Y Combinator’s Summer 2011 Demo Day: The Definitive Debrief, Part 2

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Hamilton Chan

“The QR code infrastructure for businesses.”

Paperlinks wants to “make the real world clickable” by making it easer for advertisers to generate their own QR codes—those funny-looking square barcodes that mobile phone owners can scan to obtain Web links or prompt some other action. Nestle, LiveNation, and GNC are already customers; one Paperlinks client, a takeout restaurant, is using the technology to create outdoor “vending machines” where customers can place their orders by scanning a code. “It’s one-click shopping for the real world,” says founder Hamilton Chan.

My take: QR codes, near-field communications tags, and other carriers of digital information are going to become far more common in marketing and commerce. Much of the work of generating these codes will probably fall to advertising agencies or printers, but Paperlinks looks like a good DIY option.


Tikhon Bernstrom, Kevin Lacker, Ilya Sukhar

“Heroku for mobile apps.”

Developers who write Web apps don’t have to take on the tedious task of maintaining the servers where those apps run, or the databases and other software the apps call upon; they can outsource all of that to platforms such as Heroku and Engine Yard. Parse provides a similar service to mobile app developers. It handles data storage, retrieval, synchronization, social sharing, notifications, user authentication, and other details that tend to be common elements in mobile apps, freeing developers to concentrate on the apps themselves. Google Ventures, Menlo Ventures, and individual investors have already put $1.4 million into the startup, which caters to both iOS and Android app developers.

My take: Paying a specialist to handle the server-side back end of your mobile application will be as common as paying a Web hosting provider to serve up your website. Parse won’t be the only such company, but it seems to have first mover advantage.


Paul Stamatiou, Akshay Dodeja

“The easiest way to send prints.”

If you upload or e-mail your photos to Picplum, they’ll print them and send a selection to the recipients you specify every month. It’s as simple as that. The company designed the service for busy new parents who wouldn’t otherwise have time to send pictures of their kids to the grandparents. It costs $7 per month to send 15 4″x6″ prints.

My take: I can see the attraction of the automatic monthly plan for busy parents. But in most other ways Picplum seems similar to other online photo printing services such as Snapfish; it may need to do more to differentiate itself.

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Wade Roush is the producer and host of the podcast Soonish and a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @soonishpodcast

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