Y Combinator’s Summer 2011 Demo Day: The Definitive Debrief, Part 1

8/24/11Follow @wroush

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Interstate

Simon Fletcher, Greg Cooper

“Basecamp done right.”

Interstate takes the “product roadmap” metaphor to extremes. Arguing that project management tools should be beautiful, the company has built a tool that lets groups such as software development teams build attractive Web pages that show which projects (“routes”) and sub-projects (“roads”) have been proposed or begun, who owns them, and how close they are to completion. The maps can be shared internally or published for the world to see, as Virb and Interstate itself have done. Dailybooth, Seesmic, and Squarespace are also users.

My take: I agree that Basecamp is ugly—or rather, so minimalist that I don’t want to spend more time using it than I absolutely have to. But I’m skeptical about whether better project management tools are a venture-scale business—this seems like a case of Silicon Valley programmers solving a problem that only afflicts other Silicon Valley programmers.

Interviewstreet

Vivek Ravisankar, Hari Shankaran

“Helps companies find the best programmers.”

Silicon Valley is in the midst of a huge talent crunch—everyone wants to hire great programmers, and there simply aren’t enough to go around. Still, companies have to know that the people they’re hiring can actually code. Interviewstreet clients with open engineering positions can invite candidates to take programming challenges that demonstrate their skills. The system is already used by Dropbox, Airbnb, Justin.tv, Posterous, Scribd, and Bump (which are all YC alums), as well as Amazon, Zynga, and Facebook (which aren’t).

My take: See Interstate—this is another case of a Silicon Valley startup solving a problem that is virtually unique to Silicon Valley. But that doesn’t mean it’s not an important problem. Also, Interviewstreet is similar to CodeEval, a company at rival incubator I/O Ventures.

Kicksend

Pradeep Elankumaran, Brendan Lim

“The easiest way to send files to the people you know and care about.”

Kicksend’s premise is there’s no good option for personal file sharing on the Internet. E-mail systems like Gmail have attachment size limits that are too small; instant messaging systems are clunky and unreliable; cloud folder systems like Dropbox are difficult for non-technical users. The startup’s alternative: desktop, Web, and mobile apps that make sending files as simple as specifying the recipient’s e-mail address and dragging and dropping an icon into a window. Users can send up to 1 gigabyte free, and earn bonus bandwidth for completing challenges such as liking Kicksend on Facebook. After that, they can upgrade to “Kicksend Plus” for $8 per month. It’s the “only solution that solves all of the problems that non-technical consumers face, in a beautiful and simple way,” the company says.

My take: Promising; the Kicksend desktop apps are Apple-esque in their simplicity and elegance. But the service is too new to have many registered users, so to use it you’ll have to get your friends on board.

Launchpad Toys

Andy Russell, Thushan Amarashiriwardena

“The Lego of digital play.”

The three “toys” most requested by kids last Christmas, according to a Duracell survey, were the iPad, the iPhone, and the iPod touch. So much for Lincoln Logs. But Launchpad Toys thinks that digital toys can also be great tools for creativity. Its first product, a $1.99 iPad app called Toontastic, has already made it into Apple’s App Store Hall of Fame; it helps kids make animated cartoons by manipulating puppet-like characters and recording voices. But “we are just getting started,” the company says; it projects that mobile games will take a $15 billion chunk of the $80 billion toy market. “What mobile has done to GPS and point-and-shoot cameras, it is also going to do to creative play, and we are building the creative suite of toys that will take the lead,” the company says.

My take: Toontastic is nifty, and Launchpad has already solved the biggest problem in the mobile app world—getting noticed. But mobile games have a short shelf-life; the company will need to grow into a bona fide game studio if it intends to keep churning out hits.

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Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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