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 the producer and host of the podcast Soonish and a contributing editor at Xconomy.