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Poll: Apply HN Runoff – Which two startups should YCF fund?
231 points by dang on May 2, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 276 comments
Here's your opportunity to help pick the winning applications for the Apply HN experiment. For background on the experiment, see https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11440627 and https://news.ycombinator.com/applyhn.

Below are the top 20 Apply HN submissions after they've been ranked using three criteria: upvotes received, number of comments posted, and quality of comments posted as assessed by multiple-moderator review. The top two choices will be the ones HN asks YCF to fund.

We've modified HN's poll software in two ways for this thread. First, the choices are randomized on each view (for logged-in users) to reduce bias. Second, we modified the voting mechanism to introduce some entropy and extra review as anti-gaming measures. You may not see your vote show up in the score right away. (Edit: koolba had a better idea—we'll just hide the point totals for now.)

The discussion below is for debating the merits of the different applications. Please don't post about the Apply HN process itself; we'll have a big post-mortem discussion later this week to talk about what worked well and what didn't. And if you're an applicant or a friend of one, please don't post in the thread below, except to answer questions about your startup.

A small number of applications (two or three) were disqualified due to abuse. If you don't see your application here and think it should be, you're welcome to email us at hn@ycombinator.com to find out why.

Edit: voting is now closed. We'll unveil the scores and rankings shortly.

Edit 2: Hmm. We need some time to look more deeply into the voting patterns here. Please stand by.

Edit 3: Several users have complained about the voting being closed too soon. They have a point, so we've reopened voting and will let it run until some time tomorrow. Sorry about that!

Edit 4: Ok, we've closed the voting now, and HN has sent the ranked list to YCF. We'll try to announce sometime tomorrow (if so, it will be later in the day because I'm travelling tomorrow), but it depends on Kevin being able to talk to the startups first to make sure things are ok on the YC side. If there's an update about timing, I'll add it here.

Edit 5 (6:25 pm Pacific, 2016-05-04): Kevin has now talked to all the winning startups and I have now stopped travelling, so the announcement post is up: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11633270. And so (in the thread) is an explanation of the thing you're probably all wondering about.

750 points
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A lot of people are evaluating too much based on the ideas, rather than the background of the founders and whether that background gives them the experience to execute the idea.

For example, I liked the Cadwolf idea because the founder has worked as an engineer in the kinds of organizations he wants to sell to. Many of these applications had no info about the founders that I could find. All in all, the vast majority of these apps gave little indication the founders have the necessary background to do their idea.

Just some examples: as far as I could tell, the founding team for Brodlist has no prior experience implementing the internals of database/distributed/operating systems. The Jury Board idea sounds really interesting, but it's an area where I'd like to see the founders have a lot of domain expertise (litigation experience?), and sadly the founder didn't provide any info on that.

Somewhat related, I think it's terrible to vote for Pinboard given the founder's stated dislike of YC (and the founder stating that this is a protest vote). The fellowship should go to founders that sincerely want to make full use of YC's resources for their startup.

Hi, I'm Alex from Gresham Dollar (Now Greshm Dollar). I am pretty much the opposite of what you would want in a founder. My background is very shaky and I don't have a college degree. I barely graduated high school. I used to hack together CRUD apps until I got bored out of my mind and just stopped.

I was the first Druid on my realm to level 60 when World of Warcraft came out though, so there's that. But I wasn't really a team player and I couldn't get into any of the good guilds. I also never had any gold because I was busy doing fun stuff instead of mining thorium or whatever.

From 2006 to 2008, I worked on a virtual reality headset with my father:


My father's health declined and our project never turned into anything. Well, that's not exactly true. Palmer Luckey used my father's lenses in the first prototypes for the Oculus Rift, but I had nothing to do with the development of those lenses.

Before I came up with the idea for Greshm Dollar, I briefly wrote a blog exploring some of the ways in which technology was transforming society:


I wasn't really trying to come up with an idea or looking for a way to make money. I just always assumed basic income was inevitable. For a while, I had known that a government could pay for a basic income through deficit spending (small leap from Post-Keynesian macroeconomics). But then when I was contemplating the crisis in Greece, I came up with an idea for how to smoothly introduce a new currency and it all clicked for me.

Everything I know about money, banking, economics, and finance, I learned through books and MOOCs.

Anyway, with my credentials, there's no way I'd get into Y Combinator or the YC Fellowship the normal way, so here I am!

When I first read your idea I thought this is the dumbest thing ever. Then as I read your responses and saw that you had an absolutely well thought out answer for every objection I questioned my own sanity. I think your experiment is worth a go, and I think you would make a good founder. Inface the only problem I see is how YC will make any money from you other than investing in future dollars (which anyone else can do). Perhaps I need to read your thread again to see if that was answered. But my point is you sound like you could make a good founder and I don't think there is a magic formula but desire, drive, ambition and humility will be up there in my opinion.

Wow. Thank you for the encouragement.

the only problem I see is how YC will make any money from you other than investing in future dollars (which anyone else can do). Perhaps I need to read your thread again to see if that was answered.

It wasn't answered. This is indeed a challenge. If we stick to the letter of the rules for YC Fellowship, I'm not sure how much YC stands to gain by taking 1.5% equity in Greshm Dollar.

One thing that might work is that we could underprice Future Greshm Dollars for YC. Or maybe we could issue call options on FGD that YC could exercise after the FGD price has risen.

I'm confident we can arrange something with YC.

Natural disasters are terrible. Voting for Pinboard is not terrible. I am certain that Pinboard sincerely wants to make full use of YC's resources, possibly in ways that will amaze and astound them. And I don't think that an unthinking cheerleader attitude to YC is a requisite here. If you like Cadwolf, vote for Cadwolf but - please - spare me the lecture on how I should vote.

The founder of Pinboard himself called voting for him a "protest vote:" https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11441720. I can't believe someone is sincerely going to make good use of the YC fellowship if they say something like that.

Also, this is an online forum. I don't think HN is the right place to be if you want to avoid feeling like you're being lectured (not that I believe I'm lecturing anyone on anything - I'm just offering my argument and opinion).

He told one of the YC folks directly that if he wins, he has ideas that need resources, and will work with them in good faith. Can't find the link right now but it was here on HN.

Hi, I'm Gabriel, one of the co-founders of Casepad.

A bit of background on us. I'm a '14 college grad. I'm also a self-taught software developer. I worked for a bit under a year as a data analyst, writing R, SQL, and processing excel spreadsheets, at a startup in NYC. While I was there I also volunteered at a public defense firm, usually one afternoon a week, running documents to and from court, rebuilding their HR filing system, building small a web-app for them. After I left my job I also spent A LOT of time doing research on the market and specifications for the system.

My brother and co-founder is getting his CS degree, but would work on this full time if we received the fellowship, in Brazil. He has work experience building/maintaining ERP software and a POS credit-access platform.

NOTE: If any other founders want to reply to this comment I asked Dang and he said it would be fine (even though there is no question written into it).

NOTE2: I'd encourage everyone to read through all the applications if you plan on voting.

I would argue following conventional "bias" and "rules of thumb" is exactly the opposite from the goal. YC has already picked plenty of "great teams" with "lots of "experience in the field". I would see this as the 10% exploration of a multi-armed bandit problem. Not to say that is what they intended but exploring alternate theories could help the process.

It's in the best interest of HN to not mess this experiment up by picking great ideas that never go anywhere. Because if the experiment fails YC won't repeat it. I really do consider it obvious (e.g. unnecessary to explore) that the skills and abilities of the founders are extraordinarily important in judging potential startups. At such an early stage for these companies, the biggest killers of the startups are going to be the founders just giving up / not prioritizing well (e.g. not going out there and talking to users, etc.).

Vishal from WedWell here. This competition was a bit unstructured in general. So not surprised that many teams didn't talk too much about their teams, and spoke more about their ideas.

We're a small team lead by myself. I am technical (computer engineer by education), but have a more technical partner (full stack engineer) onboard, and my sister is helping as well. My sister has had to plan her own wedding from start to finish without a wedding planner. She's helping a lot with on boarding.

I have a background in building electronic trading businesses with a specialization in market structures. Marketplaces like Airbnb, and how they start are something that I love to study.

There are more details about me on my profile here. I think in the future, it may make sense to put a bit of structure to how people describe their idea/team.

I like the Cadwolf idea as well, but I'm unsure about the architecture and what the founder thinks is possible.

For example today I can say I'm.building AutoCAD in the browser - what does that mean? Am I implementing the CAD algorithms in Java on the server... Or am I somehow interfacing with AutoCAD running on the server through RPC?

The founder claims he's working on version control - this means that the state of the CAD tool can be captured in version friendly formats : what is that format? I get worried when people invent too many things at once

I understand your concerns and they are legitimate. Full fledged browser based CAD systems already exist in things like Onshape. Our algorithms will run partially on the server and mostly in the browser. However, CADWOLF isn't really about CAD in the browser but rather altering the way engineering is done. Instead of doing design, CAD, FE, and documentation separately, everything is done together. This drastically alters the engineering workflow. It will also let us create templates for structures like fittings and trusses so that users can pull them into their own structures without the need to do their own design and analysis. We can do for engineering what GitHub has done for coding and make a warehouse of templated structures available to anyone.

with all due respect - I understand what you are claiming. I am having doubts on how you are claiming you will do it.

Unless you have a demo already - which would be awesome.

The github analogy is not very accurate because github was built on git and ruby-git bindings. Its a product play that was clearly understood. What I'm not able to understand is how you are planning to execute your product.

Please understand why I'm asking this - if you are claiming to integrate with an existing CAD server software ... then that is something that I would completely understand and go for. But I dont know if such a thing (with API bindings exists). We can also debate about how you will version these things - since AFAIK these kind of software dumps into a barely readable binary format.

The alternative is that you would invent your own a) CAD software b) javascript UI c) snapshot format. That makes me a bit uncomfortable... unless you already have atleast one of these three.

The question really is - how far along are you ? its a standard YC question.

EDIT: btw your demo looks very very similar to a Jupyter notebook. If that's the case, then the innovation you are making is actually a CAD software on top of Jupyter (which like git and github is a well known analogy). That would seriously simplify this conversation a LOT.

One possibility would be to use http://www.openscad.org/ as some sort of intermediate language.

edit: And there are apparently a few standardized, lower-level ASCII formats including https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AutoCAD_DXF and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/STL_(file_format).

Of course OP probably still has their work cut out for them as far as building something useful on top of these goes.

thanks for that useful input. That is exactly what my question is. If there is clarity around these aspects, what the founder would become undoubtedly awesome.

I understand what you are saying. There is already a web based CAD system called onShape that I will likely use in my initial phase as the CAD system. They have APIs but I haven't delved too deeply into it. I will be writing most of the software myself and a great deal of it is already done.

If you want to get more into the details of how I make it work, it's mostly in how I store and process the data. Instead of storing files on a server and then calling them down, I store each equation/text block/plot/table/etc as a separate entry in a database. When the user loads a web page I pull down and order all of the items in that document.

This is what lets me connect all of the pieces. A user can pull in one equation from another document into any other document and use it as a variable. When the original variable is changed, I can parse through the database and find files/equations that use that equation and update them accordingly.

The MVP for the documents and for the part tree is already done and there are videos on the website.

I often hear people compare CADWOLF to Jupyter notebook. They are somewhat alike but vastly different in execution. Jupyter lets user create a web page using a programming language. This requires knowledge of programming as well as several other things like installing the software on a server. In CADWOLF, users simply interact with a gui to create a new document and add equations, text, etc. There is no "programming" and all you need to know are the commands for the built in function (sin,cos,FFT, etc).

Just one question - and that's the part that you are skipping over.

Are you building your own symbolic solver ? If you are "pulling" equations ... Are you also solving them or are you displaying equations?

I'm getting the feeling that you have built a document and reference management system for CAD users (kind of like latex) rather than a CAD software that solves the equations, right?

