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Warn HN: Lots of Launches Coming
428 points by pg on Aug 8, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 93 comments
Every cycle we warn startups not to wait till 2 weeks before Demo Day to launch if they can avoid it, because there's always a glut of startups launching then. Every cycle they do anyway.

It's now 2 weeks before Demo Day, so there are going to be a lot of new startups launching in the coming week.

Please be nice to them. For you their launch may be "yet another YC startup," but for each individual startup this is their big moment.

pg, can you ask the YC founders to stop announcing their new companies as the "The This of/for That" for example (from the front page):

"Leaky (YC S11) is Hipmunk for Car Insurance"

I honestly don't care if your new company is "* (YC S11) Is The Facebook for Unicorns," since it really tells me nothing. I have to figure out what a Hipmonk is before I can understand what they do. Hold on while I call the Dalai Lama to ask about the difference between a monk and a hipmonk.

Of the YC S11 batch with announcements up, it seems the Snapjoy folks are doing it right (from the front page):

"Snapjoy (YC S11) Will Organize Your Photos For You"

Now the Snapjoy announcement above provides concise and useful information about what they could do for me, the potential customer.

They don't pick the story titles; Techcrunch does.

Then for the sake of HN readers can we allow the titles submitted here to be different?

Edit to add: I know it's possible but I've seen a couple of cases recently where a submitter changed a title (for clarity) but a mod changed it to match the original article.

Replying here to mention that every once in a while, a curator on HN changes a story title that was the original article title to something that is made up by the curator.


I've asked about this before,


but the press of other business has kept anyone from answering the question about just why that happened.

This has happened with a lot of new articles posted on HN in general.

It's frustrating because on one hand, you don't want to post an article that's not the source even though it has a clearer (albeit, link-bait) title, but on the other hand, you want the source link even though the title doesn't make any sense.

Just to be fair, wasn't it TechCrunch that gave Leaky that "Hipmunk for car insurance" tagline?


I didn't see any mention of Hipmunk at all on Leaky's website. There's a small mention of Square though:

All design inspiration credit goes to Square. We think their design is the bee's knees.

EDIT: Ah, they do have a referential line, though it's not Hipmunk:

We're like Orbitz for insurance.

Perhaps TC thought Hipmunk was more catchy than Orbitz ;)

You're absolutely right. I was able to tell from the Snapjoy link what the startup did, and whether or not it was a thread worth browsing through. In 2 seconds.

If all YC (and non-YC) startups describe what they do in the title in 10 words or less, everybody wins.

I think the most important part of my previous post was not emphasized enough, and probably because my sense of humor got in the way.

The important part is, from the Snapjoy announcement I was able to identify myself as a potential customer. Though I do have a car and car insurance, for me they are already solved problems, so I did not identify myself as a potential customer of Leaky (even if I actually am). If I told my mom that "Leaky is the hipmonk of car insurance," can you imagine the resulting conversation? My mom's hearing isn't great so you could be certain that hilarity would ensue, along with repeating myself and doing a lot of unnecessary explaining.

If I told my mom that "Snapjoy can organize your photos," the resulting conversation would be far less entertaining, but far more useful and far shorter.

It makes perfect sense to me. Obviously, if you don't know what Hipmunk is it's hard but on the other hand, knowing Hipmunk, that sentence conveys more information than a generic one ever could.

Leaky (YC S11) takes the pain out of finding the best car insurance.

That would work for those who know about Hipmunk and those who don't.

Well yes but at the same time you proved my point. This works but it only tells me that the site is about finding car insurance. For all I know, I could end up with yet another sales person on the phone trying to convince me to buy something.

The Hipmunk line gives me the idea that I will have a simple page where I can compare options easily which seems to be the case so far as I can tell from their video.

Leaky: Actually compares quotes rather than using estimates

Longer summary: Hits the APIs of every insurance company and fills out their forms for you to get you an actual price, rather than just purporting to.

From their webpage:

Leaky "The ONLY way to see real-time quotes from EVERY major insurer."

I don't know what the situation is in other countries but as a British person that summary screams "RUN AWAY".

Edit: Apparently they are doing the same thing as all the insurance comparison companies here, but are the first US company to actually do it properly, so my reaction isn't very fair and your summary is quite good.

I think you are overestimating how many poeople know about Hipmunk. But it's kind of a moot point, TC picked the title. Leaky compares themselves to Orbitz which is very well known.

