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Holiday Gift Ideas from Y Combinator (ycgiftideas.com)
266 points by t-3-k on Dec 17, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 132 comments

Rather than responding to everyone's complaints about the site: I whipped this together in less than a day, I was mostly focused on content, no one at YC who usually makes beautiful designs was available to help, I can't program, I'm using Strikingly, this is version 1.

I'm happy to get feedback, but please go easy on me. We will plan much further in advance next year and make it easy to scroll through ideas and look beautiful and not be annoying in the countless ways it seems to be currently :)

Honestly, it's fantastic! I couldn't tell it was made with Strikingly until the end. The images used, the division of products and copy layout are done really well.

In regards to concept, I think it's great YC is promoting YC cos at every opportunity it gets. Sometimes it feels like an ad, but this time it does not. Perfectly timed "launch" of the site.

I think you've done a better job than most, in both content and design. I looked at the site a few hours ago, and was thinking of the team and the week of prep work that YC put into building this. Never could have believed it was made by a non-programmer in less than a single day until I read this.

For constructive feedback, would love if you borrow an idea from Apple's gift list. That is, categorize the products and services by topic or type. I.e. For the music lover, the hipster, painter, etc. would really go a long way once this list gets out of hand (which I suspect it will ;)

Eh, seven days before Christmas isn't time to buy much.

If anyone in the world understands MVP, you'd think it would be this audience.

My one bit of feedback is that if this is intended for holiday gifts, you should not list items unless they are actually shipping. Pre-orders are not good gifts.

Fixed using "pre-order" category.

Next year be ready for Hanukkah and I'm on board :-). You did a nice job.

For sure in time for Hanukkah!

I know you did this for the holidays but why not just let it continue after the holidays? For example, it can be YC Online store (small one) where little things can be purchased from exclusively. So instead of buying Founders at work from Amazon, it can come from the YC store instead? Just a food for thought..

Thanks for making this! Lots of great ideas, and it's easily readable.

For what you set out to accomplish in the short amount of time you had, it works and good job. Really like Instapainting and just forwarded it on to a few people:).

Quick spelling mistake - I think "GrubMakret" should be changed to "GrubMarket".

Awesome site! Really great idea :)

Out of curiosity, why did you alphabetize the site? Wouldn't some other sorting method be more productive / feature solid products which happen be late in the alphabet more?

Now arranged by categories.

Not knowing who made it and why, my first reaction was: "I won't be buying anything, but I want THIS UI for my online shopping."

If it works, took no time, and people are using it - I think it's a job well done. Great work jl!

Sorry, not sure what happened but right after I launched this, my computer crashed! My blog post: https://blog.ycombinator.com/holiday-gift-ideas-from-y-combi...

This was a lot of fun and came together really fast given the time constraints. Colleen was amazing and did the write-ups quickly. I've been working frantically to get this out. Still needs work though. Please send comments. But first, I need to go drink some water as I haven't left my desk in many hours.

UPDATE: as I suspected, my inbox is exploding with emails from other YC startups with gift ideas. Will update as fast as I can.

It should be much more explicit on the gift site itself that the site is a Y Combinator property. (I see the logo now, but it is easy to miss)

I honestly thought it was a fan page at first since there is no clarification on who the "We" is that selected the companies.

Thanks. I adjusted the text slightly. Hopefully, it's more clear.

Much more clear. Thanks!

In France we almost have the same thing, it's call Noël de la French Tech [1] (Christmas of the French Tech). It's been three years now and it's wonderful to find Made In France christmas gift !

[1] http://noeldelafrenchtech.fr

And we even created an English version this year with products that ship internationally :) You can check it out here: http://frenchxmas.com/

Some great ideas here.

I really like Level Frames. Will definitely use them in the future for my space.

The site makes me wish YC kept a publicly filterable curated list of products from YC companies that included these things like pretty images and a tagline that captures exactly what the company does.

That could be an interesting weekend project.

I'm thinking roughly:

  - scrape the list from http://yclist.com/
  - filter the ones that sell a physical product (somehow)
  - write a tiny scraper for each site's store (oh god) or try import.io
  - (potentially) bake in your referral code for each site

I don't understand any of the negatively about the items or the site.

