Trying To Make Silicon Valley More Diverse – Y Combinator

Y Combinator Logo

Y Combinator Logo

Y Combinator (YC) is the go-to startup accelerator. All other accelerators or incubators look to YC, quote it or copy it. It has been the starting point for tech juggernauts like AirBnB, Dropbox, Reddit, and Stripe and continues to find and grow the best and most innovative startup companies. They invest $120,000 for an average 7% stake in its portfolio companies.

Much has been said about the problem in Silicon Valley of a distinct lack of minorities and of tech in general. Apple has the highest number of black employees of the three largest Silicon Valley tech companies, and they only have 7%. Because of its influencing status in the industry, YC has received its fair share of criticism for its part. However, YC recently took its first step in fixing this problem.

YC added Michael Seibel to its team, its first full-time black partner, he has backed two YC startups. His latest startup just exited for $60 million, they were bought by Autodesk. Seibel sees YC as integral to his rise in Silicon Valley so he is a perfect fit for the position.

Though the accelerator has never avoided investing in minority owned startups, there is just not nearly the amount of minority applicants. That is why they now feel that a proactive outreach approach is necessary to encourage minorities to enter the startup world.

Women startup founders in the program have been low as well. In 2005, less than 5% of founders were women. That number has increased much quicker than the number of black founders and is now 23% of founders.

While YC is starting to reach out to females and black applicants, and track their outreach, it will not make investment decisions based on diversity.

Tandem Executives Raise 1 Million Dollars

tandem startup logoA few high-level employees who left Grooveshark back in 2012 have already raised $950,000 for a new startup called Tandem. The service combines analytical data, sales information, and surveys to help e-commerce companies better understand their customers’ shopping behavior and motivating interests for purchasing.

Data Mining Done Right

Companies with thousands of customers have a huge pile of data waiting to be mined but may lack the resources to get access to that information and make sense of it all. Tandem draws that data from a company’s historical sales information and then consolidates it all into one seamless and intuitive dashboard. Tandem gives you the ability to sift through useful charts, important insights, and smart segments of your company’s customer base, all from one integrated location.

Once Tandem has divided your customers into manageable and helpful subsections, it will send them “persona surveys” to figure out more information about their shopping habits, interests, and driving motivations. These email surveys take advantage of promotional offers in order to encourage the highest response rate possible.

The best part is that all of this data is ultimately connected to a company’s customer base (i.e. their email addresses.) So if there is ever a question about what a chart is implying or why you had a spike or drop in sales, you can dig deeper by sending surveys and asking questions. The longer-term goal for Tandem is to get even smarter about reacting to the data and dig deeper into customer behavior, personality, and purchasing habits.

Tandem’s Competition

The idea for Tandem came when Grooveshark employees, including former Chief Revenue Officer Isaac Moredock, realized how difficult it was to compile customer information and make sense of it all. The employees left in 2012 to pursue Tandem and have been perfecting their service since then, including a successful beta testing this summer.

Tandem faces competition from other survey sites, like SurveyMonkey, as well as analytical engines and consulting firms. But Tandem hopes to distinguish itself with its smart, automated software and clean, intuitive interface. Surveys are important, but they’re just a part of Tandem’s equation that gives insight into customer engagement and purchasing motivations.

The 9-person Tandem team secured the $950,000 investment from The Institute for Commercialization of Public Research and other angel investors. Tandem’s pricing starts at $200/month for businesses with a 20,000 customer base, and starts at $595/month for those with up to 100,000 customers.

xAd Contemplates Allocating Funds from Fundraising

xAd CompanyThe mobile advertising market has seen an incredible amount of activity in the last year. In 2013 alone, the IAB estimates the industry was worth twenty billion dollars in revenues. However, in 2014, the industry has chosen not to focus on building inventory, but in fine tuning the mobile advertising experience for its customers. As a result, companies such as Twitter and Facebook, which make more in ads provided to mobile platforms than those seen on desktops, have invested more funds in technology, spurring the industry on and creating even more profit.

Therefore, it is unsurprising that companies such as xAd have grown quite popular. xAd is a mobile startup that specializes in serving advertisements for media specific to a user’s location. According to an article recently completed by Tech Crunch, many Venture Capital companies have a keen interest in investing in xAd, based in the success of their mobile advertisements. The corporation is already profitable and growing quickly; according to Dipanshu Sharma, xAd’s CEO, it already has several million dollars in the bank, and, therefore, wasn’t even in the market to generate more funding. However, with the increased interest in location based advertising, xAd has become more popular than ever.

As a result, the company recently raised fifty million dollars, through a combination of debt and equity financing led by Institutional Venture Partners, otherwise known as IVP. The funding had significant participation from the company’s existing investors Emergence Capital and Softbank Capital; in addition, Silicon Valley Bank contributed funds to the effort. The money raised from this endeavor only adds to the existing acquisition offers and approaches from other Venture Capitals.

The specific interest in xAd comes at their unique offerings to customers. Not only are they a leader in location based advertising, the company allows their customers to monitor the analytics behind how well the ads based in location work. This unique facet has afforded the company quite a bit of success. xAd was the first United States based mobile advertising technology platform to expand globally.