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Here are 64 startups that launched today at Y Combinator’s W18 Demo Day

Biotech, robotics, and fintech startups took the spotlight today at Y Combinator’s 26th Demo Day. This batch features 141 total companies from 23 countries, with presentations spread over two days. The house was packed at Mountain View’s Computer History Museum with wealthy investors forced to stand in the back or sit on the floor. Meanwhile, marijuana soda, wind turbine-cleaning drones, and indestructible panty hose startups demoed their products in the break room and parking lot. Y Combinator has made progress ramping up diversity in its startup school. Thirty-five percent of this batch’s companies are internationally based, 27 percent have a female founder, and 13 percent have an underrepresented minority founder. The 50-person YC team now includes 18 partners, with Eric Migicovsky of Pebble joining to help out hardware companies and explore the accelerator’s opportunities in China. The question on everyone’s minds is which startups will join the 15 previous ones like Stripe, Dropbox, and Airbnb now worth over $1 billion. But with YC’s portfolio moving beyond social apps and enterprise tools towards hard science innovation, and 18 percent of this batch’s companies coming from health and biotech, many of the software investors seemed a little overwhelmed. We’ll let you choose your favorites from our write-ups of all 64 that pitched on the record today. Check back later for TechCrunch’s picks of the top companies, and we’ll have full coverage of Demo Day 2 tomorrow. Bear Flag Robotics Bear Flag is building autonomous tractors. They claim to be able to reduce input by 20 percent and increase production yield by 11 percent. They’re already testing tractors in the field in California. They plan to charge about $4,000 per tractor per month. Universe A mobile app for building mobile websites. Who would have thought? Universe lets users build a personal portfolio site with the same ease of editing a photo on Instagram. Users can follow other sites, which creates a bit of a Tumblr-like network of personal blogs. Users have already built one hundred thousand sites with the iOS app which has expanded its functionality in recent months to let users build multi-page sites. The app currently has 2,200 paid subscribers paying an average of $3.40 per month to gain premium features on the app. Read more about Universe on TechCrunch here. Juni Learning Juni is an online education program for kids that is targeting the $9 billion after-school market. The idea is to start with teaching kids computer science in a virtual, one-on-one setting by pairing them with tutors. It charges $250 per month for once-a-week classes Juni says it’s grown 25 percent month over month in the last six months. The company also says it’s profitable, with a 95 percent monthly renewal rate. Without adequate computer science courses in schools, and the skills becoming clearly critical future employment, Juni could educate the next generation of programmers. Read more about Juni on TechCrunch here. SafetyWing There are 25 million digital nomads who move around the world while working on the Internet, and that can make health insurance complicated. SafetyWing offers $37 per month health insurance in 180 countries ($30 extra fee in the U.S.) that covers hospital visits and prescriptions but doesn’t cover preventative treatment or pre-existing conditions like cancer. SafetyWing has partnered with insurance giant TokioMarine to administer the plans. The goal is to build a global safety net for freelancers and digital nomads that the startup hopes will include banking and income protection in the future. The startup will have to convince travelers that health insurance is worth the price and hassle, but with a $15 billion per year market and the number of digital nomads doubling every five years, there’s room for a modernized vision for health insurance. Read more about SafetyWing on TechCrunch here. Macromoltek Macromoltek wants to “change the drug discovery process,” by building software that designs antibodies. The startup uses academic research combined with technology to help drug companies. So far, Macromoltek has ten paying customers, generating $50,000 in revenue for 2017. They’ve also secured $500,000 in LOIs (letter of intent) to design new antibodies. Passerine Passerine makes unmanned aircrafts that take off and land like birds. They intend to sell it to companies to use for things like mapping large areas, light weight cargo delivery, lidar surveying, and powerline monitoring. Visor Visor wants to turn top gamers into even more skilled players. The startup analyzes eSports gameplay footage to help coach users on what gaming skills they need to improve on. The team analyzed 1.3 million minutes of footage in the past 30 days and they boast over 39 thousand monthly active users, growing 52 percent month-over-month since launching at the beginning of the year. Proven Proven uses data, artificial intelligence and machine learning to design individualized skincare products for consumers. To provide the best skin care products for people, Proven has built a database, which it calls the Beauty Genome Project, that uses 8 million reviews from people in conjunction with AI to understand what ingredients have an impact on people. The idea is to help find people the products that are best for their skin topology. Read more about Proven on TechCrunch here. Vena Medical Vena Medical has created what they claim is the “world’s smallest camera” that is designed to help with medical treatments like liver cancer and strokes by looking at patient’s blood vessels. They’ve secured pilots with hospitals and believe there is a $5 billion market opportunity for their single use medical device. “Every patient treated is another camera used.” Haiku Haiku wants to do for apps want Unity did for games. It’s a simple app creation tool, meant for developers and designers to use together. The apps it creates are cross platform across both iOS and Android Patchd Medical Patchd has built a chest-worn device that detects sepsis, the No. 1 cause of death in hospital patients. The idea is that patients would no longer have to stay in the hospital for monitoring, as the device can record and analyze vital signs and send results back to doctors. They currently have a paid pilot in Australia, and are currently testing the device with 20 people. They’ll conduct a clinical trial in 2019. If the product can reliably predict sepsis, patients will be able to get back to the hospital in time if they have complications. Patchd’s device could save tons of money for hospitals and insurers while getting sick people home where they want to be. Proof Proof helps websites turn their visitors into purchasing customers. As an example, websites can show visitors how many people are currently viewing a product. The idea is for those notifications to help convert people into buyers. Proof currently has 2,700 paying customers, who see an average 10 to 15 percent lift in conversions. Proof’s long-term goal is to personalize the entire marketing funnel. Openland Openland wants to create a better way for real estate developers to acquire properties. It does this through a slick interface that allows builders to sort through available lands and connect quickly with landowners, evaluate the properties and get through the paperwork. Openland’s co-founder called the fact that 90% of buildable space isn’t for sale the “biggest roadblock for the real estate industry.” SharpestMinds The biggest tech companies in the U.S. — the so-called FAANGs, or Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google — have massive recruiting efforts on university campuses and around the world. But SharpestMinds wants to build a set of tools to help the rest of those tech companies that don’t have those recruiting resources find talent before they get snatched up. SharpestMinds matches up students that apply on their site with companies where they can work on a trial basis, building up that early relationship that could lead to a job down the line. Read more about SharpestMinds on TechCrunch here. Curious Fictions Curious Fictions is an mobile-friendly site where readers can find, read and pay for short stories. You can pay $5, $10 or $15 per month, and then the money is distributed to the authors of the stories that they liked that month. You can also tip authors for individual stories. Read more about CuriousFictions on TechCrunch here. Culture Robotics Culture Robotics is growing organisms for biotech companies. It claims to have built “the first cloud bioreactor farm” and compare themselves to Amazon Web Services, but for biomanufacturing. Its technology creates bacteria like collagen for beauty companies. Culture Robotics believes its applicable for synthetic biology, microbiome and cellular therapy. So far, they’ve secured three paying customers and are generating $50k in revenue per month. Qulture.Rocks Qulture.Rocks is HR management for Latin America. They’re have grown about 20% month over month for the past 2 years, and have hit the break-even point. AesculaTech A bio-tech startup that aims to create a more patient-friendly way to deliver drugs. AesculaTech has invented a temperature responsive material that enables the company to make customized medical devices inside the body. The company’s first use of its technology is going toward the treatment of dry eye syndrome, which the founders say affects more than 20 million people in America. The goal is to become the go-to material used to make medical devices. Read more about AesculaTech on TechCrunch here. Evry Health Evry Health wants to take on the employee health insurance market by tackling a specific type of customer. The startup is specializing in working with customer companies that have between 200-1,000 employees. They boast that their product is 20 percent less than competitors and offers enhanced coverage. They’re tackling the $10B Texas health care market when they launch at the beginning of next year. Aspire Aspire provides loans to small businesses in Southeast Asia. Its team of “credit experts” promise to make a decision within two hours and have cash disbursed by the next day. So far, they’ve secured $500k in loans in just eight weeks. They support banks like Citi, Maybank and HSBC. Sudden Coffee Sudden makes instant coffee that the company claims is “better than fresh Starbucks” – backing it up with what they say was a blind test in which 8 of 10 coffee drinkers chose their instant stuff. They’re currently in 20 retail stores, and will soon be sold in REI. Their secret sauce, as they explain it: they’ve found a way to make instant coffee without requiring any boiling. CoinTracker CoinTracker is a platform to track your crypto across all exchanges, wallets, and even currencies. Today most crypto-enthusiasts try to do this using complicated and bloated Google spreadsheets, so an automated solution has the potential to save a lot of people a lot of time. CoinTracker also has the ability to optimize tax filings by computing capital gains reports using FIFO, LIFO or HIFO accounting. Read more about CoinTracker on TechCrunch here. Supermedium Supermedium is a web browser built natively for virtual reality. The team behind the browser was previously working at Mozilla working on A-Frame defining the WebVR standard which aims to get apps and games off your hard drive and onto the world wide web. Supermedium is working with developers to make their browser the default hub for quick and impactful games and demos. A beta of the app is available now on the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive VR headsets. Read more about Supermedium on TechCrunch here. Sheerly Genius Sheerly Genius manufactures and sells rip-proof, snag-proof and “lifeproof” pantyhose that last up to 50 wears. The pantyhose are made with the same type of fiber found in bulletproof vests and climbing equipment. Right now, Sheerly Genius sells basic black, sheer pantyhose. Down the road, Sheerly Genius plans to move into the “nude” option, which entails a number of different colors. Read more about Sheerly Genius on TechCrunch here. Hexel Hexel lets any web community launch its own immediately-usable cryptocurrency. The idea is that sites could reward their own users for engagement or let them buy tokens for different purposes, but that they could also trade them for other sites’ currencies on the Hexel exchange. For example, Quora could reward you tokens for having the top answer to science questions. Those could potentially be used to promote your own answers or questions, or you could trade them in via Hexel for hypothetical Reddit tokens that would let that user post on science subreddits reserved for experts. Hexel will earn a fee when use use its exchange. While 300 currencies have been created since Hexel’s launch six weeks ago, the startup will have a tough time persuade popular web platforms to complicate themselves with tokens. Most people still only understand cryptocurrencies as stores of value like Bitcoin, so lots of user education would be required too. Read more about Hexel on TechCrunch here. Modern Health A mental health benefit platform for employers and their employees. Modern Health connects employees to a healthcare professional or digital tools to address things like depression, anxiety Since launching four weeks ago, Modern Health has posted $37,000 in annual recurring revenue. So far, employee engagement comes in at 30 percent. Volley One in five American households now have a new family member in the house named Alexa, Siri or Google. Volley wants to build a platform for voice-based gaming on home assistant hardware. The company has the number one game for Alexa and has 900k MAUs since they launched last April. Read more about Volley on TechCrunch here. Repl.it Repl.it is an instant serverless computing platform. It lets you write and deploy apps for your browser. They claim to be the “easiest way to start coding,” letting users build “complex applications with thousands of lines of codes.” Repl.it believes its cloud platform is perfect for building games and other interactive programs. Read more about Repl.it on TechCrunch here. Trusu “Borderless shopping for Asia”. Trusu says that getting Western products in Asia is often difficult, requiring you to use a package forwarding service at a costly premium. They import products in bulk once a week, allowing their prices to be up to 75% lower than alternative services. Leap Leap is a private social network for women in tech. Designed by and for women, Leap could help people find investors, co-founders, mentors, jobs, and more. Leap uses a real names but allows some anonymous posts, and employs a light touch in moderation but with the perspective on abuse lacking at most male-run social networks. Leap now has 2000 users, but has plenty of room to grow with 4.8 million women in tech in the U.S. Social networks do have outstanding lifetime value if they can retain their users and understand what they buy.The question will be whether one-off, niche social networks can succeed in the face of massive networks like Facebook and its Groups feature by focusing on thwarting abuse and creating a more civil discussion space. The private beta for Leap is now accepting signups. Avro Life Science A life science company that develops skin patches for drug delivery. Skin patches work by allowing the drugs to deliver through your skin, directly into your bloodstream. That means Avro’s skin patches eliminate the need to swallow pills and involve the GI tract. Avro makes patches for hundreds of drugs, like Benadryl, Zyrtec, Claritin and Aerius. Avro’s research has shown effectiveness in terms of relieving seasonal allergies. Avro says it’s on track for FDA approval by Q2 of 2019. Sourcify Sourcify wants to be the Flexport for product sourcing by tackling how companies get in touch with manufacturing pipelines. They want to take manufacturing sorting out of Excel and stick into its software. The startup says that they can add visualization and transparency to the industry as it has already “pre-vetted” more than 700 factories. Lawyaw Lawyaw builds “intelligent templates for law firms”. Built by an ex-law firm partner and an ex-Google engineer, it uses natural language processing to create new legal documents from a lawyer’s existing documents, allowing it to be re-used later as a template. 