The Big Themes at Y Combinator’s Summer 2012 Demo Day

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online banner ads, something that’s mainly been used to date for text-based ads. And Mth Sense brings behavioral targeting to the mobile-ads world by analyzing the apps installed on a smartphone to come up with a demographic profile of the phone’s owner. “If you have Dora the Explorer, Pinterest, and Vogue installed, most likely you are a soccer mom,” say the founders.

Developer Tools

Y Combinator admitted a large group of startups working on software, analytics, and quality assurance tools to this batch, continuing in its tradition of supporting companies like Heroku that work to make life easier for software developers, Web designers, system administrators, and analysts.

In this group, Zapier acts as a hub allowing businesses to easily connect with dozens of cloud-based services. Light Table is a Kickstarter-funded project to build a new type of software development environment that lets programmers access documentation more easily and modify code while it’s running.

On the Web design front: Scoutzie is a marketplace where companies can find pre-qualified mobile and Web designers. Easel offers a Web design tool that helps companies prototype a website just once, rather than mocking it up in a tool like Balsamiq and then re-coding it in HTML and CSS, while MarkupWand has a remarkably similar tool that helps designers turn Photoshop mockups into HTML.

Parallel Universe has built a specialized database called SpaceBase that lets companies perform heavy-duty analytics on complex data very quickly—the Israeli air force is already using it to track the positions of planes. Statwing, meanwhile has built software that lets non-experts visualize statistical data.

Consumer Data Management

This is a category I’ve made up for three companies with interesting ideas about how to organize the data scattered across our hard drives and cloud-based accounts. First there’s Collections, which has built a “universal Finder” that shows Mac users not only the files on their hard drives, but also the data in their Google Docs, Instagram, Facebook, and other cloud-based accounts. Closely related is, a set of software interfaces that developers can use to integrate their own apps with cloud services like Google Drive and Facebook, so that users can send data between accounts without having to download them to their PCs in between.

Finally, there’s Grid, which is working on a remarkable iPad app for organizing lists, schedules, contacts, photos, and other information in a kind of huge multimedia spreadsheet. This startup gets my vote for Most Intriguing of the batch. I can’t really explain the app well here—go watch their video. If it actually works, it will be pretty amazing.


Three startups in this YC batch have built tools to help publishers reach readers and make money—causes dear to our hearts here at Xconomy. Survata makes  a plugin that lets publishers offer readers free access to premium content in exchange for filling out brief market research surveys. Hiptype is a publishing analytics company that helps book publishers get a better idea of who’s buying and reading their e-books. But Circular is a bit different—it’s working on mobile apps that help news aficionados share their favorite stories. From another perspective, it’s “an infinite scroll of news personalized for you, filtering out the stories you don’t care about,” says founder Samuel Clay.


Healthcare isn’t yet a big focus area for Y Combinator—it’s territory that Rock Health and other healthtech-focused accelerators are covering pretty thoroughly. But there were two public healthcare-related startups in this batch. Eligible is a platform that developers can use to build privacy-compliant insurance eligibility queries into their healthcare IT software. And Healthy Labs is developing a series of Web-based communities for chronic disease sufferers, starting with Crohnology, a community for people with Crohn’s disease. (Under the Crohnology name, this startup was part in Rock Health’s inaugural class in 2011.)


As one of the co-founders of Clever observed, education is a tempting market for technology developers, but anybody who takes it on is repelled by the fact that selling to schools is painfully slow. That’s why Clever is selling to developers instead. It has built a data integration tool that extracts student data from existing school databases and makes it usable to builders of other education tools.

The other two education-related companies in this YC batch are also skirting schools and aiming straight at students. Study Edge is a subscription site where college students can get access to peer tutoring via Facebook. And Knowmia is building a marketplace where high-school students in need of extra help can find custom courses assembled by educators and consisting of videos culled from the Web; co-founder Ariel Braunstein, who also helped to found Flip Video creator Pure Digital, calls it “the platform for the next 1,000 Khan Academies.”

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Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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