Y Combinator’s Summer Class Gives Early Investors a Fascinating Peek Into the Future

The best way to predict the future is to invent it.

Which famous founder said this? Jeff Bezos of Amazon? Elon Musk of SpaceX and Tesla? Maybe Travis Kalanick of Uber?

Sorry, none of the above. This saying goes way back to 1963, in a book aptly titled Inventing the Future.

It was written by Dennis Gabor – who was later awarded a Nobel Prize in physics.

But it really should have originated from a founder. It fits their outlook perfectly.

These are the people who are bending the future to their often slightly crazy visions.

Asteroid mining? Bioprinting hearts? Living until 200?

Never say never.

Instead, say when.

The pace of change is faster than ever, thanks to a host of technology advances across the board.

And the companies that best figure out how new technology can better our lives? Startups.

They’re blazing a path to a future we have only the foggiest notion of.

So I’m going to share with you my top futuristic picks from Y Combinator’s latest class.

YC – the country’s best startup accelerator program – just had its summer class of 92 startups graduate.

Here are eight that really stand out…

Legalist – The future of litigation

It helps investors pay for the cost of litigation in return for a share of the outcome. But that’s just the beginning. It also uses a 58-variable algorithm to assess risk and case duration of a specific litigation. Legalist has to keep improving its algorithm. For one thing, 58 variables seem far too few to me.

Robby – The future of delivery

Ordering pizza from the joint a block and a half away? Self-driving cars won’t be optimal for New Yorkers, Chicagoans or a host of other urban dwellers. Robby’s MIT-trained team has a better idea. A fleet of autonomous mobile robots to deliver right to your doorstep.

EI_robby

It’s going to take time and money and top-notch engineers to realize the company’s vision.

But my biggest question is this: Did Robby get the idea from the Minions movie?

EI_minions

Sure seems so.

Jumpcut – The future of online learning

Is the problem boring lectures or disengaged and unmotivated students? I’d vote the latter, but what do I know?

Well, this: Course completion rates are pathetic – less than 10%. Jumpcut wants to replace “boring” lectures with “Spielberg-like” online videos.

I have mixed feelings about this. I think our college courses have been dumbed down enough. On the other hand – for better or for worse – I also believe this is where online education is going.

OneChronos – The future of stock exchanges

The baby among our three major exchanges – the Nasdaq – is 45 years old. All three use outdated technology. All three encourage the dismal state of current institutional investing – where the biggest gains go not to the smartest, but to the fastest.

See a stock or market ticking up? Get in first, get in early and get in before your competition. Same with trends flashing down. The Nasdaq operates more like NASCAR than a fair and open marketplace.

OneChronos wants to level that playing field by syncing up atomic clocks to eliminate the need to race over a network and building tools to help large traders move large volumes without triggering big price moves.
It’s exactly what our financial system needs.

NeoWize – The future of e-commerce

What was I thinking? I actually thought I could protect my online privacy. But it got harder and harder to do.

So I gave up.

Online behavior is quickly becoming an open book. NeoWize is exhibit No. 1.

It analyzes browsing behavior like clicks, hovers and scroll-bys – all to better understand site traffic and give you and me the personal treatment that allows us to see exactly the items we want to see…

For better or for worse.

GTRACK Technologies – The future of oil and gas analytics

Oil and gas production is still BIG BUSINESS. The industry spends $12.5 billion a year on production analytics. Pump GTRACK’s nanoparticles into a fracking well, and you can quantify the amount of oil and gas available to pump out.

Nanoparticle technology was the hyped technology of a decade ago. Commercialization proved elusive. And nanotechnology receded into the background. Turns out it just needed more time.

GTRACK took seven years and three patents to get to where it is now.

Fabric – The future of journals

Quick, tell me what you were doing a year ago today.

Where did you go? Who did you see? And, yes, please show me your photos from that day.

Fabric does all this for you.

Chances are you already have photo apps, geo-location capabilities and plenty of friends on your social media pages. Fabric merely stitches everything together into one convenient place.

EI_fabric

Practically everything we do in our lives can now be captured and saved for posterity. A goldmine for future novelists, say, 300 years hence.

But do I really want to be showing my grandchildren 10 years from now the pizza I had for lunch today?

Luminostics – The future of do-it-yourself disease testing

Your smartphone is on its way to being able to do seemingly everything – including disease diagnosis using your smartphone.

All you do is add a sample of blood, urine or saliva to a cartridge. Then insert it into a smartphone adaptor.

Clinical trials begin next year. The launch is in 2018.

Luminostics is a futuristic Theranos. Let’s hope the execution turns out better.

Those are my favorite eight.

Beyond getting a fascinating peek into the future, there’s another reason I’m so interested in companies with futuristic products.

They typically start with big and bold ideas – ideas that challenge our notions of what is possible to such a degree that it’s hard to take many of them seriously.

Given the level of difficulty and sheer ambition (some would say audacity) involved, it usually takes more time than usual for these companies to gain meaningful traction.

But if and when they do?

Boy oh boy, they can really take off. And early investors can make a small fortune.

I’ll be watching to see if any of these companies or any other exciting futuristic startups will be crowdfunding.

Because, as you know, not only can you look forward to using these products… but you can now invest in them as well.

Invest early and well,

Andy Gordon
Founder, Early Investing