No, I have built a system that solves the equations and then displays them in the mathematically correct format. (Yes, it took forever)

Each equation can be thought of as a line of code. Each web page is both a document like Word and a program. The user adds an equation to the document via a gui and then double clicks on it to edit it. You can enter something like a=1+sin(0.5)/1 and then hit enter. My code parses this text out, finds the "sin" function, solves it, then solves the remaining equation, and then displays it as you would expect to see it on a formal document and gives that equation the name "a". Users can then reference the result of this using the name "a" in a later equation. When an equation changes, its dependents update as well.

I have a number of built in functions. There is everything from an FFT to a differential equation solver to an integral. It also tracks units like "mm" and "in" and does all the necessary math for this.

The code to do this in javascript was as painful and fun as it sounds. With the fellowship time/money I will build a python server side to solve large datasets and start the process of placing a CAD layer on top of it.

This is what you should have written in your application. Rather than the rather hazy statement that you made. You have my vote.

P.S. you should do both sides in JavaScript.

But Node.js would only allow me to run one thing at a time. I want to be able to run equations on the server while updating things on the DOM/Server as well. Am I wrong about that?

A great team won't make a bad idea a winner. You should choose a great idea primarily.

As they say you can't polish a turd.

I didn't say that. You should evaluate both; as it stands most of the Apply HN apps have little info about the founders. It should be clear that evaluating a startup based on the idea alone (in the pre-traction phase) is untenable.

> A lot of people are evaluating too much based on the ideas, rather than the background of the founders and whether that background gives them the experience to execute the idea.

I don't want to accuse you of backpeddaling, but your point would have been more clear if you had said "overlooking the background" instead of "rather than the background"

Teams are important, but recent events have shown that we've been giving teams with bad ideas more credit than they deserve because of their credentials or alma matter. Maybe YCF will help someone with a great idea build a great team :)

> A lot of people are evaluating too much based on the ideas

I could have been more clear, but I think the original comment I made is still accurate, even from a pedantic point of view.

How have recent events shown that? I don't think recent events have shown that. Also, you can't build a great team if there's nobody good on the founding team from the start.

It's true that you can't polish a turd, but I'd suggest you're looking at the wrong thing.

A turd idea with a strong team won't succeed, but a strong team can abandon a turd idea and still be a strong team. There are plenty of great products that were built as the 2nd or 3rd ideas of a strong team.

A good idea with a turd team won't succeed. And when the idea fails, the team is still a turd.

Edit: This may have come across as too terse to pass the not-just-civil-but-nice test so I've added more explanation to my choices

I wasn't following the initial wave of submissions so here's my fresh-eyes take on the finalists. I'd particularly like to see other people's assessments of the whole field (vs individual submissions)

Not Ambitious Enough: These are in competitive spaces -- even if they delivered on their goals they wouldn't be #1 of their kind

  Krewe (There are so very many social networks -- and nextdoor already exists. What makes this indespensible?)
  Pikii (There are tons of pseudonymous social networks in particular -- what are you trying to accomplish?)
Too Narrow: I don't think there's going to be enough customers in love with this product for a funded growth business to thrive. Specifically, these have a low enough ceiling that they'd be stronger self-funding than taking outside money.

  Author Investments
Bad Market: Your customers don't care about the problem you're solving:

  Casepad (Lawyers are pathologically tech-phobic and by their nature are spending someone else's money and taking a percentage. Cost savings are taking money out of their pocket.)
  Tiz.com (Liquor distribution is a de jure or de facto monopoly/kleptocracy. Being inefficient is a profit center for them.)
Pet Rocks: These solutions lack a problem

  Eat My Dust (It's free to check if you live next to a superfund site. Have you?)
  Utiliz (For almost every residential customer this is saving literally dollars a month)
Too Ambitious: These applicants are so far from winning that money would be premature

  Brodlist (This is one of the toughest markets on both tech and marketing grounds. You need to demonstrate that you are better than the teams that are currently struggling)
  Gresham Dollar (Your competition has an army and a navy)
Cowardly Lions: You already have what you need to succeed within you

Yet Anothers: Techie itch-scratching is an overserved market


  Jury Board
  Siris Rooms
  Unnamed Infection-resistant materials
  Unnamed Trusted Skill Certification

Hi, I'm Gabriel, one of the founders of Casepad. Your comment about our market, "lawyers are pathologically tech-phobic and by their nature are spending someone else's money and taking a percentage. Cost savings are taking money out of their pocket," is, based on our research, incorrect. We found that lawyers in the particular fields we are interested in, both young and old, are keenly interested in cost and TIME savings. In fact, most of these folks are so desperate for additional time that they would be willing to overcome any alleged "tech phobia" in order to get it.

Also, most public defenders, prosecutors, and court functionaries are not "spending someone else's money." Rather, at least in many metropolitan areas, they are salaried government or non-profit employees who are just trying to get the justice system to work.

On public defenders in particular (our first target market) I'd recommend reading a few of the NYT's op-ed series from this year which have good insight on how starved for resources and time much of our potential client base is: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/19/opinion/when-the-public-de... (New Orleans) http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/19/us/public-defenders-turn-t... (Missouri) http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/30/opinion/a-mockery-of-justi... (Fresno CA, South Dakota, Minnesota)

The folks we interviewed have said if you can save us x amount of time we would be thrilled to pay you $y per case because it will be more than worth it. We will only be able to see how much the market will bear once we're done building our product but, so far, the fact that we have been able to get a public defense firm to sponsor some of our development costs bodes well for the idea that lawyers are interested in spending on tech that saves them precious, precious time.

EDIT: I'd encourage everyone to read through the application posts. I think the Q&A in our thread fleshed out quite a few of the concerns about starting a business for this particular subset of the legal profession.

" We found that lawyers in the particular fields we are interested in, both young and old, are keenly interested in cost and TIME savings. In fact, most of these folks are so desperate for additional time that they would be willing to overcome any alleged "tech phobia" in order to get it."

I sadly have some experience in this, and have to say this is 100% true.

Hell, I published a book with my ex for family lawyers: http://www.amazon.com/Becoming-Tech-Savvy-Family-Melissa-Kuc...

(don't read it, you'll just laugh).

However, doing the research for it, i'd say is 100% true that there are large subsets of the legal profession that desperately want to use technology to solve problems[1], it's just that they get sold a lot of snake oil, and don't have either the time or energy to try a billion solutions to find the one that works.

(which is one reason the book was so popular - we gave people actual viewpoints on what would work and what wouldn't. While this is useless for the HN crowd, which tends to either know or have time to play, for family lawyers, having an expert drop something in their lap and say "this will probably work for you" is quite invaluable)

[1] This is a very different subset than the "hey we need large scale enterprisey solutions", because, for example, in family law, it's almost all solo or small firms.

I disagree about Eat My Dust. It's more than just "check if I'm near a superfund site" It's about checking your actual (or prepurchase) home for various hazardous materials, regardless of superfund sites. This already happens regularly today.

If you consolidated a bunch of different checks through one company, you could do a ton of really valuable things. First, it's convenience for the end user. But even cooler are what it provides for the business. For example, the data by location could be used for targeted marketing (send notices to neighbors advising them that similar homes have X problem, and they should get checked too). Or you could make the data SEO friendly, so when people search for "[local neighborhood] [problem]" it would show a map with incidences for their neighborhood. Or you could bring in service providers to compete for remedying the problem, while giving discounts and convenience to the homeowners.

It's a real problem too. I know someone who had serious health issues that were only fixed when they discovered a hazardous problem in their home.

(I voted for EMD)

Agreed. I'll go back to the Flint, MI situation and suggest that if they include a water test as a feature, there could be considerable demand for this. Yeah, there are at-home tests, so they'll need to be better than that in some way, but I do think people want to know if their (water|air|food|etc) is safe or not. And now we know we can't just blindly trust the State, on things like water quality.

I disagree about your assessment on AutoMicrofarm. If they execute it well, I believe there is a good market for such things. If it doesn't break my bank, I would love to have my own micro farm to product most of what I need, for the most part. I think its fun and I don't think I am alone in this regard.

As an AutoMicroFarm co-founder, I think you're exactly right: the idea itself is good, almost too good to be true (a concept my boss blogged about: https://medium.com/@snootymonkey/paul-graham-is-wrong-411fe0...).

I think the market will be obvious when each AutoMicroFarm pays for itself in a year (or even better, a growing season). But, that's a few orders of magnitude away in terms of manufacturing scale.

I'm positive about your idea and it's potential use in the future. Moreover, since you have already moved onto 4th prototype, this looks promising. May I suggest you to think about integration with other vendors (e.g. SolarCity) for a sustainable home or place. All the best! [Voted]

OK, I read your pitch and now I'm interested.

What sort of plants are you ideally suited for?

How important are the fish and aquaculture part?

Would it really "pay for itself" given the labor costs (time)? I mean you say it is automated, but what about refilling water, cleaning up dead fish, and whatever else comes up? Do I have to clean the fish tank?

How do you prevent animals from getting into it and eating your plants or fish?

If this becomes popular, what's preventing competitors from making the same thing, and commoditizing your product?

Glad you're interested!

What sort of plants are you ideally suited for?

Almost everything you grow in a garden can grow in aquaponics. The only limitations are extremes: plants that require a really low pH, such as blueberries, large trees (banana trees will wreck your veggie bed), etc.

How important are the fish and aquaculture part?

The fish are very important. They provide the nutrients for the plants (you still would need to add a bit of iron once in a while). Without the fish, you have a hydroponics system, with ongoing nutrient costs.

Maintenance is minimal. When I ran my first proof-of-concept system for a year and a half, I averaged 15 minutes a day, and that was mostly to feed the fish (easily automatable for ~$10).

Do I have to clean the fish tank?

It depends on how clean you want it to be. If you're looking for aquarium-level of cleanliness/clarity, then you'd have to clean it a few times a year. If you're ok with backyard-fish-pond-level cleanliness (a bit of algae growing, etc) then once a year (or less often) is fine.

How do you prevent animals from getting into it and eating your plants or fish?

I had my system in a greenhouse, so that wasn't an issue. If you get an outdoor system installed, you can add a number of off-the-shelf measures to prevent animals from eating your harvest, such as nets.

If this becomes popular, what's preventing competitors from making the same thing, and commoditizing your product?

If we're able to figure out the mushroom media feature, that would be a huge differentiator, but that will be an R&D journey to get there. Another way we can build a sustainable advantage is to develop AI to tell you signs of early-stage pest infestation/disease, and what you can do to avert it (But that requires both smart hardware and software dev).

Good luck, I voted for you. I would love a simple system like this - fresh food in my background with low effort and cost. Lots of reduced waste from grocery store shopping (in terms of shipping to the store and associated spoilage). Also a great program for the surprisingly large amount of families in the US that struggle to get enough food.

Good stuff. Voted for you.

I agree with you and the parent post -- I think it's a neat idea that people will want I just doubt the total market being big enough that the "get investment and grow fast" model makes sense.

I don't think anybody's going to drink your milkshake if you take a few years more to come to market so unless you truly need big capital to do anything at all you seem like an ideal candidate for running super lean and self-funding.

We just recently figured out a way to move forward while bootstrapping, so that's a huge relief for us.

However, there are several areas where funding would help us grow a lot faster:

* Mushroom media R&D: we can run a lot more experiments simultaneously with a research-grade facility to experiment in (i.e. not my kitchen/garage).

* Once we're ready to scale, manufacturing will take some capital.

* Funding will enable us to work on the project full-time.

I can give you a dozen reasons why Krewe IS ambitious. And the competitive space is a joke. Every other company is trying to do a "Tinder for friends," but that model is inherently broken. Krewe is doing something entirely different as it actually replicates the way people naturally make friends (particularly when they're young).

Response to edit: Krewe is not a social network in the same sense as something like Facebook. It's aims to get you to actually meet (in the real world) and get to know people who live near you. It does so in an a way that's both comfortable and convenient, which gives you the best chance of forming real friendships. Everything else fails at either comfort or convenience (or both), which is why no one has been able to make a dent in the (massive) market.

