People often have questions about YC, and I'm happy to answer those (or questions about anything else).
EDIT: Ok, I have to run. Thanks for the questions!
What we've more seriously considered is randomly funding some companies just below the threshold.
Also, we do look at our ranking to see how companies at the top vs companies near the cutoff do. It's rare (but not unheard of) for a company very near the cutoff to be one of our most successful companies.
Would you ever consider releasing anonymized data on companies that apply and are accepted along with those who apply but aren't accepted into a batch? That'd give future applicants much more insight into the process.
since yc is obviously not going to talk shit on their own applicants, i'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that it's just like every other job application process when six figures (or more) of money is on the line. big paychecks attract plenty of, shall we say, 'aspirational' applicants.
1. apps where spelling and grammar is clearly not a priority (sure, i'll give you 5 figures a month to spell shit wrong)
2. the wrong kind of company will apply, i.e. a restaurant
3. bullshit artists gonna bullshit, even when they stink
4. people simply not smart enough to do the job. just plain dumb is a real thing, folks.
5. people with too little real world experience
6. really stupid ideas (who's to judge? well, the people with the money get to judge, that's sort of how applications work)
the fact that you can use the term 'anonymized data' in a sentence that actually makes sense is going to put you in the top 10% automatically - yes, the bar is that low when you're dealing with the general public. the trick is getting into the top 1% though. it's a power law distribution of difficulty.
every job advertisement attracts applications like these, and yc is basically just a really, really fancy and structured super-duper college/job application process combined, but for crazed entrepreneurs (like me). you are going to get a lot, maybe even mostly people on the left hand side of the normal distribution of iq, talent, and work ethic/experience. the easy thing is the dipshits and fakers are easy to spot-and-drop almost immediately. i can basically glance at a resume and disqualify it in 10-15 seconds if it's not good enough. you just can't bullshit someone far smarter, more experienced, and better at bullshitting than you. CAVEAT: there are extremely smart and experienced bullshitters out there though -- that's the real danger area. that's what you're really worried about.
basically the only thing you can count on is that they want your money!!
Edit: I still think the idea of Dropbox is pretty stupid and I wouldn't have given Drew Houston a penny if I was an investor. But I never thought the average application would be so far worse if Dropbox got funded and succeeded.
the most uncommon and valuable skill in the world is for a smart person to willingly put themselves in a position where they could easily fail, or be ridiculed. dumb people do this all the time. this is an advantage to being dumb. you have no ego to lose. nor much of anything else.
that is the cross-section of intelligence and success. just look in the mirror for an example.
and for what it's worth, if you think dropbox is a tepid idea, just consider slack. enterprise irc with history and attachments. worth billions. there's more to it than just a cool idea. the example i always use is: i've got a great idea. let's build a time machine. it'll be great!
but i can read a lot into sama's "not very good" understatement. for a yc (or vc) partner to say that in an actual post is pretty telling.
and of course, my statement about grammar is grammatically wrong. not much changes on forum banter through the decades, does it?
You don't want to fund a company that doesn't know what they are doing and needs a lot of help to get to that level where they do get funded.
But that is a startup opportunity to help these awful companies get better so they can get funded and then pay the mentors money for the training.
I'm sure they get coffee shops and pizza places apply as well that don't qualify but want to do some sort of cybercafe in their store.
The short version is that there is an inverse relationship between actual and perceived skill. In general, the better someone is at something, the less they rate themselves relative to their peers.
This is a big problem when recruiting people for skilled positions. The best applicants assume that they won't be good enough and don't apply. The newest applicants have no reservations about applying and assume that they are qualified for anything, kind of like someone who graduates with a BS in CompSci and thinks it means he knows everything about being a professional programmer before he's even ever held a real programming position.
Joel Spolsky discusses this too! I can't seem to find the post right now, though. The gist is that he was encouraging good developers to apply to Fog Creek, because he noticed that a lot of developers he would have liked to hire were intimidated about applying there, as he had previously discussed things like dismissing non-amazing candidates, how rare it is for good people to be on the market, and the extensive perks his company extended to its developers (like an office with a door that shuts). The good people read these posts and automatically filtered themselves out, no doubt comparing against their idealized version of what they'd like themselves to be, emphasizing the gaps and flaws that they know are in their resume, instead of the reality of the applicant field, the competence of which most good people grossly overestimate.
There's another cheesy colloquialism that I think encompasses this well: "you're comparing your behind-the-scenes with everyone else's highlight reel". We use ourselves as the reference point for understanding others, but the intimacy we have with our own thoughts and failings can cause us to forget that they're not as big as they seem. We should be cautious before allowing ourselves to be intimidated by others, bearing in mind that we only see a small snippet of the picture.
Even for less technical people it makes sense and it is easily explained. Put the files in this folder and they are safe.
You seem pretty sure about this. How would you validate that belief? What are the consequences if you're wrong?
> i can basically glance at a resume and disqualify it in 10-15 seconds if it's not good enough.
I'd suggest taking a more systematic approach. You may be rejecting some great candidates without decreasing the likelihood of false negatives.
> you just can't bullshit someone far smarter, more experienced, and better at bullshitting than you.
If you can't spot the fish, then ...
