At the sixth annual Pear Demo Day, weather balloons, branded credit cards, and lots of top degrees

Pear, a Palo Alto-based seed stage fund that has made its name through early bets on Guardant Health, DoorDash, Memebox, and Gusto, hosted its sixth annual demo day this week in what proved to be a scorchingly hot afternoon in Woodside, California — not that invitees were put off by the heat.

Hundreds of investors showed up at a sprawling public estate and surrounding gardens to see the dozen teams that Pear spent the summer working with, each of them less than nine months old, according to Pear, and many incorporated only in recent months. (Each has also only received less than $200,000 so far from Pear and no other institutional investment.)

While some are sure to evolve into other ideas or dissolve into other endeavors, the whole of the group gave those gathered food for thought and a first look at some very solid talent.

Following are the companies that presented:

1) Windborne: Founded by three Stanford grads and another from Harvard, this startup aims to improve the accuracy of weather data where it’s currently limited, like over oceans, by using weather balloons that could allow the team to do things like tell shipping companies which route to take to minimize fuel burn. CEO Paige Brown also says their system can fly 60 times longer than existing solutions and for the same price. The more specific claim: that in a single $350 flight, a Windborne balloon can fly for more than five days and travel a quarter of the way around the world, collecting direct measurements in places no one else can.

The team apparently bonded as engineers in the Stanford Student Space Initiative and they’ve all worked at SpaceX.

Windborne

2) Guild: This one was started by two Stanford grads and helps companies make branded credit cards. Why would they bother? Because, the startup claims, branded credit cards are a lot more lucrative — increasing spending by 20 percent, cutting churn by roughly half, and generating $50 per year of profit per customer. Co-founder Michael Spelfogel says he knows of which he speaks, having tried, unsuccessfully, to launch a branded credit card while at Lyft.

He also says the idea is to partner with sports teams first.

Guild

3) Polimorphic: Started by two computer scientists out of MIT, this startup is building a “civic media platform” meant to help politicians communicate with constituents in an interactive way. The platform basically invites constituents toexpress their views directly to political and government leaders, while giving campaigns, civic groups, and governments a way to engage with those individuals (though the latter has to pay to do this.)  It’s a meaningful market, they argue, saying that campaign spending has been growing by 50 percent in between major election cycles, with $9 billion spent in 2016 alone.

Of course, because this was a demo day, the founders also talked about their traction, saying they already have three letters of intent, and volunteering that they’re in early talks with three presidential campaigns.

Polimorphic

4) Gradio: Launched by graduates of Stanford, Georgia Institute of Technology, NYU and MIT, Gradio says it speeds up the process of collecting and labeling data for use with AI and machine learning. The “Gradio data engine” corrects mislabeled data, identifies and removes “low value” data, and highlights the highest value data. It’s a smart pitch, considering that acquiring and labeling data right now requires tons of human labor and often requires pricey domain expertise and that, even so, something like one if five data points is mislabeled at a typical AI company.

As for who will use the technology, the founders say they’re targeting companies in the natural language processing space first.

Gradio

5) Sympto Health: Launched by two founders from UC San Diego (one who graduated, one who dropped out to build Sympto), this startup is trying to tackle a universal problems, which is that patients very often forget clinical instructions, and when that happens, they sometimes wind up being readmitted to the hospital.

Sympto ties into a care facility’s existing systems/workflows and sends “patient engagement” messages — things like surgery checklists, pre-appointment questionnaires, etc — to minimize missed information and unnecessary readmissions. It says its patient-as-an-engagement service has already landed the company two enterprise contracts worth $300,000, too.

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6) Smarty: This startup was founded by a single person with multiple degrees (HBS, MIT) who previously worked as a software engineer at Yammer.

What she has built: an automation tool that’s focused on business tasks like scheduling meetings, making introductions, and finding flights for out of town meetings. The tool is being made available first to users of G Suite and Office 365 users (which have 200 million paying users combined), who are being asked to pay Smarty $20 a month for its workflow automation tool, Eventually, though, it aims to be its own client.

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7) Impct: Started by two MBAs from National Chengchi University and another from Stanford, Impct is making what it called snacks for good. It’s not that they’re more healthful than other options; instead, the idea is for companies to buy these white-label snacks for their offices, then re-invest a percentage of their sales into social responsibility programs chosen by employees. The thinking is that employees want their kombucha; why not buy spend on snack bars and drinks that give back?