800+ lawyers are currently using the service, with 23,000 templates made so far. The Lobby The Lobby helps job applicants secure one-on-one calls with company insiders. With resume critique and mock interviews, the startup helps job seekers get advice “from a real human who has the job they want.” They already work with insiders at top investment banks like J.P. Morgan and Barclays and have a $100,000 gross merchandise volume (GMV) run rate, taking 45% margins on the calls. With 40 million Americans looking for high-skilled jobs, they hope that this is a $2.4 billion market opportunity. The Lobby “turns employes into talent scouts.” Vathys Vathys is an artificial intelligence startup that makes a deep learning chip that is supposedly 10x faster than the competition. Computation accounts for 8 percent of power consumption of a chip. The rest is data movement, according to the founder. By addressing data movement, Vathys has created a processor that is 10x faster than the competition. The company already has a purchase order for $50K. California Dreamin’ California Dreamin’ is a cannabis-infused THC sparkling juice beverage designed to get you a little high the same way a beer gets you a little drunk. Marijuana legalization has opened the door to a massive new industry, including psychoactive products for people who don’t want to smoke anything. Each bottle retails for $8 to $10, and contains 10mg of energizing sativa THC — one standard dose. It tastes sweet but with a hint of earthy plant notes, and you can drink a whole bottle without ending up locked into your couch like some competitors that put 100mg in a bottle. If California Dreamin’ can appeal to baby boomers and soccer moms looking to avoid the hangovers of alcohol while still imbibing something to relax, the business could blossom. California Dreamin’ is now delivering its first cases to recreational dispensaries in SF after selling $10,000-worth in its beta program. The legal cannabis business is $10 billion per year and growing 30 percent each year, but California Dreamin’ wants to nab part of the $210 billion alcohol market by getting people to switch to cannabis. Read more about California Dreamin’ on TechCrunch here. Rhythmm Rhythmm wants to take live chat conversations from experts and interesting people and let others follow along. The startup wants to take the insights people are getting from chat groups on Telegram and remove all the noise with their own platform. Only people who have been invited by the chat creator can participate, everybody else just follows the conversations. Algosurg Inc Algosurg has built algorithms to simulate surgeries. They believe that “robotics is the future of surgery,” and have developed something called Tabplan3D, which uses cloud technology instead of Xrays to help orthopedic surgeons prepare using a 3D virtual surgery plan. They have four patents filed and FDA approval in process. OSIMple OSIMple helps build automated infrastructure inspections — in other words, software that helps optimize the inspection of things like roads, railways, bridges, and dams. 500 different bridges were inspected with their software in the last 6 months, and they have letters of intent from 2 large companies. Orangewood Labs Orangewood Labs uses massive 3D printer-esque wood-cutting robots to make on-demand furniture. With no inventory, Orangewood avoids the costs of unsold goods or massive warehouses. It crowdsources 3D designs which it can tweak into different styles, colors, and sizes to fit your home. As more of commerce moves online, customers no longer expect to be able to test everything in person before they buy. Perhaps Orangewood will use augmented reality to virtually try its desks and chairs in your home. The startup has already scored $2 million in orders. OpenSea OpenSea is a peer-to-peer marketplace for buying, selling and discovering crypto assets and collectibles. Just as Coinbase operates as an exchange for cryptocurrencies, this is a marketplace for all other asset types on the blockchain, like software licenses, collectibles, Cryptokitties and other digital goods on the blockchain. In the last two months, Open Sea has done $500,000 in ethereal volume. Playing Viral Playing Viral is an Indonesian startup that assists online publishers through delivering leads for advertisers. The team works with surveys over visual ad units and can analyze the text to ensure that users are getting surveys in their language and dialect. Correlia Biosystems Spun out of bioengineering research at UC Berkeley, Correlia Biosystems is able to analyze microsamples of blood, making it “easier to get more data from a tiny drop.” They claim to be “opening the space to next gen protein detection,” by reducing the time and cost for quantifying proteins for pharmaceutical applications. So far, they have brought in $55,000 in revenue in three months and have also secured $9.3 million in LOIs. Correlia believes this is a $11.6 billion market opportunity. Sqreen Sqreen is a tool that sits in your web app and tries to prevent attacks. It watches the behavior of users within your app to identify and block against SQL injections and cross-site scripting attacks. It currently works with apps built on Ruby on Rails, NodeJS, and Python. Sqreen was in the TechCrunch Disrupt SF Battlefield in 2016. You can read more about Sqreen on TechCrunch here. Piccolo Voice assistants may be the home product du jour, but Piccolo wants you to control your smarthome with your hands. No, not like you already do, but by using gestures. Point at a light to turn it on, scrub through a video on your TV by moving your hand in front of you etc etc. The company is building a smart camera that can map a user’s skeletal geometry and see what the user wants to control. Read more about Piccolo on TechCrunch here. NexGenT Bootcamps became insanely popular in the mid 2010s, but there’s been a big shakeout since then — and NexGenT hopes to take the fundamentals of getting an engineer production ready, but with a different approach. Rather than try to have somoene ready to be a full-scale developer in 3 months, NexGenT focuses on just certificate programs to get people ready to be network engineers. The process is longer, but hopefully more robust as well. Read more about NextGenT on TechCrunch here. VOICERY Voicery synthesizes ultra-realistic computer voices that can use natural emotion and inflection, and whisper or joke. 70 percent of people prefer its voices to Amazon Alexa’s. Voicery analyzes hundreds of human voices to train deep neural networks that power its product, rather than trying to train a computer to mimic a single specific voice. Voicery could be used to generate voice overs, read the news, dub television shows and more. It’s already got a letter of intent for $300,000 to make audio books. With more speech-enabled devices coming on the market every day, there could be a big market for giving different brands their own voice. Read more about Voicery on TechCrunch here. LetsDoThis.com A marketplace for endurance events, like 5ks, half-marathons and other races. Let’s Do This says revenue has doubled every two weeks since launching. So far, it has partnered with over 850 races, like IronMan and The Color Run. Shone Flexport showed how ripe the freight industry is for disruption, Shone is retrofitting old cargo ships with its proprietary technology that allows them to deliver shipping containers autonomously and by remote control. Quit Genius Quit Genius is an app “that delivers personalized therapy to help people quit smoking.” It helps people identify the reasons they smoke and hopes to help them overcome them. They work with companies including a “technology giant” to pay for Quit Genius, in order to help employees. The startup says there is a $10 billion market for people trying to quit smoking, and wants to expand to alcohol and other addictions. Molly Molly uses AI to generate Q&As for people who are frequently asked the same questions — celebrities, field experts, etc. Read more about Molly on TechCrunch here. Flint Flint is a mobile banking solution for Mexico that lets people pay merchants and friends using scannable QR codes. And for the 56 percent of the population that is unbanked, Flint lets users deposit or withdrawal cash from their app’s account at local shops and restaurants. It’s essentially a crowdsourced ATM. Flint is growing payment volume 5X per month as it tries to do what WeChat and Alipay did for China. Tingles A video platform for relaxation. Tingles is an iOS and Android app designed to help you relax and fall asleep. It’s a video genre called ASMR, which is supposedly growing 130 percent year over year. It currently has 60,000 monthly active users who view about 1.3 hours worth of content every day. Read more about Tingles on TechCrunch here Runa HR Runa HR wants to help small businesses in Latin America by automating payroll. The startup is pricing its product the same as US alternatives, but is seeking to strike a balance in Latin America between expensive, inefficient solutions and those that don’t solve all of their employees needs. The team at Runa believes it can eventually take over the entire software business for small businesses in Latin America. Aerones Aerones has built drones that clean wind turbines. They believe this is a safer and more efficient alternative to humans cleaning them and that this is a $1.4 billion market opportunity. They have heavy lifting drones that they hope will eventually clean buildings and have applications for other industries like oil, gas and solar. Aerones says that so far it has received 7 LOIs for 5000 cleanings, a promise of $5 million in revenue. Snackpass Snackpass is a food ordering app focusing on takeout rather than delivery. They’ve been running a field test at Yale, where they say 50% of students are monthly customers. There’s a social network-driven loyalty card aspect that they say is driving growth. Reverie Labs Reverie Labs uses machine learning to scan public molecule research, modify and develop its own molecules, and license the drugs they create to big pharmaceutical companies. The startup claims it can sell molecule licenses for $100 million, and has already signed a milestone deal worth up to $87 million. It expects to have 3 drugs ready for clinical trials by the end of 2019, which is much faster than most pharma companies take. The Harvard and MIT team plan to use their engineering-focused startup identity to recruit ML talent the pharma giants can’t match. And eventually, it wants to go full-stack and sell its own medicines. Read more about Reverie Labs on TechCrunch here Worklytics Worklytics wants to get rid of those boring team meetings, and the right place to look is probably at the management layer. The tool keeps track of the kinds of distractions that employees might get, as well as whether the right processes like one-on-one reviews and code collaboration, happen. It doesn’t track specific employees, but it uses the data it gleans from teams to figure out what works best to help companies run more efficiently. Read more about WorkLytics on TechCrunch here. tEQuitable A third-party, confidential software platform to solve workplace harassment. If an employee is feeling discriminated against or harassed they can open up the app to talk to a professional advisor, then create an action plan to either address the issue or file a formal complaint. Then tEQuitable will aggregate the data and come up with ideas to fix the company culture. The company’s clients include Twilio, GitHub, Obvious Ventures in pilot programs worth $120,000. Storyline Storyline wants to make it easy for people to build content apps for the Alexa platform without any coding. Storyline wants to power content across Alexa the same way YouTube powers video, they say. The startup’s apps already have 180 thousand monthly active users across 500 apps. Read more about Storyline on TechCrunch here. CaptivateIQ CaptivateIQ is software to calculate sales commissions. They believe that 80% of commissions have errors and there’s an opportunity to help companies get it right. They’re starting with the tech industry, but believe this is ultimately a $1.5 billion market opportunity. Beyond commissions, they think they can also help companies increase revenue. Ovipost Cricket farming for now may be an art, but Ovipost — starting with the rearing process — wants to turn it into a science. By first working to optimize hatching and egg yield, Ovipost wants to lower the labor costs to produce crickets, which could then be turned into direct consumer food sources or even feed. Read more about OviPost on TechCrunch here. Veriff Veriff wants to be Stripe for online identity verification, handling the processing of drivers licenses, passports, and IDs for websites. They did $60k in revenue in February, and are currently profitable. They charge ~$1 per verification. ObserveAI ObserveAI is AI-powered quality assurance for call center agents. They use natural language processing to determine how call center agents are interacting with customers and offer up suggestions as to what they might be doing better. The company charges $1000 per customer service agent per year.