Krewe is bottom up vs Nextdoor which is top down. Krewe places you in a group of five other people and then lets you expand from there. Nextdoor dumps you into a chat room with all your neighbors -- it doesn't exactly encourage you to meet people. It's really more like Craigslist. My neighborhood (which has 60,000 people in it) has no activity in it.

I can go on on how Krewe's different, but rest assured, it is very different from anything that's out there. I have exhaustively looked.

+1 on the problem with a law startup. A couple of years ago I went to some law firms and asked about their need for search over all their documents. They weren't really interested in it as they can bill out s librarian at $125/hR while paying them $45/hr. So they actually make money on this.

That isn't to say this can change in the future but until then it is a very hard market to crack.

Oh and lawyers are cheap, many of them still use word perfect as why pay to upgrade?

Alternative fee arrangements, billing analytics (Sky Analytics and others), and technology audits (http://www.abajournal.com/legalrebels/article/could_you_pass...) are slowly killing the billable hour for large corporate clients. You can think of an AFA as a fixed price contract. Billing analytics make it easier for clients to compare rates between law firms.

Huh. Can't they just charge a fixed fee per search regardless of how it is done. The fact they can make a mark-up already implies yes.

To get back to the topic on fixed fee: I asked a young lawyer at that firm why don't they move to that. He replied that every case that comes to them is different. That they always dig up some weird data that time isn't budgeted for. What's a client going to do? Tell them no and potentially loose a million dollar case to save $10k?

Granted this sounds like a license to print money and shows that the legal profession isn't as cut and dried as say building a bridge. But the reason you are going to a law firm is because something weird showed up and you need it fixed as there is a lot to lose.

Notice I said "weird". There's plenty of room in this space for routine contracts. But that's rapidly going to zero profitablity with canned downloadable forms.

> Tiz.com (Liquor distribution is a de jure or de facto monopoly/kleptocracy. Being inefficient is a profit center for them.)

This might make for a crappy exponential growth "startup", but there is most likely a great business there.

If you can grok Vertical Market X well enough that you can build software to make their life simple, Vertical Market X will happily share their inefficiencies with you.

(And it wouldn't surprise me if the incumbent in this market is a Delphi/VB/FoxPro/Access guy who eventually gets around to coding new features while sitting on the balcony of his beach house.)

I am the founder of CADWOLF. There is no product that links a CAD model to a mathematics background to an FE model to a part tree system to a documentation and analysis system. While there are a number of products like Matlab to solve mathematical problems, we are looking to redefine the entire field of engineering.

Our system as it stands now with web pages that act as documents that solve mathematical problems is just a first step. It represents a large amount of work already put into the platform, plus the ability of the founder to achieve the stated goals, and the ability to break the system up into steps that can hopefully make the company financially viable without large scale funding.

Bcoates, At Utiliz we have spent a significant amount of time looking at the energy market, average usage and addressable customers and our estimate on savings is more than a few dollars. Kevin came up with this idea after saving a few hundred last year through frequent switching. We estimate we can save the average household on the order of $150-300/year, at a cost of $30. It's free money, and that doesn't include the time we save people having to do it themselves. The bigger ambition is that by doing this we rationalize the chaotic consumer electricity market, force bad suppliers out, reduce electricity rates through broker negotation on our increasing client book, and finally help states deliver on the promise of deregulation. That is the moon shot

You can categorize the potential customers into 4 main cohorts: (1) Educated and spend time every few months finding the best plan and enjoy it - we will never get these guys (2) Educated and spend time every few months finding the best plan and hate it - we will win all of these - Kevin lives here (3) Educated and keep forgetting to switch on time - we will win all of these - Tom lives here (4) Not educated and need to better understand the whole process - this is a massive cohort where we can probably win 25 - 50%

Happy to continue the discussion


Feynman nano (unnamed Infection-resistant materials) definitely ticks both the ambition, problem and market boxes. There is currently a ~$30 billion market for catheters, production at scale of nano-structures is currently unsolved. Combined with the current growth of antibiotic resistant golden staph infections, they would seem to be poised for market dominance if successful.

Too Ambitious: Brodlist

Just for clarification, Brodlist is finishing its Alpha version. The money would get it into Beta, and the YCF advice would get it out of Beta.

It would be too ambitious if it was just starting, but it's finishing.

Obviously I have zero experience with your product or how technically capable your team is, but stating that a new database is "finishing" is naive.

The core is finished. There's work to do productizing it, but it's mechanical. There's nothing naive about it.

Thanks for clarifying your reasoning but remember, a 1998 Google would have also fallen under Too Ambitious. At the time, search was one of the toughest markets on both tech and marketing grounds. What they found was that by being significantly better, a lot of those challenges, such as marketing, melted away. We would like to prove that Brodlist is significantly better, and this seed round would let us do that.

Co-Founder of Brightwork here. Just wanted to address the classification of "Yet Anothers" because I feel like the summary YC put next to our name may have done more harm than good when it comes to what we actually do.

Brightwork is an API Developer Platform. Meaning we built a platform that enables Developers to see usage data, performance information, as well as cost projections of their APIs. No other API Management platform offers this level of granularity.

On top of the aforementioned feature set, we also allow API swapping in which Developers do not have to re-code or re-deploy their application.

We're also offering pre-bundled APIs to enable fast prototyping so Developers can focus on the front-end design rather than the cumbersome task of standing up a back-end which can take some time.

If you have further questions don't hesitate to ask or email me at josh@brightwork.io Hope that helps!

Edit: Fair enough. My competition does have an army and a navy. But I still think we can do it. Unless they start providing a basic income in their own currency, I'm confident that my currency will disrupt theirs.

The two I voted for were Brodlist and Gresham Dollar (my own). Why do you feel that they're too ambitious?

I voted for the Gresham Dollar.

For all the platitudes you see on Facebook and LinkedIn about being innovative, it's surprisingly rare. Everyone is scared. They only dream of moon shots when they already know the happy ending.

When people actually stand up and try ideas like the Gresham Dollar, they're attacked instead of supported. When they say "too ambitious" they just mean "ambitious in any way". They'll be scared until it works, and then they'll love it and swear that they supported it all along, and post some platitude about it on LinkedIn.

They'll get in your way, maybe even try to stop you, Suncho. Don't let them. Keep going.

Customers can save a lot more than dollars a month on utility bills.

After my freshman year, I interned at a small company in Texas that had the same business model as Utiliz. Send us your bill, we analyze your usage data and get you on the best plan. You split the savings with us.

Do NOT underestimate the energy bills in Texas... The average prices I saw were ~ $800. Obviously this was a luxury market, but your perception that people are spending 80-150 on energy is completey wrong. Not only that, but they are often far overspending from what they need to.

The problem with electricity deregulation is that every company is selling and reselling the same service, often even from the same plants. So the only differences are superficial pricing and marketing differences. Two customers living a mile apart, in similar size houses, using similar amounts of electricity, might be paying drastically different amounts of money.

When I got there, the processes were all manual... but I automated a bunch of it. The whole business is very automate-able, as it's just a matter of parsing .pdf electricity bills and comparing prices on the homepage.

Hi chatmasta, Kevin from Utiliz here. How did your business do? Splitting savings is always a hard pricing model to sell. Our unique angle is that we don't just switch customers to the best plan once, we remain their agent, track the market daily and switch them whenever a new opportunity comes up. We do that in return for a low, transparent, annual fee from our customers instead of taking a hidden spread on the rate. In deregulated states one can almost always find short term 3-6 month rates lower than the incumbent's rate, often as much as 20-30% cheaper, so our service can pay for itself in as little as one month. Brokers who can bring large aggregated loads can negotiate better than retail rates, even with their supplier commission. Because we will be a zero-commission broker for the suppliers (we're paid by our own customers), as we scale we'll be able to negotiate even lower rates for our customers. Not sure how long ago you were looking at this space but many suppliers now have some mechanism to help with automation of bulk switching and for those that don't we are building the tech.

It was a small shop run by two guys, mostly drawing from their first and second degree connections. But they had hundreds of customers and were making in the mid five figures per month IIRC. Take that with a huge grain of salt.

People were more than happy to pay a percentage of their savings, but that might have been due to personal relationships with the founders and the fact that these people were pretty rich already.

And yes, the ongoing relationship you mention helps. That gives an answer to "why wouldn't I just do this myself and keep 100% of the savings?"

Chatmasta, you are 100% correct. There may be times where the best rate we can find is publicly available but the service aspect will retain customers in this case, especially as we are charging a reasonable flat fee. However as we are a broker we have access to private rates and as our book grows so will our ability to negotiate discounts thus making us more sticky. A core part of the beta is a 'how much did I save' feature which will make cancelling a tough choice. Thanks for your comments!

Vishal from WedWell here.

Thanks for the breakdown of the shortlisted startups. It's really thorough and I largely agree with your assessments.

Your breakdown reminded me of a PG essay (http://paulgraham.com/startupideas.html). It's essentially a long form checklist for coming up with and testing your start up ideas.

I had a doc that I created, that distilled this essay into a sort of checklist to help validate some of the ideas I came up with. Feel free to take a look at my checklist here - https://medium.com/@vishalkgupta/how-to-get-startup-ideas-a-...

I'll try to answer some of my check list here to validate why we think there is a great deal of promise in our small little startup.

>> Problem/Solution — 

1. Are you solving a problem that you, as founders, have themselves? Yes. We have all either gone through the painful process of planning a wedding or see that process happening in our horizon. Speaking for myself, I'm starting to budget the money and time necessary for my eventual wedding, and I kept asking myself.. Why can't I do something a bit smarter when iterating with vendors. After using 99designs, I thought that their process of iterating with potential designers could work well for wedding vendors.

2. Is this a solution you/your team can build? Yes, Absolutely. We don't think this is necessarily a hard technology build and we have backgrounds in electronic trading systems/marketplaces.

3. Do few others realize that this is a problem/solution set worth doing/building? While the wedding space is big, we have yet to see any innovation in the process behind actually planning a wedding, iterating with and paying vendors.

Well — 

4. Is there a small “well” of users who need your solution urgently? Yes! We have already a small group of clients who don't have the time to try to line up vendors, sit with them, and iterate with them to produce a proposal.

5. Who wants this “crappy first version” now? Pretty much anyone who wants to save a bit of time when it comes to wedding planning and wants someone else to do the leg work to get vendors to bid on their ideal wedding.

6.Starting with a small market is good, but do you have a fast path out of it (to grow into a bigger market)? As mentioned elsewhere the wedding market is globally as big as $300 bn globally.

Self — “Live in the future, then build what’s missing.”

7. Are you a “leading edge user”/”living in the future” of this silo? Yea! I kept asking myself, when I looked at budgeting time/money for wedding, why can't I do more of this online? Why does iteration have to be face to face?

8. How is this a “gap in the world”? Literally anytime I hear anyone say the word "paper checks" my startup mind turns on. There will be a world where not only will a couple get to iterate quickly through technology, but we will be able to pay initial and final payments with the press of a button.

Those were just a few questions/answers from PG's essay, but it could be helpful for other startups to think about these. Would love to hear from others.

Thanks again!

Since it is being left up to community vote, and only 2 startups can win, isn't including Pinboard unfair to the other 19 startups?

As noted in the previous thread, Pinboard is indeed eligible for YCF by the letter of the law, but including a 7-year old startup with a popular founder doesn't seem to fit the spirit of Apply HN.

Including a startup with a founder who happens to be popular on HN doesn't seem any less in the spirit of this exercise as including a startup with a problem domain that happens to be popular on HN --- which is something you could say about a "currency for basic income" or "anonymous social network" or "new kind of database".

In fact, if part of the point of this exercise is legitimizing the use of HN as a sort of decorrelated "wisdom of the crowd" hedge for YC's ordinary selection, then including someone with great odds of doing something impactful with the YCF money is a good thing. YC will profit from it, and HN will have allowed that to happen.

Since none of the other startup ideas posted to Apply HN have especially credible founding teams (not a ding!), there's also something to be said for an Apply HN that tries it both ways, both by surfacing an unknown and also by admitting to YCF a company with an established track record. We can then see what YCF does for both kinds of companies.

