tag:blog.ycombinator.com,2013:/posts Y Combinator Posthaven 2014-11-21T20:59:20Z Y Combinator tag:blog.ycombinator.com,2013:Post/767852 2014-11-10T19:17:22Z 2014-11-21T20:59:20Z An Update on Hacker News I frequently get asked about the changes we’ve made and are making to Hacker News, so I wanted to share some updates.  A lot of people feel strongly about HN.  It’s an important part of the startup community and we want it to be both the best source of news and discussion about technology and startups and also welcoming for everyone, especially groups that have historically been marginalized in the tech industry.

First, I want to thank the community for all the work people have done over the past six months to downvote, flag, and comment on content that doesn’t fit the site guidelines.  It’s a lot of work, but it has a huge impact and we hope users will continue to do it. I’d also like to thank dang and sctb for all the work they’ve done as moderators and with software to increase story and comment quality.

Traffic is up about 30% over this period, and we'd like to think that the increase in quality and decrease in toxic comments is the main reason.

There is much more to do, of course, and there are still comments that have no place on HN, but we’re happy that we've heard from so many users that feel the quality has increased.

I'm sometimes asked how historically marginalized users can help shape the HN community when the karma threshold for down voting inappropriate comments is high. It's a fair question, and we are experimenting with lowering the downvoting threshold.  Also, the best way to deal with inappropriate comments is to flag them.  To do so, click "link" next to the comment timestamp and then "flag".  The threshold for flagging is low (only 30 karma), so nearly everyone can help there.

To prevent abuse, moderators review flagged stories and comments and revoke flagging privileges from users who flag inappropriately.

We changed two things about flagging recently. First, we lowered the threshold for flags to kill inappropriate comments. We're watching the data closely in order to unkill comments that have been flagged unfairly, but there are few such cases.  Most of the time this only happens to comments none of us want on the site.

Second, we've started indicating in the UI which comments/stories have been killed by user flags.

A third experiment didn't go so well: we briefly made the software kill comments that had been sufficiently downvoted. Many users objected, arguing that killing downvoted comments is too harsh a punishment for unpopular opinions, especially since downvoted comments get faded to begin with.  We heard that and reversed the change.

In general, though, these experiments in community moderation seem to be succeeding, and we plan to do more of them.
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Sam Altman
tag:blog.ycombinator.com,2013:Post/766448 2014-11-06T23:42:17Z 2014-11-18T14:40:02Z Welcome, Ali I'm delighted to announce that Ali Rowghani is joining YC as a part-time partner.  He will mostly focus on helping our alumni that are a few years out of YC scale their companies, but I’m sure the current batch will enjoy getting to know him as well.

Though we've traditionally focused on helping very early-stage companies, our successful companies have asked for help on topics like scaling operations, managing hypergrowth, building out management teams, etc.

Ali is a perfect fit for helping YC companies with these scaling questions.  Ali was the CFO at Pixar, where he spent 9 years working closely with Ed Catmull and Steve Jobs.  In 2010, he joined Twitter as its first CFO, at a time when Twitter had about 100 employees, 20 million users, and virtually no revenue.  In late 2012, he became Twitter's COO and took on many additional responsibilities within the company.

Welcome, Ali!

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Sam Altman
tag:blog.ycombinator.com,2013:Post/761608 2014-10-28T23:47:06Z 2014-11-18T00:47:03Z We Make Mistakes We’ve just finished reviewing applications for the Winter 2015 batch and have sent out invitations for interviews. In this cycle we saw a +40% increase in the number of companies applying over the Summer 2014 batch. 

Reviewing this many companies is a humbling experience and one we take very seriously. Most of us who work for YC are alums and understand the gravity and emotion that can go into submissions. We know it’s tough to separate your own identity from the company you have founded so applying can be quite personal.

If you applied, you should not take our evaluation as either a final judgment or perfect assessment of your company. This applies to both the companies that did and did not get invited to interviews. We are sure we missed some great companies as a byproduct of operating at this scale. Don’t let funding take your eye off the goal: making something people want. Everything else, including going through Y Combinator, is there to support that goal but is not the goal itself.

We also wanted to take this opportunity to thank our alumni publicly. They are the invisible hand that helps our small organization with this significant task. Often YC founders themselves will tell you that the best thing about YC is to learn from a cohort of like minds with similar ambitions. YC would not work without the 1,400+ alumni founders who take their time to help us and each other.

Finally, many companies at this stage can seem small but we noticed that they are more ambitious than ever. We love that. It refutes the meme that early stage companies today are too myopic or working on incremental improvements. It’s an easy complaint to lob at founders who are in the field toiling away but one that seems to be off the mark.

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Qasar Younis
tag:blog.ycombinator.com,2013:Post/755335 2014-10-14T21:39:12Z 2014-10-23T05:29:56Z Humble Bundle (YC W11) is going truly multiplatform

The Humble Bundles offer a variety of interesting games at low prices, with the idea that selling in volume will make up for the lower per-game price.

So far they've been correct, with the bundles raising large amounts of money for both the developers involved in the bundle and a rotating selection of charities. Players are also offered a bonus if they pay over the average price, and that bonus usually includes more games or soundtracks.

The latest bundle offers something different, however. The games have been ported to a platform-agnostic Humble wrapper that will allow you to play each of the games inside your browser, no matter if you're using a Linux, Mac or Windows-based system. This is a new frontier for Humble, and they're excited about what it means for the future.

