There are, however, some startups that we’re very interested in seeing founders apply with. What are people who invest in business ventures called and mobile companies we’ve funded in the past.
If that’s what you wanted to do before this post, keep doing it. Also, you shouldn’t start a company just because it’s on this list. The RFS mostly exists to encourage you to apply if you’re already working on an idea in one of these areas. If you’d like to know what we look for in non-profits, read this post. AI stands to have a large impact on society. So large that we’ve created a vertical within YC for it.
It feels like it could be one of the dividing lines in the history of technology, where before and after look totally different. We are certain that this is going to be a surprising, powerful and controversial field over the next several decades. It feels a little bit like microcomputers in the 1970s. Engineering principles are now routinely applied through synthetic biology and bio is touching all aspects of life from healthcare to manufacturing and even food and agriculture. Reading DNA has become incredibly fast and cheap. There are many interesting applications here.
There will perhaps be even more interesting applications as we get better at writing DNA. We are also interested in applications of biotech to prevent its own misuses. For example, if the bad guys can create new infectious diseases quickly, it’d be nice if the good guys could create new cures and vaccines quickly as well. Note: To learn about the YC Bio program, a track specifically for healthspan and aging-related bio companies, go here. Amazon is putting malls and big box stores out of business. Rather than fighting a losing battle with Amazon, brands need to rethink how to use retail space in ways that play to their strengths.
Tesla, Warby Parker, and Peloton, for example, use brick and mortar locations as showrooms that complement their online sales channels. Without the need to store inventory, retail space can be used much more efficiently. Interesting uses of brick-and-mortar space are not limited to retail stores: similar sea changes are happening to restaurants, entertainment venues, local service providers, and office buildings. New businesses will be purpose-built for customers that are trained to expect features like online ordering, deep integrations with other services, and immediate delivery. Additionally, the era of big box stores that migrated consumer attention out of main street and into suburban shopping centers flanked by parking lots is likely to change as the era of self-driving begins.
Once self-driving cars are adopted widely, our relationship with physical space will evolve in ways that are hard to predict. We want to see startups that are thinking about that shift and building new ways to use physical space. Just switching to renewables isn’t going to be enough to reach that goal. We will also have to remove carbon from the atmosphere. Carbon removal and sequestration technologies are still in their infancy. Other approaches to geoengineering to counteract the effects of climate change could have potential as well.
For the first time, we can now produce food that is scientifically indistinguishable from animal products like meat and dairy, using only cells and not harming any animals. Today humans use farm animals mostly for meat and dairy production. Whether or not you believe this is cruel and wasteful, we know it’s not sustainable. More people eat meat every year, yet most of the available farmland in our world is already being used for production of meat. The agricultural sector is the world’s second-largest emitter of greenhouse gas after the energy sector, and the use of antibiotics in farming is real danger to our own health system.
Growing real animal-meat directly from cells is a revolutionary science. We would love to fund more startups taking this science to market. We also want to fund startups specializing in the scaling phase of cellular agriculture. The world will massively benefit from a more sustainable, cheaper and more healthy production of meat. There are many environmental reasons for why this is bad, but it will also be problematic for the industries relying on these increasingly scarce resources.
Startups have already started to address the need for cleaner consumer products, but industrial commodities like palm oil and soy are getting less attention. Examples of startups we’d like to see apply are those working on synthetics, cleaner alternatives, or supply-chain improvements. Price point will likely be very important here, more so than for consumer products. It would also be great if new jobs are created or if the solution involves reforesting. Unfortunately, securing computers isn’t just hard—it’s critically and increasingly important. As more critical information and systems are connected to the Internet, we become more vulnerable to cyberattacks and the disruption is more severe.