And, finally: YC's got more than enough money to casually try this out, and one thing I am certain of is that YCF funding Pinboard via an application Maciej Ceglowski posts for Pinboard on Hacker News is going to bring a little bit of joy to my life. It will be fun to watch, for a lot of us, and that's worth something.

>Since none of the other startup ideas posted to Apply HN have especially credible founding teams (not a ding!)

How credible does the founding team have to be Thomas? While I might not be as well known here on HN as Maciej or yourself, I think I have more than enough of a track record to be credible.

Sorry, I wasn't very careful about how I worded that. I certainly wasn't trying to be predictive; I just flailed around for a word and landed on that one.

I am not personally offended, but a lot of the applicants are less experienced than us and so we need to be careful with what we say.

It will be fun to watch, for a lot of us, and that's worth something.

This somewhat implies that the ApplyHN experiment is at least as much about performance art and entertainment as it is doing any sort of real entrepreneurship.

That's fine and all, but let's be honest with ourselves about why we're here.

To call Pinboard performance art is to dismiss the amazing product that Maciej has built over several years.

Do I love his writing, sense of humor, and most importantly his sarcastic Twitter? Yes I do. But I voted for him because I do honestly believe that he would leverage this opportunity better than any of the other candidates in order to positively grow his site into something that could see significant growth.

I undoubtably expect that Maciej will not compromise on his values and vision for the site, even if that's a bit more difficult with investment money. But most importantly, I do think that there are many ways that Pinboard could grow without the need to compromise. That's why he got my vote.

I don't mean to imply that Pinboard is not a good company.

My issue instead is with the reasoning GP gave--that it'll be fun to watch.

Pinboard isn't performance art. I use Pinboard every day. I would be very unhappy and very much less productive if it suddenly went away. The @Pinboard twitter account may be a joke, but Maciej's company Pinboard is most definitely not.

I have repeatedly paid Pinboard money, which is more than I can say for the vast majority of companies YC funds. If that's not "real entrepreneurship" I don't know what is.

Curious why you think "performance art and entertainment" is mutually exclusive with "real entrepreneurship"?

Many of the biggest companies founded in the last 3-4 decades have been because somebody thought "Wouldn't it be interesting if...?" In Apple's case, they explicitly thought of themselves as artists, and I doubt they're unique in that.

If Pinboard is eligible, why shouldn't it be included? I don't think that the choice of winner should be determined by what you believe to be the "Spirit of HN".

If anything, this second vote against 19 other startups is unfair to Pinboard, who I believed pulled far and away the most votes during the first phase.

You ever feel a tension between your username and what you write?

I thought creative compliance with the letter of the rules would be welcome on a hacker website.

Yes, Pinboard should clearly just be given a spot at YC through the normal process and see what he can do... there should probably also be two other startups through the voting system...

I think it was explained that this experiment was only under the umbrella of YCF because it was the closest fit, so none of the traditional rules or criteria really apply.

However, I think Pinboard would be a better fit for the normal YC program. Maybe in the future there should be two tracks for Apply HN (established and idea stage).

TBH none of these look like unicorns in the making, so the only meaningful choice is really Pinboardy McPinboardface.

In 1998, Larry and Sergey took their Page Rank algorithm to the top minds of the big search engines at the time -- Yahoo, Alta Vista, and Excite -- where they tried to explain why Page Rank was better and offered it for one million dollars. They were turned down every time.

They were told it was not a unicorn in the making. Don't be dismissive until you can see the future.

Yeah, I guess I was a bit too negative, sorry.

Still, Pinboard is pretty much the only one of them that could significantly improve my life in 2016, hence it gets my pedestrian vote.

But to be a unicorn you have to be in a billion dollar market. How many of the start-ups listed can say that?

It doesn't work that way. Brodlist is not in its final market, for example -- it's in its first market.

I agree, it isn't always so obvious, but you need to be able to expand into larger markets or at least have your eye on larger markets. I think that is a challenge to get across in the application.

This probably again leads back to a strong team picking a good market (or having a better/unique view on how 'their' market will grow/progress).

Since no one is around in this thread anymore but you and me, I'll talk about this. I specifically didn't want to talk about it in my application; I felt (rightly) that it smacked of being too dreamy. Just describing our existing technology meant many of the comments were already along the lines of 'fantasy' and 'too ambitious'. And that was for what we're using today, what our first customer is using. One person referred to it as making the Tesla of databases: "Everyone wants a faster, lighter, more energy efficient, and reliable car, am I right?"

So, using our imagination, what would happen if someone had the Tesla for databases? Something so much better that it would do for databases what Page Rank did to all those search engines in the 1990's -- obviate them. Could you imagine that taking off and eating a large portion of the market?

OK, now let's take a random situation: You have a business that makes widgets. You have customers, suppliers, parts, etc. Do you store all that information in a Word document as text? Of course not. You either have a spreadsheet or database, right? Text is great for a novel or a poem... but not for data. That would be crazy. But imagine trying to use search in Word to find the right part. It wouldn't be fun.

Currently, the web is still a big collection of text documents. What is not clear to us right now because we're knee-deep in it is is how deeply sub-optimal that is. The number of people going to the Google homepage is declining because people are now just going directly to the database that represents what they're looking for. Looking to buy a home? You go to Zillow or Trulia and query their database. People want data, not text. 95%, almost all, of the web wants to be data. It's instant, discrete, and truly searchable.

Now imagine if that company mentioned before gains that significant market share. It's all RESTful. The authentication/API(language) is common across all of these databases, so that they can actually appear as one giant database to each user. Do you see? You can look at individual databases or have it appear as one large database of everything. That's the fate of the next web. The next Google won't be better text search but instead something completely different: it will be data search: instant, discrete, and truly searchable. And the web will become essentially a massive database.

Google knows this and has been working hard to get there, but they're missing the technology to do it. It's my honest opinion that Brodlist has the technology they're missing. Does it have the team? I don't know. Every single big hit was made by a college student/dropout without experience: Experience reassures, it doesn't predict. We entered this contest for fun, not because we thought we had investor-appropriate answers for every question -- and certainly not to get grandiose on "what could be". My point isn't that we can do this, but that its absence in the application is not indicative that it's absent in general.

Great write-up. I think what you're saying is clear enough that it can or should have been in your application. You've done a decent job (I think) of explaining it.

I wasn't responding to your application in either of the previous points. Now that I hear what you're doing I hope you never to offense to my previous comments.

Now, my 2cents about your database.

In some ways, Google IS the database you are referring to, just that it is a secondary repository of that information (don't ignore Google's Cached results, etc).

Google can do an amazing amount of slicing and dicing on metadata too.

I STILL think you have something. It doesn't have to be The Database for all the Internet, but it may be.

You sound like a very smart guy, so I'm assuming you've done the homework and know what niche you can serve first which can help you grow.

On that note :) I too didn't get too deep in the larger opportunity for my product, but in the next few weeks (probably early next month) I'll start taking data from a group of open data sensors. Would that be a good fit for broadlist? I'll drop you an email in a couple of weeks and see where you're at.

Siris rooms is. Airbnb dont work in Asia and Africa because of law and order concerns.

India already has multiple billion dollar unicorns in this space. OyoRooms (Lightspeed, Sequoia, Softbank) is the biggest example.

I would personally invest in Siris if I could.

I fully expect Krewe to become a unicorn. Who wouldn't want a group of great friends in their neighborhood they could see all the time and build a tight-knit community around? The most valuable thing any of us has is the close relationships with the people we know. If Krewe succeeds in helping you have more of those relationships, then that's worth more than anything you could ever buy in a store. Your best friends are worth far more to you than your iPhone.

I admire your optimism, but statements like "Who wouldn't want X?" are inherently naive. When you ask people if they'd want X, they generally answer yes. What matters is what people will actually do, and I don't think it's possible to build a product like yours without a very keen understanding of that.

I'm well aware. I don't often pitch it like that. It's only in the context of whether Krewe can be a unicorn do I bring it up. There are 60 million people in the US alone who say they're lonely. I think it's safe to say that those people could use a few more friends they have access to. But I haven't found it to be a hard convince any one else how much better their life would be if they had many more close connections. The problem is just getting enough people to listen.

I feel like facebook could create such a thing without effort. They should already know whee you are when you're at home, so they could make groups that cluster people by location.

Cue mainstream media going wild on "Facebook wants to dictate our friends! OMG SO UNCOOL!!". It would need some careful branding, easier done by another company.

I beg to differ. Infection Resistant materials could be used on any number of surfaces. It's has a real chance at being a Unicorn ;)

... But I'm biased...

How is it different than the infection resistant surfaces we already have? Say microban which is found on most shopping carts as an example.

From a technology standpoint: they are a chemical additive, we are a nanotextured surface. Microban (Triclosan) can only prevent the bacteria from growing, we prevent the bacteria from adhering.

From a business standpoint: they don't own the product supply chain, they simply provide one component to existing chains. Nice for getting to revenue but not for big growth. We make (or intend too) the entire product, an application that is anti-microbial and can be placed on any existing surface, and for polymer based products we'll nanotexture those ourselves.

Siris rooms is interesting - it's pretty much what most startups in India are building towards. Like the billion dollar OyoRooms (Lightspeed), Fabhotels(Accel), GoIbiboRooms (Naspers).

This model works well in countries where the law and order situation does not permit for a Airbnb to flourish.

The problem is that soon you will need to reserve rooms to work with these hotels - and here comes the differentiation in approach: some startups will just reserve 1 room in a hotel, and will not have enough of a stick to control quality ( http://yourstory.com/2016/04/oyo-customer-service/ ) or will book sizeable number of rooms in fewer hotels and so will grow slower (by orders of magnitude).

However as a model, I think it can work in Africa.

EDIT : I think YC has a lot of experience around Airbnb (working with regulators and in the product space of hotel bookings). They could bring some serious value to the founders and really accelerate the learning curve for them.

I disagree with some of the other commenters about the nature of Mr. Ceglowski's candidacy. I do not think it is a protest vote. I voted for him, and I cannot imagine what I would protest -- I've loved PG's essays and read Hacker News for years.

I think the corporate-BS-avoiding, efficient and useful product built, not on design, but on a valuable service which successfully competed against mega-corp offerings is the core of what YC has been about since the start. It's not about rapidly increasing headcount. It's about _delivery_. And I think it's clear who leads the pack in that regard.

Idlewords himself said that he is hoping to attract protest votes in that Apply thread. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11441720

It's necessary to have been around for a decade to understand what the protest vote is, exactly. PG's advice circa 2009 was "get to ramen profitability", which is what idlewords did. AFAIK, PG has never reversed himself on that stance.

The protest vote might be something along the lines of "YC now encourages startups to chase valuations rather than get to ramen profitability". It's unclear to me that the latter is true, but that's certainly the perception.

Small correction: I am actually now udon profitable.

We're all looking forward with great interest to your progress to tempura, sushi, and eventually (God willing), Kobe beef profitability.

You should probably try to eat less carbs.

"Shirataki profitable" just doesn't quite have the same ring, as much as I love them.

Personally, I eat the toppings and leave the noodles behind.

Maciej is consistently excellent across his every project, and Pinboard is a great product I use every day, albeit with some rough edges. I'd be really excited to see what he could do with this fellowship. I fully expect I would be delighted, one way or another!

Infection-resistant materials

Suggestion to the founders of this: Explore insulin pump infusion sets and continuous glucose monitoring sensors as a possible market for your technology. This is a significant and growing market, and it's one where infection resistance is important: Non-professionals in non-sterile environments, inserting devices through the skin which stay there for between a few days and a couple weeks. Skin infections are one of the most common complications of both CSII and CGM systems.

I'll definitely take a look at it!

"Infection resistant materials" are sorely needed, especially in catheterization (which seems to be the initial use case). I wish the team all the success in the world, even if they don't make it to YC this time around.

