Wevorce

Wevorce

Wevorce wants to be "the standard for how families go through divorce." Using the startup's online platform, couples ending a marriage can get the job done in less than 90 days and for less than $10,000, according to co-founder Michelle Crosbey.

Photo by Wade Roush

Airware

Airware

Drone aircraft aren't just for killing terrorists. They're finding applications in many industries, from agriculture to law enforcement, and Jonathan Downey, co-founder of Airware, says the time has come for a "DOS of drones"---an operating system that would handle navigation, communications, and sensor fusion all in a small autopilot box. The idea is to free developers to build their own higher-level software specific to their own market or application while leaving the underlying tasks of flying to Airware's box.

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BackerKit

BackerKit

Companies that succeed at raising money on Kickstarter face a new problem: managing all their new fans. BackerKit co-founder Maxwell Salzberg wants to help users of Kickstarter and other crowdfunding platforms identify their most avid fans and, potentially, facilitate downstream transactions as companies reach out to sell their fans more stuff.

Photo by Wade Roush

FlightCar

FlightCar

At the nation's top 300 airports, there are 360,000 parked cars at any given time. At the same time, travelers spend $11 billion renting cars from agencies. What if you could just rent someone's parked car? That's the idea behind sharing-economy startup Flightcar, which has already booked 450 rentals from San Francisco International Airport. Users get to park their cars with Flightcar for free, and if the car is rented while they're away, they get part of the revenue.

Photo by Wade Roush

Fivetran

Fivetran

Fivetran thinks it can fill a gap in the market between the classic desktop spreadsheet, a la Excel, and complex number-crunching tools like Matlab or Mathematica. It’s building a “spreadsheet for big data” that lets business users act like data scientists without having to learn any programming skills.

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Thalmic

Thalmic

The MYO wearable sensor from Thalmic labs detects electrical signals in the user’s forearm muscles, allowing software to interpret the motions of users’ fingers and hands as a new form of gesture control for computers, mobile devices, robots, and the like. You have to see it to understand---it’s very Minority Report. The company says it has already sold 25,000 of the devices, which will be available in late 2013 for $149 apiece.

Photo by Wade Roush

CircuitLab

CircuitLab

CircuitLab offers online circuit design tools for electrical engineers. It plans to make money by allowing manufacturers of electronic components to advertise on the platform. The company says CircuitLab is already being used at many universities and is “the design tool the next generation of EE majors is learning to use.”

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SimplyInsured

SimplyInsured

For a small- to medium-sized business, it can be a big pain to solicit quotes on employee health insurance plans from insurance brokers---the process is still largely built around phone calls, faxes, and snail mail, and can take days. SimplyInsured offers online comparisons of health plan options, as well as instant quotes. “Just as Kayak eliminated the travel agent, SimplyInsured is going to eliminate the health insurance broker,” says co-founder Vivek Shah.

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Zaranga

Zaranga

At Airbnb, vacationers can book rental properties owned by individuals, but there’s no booking site for properties owned by property managers, according to Zaranga; the closest equivalent is VRBO, a vacation rent listing site that’s more like Craigslist. To fill that gap, the startup has built a site that lets managers create listings at prices that vary with demand and book the properties under their own terms and coditions. “What Airbnb has done to Craiglist, we are going to do to VRBO,” the company says.

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Microryza

Microryza

In the U.S., federal funding agencies like the NIH and the NSF only fund the safest and most obvious research projects, in the view of Cindy Wu, co-founder of Microryza. She’s building a crowdfunding site for scientists where average people can help fund “the long tail of ideas.” Researchers have already used the platform to raise money for projects such as a study of cannibalism among Tyrannosaurus rex dinosaurs. Microryza “turns everyone with a credit card into a modern-day patron of science,” Wu says.

Photo by Wade Roush

Buildzoom

Buildzoom

Buildzoom is a Yelp-like platform aimed at helping people who want to remodel their homes connect with highly rated local contractors. The site already offers listings, ratings, and reviews of 20,000 licensed contractors in the San Francisco area. Buildzoom earns a 7 percent commission on every lead that turns into a job.

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Errplane

Errplane

“Application performance monitoring” is a necessity for businesses that depend on software, since any error or slowdown needs to be caught and fixed fast. Errplane offers real-time application monitoring and analytics dashboards for cloud-based apps, and plans to introduce a version that works for on-premises software later this year. It’s out to compete with companies like San Francisco-based New Relic.

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Padlet

Padlet

Today’s Web publishing platforms can be complicated to use, but Padlet has built a Web platform that allows non-experts to create “walls” or custom websites simply by dragging and dropping files into a browser window. The startup boasts that it’s “the easiest way to put stuff on the Internet.”

Photo by Wade Roush

Bitnami

Bitnami

From a smartphone app store, you can install an app in just a few taps. Bitnami offers a similar service for server-based business applications such as WordPress or SugarCRM. “Take out your credit card and in minutes you can have your applications running in the cloud,” says co-founder Erica Brescia.