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8) Learn to Win: Started by two Stanford MBAs who say traditional learning management systems fall short of the needs of  high-performance teams, Learn to Win is a “micro learning” training program that’s right now being used by 100 sports organizations; it also has a signed contract with the Air Combat Command to train fighter pilots.

What the program ostensibly offers: content that’s presented in a visual and easy-to-use content authoring engine, the ability to deploy mobile active learning content to users, and and the ability to quickly evaluate results and iterate.

Next on the startup’s to-do list: enticing other entities with training challenges, including in the commercial airline industry, at oil and gas companies, and within police and fire departments.

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9) Fanimal: Founders with degrees from Stanford, Columbia University and UC Berkeley (and who’ve worked at Boston Consulting Group, Gunderson Dettmer, and Hackbright Academy) decided to come together to tackle two annoying problems associated with uying tickets for live events: high fees, and that feeling when you buy tickets for a group of people . . . then need to chase them down for reimbusement.

With Fanimal, everyone in a social group pays individually and receives their own tickets, and there are no hidden fees. Instead, Fanimal makes money by adding a “small markup” to tickets. Since launching a few weeks ago, they’ve sold more than $31,000 in tickets.

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10) Xilis:  A Stanford PhD and a PhD from UNC Chapel Hill who are both now Duke University professors focused on oncology and precision health came together for this company out of their acutely awareness that when someone is diagnosed with cancer, finding the right treatment frequently takes months and often comes with countless side effects. To speed along the process, their company, Xilis, uses “micro-organoids” to make thousands of 3d replicas of a patient’s tumor in about 6 days, which the company says can be used for testing for drug compatibility faster.

They say it works, too. At least, the cofounders, Xiling Shen and David Hsu, say they’ve tested the technology with 12 patients, with a 100% success rate in predicting how a tumor will respond to medication.

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11) Equipped: Founded by two Stanford grads who’ve worked variously for the NBA, Tesla and Amazon, Equipped has an interesting proposal. What if instead of lug an oversize umbrella to the beach or bring a soccer ball to the park, you could buy these things where they make sense, in on-demand equipment lockers at the beach, or outside a park, where you could rent what you need, then return it?

Nike seems to like the idea. CEO Dan Mandelman says the sports retail giant is paying them $200,000 for six lockers in LA, with the cities of Burlingame, San Ramon, and Redwood City currently implementing pilot programs.

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12) Maker: Two Stanford MBAs with marketing and management consultant experience have created a marketplace for small batch wines.

Maker finds small/independent wineries, cans their product under the Maker label, then delivers to the end customer.

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By the way, you can get a flavor for Pear’s demo day here if you’re curious.

 

YC is doubling down on these investment theses in its most recent batch

Nearly 200 startups have just graduated from the prestigious San Francisco startup accelerator Y Combinator . The flock of companies are now free to proceed company-building with a fresh $150,000 check and three-months full of tips and tricks from industry experts.

As usual, we sent several reporters to YC’s latest demo day to take notes on each company and pick our favorites. But there were many updates to the YC structure this time around and new trends we spotted from the ground that we’ve yet to share.

CTO and HR demo days

Our 12 favorite startups from Y Combinator’s S19 Demo Day 2

After two days of founders tirelessly pitching, we’ve reached the end of YC’s Summer 2019 Demo Days. TechCrunch witnessed more than 160 on-the-record startup pitches coming out of Y Combinator, spanning healthcare, B2B services, augmented reality and life-extending.

The full list is worth a gander, you can read about the 84 startups from Day 1 and the 82 companies from Day 2 in the linked posts. You can also check out our votes for the best of the best from day 1.

After conferring on the dozens of startups we saw yesterday, here are our favorites from the second day of Y Combinator pitches.

The 11 best startups from Y Combinator’s S19 Demo Day 1

Y Combinator, the genesis for many of the companies that have shaped Silicon Valley including Airbnb, PagerDuty and Stripe, has minted another 200 some graduates. Half of those companies made their pitch to investors today during Day 1 of Y Combinator’s Summer 2019 Demo Day event and we’re here to tell you which startups are on the fast-track to the unicorn club.

