MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. -- The army of startups -- some 65 in all -- pitching a packed room of investors at Y Combinator's Demo Day today all begin the same way: Explaining what problem they're trying to solve.
Some resonate more quickly than others. That was the case with Sonalight. Its basic pitch is that it makes a better way to text and drive. This startup isn't even bothering with the idea that texting and driving might be a bad thing; it's taking as its starting point that people do just that.
Founder Curtis Liu, a Google alum turned entrepreneur, asked the audience: who has never sent a text while driving? Not surprisingly, not a single hand went up.
Then, with his phone in his shirt pocket, he did a quick demo. He told his phone to text a friend. The Siri-like woman's voice in the phone engaged in a discussion, and Liu easily sent a message: "I'm from the future, and it's awesome."
The pitch is that you never need to look at your phone at all, so driving and texting really is safe. The app always needs to be opened, however. As good as Siri is, it still requires you to take look at your phone more than is optimal when driving 65 miles per hour.
"We're true voice control for mobile," said Liu. "Like Siri, but on steroids.'
Sonalight is taking a decidedly non-Siri approach in that its Text by Voice app is for Android only. The company claims some 40,000 downloads.
Solving a big problem? That's arguable. A potentially really hot app? You bet.