All posts in “Software”

These are the most successful companies to emerge from Y Combinator

Earlier this month, Brex, a credit card provider to startups, announced it had raised $125 million at a $1.1 billion valuation.

The round was impressive for a couple of reasons. 1. The founders are a pair of 22-year-olds that had set out to build a virtual reality company before pivoting to payments. And 2. They had only completed Y Combinator, a well-known Silicon Valley startup accelerator, the year prior.

Y Combinator is responsible for many successes in the startup world, certainly more than its fellow accelerators, which are all known to provide early-stage companies with a seed investment  — in YC’s case, $150,000 — mentorship and educational resources through a short-term program that culminates in a demo day.

Today, YC has released the latest list of its most successful companies since it began backing startups in 2005. Ranked by valuation and/or market cap, Brex, sure enough, is the youngest company to crack the top 20:

  1. Airbnb: An online travel community and room-sharing platform founded by Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia and Nathan Blecharczyk. Valuation: $31 billion. YC W2009.
  2. Stripe: A provider of an online payment processing system for internet businesses founded by John and Patrick Collison. Valuation: $20 billion. YC S2009.
  3. Cruise: Acquired by GM in 2006, the company is building autonomous vehicles. It was founded by Kyle Vogt and Daniel Kan. Valuation: $14 billion. YC W2014.
  4. Dropbox: A file hosting service and workplace collaboration platform founded by Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi that went public in March. Market cap: >$10 billion. YC S2007.
  5. Instacart: A grocery and home essentials delivery service founded by Apoorva Mehta, Max Mullen and Brandon Leonardo. Valuation: $7.6 billion. YC S2012.
  6. Machine Zone: A mobile games company, founded by Mike Sherril, Gabriel Leydon and Halbert Nakagawa, known for “Game of War.” Valuation: >$5 billion. YC W2008.
  7. DoorDash: An app-based food delivery service founded by Tony Xu, Stanley Tang and Andy Fang. Valuation: $4 billion. YC S2013.
  8. Zenefits: The provider of human resources software for small and medium-sized businesses founded by Laks Srini and Parker Conrad. Valuation: $2 billion. YC W2013.
  9. Gusto: The provider of software that automates and simplifies payroll for businesses, founded by Josh Reeves, Tomer London and Edward Kim. Valuation: $2 billion. YC W2012.
  10.  Reddit: An online platform for conversation and thousands of communities founded by Alexis Ohanian and Steve Huffman. Valuation: $1.8 billion. YC S2005.
  11.  Coinbase: An digital cryptocurrency exchange and wallet platform founded by Brian Armstrong and Fred Ehrsam. Valuation ~$1.6 billion. YC S2012.
  12.  PagerDuty: A digital ops management platform for businesses founded by Baskar Puvanathasan, Andrew Miklas and Alex Solomon. Valuation: $1.3 billion. YC S2012.
  13.  Docker: A platform for applications that gives developers the freedom to build, manage and secure business-critical applications, founded by Solomon Hykes and Sebastien Pahl. Valuation: $1.3 billion. YC S2010.
  14.  Ginkgo Bioworks: A biotech company focused on designing custom microbes founded by Reshma Shetty, Jason Kelly, Barry Canton and others. Valuation: >$1 billion. YC S2014.
  15.  Rappi: A Latin American on-demand delivery startup founded by Felipe Villamarin, Simon Borrero and Sebastian Mejia. Valuation: >$1 billion. YC W2016.
  16.  Brex: A B2B financial startup that provides corporate cards to startups. Its founders include Henrique Dubugras and Pedro Franceschi. Valuation: $1.1 billion. YC W2017.
  17.  GitLab: A developer service founded by Sid Sijbrandij and Dmitriy Zaporozhets, that aims to offer a full lifecycle DevOps platform. Valuation: $1.1 billion. YC W2015.
  18.  Twitch: An Amazon-acquired live streaming platform for video games used by millions. Its founders include Emmett Shear, Justin Kan, Michael Seibel and Kyle Vogt. YC W2007.
  19.  Flexport: A logistics company that moves freight globally by air, ocean, rail and truck founded by Ryan Petersen. Valuation: ~$1 billion. YC W2014.
  20.  Mixpanel: A user analytics platform that helps each person at a business understand its users founded by Suhail Doshi and Tim Trefren. Valuation: >$865 million. YC S2009.