I personally like that kind of one-liners. For those using Angellist, that's what we are all used to. Related: http://venturehacks.com/articles/high-concept-pitch

Angellist and all related Angel/VC pitching is a totally different situation, with a totally different audience and runs with totally different expectations; you are trying to attract investors, not customers.

A "High Concept Pitch" one-liner is an excellent device to employ, but like everything, it can be done well or it can be done poorly. Both of the examples I cited from the front page are one-liners, but one is done poorly (e.g. very narrow scope), and the other is done well (e.g. very broad scope).

Maybe Leaky (YC S11) is looking more for investors than they are for customers? If so, then they are using the right language to target the desired narrow scope of knowledgeable investors. But with better aim, could they kill more than one bird with that stone? A new startup announcement on techcrunch is an important opportunity.

The provocative question is, "Would you rather invest in a company actively acquiring investors or a company actively acquiring customers?"

(thanks for the link)

TechCrunch is a terrible place for consumer startups to try to find customers. It's a great place to gain credibility with the tech/entrepreneur/investor community and it also typically results in other publications writing about you. YC companies launching publicly 2 weeks before Demo Day (probably) need both of those things more than they need a few hundred more users. Just about anybody reading TechCrunch who is of great importance to the next two weeks of this company's lifecycle knows what Hipmunk is. Those same people also know that an article in TechCrunch doesn't get most companies very many users.

<quote>TechCrunch is a terrible place for consumer startups to try to find customers.</quote>

You came up with a pretty good one-liner for TechCrunch :)

> It's a great place to gain credibility with the tech/entrepreneur/investor community and it also typically results in other publications writing about you. YC companies launching publicly 2 weeks before Demo Day (probably) need both of those things more than they need a few hundred more users.

True. Very true. Two weeks before Demo Day must be an insane time.

I see the only difference between you and I is, you are thinking shorter term with _OR_ logic, while I am thinking longer term with _AND_ logic. To be more clear, I want to craft the message to gain credibility with the tech/entrepreneur/investor community, gain additional press, _AND_ acquire new customers. It can be done. You might be living with your initial one-liner a lot longer than you ever expected; choose carefully.

On the other hand, you've lived through this particular insanity, so you understand the pressure cooker the current batch of founders are in at the moment. Expecting the founders, under pressure, to come up with a one-liner that their mother could love might be unrealistic, but it is advantageous.

> TechCrunch is a terrible place for consumer startups to try to find customers.

Our opinions differ a bit on this, and considering who you are, it's probably not the most wise decision on my part. ;)

It's the early adopters -- the enthusiasts -- found on the likes of techcrunch, HN and similar that start the snowball, even on consumer orientated startups. When you craft a message specifically for the tech savvy early adopters, they understand it, but they can't use your message to sell it to others.

It comes down to the, "All things bought are sold," idea, where when you buy something, you sell others on it in some way. You might convince them it's useful, cool, exclusive, smart, worthwhile, or whatever, but you really do sell your purchase to others. A well crafted message makes it easy for your customers to sell for you, particularly your early adopters. Oddly enough, it works on investors and journalists as well since they both have the need to sell their investment/article and hence, sell for you. The need to sell a purchase is the reason why one-liners exist.

In general terms, we agree, but my expectations are very high, and admittedly, they may be unrealistic under the circumstances (launching two weeks before fundpocalypse). None the less, keeping this stuff in mind might be helpful to founders in the long run. I hope it is.

Why you're telling them how to use their own marketing/PR tools? ^_^

This site is about making good PR (with some rare mistakes, such as in airbnb's case, but there is really big money involved at the time of the next giant bubble bursting =) and promoting their business and ways of making money, as almost every other site on the net.

So, honestly, why they should provide you with the content you like for free? ^_^

You make no sense.

"This site is about making good PR"

Parent adresses what is (not) good PR.

"So, honestly, why they should provide you with the content you like for free?"

Because they want us (early adopters) to use their product.

Which part of that is difficult for you to understand?

Because they want us (early adopters) to use their product. try to think a little bit more - "so their shares in the startup will grow up in price".

Did I express any difficulty with understanding? I thought it was just less fanboyism and a little bit of nonconformism.. ^_^ And of course I used to mass down votes for saying things unpleasant to fanboys.

>Please be nice to them. For you their launch may be "yet another YC startup," but for each individual startup this is their big moment.

I'm usually quite pleased with what comes out of YC. That said, in this competitive market, I don't think that being nice (just because) helps anyone the week after launch.