Also, why you no use capitalization? It makes your post read dumb.
The thing about saying no is that it's a lot less risky than saying yes, in terms of damage potential, not necessarily in terms of "lost upside" (which IMO is something that rarely merits consideration). If you pass on a good candidate, they will move on and find another home that works for them; no harm, no foul, so one doesn't need to feel bad about admitting that the person is skilled, but just not a good fit.
If you bring someone on board and they turn out bad, they can and often do cause substantial harm to the company/org. Once they're there, they have access to everything they need to wreak havoc, and as I'm sure you know, malicious intentions unfortunately aren't really necessary to cause problems. Big issues for your company can be caused by simple incompetence.
Joel Spolsky discusses this in his essay on interviewing . It's just much safer to let the candidates that aren't enthusiastic yesses go than take a gamble and lose.
>Also, why you no use capitalization? It makes your post read dumb.
I don't really mind this, but I do think this is noteworthy since he specifically called out spelling and grammatical errors as disqualifiers. I assume in reality, he's forgiving of personal quirks or typos, and means that he rejects candidates out of hand who appear genuinely unable to spell or properly utilize much of the industry's vernacular.
My guess would be that applicants to Y-Combinator are probably along the same spectrum–some great ideas, some decent ideas, and a lot of junk inbetween.
I think the next billion $ enterprise startup will be more likely to come from such a batch. People who face enterprise software problems are not always in a stage in life that allows them to move to SF for a few months. YC might be missing out a large cohort of founders who work in enterprise software, outside of the Bay Area, and would disrupt their industry given the chance but are less flexible in moving to SF.
There are many "old tech" hubs outside SF that can generate great new startups. medical IT, medical devices, mechanical and aviation industry, enterprise software etc. Are Enterprise software ideas and founders with years of enterprise software experience adequately represented at YC?
And yes, I think they're well-represented.
I know a number of really creative/talented individuals who would be a lot better off if they didn't struggle to feed/house themselves. People who contribute to open source, build art projects and love to share knowledge. Definite contributors to society and the betterment of their fellow man.
Have you ever considered just letting people to apply for YC for a few years of basic income. The individuals that I'm thinking of would contribute more to society if given basic income than in any other situation I can imagine. (Many of them bay area locals, if you want to interview a few in person). Driven to create but stifled by various real and/or self imposed restrictions.
It's pretty easy to work a job and still have time to develop if you want to here in the states. It's really hard to starve doing what you love here.
You could do it formally with a contract: the employee is part-time, salaried, and assigns 49% ownership of new intellectual property to the employer, with a mutual right to match bids for the other's share.
Have you considered structuring the experiment in terms of creating a intentional basic income community? An example fitting my bohemian ideals would be: Funding a group of people by providing a place to live (warehouse) and a monthly stipend for food and fun stuff and seeing where they end up after a few years?
In http://blog.samaltman.com/machine-intelligence-part-2 you laid out sensible requirements and safeguards we should demand of late-stage AI development when it gets further along. But OpenAI's founding statement seems to have baked in a mission and vision that's incompatible with those safeguards, requiring immediate sharing of breakthroughs even if the technologies required to use them safely aren't ready yet. That founding statement used to have the word "safely" in it, but this was edited out without any sort of announcement or comment, and, to the best of my thirdhand-rumor knowledge, OpenAI is not currently doing any safety-related research.
(I wrote a blog post on this back in December, and no one has given any plausible answer: http://conceptspacecartography.com/openai-should-hold-off-on... )
We talk about it a lot, and I'm working on a post about it (for example, we may not share intermediate breakthrough that we think pose major safety risks), but I've been much busier than expected the last few months and haven't gotten to it yet.
Definitely expect us to do safety research.
We know that super-AI is more likely than not to be existentially dangerous. It would be remiss to foresee the apocalypse and assume someone else will fix it.
So I've been working diligently for the last few weeks putting the final edits on my application to YC. I'm 68 years old an the only founder. On the positive side I've got almost 50 years of work in the project that defines the state of the art.
Am I wasting my time in applying considering my age and singleness?
Maybe we should ask is there over three successful applicants that were over 50?
It's not an unfair question.
I've got similar issues myself. Perhaps cofounders are the answer.
Maybe we can take inspiration from Rose Blumkin, founder of the Nebraska Furniture Mart who sold the store to Warren Buffett and then after arguments with her family left in a huff and set up a rival called Mrs. B's Clearance and Factory Outlet across the street at age 95. It became profitable and was Omaha's third-largest carpet outlet before Buffett bought that too.
With that in mind, what's the point of asking the question? There's nothing to be gained by asking, and potentially something to be lost (displaying lack of confidence).
For my part, I've had "entrepreneurial spasms" as a solo founder and it's been a terrible idea for me. This is because I'm a terrible procrastinator. I need a schedule-oriented person to keep me in check / act as the rudder to my "powerful engine".
I'm not much on the social network scene, maybe I should give it a try.
Would you consider doing something similar for YC? Obviously, you already have multiple people looking at websites/applications, but I'd be really curious to see what the agreement is like - and you have some absolutely exception AI/data scientists people at openAI who could crunch all the numbers.
