Click & Grow (YC S15) Lets You Grow An Indoor Garden With Zero Effort

Click & Grow is a startup in our current class that has built a stunningly easy-to-use system for growing a garden indoors.

The freshest and best tasting produce and herbs are the kind you grow yourself. But traditionally home gardening has required at least two things: a lot of space in the sun, and a fair amount of time and effort for tending to the plants. Click & Grow takes care of both of those things, with a self-watering indoor gardening device that requires zero natural sunlight. With Click & Grow, plants can grow faster while using 95% less water.

The company is officially launching out of Y Combinator this week, but has already fielded incredible demand for its "Smart Herb Garden" devices which are for sale at Home Depot and on Amazon: The startup has shipped some 250,000 products to date.

As Digital Trends wrote in an article published today, Click & Grow's larger next-generation "Smart Farm" and "Smart Mini-Farm" devices could be incredibly useful both inside the home, and for larger food production needs:

"Thanks to the its own proprietary nanotech Smart Soil growth medium, ultra-efficient LED grow lights, and electronic precision irrigation systems, it won’t matter whether or not you have a green thumb. The plants are automatically provided with the ideal amount of water, light, and nutrients, enabling them to grow more efficiently.

Currently in the works are Click & Grow’s Smart Farm and Smart Mini Farm, which will bring higher yields to families, restaurants, and even the pharmaceutical industry — without pesticides or GMOs."

Read more about Click & Grow in Digital Trends here.

Jopwell (YC S15) Helps Tech Companies Recruit And Hire More Diverse Candidates

Jopwell is a startup launching today out of our Summer 2015 class that is looking to help tech companies find and hire more diverse staffers. Jopwell has built an online platform that connects recruiters at technology companies with minority candidates from colleges across the country for both technical and non-technical job roles.

TechCrunch's Kim-Mai Cutler interviewed Jopwell's CEO Porter Braswell about the platform in an article published today:

"[Jopwell is] open to all colleges, not just elite schools, and already have candidates from more than 200 schools across the country. 'Our pipeline is incredibly diverse across many spectrums including income,' Braswell said.

For now they focus on Black, Latino or Native American candidates. 'We will expand our definition of diversity over time,' Braswell said.

On the employer side, they’ve partnered with 24 companies, including AppNexus, BuzzFeed, Etsy, Facebook, McKinsey, Morgan Stanley, Pinterest and Square. They have a flexible fee structure that ranges from a subscription model to something that resembles recruiting fees for placement. So far, the company says it’s been able to place 20 candidates in either full-time or internship positions."

Read more in-depth about Jopwell and the problem it's tackling in TechCrunch here, and participate in the related discussion on Hacker News here.

Interviewed (YC S15) Takes The Guesswork Out Of Evaluating Potential Hires

Companies often have a codified process when it comes to interviewing potential technical hires: Interview questions, whiteboarding, and code samples can all be evaluated in a relatively straightforward way. But when it comes to hiring for non-technical roles such as sales and customer support, there isn't as clear of a rulebook. An interviewer may be impressed by a candidate's personality or résumé, but find out after making the hire that his or her actual skills aren't quite up to snuff.

Interviewed is a startup in our current summer class that simplifies the process of interviewing non-technical hires, by enabling job candidates to prove what's on their résumés. By creating a system of advanced simulations for what a candidate will actually be doing on the job, Interviewed has created a way for companies to tangibly assess how well a person may fit in with a job opening.

TechCrunch's Fitz Tepper wrote about the company's platform this week:

"The simulations on Interviewed are extremely realistic, and include the use of mock tools like email and phone calls. For example, a three-part sales simulation first had me write a cold email, then reply to a customer inquiry, and lastly make a cold sales call (using my real cell phone) for a potential client.

...Darren Nix, cofounder of Interviewed, explained that some companies currently run their own mock simulations, but the process is so time-consuming that it is often done at the last stage before hiring.

By automating the simulations, Interviewed’s platform allows companies to administer these simulations on a mass scale, reducing the chance that companies pass over someone who is actually awesome at the required skills."