Read the full story on Polygon

Get the Humble Mozilla Bundle here
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Y Combinator
tag:blog.ycombinator.com,2013:Post/755203 2014-10-14T16:09:27Z 2014-11-20T07:40:36Z Startup School 2014 Recap and Videos If you missed Startup School 2014, the videos are now on YouTube.

 

Notes from the 10th anniversary of Startup School: 

Ron Conway, SVAngel

Are entrepreneurs made or born? According to Ron Conway, who has invested in over 700 companies with SVAngel, good entrepreneurs are born with certain traits:

1.     Strong work ethic
2.     Ambition
3.     Aggressiveness
4.     Toughness
5.     Curiosity
6.     Intelligence

In Ron’s words, being a founder is a vocation. Your company becomes your religion, and it always ends up coming first. So before you start a startup you need to ask yourself “Am I willing to work 24/7?” “Am I willing to sacrifice?”

On cofounders: Starting a company is so hard that there are very few successful startups with solo founders. As an investor, it’s important to know how founders interact with each other. The cofounder relationship cannot be forced. Most founding teams were collaborating, came up with an idea and decided to build it together. Paul Graham summed up the conversation saying: “You don’t just want to work on interesting problems, you want to work on interesting problems with people.”

What do the best founders do? They have to be rifle-focused on the product and nothing else. “Focus on the product and business follows.”

Danae Ringelmann, Indiegogo

During her time as an investment banker on Wall Street, Danae Ringelmann found her inspiration for Indiegogo when she produced a play for famous playwright Arthur Miller and couldn’t successfully help him raise money for it from investors.

Feeling rejected by the “gatekeepers of capital,” Danae sought to democratize access to capital and founded what eventually became Indiegogo.

Danae looked back at her six years at Indiegogo and gave founders three important things to consider as you grow a company:

Know your WHY. Understand WHY you do what you do. Dig into what is driving you to solve the problem you’ve set out to solve. Indiegogo’s mission was to democratize access to capital because its founders believed the world should be more fair. Being driven by a clear WHY helps get you through tough times, guides strategy, makes hiring easier and attracts passionate users.

Be intentional with culture. Define your values at the very beginning so everyone is aligned with the company’s mission. When hiring, seek to bring together people who have a variety of backgrounds, ideas, experiences and perspectives. But they should all align on values. Just as you track other metrics (users, revenue), you should keep track of your company culture metrics. Some ways to measure this are eNPS (happiness) and OKR (productivity) scores.

Technology is a means, not an end. Define a problem and use technology to build something the world really needs.

Kevin Systrom, Instagram

If there’s one thing to know about life strategy, it’s that there is no perfect next move. From working on side projects at Stanford to working at Google and eventually founding Instagram, Kevin Systrom urged the Startup School audience to “have a bias toward action.” Keep moving, learning and making progress.

In terms of technical skill, you don’t have to be the best – you just need to know enough to be dangerous. When working on a startup, entrepreneurs learn the leadership, teamwork and engineering skills they need to run a company. You can’t expect to have the best idea or know everything going into the process.

When founding a social media company, Kevin stressed that Instagram’s #1 value was “community first.”  Instagram’s first hire was a community manager, and the users of the photo-sharing app are what made it so successful.

Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn

Despite founding the Facebook for professionals (or the “Friendster for professionals” as investors called it back in the day), Reid Hoffman advises entrepreneurs to stay away from starting a derivative business (Airbnb for Dogs, Uber for X).  Instead of seeking direct competition, do something contrarian and enter a space with little to no noise. Reid founded LinkedIn in 2003 when there wasn’t much social media.

Now an investor at Greylock Partners, Reid divulged several questions he asks startups looking to raise funds. Can it scale to hundreds of millions of people? Is this a capable team? Reid asks, “Is this how the world should be? Is the initial plan a good shot at changing how it works?”

An important lesson to entrepreneurs fundraising is to only raise as much money as you need. Founders are tempted to raise the largest Series A round, but forget they might be sacrificing quantity over quality. Even if it means taking funding from an investor who gives the lowest valuation, choose your investors for the guidance they will provide.

Jim Goetz, Sequoia Capital & Jan Koum, WhatsApp

On stage with Jim Goetz from Sequoia Capital, Jan Koum talked about the early days of WhatsApp. “I don’t think I ever decided to start a company,” said Jan. He built a product he wanted to use himself and realized other people wanted it too and were willing to pay for it.

For a long time, the WhatsApp team stayed under the radar intentionally so they could focus on product. They ignored press and countless emails from top tier Sand Hill Road investors before accepting Sequoia’s term sheet.

In fact, WhatsApp was not pressured to fundraise at all. “We were able to choose our partners because we had revenue.” WhatsApp charged users $0.99/month, and was self-funded.

An “unconventional background”: If you think you have an “unconventional background” for a startup founder, you’re probably wrong.  After dropping out of San Jose State University to work at Yahoo in 1998, Jan probably didn’t fit the bill of the typical Silicon Valley entrepreneur. By spending over 9 years as an engineer at Yahoo in its growth stages, Jan developed the chops to build WhatsApp.

Eric Migicovsky, Pebble

Even if all you have are some parts to put together a makeshift prototype, it’s worth taking that first step towards making your vision a reality. The first version of the Pebble smartwatch was a cell phone screen and Arduino.

With a team of engineers and industrial designers, a 3D printed watch with working electronics became a branded smartwatch called the inPulse.  