Some of the best companies have the most disagreement, which is why we have implemented our "strong yes" policy--if any single partner wants to fund a company, we fund it. It's much more important to our returns that we fund the next Airbnb than if we mistakenly fund one more bad company.
A few obvious counter arguments come to mind right away, such as YC's startups in fusion energy and non-profits like Watsi. If I could, I'd Google up a histogram of funded startup business models as granular as 'restaurant food delivery' or 'pre-packaged home cooked meals' and see where the ideas are concentrated.
What is your opinion on the aggregate? Does YC have any formal or informal policies aimed at balancing the mix of weighty vs. frivolous businesses?
We like funding both.
1. Companies innovate by doing things more cheaply with automation than human workers can do them.
2. As a result of automation, the more efficient companies reap all the profits in a market as they drive the less efficient companies out of business (and the humans out of jobs).
3. This bonanza of profits that automation yields is taxed.
4. The taxes from the accumulated wealth of the winners -- wealth that, again, exists because the winning companies' machines were able to do things more efficiently than the losing companies' human laborers -- go toward paying the laid-off laborers a basic income.
Any I missing anything?
Optimizing companies will do everything possible to avoid the corporate taxes (>60%) required to make universal basic income a reality. If you are assuming that winning companies are the best at implementing automation and reducing cost, it is a fatal mistake to assume that they will suddenly become charitable when it comes to wealth redistribution - no, they will "win" because they optimize every single aspect of their balance sheets. They'll move their capital offshore where it will be taxed at a fraction of the US rate. They'll pay lobbyists to make sure tax loopholes stay open, and that the wealth accretes to the few at the top of the company who run the business. This is simply the nature of capitalism. If you allow a few companies to gain too much power, they will abuse that power. That is why we have a government that does an OK job of breaking up monopolies, creating anti-trust laws, regulating risk-taking, etc.
> taxes from the accumulated wealth of the winners...go toward paying the laid-off laborers a basic income
What about the people who never had a job? Those born into a society where they are not needed for labor? UBI for everyone creates a large misdirection of resources that perpetuates the problem of too many people, too few jobs, social unrest. We have solved this problem in the past through war, which stimulates the economy through government spending, reduces excess labor (especially young, angry, dangerous men), reignites nationalism and social cohesion (against a common and clearly evil enemy such as Hitler), and realigns national incentives towards R&D and infrastructure investment. I am not advocating for war, merely making an observation. Does UBI get distributed to everyone who is unemployed, or only those who are laid off from jobs?
I encourage you to examine the concept of "helicopter money" and study the incentive structures it creates and why we haven't truly implemented it before during tough economic times.
If world governments continue to fail also at corporate tax, the current dystopic situation of regressive effective corporate tax rates through profit export will persist, and risks everything we have gained through capitalism and democracy.
I encourage you to read the definition of UBI. Universal means you give to everyone, from the homeless guy on the street, to Bill Gates. Not just laid off people. Also, your top-of-head speculations are not the best evidence available for its effects.
Negative Income Tax is pretty much the only implementation of UBI I personally could get behind. I just wouldn't be able to support an implementation of a UBI that pays Bill Gates the same amount as a person born with a severe disability (which obviously they had no choice about being born with).
The system for everyone should be the same. It's simpler and more fair. Bill Gates deserves to know that if he lost it all tomorrow we would take care of him. We can make one system that ensures everyone is cared for. The sickly and the ambitious. I don't think we have the proficiency necessary to keep people from falling through the cracks otherwise. Maybe in very specific cases (like Bill Gates) but not at scale. There are disabilities that exist that we don't even know about yet.
Unless taxation and reporting are made trivial (which is hard without giving up on privacy including cash), the poorest do not have the money or time to jump through hoops. Hence UBI, having the minimal requirements, will help the most of the poorest. This more than compensates for the (arguable, but I'll concede it) bug of giving some money to the rich as well.
Well that is fucked up? They dont call it a "UNIVERSAL" basic income.
Yeah let's give a basic income to EVERYONE, EXCEPT ... that makes 0 sense. You just described wellfare really.
Universal or bust. Everyone or no-one imo. It's a universal basic income afterall. Not a conditional basic income.
Losing companies also produce wealth, perhaps even more so, because e.g. they didn't spend enough on advertising. However, in this winner-takes-all economy, the losers have to give up.
All wealth does not exist only because of winning companies.
You're also missing other big upside to UBI. For example, if people can be more sure that they won't be reduced to destitution if the quit there 9-5 to work on a passion project, they will be more likely to do that. More people taking more bets on passion projects means more opportunities for explosively successful companies.
It would be interesting to see an analysis not just of automation and robotics putting pressure on employment, but the effect of same on consumer prices and cost of living.
If you pay a small amount of money to live on and they can't afford insurance and they get sick they can't afford the bills.
I myself am on disability and filed chapter 13 bankruptcy due to medical bills. It ruined my credit and now I have dental that doesn't cover my root and gum scalings and I have a cadaract forming in my left eye and can't afford surgery. I might even end up homeless as a result. I used to be a programmer until I got too sick and had to quit.
Disability is like basic income but it only pays what your FICA contrubuted to it. The more you pay into it the more you get if you become disabled.
Also working on challenges and projects mean nothing if you have no money to market them and get investors. Esp if you can't afford a good computer or a web server. Get stuck with cheap ones that are limited.