Let me be the first to say what a lot of my startup/YC dork friends are only going to say privately on Slack:

If you're not going give Pinboard one of the two HN/YCF slots, because Maciej is HN-famous or too well-established, then just make a third slot for him. This is the cheapest access you will ever get to Maciej Ceglowski.

YC came up with an interesting idea and actually tried it. Something interesting happened as a result. Let's see where it goes!

This is the cheapest access you will ever get to Maciej Ceglowski.

But do they want access to Maciej Ceglowski? They didn't want access to me, even after I promised that I would refrain from providing any marketing advice; and I'd like to think that I could be a helpful member of the community.

(Which, incidentally, is why you don't see Tarsnap on this list. I figured that since YC had decided that they didn't want to award a fellowship, the best possible outcome of submitting Tarsnap here would be that YC gets pushed into funding someone they didn't want to fund... and I want to see Apply HN be a success, so I didn't want to sabotage it like that.)

I think the difference is that you've stated explicitly that you'd rather be King than Rich, while Maciej's response when asked that was "I feel like after seven years, I have a pretty good sense of what bookmarking/archiving needs people have, but am at the limits of what I can personally build. If the votes swing my way, I'd be happy to have a good-faith conversation with you", i.e. as long as YC didn't try to turn Pinboard into something it isn't, he'd be willing to listen to ideas that may help it reach more people. The difference is pretty subtle, but it basically amounts to "Is YC wasting its time with its advice?" It also helps that it's Kevin Hale opening the conversation, and Wufoo was not unlike Pinboard (or Tarsnap, for that matter).

Nothing wrong with being King, BTW, but YC's made it clear that it's not willing to play court jester.

Tarsnap is definitely not suited for YC Core. I applied for YC Fellowship -- and only YC Fellowship -- because I wasn't sure if Tarsnap was suitable or not: I don't know what YC is trying to do with YC Fellowship. (For that matter, it's far from clear that YC knows what YC is trying to do with YC Fellowship.)

I think YC Fellowship and YC Core have the same goals. YCF is a way to reach a larger number of startups.

Follow up. Kinda bummed you didn't submit Tarsnap.

I understand why some believe that projects like Pinboard or Tarsnap don't "fit the spirit" of Apply HN, and that truly makes me sad.

Software like Pinboard or Tarsnap should embody great "hacker" software, and the sort of software quality that YC companies aspire to build. The concept that these ideas are less "fund-able" because they don't have more attractive splash screens or because they haven't embraced growth hacking is a real shame.

It all depends on what the purpose of YC Fellowships is. If the purpose is "get a direct return on investment", Tarsnap and Pinboard are probably not good companies to accept. If the purpose is "gain information to improve future YC Core admission decisions", likewise. If the purpose is "bring interesting people together who will contribute to the YC community and help other YC-funded companies", then I think they should accept Tarsnap and Pinboard.

But I don't think YC makes many mistakes, so I'm inclined to conclude that the third of those possible purposes is not why YC set up the Fellowship program.

I went back and reviewed the YC Fellowship thread and sama's AMA thread because I got curious about this.

I would like to understand why you are reluctant to take investment. As I see it, there are two possible paths:

1) You take investment from YC, you become part of the community, you get advice, but your desire to remain King is respected. It seems to me that if this were the outcome, moving to the Bay Area for three months and incorporating in the US is a fair exchange.

2) You take investment from YC, you become part of the community, you get advice, AND there is now a perceptible push to make Tarsnap more like a "make-me-Rich" company rather than "keep-me-King" company: they keep on suggesting that you raise more money and start doing things that would increase the valuation of the company but that you would fundamentally disagree with, etc. etc. Certainly this would not seem like a fair exchange.

IOW, what I am trying to ask you is this: is the fundamental reason why you are reluctant to apply to YC Core is that you are concerned that your desire to remain King will be challenged? Or is it something else entirely that I am not seeing? Because certainly incorporating in the US is a schlep, and finding housing in the Bay Area is a schlep, but I can't imagine those being the fundamental reasons for not applying to YC considering the benefits of the community, and getting a bunch of money from YC, if it comes with no strings attached (aside from the moving and incorporation mentioned above), can't be a bad thing, even if you don't need it.

It's partly the king-not-rich bit; but it's also partly that I'm an irrationally patriotic Canadian. Canada is my home, and Canada is Tarsnap's home; my notion of success includes providing an example of a Canadian startup which was successful without moving to the bay area -- because Canada is sorely lacking such examples.

That looks like a strangely self-limiting argument.

No one in their right mind would argue that Canada can't produce a company that has global reach, but that consists of a founder that lives in Canada, and a UI programmer that lives in Romania. It doesn't seem to me that those are the examples that Canada is lacking.

It seems perfectly reasonable, however, to argue that Canada doesn't have the investment ecosystem that is capable of creating a <insert your favorite company whose founders chose rich rather than King> on the same scale as the Bay Area - but it doesn't seem like that's the example you are trying to set anyway.

Edit: remove Spotify example, as it's Swedish.

Sorry, that was a bit incoherent; I was nearly asleep when I wrote it. Probably better to say that I'm pushing back against a pervasive notion that "you have to move to the USA if you want to succeed".

Voting for Pinboard feels like a protest vote. Naturally, I voted for Pinboard.

You will not regret it.

This is why we can't have nice things. Protest votes are fun, but they also undermine the system. "If people don't take voting seriously, then what's the point of voting in the first place?", people in power will ask themselves. So yeah, it's cool to vote for Donald Trump or Boaty McBoatface or whatever other silly thing. But the protest itself isn't accomplishing anything. Choosing the silliest option available doesn't make you Ghandi. It's just a waste.

Making it into one of the two slots available for YCF could be a really big deal for someone. The founder of Pinboard is already very successful by any standards, and the product itself probably isn't going change drastically. Can't we let someone else catch a break?

Are you saying that a protest vote cannot be serious ? I also vote Pinboard, in a really serious protest vote.

I also voted for Pinboard. None of the other founders are credible...

The protest is the accomplishment, usually. Although I've no real idea what we're protesting here other than startup culture per se.

How many can we vote for? I voted for 3 of them total (voting as I was reading through), but now I wonder whether only the first one will count.

Vote for all applications you approve of ("approval voting"). The only wasted ballots are no votes and all votes.

Awesome. It's rare for decisions like this to be decided by a sane voting system. People often use at-Large Plurality Voting, where you can only vote for as many candidates as there are winners. This is horrendously bad because it's vulnerable to vote splitting.

Correct and well put.

I voted for 2. Just don't vote for all of them.

I know we weren't supposed to comment on this, but the truth is, it's impossible to evaluate these like this. Doing such a shallow pass is just completely unfair to the founders here.

I think a better idea would be more of a facemash approach, where you have to evaluate just two and pick which one is better. That way you can do a deeper dive and say something sensible with your vote rather than something stupid.

I vote that the results are thrown out from this thread and a round robin type approach is done.

I second the idea that a facesmash like approach could really be a much better idea of how to handle this. It's easier to view one startup vs another instead of looking at voting on 20.

There are some stand outs that may just run over their opponents, but maybe there's some way to normalize that to some degree.

Please bring this up in the post-mortem thread. It's a good point and will fall through the cracks if left here.

I didn't get a chance to read all of them but this was my reasoning on the ones I read:

(note I'm excluding founder background from evaluation as almost none of the posts mention it; but it's generally considered a key factor for angels)

WedWell: Large market, hacking it with initial customers, however no unique insight, no clear customer acquisition strategy in an expensive market, lots of dead startups in this space. Pass.

Pinboard: Has product users love. Not clear if he wants to go “big”. YCF would probably accept him anyway. Pass.

Gresham Dollar: Interesting idea, lacks users validation and idea doesn’t seem to have been fully thought through. Underestimates adoption difficulty of online currencies. Pass.

Siris: Growing middle-class in Africa and adoption of mobile services makes this interesting plus initial traction with hotels. Not clear what the size of the market will be and if they’ll be able to buy discounted capacity. $12k will make a major difference to them. Accept.

Wanderlust: Another space with lots of dead startups, no insight on on why they’ll succeed when others have failed. Pass.

Brightwork: Not clear if there’s enough demand for this product. You can already get wrapper libraries for things like social integrations but people prefer to integrate directly for the flexibility. Segment which did this for analytics are moving away from this space into ETL. Pass.

Hacksplaining: Solves a genuine problem, user interest. Largely a content business though, tough to scale. Not clear there’s a huge market. Pass.

Krewe: As a rule of thumb social sites generally need ~1m+ users to raise a Series A from top-tier investors. Given the inherent lack of viral in this concept and lack of stickiness (after group is formed you never need to come back) seems like a dead-end without a significant rework. Pass.

Utiliz: $30-$50/user/year isn’t enough to build a sustainable business. Would essentially mean a $10-$15 CAC which feels low for this space and expected conversion rates. Pass

And on a few more:

Jury Board: SaaS note taking to enrichment (third-party api) to ML; solid long term strategy. Real user interest. With a large unique dataset you could essentially build a monopoly business. Founder seems to understand the space, but perhaps not commercial/sales side. Selling to legal firms will probably mean a salesforce which results in a much higher per-unit cost but that’s potentially sustainable. Not clear there’s a large enough market to take to IPO but could be a decent size trade-sale to someone like Lexis-Nexis or Reuters. Accept.

AuthorInvestments: Interesting approach to modernising “advances” structure of book publishers, likely extendable to other markets. As more content creation becomes freelance this could provide an alternative for creators that doesn’t rely on fans (ala Patreon) or pre-buyers (Kickstarter) but rather treats it as a form of alternative investment. Not clear if the founder is capable of delivering but definitely has potential to be a breakout. Accept.

Trusert: Seems to fix a hypothetical problem rather than a real one. Not clear what the market is for employers who are concerned that people crammed for test. Might be useful in markets with high-rates of cheating on exams. But doesn’t seem generally applicable. Pass.

On Trusert I am curious why you think the market is employers? A few people have raised this exact same point yet I am unsure why as I explicitly said they are not - there must have been something I said that makes you think this.

It was this paragraph:

Since any potential employer can't rely on a candidate's certificate/degree to indicate that they actually knows the material (or can apply it), they are forced into retesting every candidate (i.e. the dreaded technical interview). This is an incredible wasteful process for both candidates and the employers. What is needed is a certification process that can't be gamed that measures true retention of knowledge and skill.

Thanks for the reply. I guess you (and others) were confused over who might benefit from who will pay. I guess I assumed that everyone recognised that no employer will pay for this service because of the way it works - you can hardly pay to have candidates tested when the testing might not occur for another 12 months.

Not that it matters too much at this stage, but I would encourage you to read through the whole discussion - the idea is not as obvious as it appears on the surface.

Gresham Dollar: Interesting idea, lacks users validation and idea doesn’t seem to have been fully thought through. Underestimates adoption difficulty of online currencies. Pass.

If I could go back and rewrite that description, I would. The idea, at least on the economic side of things, is fairly fully fleshed out. The key thing, which I didn't even mention in my initial description, is the timer/expiration mechanism:

Rather than offer on-demand exchange between USD and GD, we will automatically exchange GD for USD after it remains in a user's account for a period of time. When an amount of GD is transferred from one account to another, that GD's lifetime resets. Consequently, the more that GD circulates, the less we will convert GD into USD and the less we tap into our USD reserves.

Here's a white paper (also linked in another comment) that describes it in more detail:


Other online currencies are not both pegged to USD and handed out for free, so Greshm Dollar doesn't face some of the same adoption challenges that they do. Instead of thinking about Greshm Dollar as just another online currency, try thinking of it as a payment/credit system with a basic income attached to it. Or like PayPal but with free money continuously added to your account.

You can think about it that way for user adoption purposes, but, of course, that's not the whole picture.

Ig1. Absolutely it is enough to build a sustainable business. Lets look at NY as an example. Over 7.2MM households and at our low end price point and a 0.5% penetration (36K customers) that’s over $1MM annual recurring revenue for electric alone. That's a drop in the bucket when you look at how we scale. 1) 15 deregulated states + DC: well over 50MM households with the ability to switch suppliers 2) commercial - over 3MM businesses 3) natural gas - upsell on gas to a subset of the above market (gas has fewer deregulated states) 4) deeper penetration into our markets through marketing and education.