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Here are 64 startups that launched today at Y Combinator’s W18 Demo Day 1

Biotech, robotics, and fintech startups took the spotlight today at Y Combinator’s 26th Demo Day. This batch features 141 total companies from 23 countries, with presentations spread over two days. The house was packed at Mountain View’s Computer History Museum with wealthy investors forced to stand in the back or sit on the floor. Meanwhile, marijuana soda, wind turbine-cleaning drones, and indestructible panty hose startups demoed their products in the break room and parking lot. You can see our favorites here: The top 7 startups from Y Combinator’s W18 Demo Day 1 Y Combinator has made progress ramping up diversity in its startup school. Thirty-five percent of this batch’s companies are internationally based, 27 percent have a female founder, and 13 percent have an underrepresented minority founder. The 50-person YC team now includes 18 partners, with Eric Migicovsky of Pebble joining to help out hardware companies and explore the accelerator’s opportunities in China. The question on everyone’s minds is which startups will join the 15 previous ones like Stripe, Dropbox, and Airbnb now worth over $1 billion. But with YC’s portfolio moving beyond social apps and enterprise tools towards hard science innovation, and 18 percent of this batch’s companies coming from health and biotech, many of the software investors seemed a little overwhelmed. We’ll let you choose your favorites from our write-ups of all 64 that pitched on the record today. Check out our top 7 picks from today’s startups, and our full coverage of all the startups from day 2. Come back Wednesday morning for our top picks from day 2. Bear Flag Robotics Bear Flag is building autonomous tractors. They claim to be able to reduce input by 20 percent and increase production yield by 11 percent. They’re already testing tractors in the field in California. They plan to charge about $4,000 per tractor per month. Universe A mobile app for building mobile websites. Who would have thought? Universe lets users build a personal portfolio site with the same ease of editing a photo on Instagram. Users can follow other sites, which creates a bit of a Tumblr-like network of personal blogs. Users have already built one hundred thousand sites with the iOS app which has expanded its functionality in recent months to let users build multi-page sites. The app currently has 2,200 paid subscribers paying an average of $3.40 per month to gain premium features on the app. Read more about Universe on TechCrunch here. Juni Learning Juni is an online education program for kids that is targeting the $9 billion after-school market. The idea is to start with teaching kids computer science in a virtual, one-on-one setting by pairing them with tutors. It charges $250 per month for once-a-week classes Juni says it’s grown 25 percent month over month in the last six months. The company also says it’s profitable, with a 95 percent monthly renewal rate. Without adequate computer science courses in schools, and the skills becoming clearly critical future employment, Juni could educate the next generation of programmers. Read more about Juni on TechCrunch here. SafetyWing There are 25 million digital nomads who move around the world while working on the Internet, and that can make health insurance complicated. SafetyWing offers $37 per month health insurance in 180 countries ($30 extra fee in the U.S.) that covers hospital visits and prescriptions but doesn’t cover preventative treatment or pre-existing conditions like cancer. SafetyWing has partnered with insurance giant TokioMarine to administer the plans. The goal is to build a global safety net for freelancers and digital nomads that the startup hopes will include banking and income protection in the future. The startup will have to convince travelers that health insurance is worth the price and hassle, but with a $15 billion per year market and the number of digital nomads doubling every five years, there’s room for a modernized vision for health insurance. Read more about SafetyWing on TechCrunch here. Macromoltek Macromoltek wants to “change the drug discovery process,” by building software that designs antibodies. The startup uses academic research combined with technology to help drug companies. So far, Macromoltek has ten paying customers, generating $50,000 in revenue for 2017. They’ve also secured $500,000 in LOIs (letter of intent) to design new antibodies. Passerine Passerine makes unmanned aircrafts that take off and land like birds. They intend to sell it to companies to use for things like mapping large areas, light weight cargo delivery, lidar surveying, and powerline monitoring. Visor Visor wants to turn top gamers into even more skilled players. The startup analyzes eSports gameplay footage to help coach users on what gaming skills they need to improve on. The team analyzed 1.3 million minutes of footage in the past 30 days and they boast over 39 thousand monthly active users, growing 52 percent month-over-month since launching at the beginning of the year. Proven Proven uses data, artificial intelligence and machine learning to design individualized skincare products for consumers. To provide the best skin care products for people, Proven has built a database, which it calls the Beauty Genome Project, that uses 8 million reviews from people in conjunction with AI to understand what ingredients have an impact on people. The idea is to help find people the products that are best for their skin topology. Read more about Proven on TechCrunch here. Vena Medical Vena Medical has created what they claim is the “world’s smallest camera” that is designed to help with medical treatments like liver cancer and strokes by looking at patient’s blood vessels. They’ve secured pilots with hospitals and believe there is a $5 billion market opportunity for their single use medical device. “Every patient treated is another camera used.” Haiku Haiku wants to do for apps want Unity did for games. It’s a simple app creation tool, meant for developers and designers to use together. The apps it creates are cross platform across both iOS and Android Patchd Medical Patchd has built a chest-worn device that detects sepsis, the No. 1 cause of death in hospital patients. The idea is that patients would no longer have to stay in the hospital for monitoring, as the device can record and analyze vital signs and send results back to doctors. They currently have a paid pilot in Australia, and are currently testing the device with 20 people. They’ll conduct a clinical trial in 2019. If the product can reliably predict sepsis, patients will be able to get back to the hospital in time if they have complications. Patchd’s device could save tons of money for hospitals and insurers while getting sick people home where they want to be. Proof Proof helps websites turn their visitors into purchasing customers. As an example, websites can show visitors how many people are currently viewing a product. The idea is for those notifications to help convert people into buyers. Proof currently has 2,700 paying customers, who see an average 10 to 15 percent lift in conversions. Proof’s long-term goal is to personalize the entire marketing funnel. Openland Openland wants to create a better way for real estate developers to acquire properties. It does this through a slick interface that allows builders to sort through available lands and connect quickly with landowners, evaluate the properties and get through the paperwork. Openland’s co-founder called the fact that 90% of buildable space isn’t for sale the “biggest roadblock for the real estate industry.” SharpestMinds The biggest tech companies in the U.S. — the so-called FAANGs, or Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google — have massive recruiting efforts on university campuses and around the world. But SharpestMinds wants to build a set of tools to help the rest of those tech companies that don’t have those recruiting resources find talent before they get snatched up. SharpestMinds matches up students that apply on their site with companies where they can work on a trial basis, building up that early relationship that could lead to a job down the line. Read more about SharpestMinds on TechCrunch here. Curious Fictions Curious Fictions is an mobile-friendly site where readers can find, read and pay for short stories. You can pay $5, $10 or $15 per month, and then the money is distributed to the authors of the stories that they liked that month. You can also tip authors for individual stories. Read more about CuriousFictions on TechCrunch here. Culture Robotics Culture Robotics is growing organisms for biotech companies. It claims to have built “the first cloud bioreactor farm” and compare themselves to Amazon Web Services, but for biomanufacturing. Its technology creates bacteria like collagen for beauty companies. Culture Robotics believes its applicable for synthetic biology, microbiome and cellular therapy. So far, they’ve secured three paying customers and are generating $50k in revenue per month. Qulture.Rocks Qulture.Rocks is HR management for Latin America. They’re have grown about 20% month over month for the past 2 years, and have hit the break-even point. AesculaTech A bio-tech startup that aims to create a more patient-friendly way to deliver drugs. AesculaTech has invented a temperature responsive material that enables the company to make customized medical devices inside the body. The company’s first use of its technology is going toward the treatment of dry eye syndrome, which the founders say affects more than 20 million people in America. The goal is to become the go-to material used to make medical devices. Read more about AesculaTech on TechCrunch here. Evry Health Evry Health wants to take on the employee health insurance market by tackling a specific type of customer. The startup is specializing in working with customer companies