It really sucks and I think it's a stupid system, but there will be far greater obstacles on your path to being a successful founder.
Some unsolicited advice. Starting company = solving lots of problems (product, market, tech, hiring etc etc.) See Immigration as just one of these.
Canada, with much easier immigration policies (Toronto/Vancouver) can be your base to build and validate your prototype and later move to valley.
In the age of Internet, geographical boundaries cannot prevent good ideas/products from happening.
Just another entrepreneur here, but I'm a Canadian citizen and also need a VISA.
I've received excellent help from Julie Pearl's firm: https://www.immigrationlaw.com/
They work with plenty of startup founders and I was recommended her through fellow immigrant founders. :) Hope this helps!
Some might be discouraged from applying because they fear if the idea is interesting (but not the team or there's another reason it's not accepted) that someone from within YC or a related ecosystem might just take the idea and look at the product so far and decide to just do it themselves (but obviously with more resources, connections, etc and obviously holding more equity).
The very best ideas usually don't seem worth stealing.
Obviously, if you have IP, dont apply at YC because they don't think it's worth anything.
If you have some truly novel technology you DEFINITELY shouldn't go to YC. They're not in the "technology transfer"-y business like universities.
One of the values of VCs and networks and experts is that they can tell you how other companies in your space have failed (running out of money, founder breakups, "people won't pay for it", "it really needs X but X doesn't scale", etc.).
If you watch the start-up space for long enough you start seeing multiple teams with the "same idea" but only a handful succeed at it; even at small a scale as university incubators.
Here's another one: what is an idea? Typically it is a sentence expressing a business proposition, or the essential functioning of a technology. But is it the same "idea" no matter who utters it? I think it's pretty clear that an idea is actually short-hand for a 'space of experience' held by the person saying it. In this sense, it's actually not possible to "steal" an idea, because ideas are linked to the people who have them, and because were someone to try, they would find that they can steal the sentence that refers to the actual idea, but lack the perspective to unlock the true meaning.
Either way, this is a meme in the startup industry, and very true in my experience. Do not fixate on ideas: nobody can steal them and/or they are not important in the first place.
The concept to further research is execution vs ideas: https://www.google.com/search?q=execution+not+ideas
Most markets are for items there are many of. There are lots of apples, people see friends enjoying them, people buy one, like it, buy another, a price is established. Key facts: you get to buy it more than once, more than one person gets to buy it, you can tell in advance it is worth something. Take too many of those away, and the market goes away.
An idea (for a venture) is: unique (a close variant missing a key part has completely different value), you would not pay for it twice, and selling it to multiple people diminishes its value. Why would you think the value of an idea would be well captured in a market?
You do realize a market is just one mechanism for expressing value, right? or is air value-less?
The reason there's no market is because it takes an idea and a person who can execute -- knowledge, skills, connections, experience, etc. Ideas aren't separable from people in a way that would make a market possible.
Obviously it depends a bit on the details but if you think of the big hits, saying say Alta Vista is crap let's build a better search engine or Myspace is crap let's build a better one of those wasn't worth much for the basic ideas because hundreds of people no doubt thought that. Now the detailed algorithms may have been worth something. But it's mostly in the actually building the better thing that counts.
I guess knowing which ideas are good would be valuable. If someone had said you'd make a fortune doing myspace with real names and no flashing nonsense that would have been useful but just having a list of a 1000 ideas with no testing is probably not worth much.
Can you provide the numbers pls?
"The very best ideas usually don't seem worth stealing."
is an astounding statement.
Sure, the startup "circles" regard an idea as a short description of a sentence or
two to a family member, neighbor, or prospective user/customer of how the new product/service will look to them.
But, then what about how to make that product/service work? Ignore that? That part should be crucial: Crucial
for having the first good or a much better product/solution,
a technological advantage and barrier to entry,
etc. That "idea" could take
original research, be regarded as
valuable intellectual property and protected as a trade secret,
Sure, the user/customer need
not be aware of that "idea" maybe in the internals of the product/service.
Then to say
ignores the crucial, core ideas, say, the details of the coating (likely highly classified and from a lot of R&D) and shape (again
from a lot of R&D, and
Maxwell's equations computations, likely
challenging and classified) that were key to stealth.
Or, here's an "idea": A safe, effective, cheap one pill taken once to cure any cancer. Sure that "idea" is just pie in the sky and worthless. But to create such a pill will take one heck of a good idea. To me it is just such good ideas that
should be central in information technology
startups. It sounds like
Sam is neglecting that
any such ideas are possible,
relevant, valuable, or important. Or, to me, an
idea for an algorithm that
shows that P = NP is astounding, and astoundingly valuable -- implement it on
a server and behind a lot of
security and just sell the
results, say, anyone who
wants to send in any
integer linear programming
problem, that is, any of
the thousands of important
real world examples of
My favourite pure good idea with enormous value has to be the Kelly criterion .
I'm trying to figure out why I didn't know this.
The Kelly criterion seems to not be well known - why I can't say other than there are a lot of groups that benefit from people being ignorant of it.