I just sent the site to my mom. She could pick anything and it'd be a great gift, it's that good.

i'm sure the negativity stems from seeing most of this stuff as the tech equivalent of junky bed, bath, and beyond "unitaskers" - you know the type: strawberry huller, banana slicer, etc. In reality, this list is a YC version of thinkgeek. Kinda fun, but most of it is utterly useless.

This is a great idea, but it seems like it would be more effective if there were fewer items listed. It took me quite a bit of effort to go through the list from top to bottom.

An unsolicited suggestion: Maybe it would be best to have to "Buy From YC Companies" page or something like that, and then just select 6-8 of them on a separate "for the holidays" page. At least that way an everyday consumer could quickly scan the list without having to read 20+ startup descriptions (which can be tiring, even for the hn crowd).

Personally, I thought it was worth the read. I had no idea that many of these companies were YC backed, or that some of them existed at all.

Perhaps small categories would be beneficial. I read and opened almost every item anyway though.

Personally, I'd like to view pre-launch items and gift cards separately from everything else.

Oh man, Pantelligent is the perfect gift for one of my family members, but it's backordered until next year! Such a bummer. Wish I knew about it sooner.

(Pantelligent co-founder here.) Sorry about that! We got some amazing reviews / press coverage [see TIME Magazine, Macworld, a few others] in November and all our inventory got sold super fast. We're building more as fast as we can right now.

Just buy an electric skillet for a fraction of the cost and then use one of the many cooking apps out there which already prompt you with times, etc. An electric skillet has the benefit that it will keep precise temperature without any action on your part. Pantelligent seems to have reinvented an expensive solution for a problem that was solved over half a century ago:


I prefer my Pantelligent because I can clean it like a normal pan (with soap and water in the sink), instead of like an electrical appliance (wiping carefully, trying not to get most of it wet). Also, it heats up faster so you can cook eggs in 4 minutes (1 pre-heating, 3 cooking).

Many electric skillets are fully submersible and dishwasher safe. They pretty much all have removable plugs that has the thermostat control and what's left is a sealed unit. As for heating up, that's a function of your skillet vs. stove wattage which varies from appliance to appliance.

You could go for the smart countertop grill with an iphone app.

I look at this site and a part of me thinks that there is a segment of the population that is seemingly incapable of doing very basic things like sleeping, cooking or buying clothes without being handheld by the computer in their phone.

I'm being a little overboard of course, but I really wonder how dependent we will be on our machines to survive at all in a generation or two.

I agree, and I find myself incapable of doing basic things myself, but not because I only use technology to solve problems. I'm skewing more and more towards old fashioned asking-people-for-help. Where's a good spot for lunch since Chipotle is out of the question? I know, I'll stop in and ask the bank tellers where they recommend! I had a delicious burrito that destroyed Chipotle in taste and quality, and was cheaper to boot!

I don't eschew technology at all, but I'm realizing how little most people appreciate the willingness and capability to help their fellow humans. People will surprise you if you wait long enough!

That's a fun idea for an app:

Post a question and only those geographically within one mile of you can answer. All questions and answers are anon and public.

Tag the questions and answers such that I can see all the questions regarding what to eat were within my vicinity.

Related idea: I can't find it, but there was an app that plotted Instagram locations visited by locals vs tourists.

Here's something similar but for tweets -- ex. Times Square https://www.mapbox.com/labs/twitter-gnip/locals/#10/40.7591/....

Compared to your ancestors 100, 1000, 10,000, and 100,000 years ago, you're hopelessly dependent on machines and technology to survive. Fortunately you can harness the surplus energy and attention you aren't dedicating to just getting by in everyday life to do more productive and amazing things.

No, not really.

(I mean, I don't want to come off as a Luddite by any means, but...)

I'm 40, so perhaps things have changed a bit more than those younger than me, but I can still make most food from scratch ingredients, have no issues sleeping outside in the cold, and can iron and mend my own clothes. I don't really see that much of a difference between myself and a person 100 or 1000 years ago, spare electricity, and I certainly don't need that in any real meaningful way.