With a working prototype and limited access to funding as college students at the University of Waterloo, Eric and his team participated in numerous pitch competitions. When you don’t have VC money to fund your project, be scrappy and creative. When Pebble couldn’t get VC funding after their YC demo day, they turned to Kickstarter and became one of the largest funded projects on the crowdfunding platform ever. In 30 days, Pebble got over $10 million and 70,000 customers through Kickstarter.

Andrew Mason, Detour and Groupon

In his first public interview post-Groupon, Andrew Mason talked about his path from The Point to Groupon to Detour. Groupon started as a side project at Andrew’s first company The Point, but almost immediately after launching, Groupon started growing exponentially and the team decided it was time to shift their focus to the group buying “coupon” site. Groupon became the fastest growing company in history.

While Groupon was the first mover in group deals, it was an easily replicable business. Rapid feedback loops were essential to the growing the business – the team was pushing out new versions as quickly as possible. To enter new markets, Groupon was receptive to making acquisitions.

On both acquiring and getting acquired, Andrew had a lot of lessons to share. When acquiring companies, it is essential that the acquihires have the same values as the CEO. In the face of rapid growth, it is unsurprising that tech giants approached Groupon to acquire them. But if you think your company will keep growing exponentially, keep growing and don’t sell.

On exiting to the public markets, Andrew thinks that going public is awful and Groupon would have been better off if it hadn’t done so. A lot of time is wasted on financial reporting and the incentive to think short term is incredibly strong. Releasing performance on your company every quarter wastes time and forces your company to think in the short term.

Michelle Zatlyn & Matthew Prince, CloudFlare

The founders of CloudFlare had insights on finding cofounders and hiring. Instead of thinking about who should be your CEO, COO and CTO, think of it like you’re hiring the best salesperson, organizational manager and top-notch engineer. "If you’re cofounders and you’re fighting about who does what, you’re probably in the wrong founding team,” said Matthew Prince. “We asked, ‘Do we cover a lot of surface area? Do we have complementary skill sets? Do we trust each other,” said Michelle Zatlyn.

In terms of what to look for in your employees, hire people with great adjacent experiences over someone who has done exactly what the role is set up for.  If someone has deep experience in the role they are looking for, they may not be as open minded to thinking creatively and may forget to check their assumptions.

Hosain Rahman, Jawbone

Even in a terrible market, don’t give up. Since it’s founding, Jawbone has had a number of near death experiences that could have closed its doors for good. After the market crash in 2001, funding was extremely limited and building a hardware company was capital intensive. Founder Hosain Rahman kept the lights on with DARPA funding in Jawbone’s early days.

The first Jawbone headset was built in 2003, and thanks to brutal feedback from a panel of design experts (including Steve Jobs), Hosain and the team realized they could no longer compromise the product to meet an aggressive product release timetable. They focused on the product’s problem areas and went from $0-70M revenue in one year. “When you focus ruthlessly...you can transform your business overnight,” urged Hosain.

A critical time for Jawbone was the transition to the Internet of Things, on top of being an electronics company. Jawbone’s team had translated what they learned in headsets and sensors to health, creating what would become the top selling Jawbone Up.

Emmett Shear, Twitch

You can’t learn how to be an entrepreneur until you try it, and don’t give up. Before Justin.tv and Twitch, Emmett Shear and Justin Kan built six different startup ideas in one and a half years. "ADD prevents you from succeeding, but we learned a lot about coding,” said Emmett. Though none of those initial ideas took off, the team gained programming and prototyping skills and learned what it would take to eventually run and scale Twitch.

Emmett highlighted the skills founders themselves should have:

Know the product and engineering behind it. Have the technical skills to understand how your product is built and know how to communicate effectively with your engineering team.

Know how to scale. The first step is building a great product, but the next step is to keep growing your user base. A great product is nothing without its customers.

Know how to hire and manage. Once you find the right employees for your company who are talented and committed, it’s important to know how to motivate them and cultivate company culture.

And last but not least, know how to talk to your customers. One of Twitch’s greatest strengths was figuring out customer needs and cycling through feedback to constantly improve the product.

- Kat Mañalac and Natalie Luu 

Elsewhere: 
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Y Combinator
tag:blog.ycombinator.com,2013:Post/752662 2014-10-08T18:22:49Z 2014-10-23T13:14:07Z SoundFocus (YC S13) launches iPhone Amp for amazing speakerphone calls with better mic, speakers and software

Is there a more loved, yet deeply hated part of the iPhone than the speaker? On one hand, it lets you take your calls without holding the phone up to your face. You can also use it while watching videos or listening to music without headphones, and — of course — hear calls coming in from afar. On the other hand, it’s pretty terrible for listening to music, if you’ve ever tried to use it for music at a barbecue or, god forbid, on public transit.

Inventors Alex Selig and Varun Srinivasan have come up with a specialty iPhone case that they believe solves both these problems. It’s called the Amp and it’s one part speaker, and one part microphone. It listens to ambient noise and adjusts what you’re playing to compensate. It’s not really noise cancellation; think of it more like adaptive EQ.

Selig and Srinivasan, who met while working at Microsoft, call the feature dynamic noise reduction. It analyzes music and noise, and tunes elements of the music accordingly. It’s constantly listening to what’s around you using the microphone array built into the Amp case, and it compensates for what it hears during the last 10 seconds, making changes within 5 seconds of noticing a difference in ambient noise. How does this work in real life? Say you’re walking along the city street and bunch of cars and buses start driving by. The sound will get adjusted in a way that’s not louder, just more discernible, Srinivasan says.

