Prayas Analytics (YC S15) Powers A/B Testing For Brick And Mortar Stores

Retailers can derive huge benefits from monitoring how customers behave in their brick and mortar stores. By closely observing the way that people move through a shop and interact with different displays and merchandise, stores can make key changes that will maximize their efficiency and sales.

This kind of research is something that very big retail chains have performed for a long time -- but has been mostly too expensive and complicated for many retailers to implement.

Prayas Analytics is a company in our current class that makes detailed analytics available for all kinds of brick and mortar retailers, by leveraging the security cameras many of them already have.

VentureBeat's Ken Yeung wrote about Prayas Analytics in a story published recently:

"Using existing infrastructure inside a physical store, Prayas Analytics says it’s able to glean enough information to help retailers make more informed decisions on how to increase sales. There’s no installation needed, and all pertinent software can be installed and integrated with the retailer’s existing systems. All the software needs is to tap into the store’s security cameras.

It’s one thing to try to spitball what’s happening in a store, but it’s another to have actual data and insights to educate yourself on why customers leave, how to make your workforce more efficient, ways you can better position merchandise and the overall store environment to increase purchases, and more."
Read more in-depth about Prayas Analytics and how it works in VentureBeat here.

Second Measure (YC S15) Lets Investors Know How Private And Public Companies Are Really Doing

Shiny pitch decks and optimistic business reports can be convincing, but are not always accurate -- making it difficult for investors to ascertain how a company is *really* doing.

Second Measure is a startup in our current class that promises to bring some clarity to the process of analyzing companies and their success. Through partnerships with proprietary data providers, Second Measure has built a software platform that analyzes billions of consumer purchases to provide valuable insight into the sales and growth rates of public and private companies.

TechCrunch's Lucas Matney wrote about Second Measure in a recent story:

"[Second Measure co-founders Mike] Babineau and [Lillian] Chou showed me a demo of the product, comparing a couple of ride-sharing companies, and the analysis presented by the web application seemed pretty game-changing (check out some of the Uber data on this company blog post).

Through Second Measure, investors can dig through operational metrics like revenue and customer growth, retention and cohort analysis, while also benchmarking companies against their competitors to track overall market penetration.

The company is focusing its offering 'primarily towards VCs and hedge funds,' according to Babineau, and it’s pretty easy to see why the product would be attractive to them. Right now, venture capitalists are primarily scouring Second Measure’s product to identify fast-growing companies, and hedge funds are using it to 'inform their financial models' and anticipate the earnings releases of public companies."

Read in-depth about Second Measure in TechCrunch here.

Scentbird (YC S15) Is A Subscription Sampling Of Luxury Fragrances For Women & Men

Scentbird is a company in our current class that sends a personalized sampling of luxury fragrances for a flat monthly subscription fee of $14.95. The concept is to let people "date" a number of fragrances, instead of taking the plunge by commiting to a full-sized bottle right away.

This past week, the company, which first launched its service for women's fragrances in the United States this past spring, launched a new Scentbird service for men.

TechCrunch's Sarah Buhr wrote about the launch of Scentbird for men this past week:

"The male scent market is a bit smaller than the female perfume market – the majority of men either spray it on too thick or just don't wear it at all. But that’s starting to change, according to Euro Monitor International. Department store cologne sales rose 3.7 percent, pulling in $7.92 billion in 2013. Scentbird could capitalize on that growth with men’s growing interest to smell nice.

Gentlemen looking for a way to smell better without breaking the bank can add 8 ml / 0.27 fl oz bottle (120 sprays) of Scentbird’s array of designer colognes for about $15 each month."
Read more about Scentbird in TechCrunch here.

Plate IQ (YC S15) Helps Restaurants Bring Their Finances Into The Digital Age

Many restaurants, particularly those that are small- and medium-sized, still deal with old fashioned paper invoices from their various food suppliers. This can lead to major hassles and headaches when it comes to managing their budgets, planning their menus, and processing their finances.

Plate IQ is a startup in our current class that has created a software platform that lets restaurants store and manage all their invoices and bills in the cloud, and monitor their P&L -- down to the plate cost of every dish in their menu -- in realtime.

TechCrunch's Natasha Lomas wrote about Plate IQ in a story published this past week:

"Restaurants typically manually input information from these invoices into their accounting software, say Plate IQ co-founders Bhavuk Kaul and Ram Jayaraman — a tedious and time-consuming process. And even once they have the data in Quickbooks or their own cost management Excel spreadsheet, gleaning business intelligence from it takes even more time and effort.

The scope of the problem came to Kaul’s attention after he took another startup idea he was working on to show to a restaurant — and they redirected his attention to the 'huge problem' they had dealing with paper invoices.

