The Y Combinator team is growing and expanding its focus beyond just software startups. The popular accelerator program has brought on board Luke Iseman as a full-time staffer to help hardware startups grow quickly at a faster rate than before.
Prior to YC, Iseman was the cofounder and chief technology officer for Edyn (formerly Soil IQ), the web-connected soil sensor and automation device, which has received some noteworthy press over the years and also was a part of the summer 2014 YC batch (it was also a member of the Orange Fab program, of which I was a mentor).
This isn’t the first time that YC has had someone interested in the hardware space — Trevor Blackwell, one of the original founders of the program, is a roboticist and also the founder of virtual presence startup Anybots.
But today’s hiring shows that YC continues to evolve its interests. Iseman’s blog post, in fact, is titled “Joining A Different YC.” The program we were used to was all about funding early-stage startups, but Iseman is looking at one exploring a “new model for innovation.” In its latest batch, YC has a record number of startups in the hardware space — 22 companies who are making physical products, with many he said could be in the home or neighborhood within the next year.
YC has always been on the lookout for “breakthrough technology” companies beyond the Internet and mobile companies it has funded in the past. And the program is certainly exploring new frontiers, such as nonprofits, including Watsi and The Immunity Project, and those in the energy, artificial intelligence, robotics, and biotech fields. Iseman said that he’ll also be working alongside YC part-time partner and Science Exchange CEO Elizabeth Iorns to help biotech companies.
It’s known that the likes of Airbnb, Dropbox, Heroku, and many others came through the halls of YC and have had an amazing impact on technology. Iseman wants to do the same thing with entrepreneurs in hardware and innovative startups: “Over the next decade, you’ll see some of these entrepreneurs create companies at YC that rival Airbnb’s social (and financial) impact.”
Iseman joins the growing ranks of new people at YC. The organization has added partners including Parse cofounder Ilya Sukhar, Twitch.tv CEO and SocialCam cofounder Michael Seibel, and venture capitalist Peter Thiel. Additionally, it’s hired former TechCrunch employees Susan Hobbs and Colleen Taylor to help with events and content.