None of these are "ideas", they are implementations/executions of ideas. They are the result of trial and error (even thought-experiments) that ultimately resulted in real world impact and observable changes. Ideas are unexpressed potential. How the Navy's version of GPS works isn't valuable until after the Navy starts using it. Before that, it's just conjecture. But at the point where the Navy deploys GPS, while it is information, it's not solely an idea; it's pragmatic.
Even knowledge of a newfangled GPS system the Navy is working on or going to deploy and start using on a certain date isn't an idea anymore: it's actionable information that can be traded on. An idea is a kind of information, but not all information is an idea. And while thoughts can be information, not all thoughts are ideas.
That being said, I think you are partially right: the concept of an idea not having value is unintuitive, and a lot of other industries are commonly in the habit of presenting ideas as having value. You'll see this when people talk about patents, as if having a patent somehow conveys value on the thing that is patented beyond just the government enforced exclusivity. A patented idea that can not be brought to market in some fashion isn't that valuable (and actually has negative value: not only is it not brought to market; without bringing it to market, you can not reap the benefits of exclusivity; and you've paid for obtaining the right to a patent you are unable to exploit. So it's a net negative).
Being in the Bay Area, I know that Stanford and UC Berkeley tend to have a decent amount of relatively successful launches/founders, but on the other hand I can't say I hear nearly as much about people who went to San Francisco State or San Jose State (or any other lower-tier schools that are not just located in SF Bay Area).
If there is a large enough discrepancy, do you have any ideas of ways to jumpstart or spark other educational communities to have a greater focus on trying out ideas, especially with YC (or other programs)?
Personally, I'm finishing studying at San Jose State and while there is an Entrepreneurship Club, the focus for that side of things (at least from what I've seen) tends to stay purely on the Business college end, rather than other potential high-impact areas (aside from the occasional mobile app here and there).
But the main reason we don't is that there are important counterexamples in our portfolio, and if we said "we're only going to fund founders from top schools" we'd miss out on some big successes.
I wasn't suggesting that you should only fund founders from top schools, but that you should select for it (which it sounds like you already do).
The pedigrees of some of YC's most successful founders, for anyone who's curious:
* Twitch: Yale, MIT
* Cruise: MIT, Claremont McKenna
* OMGPOP: Princeton
* Heroku: UCSD
* Airbnb: RISD, Harvard
* Dropbox: MIT
* Zenefits: Harvard
It's interesting that Stanford and Berkeley are not represented here, probably because good companies founded by students there can easily get funded without going through YC. It seems like YC's strength lies in drawing elites from the rest of the country to SV.
Instacart was Waterloo, also a very good school but not a huge name outside of tech.
RethinkDB was Stony Brook University.
Mixpanel was an Arizona State dropout.
Reddit is a great example of founders without pedigree. Although it hasn't been too successful as a company, it's created phenomenal value for its users. I definitely spend more time on Reddit than Facebook/Instagram/Snapchat/Twitter combined.
I'd say Waterloo is elite in the tech sense, and Apoorva worked at Amazon in fulfillment, so it made a lot of sense in the specific case of Instacart.
Mixpanel was being advised by Max Levchin from before they applied to YC. He became their first big customer and helped them with every funding round, and probably put in a good word with YC when they applied. Another YC alum, Amplitude, which is founded by MIT grads, is now giving Mixpanel a run for their money[1,2]. I don't know Suhail or Tim, but I can't imagine the average ASU dropout's experience would be anything like theirs.
I wouldn't be to concerned on timestamps. I'd look more at time on site and time on video.
The video has to get to the point quickly and present your ideas. If I'm 15-20 seconds in and you haven't clearly stated your business, and I didn't get an instant understanding of it from your application, I'll probably stop watching the video, assuming that I'm not going to get anything more out of it.
If I decide to keep watching the video, I actually just listen to it while I'm reviewing the rest of the application.
Then I'll go on to the website if there is one. First off judgement of website will again be - is it clear why this exists, will a new user/customer/target get why they are here. What am I looking to get from the website? Can I find it, can I get more info.
I doubt I spend more than 30 seconds on an applicants website, but that isn't a dig, or even a negative. Go to any site like of a not yet publicly available product, try this test with google brillo https://developers.google.com/brillo/, set a watch and check out how much time you spend on the site. 30 seconds is a long time. 10 seconds is enough to get it and judge favorably or otherwise.
I've applied for the latest round of YC and was very surprised to see my video was watched for the full 2-minutes. I went over time, but explained everything up front (I think). At the same time, it's possible the video just played in the background while the judge moved on to other things and ignored it...
The main problem, imho, with the current model of startup creation, is that it heavily selects for young technical people with little in the way of other commitments to take chances on new ideas. Many young technical people are hard-working and driven and that's wonderful, but (1) they form a narrow demographic [if you hang out at too many hacker cons you'll wildly overestimate the popularity of crummy cable sci-fi shows, for instance] (2) they have very little exposure to meaningful problems, so we end up with hundreds of meal delivery and laundry startup, because what else troubles a recent college engineering grad?
I have seen hundreds of apps like yours. It's a terrible space. First of all, literally every social app in the world is designed to help people make friends. That's how friends are generally made: people have something in common like "takes the same bus to school", "works at the same company", or "comments on the same warhammer 40k miniatures painting advice forum", they get to know each other, things grow from there.