I personally look forward to the day HN tears apart my project so I can say I truly learned something.

He doesn't mean be nice to them even if they have a shitty project. He means don't let the onslaught of launches actually partially sour your perception - use your un-saturated viewpoint that is then cognizant of the bias saturation imbues - to determine your true opinion of their service.

Which - if still bad then - should be correctly harsh and honest.

No, you're wrong. He means be nice to them because they're WITH HIM.

No, he means, if you are going to criticize something, use constructive criticism. i.e. Don't just say, your product sucks.

I don't think Paul wants anyone to criticize YC companies. A potential customer asking for changes is different. I am actually not sure there is any value to criticism. "Constructive criticism" seems like a sneaky way to assert authority and drain, without providing any real value.

I didn't downvote you, but I completely disagree. Criticism is telling someone there's something wrong with their project. Constructive criticism is telling someone what specific things should be changed, and in a helpful manner.

"Your home page sucks"

Criticism, not useful.

"You should have a better call to action on your home page. I have no idea what I'm supposed to do here."

Constructive criticism, very useful. It tells someone what's wrong so that it can be fixed. If they're very nice, they'll add a suggestion too.

It's foolish to ignore someone's advice just because they're criticizing your project. Often times, if they're criticizing civilly, it's because they want the project to succeed. If you brush them off as "haters", you're just doing yourself a disservice. Honestly examine all criticism you receive. Yes, plenty of it will be useless criticism from people who want to bring you down, but if you don't pay attention to the ones that care, you're throwing away valuable advice and only hurting yourself.

The more critics the better! Let my fans vote with their wallets!

What he really said was:

"I'm usually quite pleased with what comes out of YC. That said, in this competitive market, I don't think that being nice (just because) helps anyone the week after launch.

I personally look forward to the day HN tears apart my project so I can say I truly learned something."

That said, in this competitive market, I don't think that being nice (just because) helps anyone the week after launch.

There is a difference between false praise and every thread looking like "What's this?! You dare call yourself a startup? You're attempting to solve a problem which other people have attempted to solve before, and your solution looks like something two guys could have made in three months! Why are you in YC and not me?!"

Ideally, we'd be aiming for constructive advice. "I would not use this" can be constructive advice, but it isn't most of the time I have heard it here.

The biggest lessons I've ever learned from people shredding things I've put in front of them is that the people doing the shredding are rarely helpful, if you discount skin thickening exercises anyway.

I suspect "be nice" is more about how people talk to each other than the content of what they're saying.

I have to agree 100%.

There’s a huge difference between honest helpful critique and semi-bullying criticism which is often a feeble attempt of someone to make people feel better about how little they have risked and achieved in their lives - and if not it’s usually just a simple pissing competition.

‘Shredding’ someone’s work is usually as helpful as breaking someone’s window and trashing their home to show they are at risk of being burgled.

Point out the weaknesses like you would point out to your own offspring because a new business is like a child - it’s vulnerable and needs some protection and love at first. In time it will be able to stand up for itself.

'Shredding' a startup when it’s little is like bullying a kid when it’s young to show them how vicious the world is.

Sorry for the very mixed metaphors :-)

I thought it meant something like "don't be a dick to them just because they're one of the many launches." I mean constructive criticism is always good if you're trying to help them, not make them abandon entrepreneurship and the internet.

If you have something negative to say, write it as if you were speaking to someone in person.

Read what you've written again, with the Comic Book Guy voice. Does it sound in-character? Then it's probably unnecessarily harsh.

"in this competitive market"?

And just what market are you referring to?

Pg, can you try adding a tab up top for new startups? I personally love to read about them but sometimes the launches etc. This would make it a lot easier to find the latest ones.

I don't think most users would want a tab for it, but you can easily get this from HNSearch:


Hi Paul. I would love to see a tab for people launching new products in general. i.e. a way to submit your startup for review. Since HN is essentially a startup community, wouldn't it make sense to distinguish a 'review my startup' entry from a 'NASA discovers oxygen on Pluto' entry ? ... especially considering that the submitter often has put months and months of time into it, and would REALLY appreciate and value feedback from others, instead of quickly dropping off (or not even making) the front page ...

I would love to see that too.

ok, I resubmitted my request as a thread, here's hoping it gets read by enough people to upvote:


Perhaps you should create a launch module like jobs and pipeline the launch stories as is case with jobs stories. will help all startups of YC to get even attention from community.