Perhaps it's a generational gap, perhaps it's my jaded old fart genes kicking in, but I look at this list and I see, for lack of a more fitting phase - a lot of useless shit.

I mean, who the heck justifies a smartphone controlled grill? Who's next purchase priority is a $250 blanket that you program with your smartphone to keep different areas of the bed warm? Is there really a demand for a gadget that helps with your mindfulness and tells you to calm down? Isn't that what a good friend is for? Granted, there are certainly a lot of items that do seem to have useful needs - and I love that many of them seem geared towards sustainability and such, but my god I don't think every single article on the planet needs to be "smart".

Then again, I'm a person that still doesn't see the use case behind the smart watch (that's dependent on the phone in your pocket, at least), so maybe I'm just completely out of touch. At any rate...don't read too much into my comment, I'm not as trite as I probably sound. Just getting a little put off by the trend that seems to be focused on using technology to power hyper-narcissism ("Your own shampoo flavour!") in the name of positive technological advances. :-/

> I'm 40, so perhaps things have changed a bit more than those younger than me, but I can still make most food from scratch ingredients, have no issues sleeping outside in the cold, and can iron and mend my own clothes.

I'm only a few years younger than you, and I can do all those things too. I think you likely vastly underestimate the gulf between the old-timey things you know how to do, and the old-timey things you'd be forced to do in 1915 -- the Rumsfeldian unknown unknowns.

> I mean, who the heck justifies a smartphone controlled grill?

Someone never properly taught to cook who panics at soft terms like "medium heat" and doesn't know what a given kind of steak should look like.

> Who's next purchase priority is a $250 blanket that you program with your smartphone to keep different areas of the bed warm?

A married couple that has regular arguments over what blankets to use and are ready to try a gimmick that might help.

> Is there really a demand for a gadget that helps with your mindfulness and tells you to calm down?

I've dealt with coworkers who absolutely could have used it, though of course the hard part would be convincing them they had a problem in the first place.

Well, you say from scratch but compared to lets say cooking a 100 years ago I guess you would find that a challenge. Of cause you could do it but it would be much harder than today.

I can cook, but I can't create a gourmet meal without guidance from someone well experienced in cooking. I can shop and look okay, but I can't look my absolute best without some stylist guidance. I get what you are saying, but I think these services go beyond a "basic understanding" and take it up a notch. And that, in my opinion, is what is worth the money.

It seems that "smart" devices mostly give some data brain crack to feed upon rather than improve the actual outcome of any activity. When I got the Muse headband for measuring brain activity during meditation, it was fun at first, but it didn't affect my meditation schedule. Before and after, my plan was always to just meditate more. I sold it shortly.

Similar with 23andme. Lots of personalized trivia about my genetics but nothing earth shattering or really actionable. It told me my race (whoa my parents weren't lying to me) and said I had slightly above/below average risk for many obscure diseases. Maybe it'll be more useful with gene tailored treatments some day.

How many decades ago could someone write your note but include hunting or making their own clothes?

I can still do both... so I'm not sure.

Because you can do both, you're not sure approximately when someone might have written your note observing that markets and then supermarkets became more convenient?

The difference I see with a lot of IoT devices is that they enhance something you could already do manually.

Having a fancy grill that automatically stops cooking my steak doesn't make me incapable of using a thermometer + timer + normal skillet + polling by hand myself. It does make it sound a lot less convenient though.

I think that sites like this and similar ones become a real culture. And it's a much more uniform culture than the world had known in previous centuries. So there's a great opportunity to share culturally relevant items like this -- here's something I think you can take advantage of during this season.

I have mixed feelings. I once had a roommate who literally could not drive 2 miles to work every day without her GPS. She turned it on every day and had been working there for over a year. Simultaneously, that bike that talks to my phone's GPS could be very useful when I'm trying to bike places I haven't been before. Of course, sometimes turning down the wrong street on my bike is where cool discoveries happen :)

ISTM the special capabilities of the special bike should be accessories that anyone can install on most any bike, rather than only available built into this one bike. A startup should specialize in those special capabilities, and leave the production of existing products to existing product companies. That is especially true for bicycles, which are both standardized enough that parts and accessories are largely interchangeable and differentiated enough that most cyclists already have their favorite bike(s) that this company can't hope to replace.