...Plate IQ is speeding up invoice data capture by applying optical character recognition tech in a way that allows restaurant managers to snap photos of invoices on their phones (using its app) to automatically pull data into a cost management cloud dashboard. Plate IQ’s software turns this raw input into structured data so various queries can be run by the users."

Read the full story in TechCrunch here.

MicroHealth (YC S15) Helps Manage Treatment For Patients With Chronic Illnesses

For people who have rare and chronic illnesses such as hemophilia, managing their daily symptoms and treatment can be a complicated and tricky task. MicroHealth is a company in our Summer 2015 class that has built a mobile app that detects patients' most risky symptoms and manages them with timely care from medical professionals.

Today, MicroHealth is being used by more than 10 percent of hemophilia patients in the United States. The patients use MicroHealth to keep track of their treatment infusions and symptoms, and iIn turn, the system notifies their doctors and nurses when a bleed is reported so that they can provide care when needed.

TechCrunch's Christine Magee wrote about MicroHealth in a story published recently:
"Patients input their symptoms and medication intake into MicroHealth, which scans prescription labels and prompts them with text messages to enter periodic updates. The updates are shared with the patient’s doctor who can use the data to regulate dosage or recommend a different type of medication, and family, especially when the patient is a child.

This is especially useful for people who suffer from hemophilia, a condition where the body is not able to produce the protein that makes blood coagulate. If a patient with hemophilia gets a cut, he won’t stop bleeding until he intravenously injects enough of this protein."

Read more about MicroHealth in TechCrunch here.

VOIQ (YC S15) Provides Companies With Call Center Services On-Demand

VOIQ is a startup in our current class that has created a platform to allow companies of any size get call center services on-demand.

VOIQ's platform, which functions like an "Uber for telemarketing," makes it so that organizations such as Stanford University and companies such as AirBnB no longer have to build their own outbound call center or hire an internal team. Instead, VOIQ provides access to thousands of trained remote agents to make calls on their behalf. 

VentureBeat's Ken Yeung wrote about VOIQ in a story published recently:

"While this may seem like just outsource telemarketing, there’s more to it than that. VOIQ customers uploads a call script to the system and a list of the people they want called. Based on the call campaign type, the service will select call agents that best match those who needs to be called, offering a more localized marketing approach.

Ricardo Garcia-Amaya, VOIQ’s founder and chief executive, told VentureBeat that an algorithm uses psychoanalytic matching to help determine if the agent and the call recipient have similar traits to help make the interaction smoother — if you speak Spanish, for example, you might receive a call from a bilingual call agent who lives in the same town."

Read more about VOIQ in VentureBeat here.

Standard Treasury (YC S13) Joins Silicon Valley Bank

Silicon Valley Bank announced today that it has acquired the team and assets of Standard Treasury, the startup that built a platform to support banks in creating developer platforms. Standard Treasury, which was founded by Zac Townsend and Daniel Kimerling, launched out of our Summer 2013 class.

Townsend wrote about the decision to join SVB in a blog post published today:

"Dan and I started Standard Treasury a little more than two years ago because we saw that APIs would become the dominant way that commercial clients connect with their financial institutions. Since then we have had the honor to collaborate with leading bank's in the US and Europe in their goal of creating open APIs for their customers. We have also worked with hundreds of start-ups around the world to understand how they consume banking services and how doing so over secure RESTful APIs would dramatically improve their business processes.

Last year we decided that the best way to bring the Standard Treasury vision to fruition was to build our own bank. That's a big dream. Earlier this year, primarily because of concerns around regulatory and geographic risks, we were unable to raise a Series A funding round against that goal. With that door closed, we decided the next best thing was to closely align ourselves with one bank, in order to build a richer, more full featured, set of API based services for customers. The more we learned about SVB, the more we believe this partnership will be a faster, better, way to create the impact that we sought to create."

In its statement about the acquisition, Silicon Valley Bank said it is planning to release new API banking services built by Standard Treasury's team over the coming months.

You can read the SVB press release about the deal here, and the full blog post from Townsend here.

YC Startup School Radio: How Optimizely Knew It Was On To Something Big

In Episode 3 of YC Startup School Radio, our host Aaron Harris sat down with Optimizely co-founder Pete Koomen and Lawn Love founder Jeremy Yamaguchi.

You can listen to the full hour-long episode here or on iTunes here, and read the full transcript on Genius here.

