It became pretty clear that the most likely way we were going to raise some money before we graduated was to get into an accelerator. We applied to a ton of them, but our top choice was certainly YC. Here's a link to the application we submitted.read more
Founder Intro Final
Notes from advice call with former YC founder
what kind of questions we should expect, what stats we should have prepared, that sort of thing.
Did you happen to do YC office hours at some point? Is the interview not too dissimilar from that?
What kind of stats should we definitely be sure to have on hand?
What general questions should we be sure to have good answers to?
Know what customers are saying about product,
Know how big your market is, why they should invest in this market.
Know who is saying what. Tara answering these questions, me answering these questions.
Convey that the market opportunity is huge, and we’re the team to do this.
Sort of similar to office hours, but they will grill you more. Want to know why they should invest.
they may say: “I don’t really understand why I would use your product”. Need to put ourselves in their shoes and make them understand the appeal.
When explaining our product, make sure that makes sense to them.
Depends on the product, do we need to do a demo.
Depends. If hardware or software, then they’ll probably want to see demo. If it’s a service, then no demo needed. Should not take any time with it to setup. Need to use all of those 10 minutes effectively.
Will it be with multiple partners, 4 or 5.
Start with the “what”, and then explain the “why”. And the market for this is.
Ibyssworld, usually has interesting market sizes. Look at competitors, and see if the articles include the market size. Or if a competitor has a market number in an article about them.
May want to say “this is the money we could make, and give specific numbers”, so they know how big the opportunity is.
“have answer for how this can scale beyond college students?”
If they don’t ask us, we should preemptively say it.
Goal of YC is to make a product that people will use and pay for.
Want to see that we’ve thought about the larger implications of the market, because they may not have expertise in our area and can’t understand.
Explain textbook affiliate pricing because they probably don’t do that.
If they throw us out, they don’t do it often only to technical people who came up with an idea 3 weeks ago and just have an idea.
They’ll probably start asking us questions really quickly. They’re not shy.
Start with what, then why, then maybe just have the computer already open and step through a demo.
YC Interview Prep
Should we have a good number for “how fast are we growing?”. Maybe should ask [former YC founder] this.
Things we mentioned in the application to keep in mind. We said 16900 users, 8600 monthly active at our first five schools. 28 minute average session duration. We expanded from 5 to over 100 schools in February. 10% user count growth on average every month. We’ve conducted surveys at 20+ schools. Estimates of how much we can make with various methods. CTR of 15-25% depending on school. User testimonies.
“One question we often ask is: What are you going to do?”
Have a list of the difficulties we’re going to face: email marketing, scaling our notification service, getting the word out to freshman, etc.
What we’ve learned from users.
They have a big list of questions here: https://apply.ycombinator.com/interviews/preparation
Insight: no company has existed that does the text notifications. Only individuals.
I think we should say that we really want to use Coursicle Notify as a way of pushing our scheduling feature. This worked really well at UNC. We’ve built Coursicle Notify and it’s
Size of our market:
Who is covering what questions?
Are we doing a demo? If so, should be 45 seconds probably.
Our exact spiel. Start with what, then why. Who says what.
Have an answer for our “long term vision”.
List of obstacles
[former YC founder] said, how do we work this in?
Know what customers are saying about our product.
Note about textbook price comparisons: apparently Koofers used this as a revenue stream for a while to stay afloat.
Why people aren’t doing it now? Because the people who start tech companies often aren’t coming from schools where this is a problem. Tara wouldn’t have known this problem if it weren’t for Joe.
Things people in our space don’t get:
1. Permutations viewer doesn’t help decide which classes to take
2. Dearth of qualitative information on courses (q-scores, comments)
Problems they could bring up:
1. We rely on university data
2. Why aren’t universities just going to do this?
3. Non-standardization of data availability for colleges
Cross-college course search for pre-college students and parents. Allowing pre-college students to find schools that are good matches based on course-level data (descriptions contain words that they’re interested in). Ratings based on difficulty of registration, etc.
Market size (US): 600 billion. 20 million students. (Global) 1.8 trillion, 183 million students.
Maybe we should mention our social impact too: we want to help students graduate, 6-year graduation is 55%. We want to give them the tools to make it easier.
Questions that make us feel really sick:
1. 10% growth/month? That’s very low. Why is it so low?
College student spending annually on technology: $8.6 billion.
Your user count was 16900 then, what is it now?
Why doesn’t enterprise software overcome you if they match your features?
There are some features that administrators will never want in the software they buy.
Things we’ve learned from users:
1. Our notification product is a stronger painpoint
2. Users were confused by our original layout with no instructions
Note about our competitors: our competitors are not “living”. No product change in 3+ years, but they work and are still widely used.
20% organic search
25% word of mouth
45% marketing emails
When not advertising:
Our questions for YC
Background of Coursicle.
Started as a hobby project with my friend at Harvard. We made a service for UNC students that notifies them when a class they want has an available seat. Grew quickly, 900 users, 1800, etc. Now at 6,000 per semester. Then we made a tool for browsing courses and planning your schedule.
2 years go by, we find out that schools all around the country have these problems. All course data is public, so we decide to expand to more schools.
Now, we’re transitioning to taking this more seriously as a business.
From the perspective of generating a sustainable business. What are your thoughts on the seasonality of our product? We’re only majorly relevant 2-3 times a year, for a few weeks each. But we have average sessions of 30 minutes.
Advantages of incubator vs angel funding vs VC funding? We haven’t had many people steer us to consider VC’s, but a VC in Chicago saw one of our reddit posts and reached out to connect. Should we consider that a lead?
We have generated exhaustive lists of plausible ways of monetizing, but we currently don’t have any implemented. When pitching to incubators/angels, do you think it’d be best to leave monetization open ended and detail possible avenues, or more firmly propose a single one?
Should we start testing our possible monetization now? Or focus on user growth and worry about that later?
Is right now the right time to start looking for funding/accelerators?
Last minute prep
Get user count graph.
Setup for demos, search for “phys”, click on biol 431-001 (be logged in with Facebook?)
Really have good obstacles.
Maybe: some students don’t trust third party sites, one way we know worked for CourseRank, is partnering with student governments, and they help push the site.
6 months from now, what’s going to be your biggest problem?
Surprised us about user behavior?
We rely on university data.