Meter Feeder (YC W16) Replaces Parking Meters with a Mobile App

Meter Feeder is a company launching out of our Winter 2016 class that replaces the hassles of traditional parking meters by allowing people to pay with their smart phones.

To use Meter Feeder, all you have to do is enter your license plate and tap a button to pay with Apple Pay, Android Pay, or a credit card. Notifications tell users when they have 5 minutes left, so they can add more time if needed.

Current competitors in this space only solve half of the problem: They either offer tools for traffic officers, or payment processing for parkers. Meter Feeder is the first to offer both -- and this means huge cost savings for government.

TechCrunch's Josh Constine wrote about Meter Feeder in a story this week:

"More big cities are switching to credit and mobile-enabled meters that aren’t nearly as awful as the old coin-only ones. Companies like PayByPhone, Pango and ParkMobile make the payment systems, while t2, Duncan and United Parking Safety handle enforcement. But many smaller cities often can’t afford these intensive hardware updates.

For example, a town with 250 spots would have to pay around $100,000 to revamp their meters, says [Meter Feeder co-founder Dan] Lopretto. But it would cost merely $3,000 to enable Meter Feeder. The only thing the cities pay for are the enforcement kits, which come out to about $1,500 each for the 7-inch tablet, printer, paper and Internet connectivity.

Big cities could see cost savings too. San Francisco is now using automatic license plate scanners that can cost tens of thousands of dollars each, and still take five seconds per plate scanned. Punching in the first few characters of a license plate with Meter Feeder takes the same amount of time, but is way cheaper."

Read the full story on TechCrunch here.

mRelief (YC W16) Helps Low-Income Americans Easily Find and Access Social Services


An estimated 46.7 million people are living in poverty in the United States. And each year, an average of 11.8 million of them leave almost $20 billion dollars of SNAP (food assistance) benefits for which they're eligible on the table. Often, these people don't realize which social services they are eligible to receive, and thus don't take full advantage of them.

mRelief is a non-profit launching out of our Winter 2016 batch that provides knowledge and power to this group of people. mRelief has built a platform that enables low-income Americans to discover and check their eligibility for social services both online and through text-messaging.

The company focuses on SMS in addition to web because 36 percent of Americans still do not have smartphones -- and low-income Americans send and receive 2 times more text messages than other groups. 

TechCrunch's Jon Shieber wrote about mRelief and its founders in a story published today:
"No organization exemplifies [the] notion of harnessing private industry tools for public good more than mRelief, a non-profit launching in the latest Y-Combinator batch of companies.

Founded by two friends who met at a coding bootcamp in Chicago, mRelief epitomizes the notion that technology can help to address the problems that are born from the bureaucratic worst tendencies of government assistance.

...Since they’ve joined Y Combinator the mRelief service has been posting impressive numbers. The service has seen 90% growth week-on-week, with 2,000 eligibility screening checklists completed in the last week alone, according to data provided by mRelief’s founders."
Read the full story in TechCrunch here.

Castle (YC W16) Analyzes User Data to Stop Hackers

Quickly growing startups often do not have the resources to prioritize security at the same level as more established tech firms. But regardless of a company's size, loss of user data is a top risk to any digital service -- particularly for startups in the finance, health, or B2B spaces.

Castle is a company launching out of our Winter 2016 class that provides top-level security monitoring so that apps, no matter what their size, can protect their users' data.

Castle's technology looks at user behavior to identify who is likely to have their account compromised. Developers simply drop in a line of code into any website or mobile app, and Castle will look for suspicious login patterns without bothering the legitimate user, nor the site administrator. Castle's fully-automated anti-hijack engine identifies potential account compromises based on where the user logs in from and how they navigate the site.

Since its launch last month, Castle now has more than 150 live deployments. Find out more about Castle and its technology at castle.io.

Airmada (YC W16) Helps Companies Make the Most Out of Automated Drones


It is widely agreed that the drone services industry is exploding. The elephant in the room of this economy, however, is that enterprise drone operations as they're done today cannot scale -- and thus are frequently more expensive than competing alternatives. The drone flight itself is already fully autonomous, but it is only a small part of the process.

Airmada is a company in our Winter 2016 class that has created a platform to help companies handle some of the difficult to manage details around commercial drone use. Airmada builds and deploys drone terminals on customers' sites that drastically reduce the cost of operating drones.

TechCrunch's Jay Donovan wrote about Airmada in a story published today:

"There are many problems that are currently holding back commercial use of drones. You have to know how to fly them or set up autonomous flight. You have to transport them to the right location where they are needed. You need qualified inspection and maintenance.

Despite these barriers, there are many companies still in need of drones for everything from precision agriculture, to aerial photography to small maritime deliveries.

[Airmada founders Dan] Danay and [Boris] Lipchin are aiming at all of these categories with their offering, however maritime deliveries are especially ripe for disruption, according to the duo."

Read the full story on TechCrunch here.

