LendUp fights big banks with $47M for compassionate credit cards

Banks win when the poor lose. Credit cards can trap people in debt and bleed them dry with late fees. But it’s this exploitative experience that makes banks vulnerable to fintech startups like LendUp that are willing to undercut them and make up margin with software efficiency.

It’s that strategy of building an enduring consumer banking brand on the principle of compassion that let LendUp raise a new $47.5 million round led by Y Combinator’s growth fund. This Series C values LendUp “substantially higher than the last time” it raised in January 2016, says CEO Sasha Orloff. That’s an impressive feat during a rough season for late-stage fundraising.

LendUp will apply the cash toward scaling out its L Card, a credit card with no hidden fees and a flexible payback schedule. It also sports modern features through its companion smartphone app, which lets users instantly halt charges in case of loss or theft, and a financial health meter that clearly shows how much credit the customer has left to spend. LendUp is already signing up thousands of accounts per month, even though it hasn’t been ready to aggressively market itself just yet.

“We have no interest in keeping people in debt,” says Orloff. Harshly punishing customers for late repayment might score banks quick revenue, but it makes people hate them. Historically, there weren’t many alternatives. But data-driven risk assessment and the elimination of overhead by building an app instead of bank branches allows LendUp to break into the market.

LendUp was founded in 2011, and first attacked the scammy payday-loan business. It stole customers from the cash-advance storefronts that blanket low-income neighborhoods, and retained them by providing financial education.

Credit cards are 100X larger market, though, so earlier this year it raised $100 million in debt to fund the lending, and $50 million in a Series B. Even though it still had plenty of money left from that, LendUp chose to accelerate its plan with today’s $47.5 million led by Y Combinator Continuity and joined by Google Ventures, Thomvest Ventures, QED Investors, Data Collective, Susa Ventures, Radicle Impact, Bronze Investments, SV Angel and some angels.

YC Continuity’s Ali Rowghani will be joining LendUp’s board as an observer. He tells TechCrunch:

“LendUp is well on its way to building not only a very successful company but also a very important one. By combining true software innovation with a strong values-based culture, LendUp brings essential financial services to nearly half of the US population that currently cannot access credit in a sufficient way. In the process, LendUp endeavors to help its customers improve their credit scores, gain access to more financial services, and ultimately improve their lives.”

Battling the big banks will be no simple feat, though. LendUp will have to change financial behavior patterns instilled in customers for generations while competing with the banks’ giant marketing arms. It will have to balance its mission with financial solvency as revenue continues “growing consistently month on month,” says Orloff.

And LendUp will have meticulously screened employees to ensure no one does anything shady. There’s added scrutiny after online loan marketplace Lending Club had to fire 179 employees and force its CEO to resign after he and his family were discovered to have taken out loans to boost the startup’s numbers.

Luckily, LendUp is doing one thing to make it more nimble than its competitors: It’s building its whole tech stack in-house. “Everyone else outsources their tech,” Orloff notes.

Fintech is poised for massive growth. Few industries seem as fundamentally misaligned with their customers as banks boasting low rates while hiding the wallet-crippling fees. If the financial giants don’t adopt a more sympathetic approach, their customers will adopt startups like LendUp.

Leak points to refreshed Roku devices sporting new names, HDR support

Roku’s popular media players will be getting a refresh later this fall, according to a new report, as well as a rebranding which will see the device models renamed from those sporting numerical characters (e.g. Roku 1, Roku 2, Roku 3, Roku 4) to names like “Premiere,” “Ultra,” “Express,” and others. It appears that select devices will also receive support for the HDR picture format, the report states.

The leaked information appears on the blog ZatzNotFunny.com, which found the new models listed on two Canadian websites, along with other product details. This further confirms the information spotted in an FCC filing earlier this month, which hinted at a refreshed line of devices. From the initial report, it appeared as if Roku is ditching USB ports on its cheaper streamers.

According to the new findings, the Roku 1 will be rebranded “Roku Express.” There’s a “Rokup Express Plus,” too, but it’s unclear what will be different between the models. Speculatively, it could be that the Plus models could ship with extra ports or support the voice-controlled remote that offers a headphone jack for private listening. (Or one can only hope!)

The Roku 2 will then become the “Roku Premiere,” while Roku 3 will be the “Roku Premiere Plus.” These will also be upgraded to support 4K, while the “Plus” model will offer Ethernet and microSD, as well as HDR.

Meanwhile, the Roku 4 will be renamed “Roku Ultra” and will include a remote control finder and optical out, as with the prior model, but will add USB for accessing local media. This device, too, will offer HDR support, the leak indicates.

The information on one of the Canadian sites has already been pulled down, but a Google cache still shows the details. One site states that the new models are arriving September 7th, but that seems early.

In any event, it’s likely the new models will ship this fall ahead of the holiday sales season. Whether or not the rebranding will work in Roku’s favor, of course, remains to be seen. While “Roku #” may not be a sexy name, it’s easy to understand where a device fits into Roku’s product line. Names like “Premiere” and “Ultra” are more ambiguous, and could lead to consumer confusion.

“Mr. Robot” is now a mobile game that’s played through a fake messaging app

The hit cybersecurity-focused TV show “Mr. Robot,” a psychological thriller popular among the tech crowd for its relatively accurate portrayal of hacking, is now a mobile game. Released by Telltale Games in association with NBCUniversal, and developed by Night School Studio in collaboration with Universal Cable Productions, the game is played through the fictional E-Corp messaging app, allowing players to communicate in real time with characters in the show.

The game continues the show’s technically correct naming scheme, too. While episodes of the show are often titled with names referencing video files, like .avi or .flv, for example, the iOS game is called Mr. Robot: 1.51exfiltrati0n.ipa – the .ipa referring to the iOS application archive file format. On Google Play, the file is named Mr. Robot:1.51exfiltrati0n.apk, referencing the Android app file format instead. (Gotta love these little details.)

The game itself takes place during the first season of the TV show, according to the app’s description. The premise is that you find a smartphone on the ground outside the Fun Society Arcade at Coney Island. As fans of the show know, this is the meeting place for the hacking group, fsociety. As it turns out, the phone you’ve found belongs to Darlene, one of the show’s main characters, and a black hat hacker poised to commit a large-scale cybercrime.

You’ll “play” the game by texting different employees of E-Corp, the global tech company being targeted by the hacking group, as well as interact with characters in the show, like Elliot, Darlene, and Cisco.

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Through your chats, you’ll make choices that have consequences that affect the game’s narrative and story over a week’s time. Something like a modern-day choose-your-own adventure, players are offered different templates of responses they can use to answer the incoming messages.

“There’s a distinct Telltale style to all of the character interactions that our fans will find familiar, and fans of the show will be engrossed all through the night as they race to help fsociety pull off the unthinkable,” said Steve Allison, SVP, Publishing at Telltale Games, in a statement about the game’s release.

The game is not free – it’s a $2.99 download on the iTunes App Store and Google Play, but it doesn’t include in-app purchases or advertisements.

Below is a developer interview offering a behind the scenes look at the making of the Mr. Robot game:

Mobile ad startup AppLovin in talks for $1.5 billion acquisition

Mobile ad startup AppLovin is in talks with a Chinese buyer for an acquisition of around $1.5 billion, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the company.

We have not confirmed the identity of the acquirer. The deal is not yet finalized and details may change.

Founded in 2012 by CEO Adam Foroughi along with Andrew Karam and John Kyrstynak, San Francisco-headquartered AppLovin operates a mobile ad network that helps advertisers target and deliver personalized ads to people who are similar to their existing user base.

The business is profitable and saw $234 million in revenue in 2015. We also hear that the company is projecting $500 million in ad spend on the platform this year.

It’s been an acquisition-heavy period in ad tech — within the Chinese market specifically, Cheetah Mobile bought MobPartner (it’s been making other media-related acquisitions as well), while a group of Chinese Internet companies tried to buy Opera, including its ad business, before settling on just buying the browser. And Southeast Asian telecom company SingTel has also made a number of mobile ad acquisitions through its Amobee division.

AppLovin’s financial position makes it a more desirable acquisition target, and it could help a Chinese buyer move into the United States. (The company has expanded into Europe as well.) Unlike many other Silicon Valley startups, AppLovin didn’t seek venture funding and only raised about $4 million from angel investors.

