With swarms of investors and media in Mountain View, Calif. on Tuesday for Y Combinator’s summer demo day, there’s nowhere more exciting in the land of startups. More than 70 companies pitched to the group, hoping to become the next Dropbox, AirBnB, or Reddit. Launched in 2005, Y Combinator has become somewhat of a gold standard for incubators — companies that help startups grow with advice, connections and resources — and is closely watched by the tech world.
Here at the Computer Science Museum where the startups are pitching, I picked my five favorite companies from the morning presentations.
Instacart, or the “Uber for groceries,” could do pretty well with urban dwellers looking for speedy grocery delivery. Uber has proven that wealthy consumers are willing to pay more for speedy, reliable service, so it’s not hard to imagine they’d want the same for their groceries. The company is launching today in several California cities including San Francisco, and will deliver groceries from Safeway to customers for two flat fees ($9.99 for one hour delivery and $3.99 for three hour delivery.) Of course there’s always TaskRabbit or Safeway’s own delivery service, but the Instacart founders hope their reliability, personal service, and relatively low prices will prove competitive. The founders also noted that they’re hoping to avoid pitfalls faced by previous grocery delivery disasters like Webvan.
Quickly becoming one of the hottest sites for internet memes and humor, 9gag is a startup that’s already raised $2.8 million in funding from several VC investors (See disclosure below) including 500 Startups to become your one-stop location for all things funny. 9gag has released an iPhone app, and is looking to create one for Android as well. How does the company plan to make money? Naturally, this is best explained in memes, but so far the site is getting about 70 million pageviews per month.
All the founders of this company had to do was show the room a photo of what looked like an iPad on a Segway, and everyone scanning Twitter couldn’t help but look up. Double Robotics is pioneering “wheels for your iPad,” allowing users to mount their iPad on wheels and send it off — for the low price of about $2,000. The founders explained that they’ve made sales in 30 countries so far, done half a million dollars in revenue, and taken preorders from seven Fortune 500 companies. The applications seem endless, but could include a kiosk in a retail store, a stand-in for a telecommuting employee, or a tour guide in a museum, and telepresence robots are an increasingly popular idea right now.
If you’re looking for the best mobile and web designers, scanning the internet for resumes and reviewing portfolios can be a time-consuming task. Scoutzie attempts to create a curated list of the best designers, including the talent behind the Instagram logo, ensuring that you’ll find only the best of the best amid their ranks when you go to hire. Designers must gain approval to be included in the Scoutzie roster. Scoutzie seems like a solution to an old school problem — hiring talented people for specific tasks, and using an online marketplace to expedite that process.
FundersClub attempts to create an online marketplace for startup investing, and has already seen success funding at least one company — their own. Individuals with an annual income of more than $200,000 (or $300,000 combined income with a spouse), or investors with at least $1 million in personal net worth can become an accredited investor with FundersClub and place bets on the latest startups. Investors can pick either individual companies or invest in a bundle picked by FoundersClub, called the Bundle. The company assess individual fees for investments, but charges no annual membership fee. The company’s site has full information on how the process works, but attempts to get wealthy individuals involved in investing amounts much smaller than the typical angel, bringing greater funding to more companies.
Disclosure: 9gag is backed by True Ventures, an investor in the parent company of this blog, Giga Omni Media. Om Malik, founder of Giga Omni Media, is also a venture partner at True.