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

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Kulveer Taggar, Srini Panguluri, Omar Seyal

“The NFC Platform.”

Some new Android phones already have near-field communications (NFC) chips built in, and these chips will likely be inside all phones within a couple of years. Tagstand, which has already raised $550,000, sells NFC stickers (thin, flexible RFID tags) that can be programmed to pass information to an NFC device. It also offers an online tag manager program that lets users reprogram their tags from the Web. “Our vision is for a world of NFC devices, all running Tagstand,” the company says.

My take: NFC is coming. But like Paperlinks in the QR code area, Tagstand will need to show that it’s got the simplest, cheapest technology for managing the tags in order to leapfrog other providers.


Jake Jolis, Mikael Bernstein, Fred Wulff

“The instant way to learn a language.”

My own tag line for Verbling might be “Rosetta Stone meets Chatroulette.” The startup has created a website where users can learn each other’s languages through “dual immersion”—i.e. live Webcam video. An English speakers learning Spanish, for example, might spend five minutes talking with a Spanish speaker learning English. There’s a timer that tells video participants when to switch languages, and a rating system that lets users review one another as language partners. Eventually, the company will use the ratings to create a pricing scheme driven by demand for the best partners.

My take: Brilliant—there had to be something redeeming in the Chatroulette idea. But other startups such as LangoLab, a TechStars company, have tried this exact concept, without getting a lot of traction.


Michael Litt, Edward Wu, Devon Galloway

“YouTube for business.”

More and more companies are embedding videos in their websites, and many of these videos are actually hosted on YouTube. But while using YouTube may be free, it’s a “terrible idea,” according to the founders of Vidyard—the main reason being that when viewers follow a link back to YouTube, the video will be surrounded by other content that’s out of the business’s control. Vidyard offers professional video hosting, with the added bonus of real-time analytics that show who’s watching a video right this moment. Some big companies are already using the service, including Coca Cola and Ernst & Young.

My take: At first blush, this feels like a step backward in time, to the era when companies had to pay a lot of money to companies like Brightcove or Ooyala to get their video online. And the attraction of YouTube is not just that it’s free—it’s also social, meaning your videos can be more easily discovered. But if Vidyard can marry the ease of YouTube with the control and customizability of Brightcove, at a low price, the combination may appeal to a lot of businesses.


Peter Clark, Cesar Alaniz

“Video voicemail.”

As mobile phones with front-facing cameras become more common, more people will want to use the cameras to record brief video messages and share them with friends or family. Transmitting these videos is the problem—it’s currently a bit tricky to attach them to e-mails or text messages. Vimessa makes an iPhone app (coming soon to other platforms) that lets users create and share short videos with friends who also have the app. “It’s the ease of SMS meets the magic of video,” the company says.

My take: There’s lots of innovation going on around mobile video sharing, whether synchronous or asynchronous. Some of it is coming from phone makers such as Apple, some from companies like Thrutu and Tokbox that have telecom industry experience, some from independent developers. I think a small startup may have trouble getting a foothold. Vimessa’s best bet may be to position its technology as a feature of some larger system, and aim for acquisition.


Amir Hirsch, Ted Blackman, Shlomo Zippel

“The market for motion apps.”

Motion control—what used to be called “gestural interfaces”—is finally going mainstream thanks to devices like Microsoft’s Kinect. But makers of motion sensor hardware have been slow to release software development kits that allow independent developers to build their own motion-controlled applications. ZigFu offers a development environment that lets programmers adapt their games or other software for the Kinect and other motion platforms from Asus, Lenovo, Panasonic, and other manufacturers.

My take: With motion sensors likely to be integrated into most smart TVs and game consoles in the future, there’s going to be a huge need for software development tools, and for the moment ZigFu is filling that vacuum.

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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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