The Real TechStars of New York
At any startup accelerator, Demo Days are a relentlessly upbeat affair–a parade of promotional pitch decks and stats about market size that somehow always reach up into the billions. But in New York City, Techstars’ biannual showcase takes the cake.
Founded in Boulder, the program launched in New York in 2011 (just as the startup scene cried out for tent poles to rally around) and easily fills auditoriums. Companies often announce “soft-circled” funding or even that the round has already closed. Mayor Bloomberg even called the number of investors who fly to New York to check out presentations, “proof positive that the TechStars is going to change this world and certainly change America and this city.”
Or as TechStars mentor Joel Spolsky put it before introducing one of the startups at Webster Hall: “Time to get my company oversubscribed.”
They make great presents, but books are deceptively difficult to give: You don’t want to buy some random bestseller off the front table at Barnes and Noble, but wander very far into the store and it’s easy to become overwhelmed with options. To lend a hand, we’ve combed through this year’s techie-targeted releases (and tossed in a couple of old favorites, as well).
Did we mention that winter is coming? Y Combinator is funding less startups in its winter 2013 cycle—less than 50 so far, down from 84 this summer. To reach the smaller number, the accelerator focused on predictors of failure. Turned out, they took a friendlier view of applicants they met after lunch. [Y Combinator]
“If you put yourself in the position to ask for something that is already legal, you’ll find you’ll never be able to roll out.” Perpetual bull-in-a-china-shop Uber is having some issues with regulators. [New York Times]
After ballooning to 84 companies this summer, Y Combinator is cutting back to less than fifty fundees. [YC]
Looks like Facebook is still hacking away at the problem of mobile: Now that Instagram has been fully assimilated, there’s talk of the social networking buying the paid mobile messaging app Whatsapp. [TechCrunch]
The battle for same-day shipping supremacy is commencing, and it ain’t gonna be cheap. [Wall Street Journal]
Free your miiind, man: Cast off the finance lens, with its talk of “bubbles,” and focus on the product lens. That means asking not whether a sector is overfunded, but something more like, “have the products in area X caught up to the best practices of the industry? Are they reaching their potential?” [Chris Dixon]
Nintendo is releasing a Wii Mini on December 7th, just in time for the holidays. [The Verge]
Startup incubator Y Combinator has announced a VC program, allowing YC students access to guidance and an $80,000 investment from firms like Andreessen Horowitz and General Catalyst. The program will replace the Start Fund. [Y Combinator]
First we worried that tech sites were turning into press release regurgitation factories; now it turns out some of those press releases aren’t even true. Here’s how PRWeb helps distribute fake and sketchy press releases. [Search Engine Land]
Tumblr has broken into the top 10 sites in the U.S. with a worldwide audience of 170 million people. [Tumblr]
Don’t worry: the Pentagon says a human will always decide if a robot kills you. Feel better now? [Wired]
Kickstarter is being sued for patent infringement over a $3 million 3D printing project. [The Daily Dot]
Teach Me How to Startup
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.”
Visitors who search for Harlem rapper Azealia Banks’ breakout hit, “212,” on Rap Genius, an online platform that crowd-sources 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 V.C. firm, which clawed its way into the Silicon Valley firmament in just three years by aggressively plowing millions into fast-growth tech start-ups 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.