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Ask YC: Would you share your (successful) Y Combinator applicaton?
18 points by brianlash on July 20, 2008 | hide | past | favorite | 2 comments
Are any former/current YC'ers willing to share their "winning" applications here? I think it would go a long way toward helping us YC hopefuls find the strengths and weaknesses in our own applications this next cycle.

For the record I know the policy:

We don't make any formal promise about secrecy, but we don't plan to let anyone outside Y Combinator see these applications, including other startups we fund.

...but I haven't seen anything that precludes entrants from sharing their applications on their own accord.

I bet plenty of folks share my interest. Anyone willing to help (even if it means you censor proprietary pieces of your app)?

Here's some of my application (I elided some less relevant parts). I was accepted for summer '08 but decided to pass this time for a variety of reasons.

I lost my line breaks somehow, so keep in mind that YC read this with better formatting.


* What is your company going to make?

I'm open to anything. Here's one idea: -------------- Have you ever scanned a document before? How was that experience? It was terrible for me, too. Everyone I have ever asked has agreed that it is physically painful. But, there is a solution, one based on understanding actual human needs. What is wrong with the scanners of today?: * slow (take time to heat up) * slow (scanning at a high dpi takes a long time) * complicated (please select the dpi, now select bla, now bal...) * cumbersome (files generated at high dpi are huge, slow down system) * cumbersome (OCR'ing a document is a whole other rigamarole) What do people really need? Simply a decent, readable scan of the document. This should be as easy as holding the paper up to face the monitor. Imagine that. I propose that I sell a device which is basically just a decent-resolution CCD chip with a special lens which connects to a computer (wired at first, but v2 wireless). Scanning a document is as simple as holding the camera up to a document and clicking. In my tests, scanning a whole text books takes 5-10 minutes. This is a game-changer. I've worked with an ip lawyer to file the provisional patent on this and a few other aspects of the designs. [BY THE WAY, IF ONE OF YOU WANTS TO HELP ME BUILD THIS, I'M ALL EARS. I'M AN AI HACKER NOT A HARDWARE HACKER. OH, BY THE WAY, I USED A DIFFERENT IDEA IN THE INTERVIEW ROUND, NOT THIS ONE SINCE I'M SKEPTICAL OF THE MARKET FOR THIS PRODUCT AT THIS POINT. NEVERTHELESS, IT'S VERY COOL. I WANT TO BUILD THIS FOR MYSELF!]

* For each founder, please list: name, age, YC username, email address, personal url (if any), and current employer and title or school and major. List the main contact first. Separate founders with blank lines. Put an asterisk before the name of anyone not able to move to Boston June through August.

..... [Be sure to put your blog here. Don't have a blog? Make one. Blog about whatever is on your mind. Blog about your hacking.]

* Please tell us in one or two sentences about something impressive that each founder has built or achieved.

Looking at some things in ~/projects folder: ........ [Here I mention a few of my projects, with links to open source code, web pages, anything I can publicly show. I didn't spend more than one or two sentences describing any one project, but I listed many of my most interesting projects and why I worked on them. YC likes to see you working on real problems, so I talked about problems I solved for myself and for others directly]

* Please tell us about the time you, ljlolel, most successfully hacked some (non-computer) system to your advantage.

...... [I talked about my shotgun email to dozens of startups here in Silicon Valley which gave me the opportunity to meet a lot of cool entrepreneurs]

* Please tell us about an interesting project, preferably outside of class or work, that two or more of you created together. Include urls if possible.

(see above) [I applied alone, so group projects inapplicable]

* How long have the founders

known one another and how did you meet? Have any of the founders not met in person?

n/a [Again, I was a sole founder]

* What's new about what you're doing? What are people forced to do now because what you plan to make doesn't exist yet?

(see above) Basically, nobody ever scans anything because it takes forever, doesn't really do what you want (you just want a readable, small image and for the document to be searchable),

* What do you understand about your business that other companies in it just don't get?

Scanner manufacturers try to pack in the highest dpi they possibly can. They focus on resolution, when they should be focusing on the user experience. Speed is what they should optimize, but I see no scanner manufacturer doing that.

* Who are your competitors, and who might become competitors? Who do you fear most?

HP, Xerox, etc, also ScanR, Qipit, Evernote ...... [I go on to be brutally honest about the difficulty and vulnerability of my position as a hardware startup in a crowded field. Remember, you are writing for some very smart people. They want to see your analytical thinking skills here. They want to see you be realistic, not delusional.]

..... more questions, answer analytically deeply, answer honestly to the best of your ability ......

* If you had any other ideas you considered applying with, feel free to list them. One may be something we've been waiting for.

.... [I always think of new ideas and discuss them with friends. I chose 4 and listed them here. I crisply described each in no more than 2 brief sentences.]

It would be really interesting (at least to me) to read the original YC applications of successful YC companies like reddit and Xobni. Would make a fascinating read.

With their consent, of course.

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