The full list of Y Combinator’s 100 most successful companies is available here.

7 of the best antivirus software options

Long gone are the days when households owned just one PC. Odds are that everyone in your home has their own PC or laptop, as well as a smartphone. Buy McAfee AntiVirus Plus once and you have a license for all of these systems. It’s a significant bonus for an antivirus software that isn’t entirely foolproof. 
More expensive than most at about $62 per year, McAfee AntiVirus Plus is still pretty cheap if you’re using it across multiple systems. Its scan takes an average length of time compared to its competitors, and does a solid job of detecting most threats. Similarly, the built-in firewall detects most threats automatically, without much need for you to tweak or fiddle around with any settings (unless you want to, of course). Also, a vulnerability scan goes some way to keeping you aware of tasks that may have slipped by the wayside, such as installing critical updates. 
Where things falter a little is when it comes to URL blocking. McAfee AntiVirus Plus simply isn’t up to scratch here, missing out on numerous suspicious URLs, but it is good at spotting dodgy files if they get that far. 
Unusually, McAfee offers an unique pledge: if your PC gets a virus, a McAfee security expert will remotely access your machine to remove it. If they fail, you get a full refund. Obviously it’s better to not get infected at all, but it’s a nod towards McAfee’s confidence in being able to protect you and your family from any threat. 
Elsewhere, there are iOS and Android apps to further reassure you. The iOS app is fairly rudimentary, merely offering backup, encryption, and device tracking, rather than any antivirus tools. However, the Android app is suitably beefy with antivirus, URL blocking, clean up tools, and a remote lock. In McAfee’s defense, the locked down nature of iOS will explain the differences in both these tools. There’s Mac app support too, which works as well as the PC version. 
In all cases, McAfee AntiVirus Plus hardly slows down the system it’s installed on, amply reminding you of why it’s worth the investment. Being able to use one program across multiple devices is a huge help in simplifying security matters at home, and it’s pretty effective too.  

Deliverr raises $7M to help e-commerce businesses compete with Amazon Prime

When Amazon rolled out its membership-based two-day shipping service in 2005, e-commerce and customer expectations around fulfillment speed changed forever.

Today, more than 100 million people use Amazon Prime. That means, 100 million people are fully accustomed to two-day shipping and if they can’t have it, they shop elsewhere. As The Wall Street Journal’s Christopher Mims recently put it: “Alongside life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, you can now add another inalienable right: two-day shipping on practically everything.”

Only recently have Amazon’s competitors begun to offer similar fast delivery options. About two years ago, Walmart launched its own free two-day delivery service for its owned-inventory; eBay followed suit, establishing a three-day or less delivery guaranteed option for shoppers in March 2017.

To power these Prime-like delivery options, Walmart, eBay and the Canadian e-commerce business Shopify are relying on a little upstart.

One-year-old Deliverr helps businesses offer rapid delivery experiences to their customers. Today, the company is announcing a $7.1 million Series A led by Joe Lonsdale’s 8VC, with participation from Zola founder Shan-Lyn Ma, Flexport chief executive officer Ryan Peterson and others.

The San Francisco-based startup uses machine learning and predictive intelligence to determine which of its warehouses to store its client’s goods.

Currently, Deliverr operates out of more than 10 warehouses in Texas, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Ohio and New Jersey, among other states, though co-founder Michael Krakaris says that number is growing every week. Its customers typically store inventory in three to five different locations based on Deliverr’s predictive algorithms.

Unlike Amazon, which owns more than 75 fulfillment centers, Deliverr doesn’t own its warehouses. Krakaris describes the company’s strategy as a sort of Uber for fulfillment.

“Uber didn’t change the physical infrastructure of cars. They didn’t build their own taxis. What they did was create software that could connect excess capacity drivers,” Krakaris told TechCrunch. “Most warehouses aren’t going to be full. We are going in and filling that extra space they wouldn’t otherwise fill.”

One of the startup’s tricks is to use brand-neutral packaging so any and all marketplaces could theoretically power fulfillment through Deliverr. Amazon, of course, sticks a Prime sticker on all its outgoing packages. And because Amazon’s fulfillment service is used by some eBay sellers, eBay items are known to show up at customers’ homes in Amazon-branded packaging. Not a great look for eBay.