Read the full article at The Verge

Pre-order The Amp right now
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Garry Tan
tag:blog.ycombinator.com,2013:Post/752210 2014-10-07T20:11:32Z 2014-10-07T20:11:32Z Making Event Data The Language Of Business Intelligence, Interana (YC W13) Emerges From Stealth

Interana, the stealthy startup founded by a who’s-who of programmers behind the new architecture of today’s brightest tech businesses, is taking the covers off its technology to turn event data into the lingua franca of business intelligence.

Founded by the dynamic husband and wife duo of Ann Johnson, a former Intel executive, and Bobby Johnson, who literally was the man behind Facebook’s adoption of Hadoop, development of Hive and the author of Scribe and Haystack; and Lior Abraham, who invented Facebook’s SCUBA interface for its staff; Interana is the enterprise company that was down from day one.

Read the full story on TechCrunch
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Y Combinator
tag:blog.ycombinator.com,2013:Post/752134 2014-10-07T17:38:27Z 2014-11-12T12:43:37Z Hacker News API Today we’re excited to launch an official Hacker News API. We’ve partnered up with Firebase (YC S11) so that the data we’re making available will be near real time, which should be a huge improvement for developers who had to rely on scraping the site for this info.

The API is available at https://hacker-news.firebaseio.com/ with some initial documentation and a few examples written by our own Nick Sivo on the Hacker News Github account. Currently, it’s read only, but we hope to improve it over time and may later enable access to private per-user data using OAuth.

Most importantly, the reason we released an API is so that we can start modernizing the markup on Hacker News. Because there are a lot of apps and projects out there that rely on scraping the site to access the data inside it, we decided it would be best to release a proper API and give everyone time to convert their code before we launch any new HTML. 

Our goal is to switch to a new rendering engine (still powered by Arc) in three weeks (Oct 28). This new markup will allow us to iterate faster on the frontend and finally make Hacker News mobile optimized.

This is one of the reasons why we chose to partner with Firebase. In addition to giving developers near real-time access to our data, we got out of the box well designed, easy to use SDKs for iOS, Android and the Web, in addition to a REST API for developers building server apps. It should hopefully make switching your apps fairly painless.

Many thanks to the YC Software Team for making this happen (specifically kogir, dang and sctb). If you have any questions or feedback about the API, you can send them over to api@ycombinator.com.

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Kevin Hale
tag:blog.ycombinator.com,2013:Post/752132 2014-10-07T17:20:04Z 2014-10-07T18:34:46Z BuildZoom (YC W13) raises $2.15M from Formation 8, others for its home improvement contractor platform

As if big data and data science haven’t been reshaping every service and product we use already, it’s about to make shopping for a home improvement contractor hopefully that much better.

BuildZoom, a Y Combinator-backed startup that announced today it has raised $2.15 million, uses big data to find you the most suitable home improvement professionals based on their permits and history of projects.

Read the full article at VentureBeat

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Garry Tan
tag:blog.ycombinator.com,2013:Post/752075 2014-10-07T15:49:42Z 2014-10-09T13:34:53Z Learn about Startups with YC at Carnegie Mellon University (Thur, Oct 9) How do you come up with an idea?
How do you raise money from investors?
What’s it really like to start a startup?

Join us at Carnegie Mellon University (Doherty Hall 2315) on Thursday, October 9 from 5:30pm-7:30pm for a short talk and Q&A with:

Qasar Younis
Partner, Y Combinator
YC Winter 2011 Alum

Rick Morrison
Founder, Comprehend
YC Winter 2011 and CMU Alum

Qasar and Rick will be doing one-on-one office hours before the talk. You can sign up for office hours here.

Food & drink will be provided. We're looking forward to meeting you! 

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Y Combinator
tag:blog.ycombinator.com,2013:Post/745831 2014-09-23T22:58:45Z 2014-10-04T11:29:52Z Gobble (YC W14) Promises To Help Customers Make Delicious Meals In 10 Minutes Or Less

If you like the idea of cooking, but not, y’know, the actual work (or the fact that the food might turn out pretty badly), then Gobble may be the startup for you. And I don’t mean that in a condescending way. When I try to cook, I do a decent job of frying an egg or boiling spaghetti, but anything more than that and I start to nervous. So I feel like I’m on Gobble’s wavelength.

In some ways, the Gobble model sounds similar to services like Blue Apron and Plated— it takes the pain of meal-planning and shopping out of the cooking process by delivering the ingredients and recipes for a set number of meals each week.

However, there’s a difference between Gobble and what founder Ooshma Garg called the “ingredient boxes.” Basically, Garg’s team takes care of a lot more of the prep work, cleaning and cutting the vegetables, as well as marinating the meat, to give you a “dinner kit” that can be prepared in 10 minutes or less, with just one pan. 

Read the full story on TechCrunch]]>
Y Combinator
tag:blog.ycombinator.com,2013:Post/741866 2014-09-15T16:03:07Z 2014-10-09T00:26:50Z YC office hours at Hack the North

Y Combinator partners and alumni will be hosting office hours at Hack the North at the University of Waterloo on Saturday, 9/20 from 2pm-5pm ET. Office hours will be 20 minutes each. 

Sign up for a slot here

If you're selected, we'll reach out with your time slot, who you'll be meeting with, and the location.