I posit that "Make a New Group of Close Friends in Your Neighborhood" is not actually a value proposition that you can deliver on, even with perfect execution and infinite engineering resources. I just don't believe it. But clearly you do, so let's put that aside and I'll grant you that this technology could exist and you implement it perfectly.
How many times in someone's life could you imagine them using this? How many close friends in their neighborhood can anyone really maintain? Once? Twice? Maybe three times if they move a lot? Let's say it's six total times. And let's also posit that, against all odds, it always works, there's always the right mix of people in a given neighborhood to make this always work.
What are you going to do? Charge for the six uses? Show ads six times? GEICO has ads on TV all the time because even though you basically never change car insurance, they need to be top-of-mind when you think of who to google. I think your cost of customer acquisition, given the idea that your technology works indistinguishably from magic, will be ludicrous. Remember, there's no reason for people to even tell their friends about this: its an app for people with no friends. I think you will have to spend a fortune continually acquiring users.
Then, what's your arpu over the customer's lifetime? I can't imagine how you can charge for this. Ads? Some sort of affiliate marketing? I would think, if your product worked, the total user engagement with the site over the entire lifetime of the customer would be on the order of what, an hour? There's just no place to make money here.
Personally, I also think this is not a real problem, customers do not exist for this service, etc. but you know, I'll spot you that, along with the idea that if it was a problem, you could fix it. _Even if those things are true_, you are going to end up with a horrendous business. See also: every "helps friends figure out who's down to hang out" startup, every "helps organize your travel plans" startup, every "uber for X" where X is something you buy like four times in your life startup.
There is something about the founder mindset that is drawn to this bad idea, just like founders are drawn to build "like making apps, but easier!" startups over and over again that essentially never work (maybe Hypercard?).
I read an autobiography once by a former Navy SEAL. He said the first thing he does when any young kid tells him he wants to join the SEALs is spend an hour or so telling the kid why being a SEAL sucks and why he'll never make it. He said 99% of the time, the kids give up on the idea. He said it's nothing personal, he usually barely knows the kids, it's just that if someone you barely know can talk you out of even trying to join the SEALs in an hour, there's no fucking chance you'll survive BUD/S and all that stuff, so he's really just saving them a bunch of time. He's doing his own "pre-BUD/S" screening that's a lot cheaper and easier for everyone, and that involves a lot less heartache. I always felt like that was a pretty good idea.
None of your points causes any concern for me though. I have lot of ideas on how to retain users--it's not simply a single use product. Krewe is not a "Tinder for friends," it's completely different and actually tries to mimic the way people naturally form and maintain friendships.
I am very certain that there is huge demand for a way to comfortably and conveniently make friends. Anyone who's ever moved to a new city, or had friends move away, knows how hard and how awful it is to not have anyone you're close with nearby. 20% of Americans say they're lonely, and people generally have fewer close friends than they used to. Depression, addiction, and suicide rates have been rising for years as a result. No one has tried to argue with me that making friends as an adult is hard. Consider yourself very lucky to not know that is a problem.
Do I have the right solution? I'm not 100% sure, but I know that I'm at least very near it, and I will find it or die trying.
You may not and most likely are not near to the right solution, and your goal maybe shouldn't be to find the right solution to the stated problem, but can you keep rephrasing the problem to show you a better solution to a better problem?
It is very difficult not to get attached to a solution to a problem, but if you're solving for the wrong problem, you've already lost.
> First of all, literally every social app in the world is designed to help people make friends.
I just signed up. I just moved to SF. All of my friends have money and live in the Mission, I live in the Sunset. I'd love to meet people in my neighborhood.
I will use Krewe. Will I like it? That I don't know, but I'm certainly excited to see how it plays out.
I love finding interesting ways to meet new people - locally or halfway around the world (currently trying Plane, a social icebreaker app I discovered on PH - they have no website but here's the App Store shortlink: bit.ly/planeapp)
I rarely comment on people's apps positively or negatively but this comment, while perhaps intended to be helpful, rubbed me the wrong way. Perhaps it's the arrogant tone (my interpretation).
My neighborhood has 60,000 people living in it with ~600 people in the Nextdoor group. There's very little activity in the group, so I don't think people are really using it. I don't know what it's like in other neighborhoods so it may be that my neighborhood just isn't good for it, but if I had 600 users on Krewe from my neighborhood, there would definitely be a lot of activity.
Any comment regarding Jason Calacanis being banned from YC's upcoming demo day? Jason tweeted his side but didn't know what the YC side of it was and was curious.
We collect feedback from YC founders on investors (we have a giant database of this). If you mistreat founders, we don't invite you to Demo Day. This isn't permanent--if you stop mistreating founders we start inviting you again. Also, it's possible that our founders are wrong in their assessment of how a particular investor is treating them, but investors have enough advantages in the system and we unashamedly take the side of our founders.
EDIT: I also never think these things are black and white, and that all of us have good and bad parts. I've heard from plenty of founders that Jason has been very helpful to their companies.
much love, thanks for speaking at the Angel Summit earlier this month!
Jason was one of the first and most helpful investors in Rapportive (YCS10, acq LinkedIn). He believed in us when there was no obvious reason to.