that have between 200-1,000 employees. They boast that their product is 20 percent less than competitors and offers enhanced coverage. They’re tackling the $10B Texas health care market when they launch at the beginning of next year. Aspire Aspire provides loans to small businesses in Southeast Asia. Its team of “credit experts” promise to make a decision within two hours and have cash disbursed by the next day. So far, they’ve secured $500k in loans in just eight weeks. They support banks like Citi, Maybank and HSBC. Sudden Coffee Sudden makes instant coffee that the company claims is “better than fresh Starbucks” – backing it up with what they say was a blind test in which 8 of 10 coffee drinkers chose their instant stuff. They’re currently in 20 retail stores, and will soon be sold in REI. Their secret sauce, as they explain it: they’ve found a way to make instant coffee without requiring any boiling. CoinTracker CoinTracker is a platform to track your crypto across all exchanges, wallets, and even currencies. Today most crypto-enthusiasts try to do this using complicated and bloated Google spreadsheets, so an automated solution has the potential to save a lot of people a lot of time. CoinTracker also has the ability to optimize tax filings by computing capital gains reports using FIFO, LIFO or HIFO accounting. Read more about CoinTracker on TechCrunch here. Supermedium Supermedium is a web browser built natively for virtual reality. The team behind the browser was previously working at Mozilla working on A-Frame defining the WebVR standard which aims to get apps and games off your hard drive and onto the world wide web. Supermedium is working with developers to make their browser the default hub for quick and impactful games and demos. A beta of the app is available now on the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive VR headsets. Read more about Supermedium on TechCrunch here. Sheerly Genius Sheerly Genius manufactures and sells rip-proof, snag-proof and “lifeproof” pantyhose that last up to 50 wears. The pantyhose are made with the same type of fiber found in bulletproof vests and climbing equipment. Right now, Sheerly Genius sells basic black, sheer pantyhose. Down the road, Sheerly Genius plans to move into the “nude” option, which entails a number of different colors. Read more about Sheerly Genius on TechCrunch here. Hexel Hexel lets any web community launch its own immediately-usable cryptocurrency. The idea is that sites could reward their own users for engagement or let them buy tokens for different purposes, but that they could also trade them for other sites’ currencies on the Hexel exchange. For example, Quora could reward you tokens for having the top answer to science questions. Those could potentially be used to promote your own answers or questions, or you could trade them in via Hexel for hypothetical Reddit tokens that would let that user post on science subreddits reserved for experts. Hexel will earn a fee when use use its exchange. While 300 currencies have been created since Hexel’s launch six weeks ago, the startup will have a tough time persuade popular web platforms to complicate themselves with tokens. Most people still only understand cryptocurrencies as stores of value like Bitcoin, so lots of user education would be required too. Read more about Hexel on TechCrunch here. Modern Health A mental health benefit platform for employers and their employees. Modern Health connects employees to a healthcare professional or digital tools to address things like depression, anxiety Since launching four weeks ago, Modern Health has posted $37,000 in annual recurring revenue. So far, employee engagement comes in at 30 percent. Volley One in five American households now have a new family member in the house named Alexa, Siri or Google. Volley wants to build a platform for voice-based gaming on home assistant hardware. The company has the number one game for Alexa and has 900k MAUs since they launched last April. Read more about Volley on TechCrunch here. Repl.it Repl.it is an instant serverless computing platform. It lets you write and deploy apps for your browser. They claim to be the “easiest way to start coding,” letting users build “complex applications with thousands of lines of codes.” Repl.it believes its cloud platform is perfect for building games and other interactive programs. Read more about Repl.it on TechCrunch here. Trusu “Borderless shopping for Asia”. Trusu says that getting Western products in Asia is often difficult, requiring you to use a package forwarding service at a costly premium. They import products in bulk once a week, allowing their prices to be up to 75% lower than alternative services. Leap Leap is a private social network for women in tech. Designed by and for women, Leap could help people find investors, co-founders, mentors, jobs, and more. Leap uses a real names but allows some anonymous posts, and employs a light touch in moderation but with the perspective on abuse lacking at most male-run social networks. Leap now has 2000 users, but has plenty of room to grow with 4.8 million women in tech in the U.S. Social networks do have outstanding lifetime value if they can retain their users and understand what they buy.The question will be whether one-off, niche social networks can succeed in the face of massive networks like Facebook and its Groups feature by focusing on thwarting abuse and creating a more civil discussion space. The private beta for Leap is now accepting signups. Avro Life Science A life science company that develops skin patches for drug delivery. Skin patches work by allowing the drugs to deliver through your skin, directly into your bloodstream. That means Avro’s skin patches eliminate the need to swallow pills and involve the GI tract. Avro makes patches for hundreds of drugs, like Benadryl, Zyrtec, Claritin and Aerius. Avro’s research has shown effectiveness in terms of relieving seasonal allergies. Avro says it’s on track for FDA approval by Q2 of 2019. Sourcify Sourcify wants to be the Flexport for product sourcing by tackling how companies get in touch with manufacturing pipelines. They want to take manufacturing sorting out of Excel and stick into its software. The startup says that they can add visualization and transparency to the industry as it has already “pre-vetted” more than 700 factories. Lawyaw Lawyaw builds “intelligent templates for law firms”. Built by an ex-law firm partner and an ex-Google engineer, it uses natural language processing to create new legal documents from a lawyer’s existing documents, allowing it to be re-used later as a template. 800+ lawyers are currently using the service, with 23,000 templates made so far. The Lobby The Lobby helps job applicants secure one-on-one calls with company insiders. With resume critique and mock interviews, the startup helps job seekers get advice “from a real human who has the job they want.” They already work with insiders at top investment banks like J.P. Morgan and Barclays and have a $100,000 gross merchandise volume (GMV) run rate, taking 45% margins on the calls. With 40 million Americans looking for high-skilled jobs, they hope that this is a $2.4 billion market opportunity. The Lobby “turns employes into talent scouts.” Vathys Vathys is an artificial intelligence startup that makes a deep learning chip that is supposedly 10x faster than the competition. Computation accounts for 8 percent of power consumption of a chip. The rest is data movement, according to the founder. By addressing data movement, Vathys has created a processor that is 10x faster than the competition. The company already has a purchase order for $50K. California Dreamin’ California Dreamin’ is a cannabis-infused THC sparkling juice beverage designed to get you a little high the same way a beer gets you a little drunk. Marijuana legalization has opened the door to a massive new industry, including psychoactive products for people who don’t want to smoke anything. Each bottle retails for $8 to $10, and contains 10mg of energizing sativa THC — one standard dose. It tastes sweet but with a hint of earthy plant notes, and you can drink a whole bottle without ending up locked into your couch like some competitors that put 100mg in a bottle. If California Dreamin’ can appeal to baby boomers and soccer moms looking to avoid the hangovers of alcohol while still imbibing something to relax, the business could blossom. California Dreamin’ is now delivering its first cases to recreational dispensaries in SF after selling $10,000-worth in its beta program. The legal cannabis business is $10 billion per year and growing 30 percent each year, but California Dreamin’ wants to nab part of the $210 billion alcohol market by getting people to switch to cannabis. Read more about California Dreamin’ on TechCrunch here. Rhythmm Rhythmm wants to take live chat conversations from experts and interesting people and let others follow along. The startup wants to take the insights people are getting from chat groups on Telegram and remove all the noise with their own platform. Only people who have been invited by the chat creator can participate, everybody else just follows the conversations. Algosurg Inc Algosurg has built algorithms to simulate surgeries. They believe that “robotics is the future of surgery,” and have developed something called Tabplan3D, which uses cloud technology instead of Xrays to help orthopedic surgeons prepare using a 3D virtual surgery plan. They have four patents filed and FDA approval in process. OSIMple OSIMple helps build automated infrastructure inspections — in other words, software that helps optimize the inspection of things like roads, railways, bridges, and dams. 500 different bridges were inspected with their software in the last 6 months, and they have letters of intent from 2 large companies. Orangewood Labs Orangewood Labs uses massive 3D printer-esque wood-cutting robots to make on-demand furniture. With no inventory, Orangewood avoids the costs