Hope to see you there! 

- YC Team
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Y Combinator
tag:blog.ycombinator.com,2013:Post/739814 2014-09-12T16:39:01Z 2014-10-04T11:30:07Z Last day to apply for Startup School Today is the last day to apply for Startup School, which will be hosted in Cupertino, CA on October 11. 

Apply here.

Speakers include:

Ron Conway
Founder and Special Advisor, SV Angel

Jim Goetz
Partner, Sequoia Capital 

Reid Hoffman
Founder and Executive Chairman, LinkedIn

Jan Koum 
Founder and CEO, WhatsApp

Andrew Mason
Founder, Detour and Groupon

Eric Migicovsky
Founder and CEO, Pebble

Hosain Rahman
Founder and CEO, Jawbone

Danae Ringelmann 
Founder and Chief Development Officer, Indiegogo

Emmett Shear
Founder and CEO, Twitch 

Michelle Zatlyn
Founder, CloudFlare

We hope to see you there!
YC Team

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Y Combinator
tag:blog.ycombinator.com,2013:Post/740604 2014-09-12T15:41:36Z 2014-11-03T23:55:22Z New Requests for Startups We've updates some of the RFSes, and also added some new ones:

http://www.ycombinator.com/rfs/

As a reminder, these mostly exist to get you thinking about ideas.  We'll very happily fund startups that have nothing to do with anything on this list.

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Sam Altman
tag:blog.ycombinator.com,2013:Post/738308 2014-09-08T17:23:24Z 2014-10-26T01:29:09Z Exploding Offers Suck Exploding offers suck.  Founders should be able to choose the investor they want to work with, not have to make a decision based on time pressure.

As the world of accelerators gets more and more competitive, we’re seeing more and more exploding offers where an accelerator tries to force a company to make a decision about a funding offer before the company has a chance to finish talking to other accelerators.

This is terrible behavior.  It may be the best thing for accelerators to use time pressure to get founders to accept their offer, but it’s definitely not the best thing for founders. 

I want to make our stance on this public: after we make you an offer, we’ll give you until the beginning of our program to decide (though most companies accept quickly, because you can’t start having office hours with us and participating in other ways until you accept).  We ask companies to be transparent with us about needing more time--we won't rescind our offer.  It’s usually about 45 days from interview to the start of the batch.

Some accelerators use a line about needing to make an announcement about who is in the upcoming batch—which, again, is maybe in the interest of the accelerator but the company should launch when it’s ready.  Sometimes they say they have a fixed amount of desk space, but in practice, if a good company wants to join late, they always make room.

We encourage all other accelerators to join us on this.  It should be an easy yes.  Exploding offers are the wrong thing for founders, and an accelerator that does the wrong thing for founders will not last long.

And founders should think very hard about joining an accelerator that puts forth a short-fuse offer.

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Sam Altman
tag:blog.ycombinator.com,2013:Post/736630 2014-09-04T21:47:36Z 2014-09-28T06:31:24Z YC Investment Policy and Email List We’re making a change to the rule for YC partners making follow-on investments.  Previously, partners could invest in companies after they had either raised $500k or 3 weeks after Demo Day.  This reduced a lot of the conflict and signaling issues, but not enough—partners investing during the batch still caused issues.  So the new rule is that partners can only invest some amount of time after Demo Day (we’ll experiment a little to figure out exactly how long) or as part of a Series A. 

Our hope is that this will further reduce investors looking for signal from YC partners.

We put this policy in place for the summer 2014 batch, and it seems to be working well.

We will continue to make exceptions to the investing rules when a company is running out of money and about to die, but we think they are good and no one else wants to invest.  We may make other exceptions, which uninvolved partners will approve on a case-by-case basis.

While I’m on the topic of reducing conflicts, I also want to talk about our relationship with VCs.  Over the years, we’ve had direct LP (with Sequoia) or LP-like (with Andreessen Horowitz, Maverick Capital, SV Angel, Yuri Milner, General Catalyst, and Khosla Ventures) relationships with several VC firms.  This caused other investors a lot of consternation.

We still like all those firms a lot, and they continue to invest in a lot of our companies.  But they no longer have LP relationships with us, and no information rights or anything like that.  We do still have some VCs come in and meet companies about 10 days before Demo Day so they can get some pitch practice.  We expect to rotate through a list of trusted investors for different batches.

In the interest of a level playing field, we have created a new email distribution list that we will use for all of our companies raising rounds outside of Demo Day (before or after).  We'll use this email list instead of individual introductions so that we don't unintentionally miss an investor who might be really interested in a company.

The rules for membership are simple—5 total investments in YC companies of any size or 2 big ones, a positive reputation among our alumni, and no history of bad behavior like breaking term sheets without great cause, pressuring founders into advisor shares in addition to an investment alongside others in a round, etc.

We will of course continue to make introductions to newer investors not on this list as it makes sense.  In fact, some day, we’d like to have a larger distribution channel for all interested investors that we’d send companies to and integrate with some crowdfunding companies.  But we have to sort through the rules around that first.

In general, we don’t start introducing startups to investors until a maximum of 10 days before Demo Day (and most wait until Demo Day).  We also suggest startups take at least about 10 days to get to know major investors before making a decision.  We appreciate investors cooperating with us on this; it’s in everyone’s best interest for the startups to be able to focus on their product during the YC batch.

This should address all of the issues around investing we’re currently aware of at YC.