When we reached out to AppLovin for comment, the company provided us with this statement from Foroughi:

AppLovin is a global business, and as we continue to grow, our business development includes regular dialogue with partners around the world to explore various forms of potential collaboration. Our goal remains to focus on our business and keep our customers our #1 priority. At this stage, we do not have any formal announcement to make.

Pegatron is exploiting workers making Apple iPhone 7’s in China – report



Image: China Labor Watch

China Labor Watch has skewered Apple over worker exploitation in the manufacture of iPhones in China (PDF). This is not the first time that Apple been has attacked for working practices at some of its suppliers, following a furore about suicides and riots at a Foxconn plant manufacturing Apple products in 2010. Some abuses were exposed in a damning New York Times investigation, and by a BBC Panorama documentary filmed using undercover workers.

Media coverage led to pay rises and improved working conditions at Foxconn. Apple responded by moving some manufacturing to Pegatron, which offered Apple lower prices based on lower wages.

It’s not as though Apple really needs to screw its Chinese workers, since the company has more than $200 billion in cash. According to China Labor Watch, in 2105, Apple made twice as much profit in China ($13.4 billion) as it paid its 1.6 million Chinese workers ($6.2 billion).

Further, China Labor Watch reckons that the total annual basic wages of 50,000 Pegatron workers was around $193 million US dollars in 2015. This compares with Tim Cook’s $378 million pay package on taking the top job at Apple, and the $73 million deal given to Angela Ahrendts when she joined from Burberry.

In researching Pegatron, China Labor Watch collected more than 2,000 pay slips of production line and maintenance workers. Almost all were earning the legal minimum wage, which was $304 per month before April 2016, and rose to $330 in May. This is not enough to live on in the Shanghai area, so workers depend heavily on overtime.

In an investigation in February, China Labor Watch found that 71.1 percent of Pegatron’s production line employees were working more than 60 hours of overtime and 64 percent of them worked more than 90 hours of overtime in that month. This violates Apple’s guidelines, and appears to be illegal.

Worse, although Shanghai’s municipal government raised the minimum wage from $304 to $330, and Pegatron bumped that up to $350, Pegatron’s workers ended up worse off. This was because Pegatron reduced bonus payments, and stopped paying workers’ social insurance payments in full. This resulted in “a $110 decrease in real wage, despite the wage raise. For this reason, many workers felt they were cheated,” says China Labor Watch.

In 2015, the average wage of Shanghai workers was $895. Pegatron workers who did 80 hours of overtime got $672, and those who did 20 hours of overtime got $490, according to China Labor Watch. In 2016, the totals fell to $628 and $407. A worker who did no overtime would net about $213, after deductions.

China Labor Watch claims that 42.3 percent of Pegatron workers’ basic wages were below Shanghai’s legal minimum wage, and Pegatron had to add an average of $19 to make up the difference.

China Labor Watch also accuses Pegatron of breaking the law in its treatment of interns. The government says they cannot be asked to work overtime, but on average, Pegatron’s interns worked more overtime than full-time employees.

Interns are not workers, they are students, often aged 17-18. They are not supposed to be working on production lines that have nothing to do with their studies. They’re not volunteering either: they are little more than slave labour.

This should not be news to Apple, which must know that Foxconn formerly used a lot of interns.

Apple’s big-bang approach to marketing requires large numbers of workers to meet peak demand, and ideally these workers should be easy to dispose of afterwards. Foxconn explained in 2012 that it was hard to hire 20 percent more workers all at once. If you had a million workers, you needed 200,000 extra. Bussing interns in from vocational secondary schools was a quick way to solve that problem, and this approach was facilitated by the Chinese government and its education system.

Apple apologists will, of course, protest that “they all do it”. However, there are other considerations.

First, Apple’s marketing practices put massive amounts of strain on Chinese workers, who are put under intense pressure to make vast quantities of new iPhones for Apple’s high-profile launches. The volumes are much larger than for other smartphone suppliers, who generally offer much wider ranges of products, creating far less stress.

Second, China Labor Watch’s executive director Li Qiang points out that: “In 2015, Apple alone claimed more than 90 percent of the smartphone industry’s aggregate profits, while a majority of other firms were operating at a loss.”