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Teespring

Teespring

Teespring helps online communities such as the popular Facebook group “I Love Big Trucks, Mudding, Bonfires, and Country Boys” earn money by selling custom T-shirts to their members. “We turn affinity into money,” the company says. One T-shirt sold by the aforementioned group says “Don’t Flatter Yourself, Cowboy, I Was Staring At Your Truck.”

Photo by Wade Roush

Posmetrics

Posmetrics

Posmetrics makes software that allows retailers, hotels, restaurants, and other bricks-and-mortar businesses administer customer surveys from iPad-based kiosks. When mounted near an entrance, the kiosks are 18 times more effective at eliciting customer feedback than e-mail or other outreach mechanisms, says co-founder Merrill Lutsky.

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Watsi

Watsi

Watsi, the first and only non-profit organization ever admitted to Y Combinator, is a crowdfunding platform that allows donors to fund medical treatments for people in need. In one early case, Watsi raised enough money from donors to cover the cost of a life-saving heart operation for a girl in Nepal. The only thing limiting Watsi’s growth, according to founder Chase Adams, is that “donors are finding us faster than we can find patients.”

Photo by Wade Roush

Screenhero

Screenhero

While tools like WebEx, GoToMeeting, and Skype allow users to view each others’ computer screens, they don’t let people work together on the same applications in real time. That’s what Screenhero does. Everyone collaborating in a Screenhere session has a separate mouse pointer on the screen and full access to whatever software is running on the shared screen. “It’s not just showing a picture of someone else’s screen, it’s using someone else’s computer, together,” the company says.

Photo by Wade Roush

PayTango

PayTango

The idea of replacing cash or credit cards with a biometric signature such as a fingerprint has been around for a long time, but there’s never been a biometric technology that can be integrated easily into existing point-of-sale systems. That’s PayTango’s contribution. It says it has built a piece of hardware that lets merchants collect fingerprint data and verify it over the same data networks built for processing credit cards.

Photo by Wade Roush

Strikingly

Strikingly

Strikingly is a simple editing and publishing tool for building websites that look equally good in a desktop and mobile browser. Small businesses and other users have already created 25,000 websites using the tool. “We are the first mobile website builder that works perfectly across all devices, including desktops,” the co-founders say.

Photo by Wade Roush

Prizeo

Prizeo

People love celebrities. People love raffles. Prizeo combines the two, providing a Web-based platform where charities can raise money through raffles built around celebrities in music, sports, fashion, food, and other fields. In one current competition, people who donate to the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation have a chance to win a cooking lesson and meal with the famous British chef.

Photo by Wade Roush

StyleUp

StyleUp

StyleUp packages fashion-magazine-like content into personalized daily e-mails. Each e-mail showcases an outfit tailored to the subscriber’s personal tastes and the day’s weather in each local market. The e-mails have an open rate of 70 percent, according to co-founder Kendall Herbst. In the world of direct marketing, that’s astronomical. “Women stil want fashion advice, but the old way [i.e., magazines] just isn't working any more,” Herbst says. “Brands wil pay to be in front of such an engaged audience.”

Photo by Wade Roush

Lollipuff

Lollipuff

There’s a $30 billion annual market for resale designer goods, according to the founders of Lollipuff. But the big thing holding the market back, they say, is the threat of counterfeiting. The startup, which says it wants to be “the eBay of designer goods,” has developed a system that “combines software with human expertise to make sure there are no fakes on our site.”

Photo by Wade Roush

Swish

Swish

Kickstarter has created an amazing new mechanism for helping companies raise early funding from fans, but there’s a problem: Kickstarter doesn’t want to be a store, and it doesn’t want fans to think of their donations as payments for pre-orders. That’s where Swish comes in. It’s a pre-order marketplace where companies can submit items for 30-day pre-order campaigns. Would-be customers pay up front, and Swish holds the money in escrow until items are delivered.

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Semantics3

Semantics3

Semantics3 is trying to turn the art of pricing into a science. It says it’s gathering data from thousands of top e-retailers to build a giant database of prices for more than 20 million products from across the Web. It uses that data to help clients determine how to set prices for their own goods.

Photo by Wade Roush

Medisas

Medisas

Hospital floor staff still handle much of their communication---such as the “hand-off” that occurs when doctors change shifts---on paper. That leads to serious medical errors and thousands of preventable deaths every year. MediSAS is building tablet and desktop software that puts hand-off notes online. It’s testing the system at two large hospitals in the U.K. and one in New York, and it hopes to expand later into handling more general medical records.

Photo by Wade Roush

Swapbox

Swapbox

The founders of Swapbox are big fans of Amazon’s new Amazon Locker service; the only problem, they say, is that “it only works for Amazon…There has to be an independent platform for other retailers and carriers to use.” That’s what they’ve created, starting with 18 locations in San Francisco. For $2 per package, online shoppers can have a package shipped to a Swapbox location instead of their home or office; the lockers open using a PIN sent via text message or e-mail.

