Y Combinator’s biannual Demo Day kicked off this week, with nearly 200 of the accelerator’s latest batch of startups presenting two-minute pitches to an audience of investors. All face a greater challenge than early Y Combinator alumni such as Airbnb and Dropbox. The accelerator itself has experienced significant changes in recent months, headlined by president Sam Altman stepping down in March.
Still, new startups could become hits, such as fintech company Brex, from the accelerator’s 2017 batch. On Monday and Tuesday, 174 pitched their ideas to change the world, giving insights on the direction that tech is headed.
- Emerging overseas markets are ripe for opportunity. YC CEO Michael Siebel kicked off Demo Day by noting that 15% of the batch is focused overseas. Some startups simply tagged themselves the “Compass for Latin America” or the “Robinhood for India.” TradeID claims it’s to be the first to offer U.S. stocks to Indonesian citizens. Coco helps Venezuelan migrants send support to their family not through money, but with food. Egypt-based Breadfast bakes its own bread and delivers it alongside other breakfast foods. Lezzoo delivers food and medicine in Iraq and, like Grab in Southeast Asia and WeChat in China, wants to expand beyond its original functionality in an emerging market to become the one-stop super app of the Middle East.
- People in tech are starting companies for other people in tech. Outtalent’s cofounder Tilek Mamutov was making $4,000 per year in his home country of Kyrgyzstan when Google offered him a salary that soon reached $140,000. Now, Mamutov’s startup helps talented tech employees in emerging markets find jobs at tech heavyweights abroad, taking a small cut of their salary if successful. Other startups are targeting Silicon Valley, including Compound, a wealth advisor for employees at top startups and Elpha, an online community for women in tech to chat, network and find jobs.
- The housing crisis is giving rise to new ideas.When it comes to building affordable housing, two startups are turning to the backyard. Node is using Ikea’s ready-to-assemble furniture model to quickly build backyard cottages, while Rent the Backyard plops a studio apartment in your backyard in return for splitting the rental income. And Globe is building an Airbnb-esque platform for an hourly basis—think people who might need a quick nap or privacy for a phone call.
- Make fashion as personalized as possible.Using the metric that many women return online clothing purchases because of improper fit, Fit to Form uses an algorithm to match customer measurements to one of 100 models to help shoppers find the proper fit. The Custom Movement is a marketplace for independent artists who design custom sneakers at an affordable price. Curtsy is a fashion resale app for Gen Z, banking on the idea that teens want a rotating closet of items to style with.
- New tech applications want to address the fact that there are too many tech applications. Whether or not a company is in the tech industry, it likely uses a slew of tech applications to keep operations running. But, if hearing 200 pitches in two days wasn’t enough evidence, startup saturation is real and some startups know it. One company wants to unify the workspace by combining Slack, Asana and Google Docs into one product. Gmelius has integrated multiple workplace apps into Gmail.
- Everyone is looking for a side hustle. Startups have recognized that people are always looking for extra income, and created platforms to connect them to gigs. GitStart built a network for developers to find small coding tasks, while Beacons AI built a payment platform for influencers to make extra money through custom video responses for fans. The opportunity to side hustle was also brought to doctors, with DirectShifts helping them find contract work.
While many of the startups pitched concepts designed to alleviate the plight of today’s modern worker or office, a number of them also tackle personal wellbeing, like Stoic., an app to monitor emotions and Monaru, a personal assistant for relationships. No problem was too big or too small, and that’s what makes Demo Day so exciting year after year—hearing the palpable anticipation and passion these founders share as they launch their ideas into the world.