of unsold goods or massive warehouses. It crowdsources 3D designs which it can tweak into different styles, colors, and sizes to fit your home. As more of commerce moves online, customers no longer expect to be able to test everything in person before they buy. Perhaps Orangewood will use augmented reality to virtually try its desks and chairs in your home. The startup has already scored $2 million in orders. OpenSea OpenSea is a peer-to-peer marketplace for buying, selling and discovering crypto assets and collectibles. Just as Coinbase operates as an exchange for cryptocurrencies, this is a marketplace for all other asset types on the blockchain, like software licenses, collectibles, Cryptokitties and other digital goods on the blockchain. In the last two months, Open Sea has done $500,000 in ethereal volume. Playing Viral Playing Viral is an Indonesian startup that assists online publishers through delivering leads for advertisers. The team works with surveys over visual ad units and can analyze the text to ensure that users are getting surveys in their language and dialect. Correlia Biosystems Spun out of bioengineering research at UC Berkeley, Correlia Biosystems is able to analyze microsamples of blood, making it “easier to get more data from a tiny drop.” They claim to be “opening the space to next gen protein detection,” by reducing the time and cost for quantifying proteins for pharmaceutical applications. So far, they have brought in $55,000 in revenue in three months and have also secured $9.3 million in LOIs. Correlia believes this is a $11.6 billion market opportunity. Sqreen Sqreen is a tool that sits in your web app and tries to prevent attacks. It watches the behavior of users within your app to identify and block against SQL injections and cross-site scripting attacks. It currently works with apps built on Ruby on Rails, NodeJS, and Python. Sqreen was in the TechCrunch Disrupt SF Battlefield in 2016. You can read more about Sqreen on TechCrunch here. Piccolo Voice assistants may be the home product du jour, but Piccolo wants you to control your smarthome with your hands. No, not like you already do, but by using gestures. Point at a light to turn it on, scrub through a video on your TV by moving your hand in front of you etc etc. The company is building a smart camera that can map a user’s skeletal geometry and see what the user wants to control. Read more about Piccolo on TechCrunch here. NexGenT Bootcamps became insanely popular in the mid 2010s, but there’s been a big shakeout since then — and NexGenT hopes to take the fundamentals of getting an engineer production ready, but with a different approach. Rather than try to have somoene ready to be a full-scale developer in 3 months, NexGenT focuses on just certificate programs to get people ready to be network engineers. The process is longer, but hopefully more robust as well. Read more about NextGenT on TechCrunch here. VOICERY Voicery synthesizes ultra-realistic computer voices that can use natural emotion and inflection, and whisper or joke. 70 percent of people prefer its voices to Amazon Alexa’s. Voicery analyzes hundreds of human voices to train deep neural networks that power its product, rather than trying to train a computer to mimic a single specific voice. Voicery could be used to generate voice overs, read the news, dub television shows and more. It’s already got a letter of intent for $300,000 to make audio books. With more speech-enabled devices coming on the market every day, there could be a big market for giving different brands their own voice. Read more about Voicery on TechCrunch here. LetsDoThis.com A marketplace for endurance events, like 5ks, half-marathons and other races. Let’s Do This says revenue has doubled every two weeks since launching. So far, it has partnered with over 850 races, like IronMan and The Color Run. Shone Flexport showed how ripe the freight industry is for disruption, Shone is retrofitting old cargo ships with its proprietary technology that allows them to deliver shipping containers autonomously and by remote control. Quit Genius Quit Genius is an app “that delivers personalized therapy to help people quit smoking.” It helps people identify the reasons they smoke and hopes to help them overcome them. They work with companies including a “technology giant” to pay for Quit Genius, in order to help employees. The startup says there is a $10 billion market for people trying to quit smoking, and wants to expand to alcohol and other addictions. Molly Molly uses AI to generate Q&As for people who are frequently asked the same questions — celebrities, field experts, etc. Read more about Molly on TechCrunch here. Flint Flint is a mobile banking solution for Mexico that lets people pay merchants and friends using scannable QR codes. And for the 56 percent of the population that is unbanked, Flint lets users deposit or withdrawal cash from their app’s account at local shops and restaurants. It’s essentially a crowdsourced ATM. Flint is growing payment volume 5X per month as it tries to do what WeChat and Alipay did for China. Tingles A video platform for relaxation. Tingles is an iOS and Android app designed to help you relax and fall asleep. It’s a video genre called ASMR, which is supposedly growing 130 percent year over year. It currently has 60,000 monthly active users who view about 1.3 hours worth of content every day. Read more about Tingles on TechCrunch here Runa HR Runa HR wants to help small businesses in Latin America by automating payroll. The startup is pricing its product the same as US alternatives, but is seeking to strike a balance in Latin America between expensive, inefficient solutions and those that don’t solve all of their employees needs. The team at Runa believes it can eventually take over the entire software business for small businesses in Latin America. Aerones Aerones has built drones that clean wind turbines. They believe this is a safer and more efficient alternative to humans cleaning them and that this is a $1.4 billion market opportunity. They have heavy lifting drones that they hope will eventually clean buildings and have applications for other industries like oil, gas and solar. Aerones says that so far it has received 7 LOIs for 5000 cleanings, a promise of $5 million in revenue. Snackpass Snackpass is a food ordering app focusing on takeout rather than delivery. They’ve been running a field test at Yale, where they say 50% of students are monthly customers. There’s a social network-driven loyalty card aspect that they say is driving growth. Reverie Labs Reverie Labs uses machine learning to scan public molecule research, modify and develop its own molecules, and license the drugs they create to big pharmaceutical companies. The startup claims it can sell molecule licenses for $100 million, and has already signed a milestone deal worth up to $87 million. It expects to have 3 drugs ready for clinical trials by the end of 2019, which is much faster than most pharma companies take. The Harvard and MIT team plan to use their engineering-focused startup identity to recruit ML talent the pharma giants can’t match. And eventually, it wants to go full-stack and sell its own medicines. Read more about Reverie Labs on TechCrunch here Worklytics Worklytics wants to get rid of those boring team meetings, and the right place to look is probably at the management layer. The tool keeps track of the kinds of distractions that employees might get, as well as whether the right processes like one-on-one reviews and code collaboration, happen. It doesn’t track specific employees, but it uses the data it gleans from teams to figure out what works best to help companies run more efficiently. Read more about WorkLytics on TechCrunch here. tEQuitable A third-party, confidential software platform to solve workplace harassment. If an employee is feeling discriminated against or harassed they can open up the app to talk to a professional advisor, then create an action plan to either address the issue or file a formal complaint. Then tEQuitable will aggregate the data and come up with ideas to fix the company culture. The company’s clients include Twilio, GitHub, Obvious Ventures in pilot programs worth $120,000. Storyline Storyline wants to make it easy for people to build content apps for the Alexa platform without any coding. Storyline wants to power content across Alexa the same way YouTube powers video, they say. The startup’s apps already have 180 thousand monthly active users across 500 apps. Read more about Storyline on TechCrunch here. CaptivateIQ CaptivateIQ is software to calculate sales commissions. They believe that 80% of commissions have errors and there’s an opportunity to help companies get it right. They’re starting with the tech industry, but believe this is ultimately a $1.5 billion market opportunity. Beyond commissions, they think they can also help companies increase revenue. Ovipost Cricket farming for now may be an art, but Ovipost — starting with the rearing process — wants to turn it into a science. By first working to optimize hatching and egg yield, Ovipost wants to lower the labor costs to produce crickets, which could then be turned into direct consumer food sources or even feed. Read more about OviPost on TechCrunch here. Veriff Veriff wants to be Stripe for online identity verification, handling the processing of drivers licenses, passports, and IDs for websites. They did $60k in revenue in February, and are currently profitable. They charge ~$1 per verification. ObserveAI ObserveAI is AI-powered quality assurance for call center agents. They use natural language processing to determine how call center agents are interacting with customers and offer up suggestions as to what they might be doing better. The company charges $1000 per customer service agent per year. — Check out the rest of TechCrunch’s YC Demo Day Coverage The top 7 startups from Y Combinator’s W18 Demo Day 1 These are the 64 startups unveiled at Y Combinator W18 Demo Day 2