It would be ridiculous to expect rival smartphone suppliers to treat workers better than Apple’s subcontractors when Apple is making huge profits and they’re fighting for survival.

If Tim Cook looked in his heart instead of at Apple’s growing cash mountain, he would know that Apple could lead by example in giving his Chinese workers a better deal. A living wage for a 60-hour week would be a start.

Apple, as the world’s richest corporation, can hardly pretend to be a force for good when most of the people making its products at Pegatron are putting in more than 80 hours of overtime per month to make enough to live on.

That vocation school students are often unwillingly, and illegally, working similar hours is a disgrace.

Tim Cook has said: “We care about every worker in our worldwide supply chain.”

This just sounds sanctimonious because the exploitation of workers making Apple products goes back at least a decade. How many decades does Apple need before it finally takes its problems seriously?

NASA funds long shots aiming to make electric and eco-friendly aircraft

One of these days we’re going to see aircraft go electric, just as cars are — but not for a while. In the meantime, we can’t slack off when it comes to the research that will make it possible. NASA has announced five research projects that may help make planes more efficient and green.

It’s part of the organization’s Transformative Aeronautics Concepts Program, which has dozens of such projects aimed at improving or (as the name suggests) transforming aviation. These five were picked from a series of pitches made to the TACP team, Startup Battlefield style (or close, anyway).

The thing preventing electric aircraft from taking off, so to speak, boils down to a lack of energy: even the best batteries can’t store nearly as much power as an equivalent volume of jet fuel. We can make better use of the energy we can store by making aircraft lighter and their propulsion more efficient, but ultimately the batteries themselves need to get better.

One project is aimed at accomplishing that last goal with the creation of Lithium-Air batteries, which use oxygen as the active electron carrier, sucking it in when they’re being discharged and expelling it when charging. Li-Air batteries could theoretically achieve fossil fuel-like energy density, but there are serious technical challenges — ones the NASA team will be looking at.

Replacing the battery with a fuel cell is another option; one project is looking into the possibility of a super-efficient cell that would combine oxygen from the air with the hydrogen from jet fuel to produce electricity, then use the exhaust to drive a turbine. It would still be using fossil fuels, but it would be extracting more energy from them and doing it in a much cleaner way.

The electric engine being driven by that energy could also be more efficient; 3D printing might be a solution. Improved additive manufacturing techniques may enable smaller, more power-dense motors — or if not, at least make them lighter.

Another way to save weight is to lose some off the body of the plane itself. The vertical tail fin is used to center the plane, but it also adds drag. NASA is looking into the possibility of using adjustable winglets that can serve as stabilizers during take-off and landing, but flatten out for better aerodynamics during flight. This would reduce the need for a large tail fin, so the plane could be both lighter and present a lower profile.

The last project isn’t quite green, but it’s still interesting. Unmanned aerial vehicles currently need to be operated within radio line of sight; satellite tracking would be better, but the antennas required are bulky. Researchers are investigating the possibility of an aerogel-based antenna that conforms closely to the contours of the aircraft yet enables transmission and receiving in multiple directions.

NASA doesn’t expect all or even any of the projects to bear fruit — “Is failure an option? It depends on your definition of failure,” said the TACP manager, Doug Rohn, in the news release. Really, the point isn’t to make the things described above, but to determine whether they realistically can be made, and the answer may well be no — at least for now.

Featured Image: NASA

Square brings payment and capital offerings to TouchBistro and Vend customers

Square is turning point-of-sale companies that at one time could’ve been considered enemies into allies, with two new partnerships with Vend and TouchBistro. Square will now offer Vend and TouchBistro‘s restaurant, retail and other business owner clients full access to Square’s platform, including its hardware, payments infrastructure and financial service offerings (like loans for small businesses).

Once upon a time, when Square kept things much more closed down, companies like Toronto’s TouchBistro and New Zealand’s Vend were more directly competitive with its own offerings. Square’s POS system and Register app were an alternative to the solutions provided by either of its two new partners. Since Square started offering access to its individual services, however, including its accounting and inventory tools, and after it debuted its public APIs in March, the opportunity for retailers to use more hybrid solutions opened up.