Thank you, that is indeed very helpful. Do you think you could temporarily auto-fill that text into the search bar at the bottom of the page for the week leading up to demo_day? I think a lot of users would find that to be both non-intrusive and interesting/helpful.

I think in the week leading up to demo day pg would probably have better things to do than make website tweaks. I'm not bashing your suggestion, just putting it in context.

I collect all of them each week in my newsletter - http://www.hackernewsletter.com.

I wonder if the creator of this can help with that: http://www.hnshowcase.com/view

I agree, it'd be nice to have them all in one place.

That would be very nice

I'm bit uncomfortable that Techcrunch's coverage of these launches isn't being made with a disclaimer that Michael Arrington is an investor in most of them (via Angel Fund).


Potential for conflict of interests?

Aside: Let's not forget Leo LaPorte calling Arrington an *hole live on his program for getting "the disclaimers out of the way" when Leo was reviewing a handset and insinuating that Leo's review would be influenced as a result of him getting a review unit.

Pg, is there any way you can make your demo day a live event (may be on justinTV) - and to add the spice you should also make it interactive where viewers can rate each startup with proper scoring system - and if you and startups are comfortable then you should let all the VCs and Angels be able to see scores & ratings coming in live from all over the world (however this may also have negative impact but nothing wrong to try it).... this way investors would right away know what is HIT & HOT !!!

Some of the startups demoed have not actually launched, and in any event, I think they like to cultivate something of a feeling of exclusivity around the event. Not to the point of snobbery or anything like that, just to make it kind of important.

I'd like to see a live stream minus all the American Idol extras if possible.

It's always exciting to see what's in the works. In every cycle it seems like there is a YC site that I end up using a lot.

Has the culture around here gotten so hostile that a "be nice" request is needed?

FWIW: I didn't read it as "don't be openly hostile". I read it as "please remember they have their heart in their mouth and are drenched in a cold sweat and even yawning indifference can be soul crushing, yet we realize there are so many it will be hard to get all excited about each and every one of them (especially with so many of them announcing their launch at essentially the exact same time)".

Surely such sentiment should be extended to any startup, not just YC startups?

The point is that the arrival of YC startups is spiky, with 2 big spikes a year.

Be prepared to defend yourself startups. Put on your armor. Some with malice in their hearts will thrust daggers at you. Fight with strength and honor and the crowd will love you.

Win the crowd and you will win your freedom.

To those startups who do not fight with valor? You will be subject to the mob, as was Airbnb. Even the Emperor will not be able to silence the cries for blood!

Startups... I salute you.


Investor: Are you ready to do your duty for the internet?

Founder: Yes, investor.

Investor: You will not be funded.

Founder: Which wiser, older startup is to take my place?

Investor: My funding will pass to others, to hold in trust until a better startup is ready to launch once more. The internet is to be innovative and profitable again.

Founder: Investor?

Investor: Yes. My decision disappoints you?

Founder: You wrote to me once, listing the four chief virtues: Novel concept, challenging problems, technical excellence, and forging new streams of revenue. As I read the list, I knew my startup had none of them. But I have other virtues, investor. Group purchasing. That can be a virtue when it temporarily eases the deal fatigue that everyone's experiencing. Social sharing, perhaps not in a way that generates revenue, but... there are many ways to measure value. Mashups copying one site but adding a single tweak from another site, because it's been done before so must be good. But none of my virtues were on your list. Even then it was as if you didn't want me for your investment.

Investor: Oh, Founder. You go too far.

Founder: I search the faces of other apps... for ideas to copy, to make you proud. One seed investment, one small round... where you wrote out a check for more than the $150K I've already received. Would have been like feeding a third world family for a thousand years. What is it in my idea that you hate so much?

Investor: Shh, Founder.

Founder: All I've ever wanted was to be like all the other apps out there.

Investor: [Gets down on his knees] Founder. Your derivative idea of a startup is my failure as an advisor. Come [Gives Founder a hug]

Founder: [Founder hugs Investor and cries] Investor. I would have copied all the apps in the world... if you would only invest in me!

[Founder begins to asphyxiate Investor while they hug, Investor grunts]

For those who don't get the reference: it's from Gladiator (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0172495/quotes?qt=qt0404384).

Off-topic, but this is the scene that separates Gladiator from your average action flick. I'd also say it's a pretty good spot-on depiction of angry nerd rage.

Commodus was a nerd whose dad wanted a jock son...like Maximus.

Your newsletter, I would like to subscribe.

