Here are 64 startups that launched today at Y Combinator’s W18 Demo Day

Biotech, robotics, and fintech startups took the spotlight today at prestigious accelerator Y Combinator’s 26th Demo Day. This batch features 141 total companies from 23 countries, with presentations spread over two days. The house was packed at Mountain View’s Computer History Museum with wealthy investors forced to stand in the back or sit on floor. Meanwhile, marijuana soda, wind turbine-cleaning drones, and indestructible panty hose startups demoed their products in the break room and parking lot.

Y Combinator has made progress ramping up diversity in its startup school. 35 percent of this batch’s companies are internationally based, 27 percent have a female founder, and 13 percent have an underrepresented minority founder. The 50-person YC team now includes 18 partners, with Eric Migicovsky of Pebble joining to help out hardware companies and explore the accelerator’s opportunities in China.

The question on everyone’s minds is which startups will join the 15 previous ones like Stripe, Dropbox, and Airbnb now worth over $1 billion. But with YC’s portfolio moving beyond social apps and enterprise tools towards hard science innovation, and 18 percent of this batch’s companies coming from health and biotech, many of the software investors seemed a little overwhelmed. We’ll let you choose your favorites from our write-ups of all 64 that pitched on the record today. Check back later for TechCrunch’s picks of the top companies, and we’ll have full coverage of Demo Day 2 tomorrow.

Bear Flag Robotics

Bear Flag is building autonomous tractors. They claim to be able to reduce input by 20% and increase production yield by 11%. They’re already testing tractors in the field in California. They plan to charge about $4,000 per tractor per month.


A mobile app for building mobile websites, who would have thought? Universe lets users build a personal portfolio site with the same ease of editing a photo on Instagram. Users can follow other sites which creates a bit of Tumblr-like network of personal blogs. Users have already built one hundred thousand sites with the iOS app which has expanded its functionality in recent months to l

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Jeff Bezos friend to robots

Today marks the kickoff of Amazon’s annual semi-secret MARS Conference in Palm Springs, which means two things.

No, you weren’t invited. The start of several days of pictures featuring Jeff Bezos palling around with his best robot friends.

Last year the ‘bot loving billionaire wowed the internet with a fairly menacing shot taken inside 1.5 ton giant mech suit, breaking the apocalyptic ice a bit by comparing himself to Ellen Ripley. This year’s first shot from the event is a bit more subdued, with Bezos taking “my new dog,” the latest iteration of Boston Dynamics’ electric quadruped SpotMini out for a stroll.

Jeff Bezos playing beer pong with a robot #mars2018

— Cosima Gretton MD (@cosgretton) March 19, 2018

Of course, the robot appears to have just been on loan — Bezos and company have been steadily building up Amazon Robotics with logistical automation acquisitions, but Boston Dynamics only changed hands from Google to SoftBank early last year.

“That’s super cool”- @JeffBezos getting followed by a #gita at #MARS @P_F_F @AmazonRobotics

— Sasha Hoffman (@sashaphoffman) March 19, 2018

And besides, there appear to have been plenty of other robots competing for the billionaire’s time at the invite-only. Here’s Bezos challenging a robotic arm to a bottle flipping game, and here’s a pair of Piaggio Gita delivery robots playing follow the leader with SpotMini and Bezos, while a drone flies overhead. 

Because if you were the billionaire owner of Amazon, you’d probably spend your Monday palling around with robot friends, too.

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Selling data on millions ‘is the opposite of our business model ’ says Facebook’s Boz

Facebook’s former VP of ads has weighed in on the ongoing disaster involving his company’s apparent negligence in allowing data on as many as 50 million users to be used for nefarious purposes by Cambridge Analytica. In a post on (what else) Facebook, Andrew “Boz” Bosworth gave variations on the line we’ve come to expect from tech in these situations: They’re not supposed to do that, and anyway how could we have known?

“This is the opposite of our business model,” he wrote. “Our interests are aligned with users when it comes to protecting data.” What reason could you possibly have to be skeptical of this declamation?

He said much more than that, of course, and very earnestly indeed, but if you cut through the prevarication here’s the simplified timeline:

Facebook deliberately allows developers to collect a bunch of data from users who authorize it, plus a bunch of their friends. (But developers have to promise they won’t use it in certain ways.)

Shady people take advantage of this choice and collect as much data as possible for use off the Facebook network in ways Facebook can’t predict or control. (The quiz app in question is surely just one of many — this was an incredible opportunity for data snatchers.)