Read more about Interviewed in TechCrunch here, and check out the related discussion on Hacker News here.

GiveCampus (YC S15) Is A Crowdfunding Platform For College Donors

Technology has transformed many aspects of the payments space, and the concept of "crowdfunding" has become a major force in recent years when it comes to fundraising. But the way that universities solicit donations from alumni has remained fairly old fashioned, relying on phone calls and snail mail campaigns.

GiveCampus is a new startup in the summer class of Y Combinator that's bringing university fundraising into the modern age, with an online crowdfunding platform that lets people donate money easily and quickly to their higher education institution of choice.

GiveCampus' founders were interviewed by TechCrunch's Lucas Matney, who wrote in an article today:

“The bottom line is that what colleges and universities do now doesn’t work. About 90 percent of college graduates give to charity. Only 8.2 percent made a gift last year to their college,” GiveCampus co-founder Kestrel Linder said in an interview. “So there’s an enormous divide between people with the inclination and the capacity to give and people who give to higher education.”

GiveCampus’s model blends Kickstarter’s crowdfunding platform with a social network aspect that allows users to directly appeal to fellow alums for join them in donating to their institutions. Campaigns on the site range from projects raising funds for class gifts to projects looking to create new scholarships.

Check out the full article about GiveCampus in TechCrunch here.

Willing (YC S15) Is The Simplest Way To Plan For The Inevitable

Willing is a startup launching today out of our current class that's developed a simple and free way to make a legal will and leave your affairs in order.

Anyone who has dealt with planning for the death of a loved one knows the process can be expensive, complicated, and depressing. In fact, it is so cumbersome that many people forgo tackling it altogether: Research indicates that around 55% of adult Americans don't have a will or estate plan at all. That means that after they pass away, their next of kin is left to deal with complicated financial and legal decisions in addition to their grief.

Willing aims to ease that burden with a free, easy-to-use platform that anyone can use to plan for the inevitable. In less than 10 minutes, Willing helps you create a will that's legally sound in all 50 states.

TechCrunch's Catherine Shu interviewed Willing's co-founders Eliam Medina and Rob Dyson and reviewed Willing's platform in an in-depth post published today:

"Willing is divided into two main products. The first is an online tool that helps users create a will or living will (a document that outlines their wishes for end-of-life care) in minutes. The second, which Medina and Dyson are currently fine-tuning, is a platform that lets users find and compare costs for funeral homes and cemeteries.

Making a will on Willing is very easy. Aside from basic information, like the names of your beneficiaries, there are no forms to fill out. Instead, you answer questions for each section (distribution of property, final arrangements, executors, etc) by clicking buttons. Willing generates a document and instructions for how to make it legally valid by having it signed in front of witnesses. It took me less than five minutes to make a basic will on the site."
Read more about Willing on TechCrunch, and the related Hacker News discussion.


BlueCrew (YC S15) Provides On-Demand Staff With The Stability Of Full-Time Employment

BlueCrew is a startup launching this week out of our Summer 2015 class that provides companies with flexible on-demand staffing services, while also giving workers the stability and support that comes with full-time employment.

The platform hooks companies up with temp staffers for a variety of jobs, from warehouse workers, to data entry personnel, to on-demand delivery drivers. A key difference between BlueCrew and other on-demand services is that all of its workers are employees, not contractors.  This means that BlueCrew takes care of things like tax withholdings and provides worker’s compensation insurance, taking on all the complexity that the current "1099" model forwards on to its workers.

It's better for workers, and better for businesses: BlueCrew boasts a 98 percent show-up rate for its staff, compared to the industry average of 60 to 70 percent. The service is also quick and easy to use, capable of filling more than 20 temp openings in under 40 minutes.

TechCrunch's Kim-Mai Cutler wrote an in-depth piece about BlueCrew and its business model this week. You can read that article here, and see the related discussion on Hacker News here.

Transcend (YC S15) Makes Super Efficient LED Lights For The Indoor Farms Of The Future

The latest startup to launch out of our Summer 2015 class is Transcend Lighting, which has developed super efficient LED lighting technology that's aimed at turbo-charging the growth of plants grown indoors.