WorldCover (YC W16) is Peer-to-Peer Funded Crop Insurance in the Developing World

Right now, farmers in Africa and in much of the developing world who get hit by drought lose more than just their income -- they lose the ability to pay for school fees for their children and provide complete meals for their family.

Unlike in the United States and other parts of the developed world, there is little to no social safety net to fall back on when the rains don’t come. When the rains do come, they are erratic and hard to predict, as climate change is causing extreme weather in many places, especially sub-Saharan Africa. The mere threat of drought makes traditional lending firms see farmers as risky borrowers, and causes them to under-invest in their farms. Making matters worse, traditional insurance is generally not available to these farmers.

WorldCover is a company launching out of our Winter 2016 class that provides a new solution to these issues, with a peer-to-peer funded lending platform that provides customers in developing countries with insurance against natural disasters, and gives investors diversified returns and direct social impact. WorldCover's unique funding and pricing model allows them to underwrite farmers in the developing world profitably and confidently.

WorldCover has first launched its business model in Ghana in West Africa, a population of 27 million people. 95% of Ghana’s agriculture population are smallholder farmers, with less than 5 hectares of land -- exactly the kind of market that has been under-served by existing insurance providers.

Based on its success thus far in Ghana, WorldCover expects that its model could expand to work across the entire developing world, where 500 million smallholder farming households feed 80% of the population. Ultimately, this approach could scale far beyond drought insurance, to provide protection against other risks.

Find out more about WorldCover by visiting their website here.


GetAccept (YC W16) Helps Salespeople Close More Deals

Closing a sales deal often requires a lot of persistence and follow-through. Unfortunately, many deals fall through the cracks at some point before they cross the finish line, thanks to the messy and time-consuming nature of passing the necessary documents back and forth through email.

GetAccept is a company launching out of our Winter 2016 class that helps salespeople take full advantage of their sales opportunities and close more deals cleanly and quickly, with a workflow that helps them design, track and market sales documents through to the point that they're e-signed on the dotted line.

VentureBeat's Ken Yeung wrote about GetAccept in a post published today:
"Sixty percent of proposals never get signed, according to [GetAccept] cofounder Mathias Thulin. He attributes it to a lack of structured workflow for salespeople: 'They don’t know where to follow up or are lazy.' GetAccept aims to automate the process to convert more missed opportunities into signed deals. It incorporates different behavioral decisions you’ve made to push the deal forward, such as sending your sale an email or SMS reminder, along with retargeting display campaigns.

A messaging service is also included, giving salespeople another way to communicate with their leads. The idea is to continue building trust from the point between when a quote is sent over to when the deal is actually signed."

Read the full story and see screenshots of GetAccept in action here.

Sharethebus (YC W16) Makes It Incredibly Easy to Organize a Charter Bus Trip

They may not get the same glory that the car does, but buses are an important vehicle in American culture. After all, buses are what people rely on for transportation to many defining moments: political rallies, championship games, music festivals, school outings, group travel to new places. Every year, the charter bus industry moves more than one billion people across the U.S., Canada, and Europe, generating upwards of $16 billion.

Yet, unlike cars, there have been no major technological advancements for organizing a bus trip. Features such as splitting a fare, watching a vehicle arrive in real time, or receiving a notification when there’s a change in travel itinerary do not exist in the bus industry, which is currently still run on pen and paper and legacy systems.

Sharethebus is a company in our Winter 2016 class that is finally bringing the bus industry into the digital age, making it quick and easy to organize a charter bus trip anytime, anywhere.

For passengers, Sharethebus lets its users quickly set up a bus trip and split the bill between any number of riders. SMS notifications are sent to travelers when the bus is on its way, arriving, and if the departure location is changed; and to provide expert help at any stage of the process.

For event organizers, Sharethebus provides a specialized dashboard to gauge demand for rides from various locations, and set up multiple bus trips to and from the event. It's an ideal way for organizers of everything from music festivals to corporate conferences to bring in more people and foster stronger community bonds among attendees.

Sharethebus is connected to a strong supplier network of bus companies across North America, whose buses spend an estimated 70% of their lifespan unused. These companies are eager to make their fleets more efficient and become more accessible and appreciated by a new generation of consumers. With its partners, Sharethebus has redesigned the entire customer journey from booking a bus online, to managing passengers, schedules, payments, and improving on a trip’s execution.

In just 12 months of operations, Sharethebus has moved more than 50,000 people across 1,000 bus trips, and served more than 200 North American cities. Since launch, Sharethebus has maintained 25% month-over-month growth and worked in collaboration with large event partners including music festivals, colleges, student associations, and conferences.

Sharethebus was founded in by Wolf Kohlberg and Kyle Boulay. Wolf is a bus industry expert who founded a travel agency at 16 in Germany where he organized thousands of bus trips. After moving to North America, he partnered with Kyle Boulay, a designer turned developer who had built strong friendships on past bus trips to music events and was frustrated by the lack of simple solutions for organizing more.

