YC Application Peer Review

As the YC deadline is approaching, and we all try to reread and reedit our applications, I have a suggestion for optimizing the process. Why don’t at least some of us swap applications for review? In Catan/monopoly you are always better off if you trade with others – you both gain about equally but that draws you in front of the others. Why don’t we trade some knowledge and points of view?

Partners may not like that because it is essentially hacking the process by managing to present it better than it maybe looks, but a big part of this is to make it more concise, clear, and understandable – and they should love that, given PG’s post.

As a matter of fact, I think this should be a good general practice for every application window – this will raise the level of applications significantly and will make YC’s job easier and more accurate.

Maybe I am missing the drawbacks? I would love to hear about those, especially from partners.

So, if you are feeling a little stuck and you want to get an extra edge, give me a shoutout. I will read your application and give you brutally discouraging feedback based on my years of experience if you do the same for me. I am willing to do 5 at random (random will mitigate chances for exploitation) over the next 2 days for an experiment. Drop your YC username, and I will send you an email and we will kick it off from there. I will update the post when I am done with the 5 but everyone else can keep interacting with each other the same way. As much as they are willing. When you are done, just write DONE next to your post with the username (if we just delete our posts, we won’t see how much of a meaningful concept that is for the future).


Ideas 2012 Part II – High-Tech

So I wrote a list of some online startup ideas I had. Part II includes a list of ideas that require tech but are not purely internet-based. As before, feel free to discuss – I am most intrigued by your comments.

  1. iPads in Restaurants – First of all, having iPad for a menu is greatly superior – colorful, easy to navigate, update-able, exciting. iPads in a restaurant can be built-in the tables, or slide in-and-out of them. Then you could also not only look at what’s offered, but see pictures of the ingredients, how it’s prepared, watch video etc. Then you could of course order it. Orders go straight to the kitchen, no time wasted, where the chefs can mark the progress, so you could see if your food is in queue, being prepared or is ready and coming. You could also rate your food, write recommendations to friends right away, call the waiter, pay. Many many possibilities. Feels like this has to become the standard and yet I haven’t seen a place like that.
  2. Gamification For Dominos Pizza – Those restaurants that deliver pizzas and other food have accounts of people – their phones and addresses. Dominos for example always gives some promotions and discounts to users. Every time I order pizza I give one coupon and receive a different one. But no one actually tracks and makes something out of what I order. They should create a gaming concept such as “Every meal you try for the first time is 30% off.” or “Every time you order 10times the same thing you get it for free” or “You are the mayor in radius of 5 blocks, you eat at 50% discount”.
  3. Eye Helper – When you code 10h/day doctors say it is bad for your eyes, because they get lazy – they focus too long on the same short distance and the muscles weaken. You could in theory use 3d goggles (or Google’s project Glass) to simulate the same screen information to be far in the distance so that eyes can adjust and not lose their flexibility.
  4. Online Receipts – I know that exists, but in my opinion this should be the standard. Anything you buy, you receive on your email or online account. You never have to keep receipts for your clothes, toys or anything. Can be done with RFID, Proximity chips etc. All this data then can be analyzed by YOU the owner of the system.
  5. Layered Music – Most of the songs are recorded in a studio these days. What would be cool is to record each instrument, voice, sound on a different layer in a file format that supports this. Then, a tzunami of remixes and music experiments w/ music contents will be unleashed.
  6. GPSed Luggage – Would it not be awesome to actually know where your luggage is at any point? Stick a GPS, track it on your phone. Bulletproof unlostability.
  7. Electronic Party – I am a firm believer that people need to have more power and not concentrate power in the hands of a few. So I believe there needs to be a system that allows people to take active position and actions on various matters. The first steps of which is an e-party that does anything online. They promote themselves on the net, they display transparently their plans online, they create tools for communication between masses and organization towards actionable goals. Army of coders creating the tools to run a country more efficiently, more transparent, more power for the people.
  8. Species Finder – You pick up an animal you look at it and you have no idea what it is, what it does, is it dangerous or not. I would love to have a site that guides you through a wizard and displays the results. “Insect? Color? Number of legs? etc. “You are holding a rare deadly spider…”
  9. Journalism Wikiness – Every event should be objectified. Instead of having searchable texts, each event should have its own ID, so that all events and people and objects can be linked authentically to each other. Data and analysis can follow to reveal a totally different understanding of what essentially is going on.
  10. Real-Size Pictures – I don’t know exactly how, but it would have been nice to have a standard that displays on screens objects in their real size. Just like the image of the iPhone on the box is the exact same size as the phone, there should be images online that show real sizes. I guess this can be calculated with a mix of screen resolution, pixel density, focus distance when image was taken etc etc.
  11. Bike Locks – Bike locks are super heavy and expensive. Bike stands are a huge and complicated system that can’t be used always and everywhere. But lock stands would be nice.

Soon comes Part III, the Non-Tech ideas…

Ideas 2012 Part I – Online-Based

Image by Tsahi Levent-Levi

The following is a list of ideas that I have collected on my phone. These are only the Online-based ideas. I will write two more posts for the High-tech Ideas & the Non-tech Ideas.

