Bonsai (YC W16) Helps Freelancers Get Paid On-Time

Studies say that upwards of 50 percent of freelancers are paid late or not at all. Unfortunately, the most successful freelancers today aren’t necessarily the best at their chosen trade -- they are the people who excel at negotiating with clients and structuring payments.

Bonsai is a company launching out of our Winter 2016 class that takes care of those day-to-day business matters so freelancers can go back to focusing on more important things.

TechCrunch's Anna Escher wrote about Bonsai in a story published this week:

"Bonsai, part of Y Combinator’s Winter 2016 batch, has created a tool designed to guide freelancers through contract creation and invoicing. The two-person company bills itself as a system that takes care of contract creation, invoicing and payment processing for white-collar freelancers, or anyone who does contract work from behind a computer.

...There are plenty of invoicing systems and marketplaces for freelancers out there, but what sets Bonsai’s tool apart is the element of guidance and the simplified nature of its service. It’s also worth noting that Bonsai allows freelancers to get paid by ACH, which isn’t available in many other freelancer payment tools and results in much lower fees for high-earning freelancers.

With today’s digital economy allowing for the career flexibility that freelancers crave, the company hopes to serve more and more people as freelancing becomes a more viable choice for professionals."

Read the full story on TechCrunch here.

STILT (YC W16) Helps Expats in the U.S. Get Low-Interest Loans

Around 4.5 million expats from all over the world are in U.S. on long term visas. About a million of these are students who spend $30 billion on education in the U.S. every year -- and may need student loans.

However, many do not have credit scores and thus have no access to credit-based services such as loans, credit cards, and post-paid phones. Many of these people have no other option but to borrow money from family members, acquaintances, or friends, often at sky-high interest rates.

STILT is a company launching out of our Winter 2016 class that provides a better solution. STILT provides loans of up to $25,000 to foreign nationals in the U.S. at better rates than existing options, and without needing a cosigner.

VentureBeat's Ken Yeung wrote about STILT in an article published recently:

"But in lieu of the credit history the average U.S. citizen has, the company considers a person’s job history, college transcript, visa status, social media profiles, and bank accounts to determine someone’s creditworthiness. All of this information is entered into Stilt’s algorithm, which will assess whether money should be lent out.

The company also takes into account why you want the loan, such as paying rent, school tuition, repayment of previous loans (some international students want to get rid of their large debts back home), relocation assistance, and more."

Read the full story in VentureBeat here.

YC at Yale, Princeton, UChicago and Northwestern

The second leg of YC's Winter 2016 College Tour kicks off today in Atlanta. We'll be visiting these schools in the next week:

2/26 Yale
> 4pm, Sheffield-Sterling-Strathcona Auditorium (SSS Rm 114) - 1 Prospect Street New Haven, CT 06511
More info

2/29 Princeton
> 7:30pm, Robertson Hall, Princeton, NJ 08540
More info

3/2 University of Chicago
> 6:30pm, Chicago Innovation Exchange - Theater, 1452 E 53rd St Chicago, IL 60615
More info
Sign up for office hours by end of day this Thursday (4pm-6pm)

3/3 Northwestern University
> 6pm, The Garage, 2311 Campus Drive, Suite 2300, Evanston, IL 60208
More info 
Sign up for office hours by end of day this Thursday  (2pm-6pm)

See you there! 

VINEBOX (YC W16) Lets You Try New Premium Wines, by the Glass

Traditional wine clubs deliver by the bottle or the case. That means that often, members end up with large amounts of wines that are unexceptional, or not suited to their tastes.

VINEBOX is a company launching out of our Winter 2016 class that is a new take on wine clubs, sending top quality wines by the glass instead of by the bottle. The VINEBOX model makes it easy and cost-efficient to explore the world of premium wine one glass at a time. As a member, you only commit to full-sized bottles when you're sure you've found something you love.

VentureBeat's Ken Yeung wrote about VINEBOX and interviewed its founders in a story this week:

“If you’re like me and enjoy wine occasionally, but find it difficult to select a good bottle, then joining a wine club won’t necessarily be a great investment for you. After all, why would you risk getting an entire bottle when you’re not sure if it’s something you want? Instead, you might want to check out Vinebox, a monthly delivery service that will ship wine by the glass to you from Europe to improve your palate.

...'Right now we live in a society where we’re all about testing things out. It’s about immediate gratification. You can listen to a sample of music or watch an episode for free,' said Vinebox chief executive Matt Dukes. 'We’re extending the example to wine because picking it can be an intimidating thing.'

Operating as a wholesaler, importer, and retailer, Vinebox is licensed to ship wine to 39 out of the 50 states (sorry, Utah). Its three largest markets are New York, Texas, and California. Customers can select from one of three tiered offerings: They can pay $35 per month, $33 for three months, or $30 per year. Each option comes with three glasses of wine each month from bottles costing between $25 and $55."

Read the full story in VentureBeat here.

Gravitational (S15) Helps Companies Run and Maintain Cloud Apps on Their Private Infrastructure

Most software vendors put their software on a virtual machine and send it to their customers. That means that the customers are on the hook to hire system integrators and other IT personnel to keep that software running -- making the entire process of installing and maintaining enterprise software difficult and often expensive.