In one particularly interesting portion of Pete's interview, he talked about how A/B testing platform Optimizely was actually the third startup idea that he and his co-founder Dan Siroker pursued once they decided to dive into entrepreneurship together back in 2009. Their first two projects, an education startup called CarrotSticks and an enterprise customer acquisition platform, failed to generate enough traction to keep going.

Pete described how those experiences showed them that they were really onto something special with Optimizely:

Pete: I'm sure there are plenty of sayings about good ideas, and how sometimes, it's the most obvious one right in front of your nose that ended up being the best... But it wasn't until we'd realized that, A., we really weren't as great as we thought we were, and B., that the stuff was really tough, that we went searching around for a problem that we could really prove to ourselves that someone would pay for. So that was really big.

With CarrotSticks, it took us about six months to earn our first dollar. With our second idea, it took a month and a half. And with Optimizely, we were able to earn revenue on day one before we'd written any other code. And that illustrates how we changed our thinking to focus on making sure we found something people wanted before we built it.

Aaron: ...So Pete, the last thing that you just said was we needed to make something people actually wanted, which is the model of Y Combinator. It's on all of our shirts. It just says, "Make something people want." And I think it's a really tough idea for a lot of people to actually internalize, because they can find things that maybe they want. "I want a puppy." But that might not be a startup.
I think you gave me the answer. The way that you actually figure out something that people want, that's actually a business. It's that they are willing to pay for.

Pete: That was our proxy. Because we need up building a business that sold things to people for actual money, I think, unlike a lot of tech startups, we had an easy proxy there for demand. It was just trying to get someone to pay for it.

Aaron: How long did it take for you to get someone to pay for it?

Pete: It was a single day, actually, with Optimizely.

Aaron: One day?

Pete: Dan called a couple of agencies that he'd worked with on the Obama campaign and just described, "This is what we are working on. Will you pay us $1,000 a month for access to early versions of it?" And sure enough, two of them signed up. And we earned more revenue that one day than we had the entire preceding year with our two startups.

Aaron: Wow! Did you have the software yet?

Pete: We had nothing.

Aaron: You had nothing?

Pete: We had nothing.

Aaron: So you sold a promise of future software?

Pete: We sold a promise of future software.

Cofactor Genomics (YC S15) Is Studying RNA Testing To Diagnose Disease Earlier

Cofactor Genomics is a company in our current Summer 2015 class that is developing RNA testing that could allow doctors to diagnose diseases earlier and more accurately than existing test technologies.

Cofactor Genomics was founded in St. Louis in 2008 by a team of scientists that has collectively spent decades contributing to a number of high-profile and important genomic discovery projects, including the Human Genome Project. The company expects to begin making its diagnostic tests available for use next year.

TechCrunch's Kim-Mai Cutler wrote about Cofactor Genomics in a story published recently:

"[Cofactor Genomics] argues RNA, which is the intermediate step between a person’s DNA and the proteins their bodies make, is a much more accurate and real-time way of diagnosing disease. DNA, on the other hand, is predictive. It can tell you your risks of contracting a disease later in life. But for many conditions, it can’t definitively tell you if you have them at the moment.

RNA also dynamically changes over time in response to what you eat and what kind of environment you’re living in.

'We believe that RNA is a better barometer of health. It changes dynamically and we think it’s a much more accurate and much earlier way to diagnose disease,' said Jarret Glasscock, the company’s CEO. 'DNA is pre-symptomatic. But with RNA, we think we’ll be able to see a molecular signature sooner.'

Read more about Cofactor in TechCrunch here.

Vernox Labs (YC S15) Uses Predictive Analysis To Help Construction Projects Actually Finish On Time

When a construction project begins, it's often taken as a foregone conclusion that it is going to run overtime -- and therefore, over budget.

Vernox Labs is a company launching out of our current batch that wants to change that, by collecting all the unstructured data around a construction project and running predictive analysis on it to help contractors and project managers accurately budget their time and costs. At launch, it's particularly focused on large-scale construction projects, and projects in urban areas.

TechCrunch's Kim-Mai Cutler wrote about Vernox Labs in a story this week:

"A new Y Combinator-backed company called Vernox Labs is hoping to eliminate some of this unpredictability by using reams of unstructured data from previous projects to help general contractors, designers and project managers figure out how to sidestep common building errors. 

They’re applying artificial intelligence techniques to the pile of e-mails, Word documents and Excel files that are traded back and forth between contractors and designers as a residential project or hospital is built.

From that data, Vernox Labs produces a predictive checklist or automated design review that project managers can run through with a new proposal. They’re also creating a Google-like search engine so that if sub-contractors or construction workers have questions about specific components or materials, they can get that information instantaneously."

Read more in-depth about Vernox in TechCrunch here, and participate in the Hacker News discussion here.