000 suitcases, booked $12 million in sales in its first year and expects to quadruple that figure in 2017. --Diana Ransom
Meet the 20-something founders switching up Microsoft's marketing strategy
TrackMaven, a marketing analytics software company founded in 2012 by then 21-year-old Allen Gannett, is used by Martha Stewart Living Media, the NBA, Microsoft, MailChimp, and other companies. Gannett, who was working as the chief marketing officer for a software-as-service company upon graduating George Washington University, grew tired of collecting data to fill out spreadsheets and crunch numbers to measure how the company's marketing strategy was working. He had to use about a dozen tools to track press mentions, measure social media engagement, and analyze competitors’ marketing strategies. He created arudimentary system in Excel to automate his data collection that could show companies how their marketing strategies were helping, or hurting, their brand.Gannett’s system was not pretty, but it enabled the company to track how its TV, social, digital, and traditional media campaigns drove traffic to the site and how those campaigns affect sales and business leads.
Realizing the potential of what he had created, Gannett quit to start a company and transform his Excel system into software with a streamlined interface. His old boss became the company’s first investor. In total, Track Maven has raised $26 million in venture capital. In 2016, the company generated than $6.7 million in annual revenue, up from more than $5 million in 2015. Gannett projects TrackMaven will continue its breakneck pace for 2017, and in ten years, it may well go public, he adds. After starting the company in D.C. by himself, the now 26-year-old now has 51 employees. --Will Yakowicz
How this app is bringing payment transparency to the music industry
If you're an independent musician, it's never been easier to drop an album. Streaming platforms like Spotify, YouTube, and Apple Music let artists distribute their music directly to fans. This new model has shaken up the music industry in a number of positive ways for musicians--but it has also come with some major headaches. Tracking payments from streams for every service distributing your music, along with the revenue splits you might owe to any collaborators, has turned into the most tedious of accounting tasks. Stem co-founders Milana Rabkin, Tim Luckow, and Jovin Cronin-Wilesmith noticed this emerging problem and decided to team up and build a way for artists--whether they're dropping songs or films--to easily manage the financial side of their business from an online dashboard. In exchange for a 5 percent transaction fee, Stem distributes content to streaming platforms including Apple, Spotify, SoundCloud, and YouTube, collects the revenue earned on each platform, and pays out the earnings via PayPal to anyone who had a hand in the creation process. The service is still in private beta but it already has same famous fans: DJ Jazzy Jeff is a customer, and investors include Mark Cuban, Gary Vaynerchuk's investment arm, and Scooter Braun (who has represented Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande). --Lindsay Blakely
Millennials don't need watches--but they love this watch brand
MVMT Watches (pronounced movement) was founded on the belief that style shouldn’t break the bank. Since 2013, the watchmaker's goal has been to change the way consumers think about fashion by offering high-quality minimalist products at revolutionary prices. With over 700,000 watches sold, MVMT has solidified itself as one of the fastest growing watch brands in the world.
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