Gravitational, a company that was part of our Summer 2015 class, launched to the public this week with an answer to this problem: Gravitational helps software companies remotely manage their applications on private infrastructure, making it unnecessary to hire additional people to run complex software on premise. Essentially, Gravitational turns every on-premise installation into a remotely managed service.

TechCrunch's Ron Miller wrote a story about Gravitational this week:

"Without a solution like the one from Gravitational, companies would have to maintain two sets of code, which is simply too costly for most companies to pull off. That meant these companies were sometimes leaving deals on the table from customers who wanted a delivery model they couldn’t offer.

This wasn’t the founders’ first go with Y Combinator, Ev Kontsevoy, Gravitational’s founder told TechCrunch. His first company, Mailgun was a member of the YC Winter 2011 class. It raised $1.2 million, before it was acquired by Rackspace in 2012.

It was through his experience working at Rackspace for several years after the acquisition that Kontsevoy began to see some difficult problems facing companies hosting SaaS programs in the cloud, which would eventually come together and lead him to launch Gravitational."

Read the whole story here.

Why YC?

People often ask us what happens at YC and what benefits you get as a YC founder. Here is a list of the resources available to YC founders.

You can also read a longer version of what happens at YC here.

Applications for Summer 2016 are open! Apply here.


YC in Atlanta - 2/24-2/26

YC is visiting Atlanta next week, and we hope to see you there! 

Wed, Feb 24: Coffee with YC at Tech Square Labs
> 11am-12pm, 859 Spring Street Northwest Atlanta, GA 30308
> More info

Wed, Feb 24: Morehouse College Entrepreneurship Center
Sign up for office hours (2pm-5pm)

Thu, Feb 25: Georgia Tech with Startup Exchange 
> 6pm, The Garage, Basement of Sq5, 848 Spring Street NW, Atlanta, GA
More info
Sign up for office hours (2pm-5:30pm)

Questions? Shoot us an email at openofficehours@ycombinator.com.

Yardbook (YC W16) Brings Software to the $30 Billion Landscaping Industry


Landscaping is one of the last industries that has yet to be ‘‘software enabled’, with most companies running their businesses on pencil and paper.

Yardbook is a company launching out of our Winter 2016 class that's bringing cloud-based software tools to this vast yet under-served industry.

TechCrunch's Jon Shieber wrote a story about Yardbook this week:
"With the penetration of mobile phones, and simply the falling costs of hosting and managing and online business, new verticals are opening up to young companies at prices and scales that would have been unheard of even a few years ago.

In YardBook’s case, it’s the lawncare industry.

And the customer adoption of YardBook shows that, at least in this instance, the thesis might be proven correct.

In just over a year, the company has managed to snag 11,000 customers and processed $65 million in payments across the platform. Today, the company is launching a tipping feature for payments so that even more money can be captured by lawncare service providers without the need to resort to grubby cash payments (filthy lucre!)"

Read the full story here.

Acre Designs (YC W16) Makes It Simple to Build a Zero-Energy Smarthome

The typical American home built today is fundamentally very similar to homes that were built in the mid-20th century. In aggregate, this adds up to a lot of inefficiency: American homes consume a quarter of the nation’s energy and 14 billion gallons of water annually.

Acre Designs is a company launching out of our current Winter 2016 class that makes it incredibly easy to build a zero-energy smarthome -- one that's functional, beautiful, and reasonably priced. Acre homes are 100 percent solar powered, and use 70 percent less water than your average home.

TechCrunch reporter Frederic Lardinois wrote about Acre in a story published this week:

"As Acre co-founders Jennifer and Andrew Dickson told me, they started the company out of their own frustration in finding a sustainable home that was built to modern standards. Specifically, they were looking for a zero-energy home that could use solar to power the entire house.

'We realized existing homes were very difficult to get to any standard of efficiency without a lot of work,' Jennifer told me. 'But we are still building new homes with the same standards as 60 years ago.'

Andrew (an industrial designer with experience in working on everything from furniture to jet boats) and Jennifer (an architect) co-founded the company with builder Don Newman (now Acre’s VP of Construction) and got accepted into Y Combinator. ...Given how outdated the construction process and many of the designs and features of today’s new construction homes often are, it’s a bit of a surprise that nobody has really tackled this market yet."

Read the full story, and see more photos and a video of an Acre home, here.

Sendbird (YC W16) Adds Real-Time Messaging to Any App in Minutes


User engagement and retention is one of the biggest pain points for app developers: Research shows that the average app loses 77 percent of its users in the first three days. One of the best ways to keep users around is to add messaging and chat features -- but doing so can be time and labor intensive for a developer team.

Sendbird is a company launching out of our Winter 2016 class that lets you add messaging to any app quickly and easily. Its messaging-as-a-service platform lets developers to add real-time chat capabilities to their app in just five minutes.

TechCrunch's Matthew Lynley wrote about Sendbird in an article published today:

When John Kim and his team were working on a community-based application called Smile Mom — which was designed to connect nearby moms — they ran into a problem: They wanted to integrate messaging, but couldn’t find an off-the-shelf solution they liked.

They ended up building one themselves, and that led a bunch of friends to ask to use the service. So Kim and his team decided to pivot the company toward building just that. The result was Sendbird, a software development kit that enables developers to quickly build chat tools for their services. The company comes out of Y Combinator’s most recent class, and is launching today.


Read the full story here.