I have no vested interest at all. I'm not an investor, not an advisor, just a user and a fan. Trunkly's become an essential tool for me, it has traction, it has a product that 100s of thousands would find useful today and millions could find even more useful in time.
Maybe I'm blinded by my own selection bias (because I find it so useful and everyone who joins makes it more and more useful for me), but I'm going to have some very high expectations for the startups that do get selected :-)
That seems to be the one point that everything hinges on here.
#1 - Sponsorships/promotions on topically-specific "top" pages. Advertisers (like my company) pay top dollar for highly focused branding to specific audiences. If Trunkly created subject-specific pages like "Top Startup Links," "Top Travel Links," "Top Gadgets Links," etc. and earned decent traffic to them (which I think is very possible given how useful/interesting/powerful and SEO+social-sharing-likely those pages could be - think HN/Techmeme/Alltop/etc.) , that's a big advertiser revenue stream.
#2 - Tools for management/analysis/tracking/enhanced data for specific users. I'd personally pay $10-$50 a month and my company would pay $100-$500 a month to have all our links not just tracked and indexed, but show data, signals and analyses of what predicts more clicks/shares/etc. I've always wanted something that could tell me which features (length, use of words, time of day, when I shared vs. others, etc.) predicted higher CTR/engagement/RTs/FB shares/etc. and Trunk.ly's well poised to build that.
#3 - Social graph data ala Twitter + Facebook. Dozens of companies, in particular Bing + Google, are really interested in and paying top dollar for access to social sharing data about URLs. Trunk.ly knows not only what I share on Twitter/FB, but via my personal blog, LinkedIn, Quora, and anything with a feed that I add.
I guess the issue is, the uptake of the product, and retention rate with the ratio of people actively using frequently to those using it as a link archive service which they don't revisit frequently as their links are being automatically archived.
The delicious aspect would be similar to say someone starting something in video and getting the question of how they are going to be able to make money when it's taken youtube crazy scale and availability of cheap internet bandwidth with that scale to turn a profit. Either you taking the same angle and are somehow going to do it better than Google or your clearly differentiating yourself in a way that will allow you to turn a profit without the same scale.
From my perspective, of course Alex and I would have liked a different outcome, but I don't envy the decision that Paul and the team have to make either.
There's more than one post which has pointed out they don't always get it right. Only time will tell - YC was never a make or break for us.
Our immediate response (after initial disappointment) was "crap, maybe they're right". We've gone back and crunched the numbers and we still think there is a substantial opportunity here, but there's no doubt our forward planning is already being influenced by this outcome. We'll make sure we test these assumptions a lot sooner than we were initially thinking about.
Who wouldn't want the experience that was in that room to listen to you pitch for 10 minutes, and who wouldn't take some of that feedback on board and at least pause for thought?
I was expecting more intense heated conversation with lots of cut-off.
But it wasn't. Besides PG and Trevor, the others were pretty relaxed.
80% questions coming from PG. I had the bipolar feeling in the middle of
the interview that either they've decided we're in or we've already
screwed the whole thing up.
We were expecting they asked about how we differ from pinboard.in or
twitter or any other competitors we're having in mind since that was
what came up in a prep phone call. But instead one question that
has been brought up was how is trunk.ly different from delicious?
Looking back, I think we could do a better job delivering why we're
better than delicious. I got side-tracked explaining why implicit was
important and when I tried to explain why search can do a better job
than tagging. Why remembering which tag you were using was such a big
headache and content discovery by related tags didn't really work, ...
I was cut off without being able to finish.
It's quite useful to see that how these group of people think of
delicious. Delicious has done such a fantastic job associating itself with
the problem "find my links" that the "tagging" concept has become the
"only" solution to the problem. I believe we're a
better solution for the same problem, but a different one. We shouldn't
spend time talking about how "implicit" we want to be, not that it's not
important, but that the key message should be "tagging is dying. search
will replace it. " It was a bit sad to hear the "how you're different
from delicious" from Trevor at the end of it, meaning we haven't
"get the idea through".
A couple of highlights are 1) the growth chart; 2) user testimonial;
3) demo using YC alumni for topics the group are interested in.
Tim has done a fantastic job charting out the growth chart, monthly
growth which is showing a clear increase and the retention rate, which
is pretty stable at 30%. Those three pieces of papers were passed and
looked at by everyone in the meeting. PG even stood up, holding the
paper up. Tim said there was someone videoing the whole thing but I
didn't notice that.