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Sam Altman
tag:blog.ycombinator.com,2013:Post/736005 2014-09-03T15:59:53Z 2014-11-14T15:40:40Z Founder Stories: Tracy Young of PlanGrid (YC W12)

PlanGrid founders Tracy Young, Kenny Stone, Ryan Sutton-Gee and Ralph Gootee

Tracy Young is the founder and CEO of PlanGrid, an app that lets construction companies store blueprints and documents on mobile devices. Since going through the YC’s Winter 2012 batch, PlanGrid has grown from a team of 4 to 40 and now hosts over 9 million blueprints in their cloud.

We talked about what it’s like going from construction sites to a startup, losing a co-founder to cancer, and building PlanGrid with her best friends and husband.

Q: How did PlanGrid get started?

A: Ryan Sutton-Gee and I went to Sacramento State where we majored in construction management. After we graduated I went to work for a construction management firm in the Bay Area and Ryan went to Stanford to get his Masters.

We were construction engineers—with hardhats and safety boots—and we were shocked by how inefficient the construction industry was. We were specifically surprised by how bad paper blueprints are. Blueprints are constantly changing so it's difficult to physically ship paper out to every single field worker on the jobsite and ensure they’re looking at the most current information. It's also heavy, cumbersome and expensive, but the biggest problem is accidentally building off outdated drawings which happens often.

Version control of construction data is a huge problem, and there was no software to help manage it. It was so obvious that there shouldn’t be paper blueprints. You should be able to stick them in the cloud and view them on mobile devices.

Ryan and I started working on a blueprint app as a side project. We were two domain experts who didn’t have a technical cofounder, so we convinced our friend, Antoine Hersen, to join us. Antoine agreed to join on the condition that he would be PlanGrid's Chief Mad Scientist. He’d gone to Sacramento State, too, and was based in Chicago working as a high frequency trading engineer.  

I also got my boyfriend at the time, Ralph Gootee, to join us as well. He was a rendering engineer at Pixar Animations.

Q: At what point did you decide to apply to YC?

A: Antoine and Ryan had always wanted to join Y Combinator. They were obsessive about HackerNews—they even got me to read it.

Right before we applied for YC, Antoine was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. At that point Ralph and I decided to quit our jobs. We took a train to Chicago to hang out with Antoine and worked on several projects with him. PlanGrid was just one of them.

We all applied to YC in October of 2011; Antoine was already really sick at that time. I remember how happy it made him when we were accepted. He was able to come to the first YC dinner that winter. He passed away in January 2012 at his home in France.

One of the last gifts Antoine gave to us was recruiting our fifth cofounder, Kenny Stone.  Antoine had told us “Kenny is the best engineer I’ve ever worked with” and without Kenny we would not have been able to build PlanGrid to what it is today.

Q: What is the most important thing you learned from working with Antoine?  

A: Antoine was hacking till the very last minute before he passed away. He cared so much about coding.

He gave me some advice before he left. He told me, “Life is short. Take care of the ones you love. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Never do anything that makes you unhappy.”

There’s not a day that goes by where I don’t think about it.

Q: What has been the most surprising part of starting a startup?

A: For some reason I thought it would get easier. We always knew that while we were at YC it would be non-stop work. But it’s 3 years later and we’re still working constantly. It feels like we’re working more now, even though we have a team of 40 people.

Q: Is there anything that surprised you about YC?

A: I had an idea that everyone would be super brilliant. What I didn’t realize was how nice everyone would be. All the partners are nice, funny, good people.

YC believes in me at times when I don’t even believe in myself. That goes way beyond being nice actually. They truly care about motivating us to do our best.

Q: What was the most useful piece of advice you’ve heard from one of your advisors?

A: Almost every Tuesday night dinner, a speaker would say: “Fire those who deserve to be fired and fire them fast.” At PlanGrid, we've taken this advice to heart, and it's always been the right decision, no matter how emotionally difficult it was.

Q: Is there one particular Tuesday night dinner speaker that stands out in your mind?

Kevin Hale. His Tuesday night dinner talk was so inspiring we asked him to come to PlanGrid to speak again. Everyone knows that Wufoo cares very much about support. They take it to extreme levels. We based our company on that principle as well.

We are really serious about support. There’s a chatbox on our website that we man 12 hours a day, 5 days a week. Our support ticket response time is just a few hours. Everyone at PlanGrid does support and talks to users, including the founders.

Q: What’s been the hardest thing about starting a startup?

A: The hardest part of starting a startup is fixing mistakes fast and adapting.

You’re going to make mistakes. But you have to learn from them and adapt quickly. My cofounders and I have made our share of mistakes, but if we were to hold onto every mistake we would have never moved forward. It's easy to wallow in mistakes and place blame instead of learning from them.

Q: Is there anything you wish you’d known when you’d first started PlanGrid?

A: I’m looking around my office and I’m kicking myself for not buying smaller desks. The secret to space efficiency is small desks.

Also—things aren’t ever that bad. We had a cofounder die. Everything else is so small in comparison.

Even if PlanGrid wasn’t doing well (and we’re doing really well right now!), at the end of the day I have my co-founders and best friends and we’d just go build something else.

Q: What advice would you give for people applying to YC W15?

A: Assuming they have some kind of beta, do whatever it takes to figure out sales by yourself. This is one of the reasons PlanGrid has been so successful.

