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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.)
- Convore is one of those companies that’s a bit of a hard sell until you actually try the product. It offers a “less nerdy” approach to real-time chat rooms. It’s easy to find topics, start new conversations, and track messages throughout the day — I used Convore to interview the founders when the service launched last month. The company recently released an iPhone app as well.
- DrChrono offers a free app that moves doctors’ notetaking, prescriptions, and other activities to the iPad. There’s a free app with premium versions, and the company says that it’s an affordable alternative for small medical practices that are looking to switch to electronic records.
- Grubwithus helps bring together disparate groups for family-style meals. It creates an opportunity for socializing without the pressure of a dating site, while bringing money to partner restaurants. Users browse for people to eat with or places to eat, sign up and pay for a meal, then show up and socialize. (That’s an image from the Grubwithus site at the top of this post.)
- Lanyrd describes itself as the “IMDb of conferences”. It offers a database of event information and connects with Twitter to both see what your friends are attending and also share your own conference itinerary. This helps you stay on top of your own plans, find new events to attend, and also find conference content afterwards.
- NoteLeaf can help users become better prepared for meetings. When you create a meeting in Google Calendar, Noteleaf adds information from LinkedIn about the person you’re meeting with. Then it sends you a text message with a summary of relevant details a few minutes before your meeting. That means you’re less likely to find yourself frantically Googling someone right before you meet up.
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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