We were asked what our users thought of us. Tim handed out the print-out
with twitter messages about trunk.ly on it. PG took that paper and had a
quick read, which was good. While Tim was talking, I notice Robert was
looking at the other page of testimonials. Not sure whether he wanted to
read it or he was just bored. We also talked about 3% of our users uses
the API and roughly 10 developers are writing software using our API.
Tim saw some spark in someone's eyes by then.
At roughly 3 minutes into the interview. PG raised the question, "what
does social mean". I can feel the word became too fuzzy and abstract for
him. So I proposed we gave a demo of the site. Tim has created a YCDemo
account on trunk.ly, following all YC alumnis so that any search using
"from:friends" are going to show interesting links the alumni were
talking about. We showed anybots, smtp and founders at work. I wasn't
quite sure how it goes by watching the facial expressions. However, the
question about "what do you mean by social" never came up again. I feel
really grateful that Tim spent so much time preparing a demo. It was
just hard to describe something in word.
Thinking back, now I can see that they were trying to figure out what's
special about your service? PG and Harj have already heard about Rand
Fishkin from SEOMoz is a big evanglist. So at one stage PG raised the
question why Rand likes this so much. Tim's question was great: Rand is
the link guy and he has many moments when he needs to recall a link.
So I think it's a sure thing that we definitely describe the need right.
Both PG and Trevor said they have the same needs.
At the very end of it, PG raised the question "what's your business
model? why can't you guys just like pinboard.in, charge for usage?".
I explained the benefit of why having network effect is crucial if we
want to move on with the "social search" direction: "10M users will
surely make the search result a lot different/better. " But PG's answer
was: "Once you got 10M users, you don't need to worry about business
Around 7:15, Tim and I came back from supermarket. There was one email
from PG waiting for us. Hope it's ok for me to paste the email here.
I'm sorry to say we decided not to fund you guys. It was a difficult
choice because you seem like smart guys and we were impressed with
the progress you'd made so far. Ultimately what deterred us was
that we just couldn't figure out a way to make money from it-- at
least on the scale a startup requires.
We have high respect to YC people. So my first reaction when we
saw this email was "Let's focus on getting some basic numbers worked
out. It's at least a good way to remind us besides user acquisition, we
want to get the business model sorted out. " Having said that, I am
still not sure on whether the decision was "made" on what understanding
of the service. Would it be because delicious has no business model and
we failed to figure one out? Would the result be different if we get the
message across? Or maybe the message did get delivered?
That's it. Sad we didn't get in but it's just another bump we need to get
gigaom has this nice article:
Can Delicious Solve Our Information Discovery Problem?
I think trunk.ly is right there tackling this problem.
Had this article came out earlier and pg reads about it, the outcome would be quite different.
I have a take on this. You, "Thurston" have just been stood up by a selective "match-making" agency. Have you blown your shot at getting access to the hot date? Maybe, maybe not. The agency is very picky. They have a captive market and a select clientèle. There is also a big mis-match between information the agency has over the candidate. The agency knows things you "Thurston" and other candidates do not - the intimate needs of the client, the market and other candidates.
The agency look at you and see something promising, but they have a suspicion - no a big question mark - is Thurston better in a right kind of way compared to a previous hot candidate who we'll call "Dave". Dave was made of the right stuff and quickly got snatched up but never really clicked. Something wasn't right. Dave was liked by the right people, lots of people and made all the right moves but something was lacking? The client liked Dave but Dave never pulled in the big bucks and now the middle of a messy divorce. Everyone lost, except perhaps Dave :)
So when the agency look at you, Thurston they do so through the eyes of the client and ask hard questions: "what money can you make that Dave couldn't?". There's one other thing the agency see, 76 weeks. They ask themselves, "Thurstons been on the market for 76 weeks & he hasn't yet how to capitalise! This is now our clients major concern. Can the candidate make the big bucks?"
Sad but that is one possible way to view the outcome. There are plenty of hot dates out there so get out there and find a way!
Something like a hookin to hootsuite? If you don't know it - its worth looking at. It integrates FB, twitter etc for IT Service Management.
I'm trying to think why a corporate would be eager to give you guys money for the value you add - and I hear knowledge management is a pain, so could you be part of that solution?
[just tossing ill-formed ideas around in my head hoping to help]