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Tell HN: You can have 80% of my startup for $1
65 points by kabuks on Dec 6, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 39 comments
I started classparrot.com after I won startup weekend about three months ago.

Site was up and running one week later. We got great press. And an average of 50 teachers signing up per day. Our customers love what we do, and we have several paying schools and teachers. We definitely made something that people want.

The code is built on rails 3.1. It's clean and readable, but no test coverage. We use twilio on the backend.

Even though there's tons of competition out there, and the space is getting crowded, I think classparrot has huge potential. It needs a good hacker who is willing to play around with the business model and payment plans to find a sweet spot. And continue to build out features and reach out to new customers.

I'm giving it away to the right person, because I want to focus 100% on devbootcamp.com and I want classparrot's customers to be taken care of.




It's a great idea. Only thing is that the person who agrees to develop it further has to realize they will be assuming the twilio fees for all your existing customers as well, which would be $5 for each new teacher, plus $2 a month per teacher - assuming a large number of them are starting with the free service.


If someone wants to take this on, but defer the billing for the Twilio usage to the end user, this would make a great candidate for Twilio Connect (http://www.twilio.com/api/connect)


Yeah, I agree it's a great idea - but there are some unanswered questions.

What are the monthly expenses?


Sorry, I don't know much about twilio. Why is it so high? I thought it was $1/month for a number, plus 1c per text (sent or received).

I'm not sure you would need 1 number per teacher anyway. All you would need is 1 number, assuming a 1:N relationship between students and teachers. If there were 10 1:N relationships between students and teachers (some students had 10 teachers in the system), you'd just need 10 numbers.

But like I said, I've just scanned the front page of Twilio. Don't rely on what I've said.


1 cent a text - he offers 500 free texts to start and 200 a month free as well. i'm assuming those will all get used. Read the FAQ.


OK, so that's up to $7 signup (including invite bonus) plus $2 a month. I'd hope that most will not use it so much, and many who do would sign up. Otherwise, it would be time to prune the free quota.


I definitely think the free quota should be pruned. It's also worth considering NOT using a fremium model.


As a devbootcamp.com inaugural class hopeful, I'm glad to see your commitment to the project. (BTW, last I heard there were still a few seats remaining for Dev Bootcamp. If you were considering applying, I encourage you to take that step today!)

Just one question: What do you plan on doing with the $1 from your "exit"? :-)


Here are the stats http://admin:twisted@classparrot.com/stats

Main expenses are hosting: $36/month on heroku, and phone numbers: $15/month for twilio

The twilio bill can be calculated by dividing the number of Single Texts by 100


Emailed to discuss.


"[...] tech companies build their products with rails: Linkedin (I think their main "product" is written in Java), Twitter (who dropped a lot of Ruby code for Java/Scala with a thin web layer left), Amazon (Their "product" is written in Rails?)"

I wish people would not bend the truth in such a way for marketing purposes.


Amazon has multiple products. Unspun is an example of one that's written in rails http://37signals.com/svn/posts/138-amazon-goes-unspun-with-r...

Twitter has multiple job openings asking for rails engineers http://twitter.com/jobs/positions?jvi=oZ3FVfwm,Job

Linkedin has a RoR app that once got over 1 billion page views a month http://www.zdnet.com/blog/enterprisealley/ruby-on-rails-scal...

I don't like market speak any more than you do, but these are the best examples of large-scale ror applications I could find


Amazon has one product: Their shop (yes they have some minor stuff, but when people talk about Amazon they talk about the shop, maybe Payments)

Twitter has one product: The API that is taking the tweets and distributing it to the streams of users (yes the may have some other minor products or utility software)

Linkein has one product: Their career/contact website (yes they may have some other products)

When you cite those companies as using Rails for their products, I'd assume - and I have no data to support this - people have those products in mind.


What are you quoting from?


from Devbootcamp.com


A friend and I just left our jobs to do a startup in education. We both have about 4 years experience working with LMS and ELARs and are interested in the possibility of integrating your business into ours. If you'd like, we could talk over email about the details of my business, monetization plans, etc. to see if we'd be a good fit (perhaps, if the value added is significant enough we could keep a free model for classparrot, etc).

I am going to PM you my email.


I guess I can't do that, I'll send you an email at shereef@classparrot.com.


I'll take it! In all seriousness I am extremely interested in the idea. I am a programmer who has been considering startups in the education space and I think classparrot is something that could really make an impact on modern schooling.

