Pull Hard

Posted May 02, 2012

As Jeff mentioned, he and I applied to Y Combinator for this summer in the hopes of getting a bit of a jump start on the new venture he and I are working on (which I alluded to in my previous post).

Back at the beginning of March, we filled out our application and made a short, introductory video about ourselves and our idea. Then we waited. The application deadline wasn't for another week or so, and then it'd be another two weeks until they got back to us.

In the meantime, I gave my two weeks notice, and notified YC that I'd left my full time job to pursue the new venture.

Three days after I finished my last day at work, I was in Arches National Park as a warmup for a bit of burnout prevention. Most of the park had spotty cell reception, but somewhere along one of my many short hikes, I got enough connection to download my email. One of them caught my eye:

Y Combinator application
Your application looks promising and we'd like to meet you in person...

I didn't even open the email. I immediately called Jeff and told him the good news. Unfortunately, cell service was still spotty, so it took a few repetitions before the message was clearly communicated. That night, we booked our flights to Mountain View.

A week and a half later, we met in the SFO airport, got a car, and drove down to Palo Alto. We spent the afternoon preparing for our interview in the Starbucks he and I both frequented while we were students at Stanford. The next day we spent more time working in a coffee shop in Mountain View and then tried to kill an hour or so walking the length of Castro Street, asking each other questions we thought might come up during the interview.

We arrived at the Y Combinator offices about half an hour early for the interview, but we decided to wait in the car. We quizzed each other some more, and nervously joked about the clown car we had rented (a Fiat 500). We could see other teams milling about outside, also killing time before their interviews.

With fifteen minutes to go, we grabbed our stuff and went into the YC headquarters. We checked in, grabbed a bottle of water, and got our demo set up on the laptops. A few YC alums came by and introduced themselves, asking if we had any questions about the interview. Even if we did, there wasn't enough time to really talk about them. So we thanked the alums and got on with waiting.

Right at our designated interview time, one of the receptionists came and got us and brought us over to the kitchen, next to the office where we would be interviewing. We were told it'd be just a minute. Then Paul Graham came out and made a smoothie for himself, Trevor Blackwell , and Robert Morris; our interviewers.

I noticed Paul wasn't wearing any shoes.

Once they'd finished their smoothies, we were called into the office, and the interview began. The allotted ten minutes flew by quickly. When the timer went off, we hadn't even shown our demo yet. Fortunately, Paul asked if we had one, so we got a few extra minutes to show off what we'd done so far.

We left feeling like we'd been well prepared for the interview, but a bit beat up regardless. We knew we'd be getting a call (if we got in) or an email (if we didn't) in a few hours, so we went to a movie to kill some time, then to a bar to kill some brain cells, then to dinner with a few friends. The email came in the middle of dinner.

Paul Graham
yc interview
I'm sorry to say we decided not to fund you guys. You're clearly smart hackers but...

He went on to describe the reasoning behind their decision. Fortunately, it was something we knew might be an issue. What's more, he encouraged us to continue working on the project:

...because you will probably be able to make yourselves a lot of money doing it.

We were both disappointed. I'm sure I was probably a lousy dinner companion.

But at least we know our path forward. The company can be bootstrapped and we have enough runway to figure out if this thing is going to fly.

So what are we going to do?

We're going to grab our bootstraps and pull hard.

Update: Snaposit's fate is now determined. Read about it.