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Instagram Stories gets “quote tweet”-style feed post resharing

Instagram’s next big Stories feature could let you compliment or trash talk other people’s feed posts, or embed a “see post” button to promote your own. A TechCrunch reader sent us these screenshots of the new feature, which Instagram confirmed to us is appearing to a small subset of users. “We’re always testing ways to make it easier to share any moment with friends on Instagram” a spokesperson wrote. Now those moments can include dunking on people. Instagram has never had a true “regram” feature with the feed, just slews of unofficial and sometimes scammy apps, but this is perhaps the closest thing. Users often screenshot feed posts and share them in Stories with overlaid commentary, but this limited the cropping and commentary options. Making an official “reshare could unlock all sorts of new user behaviors, from meme curation to burn book shade throwing to social stars teasing their feed posts in their Stories. Brands might love it for using their Stories to cross-promote a big ad campaign. Employing Stories to drive extra Likes and comments to permanent posts could help them gain more visibility in Instagram’s feed ranking algorithm. Here’s how the feed post to Instagram Stories sharing feature works. You pick any public, permanent Instagram post and tap a button to embed it in your Story. You can tap to change the design to highlight or downplay the post’s author, move and resize it within your Story post, and add commentary or imagery using Instagram’s creative tools. When people view the story, they can tap on the post embed to bring up a “see post” button which opens the permanent feed post. Users who don’t want their posts to be “quote-Storied” can turn off the option in their settings, and only public posts can be reshared. Facebook says it doesn’t have details about a wider potential rollout beyond the small percentage of users currently with access. But given the popularity of apps like Repost For Instagram, I expect the feature to be popular and eventually open to everyone. Quote-Storying could help keep the feed relevant as more users spend their time sharing to the little bubbles that sit above it. And it offers a powerful viral discover mechanism for creators who can now ask fans to quickly reshare their post rather than having to awkwardly screenshot and upload them. While both Instagram and Snapchat have let people privately send other people’s posts to friends as private messages, Snapchat lacks a way to embed other Stories or Discover content in your Story. Snapchat may have pioneered the Stories format, but Instagram has been rapidly iterating with features like Super Zoom and Highlights to extend its user count lead over the app it cloned. The move by Instagram further ties together the three parts of its app: the permanent feed, ephemeral Stories, and private Direct messaging. You can imagine someone finding a post in the feed, resharing it their story, then joking about it with friends over Direct. It’s this multi-modal social media usage that turns casual users into loyal, ad revenue-generating ‘Grammers.

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Instagram Stories gets ‘quote tweet’-style feed post resharing

Instagram’s next big Stories feature could let you compliment or trash talk other people’s feed posts, or embed a “see post” button to promote your own. A TechCrunch reader sent us these screenshots of the new feature, which Instagram confirmed to us is appearing to a small subset of users. “We’re always testing ways to make it easier to share any moment with friends on Instagram” a spokesperson wrote. Now those moments can include dunking on people. Instagram has never had a true “regram” feature with the feed, just slews of unofficial and sometimes scammy apps, but this is perhaps the closest thing. Users often screenshot feed posts and share them in Stories with overlaid commentary, but this limited the cropping and commentary options. Making an official “reshare could unlock all sorts of new user behaviors, from meme curation to burn book shade throwing to social stars teasing their feed posts in their Stories. Brands might love it for using their Stories to cross-promote a big ad campaign. Employing Stories to drive extra Likes and comments to permanent posts could help them gain more visibility in Instagram’s feed ranking algorithm. Here’s how the feed post to Instagram Stories sharing feature works. You pick any public, permanent Instagram post and tap a button to embed it in your Story. You can tap to change the design to highlight or downplay the post’s author, move and resize it within your Story post, and add commentary or imagery using Instagram’s creative tools. When people view the story, they can tap on the post embed to bring up a “see post” button which opens the permanent feed post. Users who don’t want their posts to be “quote-Storied” can turn off the option in their settings, and only public posts can be reshared. Facebook says it doesn’t have details about a wider potential rollout beyond the small percentage of users currently with access. But given the popularity of apps like Repost For Instagram, I expect the feature to be popular and eventually open to everyone. Quote-Storying could help keep the feed relevant as more users spend their time sharing to the little bubbles that sit above it. And it offers a powerful viral discover mechanism for creators who can now ask fans to quickly reshare their post rather than having to awkwardly screenshot and upload them. While both Instagram and Snapchat have let people privately send other people’s posts to friends as private messages, Snapchat lacks a way to embed other Stories or Discover content in your Story. Snapchat may have pioneered the Stories format, but Instagram has been rapidly iterating with features like Super Zoom and Highlights to extend its user count lead over the app it cloned. The move by Instagram further ties together the three parts of its app: the permanent feed, ephemeral Stories, and private Direct messaging. You can imagine someone finding a post in the feed, resharing it their story, then joking about it with friends over Direct. It’s this multi-modal social media usage that turns casual users into loyal, ad revenue-generating ‘Grammers.

