Make big checks Will it lead to a big swing? Y Combinator’s latest participants are the second batch to land a $500,00 check as part of the accelerator’s recently refreshed Standard Deal. Although an accelerator says it only looks at founders when investing in startups, regardless of sector, category or idea, more money in the pipeline may have enough power to attract other founders.
With that in mind, this year’s batch offers a glimpse into what a group of YC-approved entrepreneurs prioritized amid recession, pandemic, hyperinflation and ongoing war. The results are varied – and we’ve already seen the ways in which fintech, crypto and artificial intelligence will influence the future.
Below, Technology Flow decided to compile the biggest moonshots of the batch, keeping the above points in mind. Because we all don’t bet our potential inheritances on Foxfish during a looming recession. Without further ado, let’s find out who made the cut.
Beyond Beyond Meat: Numi Foxfish
Brands like Beyond Meat and Impossible have shown there is a demand for “bleeding” fake meat, but are fish-eating hordes willing to eat imitation crustaceans?
The plant-based fishery industry is still in its infancy compared to the global seafood business today, but demand is growing as brands explore a variety of ingredients to look at, such as tomato (ocean hugger) and scallops (the plant-based) for tuna. Seafood Co). YC-backed startup Numi has joined the fray, using a “combination of soy, pea and lentil protein” and a “precision fermentation” to make something similar to shellfish.
Numi’s products are still in development, but the company already boasts a moonshot-sized goal — capturing 30% of the seafood market within 10 years. That’s a lot of potential mouthfuls to feed; According to researchers at Stanford, fish consumption will almost double by 2050. But given the industry’s many environmental ills, including overfishing, trash, emissions and waste, it seems certain that a new wave of persuasion by faux fish companies will do some good.
Solving optimization problems with bespoke hardware
Optimization problems are the bane of most companies’ existence. For example, shipping and logistics providers must determine on a daily basis which products can be shipped in which containers – and, of course, how many containers they need in the first place. According to one source, 85% of Fortune 500 companies use mathematical optimization in their operations.
Enter Integrated Reasoning, a startup that claims to be developing hardware to solve these kinds of problems in the cloud. Founded by longtime engineers, little has been made public about the company’s plans. But the co-founders did During the demo day they had an initial product targeting the knapsack problem, an optimization problem where, given a set of items — each with a weight and value — the number of items to include in the collection should be determined so that the total weight is less than or equal to a given limit and the total value is as large as possible.
Optimization problems may seem like an odd market to build a company in. But clearly the customer base is there and Integrated Reasoning is promising the moon. The company claims its hardware can make it 100x faster and 10x cheaper to solve problems like scheduling airline pilots or packing shipping containers, which – if accurate – could enable integrated reasoning to make a splash in profitable industries.
Flying for Dummies
Learning to fly is a common bucket list item, but it can be expensive, time-consuming, and difficult. This results in a large number of student pilots dropping out of training before reaching their dreams. And unfortunately, some of their licensees end up in fatal accidents because of their mistakes.
Thanks to semi-autonomous flight control systems that don’t require “stick and rudder expertise,” Airhart Aeronautics is working on building airplanes that are easier to fly and safer. It’s too early to tell when Airhart will have product-market fit, but its proposition to “make flying to Tahoe as easy as driving to the grocery store” seemed to fit a strong audience for YC Demo Day.
Building airplanes that anyone can fly can seem like a delay when other startups are focused on airplanes that no one can fly. Some of the companies working on delivering autonomous aircraft, such as Merlin Labs, Paika, Reliable Robotics, Volocopter and Xwing, are already far along in their journey. But we’re still calling AirHart a moonshot, because semi-autonomy seems to have better odds of landing on time than full autonomy, especially for private flying.
I want to buy 10% of your future earnings
Being an athlete is hard, and finding enough time and resources to become a professional athlete takes time and cash dollars. Moonshot allows angel investors to invest in athletes’ futures in exchange for a share of their future prize money. This is similar to what Trendex is doing (though Trendex allows you to invest in all kinds of talent — including musicians).
So why is it a moonshot? Part of me can see this as the future; If you’re a good athlete, getting an early cash injection can make or break your career, and I recognize that for some people, it’s the only way to make their dreams come true.
Another part of me couldn’t understand how awesome it was to get people to sell a portion of their future net worth to investors. I know we’re living in late stage capitalism, but I turn this around, I can’t feel anything other than renting this concept. I’m sure the founders didn’t specifically design their companies to make an unequal world even less equal, but we’re a market cycle or two away from it getting really awful.
Let’s try this DTC healthcare thing again, but this time better
The direct-to-consumer healthcare space was hot, not then, but the sector’s unicorns scaled back ambitions as they hit growth pains. That’s why I was surprised and impressed to see Almond take the stage at the Y Combinator demo day this week. Almond is a healthcare platform that strives to accelerate ObGyn care through in-person and telehealth services.
“We’re reinventing back-office technology that saves physicians time, and we’re expanding the roles of care providers, which will deliver better outcomes for patients and reduce the time it takes to solve their problem,” the company said via the Y Combinator website. Membership for Almond is an annual $250 fee, similar to the OneMedical-type business model, and founding members get it for $150 the first year. Any visits and lab charges will be billed to insurance.
The co-founders have a balance of backgrounds. Carly Allen, co-founder and chief brand officer, is head of production helping brands like Coca-Cola, Nike, Chipotle and Bonobos, while Tara Rafi, co-founder and CEO, has startup chops by building McKinsey’s in-house technology. Incubator and consulting with large US hospital systems. As we know from the struggles Roe, Himes and other platforms have faced, the DTC healthcare space requires a fine balance of smart, accessible branding and efficiency, so let’s see how Almond performs.
Future Flight, fuck yeah
For my moonshot selection I want to highlight a few companies that have wings from a recent batch and shake things up moving around.
When the boom came around, I realized it was a good idea that was going absolutely nowhere. But, much to my excitement, the company is still in business and has raised buckets of money. Perhaps there is a venture market for the future of aviation.
Velontra wants to build a “hypersonic space plane”, which is a good idea. There’s less friction and you can zip much faster without the wind holding you back. Velontra, while bagging the contract, said its planes should be able to “take off from anywhere in any weather”. Excellent and perfect, no notes.
Seaflight Technologies is doing the opposite. Instead of wanting to fly very high and very fast, it wants to fly low and slow. The company is building electric “autonomous wingships” that fly very close to the ground. According to its pitch, if I understand the regulatory nuance, being closer to the ground clears the air — ha! – When it comes to government oversight.
Obviously these companies require a lot of capital and their makeup involves real technical risk. But that makes them good — you can’t move a plane without buckets of money and a big vision. And the 737 is great, and I’ve always loved it for shuttling me so long in my home country, and so far, I’m ready for something faster and higher. And for my delivered goods, vice versa.
- Ult, which has been described as an “Uber for gamers” startup. The startup charges users to match them with fun (or challenging) competitors. Also, it has a great website.
- Drip, which is described as “BNPL for Brazil”. BNPL’s space has been difficult for a variety of reasons and still disrupting the category – despite public market rumblings – is impressive. “While creating the verification habit in the US, Brazilians already split 30% of their retail payments in installments,” the company said via the Y Combinator website. “With Drip, they now split payments without eating into their credit card limits and get better rewards.”
- Coverage Cat, because it’s the cutest name and the hardest category to build. But, selfishly, sign us up for user-optimized insurance!