Please don't do this again this early in the morning; I had 10 people eyeballing me for strange laughing behaviour.

Oliver Reed parodied for the win.

Good luck to all the current YC guys, I'm sure you're all feeling the pain right now only 2 weeks away from the big day!

As for launching around the same time, I'm of the opinion that if your own (non-YC) startup is good enough, it will stand alongside, or even above some of the YC guys and perhaps "cash in" on the startup fervour around at the time.

I wonder if there's any observed correlation between earliness of launch (per pg's advice) and likelihood of future success?

Congrats to Snapjoy, Leaky, and Kicksend for launching today! Keep'em coming!

Should have a special title tag. Show HN YC: ... or something to that effect.

They probably will. Keep your eyes out for "(YC S11)".

I'm really hoping to see a YC company launch on the startup foundry or such, but it may not be wide enough exposure yet. Eventually.

"Please be nice to them"

With very few exceptions, I enjoy seeing what the YC crowd releases, but isn't this going a bit to far? Aren't we the perfect audience to provide constructive criticism? On the other hand, if you're asking us to be empathetic at the same time, I couldn't agree more.

Go YC!

Niceness and constructive criticism are not mutually exclusive. They can even coexist in a single comment.

True ... and the Internet as a whole could use a lot more "nice". It's amazing how much different some people behave when they're not having a face-to-face conversation.

Part of that is not that people behave worse but that communication in writing, without facial expression and voice tone and the like, is prone to sounding a lot harsher than it likely would face-to-face. Especially if someone is prone to hyperbole, sarcasm, irony and so on, the lack of voice tone and facial expression tends to have a huge negative impact on "tone".

That's also true ... I'm a practitioner of sarcasm myself and have to be very careful not to use (overuse) it on the Internet. But if you work hard enough, you can convey tone through your writing.

I think the two other culprits are the de-personification that can so easily occur in our interactions and the tendency to interpret statements with the worst possible meanings. This problem never seems to happen when the person is someone we know in "real life".

Enough with the thread hijacking :) ... and if this gets much deeper I'll have to consult with my psychologist wife as I'm sure there are proper terms for most of these behaviors. (And yes ... I am her live-in case study)

When I saw two launching today I automatically thought this had to do with the economy souring. I had just read Jeff Clavier's tweet:

Just maybe? The VC industry is going to wake up and go back to value investing - not FOMO throwing cash at everything, no matter the price

But Dave McLure says it's business as usual


Nice! Its always good to see them. Tip: Dont launch your product if you are not in YC. Chances of getting coverage are none. They will get it all!

Thanks for the reminder. It's easy to get jaded about this stuff, but you're right. Good luck on demo day everyone.

Does anyone know of any blogs from YC founders that cover the personal struggles and conquest of these final 2 weeks before Demo Day? I think it would be a great read (even if they were bit sized entries) to find out what it's like to be under such enormous pressure but on the precipice of your big moment.

Good luck guys! Take feedback with a grain of salt and stay focused on your vision.

It looks like Techcrunch is getting the scoop on every single launch.

alternative suggestion...if you are about to launch a new startup...hold off for a month or so.

no sense in wasting the launch PR boost when everyone is getting swarmed with pitches

Good luck everyone!

@jcr "the facebook for unicorns" FTW

Congrats to everyone.

I'd just say it here, once and for all - YC startups suck

Yup, every last one of them :)

I doubt you really stand behind that. Maybe you really mean, for example, that a majority of the YC startups make things that aren't useful to you.

I get the impression I am missing some "in" joke. :-/

There was a popular Bay Area band called Primus that used 'Primus sucks' as their catchphrase for a while.

Perhaps it's a reference.

There's no in joke (I don't know helwr). My first sentence was meant to be sarcastic. I was encouraging helwr to explain his/her opinion, since saying "YC startups suck" without any further explanation doesn't really contribute anything.

They have quite high karma (as in "they are on the leader board") but their profile states nothing about them. I was assuming you knew something about them from their comment history. (I am sort of guessing they either were funded by YC or applied and got rejected or some such, but I don't really feel like doing some massive search of the site or combing through all their comments/posts to confirm my hunch.)

They have 919 submissions, the top 142 of which have between 11 and 252 points. They only have 206 comments by comparison; their second-highest-rated comment was a direct link to a pdf of Hacker Monthly #2.

HN search is a bit out of sync, e.g. see the top result here: http://www.hnsearch.com/search#request/all&q=by%3Ahelwr+...

and the actual link: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2403290

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