After YC, we brought on a VP of Sales, but he couldn’t sell the product. At the end of the day, we knew the product best, we knew why it would add so much value to our users. Who better to sell the product than the founding team?

We didn’t want our company run by a salesperson. We went out, talked to users, figured out how and when they would pay us, and got to that point.

It's nice not to have to rely on fundraising to sustain the company. It’s nice to have months where we’re cash flow positive. Figure out how to get to that point with just the founding team. You can't rely on others to sell the product you built.

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Kat Manalac
tag:blog.ycombinator.com,2013:Post/733886 2014-08-29T20:36:09Z 2014-10-04T11:30:10Z BillForward (YC S14) Wants To Change The Way You’re Charged For Subscriptions

Amazon Prime, Netflix, utilities, the New York Times, HBO Go, the gym…

When you stop and think about all the subscriptions you have, the list probably is a bit longer than you thought.

But even as more subscription services become available, from ride shares to make up kits, it seems companies still offer customers limited subscription options due to constraints with their billing systems. Subscriptions rarely take into account how much you actually use them (If they did, most of us would probably be paying a lot more for Netlfix and a lot less for the gym).

Calling themselves “Stripe for subscription billing,” BillForward helps companies create customized billing services. BillForward CEO and co-founder Mark Parry said current subscription billing service software is outdated or difficult to use, and its time consuming and costly for companies to build their own.

Read the full story on TechCrunch
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Y Combinator
tag:blog.ycombinator.com,2013:Post/732075 2014-08-25T18:00:03Z 2014-10-06T05:49:12Z San Francisco Open Exchange (YC S14) Aims To Be The E-Trade Of Bitcoin

Y Combinator-backed startup San Francisco Open Exchange (SFOX) is an online trading platform that helps people find the best bitcoin prices at various exchanges. In other words, it would like to help you buy, sell and invest in bitcoin exchanges kinda like and investor buys and sells stock on E-Trade.

Co-founder Akbar Thobhani left his job at Airbnb to create this platform. However, he soon found that using bitcoin was even more expensive than using credit cards. This is because there’s not a lot of transparency. So he started thinking that if he could find a way to compare prices this would help drive widespread adoption for the bitcoin market.

Read the full story on TechCrunch
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Y Combinator
tag:blog.ycombinator.com,2013:Post/732055 2014-08-25T16:33:23Z 2014-08-30T17:29:59Z Applications for YC W15 are open We are now accepting applications for the Winter 2015 batch. You can apply as a startup or as a non-profit

If you want to apply, submit your application here by 8pm PT on October 14. 

For more information on the process, read How to Successfully Apply to Y Combinator

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Y Combinator
tag:blog.ycombinator.com,2013:Post/729125 2014-08-18T23:40:27Z 2014-08-29T13:26:51Z UPower (YC S14) Is Building Nuclear Batteries

Despite the promise of bountiful, cheap, and clean energy nuclear energy didn’t overtake fossil fuels like everyone expected them to in the middle of the 20th century. Among other things, fear of radiation leaks and waste products that have to be buried for hundreds of years turned the United States away from adopting it for more than a fraction of our energy usage.

Y Combinator batch company UPower Technologies is hoping to change that by offering reactors that cut out those factors at a scale where regulatory issues and billion-dollar construction costs aren’t a problem.

UPower founder and CEO Jacob DeWitte describes the company’s first reactor design as a plug-and-play nuclear thermal battery. The idea is that customers will order a reactor that will be shipped in a container with everything needed on the reaction side and then connected to a power conversion method that makes the most sense for the particular application. Some projects might hook it up to a steam turbine, while others might use it in concert with something much closer to a jet engine.

Read the full story on TechCrunch
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Y Combinator
tag:blog.ycombinator.com,2013:Post/729088 2014-08-18T23:30:02Z 2014-09-04T21:56:19Z Women.com (YC S14) Is A Place Where Women Can Engage In Real Talk Online

From middle school girls’ sleepovers to more codified groups like the “Ladies’ Four O’Clock Club,” women have known for ages that there’s something special about the conversational dynamic that happens when a group of females get together. Above all, when women are in the company of other women that they trust, they often can be completely honest and comfortable in a way that they may not be in more mixed company.

A website called Women.com aims to be the go-to place where women can speak honestly with each other online, deliberately away from the male gender — a sort of Ladies Four O’Clock Club for the online world. The bootstrapped startup, which is co-founded by CEO Susan Johnson and CTO Neal Kemp, is launching this week out of the current class of Y Combinator.

Read the full story on TechCrunch
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Y Combinator
tag:blog.ycombinator.com,2013:Post/729047 2014-08-18T23:00:06Z 2014-08-18T23:00:06Z Zenamins (YC S14) Mails You Personalized Vitamins

40 million Americans take three or more vitamins a day, yet both the pill bottles and the way we buy them haven’t changed in decades. Well they’re about to, thanks to new Y Combinator startup Zen Health and its customized vitamin pack delivery service Zenamins. Punch in what you already take and answer a few questions and Zenamins will send you a personalized pill pack. Staying fit is tough, but Zen Health wants to make the medicine go down easy.

Read the full story on TechCrunch

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Y Combinator
tag:blog.ycombinator.com,2013:Post/729084 2014-08-18T22:30:03Z 2014-08-18T22:30:04Z Doblet (YC S14) Plans To Be Everywhere Your Phone Charger Isn’t

We’ve all been there. You’ve been out all day and suddenly that low battery alert pops up on your phone.

