Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian hosted a talk at NYU last night featuring a slew of fellow Y Combinator grads. The Rap Genius guys were all there, as was Shoptiques founder Olga Vidisheva, and Tutorspree founders Aaron Harris and Josh Abrams. The conversation mostly revolved around all of their transitions from the business world to the tech scene, but the night got interesting when Mr. Ohanian urged the panel to hate on Silicon Valley.
“We were hating on the Bay Area,” he said. “And I think we should do that a little more.”
Teach Me How to Startup
Visitors who search for Harlem rapper Azealia Banks’s breakout hit “212,” on Rap Genius, an online platform that crowdsources explanations of hip-hop lyrics, will find nearly every verse annotated by the site’s users, who clocked more than 2 million monthly uniques in August, according to comScore. Click on the line “Now she wanna lick my plum in the evening/ And fit that ton-tongue d-deep in,” and a pop-up immediately appears explaining that Ms. Banks is employing a metaphor for cunnilingus and that “She stutters the words tongue and deep to mimic the stuttering that occurs when one receives such a gift.” That exegesis received 11 upvotes, earning the contributor jamima-j, a female “slam poetry writer,” a healthy bump in “Rap IQ” points on the site.
Readers might find her analysis either amusing or unnecessary. But the reigning kings of Sand Hill Road, venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, view Rap Genius as “one of the most important things we’ve ever funded,” co-founder Ben Horowitz told Betabeat last week. The prominent VC firm, which clawed its way into the Silicon Valley firmament in just three years by aggressively plowing millions into fast-growth tech startups like Facebook, Pinterest, foursquare and Airbnb, often at towering valuations, were the sole investors behind the site’s $15 million Series A.
The discussion board from the mind of Y Combinator founder Paul Graham is a place where some of the smartest people on the Internet congregate to flaunt just how smart they really are…in order to impress Paul Graham. An arbiter of influence in the science and tech sphere, it can send impressive amounts of traffic to even the most self-aggrandizing of Svbtle blogs, which is why so many people try to game the voting system. But it also provides an accepted way of ranking what’s important to certain players in the tech world.
Carsabi, a comparison shopping site for cars that graduated from Y Combinator this March, just announced that its cofounders would be joining Mark Zuckerberg to “help Facebook users connect and share.” Facebook isn’t actually acquiring Carsabi, just the talent. “We’re looking for someone to buy the Carsabi service, so the two of us can focus on our new jobs,” cofounders Dwight Crow and Christopher Berner wrote on the company blog.
TechCrunch reports that features baked into Carsabi–including a social element that lets you ask friends for shopping advice and the startup’s ability to crawl all available car listings–make the duo a natural fit to help develop Facebook Gifts or Events. However, we hear that Carsabi first got an offer from Google (another natural fit!) and then parlayed that into a counteroffer from Facebook.
Grishin Robotics, the New York City based robot investment firm started by the “Russian Mark Zuckerberg,” Dmitry Grishin, announced its very first portfolio company today via a $250,000 investment in Double Robotics.
Double Robotics is a recent Y Combinator graduate based in California. They have already sold 600 units of their first product, Double, a bot that puts your iPad on wheels and turns it into a mobile telecommunications device. It’s perfect for bosses in remote locations who want to supervise more than just the conference room from afar.
Is there any startup that doesn’t pivot at least a couple of times these days? The term is everywhere, to the point that, during a recent round of putt-putt golf, we overheard an entrepreneur passing off the many pivots of his e-commerce startup as acceptable first-date small talk.
Well, the Harvard Business Review has discovered the trend, and the venerable publication isn’t so sure it likes what it sees.
The magazine’s September issue takes a look at four recent(ish)ly released business books–The Launch Pad, The Lean Startup, Startup Weekend and The Ultralight Startup–and came away quite alarmed indeed. The title of its review: “Too Many Pivots, Too Little Passion.”
What’s a good publicity stunt without a stable of pretty women? Apparently even Y Combinator startups fall prey to that age-old logic. DNAInfo reports that Shoptiques, a fashion marketplace for local boutiques, has planned an elaborate jaunt around Manhattan today to dole out free hugs in exchange for some brand recognition. And judging from their Facebook page, looks like they’ll also have a ton of hot pink swag in tow.
Starting at 11 a.m., five models will begin giving free hugs out in SoHo, then travel up through Washington Square Park, Union Square, Times Square and end at Columbus Circle. The whole schtick is so well-planned that you can even track the models’ location on a sweetly-drawn map on Shoptiques’ website.
Gen Y just loves working for tech companies. This study cites “flexibility,” which we’re just going to read as “free food.” [CNN Money]
AT&T towers are reportedly screwing with a pricey new police radio system in Oakland, California. [Ars Technica]
Quora assesses Y Combinator’s latest batch of graduates. [Quora]
Speaking of YC: Revenue was all the rage at yesterday’s Demo Day. [Bloomberg]
Shoreham, Long Island is one step closer to having its very own Nikola Tesla Science Center: The Oatmeal-instigated Indiegogo fundraiser to buy the inventor’s last remaining lab surpassed its funding goal late yesterday afternoon. [Indiegogo]
Six percent of the American population lives out of reach of broadband. [Wall Street Journal]
Today was Y Combinator Demo Day. While Paul Graham-approved crème de la crème were inside, pitching their racing hearts out, Peter Sullivan was outside, slapping fake tickets that proclaimed, ”You have illegally been subjected to make a big investment decision based on a two-minute demo pitch” on the cars outside.
Mr. Sullivan is the CEO of the social travel startup Tripl, conveniently available for download via a QR code on the ticket.
We can only hope for Mr. Sullivan’s sake that Silicon Valley investors pay more attention to pesky parking tickets than many a wealthy driver.
If you’ve ever hoped of touring Paris’s sewer system in the dead of night accompanied by a lovely French homeless man, then you and I have a slightly different definitions of the word “vacation.” But for more adventurous travelers, Vayable might be able to make your unorthodox dreams come true. The San Francisco-based travel start-up announced a few new features today, including concierge and improved international payment services.
Y Combinator-backed Vayable, which launched in April 2011 and opened an office in New York a few months later, offers over 2,500 unique travel experiences to its users in 600 cities around the world. Some special souls have used the site to spend the night on San Francisco’s former prison island –Alcatraz – while others have gone on tours of the Tenderloin neighborhood in San Francisco guided by a homeless man.