Additionally, I have a team of talented programmers ready to get behind the project and capital is not an issue for us. You can email me at sawsym at hotmail.com. Thanks for your consideration.


While I'm not interested in taking this, I am very curious as to the metrics and trying to sift through the data to find useful information, like the number of unique SMS addresses sent to, and how many times on average each user sends messages, and to how many students. Is it a teacher sending to 1 class of 30, a lecture of 200, or the entire day's worth of student (multiple classes, but it's the same assignments and due dates). If anyone picks this up I would be willing to try to sift through the data or add the logging code to get the data (email in profile). I don't know what the stats page already has since it's breaking on me.

My immediate thought was to try to shift as many messages to email as you can, either through email direct or email->SMS. Then you could split the plans into X emails, Y SMS per month for $Z. That way you could tier the plans, potentially creating something for schools to buy to let all their teachers use.


It looks like a great idea and website. Me and two friends are going to graduate soon from a BS in Computer Engineering and we love to hear more details (expenses!). We are seriously considering a startup but we lack a good idea. We have some knowledge in: Ruby, Ruby on Rails, DB (SQLite, MySQL), Linux, Apache, Javascript, HTML and CSS (including using Bootstrap). Please contact me here: http://goo.gl/kgLWc so we can share details if you're interested. Thanks.


I'm a partner at a small but mature think-tank and business consulting company in Boston. We are an idea company at heart and have a strong track record in growing technology based joint ventures. In this case I would personally put the right people in the right seats to really get things rolling. If you'd like the business to evolve while you're working on devbootcamp, give me a ping at le@cirrosystems.com. I would love to chat more.


Know what.. I need to get some sleep because that message was really generic. We just have lots of great projects that shouldn't be in the public eye at the moment. Well, let me know!


We sent email, we're waiting for reply, this can really help our charity be successful right around the world www.essere.com.au ...we're already working with kids low self stream and living skills problems around the world, now we could help them with classroom problem too.. we really need something like this.... we can save kids life with this.. thanks for the update twilio you guys are awesome.... Timmy Holt :)


Hello - how much custom rails code is currently used on this site? I am interested in this project, but only work on the .net platform. My inclination would be todo a ground-up rewrite, leveraging the work you have done - do you feel strongly about keeping it in rails?


Maybe try selling it on Flippa? http://flippa.com


I considered it.

A couple of things kept me from doing it:

1. 20% of classparrot well-managed will probably be much more valuable that what I can get on flippa right now.

2. The 2000+ teachers on classparrot right now seem to me to be genuinely decent and good people, who are really enjoying the service. A part of me feels very loyal to them, and wants to make sure they get treated right


Will you allow us to take control of it here in Australia, we have NDA with twilio for other country? timmyholt@gmail.com


Hi Shereef,

I sent you an e-mail a few days ago about my interest in your offer. Did you receive it? I'm sure you've got a lot of messages to respond to, but I just want to make sure you got my response.

Drew http://goo.gl/bERYB


I would hate to look a gift horse in the mouth but, whom will be retaining the other 20%? Just curious.

All considering I'm interested -- I operate a hosting provider and would love to take this off your hands to help out the users and keep it rolling.


I would like to retain the other 20%


IMO 20% is very little steep to keep. Granted you launched the product, got lucky with press, and got some signups, but there is no clear way to make money, which is arguably the most difficult problem to solve. What if the correct business model requires a huge pivot? I think 5-7% would be more reasonable as the person inheriting it is effectively just buying a userbase.


80% of 2000+ teachers is 1600+ teachers. So essentially you are saying that buying a user base of 1600 users for a $1 is a bad deal? If he was charging for this I might agree with you but at $1 it is a steal for someone looking for an idea to hit the ground running with.


$1 + 20% equity. 20% equity is huge especially considering he will no longer work the project. That is 1/5th of the company.


4 downvotes and no comment to even suggest why my thoughts might be off. This is why I love HN.


I'm a business/tech founder and very interested, also like to know the expense side and what competitors are in the same space.


Is there a reason you don't just use the various email to sms gateways provided by the carriers?


No. There isn't an absolute reason.

It's not straight forward to implement. And will be more buggy for a while. Also, there's rumors that carriers shut down the gateways if the traffic is too high. Come to think of it there are a couple of reasons. But it's definitely worth trying.


Fyi, I'm currently getting an application error.


Sorry. It's timing out. The stats page wasn't designed for many people accessing it at the same time. A few hundred queries there.




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