If you’re lucky, the bar you’re at might have the right charger for your phone behind the counter. If you’re not, you’re walking or taking the bus instead of calling a car service.

But with Y Combinator-backed Doblet, you might be able to get a charge even when you don’t have an outlet. The startup is putting portable batteries that charge Android and iPhone 5 phones in bars, restaurants and coffee shops. Users have the option of paying either $3 for a single charge or $30 for an annual subscription to the service and unlimited charges.

Read the full story on TechCrunch

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Y Combinator
tag:blog.ycombinator.com,2013:Post/729041 2014-08-18T22:00:03Z 2014-09-24T22:58:02Z Vatler (YC S14) Wants To Be Your On-Demand Valet

If you drive to work in San Francisco, you probably know how difficult it can be to find an affordable place to park. Unless your office has its own parking, you’re likely paying to leave your car in a garage that’s not terribly close to where you work. And if you happen to work in SOMA, good luck paying less than $35 or $40 during Giants game days.

Vatler hopes to offer an alternative to having to deal with all that. It provides a way for you to order a valet through a mobile app, enabling you to drop your car off in front of your office and then request it whenever you’re ready to leave.

Read the full story on TechCrunch
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Y Combinator
tag:blog.ycombinator.com,2013:Post/729049 2014-08-18T21:30:05Z 2014-08-19T09:13:51Z Hauteday (YC S14), a Gamified Shopping Site, Launches Out of Y Combinator

Out in California, a new site called HauteDay is hoping to gamify shopping to garner enthusiastic followers from a wholly different audience, women above the age of 30 — the kind who shop at Nordstrom and look up to Kate Middleton as a style icon. After a quiet beta phase, the startup will launch Tuesday at the tech accelerator Y Combinator's demo day. 

Read the full story on Fashionista.com]]>
Y Combinator
tag:blog.ycombinator.com,2013:Post/729039 2014-08-18T21:00:04Z 2014-08-18T21:00:05Z uBiome (YC S14) Raises $4.5M From Angel Investors, Andreessen Horowitz To Crowdsource Microbiome Research

Microbiome is the ecosystem of bacteria that lives within us, which outnumber the number of human cells 10-to-1. Microbes in the microbiome perform functions such as digesting food and synthesizing vitamins and have also been linked to human mood and behavior.

Y Combinator-backed biotech startup uBiome wants to generate data and research from results of learning about the microbes in our bodies. The company, which raised $351,193 of its $100,000 Indiegogo campaign last year, offers three different swab site kits, with which people collect a sample, insert it in a tube and ship it back.

uBiome raised $1.5 million from angel investors and $3 million from Andreessen Horowitz.

Read the full story on TechCrunch
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Y Combinator
tag:blog.ycombinator.com,2013:Post/729037 2014-08-18T20:04:13Z 2014-08-18T20:04:14Z Craft Coffee’s (YC S14) Coffee DNA Project Is Designed To Find You The Perfect Cup Of Joe

It’s not easy finding the perfect cup of coffee. There are literally thousands of independent coffee roasters around the United States, and it’s nearly impossible to find one that you’ll love. Even if you do, not many are set up to take online orders. Y Combinator-backed startup Craft Coffee has come up with a way to connect its customers with roasters and beans that they’ll love.

Craft Coffee has been around since 2011, offering up a coffee subscription service designed to help users discover new roasts from around the country. It partners with dozens of different independent roasters to source beans and deliver them to customers that would probably never have heard of them.

The subscription commerce model for coffee by itself isn’t exactly novel. But what is interesting about what Craft Coffee is that it’s used data from all its previous sales, as well as what it knows about different roasters, to create a new discovery model based on what it calls the Coffee DNA project.

Read the full story on TechCrunch
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Y Combinator
tag:blog.ycombinator.com,2013:Post/727931 2014-08-15T20:00:05Z 2014-08-15T20:00:05Z Neptune.io (YC S14) Wants To Help Network Admins Sleep By Fixing Common Issues Automatically

Nearly every network administrator has been on night duty when their pager buzzes or they get a smartphone alert of a network issue, one they’ve fixed a hundred times before, yet still forcing them to get out of bed to deal with it. YC backed startup, Neptune.io wants to change that by providing automated fixes for common networking problems, allowing those on-call admins to sleep just a bit better and only wake up for more serious issues.

Co-founder Kiran Gollu reports he used to work at Amazon Web Services, and he knows a thing or two about being woken several times a night because he’s had to deal with this very issue. “If the disk is full or a process breaks, you have to get out of bed and take a half hour or 45 minutes to fix it,” Gollu explained. “I worked at Amazon for five years. I was waking up and fixing these problems, and it was frustrating to do these things.”

Read the full story on TechCrunch
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Y Combinator
tag:blog.ycombinator.com,2013:Post/727930 2014-08-15T18:43:22Z 2014-08-15T18:43:22Z Zen99 (YC S14) Makes Life Easier For Freelancers With Finance And Insurance Tools

Freelancers and contractors are a rapidly growing part of the workforce. Without benefits, however, many struggle with issues like figuring out how much of their earnings to withhold for taxes and finding insurance providers.

A new startup called Zen99 wants to help contractors with a free service. Backed by Y Combinator, Zen99 lets users sign up for health insurance, track earnings and expenses, and figure out how much to save for taxes on a single dashboard. It also offers advice through online guides at Zen99 University.

Read the full story on TechCrunch
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Y Combinator