Jason was one of the first investors I went back to for Superhuman. (He negotiated hard, but then so do I — that's just part of each side getting what they want.)
I'd work with Jason again in a heartbeat for my next company.
He was the very first investor that invested in us, and has become our biggest champion since our very early days.
Most investors look for traction and only decide to invest when you have traction. Jason sees the fire and the determination in us (first time founders), and decides to support us, and helps us grow as a person and as a company.
Some other investors just put in money and disappears. But Jason truly cares and whenever we need help, he's always there. He gives us frank feedback that we really need, he challenges us and pushes us to be better. He helps us with intros. He sends product feedback and recommendations without being asked.
I know dozens of other founders that Jason had invested in and I know that they all feel the same way I do about Jason.
Truth is, we're all a little awkward at the start... Uber and Thumbtack were both a little awkward when I did those angels rounds too.
The job of an angel investor is to look at the promise of the startup -- not the problems.
Sam is wildly successful
I'm wildly successful
We've disagreed twice in 10 years, but when we do it's like two huge bulls cracking heads -- it's ugly! :-)
There is absolutely no history of Jason being known for mistreating founders. The opposite is true. AngelForum, free Launch tickets for founders and so on. He wouldn't get in the deals he's getting in if it were any different.
As it currently stands I'd never enter YC as a founder. Your comment cries of hypocrisy and falseness.
Either you honestly think he's mistreating founders then ban him and tell it like it is (and back it up with proof) or you don't think he's mistreating founders and think the feedback is unsubstantiated (if it exists) then man up and do what's best for YC founders.
This is something I talked about on This Week in Startups, and frankly I think it has something to do with my "ban."
99% of the investors out there agree with my position -- the 1% that don't work at YCombinator. :-)
Assholes are manipulative, it's how they get away with it.
The problem is silicon valley is self-reinforcing with positive feedback, nobody rocks the boat and speaks ill (the subject of Jason's abuse above would never come out and say it) of others.
It is 100x harder to give a negative public view of someone than it is to give a positive.
Investors have more power than most of your employees and they will freely speak about you, associate with you in good times, many will run away in bad.
You should run extensive due diligence across all of them, and with people who worked with them - not the type of Silicon Valley 'good friends' that involve spending 5 minutes in a conference hallway with someone 3 times a year, or having dinner twice a year.
Yes, Jason probably had some brutally honest feedback about the presentation and how to make it better. But in my experience, his feedback is always spot on.
I've personally been on the receiving end of such feedback, and it can feel harsh at times. But this is one of Jason's greatest strengths: he has the ability to listen to a pitch once and then make it way stronger by improving a few key things. This is why almost all of the pitches at Launch are exceptional.
2. Founders have asked for the brutal truth of the 'red pill 'every single time. No founder has ever asked for the blissful illusion of the blue pill. Not once!
3. I've coached 700 startups for TC50, LAUNCH Festival and the LAUNCH Incubator (27 and growing!)... never had a complaint. Not one. That includes Dropbox, Yammer, FitBit, CafeX, Clicker, Brilliant.org and hundreds more.
[ background: The person making these claims is close friends with my former partner on TC50 -- that partner was accused of some very nasty things. ]
There are plenty of situations where flat out lying is not just acceptable, but expected as a bargaining tactic, along with other behavior that would be unacceptable in other situations.
Just thinking about the different ways I buy things at flea markets, the grocery store, and an auto dealership shows 3 very different behaviors.
It was then up to them to do the spec work or not.
However, when I was able to afford to pay folks, I was like "well, if I pay three people $500 or $1,000 to do a project and pick the winner as my eventually designer, that's a good use of $1,500!"
Thanks for taking the time to share this story. I'm far from perfect, but I work really hard every day to help as many people I can.... because so many people helped me get to the top of the mountain!
Additionally after I left his employ, he was our first investor in a new venture, and relentlessly supported us along the way. Jason is the best possible investor you can have on your side.
Jason has seen me at my worst, when I was ready to throw in the towel and battling with my board and generally having a tough, tough time, and I left the meeting with hom feeling like a rockstar, that I COULD handle it, and could go on to succeed (which I am doing today).
He is such a founder advocate I would take $25k from Jason over $250k from a bigger VC, because when the going gets tough (and it will) Jason will ALWAYS have your back.
Rather obvious what is going on here - and it is pathetic
Before Sam edited his comment, his comment implied that Jason had bullied founders, changed offers and shared founders confidential information.
> We collect feedback from YC founders on investors (we have a giant database of this). If you mistreat founders, we don't invite you to Demo Day. This isn't permanent--if you stop mistreating founders (i.e. bullying them, changing offers, sharing their confidential info, etc etc etc) then we start inviting you again.
Sam and I are actually, and I know this is hard to believe, fond of each other. We started as Sequoia scouts together and have both had great success being startup advocates.
It's nice that the companies I work with took the time to uncloak/create accounts to defend me. It's touching actually.
Because having people create fake accounts just to leave positive comments is far more likely than thousands of people being exposed to this thread via Sam and Jason's tweeter feeds?
I wouldn't be so quick to jump to conclusions with no data to back up your assertions.