Traditionally this market is underserved due to the customer acquisition cost (CAC) but our differentiator is to use social media / referral based rewards in addition to more traditional physical marketing and partnerships to drive sales at a low CAC

Finally this will be an incredibly sticky service, we are expecting hyper low attrition once acquired

We believe there is a $100MM opportunity here.

I don't disagree on the size of market, but you need to do a bottom up analysis and not just a top down one.

Very few businesses which aren't inherently social/viral manage to make social media, referral, etc. channels scale without significant cost. Unless you've got a strong expertise in making such marketing channels work you'll be likely to struggle (and investors will know this and won't take you seriously if you make this pitch).

I'd recommend you look at other businesses in this space (ComparetheMarket, uSwitch) in other countries. Generally they make a brand play and then amortise the cost of customer acquisition by up-selling price comparison on everything (insurance, mobile contracts, etc.) so they have a much higher revenue per-customer.

I wouldn't assume attrition is going to be low either, especially if you require user effort (photographing bills) and presumably your cohorts will decrease in value organically over time (i.e. if you keep switching to cheaper providers approximately each switch is going to be a smaller saving than the previous).

Hi Ig1. We shared top down as it's easier for people to visualize the size of the opportunity. Bottom up our revenue model projects CAC between $5-$8.

We think this business is inherently viral because everyone everyone knows buys electricity, and people who find a simple way to save money are usually eager, even proactive, about telling their friends about it.

We respectfully disagree with your assumption that the value prop diminishes over time or that we would have high attrition. The value is not in the relative price of the switched plans but in the total time & money savings to the customer versus staying with their more expensive incumbent supplier.

The snapshot of a customer’s bill is only needed on signup, not ongoing. In fact our system is designed to be zero effort after signup. The whole point is for us to work in the background, saving our customers money without them having to worry about a thing. However we will employ site features and notifications to remind users of how much they’ve saved and will continue to save, as well as how much we’ve saved our customers in aggregate. Once a customer is in our system there is high incentive to stay and refer their friends, and little reason to leave.

P.S. Thanks for Fizzbuzz!

RE WedWell: I think it's less about unique insight, and more about timing/positioning. Couples expect to communicate with vendors over the phone/text, they don't want to write paper checks, they want vendors to find them. We're doing a lot of things that do not scale right now, but doing our best to keep clients happy.

I will say that initial customer acquisition in NYC is our hyper focus right now. The great thing about opening this discussion up on HN is that there are so many minds out there looking at your problems. I'd be happy to hear any ideas on how to best acquire these clients initially. We're doing a bit of FB ads, and think this will be a heavy marketing lift. But as we monetize our first couple clients, we are getting a clearer picture of customer value.

re: Krewe -- it does not end after your group is formed. You continue to gradually expand after you become close with your group, thus making it possible to make dozens of friends in your neighborhood. You're also 'born into' a decent chat application, so you don't have to head over to facebook groups and set that up. It also has functionality similar to Down to Lunch, so you don't have to set that up either. I have plans for many more features that will keep users engaged long after their first meet.

Krewe is not a "Tinder for friends." It's about giving people the kind of network they can rely of for anything including making career connections, finding romantic partners, becoming connected to their local community, and having incredible real world experiences.

I'm being biased towards anything that isn't software-first. I'd like to see something like the aquaponics idea get a kickstart from this Apply HN.

And of course, the venerable Pinboard deserves a vote as well, simply so that the owner can write about how he "scaled Pinboard after a major pivot":

    Pinboard is now THE marketplace for AAA-grade Argentinian beef

Thanks for the AutoMicroFarm shout-out. We do have plans for software, but that's stage three, when we're trying to achieve stage one.

Specifically, here are the stages we have in mind:

Stage One: Dumb hardware, such as the mushroom media mentioned in the Apply HN

Stage Two: Smart hardware (sensors)

Stage Three: Software (control and communication)

Stage Four: Services and Marketplaces

I love that you guys are working on such a universal problem.

Everyone on earth needs food to eat.

And it costs money.

If you can make a good product that improves how people eat, or make food cheaper, or better, I'd say that's a big accomplishment.

WedWell has promise, but it is a difficult space. I began building on a very similar concept 8 years ago and quickly ended up pivoting off into a subproblem, because [at the time] this ultimately boiled down to quite a lot of manual human coordination which I couldn't scale. Running solo, I decided it was infeasible. If you can scale vendor coordination in the wedding space, and avoid the temptation to build the technically interesting parts yourself right away, I think there is a decent addressable market that can benefit from the technology.

Thanks gills. Love to pick your brain a bit about this. Happy to move to email at some point. What was your solution called?

We think that this is a process problem vs a technology problem at first. We're trying to distill the client's ideas into a wedding brief that can be viewed by vendors. Vendors then upload a proposal on Google docs (initially), that allow for comments by the couple. We allow the couple to iterate with the vendors and we go from there. We're trying our best to not just blindly build out tech, but to really focus on on boarding clients/vendors, then build technology around the bottle necks. We're experimenting right now.

I want Maciej to grow Pinboard so he can stop paying any attention to it and just write about his travels full-time.

BrightWork looks like a really interesting proposition. Out of all of these, it's the one that jumps out to me as "I'd use this myself".

The other "I'd use this" for me, is probably Eat My Dust. After some of the recent debacles like Flint, MI, I've been really interested in "at home" testing for various contaminants in water, air, soil, etc. This is something that I think a lot of people care about and might use.

WedWell - $300 Billion dollar space...$55 Billion in the US (according to a quick google search), Median Wedding Cost: $18,000 (same search). Solving a problem in an interesting way while hopefully reducing the stress of planning a wedding.

Thanks malyk! It's a huge space.

Some more data that we find really attractive in this space:

Average cost of US Wedding(1): $32,641

Average cost of Wedding in NYC(1): $82,299 (We are located in NYC and are focused here for phase 1)

Most of those vendors are paid with paper checks. There's an obvious push towards better payment solutions.

Mobile Wedding Planning (2) : Couples are using smartphones more than ever to plan their wedding and they expect personalized solutions.

More Couples Depend On Professionals(2) : Couples are spending on wedding professionals to help them plan a perfect day, and to ensure they have long-lasting memories.

There's plenty to disrupt, and couples are more and more asking for mobile and easy payment solutions. WedWell is really excited to be working on this space!


1 - https://www.theknot.com/content/average-wedding-cost-2015

2 - http://ir.xogroupinc.com/investor-relations/press-releases/p...

I actually voted the startup that can actually change the world on a meaningful way: Feynman Nano e Gresham Money.

I found all the other companies "small thinking" that won't impact my life in a meaningful way, maybe perfect for YC and even a better fit than the one I voted.

However since are not my money, I don't actually care if the companies success or fail but I care of those companies can change the way I live.

WedWell because I know how insane that industry is.

Thanks for the vote! Planning a wedding is super broken. Besides the fact that vendors largely up charge specifically for weddings, the amount of time it takes to iterate with vendors (often face to face) is way too long. We're hoping to make the whole process more efficient :)

I'm really liking the Gresham dollar idea. The main point is that it expires, thus forcing you to circulate it.

However, I'd like to see more information like a whitepaper, or even a design.

Actually, that's not quite how the expiration works. When it expires, it turns into regular old US Dollars, which are even better! But, if you have GD or regular USD, when given the choice, would you rather spend something that's already a dollar now or something that might turn into a dollar after some number of days? You'd probably keep your dollar and spend the thing that isn't yet a "normal" dollar.

I do have a rough whitepaper written up (I've since renamed it Greshm Dollar).

Here you go:


> I'm really liking the Gresham dollar idea. The main point is that it expires, thus forcing you to circulate it.

I like the idea as well, but in the description it said that vendors would be onboarded with a promise to allow g-bucks to be converted back to dollars at par. The obvious outcome is that issuing a g-buck is going to immediately result in depleting USD reserves by a dollar as soon as the g-buck is spent. Anything that inhibits immediate redemption for USD is going to inhibit adoption.

You need a real-world use-case that USD is less than ideal for, like being able to buy illegal drugs or pay cyber-ransoms or avoid currency controls for a cybercurrency to get real traction as a store of value.

The obvious outcome is that issuing a g-buck is going to immediately result in depleting USD reserves by a dollar as soon as the g-buck is spent.

It's kind of the opposite of that. Every time a GD is spent, it protects our USD reserves by resetting the expiration time on the GD.

Anything that inhibits immediate redemption for USD is going to inhibit adoption.

I don't think adoption is a huge obstacle. The plan is to hand it out as free money to low income people. If someone comes up and offers you free money, are you going to say no?

We go around to merchants (e.g. convenience stores) asking them if they want business from any of the people we're handing free money to. Some of them will undoubtedly say yes.

If we fail, we'll have done the equivalent of taken a bunch of money and handed it out to poor people for a period of time. If we succeed, that money will be circulating on its own, and hence not converting back to USD very fast. We will have established a new currency.

As the currency circulates, we can lower our reserve ratio. In much the same way that banks don't retain enough cash to cover all their deposits, our total USD reserves can fall below the total amount of GD in circulation without breaking the peg.

We're immune to a currency run, because if people panic, they want to get rid of their GD. The only way to do so is to spend it, and spending it protects our USD reserves.

You need a real-world use-case that USD is less than ideal for

People who don't have USD, but still want to buy things.

get real traction as a store of value

We get traction as a store of value by pegging it to USD and backing it up with USD reserves using the resetting timer mechanism that I've previously described.

Many business have a net-30 policy, so they will not mind sitting on the GD for 30 days until they convert to 30 dollars.

I'll copy a comment from other user:

> What happens if there's a "bank run" where everyone waits for their GD to mature rather than spending it?

In a normal "bank run", the people are afraid that if they don't exchange the bad currency now at a discount, they will get a worse exchange later. But in this case there is a guaranty that waiting only 30 days they will be converted to dollars.

In a normal "bank run", the people are afraid that if they don't exchange the bad currency now at a discount, they will get a worse exchange later. But in this case there is a guaranty that waiting only 30 days they will be converted to dollars.

Hmm. Not exactly. Initially, this is true, but that's just an early part of the bootstrapping process. Further down the road, the total amount of GD will be greater than the amount of USD in our reserves. At that point, if everyone decides to sit on their GD at once, not all of it will convert because we would run out of USD reserves.

But this is what makes Greshm Dollar shine. If people don't trust their GD to convert to USD in 30 days, the only way for them to get rid of it is to spend it. By spending GD , they cause the GD's expiration to reset thereby protecting our USD reserves.

If people don't trust their GD to convert to USD in 30 days, the only way for them to get rid of it is to spend it.

Who would accept it (at par value) under such circumstances?

Who would accept it (at par value) under such circumstances?

Right. So, during the initial phase, all GD will be guaranteed to convert to USD when it expires because we'll literally have enough USD in our reserves. During this first phase, we will sign merchants to contracts that require them to accept GD at par with USD (i.e. one price) so a dollar is a dollar.

If there are people who happen to be paranoid about Greshm Dollar during that time, they will be able to spend their money to get rid of it. If they're not paranoid about it, they'll still probably spend it before they spend their USD because a dollar is worth more to them than something that will become a dollar in x number of days.

Then, later on, once we've established that GD is continually circulating and that our USD reserves are stable, we start increasing the supply of GD to be greater than our USD reserves. This process will be very transparent. Nobody will get screwed over. We won't make any promises to pay and then go back on them. For example, if we decide to only back GD at 90%, merchants can decline to renew their contracts.

It's all outlined in my white paper:


Hey, I'm sorry you weren't picked for the YC fellowship, but keep it going. I think you may have something there.

I wish voters could be somehow made to feel they are putting in their money here. This way they woild put in more thought. And people wont vote on a whim/as a protest/troll.