Photo by Wade Roush

Wefunder

Wefunder

Wefunder is a Boston-based startup that aims to help other early stage startups raise money through “crowd investing.” That’s like Kickstarter-style crowdfunding, but in exchange for actual equity (technically, a convertible note). While the practice isn’t legal yet, the SEC is expected to issue regulations this year under the JOBS Act that will open up equity-based startup investing to unaccredited investors (i.e. non-bajillionaires), and Wefunder is positioning itself for that transition.

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Zenefits

Zenefits

Small- to medium-sized businesses can outsource the administration of their benefits programs, including things like helath insurance, 401Ks, and commuter/transportation benefits, to Zenefits using the startup’s simple website. “Tell us the employee’s name, e-mail, salary, stock options, and hire date and we handle everything else,” says co-founder Parker Conrad.

Photo by Wade Roush

Lawdingo

Lawdingo

Lawdingo is an online marketplace for attorneys aimed at replacing the old-fashioned system of Yellow Pages spots and similar advertising. Users can share legal questions on the site and get quick answers from participating lawyers, then connect outside the site for paid consultations.

Photo by Wade Roush

Terascore

Terascore

Terascore wants to help teachers do away with old-fashioned paper tests and manual grading by moving tests onto students’ smartphones and tablets. “We solve a real problem for teachers and also enhance the learning process by providing immediate feedback,” the co-founders say. Because it’s so difficult selling new software to school districts, the company is beginning by selling its testing software directly to teachers, for $9 per month per classroom.

Photo by Wade Roush

Meldium

Meldium

Meldium wants to modernize the way companies manage employee passwords---a growing problem in the era of cloud services. “Instead of sharing a giant spreadsheet of user names and passwords, employees get a seamless, single sign-on” for more than 300 popular Web apps, explains co-founder Boris Jabes. “We are the first passwod manager that’s easy for people to use.”

Photo by Wade Roush

Goldbely

Goldbely

Goldbely is building an e-retailing site for small specialty food providers. Currently, the $11 billion market for food giving is dominated by three big players, according to Goldbely co-founder Joe Ariel: Omaha Steaks, 1-800-Flowers, and Harry & David. “That’s not our market,” Ariel says. “Our market is the other 90 percent, the small and medium-sized mom and pop shops that can make a mean cheesecake but don’t know how to market themselves online.”

Photo by Wade Roush

Y Combinator‘s slimmed-down class of 47 Winter 2013 startups told their stories at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View yesterday. It was the 16th semi-annual Demo Day for the world’s most prestigious and productive startup accelerator, the birthplace of companies like Airbnb, Dropbox, Heroku, Reddit, and Disqus.

Some 14 of the companies opted to remain in stealth mode. For summaries of the 33 on-the-record presentations, see the slide show above.

If there was a single prominent theme to the event, it was the crowdfunding boom. Five of the on-the-record companies were promising to either make Kickstarter-style crowdfunding more manageable, or bring the power of crowdfunding to new types of organizations (see BackerKit, Microryza, Watsi, Swish, and Wefunder).

YC has also been doing its part to invest in hardware startups, contributing to a mini-boom that’s spawned separate accelerators like Lemnos Labs and HAXLR8R. The hardware companies in the YC W13 lineup included Airware, Thalmic, PayTango, and Swapbox.

Other hot trends represented in this YC class included big data (Fivetran, Semantic3), cloud services (Bitnamie and Meldium), health IT (MediSAS and Watsi), online legal services (Wevorce and Lawdingo), mobile publishing (Padlet and Strikingly), corporate HR outsourcing (SimplyInsured and Zenefits), edutech (Terascore), marketplaces (Buildzoom and Lollipuff), the sharing economy (FlightCar), fashion (Teespring and StyleUp), and food (Goldbely).

The Winter 2013 batch included Y Combinator’s first non-profit company, Watsi, and was the first class to be smaller than its predecessor. That was a reaction to the fact that “more things than usual broke” when YC expanded from 66 companies in its Winter 2012 class to 84 companies in its Summer 2012 class, as YC co-founder Paul Graham explained in a post last December.

Getting smaller, Graham said yesterday, allowed Y Combinator to get more picky. “We tried to pick the best 47, which means there are hardly any startups in this batch that are bad,” Graham said. “We cut out the bottom third.” Of course, Graham admitted, it will take a while to prove that, or to figure out which of the 47 are the strongest.

For my own part, I was most impressed by Thalmic, which is making a wearable computer interface called MYO that straps to the user’s forearm and senses hand movements. It has the potential to bring Minority Report-style user interfaces to life, without camera-based tracking systems.

I’d give the prize for cleverest solution to a messy urban problem to FlightCar. The startup proposes to reduce parking congestion around airports by letting travelers rent out their cars while they’re away, rather than leaving them to gather dust in an expensive lot.

I’m also rooting for MediSAS, which wants to reduce medical errors and preventable hospital deaths by tabletizing the “handoff” notes exchanged by doctors and nurses who are changing shifts.

And I’d give the award for cleverest name and logo to Errplane, which offers an application monitoring service to cloud-software companies. The logo shows a paper airplane with a crumpled nose—a condition most of the newly airborne YC startups have yet to experience.

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy.