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Data Sheet—Sunday, August 28, 2016

Twice a year, scores of investors and a few journalists pack into a large room at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif. to watch the Silicon Valley equivalent of a debutante ball: Demo Day for Y Combinator, the popular startup accelerator.

Y Combinator, which took in its first group of startups in 2005, is often praised as the most prestigious of the accelerator programs. That’s debatable, of course. But to its credit, Y Combinator’s program has spawned such highly valued companies as home rental king Airbnb (reportedly $30 billion), cloud storage provider Dropbox ($10 billion), gaming entertainment network Twitch (acquired by Amazon for about $1 billion), and autonomous vehicle company Cruise (acquired by GM for a reported $1 billion).

Earlier this week, I attended the two-day marathon, during which almost 100 startups presented. Here are my observations:

There is an increasing appetite for startups from outside the U.S. To my knowledge Y Combinator never barred international startups, but it has been accepting more of them as of late. About 30% of YC’s latest class was based outside of the U.S. The accelerator also plans to hold “office hours”—sessions for info and advice from its partners—in 11 countries this fall to market itself and encourage more startups from abroad to apply to its program.

Y Combinator is evolving its programming. Following the usual two days of presentations, Y Combinator added an “investor day” during which the startups could meet with interested investors. (Matches were made based on availability and mutual interest.) The purpose, according to Y Combinator partner and COO Qasar Younis, is to create an organized version of meetings that startups and investors were already setting up. The extra day replaced the “investor office hours” YC previously held, during which a select few top investors got to meet with the startups a few days before the big graduation, effectively getting an early look at them. In a way, the new system better levels the playing field.

Some startups were surprising; others, predictable. I was pleasantly surprised by GoGoGrandparent, which lets senior citizens order a ride with a phone call (and without needing a smartphone or an app like Uber or Lyft). I also liked Vidcode, which teaches teenagers how to code their own Snapchat filters. Some startups raised eyebrows: Flex developed an alternative to the tampon; Legalist funds lawsuits in need of extra cash. And some were entirely expected. Many young companies specialized in the perennially popular categories of developer tools, enterprise software, and e-commerce. (Not that predictable can’t mean successful.)

Y Combinator aims to help each cycle of startups grow and evolve. More than a decade after its own debut, the accelerator looks like it’s taking its own advice, too.

Kia Kokalitcheva


This is the Startup Sunday edition of Data Sheet,Fortune’s daily tech newsletter, edited by reporter Kia Kokalitcheva. You may reach me via Twitter, email, or an entirely new platform that your startup developed. Feedback welcome.

Everyone’s Talking About

NuTonomy. The autonomous driving startup and MIT spinoff debuted its first test fleet of self-driving taxis in Singapore on Thursday. More notably, it beat ride-hailing company Uber to the punch, despite the latter’s recent announcement it would begin its own pilot program later this month. (Fortune)

Unicorn Watch

Uber’s big losses. Despite saying earlier this year that it was profitable in the U.S., Uber reportedly lost almost $1.3 billion in the first half of 2016. (Bloomberg)

Pinterest scoops up a popular app. The San Francisco company has acquired Instapaper, an app for saving news articles for later. (Fortune)

Spotify’s bumpy road to a 2017 IPO. The Swedish music streaming company is reportedly working to get longer term and cheaper deals with the major music labels as it eyes a 2017 IPO. (Wall Street Journal)

The Week in Startups

Quora’s Co-Founder Is Back In the Startup Game at Y Combinator (Fortune)

DroneDeploy Just Got $20 Million to Make Maps Way Better (Fortune)

Quanergy Systems, a Self-Driving Car Sensor Startup, Raises $90 Million (Fortune)

Microsoft Bought Genee to Make Scheduling Meetings Simpler (Fortune)

The White House Proposed a ‘Startup Visa’ for Foreign Entrepreneurs (Reuters)

Hampton Creek Faces U.S. Criminal Probe Over Mayo Buybacks (Bloomberg)

Why Duck Duck Moose Donated Itself to Khan Academy (Fortune)

Mobile Ad Startup AppLovin In Talks for $1.5 Billion Acquisition (TechCrunch)

Apple Acquires Personal Health Data Startup Gliimpse (Fast Company)

Venture Capitalists Are Betting Millions Email Service Superhuman Is Better Than Gmail (Yahoo Finance)

Words of Wisdom

“too many young entrepreneurs talk about vc’s like they’re heroes and their blog posts are scripture”—tweet by Joe Fernandez, co-founder of Klout. It prompted Union Square Ventures partner Fred Wilson to write a blog post about VC blogging.