I don't know... maybe each vote means parting away with 100 HN points :) that's the closest to real money I can think of for anonymous voters.

Maciej livetweeted our demo day. I remember sitting there, refreshing, and being both a little relieved but also a little disappointed he didn't skewer us as well.

I also kicked in $5 to his Antarctica experiment. As far as I can tell, he's made a lot of good choices in his life, and would use the investment wisely.

AutoMicroFarm will be really amazing, if it works. It is definitely worth funding.

Voted AutoMicroFarm and Siris Rooms cos they both are stuff I see more than 100 million people easily needing. Including myself.

Personally, I think Pinboard should definitely do YC but not via this channel. He can easily get in if he applies. Let the space be given to those who need it more.

I love the WedWell concept - saying I've been a bridesmaid in five weddings and a guest at countless others, I saw firsthand the laborious process that close friends go through when planning their wedding. So many details, so many vendors to choose from. I like how this process helps to streamline the overwhelming and time consuming process of planning a wedding from the very beginning. There's also great incentive for vendors to come on board and deliver good service through the ratings system. I also appreciate that the bidding/contest is only one week long, allowing busy professionals to continue on with their lives and not spend every waking moment planning their wedding.

Thanks for the comment. We really do think its less about finding the cheapest vendor and helping streamline the process. Elsewhere here it was coined as "vendor dating", which is something I really like. On top of the fact that vendors can start to see what other vendors are doing, allow for collaboration earlier in the process.

We started with the week long bidding contest, but for now are keeping it open to allow as many vendors in as possible. That may change over time.

Question to YC - how representative are these, as a sample of the applications YC typically sees? I've always wondered what YC's raw unfiltered application sets look like. Is this more or less skewed in any atypical ways?

I am wondering if it might be worth opening up the comment section again on the applications rather than try to discuss all 20 in this one thread.

Also it might be worth letting the two applications that don’t have a name choose a name.

Gresham Dollar seems to be wishful-thinking-as-a-service:

> by the time we've succeeded (which I call the transition date), GD will have supplanted USD as the primary currency that people use. If we succeed, the investors won't care about USD anymore. If we fail, as with any investment, investors will lose their money anyway.

Supplanting the USD - the world's premier reserve currency - with a private currency is just not going to happen. So the whole scheme amounts to providing basic income via continuing bilking of VC investors.

Supplanting the USD - the world's premier reserve currency - with a private currency is just not going to happen.

The plan isn't just to supplant the USD, but to cannibalize it from within. Any currency in which no basic income is provided is vulnerable to disruption by one in which a basic income is provided.

So the whole scheme amounts to providing basic income via continuing bilking of VC investors.

Yes. If we fail, that's pretty much exactly what it's going to look like. But also keep in mind that the currency's USD reserves are crowd funded, so it would be continued "bilking" of everyone, not just the VCs.

Did you read the whitepaper I linked in another comment here?


Not sure how the discussion here will be used but here's some of my ramblings/thought process (people related to the projects feel free to chime in):

I like the Author Investments idea but the sparse OP and reading the discussion doesn't have me convinced that the person who entered it has the skills/true desire to actually make it happen. It's more of a "I wish I could have this now" (which is not a bad start) but I can't see the path towards the product happening.

There was one entry that seemed interesting but the hostile interaction lead to me not voting for that (can't see that character translating well to a successful startup).

I voted for AutoMicroFarm because I want to have one. It seems like that should be my strongest vote but I was actually somewhat hesitant because crowdfunding might be a better approach.

The trusted skill certification is a decent enough disruptive shot and I got the feeling it's possible the OP could pull it of. I'm thinking about working on the same problem from a very different angle so I kind of want to see how this angle works out :)

I like JuryBoard because I can immediately envision it being useful and bought + have a net positive impact on society. Despite that it was a borderline vote for me.

I love the concept of AutoMicroFarm.And honestly would love to see more companies targeting environment sustainability.I think we are the past the point of arguing about Environmental changes.Maybe YC could set an example by investing in projects targeting human sustainability more.I know this does not fall under typical capitalism and are more of the crowd funding dependent projects.Such companies would be required to pretty much shape our future here.

I feel like Jury Board isn't something I could support. I don't think the prosecution or defense should be able to filter jurors. It should be fully random.

Yes, this seems like something that could very easily end up making a bad system even worse.

Sorry to see the thermal analysis software didn't make the list. I have worked in this area and it is challenging and expensive to do well.

This is only six hours old, but voting is closed. Is that intentional? Seems like an odd time frame.

We closed it because the rankings hadn't changed in a while and I was hoping to wrap it up in time for the YCF virtual kickoff meeting tomorrow. That was the original plan. But the people complaining about that being too little time are obviously right.

The solution would have been to have this ready earlier, and normally we would have, but some unrelated things happened to prevent me from being able to work on it sooner. This bad timing is my responsibility.

Thank you!

When will voting close?

It now has.

I went to bed before it opened, and just woke up and here we are :D

I suspect that there might have been some gaming going on.

To be clear, they closed it because there was gaming going on, or they closed it to game it?


AutoMicroFarm & Casepad having some new Ideas.

The tagline for Cadwolf is "CAD software in the browser". Does CAD in this case stand for something other than computer aided design? Based on their site it doesn't really look like a CAD solution.

I am the founder of CADWOLF. I am not sure where that tagline comes from. CADWOLF will eventually be a full scale engineering solution. The idea is that an engineer designs the system mathematically in web pages on CADWOLF that we call documents. These web pages are then linked to a CAD system, a finite element model, and a part tree that links all of the components. By doing this, users can design engineering systems whose components adjust automatically with changing requirements. In other words, you change the load on a truss and the truss components update their thickness, material, etc. Right now, it has no CAD component. It has the initial step which is the web pages that act as documents to simultaneously solve and document engineering problems.

When I hear CAD I think, "Computer Aided Drafting", typically 3D solid modeling for Mechanical Engineers.

Same here, although I upvoted in the hopes that their definition of "CAD" could be extended to other markets. Curious if this is potentially competitive with other YC investments, namely Upverter[0] and CircuitLab[1], and how does that affect an Apply HN entry?

[0] https://upverter.com/press/ [1] http://circuitlab.com/

Guys! This community is international! You should check a holiday calendar before posting such votes. It was May day holiday in a number of countries, and golden week in Japan!

Cadwolf looks like the kid of platform that's dearly needed to ensure the integrity of modern science, but I really, really want such a thing to be open source.

Is that because you want to verify the algorithms, because you want to make sure it isn't spying on your work or copying it, because you want to contribute, or for something else?

Pinboard. I really want to see them making further progress.

CADWOLF is not CAD software in the browser. CADWOLF is an completely new way of doing engineering that links CAD to the background mathematics and a part tree. CAD is one future component, but what we propose is drastically different from standard CAD systems. The tagline should be either "A web based mathematics and engineering platform" or "Intelligent Engineering"

How does your platform handle version control? I can imagine it would be a big clusterf* if you auto propagated any values through an entire project right away and breakages occurred. Is there versioning? Is it git based? If there isn't version control, is this an issue you're tackling?

That is one of the biggest issues I am working on. One person can make a mistake that messes up entire structures. You also don't want changes coming in every time you reload. What I am working on is showing the user that changes are needed and listing the updates that would be made i.e. this load changed to y from x. There will also be a versioning system that will allow you to lock designs. It is a huge clusterf

Trying WedWell right now and I'm interested in how they'll grow (as well as helping my fiancee and I). Makes things a lot easier.

Thanks again for being a client! We're really lucky to have clients like you and your fiancé. Your feedback is helping us make a better product.

WedWell fills a void in the already crowded wedding space by making it easier for couples to plan their wedding within a budget.

Thanks! There's a lot of old tech in the wedding space, but the act of planning a wedding has largely stayed the same. We're hoping to evolve that. Our goal is to make it easier to iterate with more vendors. With scale, prices may also come down.

@Dang - I didn't realize I forgot our company name! It's Feynman Nano :)

Ok, we'll add that.

Author Investments:

- can you automatically collect payment like Square or Shopify?

- have you considered a fund that buys future royalties directly (as opposed to a marketplace)? only need 1 side of the market and reduces competitive insight into business

I voted for PinBoard. Believe in the idea and execution. I applied to YC in W 2007/2008 with NewsCup. https://vimeo.com/60251128

What happened to the one promising to turn spreadsheets into apps? I remember it having a lot of upvotes. Given the right abstractions it is definitely possible, and the market is large.

Interestingly all 20 applications were submitted more than 20 days ago. If there ever was an application process to submit early this was it.


Very interesting. Want to sign up, but your create account button disappears whenever I go to the password confirm field (tried Chrome and FF).

It will disappear until all of the items are appropriately filled in. There should be a message telling you what needs to be changed. Since this is web based the user name can contain only letters and numbers since it is used in the URL. If there are no errors showing, let me know.

Voting based on what can go right with these ideas + feedback. We can’t evaluate the team with this much information, but that’s what YC interviews are for - they can get grilled by the partners.


Eat my Dust - there us a huge gap in the mindset of consumers here that can be filled lucratively. Products that keep my home and family safe from bad air, water, or particles in my house. If this team can execute, great, if not, another one should. May be a heavy marketing-spend business (they keep us safe so far is not exactly a viral word-of-mouth type of business) and if a startup can’t execute a big company might.

Hacksplaining - Nice approach. Room for selling to users and for reselling vendor offerings, and for shifting education tool to any other market.

AutoMicroFarm - you can build a system and/or you can build a kit that others can use to experiment on their own as well. Finding sustainable backward-farming setup could be a fun social offline game that people can compete against each other on online. You provide lego-like lighting, water supply, dirt choice packets, and an analytics tool/app etc. Consumers configure their kits on your site, receive them, test plants, report online, compete with friends and neighbours working on their own kits.

Cadwolf - could be useful in multiple design industries. Worth a try.

— NO

JuryBoard - Lucrative but sketchy on so many levels (stimulates privacy infringement of unsuspecting citizens who are already forced to be there; cracks a door open to jury tampering; open to abuse by attorneys for non-case related stuff; skews the system further in favour of well-funded defendants). There will be people who try to make money that way, but investors can vote with their money too.

WedWell - no good vendor would put themselves through his - they’d be too busy making money. 99Designs works because digital work can be done in the cheapest parts of the world (Indonesia, Africa, you name it). The broad choice of thousands of designers allows you to get effective competition and surface diamonds in the dust. Wedding vendors that can serve your wedding on your date are a handful and they have better things to do than fill out RFPs for what effectively would be 1 afternoon of billable work.

AuthorInvestments - Huge bias problems for the Authors. Selling futures on finished goods is fine, but a creator’s productivity can be impacted and the quality of the product. They can oversell one item and then put their best work into a different product. If you make it on their entire income, that just reduces their incentive to work and create. I think this could put a damper on potentially productive creators. Would only work if they can release their completed work for investors to front-fund, but even then, distribution can be impacted if the author doesn’t put as much effort into selling the product afterwards.

Skill certification - as an employee, I would hate my employer for using this. As an employer, my people would likely be doing this to candidates one way or the other, so why should I pay?

Gresham Dollar - it’s a social experiment, not a startup.

Wanderlust - Most budget-conscious consumers don’t play roulette with their money and those who have the money, don’t play roulette with their rare time off. However, if you add enough constraints that matter (traveling with children/pets, friends heading in same area,) this would be a wonderful feature for an existing site like Kayak. (hard to make money until a killer-pain-point is solved)

— MAYBE/UNSURE - if the startup wasn’t mentioned in Yes or No, it’s because I don’t know enough or the idea depends heavily on the team’s execution and can go either way.

Brightwork - it’s all about execution. If they can become the CloudFlare of APIs (low latency, guaranteed performance, middle-man that ensures compatibility, etc,) and persist through the sludge that wore off Parse and Kimono, it might work. How passionate is the team?

Pikii / Krewe - I work in this space and don’t see them doing well. I’m testing other iterations of similar problems, so also biased.

RE:WedWell - no good vendor would put themselves through his - they’d be too busy making money.

>Not what we're seeing. Were initially focused on the NYC area. There are a huge amount of great vendors who are constantly battling for each wedding here. Plenty are excited to extend their reach. Each market is different, but it makes sense right now in bigger cities.

Also RE: the RFP process. Initially vendors are using their own proposals to iterate with the clients, eventually we see this being baked into the system. Either way, drawing up a proposal has to be done whether you meet the client in person or via our platform. The time savings is the initial iteration is done electronically vs face to face.

Wedwell sounds like a reverse waitlist - a try me too tool for vendors. They might do it to get first customers but it sounds like too much work for good vendors who already have a waitlist for their booking time.

We're still iterating, but right now we reach out to vendors proactively. So ideally it's little/no work for the vendors to have to search for events, we post them on events that they should be able to handle. The work that they do to create a proposal is no different from the work needed for any clients, if anything our templates may make it easier.

Gresham Dollar - it’s a social experiment, not a startup.

Care to elaborate? It isn't designed to be a social experiment. It's designed to work even if people don't believe in it.

like the idea of making-friends-nearby, it's pretty hard to make new friends when you're getting older, at least it will be a nice try, finding friends by interests should work.

in the meantime,facebook/nextdoor could add this feature quickly to steal the idea, maybe you should play some patent game defensively?

If there was one line to write what you thought:

Brightwork: A bit toyey

Gresham Dollar: Mad

Author Investments: Fairly dull

WedWell: Boring

Cadwolf: Could be used in VR

TruSert: Ok

Eat My Dust: TF

Tiz.com: Interesting

Brodlist: Fantasy

Wanderlust: Really. Probably the unicorn so far.

Pikii: Ok

Jury Board: No idea

Pinboard: Why?

Utiliz: Ok

Feynman Nano: Best

AutoMicroFarm: Cute

Krewe: Doesn't fit in

Hacksplaining: What happened to rtfm?

Siris Rooms: Ok

Casepad: Dull

Edit: formatting

Vishal from WedWell here. Lol.. Zenefits was boring.. so thank you?

Brodlist: Fantasy

Thank you! Our users agree.

What does "toyey" mean?

Mostly no https and the colours don't shout big business.

Thanks for the feedback. Https is something we'll support at GA and the site's going through a reboot. :)

You know the Southpark where the doctor's about to do a surgery and he's like to the nurse, I need 15cc ketamine stat. and 5 for the kid too. That's the kind of stat you should get https on.

You're polite :)

No reason not to be. People have opinions and I don't disagree. Our site needs a major overhaul, but we've been too busy building the platform to make it a priority. Hoping to have a new site launched in the near future.

How does utiliz differ from the existing offerings in this space? (uswitch, gocompare, etc)?

pjc50, a very good question. There are many 'comparison' sites out there. Some are government run (energize CT), some are energy brokers (chooseenergy) and others are bundlers (comcast energy rewards) and of course the two you called out. All of these sites have one or more of these drawbacks: 1) you have to do the research and switching yourself. Given the best rates are on short term contracts this is every 3-6 months. 2) you are not getting the best deal as they are being funded by the supplier as fees or a spread above the true rate

Utiliz differentiates itself by continuously monitoring the market and switching you as often as needed to guarantee you the best rate, all without you lifting a finger - it's a concierge service. Additionally by charging one transparent annual fee and passing through all the savings to the consumer we put the power back (pun intended) to the customer.

Our models show that this could be significant revenue in itself but the big idea here is that the energy market is massively inefficient. Think about trading stocks before exchanges--there were no standards and it was a pain. If we can get enough customers to drive standardization in the market we could revolutionize this industry and realize the original vision of what deregulation was meant to be.- Tom

hacksplaining is really great (my favorite amongst them all), but isn't it more of a ycombinator general thing than a ycombinator fellow? I thought APply HN was for the fellows who are very very early / at the idea stage.

Happy that people with different schedules can vote with the extended timeframe.

How long will polling be open?

The rankings have been stable for a couple hours now, so we'll close it at 9pm Pacific (about an hour from now).

It's a bit of a shame the European side of the world didn't have much of a chance to vote. When I logged off around midnight last night, this thread wasn't posted. When I logged on at 0700 this morning, voting was closed.

It isn't closed! We reopened it because people pointed out the mistake. See https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11618034.

Are you still not able to vote?

Yes, all fine now, thank you and much appreciated.

PIKIO and KREWR are going to change the world and eat Favebook for lunch!

I knew very quickly that Feynman Nano was an in for me. I read through the comments, and when they mentioned they could coat grout, it became a definite in.

While it is really obvious to coat medical implants, iv leads, ect - I know that pending material review, I'd be happy to buy a cutting board coated with the stuff for chicken and meat.

I even think they would be smart to figure out how to coat woods, granite/stone, synthetic stones, formica, steel, and iron. ( anything that could be used as a kitchen surface) If you can also figure out how to wash them in a dishwasher, more power to you. You'd be the only seller on the market for truly anti-infectious kitchens, and people would go crazy for it.

I occasionally make my own preserves and pickles, and then water bath can them. Before I do so, I bleach my counters, in order to decrease my risk of introducing pathogens in the food I put up. Getting countertops coated with your stuff means I can switch to a light cleaning, because they would ALREADY be low risk, and I won't have to expose myself to chlorine gas.

You'd basically own every high end kitchen of parents in the US. Parents freak out about pathogens, and chlorine gas, and this sort of stuff, and have no time to clean, ect.

And that would be on top of medical devices as a business.


I actually wanted to take a close look at WedWell. I'm in the target market (female, engaged though no date yet, actually from the NYC metro area ironically, sometimes bemused by how wedding planning works). While I haven't started wedding planning yet, the one thing I have done is started to collect budgets and tips(note 1) from friends/acquaintances who have gotten married in the past 5 years(ish) nationwide. One of the striking things about these budgets is there are priority lists of items and ideas inside the budgets, and various ways to negotiate within those priority lists.

Because of this, the idea of a "Vendor bidding service" seems a little off. It is less bidding than "dating." Furthermore, I also suspect that much like there are coalitions of doctors as collegues referring each other, which causes improvement of service between all of them as they work semi-togther, this might be true for vendors as well. It might be more effective to think of yourself as a semi-day of coordinator with swap-in/swap-out vendors depending on the "mood"/vendor group. I also think you'll be more likely to get vendor buy in with that sort of model if only because they are not going for "lowest common denominator"/dilution of their brand.

That said, without testing all of this I really don't know, and weddings are super competitive as an area to advertise to.

I consider this an uphill battle that needs more testing and then a big marketing budget, and I honestly don't know if YC is the right fit. I can see it growing big, but it may actually do better in a group that isn't YC and that is more tailored to your market.

There were thre others that really also called my name to think about

Eat My Dust


and Tiz.com

Eat My Dust on closer inspection seems to be in a very competitive area. It is also one ripe for disruption, but I am not sure the idea as it stands is different enough from its competitors. I almost want to know what it would be like if you did a lab on a chip and stuck it into a vacuum instead, and charged saas prices to always analyze

Utiliz and Tiz were very close. Both make markets more efficient. In the end, my vote went with Tiz. My only concern with Utiliz is while it has more potential to earn a lot of money, it also has the potential to lose it too, thanks to oil price fluctuations. I'm not sure scale alone will help. I think the founders are the right type to solve that issue by background - still, it weighs on my mind that they could go from billions to insolvency in order to make it work, leaving an otherwise great business and important need for customers of sorts out of luck.

note 1: the reason is the only type of wedding I've ever been to have been Orthodox Jewish weddings, which in a lot of ways are atypical from what appears to be standard American weddings for people my age. I wanted an idea of a baseline.

RE WedWell: Thanks for the comment. Funny enough we're moving slightly from "WedWell: Vendors bid for your wedding" more towards "WedWell: A more efficient way to plan your wedding". (Dang- Depending on how long the voting is going, we'd love to change our title!)

It's really less about cost savings (which may happen anyway with scale/competition among vendors), but more about efficiencies in the process. Less face to face meetings, less paper checks, more collaboration among vendors before the day of the event. So, as a potential client, I think you're hitting it on the head. It is more like vendor dating than anything else. Love for you to give the platform a go, and give us some feedback.

I'm not sure efficiency is what you are looking for either - very cold word for describing a personal, life changing event.

Beyond we're not ready to set a date yet for a bunch of complicated reasons that have nothing to do with you as a startup or HN, in practice I'm far from the ideal/typical customer for extraneous reasons once there would be wedding planning (mixture of volunteers for tons of services from friends/family across the country including potential locations, food, music depending on where we host the wedding in the US, issues with my family being unhappy, I have orthodox jewish friends which makes catering questions interesting if they show, he has frail grandparents who are very important to him, ect, ect).

Still, I have some definite thoughts, including vendors you NEED!!!!! to add, how to get there, and some differences/similarities I've seen across the country (because budget), and maybe, if you are lucky, how to sidestep parts of the saturation of people throwing stuff at engaged people.

Best way to talk to you before I start playing around?

True-- Efficiency may not be the best term for marketing this thing (to anyone beyond the YC community). I'm all ears for sure.

I'd love to hear your thoughts. You can reach me at info@wedwell.co

Thanks again, we're still early here. Plenty of room to evolve the product. We'd love to hear your thoughts.

Ok, sure, we changed the title for you.

Thank you! Very helpful for our message

Shanacarp, Tom from Utiliz here, thanks for the feedback. To clarify we have zero exposure to energy fluctuations. We don’t hold any credit, counterparty or price hedging risk as the contract is still ultimately between the supplier and the consumer. We are operating as an authorized agent of the consumer. If a given supplier mis-hedges and goes insolvent, their customers’ incumbent will step in as the supplier of last resort. Those who are also our customers will continue to benefit from switching at the next good opportunity. Given this we only leave the upside in your feedback of driving market efficiency and revenue at scale. Happy to discuss further. Tom

Hi Tom!

First, it is just Shana. (first a is hard, second a is soft) Carp is my last name.

I would love to discuss this further. what is the best way to get in touch with you?

The reason I stated what I did is in the previous apartment my fiance and I were living in, there were these guys who would come by every so often to offer the ability to switch electrical suppliers while also locking in the price paid per kilowatt hour in advance (This is in NYC, btw) - Con Ed I think had fluctuating prices instead based on both demand and not specified but also obvious if you looked at it, the oil market and coal market. So this contract I was being offered effectively was a form of a forward. At the time, I was trying to convince the sales guy that I should be able to reset the contract every month because oil still hadn't hit rock bottom (he was very confused by this idea), and I was thinking that electric prices per Kilowatt hour was going to drop further in response.

In that sense, I would be the type crazy enough to switch hourly if that was doable, as well as bet on the fact that I know my schedule better than my electric company(s), who only see me in aggregate.

I also think my fiance would not allow me to run that bet and determine it too risky :D (I have a measurably higher risk tolerance than he does, it is good he says things like that)

I still have to wonder if you hold liquidity risk, as well as how my risk as an end buyer is handled (and yes, I do understand that most of your users are not going to be like me)

So best way to get in contact?

Sure. Shoot me an email to info@utiliz.co

Is there no way to 'unvote' if you make a mistake? 'dang?

You can always try emailing him at hn@yombinator.com . But I'm not sure whether he will accept.

Remember that it will be manual process so if everyone and their dog send a rectification, it will be too much work and he will hate me. Try this only if you extremely dislike the application that you upvoted by mistake.

Unvoting is on our list to implement but the code is not coercible in this respect. We can help if you email us, as gus_massa said.

No problem at all! I was just wondering - didn't even have the use case myself.

I voted for Utiliz, Casepad, and Jury Board.

Good luck to everyone!

nickysielicki. Tom from Utiliz here, thanks for your vote! We are super excited to make the final cut as we realize the opportunity here is skewed towards the north east, great to see the idea connects nationally. Kevin and I have progressed the business significantly since the original post and would welcome any Q&A on the idea and our current activity - Tom


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