The new approach that allows Square to work together with companies like Vend and TouchBistro makes a lot more business sense. It means TouchBistro and Vend customers have options to a range of new hardware options, including access to the Square reader (which in the U.S., can process contactless and Apple Pay transactions), and for Square, it offers another new vector (Square is already teaming up with restaurant management software provider Upserve in a similar capacity) for one of its most important new product categories: financial services for small businesses.

Square Capital is a rapidly growing part of Square’s business, with 123 percent growth year-over-year in terms of loans extended. The other key number for Square’s future growth is its gross payment volume, which was up 42 percent year-over-year, but which stands to grow a lot more if its payment system can be used by retailers on other POS platforms, as is now possible with Vend and TouchBistro customers.

The new integrations for businesses using TouchBistro and Vend begins with a limited group today, but the plan is to roll it out to all existing and future restaurants and retailers working with either of those POS companies over the course of the next few weeks.

Retooling AI for the workplace

One of the first computers required punch cards. I repeat, punch cards. Yes, you would take a piece of paper with tiny holes and use it to interact with the device.

Now we have computers the size of soda cans that sit in your house and control your lights, provide weather updates, solve math equations and tell jokes, all by simply speaking to them… and some of them have better jokes than my actual friends.

In many ways, we all should have seen this coming — we can thank our Hollywood friends for that.

We had C-3PO and R2-D2 running around the galaxy with Luke trying to help him save the universe from his dad.

“Artoo says that the chances of survival are 725 to 1. Actually Artoo has been known to make mistakes… from time to time… Oh dear…”

More recently, we’ve had others as full-fledged assistants that are smarter than most humans, like TARS from Interstellar and Jarvis from Iron Man.

As you’re reading this, you’re probably doing some kind of work. It’s a thing we spend one-third of our lives doing, after all. (Sleep and Netflix supposedly make up the other two-thirds.)

Given the massive chunk of our lives spent at work, shouldn’t we enjoy the tools we need to use for our jobs? Shouldn’t they feel more human and delightful, like Amazon’s Alexa or some of the other consumer-facing applications we rely on daily?

I think so.

And how much more effective and productive could you be if you had something like TARS or Jarvis helping you with your job?

I think the answer is… a lot!

How do we get there?

Many of the consumer-facing AI solutions we see today are built on the backs of generic APIs.

Let’s take something like Siri, for example. If you wanted to know the weather, you would simply ask: “Siri, what’s the weather?”

Siri could then transcribe your question and reach out to weather.com or another weather service for the answer using your location as a proxy.

Based on the answer, you’d have the immediate information you need to determine whether you should take an umbrella to work or not.

However, introducing a similar, frictionless AI assistant in the enterprise is a bit more challenging. Things are a bit more complex because each organization uses varying degrees of tools and workflows to run their business.

Borrowing from the weather example above, let’s say you wanted to know how much revenue was booked for the business in the first quarter. You might ask: “Siri, how much revenue did we book in Q1?”

If this “Siri for work” existed, it might give you an answer along the lines of “$100mm.”

From here you might want to drill deeper into revenue generated from each product line. If you were the Chief Revenue Officer of Microsoft, you might want to know how that revenue breaks out between Office 365, Windows and Xbox… and you might want the answer to be in top-line revenue because that’s how you like looking at the forecast.

Shouldn’t we enjoy the tools we need to use for our jobs?

Do you see how nuanced this can become? As we start to account for organizational preferences, things get complicated very quickly.

It’s easy to see how replicating “Siri for work” is a much heavier problem to solve because of the variance amongst organizational processes, systems and preferences. For consumer applications, there isn’t nearly as much divergence in the answers users expect (see above); this does not hold true for businesses.

This same issue applies in the context of scheduling. There are companies like x.ai and Clara Labs trying to take the simplicity of Alexa or Siri and apply it to the tedious task of scheduling meetings.

It’s one thing to say: “Siri, book me a meeting with Jon for some time next week.”

But all of a sudden you realize there are a handful of non-trivial variables this “scheduling Siri” would need to take into account. Things like the location of the meeting, preferences of the person taking the meeting, the availability and coordination of both parties instead of just one and so on.