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Babbel’s CEO talks language learning and the challenges of the US market

There are plenty of choices out there if you want to learn a new language, but if you’re in Europe, chances are you’ve given Babbel a shot. The app, which started back in 2007 on the web, is celebrating its 10th birthday by expanding to the U.S. — a unique country that has proven a unique challenge for the company and its model. We chatted with Babbel’s Chief Strategy Officer, Thomas Holl, at the company’s headquarters in Berlin. The success of the company was evident in the lively, populous workplace. But although the app is the top-grossing language learning app in the world, it’s more than possible that many of our readers haven’t encountered it, since it started in Europe and until very recently has stayed there. It differs from other popular platforms like Duolingo, Holl explained, by focusing on real-world settings like introductions and restaurant interactions. “I think it’s very practical, and that’s probably the difference to many other solutions out there that have a rather structural approach — we’re always focused on language that you can actually use in real life.” There’s also something unique about each pair of languages — that is to say, a Mandarin speaker has different challenges learning French than a Spanish speaker. So lessons and progression are specific to each pairing, not just copy-pasted and translated. Babbel touts this as a reason why people learn faster on its platform. (People may feel they need to get their money’s worth as well – it’s a subscription service.) Expanding to the U.S. has been the company’s main ambition over the last year, but the U.S. is very unlike the tangle of closely-related, multilingual states on that side of the pond. Few people are looking to improve a second or third language in order to advance their careers, Holl pointed out, with a major exception: English learners. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the most popular language to learn in the U.S. is English; we are a country of immigrants, after all, and although we have many communities that speak their native language at home, English is a necessity for getting by. Babble has deployed a new type of monolingual course for advanced English learners, essentially a story in English that you fill out as it goes along. The audio portion has the added difficulty of multiple English (and Scottish, and Liverpudlian) accents. Combined with apps like Blue Canoe, which focuses on pronunciation, English learners are beginning to have a real wealth of resources online.

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Babbel founder talks language learning and the challenges of the US market

There are plenty of choices out there if you want to learn a new language, but if you’re in Europe, chances are you’ve given Babbel a shot. The app, which started back in 2007 on the web, is celebrating its 10th birthday by expanding to the U.S. — a unique country that has proven a unique challenge for the company and its model. We chatted with Babbel’s Chief Strategy Officer and co-founder, Thomas Holl, at the company’s headquarters in Berlin. The success of the company was evident in the lively, populous workplace. But although the app is the top-grossing language learning app in the world, it’s more than possible that many of our readers haven’t encountered it, since it started in Europe and until very recently has stayed there. It differs from other popular platforms like Duolingo, Holl explained, by focusing on real-world settings like introductions and restaurant interactions. “I think it’s very practical, and that’s probably the difference to many other solutions out there that have a rather structural approach — we’re always focused on language that you can actually use in real life.” There’s also something unique about each pair of languages — that is to say, a Mandarin speaker has different challenges learning French than a Spanish speaker. So lessons and progression are specific to each pairing, not just copy-pasted and translated. Babbel touts this as a reason why people learn faster on its platform. (People may feel they need to get their money’s worth as well – it’s a subscription service.) Expanding to the U.S. has been the company’s main ambition over the last year, but the U.S. is very unlike the tangle of closely-related, multilingual states on that side of the pond. Few people are looking to improve a second or third language in order to advance their careers, Holl pointed out, with a major exception: English learners. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the most popular language to learn in the U.S. is English; we are a country of immigrants, after all, and although we have many communities that speak their native language at home, English is a necessity for getting by. Babbel has deployed a new type of monolingual course for advanced English learners, essentially a story in English that you fill out as it goes along. The audio portion has the added difficulty of multiple English (and Scottish, and Liverpudlian) accents. Combined with apps like Blue Canoe, which focuses on pronunciation, English learners are beginning to have a real wealth of resources online.

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Facebook builds Patreon, Niche clones to lure creators with cash

Facebook is eager to displace YouTube and Patreon in order to become the home of online content creators, so it’s testing a bunch of new ways for them to earn money and connect with fans. Facebook’s dedicated Creator app that launched in November on iOS will come to Android soon, and it’s also starting a closed beta program where social media stars can work with it to build new features. It’s already cooked up new ones like a leaderboard for each creator’s most engaged fans who earn a special badge next to their comments, as well as a version of its Rights Manager tool for removing or taking over monetization of unofficial copies of their videos. But most interesting are the new monetization options Facebook is trying out. It will let some users sign-up for a monthly subscription patronage payment to their favorite creators in exchange for exclusive content and a fan badge just like on Patreon . This will bring Facebook into the world of in-app purchases. Fans will be able to sign up for a $4.99 per month subscription, with Facebook forgoing a cut during the testing period, though the App Store and Google Play will get their 30 percent cut. That means creators will get $3.50 per month per subscriber. It seems that rather than letting creators set their own price points including a cheap $1 per month option like on Patreon where the average subscription is $12 and the startup takes a 5 percent cut, Facebook is aiming for simplicity of pricing at mid-tier point. However it did mention custom pricing could come later. Not adding its own rake shows how much Facebook is prioritizing getting creators onto its platform. Facebook will launch the program next month with ten creators across the U.S. and U.K. Meanwhile, Facebook has created a tool that lets creators show off a portfolio of their content expertise and audience, and get connected to businesses to hammer out branded content and sponsorship deals. It’s effectively Facebook’s version of Niche, the creator-sponsor deal broker that Twitter acquired in 2015 for around $50 million. [Disclosure: My cousin Darren Lachtman co-founded Niche] Facebook isn’t taking a cut here either during the testing period. In both cases, Facebook might add a 5, 15, 30, or 45 percent cut when the features officially launch. Facebook already takes a 45 cut of ad break revenue when creators insert ads into their videos. Facebook also has a direct, one-time $3 tipping feature it’s testing with game streamers. Creators who want access to the new product and monetization tests can sign-up here. “Creators are vibrant, diverse, and wonderful at building community, bringing people from across the world together around shared passions – and that’s why Facebook is a natural home for them” says Facebook’s VP of product for video Fidji Simo. Facebook already lets creators use ad breaks and self-brokered sponsored content deals to monetize, but the digital arts economy still doesn’t let them earn enough to survive on this long-tail audience model. Facebook is taking a hint from its work with game developers, where it found that a tiny percentage of “whales” spend most of the money that games earn. Similarly, Facebook is now trying to equip creators with ways to earn the most possible from their biggest, most passionate fans who might pay way more in a tip or monthly subscription than a creator could ever earn through ads.

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Pinterest is slowly rolling out its automated shopping ads to more marketers

Pinterest is looking to continue to increase its portfolio of ads, though sometimes that can take a little while to see the light of day — and that includes a new-ish tool called Shopping Ads that’s slowly getting opened to more developers. Getting new ad formats is important for a smaller company looking to build out an advertising business, as it has to show potential advertisers it can offer an array of tools to play with as they experiment with that service. The company said today that it’s expanding those shopping ad tools to hundreds of additional advertisers after launching a pilot program last year as it looks to continue to ramp up that tool. Pinterest has to be able to convince marketers that it should be a mainstay advertising purchase alongside Facebook and Google, which are able to routinely show returns in value for their advertising spend. Shopping ads automatically create promoted pins from an existing product feed for a retailer. That means it’s basically one less thing for retailers to worry about as they add more and more content to the service. Most of Pinterest’s content online is business content as users share products they might be interested in one day buying or already own. As Pinterest gets more and more data on this, they’ll have a better handle on what ads work best, and hope that businesses will hand off the process in full to something more automated. Pinterest hopes to capture that routine user behavior of planning what they want to do next, whether that’s an outfit to wear that day or some kind of major event or purchase down the line. Getting a hold of those users in the moment they might be interested in a new product is key to the company’s pitch to advertisers. You can more or less consider this a continued test as the company starts to slowly give the tool to the advertisers it works with before it becomes generally available. If it works, it could probably end up down the line in the hands of all advertisers, which could help for small- to medium-sized businesses without a lot of experience build out their early marketing campaigns.