> I once had a roommate who literally could not drive 2 miles to work every day without her GPS. She turned it on every day and had been working there for over a year.

You might be confusing correlation and causation here. Did she have no sense of direction because of the GPS, or did she use the GPS as a self-correction for having no sense of direction?

> very basic things like sleeping, cooking or buying clothes

Thanks, you just made me feel like a Neanderthal.

It pains me to see so many "first world problem" solvers. Nothing can illustrate the problem of the startup tech industry not tackling "real problems" like this list.

And hey, I can't even talk; I make freemium mobile apps so it's not like I'm solving real problems either.

It just sucks and I wish it was sexier and more profitable to go after real problems rather than silly stuff like e-sheets or digital frying pans that perfectly cook your grass feed beef steaks.

I hear you, though some folks will feel as if you are dismissing the impact of their products (e.g. Watsi). If it helps, check out (to name just a few randomly):

http://www.helionenergy.com/ http://bikanta.com/ http://ixchelsci.com/ http://www.standardcyborg.com/ https://www.detroitwaterproject.org/ http://www.oolusolar.com/ http://bagaveev.com

I would dismiss a lot of stuff on that list, but not the e-frying pan. Automating cooking could be a huge labor-saver, and really help with women's rights, like the washing machine in the last century.

I guess you could also argue that a lot of this stuff is a stepping stone towards a Star Trek future. We'll never get robots preparing our food if we don't start with e-frying pans, right?

It would be fairer to the companies at the bottom of the list if you had the list randomly resort itself with each page load, instead of being rendered in alphabetical order.

Yea the list was getting long, so the site was updated with categories!

yeah but then it would be harder to find things when revisiting the list. oh wait you cookie everyone and preserve the order on an individual basis. sick.

Wish this was posted a week ago :)

I know! Next year we'll be more planful.

If only there were a startup that provided a Christmas gift reminder service... ;)

I was thinking about Instapainting, but then I realized - way too late for Christmas.

That was one of the tabs I opened. I was kind of hoping they offered gift certificates. My use case is probably letting the recipient choose the photo.

OK, just built the Gift Card feature: http://www.instapainting.com/gift-card

You can specify a recipient email at checkout and we'll send them instructions via a special page where they upload photos, talk to the artist, and track the status with the pricing hidden.

Because I'm lazy, your recipient won't know what type of painting or what size until the artist is finished. But let's just call that a feature for now ;).

From feedback to live on production in under 4 hours. You rock.

Surprisingly bug free so far.

We discontinued gift certificates while we develop something unique.

But you can place an order without uploading a photo and we create a project page after the order.

You can send this page and it lets the recipient upload their photo and talk with the artist.

Urgh I know. Hopefully next year they plan ahead a bit better

Thanks for putting this together. I peruse HN pretty much everyday and I haven't heard of half of these products. Pretty neat.

Reading the description of Memebox after it caught my eye while scrolling was by far the largest disappointment I've had today.


Not the person you are replying to, but based on the name one would expect it to be related to Internet memes.

Honest question - how does something like Level Frames (and lots of others I see here that I've never heard of) meet this definition of a startup - http://www.paulgraham.com/growth.html?

The "Function of Beauty" link takes you to a page that asks you to enter the name and email address of the recipient - they're asking you to enter someone else's personal information. That's appalling.

The Vanhawks bike looks incredibly gorgeous (first time I learned of its existence), however isn't it better to buy a smart sports watch like the Garmin Fenix for example, and use any bike with it?

Also: no mudguards??

The LeTote link is broken. Goes to ttps//letote.com/gift_cards



give me tap! looks perfect for me. Guess I'm getting myself a small gift.

> Sirum connects unopened, expired medications to patients in need.

I guess it was supposed to be "unexpired".

