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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The latest startups from Silicon Valley accelerator Y Combinator that showed off their products at its demo day Monday are the first group to experience the entire three-month program under COVID-19's shadow.

What's new: The pandemic not only pushed the whole Y Combinator process fully online but in many cases also shaped the startups' choice of market and product, with many tackling suddenly booming areas like online education, e-commerce, and remote communications.

The big picture: It's not surprising to see so many companies building tools and services that are directly useful during the pandemic. Entrepreneurs are known to be easily inspired by a crisis or challenge, and YC's latest group is no exception.

For example:

  • Young kids' online education: Startups like Hellosaurus and Zipschool say they've built entertaining, yet educational video content for young children — a promise that's sure to appeal to exhausted parents who have been juggling their own work while caring for kids full-time since schools closed in the spring.
  • E-commerce tools for small businesses: Companies like Hotplate, which lets chefs sell home cooked meals online, and In Stock, which lets customers get products delivered from local retails quickly, are tapping into the online shopping boom.
  • Remote work and socializing: Several Y Combinator startups, like workplace social network Mesh, are building tools for the new era of remote work. Others, like video-chat startups Rally and Together Video Chat, are tackling remote socializing.
  • Online entertainment: From artists and entertainers to fitness instructors, many professions have been forced to move their money-making activities entirely online. These include Jemi, which helps customers sell merchandise and virtual experiences like video chats to fans, and Reach.Live, which offers a suite of tools for running an online live content business.

1 fun thing: According to a few investors who spoke to Axios, one of the hottest deals in this group of startups is a company named Trove, which helps employers communicate and manage compensation packages for employees and candidates.

  • Trove isn't presenting this week to investors because it's already raised a sizable new round of funding led by Andreessen Horowitz, per sources. (The startup has not responded to Axios' request for comment.)

Go deeper: The pandemic downturn might yield a new startup wave

Go deeper

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Nov 18, 2020 - Politics & Policy

America mortgages its future on school closures

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The decision by many U.S. states and cities to keep kids out of school because of COVID-19 will have crippling economic and health effects that could last for decades.

Why it matters: Evidence shows that children, especially younger kids, present a low risk for COVID-19 transmission and that remote education is no replacement for in-person schooling. By keeping schools closed — even as more risky activities are allowed to continue — the U.S. is kneecapping the next generation.

Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers

President Biden speaking from Eisenhower Executive Office Building on Jan. 21. Photo: Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A federal judge in Texas blocked the Biden administration from enforcing its coronavirus vaccine mandate for federal workers on Friday, citing the outcome of last week's Supreme Court ruling that nullified the administration's vaccine-or-test requirement for large employers.

Why it matters: It's a blow to President Biden's efforts to increase the U.S.' vaccination rates, though much of the federal workforce has already been vaccinated against the virus.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker