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Ask HN: What's the mission of your company and why does it matter?
95 points by coutcin on Sept 23, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 95 comments

We are FreeWill (http://freewill.com/). We may be the most efficient fundraising tool for charity ever made. We provide free wills to people, and make it very easy to donate charitably in that process. We've raised over $190M for charities in just over a year! At the same time, we've made legal services more accessible by providing free estate planning to over 17,000 people.

Just had a feature in the New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/07/your-money/online-wills.h...

hmu with interest and feedback: jenny@freewill.com.

Visited your website and can't figure your business model. How are you generating revenue?

Great service btw!

Full disclosure, I know this company (we went to the same school), but wanted to say congrats!

I don't think people have to say "full disclosure" every time they know someone/something more intimately than others. Are you taking a stance on something where your prior connections and involvement matters?

I'm a co-founder of Mixnode and we want to "make web-scale data affordable for everyone".

Having access to trillions of data points from the web is a super power reserved for only a handful of companies; what if anyone could access and analyze these data points without having to hire 25 experts in distributed systems and raise VC... Imagine the explosion of innovation this will bring about.

We want that explosion to happen sooner rather than later.

If you find this mission intriguing please send me an email: nj@mixnode.com

I worked for 2 years on the crawl infrastructure team of a well-known SEO/analytics company that was pulling in over a 120 billion web pages a month. It was definitely one of the most difficult projects I've ever worked on and we did have a team of 6-7 very incredibly smart people -- not "25 experts in distributed systems" though :P

This is a very lofty goal and I'm not sure how you are going to tackle it with 3 people, however I'm rooting for you and would love to get my invitation soon. Best of luck.

> pulling in over a 120 billion web pages a month

Can you tell more? That's 45K pages per second, and assuming that each page load on average takes 1 second you already need 45K workers. Are you talking requests or really loading web pages and evaluating them?

I find your mission interesting, but I was turned off by the fact that you're a Canadian company with ~3 people. I wish I could set a reminder to ping you in like 3 or 4 years. :( Best of luck!

What's wrong with it being a Canadian company?

I live in the US, specifically the Bay Area. Based on past experience, it’s unlikely Mixnode could pay me a salary anywhere close to what I could earn here, even after factoring in cost of living. Emigrating is also not practical, even if getting a visa wasn’t a problem.

I live in the East Bay. Here is a cost comparison between Oakland, CA and vancouy, BC: https://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/compare_cities.jsp?cou...

Oakland costs 15% more, but it’s unlikely this company is going to pay me ~85% of what I make here if I emigrated (and, even if they do, I have a significant amount of student loans as fixed costs). As a remote employee, I’d need ~100% of what I’d make around here, and that would come with significant tax headaches for them.

As a Canadian who moved to the Bay area, this is true. Finding a Canadian company that is going to be competitive with Bay area salaries is almost impossible even if their revenue is in USD.

Even large US companies generally require internal transfer to Canada to take a pay cut in addition to changing to Canadian dollars.

To make it worse, Vancouver has a high cost of living but low salaries.

If you are remote, you don't need to be in the bay area. While a harsh reality, the bay area is a crazy expensive place to live, and I would say do so if you have to, not because you want to. And if you do want to, work where it makes sense.

Actually, I do need to be in the Bay Area for personal, professional, and health reasons. But, yes, I take your point. I could certainly live on 3/4 or 2/3 of a Bay Area salary in the middle of nowhere, if I wanted to.

You could live on 1/4 of a Bay area salary.

Not with my student loans.

I am working on Learn Anything. It’s an open source website with the goal of providing most efficient learning paths. A kind of Netflix for learning.

If humanity really solves personalized learning by crafting learning paths based on all of Internet’s resources, user’s current knowledge and learning preference, I believe something akin to singularity may be reached. So I am trying to build the website that tries to reach this goal in an open source way so anyone can help.

Website https://learn-anything.xyz Code: https://github.com/learn-anything/learn-anything

I have been kicking around a vastly different idea with the end-goal of making education more efficient. Yours is eminently more practical however :)

Glad to see this.

Hey, can you elaborate or contact me via jasek.t@gmail.com? I am pondering about this issue as well and I would love to speak with you.

I'd be happy to.

This is fantastic. Why the log-in for up/downvotes? To prevent bots?

Interesting idea. Being able to navigate the massive amounts of information on the Internet is a skill in itself. Sounds like your group creating a sort of Driver's Ed to absorb quicker.

At Kayak Adventures, "we are a small, locally owned shop that strives to inspire our guests to join us in reclaiming an active stewardship of our natural world through inspiring sea kayaking tours."

It's important because climate change is one of the biggest problems of our age, and by helping our guests foster a sense of connection to an amazing (and vulnerable) place, we can produce what thousands of news articles cannot: people who care.


(Apologies if this is considered "off topic" for HN, I've been a lurker for a while but this is my first post.)

Enable community driven coordination of distributed enegery production and consumption. Basically virtual power plants operating on the edge of our grid.

Heat, refrigeration, lights, etc are at the foundation of modern society. The foundation of modern society is driven by the distribution of energy. Helping ensure energy sources at the edge of our grid achieve scalability and fault tolerance strikes me as something that truly matters.

LO3 Energy

The company has been around for some time but recently underwent rapid growth. I started as a part time remote contracted and was the first software engineer to be brought on full time.

It’s been a lot of work and there is still a long way to go but the thing that keeps me chugging is the people involved. We’ve attracted a powerhouse of a team both on the business and engineering side. Further, I’ve never worked with a more genuine and kind group of individuals before.

I'm reading about your Allgau microgrid, and it looks like it may have been chosen as a pilot because some feed-in tariffs are expiring. Is the idea here to effectively bypass the utility company (even though there is a partnership for this pilot) so that energy consumers end up directly paying each other through the blockchain ledger?

Speaking generally about all our projects and from my personal perspective (software guy, not public relations); The idea is to bring both sides of the industry (customer, utility) together more efficiently and effectively.

The current model (power utility produces electricity, maintains distribution infrastructure, and bills on a KWh basis) for producing and distributing energy is very wasteful. We’re constantly producing more energy than necessary to react to spikes in demand. The current model is also increasingly strained as we adopt more renewables due to their relatively unpredictable nature. However, the utility isn’t going away in the foreseeable future. The lines and other infrastructure still need to be maintained.

The idea is to elimate waste. Work toward new models that benefits both sides (e.g. peak demand gets supplied via energy sources at the edge of the grid, utility doesn’t need to install more infrastructure to accommodate growing energy demand within that microgrid).

I work in this field (electricity markets) and don't really see microgrids fulfilling this niche anytime soon.

Due to FERC Order 841, we will see a surge in grid-scale batteries and our markets (in the US) will have to accommodate this. They will hopefully help some with various issues such as congestion, transmission buildout, and short term changes in demand.

In the US, you're are right. The regulation in the US is currently not conducive to microgrids. The world is a big place though.

Yea, if you're talking about non 1st world countries, the idea could definitely work i think.

Best of luck!

"When the last tree is cut, the last fish is caught, and the last river is polluted; when to breathe the air is sickening, you will realize, too late, that wealth is not in bank accounts and that you can’t eat money."

I don't have crazy debt or people to support, so it's very easy for me to say this, but it's sad to see the smartest people in my generation putting so much effort into getting people to click on stuff :/

I'm a co-founder of Kosmos (https://kosmosschool.com/). Our mission is to build a complete K-12 school that exists only in virtual reality. It matters because such a school could provide better education to kids from all around the globe at a fraction of the cost today.

Dude, a developing brain growing up in VR.... I dunno.

I'm building HuggyList. Our mission is to provide condensed knowledge for busy professionals.

It truly matters because it makes learning much easier for people who lack of time. This helps everyone to make better decisions and have a greater impact.

As an example, here is some YC startup knowledge summarized in bullet points: https://huggylist.com/channel_lists/1537220271873x5642096565...

Your documents and notes are a reflection of your knowledge and experience. We believe the hard work you put into them should benefit you in the long term. This is why we are working on the most intuitive and flexible platform for you to capture, share and navigate your thoughts.

Is your platform up yet? Would love to give a try

We are going into beta test in the coming weeks, I would love for you to try it! Shoot me an email (in HN profile) if you are interested.

The invitation is open to anyone of course :)

I'm the solopreneur and solo developer behind Hacker Experience 2 (https://hackerexperience.com), an open-source MMORTS hacking simulation game with the main goals of

1) fostering interest on Computer Science among young adults and curious people, especially those on third-world countries that have no chance of going to college

2) bringing people to the FOSS world by having a low-barrier to entry project where they can contribute directly (not necessarily with code). That kind of experience - seeing their contribution being rolled out worldwide to a game they love - must be life changer.

3) raising privacy awareness and let people know about encryption and VPNs

4) and why not, create a fun, interactive and highly strategic game :)

After 4 years of development, I'm still nowhere close to reaching any of them (not yet released). But if my game can motivate and change the life of a single kid, all that trouble will be well worth it.

Here's to another 4 years! For people out there in similar situation, the urge to quit may be high, but try not to give up. E-mail is on profile in case anyone wants to talk.

I'm a co-founder at Stitch, and our mission is to inspire and empower data driven people.

I believe that the development of the scientific method and evidence-based decision making is the most important development in human history. It's not universal, and it's a lot of work. We want to motivate more people to come over that way of thinking and make it easier for them to do so.


Hey there! We have very closely related missions. At the very least we’re in the same domain space. Would love to learn more about the Stitch platform to see if there are opportunities to collaborate?

At Genomenon, we're building tools that help discover, diagnose, and treat cancer and other inheritable disease. To do this, we've built the Mastermind Genomic Search Engine [1], powered by the world's most comprehensive source of genomic evidence.

You've probably seen a lot in the media lately about the possibilities of precision medicine powered by personal genomic sequencing. With the advent of the $1000 whole genome sequencing [2], we now have an immense amount of data at our fingertips. The problem we have now is known as the "bioinformatics bottleneck" [3], in which our sequence data reveals thousands of variants in our DNA, and we need to figure out which ones are clinically relevant, by figuring out which ones have been observed and studied. We seek to make that task easy; to minimize the time it takes to perform an exhaustive search, and reduce the chance of missing important information in a patient's sequenced genome [4].

Most people have been or know someone who has been affected by cancer or inheritable disease. As far as missions go, this was an easy one to get behind when I met my co-founder almost five years ago. When my startup at the time got acquired shortly after meeting him, I knew immediately what I wanted to do next.

[1] https://www.genomenon.com/

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/$1,000_genome

[3] http://science.sciencemag.org/content/344/6184/653.3

[4] https://scipol.duke.edu/content/questathena-wrongful-death-s...

Make money so i can buy food and the shareholders can buy better food.

Unify all web APIs in a single, programmable, and customizable interface. It matters because people's data does not reside in files anymore, it's behind a very heterogeneous set of web APIs which, as a whole, are very hard to use.

I recently started ownpath (https://ownpath.in/) because I want to build a better framework for lifelong learning.

While books and courses have their place, I think that human connection is crucial to not feel isolated. When I'm learning something new, it feels great to be able to bounce ideas off someone, get feedback on my work and if possible, make some friends along the way.

My bet is that more people also feel similar things. If you have any thoughts on the website or just want to chat, feel free to reach me at shreyas@ownpath.in.

I’m cofounder/CTO at CareZone (.com). Our mission is to help people care for themselves and their families.

The US health care system is disorganized, inefficient, and overwhelming for patients and their families. We aren’t “solving healthcare”, but we provide tools and services that make caregivers’ lives easier.

This matters not just for the obvious reason that so many people need help, but because relatively little effort in the health care system goes into helping patients and their caregivers with the responsibilities the system dumps on them.

I'm the founder of FormAPI [1], and my company's mission is to help developers fill out and sign PDF documents.

It truly matters to my customers, because they're paying me money. And it truly matters to me, because if the company continues to grow, then I'll have lots of money and freedom. Honestly it's mostly about the money, but I really enjoy building things and solving problems for people.

[1] https://formapi.io

the truly matters part i think needs at least 1 level of “but why”... okay they pay for it, but why do they pay for it? that’s the important thing... okay, it pays your salary and gives freedom, but why do you care about the product? what if it paid you nothing (but that didn’t matter); would you still work on it? why?

i’m sure you know these answers; you wouldn’t have gotten to “paying customer 1” otherwise

Sure, they pay for it because it solves a specific problem, and it saves a lot of time. I care about the product because I put a lot of work into it, and it's a "creative outlet". I enjoy making all the decisions and having the freedom to work on whatever I think is important.

I'd keep working on it for a while if I didn't need to worry about money. But I also really like the idea of a "finished product" that doesn't need any more work. That's what I'm aiming for, although I'm probably a few years away from that.

I wouldn't keep working on it if it failed and no-one was using it. I would just move on to the next project.

Quick side note: the main graphic on your website displays "Upload template", "Set up fields", etc.. in the default serif font on my computer probably because I don't have the Avenir Pro font installed. You can probably fix this by converting the text to outlines in Sketch.

Whoops, thanks so much for letting me know! I just converted the text to outlines and pushed the change. Very scary that I didn't catch that before. I should use a browser testing service, or take some screenshots during my CI tests.

Our mission is to fight period poverty. There are many women in the world and in the USA that can't afford feminine care. Not only that but conventional tampons and pads are disposable, highly polluting, made out of plastic, and not that healthy.

Conventional tampons are made with regular cotton as well as rayon. Regular cotton could have toxic residues from pesticides, dioxin from the bleaching process, and rayon fiber can disintegrate within a woman's body, breeding bacteria that could hurt or be dangerous like toxic shock syndrome. Disposable pads are made from mysterious ingredients because companies don't have to disclose ingredients to consumers in the USA. All the chemical scents, antibacterial, plastics, those are all not disclosed which should be worrying because there are many toxic chemicals out there.

The solution I'm working on are reusable cloth pads. The idea is simple and has been what the world has been using before disposables came out. They are a lot more sustainable because they are reusable. They can be customized for each customer and come in pretty colors, shapes, and sizes.

"Make money".

And it doesn't matter.

In all seriousness, most Silicon Valley "why we truly matter pitches" are just shovels full of something.

We'd probably be making bigger differences in the world if we contented ourselves with making a living, and then stepping away from our keyboards to go befriend people who are going through hard times and serve our immediate communities more directly.

Making money matters if it enables you to turn around and help other people directly and immediately.

> befriend people who are going through hard times and serve our immediate communities more directly.

Makes me think of the insurance policy of the Amish - if someone's home burns down, it is a guarantee that everyone in the community will come together to build a new house for them.

I am an Engineer at Celo https://celo.org/ - Our mission is to build a monetary system that creates the conditions of prosperity for all.

We aim to give financial tools that will help people to self-actualize. Many people in the world do not have the basic financial tools for lifting themselves out of poverty -- a sound currency and property rights -- and we aim to provide those. Second, we aim to create a system that connects people to one another through the financial system; especially those that have been disconnected from the financial system.

We have a flat & open culture and value diversity. We are hiring at our SF and Berlin offices: https://celo.org/jobs

More about Celo: "Hello From Celo" - https://medium.com/@celo.org/hello-from-celo-34bf195cb99

> opening a bank account but for claiming various other essential services, such as healthcare and education.

Where such services are provided by a functioning state maybe, but if they are, they also have a functioning currency and banking sector.

Where their isn't.... I had a Ukrainian friend who said in the worst days of state dysfunction (now decades ago), the de facto currency was bottles of vodka.

At least with a bottle of vodka, you can drown your sorrows if your currency crashes.... So your zeroth challenge is "How is Celo better and cheaper and more trustworthy than a bottle of vodka?

> Our mission is to build a monetary system that creates the conditions of prosperity for all.

Your web site basically says "Apple Pay", but without Apple.

So how do you get from that to, "a monetary system that creates the conditions of prosperity for all"?

Co-founder of Banter, https://banter.fm. We make podcasts easier to share and have conversations around.

We've basically built a BYOC (Bring-Your-Own-Content) social network. Publishers host an RSS feed and remain in full control of their content. We don't try to assert copyright or anything over it. We don't even host it. We just enable conversations and sharing of that content (we even generate videos for sharing on other platforms that don't support audio well: https://twitter.com/stevekrenzel/status/1040746982615076864)

Some of the best content being produced today is in podcasts. Everything from comedy to news reporting. They're a great way to help people stay informed, learn new things, or just get a laugh. So if that counts as "truly mattering", then that's why it truly matters.

We're a small team building tools to make local government services more accessible (http://localgov.fyi/)

relevant disco here https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17516721

Fixing healthcare in the US. Sounds grandiose and having been in the industry for 5 years I would have laughed a few years ago if someone told me that it was their company's mission.. but there's actually a real way to fix it and we're building that solution. Feel free to email me if interested. (Our stack is Rust / React)

At Infinite Food[0] we are automating the production and retail of personalized meals through robotic service locations supported by modern logistics and electronic supply-chain.

We believe this field of innovation matters because by 2050 the world population will be 9.7 billion[1] increasingly living in high density urban environments after loss of agricultural land and clean fresh water, potentially less reliable yields due to climate change, increasing concerns about pollution, and reduced biodiversity. Therefore, we urgently need the ability to feed more humans more reliably using less resources.

[0] http://infinite-food.com [1] https://esa.un.org/unpd/wpp/Publications/Files/Key_Findings_...

"To make all SEO agencies - including our own - redundant!"

Why? Because SEO is the ultimate digital snake oil industry of our era. Sucking away ressources and f###ing up websites, wasting (life)time of users and developers alike.


Tried to learn more from the link - I know you want to sell the book/courses etc, however, I need more to go on. Is it all about web performance, speed?

"The primary goal of this book"- and my company -"is to deliver a framework - that is, a way to think about - SEO."

It's all about creating a platform (a.k.a. a web property) that enables systematic, scaleable SEO. And - measurable - processes how to deal with this platform. And as SEO is 5% is know-how and 95% execution (as everything that has value), how to come from know-how (and where to get it, hint: it's not SEO blogs!!!) to execution.

we also offer a free open source app to test for the most annoying SEO best practices and pitfalls (incl. invisible meta-data).


Wow the book seems to be physical only. No ebook!

Yes, by design! Want the book on the table so that people need to talk about it. Skim it & then read it.

But yeah, 3rd edition going to be e-book, too! On Amazon and DRM free for all who order the physical book (also the current one).

The book looks interesting, but I'd much rather an electronic copy rather than a paper book. Is there no digital version?

Coming soon (in the 3rd edition). Everybody who buys the books, gets the updates DRM free e-books, too, of course.

My mission is to make it possible for the users take back control of the internet, and make technology work for people (http://unravel.org). The internet has gone from being a technology that liberates information for everyone to something that concentrates power and information. Everybody complains about it, but very little is done about it. The tech industry doesn't need to disrupt the world nearly as much as the tech industry needs disruption.

It matters that I do this because, while I may have just a small chance of succeeding, I probably have a better chance then most. For the few of us who have the skills, the time and the plans to do something about it, we owe it to all who cant do something about it to at least try.

The mission of Porky.co is facilitating Riders to:

“Find. Meet. Ride with your Harley-Davidson Tribe.”

It matters because I’ve spent the last 3 years as a co-founder of a Veteran Support charity called No Duff (www.noduff.org).

Root cause data for the vast majority of the 233+ Veteran support incidents we have responded to include a lack of belonging, community, meaning, and purpose in Veterans’ lives post service.

Recreational motorcycling community(much like the Veterans community) is still stuck in the pre-internet and pre-smartphone hub and spoke “siloed” club model.

We don’t want to change the world for everyone.

But we do want to help motorcyclists find belonging, community, personal meaning, and social purpose.

Currently in YC Startup School and applied to W2019 Batch on Day 1.

Looking for a Technical Co-Founder :)


I'm the founder of Orchestra (http://orchestrahq.com) and our mission is to "accelerate the world's adoption of machine learning and artificial intelligence".

Most if not all of the machine learning models in the world never see the light of day. They never get productionized and embedded into web and mobile applications. We believe that web and mobile applications can be so much more smarter with machine learning and AI capabilities. By building a platform to make it easy to embed models into web and mobile apps, we hope that this will drive adoption.

I am the founder of Jumpshare (https://jumpshare.com).

Our mission is to make everyone more productive. When running a previous startup with 20 people, I found that communicating effectively with them was a challenge. To share work with them and with outside clients and collecting feedback and ensuring everyone was on the same page took many back and forth steps. I also noticed that everyone was facing the struggle to communicate effectively both inside and outside the team. Thus, losing a lot of time and overall productivity.


