Simon Willison’s Weblog

172 items tagged “startups”

Getting Your First 10 Customers (via) There is so much good advice embedded in this article by Patrick McKenzie, and it constantly comes back to the theme of doing whatever it takes to get to your first ten paying customers. # 23rd October 2017, 5:36 pm

It’s Not a Feature Problem—Avoiding Startup Tarpits (via) “When we turned on paid advertising for the first time the increase we had a sizable increase in signups. We always feared that a new user would just churn because of what we perceived as deficiencies in the product. While there were users who churned for that reason, it was never the nightmare scenario that we imagined.” # 22nd October 2017, 12:53 pm

Should I build my startup’s web-based product as if it’s going to one day be widely adopted and experience high-volume, or instead focus on quick delivery over scalability?

Absolutely the second: build for rapid learning, not for eventual scalability. The vast majority of startups fail, and the number one reason they fail is that they didn’t achieve product-market fit: they failed to build something that customers actually wanted.

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What’s the first thing you would check if the company is losing money even though there’s a big increase in its revenue?

The company’s expenses.

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What is the single greatest value-add from Y Combinator?

It’s very difficult to pick the best one, but from our experience here’s something that really stood out: the sense of camaraderie and trust you have in others who are also going through YC.

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What are the best strategies to get a tech job at YC-backed startups in the next 5 months?

Keep an eye on jobs | Hacker News—it’s the official listing of almost all jobs advertised at YC companies.

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Does Y Combinator accept purely app ideas like WhatsApp, Flipboard, etc.?

Yes they do, but you’ll need to demonstrate that your team also has the ability to execute on the idea.

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What is the best payment provider for a web app with monthly subscription fees at its early stage?

We found Stripe extremely easy to get started with for charging subscription payments.

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What are the key points accelerators such as Y-Combinator drill into their startups?

They also teach the importance of launching something and getting real feedback. The entire three month YC process is based around the need to launch and demonstrate traction in order to raise money from investors.

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Do accelerators (which do not take up equity) accept not-for-profit ventures into their programs? If yes, which are some of the best ones?

Y Combinator recently started funding non-profits: http://ycombinator.com/np.html

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How much equity does YCombinator get on average?

They almost always take 7%—they get diluted down in further rounds.

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Is YCombinator’s $20k seed capital enough to keep a team of 3 founders alive in Silicon Valley during the program?

Yes—especially if the three founders live together. A three bedroom apartment near Mountain View can be had for around $3-4,000/month (just check Craigslist), which will be the bulk of your expenses. The rest can cover food, car rental and some business-related expenses (we spent some money on office chairs and a desk).

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Calendars: When posting a facebook event page for an event that is repeated on two dates, should you use one page or two? (The events are games that are identical and should not have overlapping players)

I would use separate pages. The most valuable part of a Facebook event page is being able to see who is going to that event (and hence which of your friends will be there). If there are two events on two separate days you want to be able to maintain two separate lists of attendees.

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What are some examples of startups funded simply for the strength and uniqueness of its founders rather than for any particular idea?

A good portion of YC companies fit this definition—it’s common for YC to fund the team and then work with them to help them either fix their initial idea or find a better one.

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What is the Y Combinator cycle?

The winter program generally runs from January until March, with application deadlines the previous October (this year the deadline was was October 21st). Interview invites were sent out on November 4th, and interviews themselves in Mountain View were November 15th-19th. Teams get a yes or no answer the day of their interview.

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Is it fair for someone who calls themselves a “seed” investor to require traction?

It’s completely fair. If you’re building a web-based startup these days, you should be able to demonstrate initial traction on an idea with very little up-front investment—a couple of months of your time and a few hundred dollars in hosting costs, perhaps. Being able to do that is an excellent indicator that you’re a good bet for a seed investor. If you are unable to do that, you’re a much higher risk for investment.

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Which Y Combinator companies focus on finance?

TrustEgg (YCW11) help people open trust funds for their kids: TrustEgg Allows Anyone To Set Up A Trust For Their Kids | TechCrunch

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How did GitHub get its initial contributors?

The founders were active participants in the open source and Ruby on Rails communities. The first users were people they knew in those communities (GitHub accounts were invite only at first).

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What are the best set of marketing/payment tools for use in startup with a subscription webapp?

Stripe has excellent support for subscription payments, including helping manage recurring payments and pro-rataing for upgrades to plans half way through a billing cycle etc. I believe BrainTree offers similar tools.

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As a non-technical single founder for a web startup, is it better to hire a design firm to build the prototype, or find a technical co-founder?

Find a co-founder. The problem with using an outside agency to build your initial prototype is that you won’t really start learning about your product until after you have launched it. You need to have the talent available in-house to then make changes and improvements based on the feedback you get from real users.

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How does one actually find Angel investors, when our business/startup is taking off and we need to grow fast?

The best way to approach angels is via introductions. To get introductions, you need connections to people who are known and trusted by angels.

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I’ve been working alone for about a year, how do I get out of this feeling of loneliness because no one is around me?

This is why co-working spaces exist. I don’t know which country you are based in but here in the UK most cities and many larger towns now have at least one tech-focused co-working space where you can rent a desk on a month-to-month basis and have a work environment outside your home with other freelancers with whom you can socialize.

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Has anyone been through Y Combinator more than once?

Yes, this isn’t that rare. I think the Hipmunk crew went through YC, despite having previously gone through as part of reddit. The Erics from clutch.io had previously participated in YC as part of Convore.

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Are there any good bootcamps, such as Code Fellows, DevBootCamp for mobile (iOS/Android)?

Big Nerd Ranch have been offering iOS and Android for several years now. A friend of mine went in the iOS course a while ago and spoke highly of it—he has since released an app to the App Store.

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Do all incubators / accelerators welcome their startups getting funding?

Yes. The goal of incubators and accelerators is to obtain a small amount of low-cost equity in promising companies and then help them grow and reach their potential.

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Should I pull the plug?

Is there any way if turning this in to a recurring revenue product? It’s enormously easier to get money from an existing customer (since they already know that your product works for them and is worth the cash) than to sign up a brand new customer.

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What would be a good web application framework to use for running a small online retail business?

I’d look at hosted SaaS solutions rather than running your own. I haven’t tried it myself but I’ve heard excellent things about www.shopify.com

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Does Ycombinator accept applications even though we will not be able to work full time on project?

Very unlikely. One of the questions on the Y Combinator application form is something along the lines of “Which of the founders listed on this application are ready and able to work full time on this project—please explain”. If none of your team are able to work full time on the project, your chances of being picked over other teams who CAN commit are vanishingly small.

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In which case have you seen a non-tech sole founder rise to build a sustainable great company without a tech co-founder? How can this work? What are the steps/advice you would give to the non-tech founder?

Here’s a great write-up of his experience: From Selling Scoops Of Ice Cream To Founding ZeroCater | TechCrunch

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I’m a developer, I’ve an idea, how to look for funding?

If you only need $10,000-$15,000 you should be looking at funding it yourself—professional investors very rarely get involved for that size of raise, and you probably wouldn’t want them to—giving up equity in exchange for so little money is usually a bad idea.

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