Read more about Sharethebus in Betakit and TechVibes.

DeepGram (YC W16) is Building a Google for Audio


Call centers in the United States generate more than a billion hours of phone audio every year, at a cost of over $10 billion. Despite this huge investment, less than 25% of this audio is currently made searchable or analyzed.  Other industries, such as legal discovery and sales, also have large amounts of neglected but valuable audio content.

DeepGram is a company launching out of our Winter 2016 class that uses deep learning to index audio and make it searchable for businesses. For example, a company can use DeepGram to analyze their phone support audio dataset and search for moments where their competitors' names are mentioned.

DeepGram has been made possible thanks to the convergence of several relatively recent technical developments: Cloud storage has enabled companies to store their recorded audio cheaply; and advanced GPUs have allowed deep learning to mature, so that it's now possible to build deep neural networks that can capture the complexity of speech.

Speech search is also motivated by market factors. There has been a structural change in phone support from on-site employees to a distributed workforce which makes quality assurance more challenging. Businesses are focusing more on data and analytics, and they want actionable insight from their information-rich audio datasets.

The status quo approach to the audio search problem is to use speech recognition to create a transcript of the audio, and then use a conventional text search to search the transcript. But the inevitable errors in the computerized transcript make this work poorly. DeepGram is far more accurate and efficient: For example, in the image above, DeepGram correctly identifies the word "turbine" where the speech transcript misreads it as "turban."

DeepGram was founded by two particle physicists searching for dark matter. The idea for the audio search engine came from a weekend project of theirs, to record all the audio in a person’s life 24/7. But with so much audio data, it was impossible to find and recall certain moments, and they couldn’t find a search engine that worked well with speech. So, they built an AI-based index and fuzzy search, making their recorded audio accurately and easily searchable. They realized the search engine would be even more useful for businesses with large amounts of audio -- and DeepGram was born.

Businesses can sign up and start using DeepGram now at www.deepgram.com.

Outschool (YC W16) Helps Parents Find and Book Great Classes and Field Trips


Many parents are frustrated by the one-size-fits-all, standards-based approach of the U.S. education system. Every kid is unique, with their own interests, and ready to learn different things at different times. It's nearly impossible for a child to get the best learning experience by taking the standard path alone.

Outschool is a startup launching out of our Winter 2016 class that wants to fill in the gaps left by the standard education process, by helping parents find and book learning activities for kids outside of regular school.

In just a few months since its initial launch in the San Francisco Bay Area, Outschool has grown to offer more than 300 classes from independent educators to a community of more than 1,500 parents. Classes have included an outdoor science hike, a wind-tunnel physics class with indoor skydiving, and WWI espionage technology.

The Outschool approach creates the best learning experiences because it allows students to learn about what they’re interested in, from teachers who are teaching what they’re passionate about. Outschool's classes also cover topics that are broader and more interdisciplinary than standard school curricula. This is important, because now more than ever, success depends on creativity, original thought and developing diverse skills. Each interest a child pursues is an opportunity to discover the world, develop new skills, and connect with the greater community.

Outschool is currently active in the Bay Area, Santa Cruz, and Sacramento. Learn more at outschool.com and the company blog.

Hingeto (YC W16) Lets Fashion Brands Gauge the Clothes Customers Will Want to Buy

Every year, fashion brands make multi-million dollar inventory decisions without any customer feedback. This approach leaves them with tons of unwanted stock.

Fast fashion brands such as Zara have enjoyed surging popularity (and profitability) by making products based on customer data: They feature styles with limited inventory to test in their stores, and then produce more of the top sellers within weeks.

Hingeto is a company launching out of our Winter 2016 class that democratizes this approach, giving every brand the tools to test their fashion ideas before they have to invest in producing them. 

Hingeto builds crowdfunding sites that let fashion brands test demand for new designs without having to produce them upfront. Hingeto’s sites integrate seamlessly into a brand’s own website, and lets them test dozens of new designs simultaneously, and only produce the popular ones. 

Take the jacket pictured in the feature image above. The bomber jacket was a trending fashion item for this spring -- but youth fashion brand Crooks & Castles didn’t have one in stock, and had no way to know if it was worth the investment to add one to their lineup. Hingeto enabled them to design a mock-up and offer it to their customers within a day, without any upfront monetary commitment. As a result, they’ve sold nearly 100 units in a few weeks at high margin, generating thousands of dollars in new revenue.

The key difference between Hingeto and traditional crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter is that traditional crowdfunding sites focus on one product at a time, but fashion brands want to to crowdfund dozens of designs at once.  Fashion brands are also already selling products on their own site, so it doesn’t make sense for them to send traffic away to a crowdfunding site.  Hingeto plugs into the brand’s own website, creating an extension of their existing experience.

Hingeto has raised a seed round of funding led by Kapor Capital, early Zappos investor Base Ventures, and Charles Hudson’s Precursor VC.