And let’s take one more vertical application similar to  “Jarvis for Work.” Within the legal industry, an AI-powered lawyer called ROSS has emerged. Firms can ask ROSS questions like they would their colleagues on important data, like citation resources, and it returns an answer. Their secret sauce is based on using natural language processing (NLP) to query publicly available law documents.

But can ROSS adopt to the style of the firm and specificity of a given case? Maybe some firms have found that very recent court rulings tend to be the best support, while others rank searches based on credibility and prominence.

In all the instances, there is nuance, which means some level of unique configuration and intelligence is required. This should comfort those fearful of waking up one day and having their job completely replaced by a robot. More realistically, the robot will allow them to be 10x more productive and allocate more time to higher-leverage tasks.

We’ve seen this story before; each time we experience new technological breakthroughs, we learn that people’s jobs are changed but not altogether replaced.

From a 1928 issue of The New York Times:

Different, yet the same

In all these different instances, the end result and goal for a user remains the same.

A perfect “Siri for work” would help reduce complexity and guide the end user to more quickly arrive at the information they need to make a decision or take an action. In the enterprise, even slight improvements can mean huge revenue increases and significant cost savings.

But, let’s take it a step further and explore how this artificiallyintelligentassistant at work evolves and becomes more intelligent over time.

The previous example highlighted the ability to look up information. What about having the AI suggest and take actions for you?

As we start to account for organizational preferences, things get complicated very quickly.

Say the VP of Sales at Microsoft needs to forecast her revenue for the quarter. We’ll call her Samantha. To do that, Samantha would need to have accurate close dates of when she thinks her deals will close. In this hypothetical example, she has five deals that are supposed to close in one week, but the AI knows there has been no communication with those accounts for more than four months because it understands your email, social media and phone communications.

Is it likely those deals will close? Probably not.

Therefore, the AI would know to automatically change the close dates for forecasting purposes, or make a suggestion like, “Hey Samantha, I noticed a discrepancy between your sales activity and your proposed close dates. Would you like me to change the close date for you?”

Voilà. The dates are closed and Samantha doesn’t look like a slouch at the next forecast meeting.

It’s easy to see how facilitating this level of workflow is entirely too complex for an out-of-the-box plug-and-play solution like Amazon’s Echo or Apple’s Siri. It requires a greater degree of configuration that is specific to the organization and which becomes smarter over time based on user input and data.

To facilitate this there needs to be a middle layer or conversational run-time between the various systems and data sets in an organization so an end user can quickly and easily do their job without having to open a new app or piece of software.

As Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft puts it: “In software development terms A.I. is becoming a third ‘run time ’— the next platform.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Toward the future

So what does this all mean?

The next frontier of software development and technological breakthrough will happen in a conversational run-time. I call it “conversational CRM.” It is the inevitable evolution of the technology stack for the enterprise.

This next era will occur on top of conversational interfaces because it is where work is already getting done and everyone already knows how to use them. This is why we are building on messaging platforms like Slack, which will serve as the conduit to facilitate enhanced intelligence at work.

Moreover, there will be even more companies, big and small, that crop up to help power some of the underlying technology that makes this intelligence and conversational workflow happen.

For example, Google recently unveiled TensorFlow, which is an “open source software library for numerical computation using data flow graphs.” To break that down in English, this sort of technology enables computers to do computations that more closely mirror the way human brains think and make decisions. Some people call this “deep neural networks.”

There’s also IBM Watson, which provided the backbone for ROSS mentioned above.

Within the realm of smaller startups, you have companies like API.ai and…

The 48 startups that launched at Y Combinator S16 Demo Day 2

The world’s most prestigious startup school launched 48 companies today at part 2 of its Summer 2016 Demo Day. Nanoparticle analytics and delivery robots were amongst the products revealed in the B2B, biotech, enterprise, edtech, fintech, and hardware verticals. You can check out our write-ups of all 44 startups that launched yesterday, and TechCrunch’s picks for the top 7 from the first half of the batch. Today’s startups are below.

Trying to distill trends from the hodgepodge of startups at Demo day can be futile, because the real winners are the ones ahead of the trends. For example, TechCrunch thought Airware’s drone operating system was a little too early in 2013. It turned out to be smartly ahead of the curve. Now you see lots of drone startups in YC, but many are chasing Airware which has gone on to raise $70 million.