You need an independent fulfillment service that can handle all these different fulfillment channels and be neutral,” Krakaris said.

Deliverr plans to use the investment to scale its team and ink partnerships with additional online retailers.

The Freewrite Traveler offers distraction-free writing for the road

If you’ve ever tried to write something long – a thesis, a book, or a manifesto outlining your disappointment in the modern technocracy and your plan to foment violent revolution – you know that distractions can slow you down or even stop the creative process. That’s why the folks at Astrohaus created the Freewrite, a distraction-free typewriter, and it’s always why they are launching the Traveler, a laptop-like word processor that’s designed for writing and nothing else.

The product, which I saw last week, consists of a hearty, full-sized keyboard and an e-ink screen. There are multiple “documents” you can open and close and the system autosaves and syncs to services like Dropbox automatically. The laptop costs $279 on Indiegogo and will have a retail price of $599.

The goal of the Freewrite Traveler is to give you a place to write. You pull it out of your bad, open it, and start typing. That’s it. There are no Tweets, Facebook sharing systems, or games. It lasts for four weeks on one charge – a bold claim but not impossible – and there are some improvements to the editing functions including virtual arrow keys that let you move up and down in a document as you write. There are also hotkeys to bring up ancillary information like outlines, research, or notes.

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If the Traveler is anything like the original Freewrite then you can expect some truly rugged hardware. I tested an early model and the entire thing was built like a tank or, more correctly, like a Leica. Because it is aimed at the artistic wanderer, the entire thing weighs two pounds and is about as big as the collected stories of Raymond Carver.

Is it for you? Well, if you liked the original Freewrite or even missed the bandwagon when it first launched, you might really enjoy the Traveler. Because it is small and light it could easily become a second writing device for your more creative work that you pull out in times of pensive creativity. It is not a true word processor replacement, however, and it is a “first-thought-best-thought” kind of tool, allowing you to get words down without much fuss. I wouldn’t recommend it for research-intensive writing but you could easily sketch out almost any kind of document on the Traveler and then edit it on a real laptop.

There aren’t many physical tools to support distraction-free writing. Some folks, myself included, have used the infamous AlphaSmart, a crazy old word processor used by students or simply set up laptops without a Wi-Fi connection. The Freewrite Traveler takes all of that to the next level by offering the simplest, clearest, and most distraction-free system available. Given it’s 50% off right now on Indiegogo it might be the right time to take the plunge.

Spire Health Tags are now on Apple’s shelves

Spire’s Health Tags, the dark and tiny devices you stick on your clothes to gather all sorts of health data from your steps, heartbeat and stress levels is now available at your local Apple Store.

The company started out with a breath tracking device to detect when you are feeling tense and help calm you down. But four years in and its now all about the wearable “tags” you stick on items of clothing like your pants or sports bra.

Yes, yes, there are lots of gadgets out there to gather similar information — the Apple Watch will now even detect if you have a fall or something is wrong with your heart — but the Spire health tag is nothing like a Fitbit or Apple Watch, according to the company. For one, there’s zero need to charge the device. One tag’s battery will last a year and a half before dying out. They’re also machine washable. You just pick a few outfits and stick a tag on each of them.

Of course a few other startups out there are working on making smart, washable, data-gathering clothes. Enflux makes the clothing and then sews in the motion sensor to tell you if you are lifting correctly. Vitali is a “smart” bra with a built-in sensor to detect stress. Then there’s OmSignal, which makes body-hugging workout clothes that gather “medical-grade biometric data to achieve optimal health.” But these tiny health tags are different in that they allow you to choose the clothes you want to adhere the monitor to.

Like Spire’s first product, the Stone, which earned more than $8 million in sales, according to the company, the tags will also pick up on times of stress and help calm you down through a series of breaths and focus on the app.

“Continuous health data will revolutionize health and wellness globally, but early incarnations have been hampered by poor user experiences and a focus on the hardware over the outcomes that the hardware can create,” Spire’s founder Jonathan Palley said. “By making the device ‘disappear’, we believe Health Tag is the first product to unlock the potential.”

Spire’s Health Tags will be sold in Apple Stores as a three-pack for $130, six-pack for $230 and an eight-pack for $300, with additional pack sizes available on the company’s website.