Making more data about doctors public. Their research papers, education, accepted insurances, Medicare acceptance, etc.

I'm co-founder of Root Health. We empower patients with empathetic support and next best actions to ease the burden of clinical trials.


It matters because there are very few people actually focusing on the patient experience in clinical trials. Most companies building solutions in this space see patients as the barrier to data instead of the reason why trials exist.

I run ContentFly (http://contentfly.co).

Our ultimate mission is to democratize marketing so any and every small business on Earth can use it.

Just an observation, but I hear and read “democratize X” and “Uber for X” quite frequently these days. Your platform uses both

So no democracy for the writer that gets paid flat fee?

We'll probably let the price hang eventually, but an open market would actually result in the writers getting paid less.

Our biggest competitor pays writers 0.7c/word lol

Great landing page. All the best.

At https://ingrower.com, we provide a farm management app with human-expert assistance for smallholder farmers in East Africa. There are 500 million smallholder farmers in the world today. Most are operated by women of the house in developing countries growing greens or raising chickens in their homes. Imagine enabling some of them to generate an income with their smallholding farms. That's what we're trying to do at InGrower.

We at Initiative Zero (http://initiativezero.com) are looking provide innovative payment solutions to help students pay off their student loans quicker, saving years off their student loan debt.

  The national student loan debt in the US is $1.5 trillion and 15% of Americans have student loan debt.

I'm the founder of Rainway (https://rainway.io)

Our core mission is using our innovative technology to provide gamers with freedom and choice in how they experience their favorite games. We are committed to building a positive community, capable of having fun anywhere. Because if you're not having fun, what is the point of playing? We will always put gamers first.

At Idea To Startup ( https://ideatostartup.org ), our mission is to enable entrepreneurs to advance from idea to startup by helping them create an invincible team and develop an impeccable product

The "mission" thing always makes me wonder... What will happen if your mission interferes with making profit? My guess is that, for 99% of companies, mission will be ignored (or changed). This shows that the true mission (i.e. purpose of the company) is making profit and not what they declare.

My favorite and only example I've read about is Patagonia. They started by making rock climbing gear but when they saw how much harm their gear was doing to these mountains, they completely stopped making and selling their best product and started selling another product that was better.

I'm a small business owner but when I realized some of the harm I was doing, I stopped selling certain products as well. It's meant saying no to a pretty penny and I definitely wonder if I'm crazy a lot.

Mission statement doesn't have to be contradictory to making profit. Making profit isn't evil in itself, but making profit based on an immoral mission statement is. There are two kinds of people: those who save the company by following the money, and those who let the company fail by following their principles. Those in the latter camp of course have to be careful from the get-go not to make their company too big to fail.

The mission is what the company is aiming to achieve that will have the side effect of making a profit. An obvious example is Apple's mission to make an out of this world almost magic phone (back when the iPhone came out), and profits followed. But get a bunch of execs and say "mission: make money" wouldn't unleash the required creativity to do something like this. Instead they'd be cutting costs on iPod manufacturing or something lackluster like that.

Recently I've learned that in some US states there is something called a Social Purpose Corporation, which actually lets you profit and stick to your mission. In a regular company, it's more than likely that putting your "mission" above maximizing your profits will put you in legal trouble.

Yes, the same exists in Finland (social entrepreneurship), but since we can all agree on that there are huge differences between companies, how they operate, and how moral they are, we can agree on that there's a lot of playground for the execution of a good mission statement. There's on the one hand maximization by moving your production to a third world country and by paying the absolute minimum to your employees (which no legal entity expects you to do AFAIK), but then there's also maximization by being decent and by doing everything properly (to which no legal entity also has nothing to sneeze at). So the maximization doesn't have to be the kind of grab your company by the throat kind of maximization.

We are Testimonly (https://www.testimonly.com) and we want to help SaaS businesses automate their users feedback acquisition and showcasing workflow.

The mission of most companies is just to make money, so it doesn't matter.

Ending poverty in the coffee sector by 2030. www.enveritas.org

Were a mid sized regional ISP and we try every day to literally make the internet not suck.

When you say literally make it not suck, I have to wonder just how broken the internet really is where you are.

Magic software.

Because we can, and you will be happier. I promise.

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