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Qualcomm’s war may be over, but the casualties are just starting to be calculated

The epic battle between Qualcomm and Broadcom seems to have hit a final ceasefire, with President Trump using the power of CFIUS to block the transaction this past week, ending what would have been the largest tech M&A transaction of all time. It may be all quiet on the semiconductor front, but Qualcomm and Broadcom will now need to find a path forward to win the peace and secure access to the coming 5G wireless market. Qualcomm faces a daunting number of challenges, including a potential takeover battle waged by the spurned son of its founder. Broadcom will have to find a new path to use acquisitions to continue its growth. As with any war though, the damage from this conflict isn’t exclusive to the two enemy combatants. The future of corporate governance and shareholder autonomy is now being reevaluated in light of the actions used by Qualcomm in its defense against Broadcom’s hostile takeover. In addition, America’s openness to foreign investment is increasingly under scrutiny. Qualcomm picks up the pieces Hostile takeovers are always going to be damaging affairs, no matter the outcome. The most important mandate for any board of directors — and particularly for the boards of technology companies — is to identify long-term threats and opportunities facing a company, and guide the executive team toward the best possible outcome for shareholders. Hostile takeovers are firefighting affairs — the discussions of the board are jolted from roadmaps, strategy, and vision to the minute-by-minute tactics of defending the company from marauding invaders. Qualcomm should be directing its attention to strategy, but it faces additional wars on nearly every front. Its fighting shareholders for its future, fighting Apple and Huawei over its revenues, fighting China over its acquisition of NXP, and now potentially fighting its founder’s son from a private takeover attempt. Many of Qualcomm’s shareholders see the company’s performance as disappointing. While its stock has fluctuated over the past six years, today’s share price is essentially flat from where it stood in January of 2012. Compare that to Broadcom, which in the same timeframe has seen an increase of about 740%, and the PHLX Semiconductor Sector index, a basket index of the industry, which has seen its value increase by about 280%. Unsurprisingly, shareholders were enticed by the opportunity to suddenly realize a 35% premium on their shares with Broadcom’s $82-a-share offer. Unlike Qualcomm’s board, shareholders were very interested in accepting Broadcom’s offer. In fact, we now know that Qualcomm’s board knew that it has lost the battle against Broadcom with its own shareholders during the acquisition process. As Bloomberg reported this week: The votes started to come in on Friday, March 2. By Sunday it was clear that Qualcomm’s defense had failed. Four of the six directors Broadcom had nominated were polling so far ahead of their Qualcomm peers that the race was effectively over, according to data viewed by Bloomberg. The remaining two were winning by less substantial margins. Making it worse, Mollenkopf and Jacobs, the architects of Qualcomm’s standalone plan, had received some of the fewest votes. Inside the Qualcomm camp, the mood was bleak; assuming the trend continued, the board would lose control of the company at the shareholder meeting. Broadcom’s message was one of quiet confidence. The company knew it had won, one person close to the discussions said. At that point, the person said, it was just a question of by how many votes, and who was going to leave the board. Broadcom was winning the battle with shareholders, so Qualcomm’s board shifted to a terrain far more favorable to it: Washington bureaucrats. From the same Bloomberg report, “Federal lobbying disclosures for 2017 showing that Qualcomm spent $8.3 million, or roughly 100 times the $85,000 Broadcom spent…” These weren’t regulators; these were friends. In late January, Qualcomm’s board submitted a preliminary, voluntary, and confidential notice to CFIUS asking for a review of Broadcom’s potential board coup. When Broadcom attempted to redomicile to the United States to avoid CFIUS purview (as it would no longer be a foreign company but a domestic one after it redomiciled), the government’s anger was palpable and sealed the company’s fate. The board’s original outreach to CFIUS precipitated the sequence of events that led to Trump’s block this past week. Qualcomm’s board won the war, but it is still facing a rebellion from its own bosses. The board will be up for election unopposed this week at the company’s delayed shareholders meeting. Perhaps taking a page from tomorrow’s Russian presidential election, some shareholders are withholding their votes from the board slate to show their displeasure with the entire saga. From the Wall Street journal, “Institutional Shareholder Services Inc., an influential proxy-advisory firm, … in a note to investors late Wednesday, stood by its original recommendation that shareholders vote for four Broadcom nominees for Qualcomm’s 11-person board, even though the votes won’t count.” That shareholder meeting will no doubt be eventful. While the board and the company’s execs will argue that they have a strategy moving forward, they confront two other ongoing firefighting challenges and one new one that could be another round of bruising internecine warfare. Qualcomm is still in the midst of its $44 billion NXP acquisition, which continues to wait on Chinese regulatory approval. The timeline for that approval is still unclear, but even when Qualcomm does receive it, it will still have to close the deal and actually implement the transaction, which will take significant time and energy. Even more complicated is the continuing fight over Qualcomm’s IP licensing revenue, which Apple and Huawei have been fighting for some time now. Licensing revenue is crucial for Qualcomm, and the litigation around the fight will force the board to continue monitoring the day-to-day legal tactics of the company rather than focus on a longer-term vision of how to work with the largest smartphone producer in the world to generate profits. On top of those two challenges, another takeover attempt could potentially exhaust the board further. Yesterday, Qualcomm’s board voted to remove board member Paul Jacobs, who is the son of Qualcomm’s founder and also headed the company from 2005 to 2014. He had been demoted from executive chairman to director just last week. As the New York Times noted, “The split, which means no member of the Jacobs family will be involved at the top echelons of Qualcomm for the first time in 33 years, was not friendly.” According to reports, Jacobs is attempting to raise more than $100 billion to buy the company, potentially leveraging SoftBank’s Vision Fund in the process. SoftBank, of course, is a Japanese company, and the Vision Fund has significant capital from foreign countries including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Even more ironically, Qualcomm is an investor in the Vision Fund. Jacobs is following in the footsteps of Michael Dell who bought the eponymous tech company back in 2013 in a take-private transaction worth $24 billion. Can Jacobs even raise the required amount of capital, four times more than Dell? Will Qualcomm be forced to run back to the Trump administration in order to avoid a “foreign” takeover of the firm yet again, this time by the son of the company’s founder? My guess — fairly weakly held — is that the answers are yes and no. Jacobs will find the money, and the board won’t fight a distinguished former executive — even if Jacobs was running seriously behind in shareholder approval in the Broadcom fight. We will learn more in the coming weeks, but expect more strategic actions here (maybe from Intel) as well. Broadcom regroups Despite its very public failure, Broadcom is in a much stronger position coming out of this battle. It beat analyst estimates this week for its Q1 earnings, and has seen impressive growth in its wireless communications segment, which were up 88% year-over-year. It also managed to lower expenses, which helped drive an increase in gross margin to 64.8% (aren’t fabless and patents awesome?) Broadcom continues to deliver strong results, but the big question post-Qualcomm is really what’s next? Qualcomm was the single most important chip company that might have been available for purchase (Intel is out of Broadcom’s league). While it plans to continue to redomicile to the U.S., which should allow it to get back into the acquisition game in America, Broadcom may struggle in the coming years to find the kinds of accretive acquisitions that can keep its growth on the trajectory it has been on over the past few years. Shareholder power wanes? The biggest questions coming out of the Qualcomm / Broadcom spat is not related to the companies themselves, but the entire intellectual edifice of shareholder rights and the framework used by American companies to conduct corporate governance. Qualcomm’s board of directors took extraordinary steps to block the Broadcom acquisition. They unilaterally went to Washington to get an injunction not on a deal — which had never been consummated between the two companies — but to block Broadcom from replacing its board of directors in a standard shareholder vote. This is a very important distinction: Qualcomm’s board saw the direction shareholders wanted to go, and essentially decided to just ignore the election process entirely. From Dealpolitik columnist Ronald Barusch: This change threatens over three decades of a carefully balanced governance system. Since the Delaware Supreme Court approved the use of the poison-pill takeover defense in 1985, the courts have basically blessed the following tradeoff: On the one hand, corporate directors can fight tooth and nail to stop a deal and the courts will give only limited scrutiny to defensive tactics. However, the board is strictly limited in any moves to interfere with shareholders’ ability to replace directors and force a company to change course that way. In the vernacular of a leading Delaware case, a “just say no” defense doesn’t mean “just say never.” A bidder with enough patience who can convince a target’s shareholders to change directors has a path at least toward cooperation on resolving regulatory impediments to a deal. This is a unique case as Barusch notes, but at what point can boards use every method at their disposal to prevent their own shareholders — the people they have a fiduciary duty to represent — from taking charge of the company? This past week presents one of the most complex examples to date, and it wouldn’t surprise me if a shareholder decides to attempt a legal attack on Qualcomm. The other side of the potential waning of power for shareholders is CFIUS itself. The Trump administration ended a potential deal for a company that shareholders were widely in favor of. Where do the rights of shareholders to realize a return on their equity end and the right of America as a nation to control national security technology start? We are on new terrain, and there are no clear answers here. In many ways, it depends on what happens over the next few years of the Trump administration. If there are more blocks like what we saw this week, we could see a radical change in the corporate calculus that would have a long-term negative effect on the value of some American companies. Hostile takeovers may be incredible drama for writers like yours truly, but they have enormous consequences for companies and the employees who work at them. Qualcomm is going to have to shore up its support with a whole host of stakeholders in the coming months (while dealing with a potential take-private fight), while Broadcom needs to find its next strategy for further growth. All of us are going to have to deal with new uncertainty around the power of shareholders to shape the destiny of their companies. The war is over, but the aftermath and its consequences have just begun.

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