As TechCrunch reported today, Transcend has developed a patent-pending lighting system that specifically stimulates the photosynthetic process, while also cutting farms' energy use by as much as 70 percent. TechCrunch's Christine Magee wrote:

"Transcend’s bulbs differ from typical LED lights because they only use blue light. The company has developed a wavelength conversion system that uses phosphorous to convert blue photons, which are the most efficient type of photon, into any other color photon.

'Phosphors have been around for a long time,' says [Transcend founder Brian] Bennett. 'What we do differently is we have phosphors specifically tuned to photosynthesis, whereas everyone else tunes them to humans so that lights seem brighter.'"

With indoor farming and hydroponics emerging as the potential future of global food production, Transcend Lighting's technology has an incredible amount of potential. We're thrilled to have them in the current YC batch.

Read more about Transcend Lighting in TechCrunch here, and the related discussion on Hacker News here.

Gemnote (YC S15) Launches To Give Corporate Gifts A Personal Touch

Businesses in the United States spent a whopping $19 billion last year on gifts and promotional items for their clients and employees. But among all the cheesy fruit arrangements and overstuffed gift baskets, nothing stands out quite like an upscale, thoughtful gift accompanied by a handwritten note. 

Gemnote is a startup that just launched out of our Summer 2015 class that makes it easy for companies to send personalized gifts that seem like they've been selected by hand along with handwritten notes.

You can read about Gemnote's offerings in TechCrunch:

"The startup offers four regularly updated gift boxes, ranging in price from $80 to $175, as well as custom options, and cards that are handwritten in English, Chinese, or Spanish and mailed by a network of freelancers, called 'scribes' by the company, around the United States.

...Packages occasionally include food, but most products—like leather coasters, Fitbits, Bose headphones, USB cords, and external batteries—are meant to be kept and used frequently... Gemnote usually looks for gender-neutral items, but it also creates custom boxes. For example, a company that serves new moms might send out packages with organic toiletries, robes, or baby swaddles."

Gemnote was founded by Ashley Wong, who was previously the head of product at Spoonrocket. While at Spoonrocket, she once wrote and sent out around 100 handwritten cards and gifts to the company's investors and advisors -- and quickly realized how difficult it is for a company to maintain a "personal touch" as it scales. Wong told TechCrunch that Gemnote's online portal makes it so that sending out a personal designer gift is as easy as firing off an email.

Gemnote is currently being used by about 30 companies in the United States, and plans to expand into China next year.

Read more about Gemnote's launch in TechCrunch, and check them out on Product Hunt and Hacker News.

Roomblocker (YC S15) Makes Booking Hotels For Groups And Events A Snap

The latest startup to launch out of the Summer 2015 class of Y Combinator is Roomblocker, which has developed an easy and modern way to book discounted blocks of hotel rooms for groups and events.

Even though the Internet has revolutionized nearly everything about the travel industry, the practice of booking blocks of rooms for events like weddings or corporate outings has remained a surprisingly offline process. Typically, event organizers book group travel accommodations the old fashioned way: Calling various hotels, finding out if there is availability for certain dates, inquiring about group rates, negotiating discounts. It's a lot of legwork.

That's where Roomblocker comes to the rescue. With Roomblocker, all an event organizer has to do is fill out a quick survey about his or her group's needs. The app then hooks up the event planner with a dedicated concierge, who does all the work of finding available hotels, negotiating the best rates and ironing out various details. All the best options are presented on an easy-to-navigate dashboard, where the planner can select the hotel and package that suits them. Guests can then book their rooms themselves, via SMS, phone, or a customized group reservation webpage.

While Roomblocker obviously makes life much easier for event planners, it's also great from the hotels' perspective -- it streamlines a significant part of their business. Room blocks account for around 25 percent of all hotel reservations made annually, adding up to some $137 billion in sales worldwide.

You can read more about Roomblocker on TechCrunch, and on Hacker News.