Eighty-four startups presented (read the full run-through of every company plus some early analysis here) and after chatting with investors, batch founders and of course, debating amongst ourselves, we’ve nailed down the 11 most promising startups to present during Day 1. We’ll be back Tuesday with our second round of top picks.


20 startups take center stage at Berkeley SkyDeck’s demo day

The largest-ever Berkeley SkyDeck demo day kicked off with a high-energy performance from the Cal marching band, setting the tone for an afternoon of presentations from none other than Berkeley faculty and students-turned-entrepreneurs.

Launched in 2012 as a modest accelerator for student-run businesses, SkyDeck has flourished since its inception. To date, the program has mentored 300 startups, which have gone on to raise $800 million via 27 funding rounds and 10 acquisition deals. Earlier this year, it raised a $24 million venture fund so it could finally seed participating startups with $100,000 in exchange for 5 percent equity. Today’s cohort is only the second to receive an investment from SkyDeck as part of the accelerator.

To participate in SkyDeck’s accelerator program, startups must have at least one founding member attending any of the University of California campuses as an undergraduate or graduate student. Faculty members are also able to apply. Executive director Caroline Winnet said they plan to invest half that fund’s profits back into the university.

Lime, the bike- and scooter-sharing startup, is the biggest success story to emerge from SkyDeck. The company was created by Cal grads Toby Sun and Brad Bao, who were part of a 2017 SkyDeck cohort. Kiwi Campus, a robotics startup focused on last-mile delivery, and TDK-acquired Chirp Microsystems, are also SkyDeck graduates, as is the mental health startup Aura, which announced a $2.5 million financing just last week.

SkyDeck works with two cohorts of companies per year for six months each.

Here’s a look at the 20 startups that demoed for investors on Berkeley’s campus today:

PredictEV: Focused on the sports and esports market, PredictEV is a blockchain-powered social network for fans to bet on sports with cryptocurrency.

Researchably: Targeting medical research, pharma sales and outreach teams, the startup provides a research-based medical advice system.

Triton: A software platform that helps media companies tailor content to each individual reader or viewer. Triton is currently running pilots with Vanity Fair and The CW.

Predictim: An AI-powered platform that accesses a person’s trust and reliability. The purpose is to eliminate risk for members of the sharing economy. Basically, it will help you figure out if your dog-walker is a murderer.

Seamless Microsystems: Designs and manufactures semiconductor chips for consumer medical imaging, 5G networking LIDAR in autonomous driving and more.

SoftRides: Using AI and a smartphone’s image sensor to detect distracted driving behavior and alert you in real time.

Eye Level.AI: Founded by a group of former IBM Watson employees, Eye Level.AI provides an analytics-driven platform to assist chatbot owners to monetize current users and attract new ones.

Eye Level.AI

Perfect Dashboard: An AI-powered online marketplace for connecting SaaS products to small businesses.

The SMBX: A provider of a mobile marketplace that connects small businesses with people interested in investing in them.

Chameleon Biosciences: A startup focused on revolutionizing gene therapy to treat rare diseases.

ThinkCyte: The company has invented new imaging technology combined with machine learning, called Ghost Cytometry, to analyze and isolate cells for drug discovery, cell therapy and clinical diagnostics.

Snipfeed: With 44,000 weekly active users, Snipfeed helps Generation Z mobile users avoid misinformation online with its AI-powered news and information recommendation engine.

DropEx: A business networking app and relationship management system.

Peanut Robotics: The startup’s consumer-facing robot can grip household items to assist with cleaning at hotels, offices and airports.

Empire Biotechnologies: The company is developing therapies for gastrointestinal issues, specifically short bowel syndrome. Empire’s drug is used to control the absorption of nutrients through the digestive system.

Humm: A developer of wearable cognitive performance enhancement hardware created by a group of researchers at the University of Western Australia.

CoolJamm: An automated music producer and recommendation engine that uploads directly to YouTube.

Bungee: Led by three former Amazon employees, Bungee helps e-commerce businesses mine geo-specific data to create a recommendation engine for price, promotions and inventory.

SimpleDataLabs: The creator of Prophecy, a predictive analytics platform focused on business analysts and executives.

Skyloom: The company wants to improve space-to-Earth communications and unlock “the true economic potential of low Earth orbit” with its spaceborne infrastructure.

 

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