Ah thanks for this. Fixed now!

SkyMall is back!

Yet.ly: a yeti statue that monitors your heart rate, sleeping patterns and stress level, just like a real yeti.

I'm not sure whether I'm happy or sad that I know exactly which Yeti statue you are referring to.

Now we just need monthly subscription boxes of personalized skymall and as-seen-on-tv ridiculousness, delivered and assembled by independent contractors

yeah and its dope now

Fantastic. I am surprised to learn that people gift condoms too for christmas.

I wouldn't bother with that automatic device. It is very expensive for a bluetooth odb2 device. You can buy them for bugger all on Amazon and buy the Torque app for $5.

Can you print the Spark Gift out at all?

This is perfect for a gift exchange.

Yes, you can print out a commemorative certificate and a gift card. A sample is available to view before purchase.

Typo on the Pebble ad. "...models are 20% just…"

Good catch! I pinged Colleen. Thank you!

Wow. So many YC companies I had never heard of!

SparkGift seems to be for US-residents only. Does someone know an alternative for Europe?

Yes, currently we're only setup for US residents. Europe is on the roadmap, but unfortunately we're not there yet :) Happy to answer any questions.

Cool idea, some great products there.

But why would pre-order only items be included in this time-sensitive list?

As a side note, I am shocked at how non-HN-user-friendly most of these sites are. I saw an insane number of tracking scripts blocked and most were rendered completely unusable without JS.

As an aside, gift certificates/cards aren't particularly suitable for a 'gift idea' list. Gift cards are what you give when you can't think of anything.

I got some startup ideas after visiting this ;)

Isn't what sirum is doing illegal?

Some of the pictures are ridiculous:

The Pantelligent picture just shows a picture of a box with “Pantelligent” written on it, not the actual product.

The uBiome one is straight-up meaningless clip-art (of a robot holding a wrapped present) with the company logo badly pasted on. Sure, the nature of the product makes it hard to get a picture of it, but the clip-art could most certainly have been chosen better.

The Craft Coffee one only shows pictures of text-only ads for the product, not what you would get when you actually subscribe.

Should be back up now!

no gifts this holiday :/

Just updated. Should be working now.

Edited the link :)

Yo ! its up :)

This website design makes me feel queasy.

I am not liking this new trend where everything must animate as you scroll.

Agreed, I couldn't scroll all the way down because it motion bothered me.

Sorry for ranting, but this type of modern webdesign and "user interface" is _horrible_.

Who in their right mind thinks that putting a button called "Show me the list" dead center of the page? Hey guys, I have a novel idea: instead of adding a button, just _show_ me that list!

And do you know what happens if you press that button? The website scrolls down a ~300 pixels and then you can see the first 1.8 entries of that list!? F*ck this shit! You have ~900 vertical pixels at your disposal and all you manage to do is to show me TWO lousy items?

I actually tried to scroll down the list and it took me FORTYFOUR (!) scrolls of my mouse wheel to reach the end of the page. 44 scrolls to see a list of just 40 items?! This is horrible! In what world do you live if you think that this is a good user experience.

There is a lot of stuff killing the web right now, but one of the things nobody ever talks about is this horrible "modern" design which is nothing more than a wasteland of white padding, waste of space, way too large fonts and oversized picture banners which take way too much bandwidth too load.

In my opinion we should introduce a whitespace-to-content or padding-to-content ratio which punishes bad webdesign.

Another offender for this is medium.com. Yes, it has good content, but you have to hunt for it in the wast amount of padding and oversized images.

Just go and have a look at the mediums frontpage. What do you see? A few words, two buttons and a large image. In order to see any content you have to scroll down and even then they manage to only show you 2 items at the same time. If you want to see more you have to scroll constantly.


I strongly disagree. While I'm usually also one to rail against extraneous whitespace, I think it's important to consider the purpose of the list.

For example, if I'm searching for a contact in a contact list, I want as little whitespace as possible, because I want to be able to quickly scroll to an individual item very quickly. This is really a "searching for one item in a list" use case.