Justin Kan, Twitch co-founder and YC partner

Y Combinator president Sam Altman explains “The best company at any given Demo Day is not the one that fits the theme of that Demo Day. it’s the one that fits the theme of 2019.” Altman cites the Alan Kay quote that “the best way to predict the future is to invent it”, adding “I think short of that, the future is basically unknowable. What I like about YC is the companies get to invent the future. They don’t have to guess.”

One important development is that 30% of this batch’s companies were founded outside the US, a bigger portion than in the past.

YC partner Justin Kan credits that to the program being around long enough that it’s funded successful companies from tons of countries. He says founders used to ask “Would YC even fund a company from Indonesia or Thailand?” but now there are role models they can look to.

“The startup mindset has seeped out of the Silicon Valley” Altman tells us. “One of the things that will surprise people is how much of a world-wide phenomenon startups will become.” Altman notes that while tech has led to four of the five most valuable companies in the world being based on the west coast of the US, he doesn’t expect that to persist, so YC has to fund international startups.

And now, here are all 48 companies that launched at YC Summer 2016 Demo Day 2:

ApolloShield – A system to safely land threatening drones

Drones present a serious threat to security. Every year, there are thousands of security incidents with drones that can include contraband delivery and near collisions with aircrafts. ApolloShield is selling a device that can take control of unwanted drones, disconnect operators, and safely land the crafts. To date, the hardware can defend against about half the drones on the market. The company said that law enforcement clients need an average of five devices that cost $30,000 per device per year.

Read more about ApolloShield on TechCrunch.

Ohmygreen – B2B wellness solutions

Who knew there’s already a billion dollar-plus market for office snacks? That’s what Ohmygreen — a provider of healthy office snacks — is going after. The company already serves larger companies like Lyft and Amazon, and boasts a 55 percent gross margin. The company has an $800,000 monthly recurring revenue, too. Ohmygreen does 700 deliveries every month, but at its core, it’s a logistics company, CEO Michael Heinrich said. That makes plenty sense — it allows Ohmygreen to optimize its delivery network and supply chains for its specific kinds of snacks. “This allows us to get those gross margins, 55 percent is 3-5X that of industry leaders,” he said. “That’s the same as Twilio.”

Emote – Student behavioral analysis

Student outcomes are as much a product of learning as they are a product of wellness. Emote wants to put powerful behavioral information in the hands of teachers before students even walk into the classroom. The company recognizes that 300,000 students are pushed out of class every single day and wants to do something about it by helping teachers recognize and plan for student interactions so that disruptions don’t occur. Emote will be in 33 schools by the end of September and another 135 by January. This represents 1.3 million in potential revenue and the company cites sales cycles of just three weeks.

Flutterwave – Payment processing in Africa

Payments processing is stratified across Africa. The continent is host to over 276 wallets, 500 banks, and 7 card networks. Flutterwave is producing an API for payment processing that can organize this market and create efficiencies. The company has already processed $20 million in payments over the last three months and stands to gain a lot from a 0.3 percent processing fee. In the last month, Flutterwave doubled its payment volume in an African market of over $360 billion yearly mobile payments. Services are available in Nigeria and Ghana and will be expanding to nine more countries by the end of the year.

Instrumentl – Making scientific grants easy

For scientists, applying to grants is a drag. It just doesn’t make sense for some of the most educated people on the planet to spend their time filling out forms and searching for funding sources. Instrumentl offers universities and research institutions access to a database of federal, state, and corporate money — for a monthly fee of $35 per seat. But Instrumentl isn’t just a database, it leverages machine learning algorithms to identify and push relevant grants towards applicable research. Scientists simply use the platform to build a project description and the platform takes care of the rest. Harvard, Yale, and Texas A&M are already using the platform and the company is generating 200,000 in annual recurring revenue.

People.ai – Sales team analytics  

Oleg Rogynskyy and his team at People.ai want to help companies understand what sales teams are doing on a daily basis. People.ai integrates with calendars, phones, and emails and logs sales activity that leads to closing deals. The idea is that sales teams can track best practices from top performers and close more deals. Over 100 companies have partnered with people.ai over the last four months at a price of $50 per seat per month.

