Y Combinator calls on startups to build stablecoin, metaverse, AI solutions

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Silicon Valley incubator Y Combinator sees stablecoins, metaverse, and artificial intelligence technology as some of the most promising sectors for innovation.

In its annual “Requests for Startups” report shared on Feb. 15, Y Combinator said stablecoins have “immense” potential as a cost-effective cross-border payment option, while it also sees promise in augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) tech applied beyond gaming. Meanwhile, AI could customize enterprise software and smoothen “back office processes.”

In a section on stablecoins, Y Combinator group partner Brad Flora said stablecoins look to “be a big part of the future of money” and likened the industry to that of digital music in the early 2000s.

“It all looks a bit like digital music’s transition from the realm of outlaw file sharing in the early 2000s to becoming the norm as players like Apple entered the market.”

“Importantly, those major players were all outmatched in the end by Spotify, a startup founded during that same transition moment,” explained Flora.

“This utility is so straightforward it seems inevitable traditional finance will follow suit.”

The stablecoin market size currently sits at $140 million, but the “opportunity seems much more immense,” Flora added, noting that only seven million people have transacted with stablecoins while more than 500 million people live in countries with inflation rates above 30%.

Y Combinator has so far funded 81 cryptocurrency and Web3 startups, including Coinbase, OpenSea, TRM Labs and Quantstamp, according to the firm.

Meanwhile, advancements in AR and VR continue to unfold, adding it hopes to see startups building software on these devices that go beyond gaming, said Diana Hu, another group partner at the firm.

“There are so many challenges still to solve with discovering best use cases, best UX/UI practices, and more — we are excited to work with founders that are at the frontier of this tech,” said Hu.

The recent releases of the Apple Vision Pro and Meta Quest 3 show progress is moving in the right direction, she added:

“The user experience is getting better, rendering power is increasing, and hand/eye tracking has improved dramatically — but there’s still work to be done.”

She however, acknowledged UX/ UI challenges remain a barrier to mainstream adoption.

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Meanwhile, AI-built enterprise software, large language models (LLMs) and “explainable AI” were also featured in Y Combinator’s requested focus list for startups.

Instead of having a one-size-fits-all enterprise software, one of Y Combinator’s managing directors Harj Taggar says AI could help enterprises create their own customized customer relationship management, human resource and planning systems.

“A product based on this premise would be highly disruptive to large incumbents, because now they can’t win by just copying you and adding another feature to their bloated software.”

Additionally, LLMs could help many “back office processes” that have historically been performed manually by “huge teams of people.” Among those tasks involve assessing applications, filing paperwork, monitoring transactions and conducting compliance reviews.

Explainable AI, on the other hand, aims to explain decisions created from machine learning model algorithms. It could provide context on the fate of one’s credit score or even a medical diagnosis.

However, trusting the AI model is free from bias will prove a tough task for innovators, said Hu and Nicolas Dessaigne, another group partner at the firm.

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