The Most Interesting Y Combinator Winter 2012 Startups

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marketplace for office furniture and the other products and services companies need when they’re moving. It’s all such a no-brainer idea that the company seems sure to succeed—or to get bought by Trulia.

Adam Forsythe, Anthony Martin, founders

In a world with hundreds of millions of mobile devices with glass touchscreens, what are we going to need? Lots of Windex and chamois cloth, yes, but also someone to repair our cracked screens after we accidentally drop or sit on them. iCracked says that with “iTechs” in 130 locations around the country who can travel to customer’s home or office and repair a cracked screen in under 30 minutes, it’s already the nation’s largest repair service for iPhones, iPods, and iPads and is set to earn $180,000 in the second quarter of this year. The company also offers a mail-in repair service and do-it-yourself kits. Given that 20 percent of all iDevices will suffer a broken screen or water damage at some point in their lifetimes, the company is entering a market that’s unlikely to dry up. And it’s developing a very clever side business: buying back broken devices, exporting them as junk to countries with high tariffs on U.S. electronics, then repairing and selling them.

Matt Bell, David Gausebeck, Michael Beebe, founders

These days, architects remodeling buildings often start by building a high-resolution 3D computer model—but making these models requires expensive laser-scanning equipment. MatterPort is developing a system that anyone can use to create a 3D model of an interior space just by walking around with an inexpensive, handheld scanner (it looks a lot like a Kinect, actually—watch their video here.) The company says its system is “20 times faster and 18 times cheaper than any other tool” for building 3D models of interiors, and aims to sell it first to users in the construction, entertainment, and real estate industries. Look for this company to either disrupt or be acquired by giants like Autodesk.

Nikki Durkin, Peter Delahunty, Dan Walker, founders

Not to be confused with 99Designs (I guess you can’t trademark a number), 99Dresses pledges to given women access to an “infinite closet” by making it easier for them to buy and sell their used clothing. Users upload photos of their unwanted dresses to the 99Designs site, where other users can buy them using a virtual currency called Buttons. They can then spend their buttons for other clothes. 20-year-old founder Nikki Durkin, who piloted the business in her native Australia, says she’s sure the service will appeal to “every college girl on a tight budget, every high school girl who wants to dress cool, every working woman in need of an ever-changing wardrobe.”

Spenser Skates, Curtis Liu, founders

Siri, the voice-activated assistant in Apple’s iPhone 4S, only works when you hold down the home button or put the phone up to your ear. But what if Siri were listening to you all the time, ready to respond to whatever you said? That’s the direction Sonalight is exploring. The startup makes an Android app called Text By Voice that can be left running in the background all the time. Whenever you say “text by voice,” the program wakes up and uses speech recognition algorithms to let you dictate a text message. It also lets you reply by voice to incoming text messages. Sonalight pitches Text By Voice as a way to avoid texting manually while driving, but to me it looks like the vanguard in a new era of what might be called ambient software, ready to spring into action upon any verbal cue.

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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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