Read more about People.ai on TechCrunch.

Revlo – Audience management for gamers that live stream

Live streaming video gaming sessions may seem like a dream job, but it can be a lot of work to engage with interested viewers. Revlo is an audience management platform for streamers. Early users have seen a 40 percent increase in viewership time and a 2X increase in new viewer retention. Today there are 16,000 active streamers on the platform, paying $10 per month, to use its chatbots, leaderboards, and virtual currency to increase engagement.

Quero Education – Filling open seats at Brazilian colleges

Quero Education is an ed-tech startup out of Brazil that is promising to help solve under-enrollment issues at Brazilian universities. Contrary to what most of us would think, coming from schools challenged daily by a lack of professors and dormitories, enrollment at Brazilian schools would need to double to just match the number of available seats. The company’s platform offers information across colleges in additions to discounts at over a third of schools in Brazil. Quero takes a 12 percent cut of tuition which averages $3,000 per year in the country and has generated $7 million in revenue at a 5X yearly growth rate.

Read more about Quero Education on TechCrunch.

Fellow – An API for working capital

Many companies struggle to find working capital when it is most needed — the end of the month when employees and contracts need to be paid. Fellow is an API for invoice financing that removes friction for companies. The API auto-underwrites and finances invoices. In three weeks, four companies have started using Fellow, financing approximately $120,000 in working capital. In the past, companies had to either have huge revenue streams, or deal with months of bureaucracy to get credit lines from banks.

HiOperator – Customer service as a service

HiOperator wants to help companies get access to customer service, no matter their size. The company scales phone, email and chat support services with easy integrations and a pay-as-you-go model that contrasts with other services that have large on-boarding fees. Ten companies are already using HiOperator, resulting in $11,000 in monthly recurring revenue. HiOperator’s services can integrate into key customer service platforms and centralize all information into a single platform.

Innov8 – Coworking spaces for India

Innov8 wants to bring coworking to India in a big way. They group has already built two centers in the country with 100 percent occupancy and a 200 person waitlist. The spaces utilize differentiating design to convince a growing number…

camcorder night shot

Angel, Alien and UFO Encounters from Another Dimension (2012, Ken Klein)


Photo by
raider3_anime
on Flickr

Now I’m a hardcore skeptic and I’ll pretty much call “bullshit” on any reality-based movie or TV program focusing on the possibility of extraterrestrial visitors or supernatural phenomena, but I can safely say that I have never, in my life, seen a… I’m literally STILL in utter shock and awe at how fucking horrendous “Angel, Alien and UFO Encounters” was. A balding old fuck is traveling around from New Orleans to Arizona to Pittsburgh, talking to various jack-offs who claim to have seen and photographed different types of alien space crafts and figures around their area. The first guy they talk to is just a fat, bearded slob with fake-looking hair who claims to be a professional electrician who hunts UFO’s, though every time you see him he’s just holding a cheapie Sony camcorder and walking us through… The next guy – another fat slob in a Hawaiian shirt – gives us a tedious rundown on a series of crude sketches he has done that apparently resemble various kinds of suspicious orbs he has seen hovering in the sky. He then shows off another sketch of a light pattern he witnessed one night. A fucking sketch. via Gorepump’s Horror Dump

Your Biggest Regrets….Part One


Photo by
larrymac
on Flickr

song by Florence and The Machine . I’m singing it right now.  I sound rather delightful, however sadly I find myself without a camcorder. Her opening lyrics sum up regrets rather perfectly:. Regrets collect, like old friends,. here to relive your darkest moments,. i can see no way, i can see no way,. but I like to keep some things to myself,. i like to keep my issues strong,. The official definition of regret, as outlined in Webster’s dictionary, is as follows: “The emotion arising from a wish that some matter or situation would be different from what it is. The emotion may be accompanied by sadness, remorse,… My definition. It’s those moments I wish I could take back. There are times when I wish I would have been a different me…the me who knows more now, not the me blinded by my insecurities, or the blitheness of youth. The me who would have done things differently and made better choices. We all struggle with the meaning of having choices, and the. via Postcards Never Written…

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