Facebook fails to predict or control use of the data it released, and fails to protect users who never even knew their data had been released. (It also fails to learn that it has failed to control it.)

The rest is noise, as far as I’m concerned. Even if anyone really believes that sharing data about users is not the Facebook business model, who cares what its business model is? Whatever plausible sounding business model it had before didn’t protect anyone, and didn’t stop these characters from collecting and using data in all sorts of shady ways.

Of course there’s the strong possibility that Cambridge Analytica and others misused the data, didn’t delete it as promised, performed unsanctioned analyses on it. Oh no! Who would have thought someone would do that? The real question was what was Facebook expecting when it handed out data on millions essentially on the honor system?

Facebook’s business model is monetizing your data (the data you give it, it must be said), one way or the other. It used to be one way, now it’s the other. Soon it’ll be yet another — but

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Billionaire Larry Ellison has a new consumer wellness company called Sensei

It’s not every day that Oracle’s billionaire founder, chairman and CTO Larry Ellison launches a new business, but such is the case today. That new company? Sensei, a new L.A.-based wellness brand that will focus first on developing hydroponic farms and later . . . well, details are scant, but they’re coming soon, we’re told.

Ellison, who we presume is funding the effort, co-founded the company with his longtime friend, David Agus, a prolific author and professor of medicine at USC where he is, notably, the founding director of the Lawrence J. Ellison Institute for Transformative Medicine.

According to Sensei’s president, Dan Gruneberg, Ellison and Agus came up with the idea of starting a wellness company when a close mutual friend of the two was dying and they were spending more time together. In fact, as they watched their friend’s health deteriorate, they decided there was more they could, and should, do about it.

Step one, apparently, involves building a hydroponic farm of undisclosed size on the Hawaiian island of Lanai, which Ellison acquired for $300 million back in 2012.  There, says Gruneberg, the Sensei team will be focusing not on yield per acre but nutrition per acre, a selling point for the fruits and vegetables it plans to sell to restaurants and retailers under the brand Sensei Farms.

Though hydroponic farms — in which plants are grown in water rather than soil —  aren’t necessarily known for cultivating fruits and vegetables that are any less nutritious than their conventional counterparts, by increasing the concentration of nutrients, growers can increase the nutritional content of their vegetables. That seems to be the strategy here.

Another aspect of the business that Sensei will undoubtedly be marketing is sustainability. According to Gruneberg, Sensei’s hydroponic farms will use roughly 10 percent the amount of water used in traditional farming, and via a partnership with Tesla, its farms will be solar powered, too.

Asked how many hydroponic farms Sensei plans to build, and how many people the company employs currently, Gruneberg declines to say, telling us that more information about the company will be coming in later months, when there’s more “there” there

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eBay’s new AR tool helps sellers find the right box for their item

It looks like someone found a practical use case for AR that’s not about trying on makeup or catching Pokémon. Ebay today introduced a new AR-powered feature that helps sellers figure out the best box to use for shipping their items to buyers. The technology works with a range of products, the company says, including everything from backpacks to kitchenware to automotive parts. It’s meant to help sellers save time by pointing them to the correct USPS Flat Rate shipping box for their items.

Ebay says this technology will helps seller skip a trip to their local post office looking for the right-sized box, and will provide real-time calculation of shipping costs.

The feature is one of the first to be built using Google’s new ARCore platform, and currently runs only on ARCore-enabled Android devices.

ARCore, which is Google’s answer to Apple’s ARKit, was publicly released in February, and is now available in its 1.0 release to over 100 million Android devices, including top smartphones like Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel 2, Pixel 2 XL, Galaxy S8, S8+, Note8, S7 and S7 edge, LGE’s V30, V30+ (Android O only), ASUS Zenfone AR, OnePlus’s OnePlus 5, and others.

Ebay’s AR shipping feature also takes advantage of concurrent odometry and mapping to understand the phone’s position, and sensors for movement and orientation, the company notes.

To use the feature in the eBay mobile app for Android, you open the app and tap “Selling” followed by “Which Box?” The app will instruct you to place the item on a non-reflective flat surface, like a table or floor. You then “try on” virtual boxes around the item, to see which one fits best – leaving room for extra padding if the item is fragile, of course.

With the box overlaid on the item, you can change to the angle to look down on the box from the top, look on the sides and the back to see if the item is fitting all the way around.

Ebay says the AR shipping feature, which was built during the company’s annual hack week, is only one of several new AR experiences it has in the works this year. We’re told that an iOS version of this feature is also in the works, but the timing and feature set is still to be determined.


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