For what it's worth, while I've never worked with Jason, I have met him once (briefly) and I have talked to many who have worked with him. I've only heard positive things. Everything being posted here are anecdotes from either one side or another; I wouldn't trust someone's anecdote to determine someone's character.
and i've been around here long enough to know that even when outsiders do link to threads you don't get 50%+ green comments without sockpuppets
What about before Sam tweeted? What about any other outlets that linked to HN?
> and i've been around here long enough to know that even when outsiders do link to threads you don't get 50%+ green comments without sockpuppets
Sounds like, instead of relying on data, you already have your narrative set so it doesn't really matter what anyone says. Do you have data that shows this has happened in the past like you claim? If so, what are the correlations between those instances and this one? How do you control between fake accounts and accounts created due to an influx of traffic regarding a topic many are interested in?
... and because you should check out how awesome their startups are!
It's not a case of malice, just transparency.
Anyways, what I said was true. I went through his incubator, and Jason has been nothing but supportive. Echoing what others have already said, he provides brutally honest feedback, which we all need. At no time was it ever mean-spirited or derogatory, or any of the other claims being made.
Jason has been nothing but encouraging and relentlessly supportive.
If you have kids, I suggest checking out their SF page:
I was a bit worried about discussing it with him, honestly. I didn't need to be. He was extremely supportive, and our current business is doing fantastically; we're even more passionate about it. In addition, everyone I've met that ever had him as an investor seems to have the same experience: once he's in your court, he's ridiculously helpful.
Long story short, I maintain that getting into the launch incubator or getting Jason on your side as an investor is one of the best things an early stage startup can do. Have never met someone who had him as an investor who had a negative word to say.
We are going to have massive success together... can't wait to high five in seven years (or less)!
Most importantly he's an entrepreneur and investor — and he knows about the hard times entrepreneurs go through. He'll always encourage you and you always leave a meeting with Jason feeling more positive than you did beforehand. He doesn't believe he knows the answer to every question, but he'll give you his advice. It's hard to over-state how important this is.
Again, I'm happy to jump on the phone if any founders have questions about Jason. Message me.
I had a great experience with Jason, even though the startup was shutdown. That shutdown was where Jason showed his true colors - he was always there, had great ideas, and was super supportive. When we did shut it down, the first phone call I got was from Jason, checking in. I still have the message in my voicemail.
After that, he continued to keep in touch and keep me "in the family". He had 100's of investments he could have been spending time on, but he never forgot. The idea that he is not founder-friendly boggles my mind. He's incredibly human.
I'm sure when you invest as much as he has, he has some things in the past he'd like to take back - hell, I know I do as an entrepreneur - but I can say he's on the list of people who I'd love to work with again and again.
Failure we is the precursor of success, so make sure I'm your first phone call when you have your next idea!
well worth checking out their launch video
The first time I saw Jason in person was at a Founder Institute session. He told is own story of struggle/success/failure/success. It was one of the most moving things I've ever witnessed. This guy has heart and has been in the trenches doing the work.
You've mentioned many times, more so recently, that YC is committed to investing in hard tech problems. When considering companies solving these problems for the next batch, knowing that often times even getting a prototype ready is a massive undertaking, how much chance does one have applying with nothing more than an idea and some research? And the possibility that it won't generate revenue for 5+ years?
Even a huge project starts with a first step. We look for founders that get that one done, and then the second, and ...
Good founders get stuff done. Bad founders talk about why they aren't getting stuff done. This is true for web apps and nuclear reactors.
Thanks for replying nonetheless :)
1. I'm a little in the dark about what happens to applications that have already been seen (because they were submitted early) that are then edited pre-deadline. I've been putting off submission because I'm very close to having an MVP demo video, which I think would be strongly to my advantage to include, but I also know that early submissions face a strong advantage as well. Do you have any advice on the balance between the two, specific to the YC application process? Would it make sense to submit now and edit in the demo later?
2. Are you aware of any publicly available resources for founders to do their due-diligence on investors? I've met a couple of investors by chance (at bars, amusingly enough) that, after hanging out for a few hours, I knew would be a bad fit -- but it would be a waste of both the investors' time and my time if we didn't learn that until the first face-to-face meeting. Do you have any advice on how to maximize search utility (for both an investor and my company) when I'm building my list of potential investors?
2. We have an internal DB for this, but I'm not aware of a good publicly available one :(
I am a man but not white, so perhaps this does not sting as much as it stings you, in which case I apologize for not being able to fully empathize. Anecdotally, the vast majority of the underqualified and incompetent people I've worked with in tech have been men, even taking into account the general proportion of men and women in tech. Without thinking hard, I can name underqualified men, qualified men, and qualified women that I have worked with, but would have to think hard to remember underqualified women. So I'm okay with focusing any attempts to fire unqualified people on men, or, at least, making sure that any efforts to fire unqualified people end up firing at least some men.
Asian people are more overrepresented in tech than Europeans. If Shanley said to "fire some fuckin asian guys to get it done", would you support this comment? Why / why not?
I would absolutely stand behind "fire some men to get it done". Or a simple "fire some people to get it done", if I didn't have strong reason to believe that tech's performance-evaluation practices are unduly harsh on women. (Which is, incidentally, why I think I see unqualified women so rarely.)
Sure, but that wasn't the question.