Y Combinator's best startups ever? Here are my favorites

Was the most recent class of startups incubated by Y Combinator the best group ever? That’s what Garry Tan told me, and he should know — he was a YC alumnus through his simple blogging startup Posterous, and now he’s back at the famous incubator as designer-in-residence.

It’s hard for me to fully endorse Tan’s claim, since I’m judging most of these companies on the barely-more-than-two-minute presentations they gave this afternoon at YC’s Demo Day. Plus, I’ve only been going to Demo Day since 2008, so I missed several years of startups. But I was impressed by the quality the companies today — there were almost no head-scratching moments, which is particularly impressive, since Y Combinator expanded its Winter 2011 class to 43 companies. And there were enough cool companies that I had a hard time narrowing them down to a few favorites.

Nonetheless, here are the five standouts that I settled on highlighting. And by “standouts” I mean companies that I think we’ll be hearing a lot about in the future, based on some combination of attention-grabbing concept, products I’d actually use, and who everyone else at Demo Day seemed to be talking about. (I also had to leave out some of my favorite companies since they haven’t launched yet.)

And here’s a list of the other startups that demonstrated today, many of them quite cool, along with short descriptions (from the companies). Again, these don’t include the demonstrators who are still in stealth mode.

  • Comprehend Systems — Enterprise cross-database reporting and visualization.
  • HelloFax — A Web-based replacement for your fax machine.
  • Tutorspree — Airbnb for tutoring.
  • Earbits Radio — Internet radio where labels, artists, and live music promoters bid for airtime.
  • TellFi — The easiest way to a set up a phone system for your business.
  • Beetailer — Helps online retailers bring their businesses onto Facebook.
  • FitFu — Motivating mobile fitness game to keep you active throughout the day.
  • You Got Listings — The real-estate platform for all properties for brokers and transactions.
  • Custora — Google brings customers in, Custora keeps them coming back.
  • Taskforce — Makes your inbox work as the to-do list you’re using it for.
  • SwipeGood — Round up credit/debit card transactions for charity.
  • GiftRocket — Gift cards for anywhere.
  • AppHarbor — A platform as a service for .NET developers and businesses.
  • MinoMonsters — A social game where you collect and battle pet monsters on Facebook, the Web, and the iPhone.
  • Curebit — Takes the incentivized referral model from Dropbox and makes it easily available to everyone.
  • Moki.tv — Personalized TV Guide for streaming video online.
  • Sendoid — Fast, private, massive file transfer via peer-to-peer in-browser and on the desktop.
  • Like.fm — Takes all of your music and makes it social.
  • Five Stars — A universal loyalty card for retail businesses.

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