In this example, 99% of users won't be looking for any one specific thing. The whole point of the site is to show new stuff you aren't aware of. In that context, the fact that the scrolling behavior optimizes for stopping at each item it turn (lots of whitespace, the animated fade-in) is a benefit, because I won't know anything special about one product versus another.

Also, the experience is clearly optimized for mobile. And the type of "daydream and browse" experience that this site is geared towards screams mobile use case.

I exited the list very fast. I wanted to quickly skim over it to find products of interest, then consider the promising ones. That took far too long, so I just left.

> That took far too long, so I just left.

Yes, exactly! The only reason why I actually scrolled all the way down was to figure out how many scrolls it takes to get to the bottom. Otherwise I would have just left after the 5th item.

And to pile on, whose bright idea was it to add items that aren't even available? Cinder, Eight, and Nebia look cool and all, but summer 2016 is a little too late for a holiday gift, n'est-ce pas?

It was my (Jessica Livingston) idea. I'm giving one of these as a gift to someone who will love it and am simply printing a picture of it. Not as great as the real thing on Christmas Day for sure, but I'm hoping they'll still be pleased.

You know you've got a lot of great constructive feedback in here but it's hard to take seriously when presented in a negative, whiny way.

I actually liked it. It requires you to scan each item when I would have scanned/skipped most of them in a giant list without really understanding them.

It is interesting to see how this post slowly climbed up to 12 points in the first 2 hours and then got downvoted afterwards to currently 0 points. It seems to be a controversial topic.

Why is it a bad experience to focus only on 1 thing at a time?

Because it feels cramped. Just imagine your ebook reader would only show you two lines of text at a time. Yes, you could concentrate on each line without being distracted but the overall flow is broken.

Or to use a different terminology: when you read a website or a book you use two modes of "scrolling" at the same time. The rough scrolling is done by hand when you change a page of the book or when you scroll down the website with your mouse wheel. The finer scrolling is done by moving your eyes which scan the available content for interesting stuff.

In my opinion scrolling by eye is much more effortless and faster than scrolling by hand so I'd like to try to reduce scrolling by hand as much as possible.

For example on the yc gift page it takes about 44 mouse scroll actions to see 40 items. In contrast I can see all 30 items on the front page with just 1 or 2 mouse scroll actions.

A practical example is this German news page: http://m.focus.de If you visit it on mobile you will see that they managed to show less than 2 full news items per page (At least on my 720p screen). Half a year I visited that page from time to time but now it is completely unusable because you have to scroll way too often.

Afterwards go to http://www.reddit.com/.compact and see how much more comfortable browsing is when you can see 7-10 items at the same time.

It's a different mode of attention. You're optimizing for consuming lots of information in a short amount of time.

But design that optimizes for depth of engagement almost always performs better on metrics that ultimately matter. I'm not saying YCGifts is an outstanding example of this, but to pan the design of the site (and all large font, lots of whitespace designs in general) because it's not optimized for your scan-and-pan method of consumption is shortsighted.

Please preach to the masses. They need to hear your word.

I am all for what you said.

Yeah, I was actually thinking about creating a page called "YouSuckAtWebdesign" and then just rant at random websites in the style of Dr. Cox from Scrubs. But I am not good at ranting so this will just stay a dream.

Agreed. It's a fad. This too shall pass.

L better not a beta product.

> Eight is a smart bed cover that learns about you and improves and personalizes your sleep experience -- you can even program one side of the bed to be a different temperature than the other. Starting at $249, Eight is available now for pre-order and set to ship in April 2016.

LOL wut?

After scrolling through the rest, this has to be one of the best collections of first-world problem junk.

Honest question: Are you serious?

What kind of person thinks to themselves, "Man, I really wish I had a gift idea list based on a particular financial investor."

Think of this as like a department store catalogue.

When you get a catalogue, do you comment "Man, I really wish I had a gift idea list based only on things stocked by a particular store", or just accept that it's marketing/inspiration of a particular category or supplier?

Most gift lists are all the same. This one is sort of outside the box. I enjoyed it.

Me too. It actually had things on it I'm considering buying.

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