If you had the same idea and you are making a business around it, please let me know about it, I’d love to see how it goes! Here we go:

  1. In-app Referrals – Referral programs to invite other people through the app/mobileGame seems like it would be an awesome idea for marketing. Successful referrals will bring extra gems, virtual money, longer trials etc.
  2. Mobile Game-Dating App – You define the type of person you are looking for – city, age, ‘hotness’. Then you get a random opponent for any of the possible games/apps. You play or do something together. After each level you can chat for a bit or exchange some information. Eventually, after completing all levels the two persons get connected. By then they will have cooperated, known each other in different situations and so on. Games could be not only virtual but also in real life (go to such and such coordinates and burry this thing…)
  3. Life Advice – a site that gathers life advice and experience stories, organizes it, makes parallels, tags, groups. Knowledge and experience should not be lost when people pass away but should be transfered to young people to build on it.
  4. Chat Support – When you code sometimes there is a problem you can’t solve. Currently you can put code on StackOverflow, but it will take anywhere between 10 minutes and 10 days to get answered. If you are in the process of development, you need the answer immediately. For that purpose, if you could find someone to chat live and he can look at the code and solve it with you, that would be awesome. I will be even willing to pay for such fast immediate support, rather than spending hours being stuck on a problem. Gurus can have ratings, you can have favorite gurus, they can be split in languages and platforms they know etc.
  5. Real Life Game – there should be a site, where you record your life happenings, you get points, you level up, you get or define new targets and objectives. This way you will be more focused. Your attention will be on your life development, just like your hero in World Of Warcraft. Your character will be the real YOU.
  6. Accountant Reminder – A lot of starting businesses try to save money on doing their accounting, filing forms themselves. However, often times there are extra things that need to be filed, deadlines not to be missed. So one of the accounting companies should make a site, where you sign up, put a few details and you get reminders of when what should be submitted. Startups will be happy, accountants can then possibly service those small companies when they grow.
  7. Crowd Knowledging – This is recognizing a problem rather than a solution – there should be a site/system that is able to extract the knowledge of the masses on different topics. Example. You make a social network for kids. They sign up. Little by little you ask them what school they are in, what grade, who’s their teacher This way the information will emerge little by little. This way the full information on the entire system will show up, with feedbacks, who’s good, who’s bad, who’s doing their job right etc.
  8. Site Support – When you are supporting live a client on the screen, you can recreate their experience and see what they are doing on the site live. You can also show them things on the screen that will pop up or blink. Screen sharing not through video, but actionscript recreation.
  9. Press Play to Work – Just like farmville is a business you control your resources, purchases, you could have a system that controls your real business – restaurant, coffee place, etc. You just sit on the computer, and work out the things from there.
  10. Live Cam Porn – site with channels. People watch only live. The better girls perform, the better rating. The more people visit, the more money girls will make through revenue sharing. You can pay money to be the one to interact with the girl (tell them to do things, talk with them etc).
  11. Mindmaps online – It is amazing how many apps and software there is for mindmapping and yet no web-based solution.
  12. Mobile Mating App – You define your gender and parameters of your phone. Then you mate it with other peoples phones. They have their own connection and lives, but around them you meet people too.
  13. Discussion Board Online – Should be texts that you can comment on specific paragraphs or parts. Then those comments anew can be commented on in branched discussions. So it would become like google maps zoomable with arguments and information. If something is proved right, the whole branch becomes green etc.
  14. Your Recipes – A site where you keep your own recipes. You collect, you test, you share to friends etc. Your mom’s recipes will be there and your grandmas, and some saved from a site, others linked to your friends etc
  15. Perfect House – People often wait for man years before they can afford to buy a living place. And when the decision is taken, the house is furnished in the cheapest fastest way. However this is the place where you would spend most of the time, so it would be nice to have it as you like. There should be a site where you collect things you would like about your future home through the years. Then when time comes you would know what to put in your house, what colors it would be, what style in general, etc. You would have taken pictures of things you have seen in nice places you have been. You will be prepared because you will have catalogued many many things you like about your future house.

Don’t be shy, tell me what you think about any of them.

Ideas 2012 Part III – Non-Tech

Yet more ideas…

  1. house windows that change so that when light is coming from inside
    they are blocked and you cant see from outside. No curtains and manual
    moving. Guaranteed privacy without thinking about it
  2. vitamin shots. You guy and buy from anywhere this little bottle of
    100ml water and vitamins. You twist it, it mixes and you drink it.
  3. noise cancelling for building windows. If you can do it for the ears, you should be able to do it for the whole building, no?
  4. Reader Job Position – Every company should have a job position “reader” This is a person that constantly reads books relevant to operations makes summaries and gives the knowledge to those who work and don’t have time to read.
  5. Phone dating – meeting someone by swapping physically phones. You get the cell phone of
    someone for five minutes and try to smooch as much information as
    possible. Notes, emails etc….
  6. Fun in Subway – Everyone with sad or beat up face in the subway should smile. There should be papers or devices or TV that display only good and fun things every morning. Jokes, fun stuff, comedies. As a social experiment we should see how much better their day is.
  7. New currency – 1favor. Please repost this on your profile in exchange for 3favors. This item costs 5favors.
  8. carpool goodness. People sign up, make accounts, have profiles.
    Drivers and hitchhickers define destinations. Gps matches them and
    brings them together. Each of them leaves comments, ratings etc.
    Account info can be confirmed. People wont be scared because if
    something happens system knows who is involved, where they were etc.
  9. Material that holds 70 degrees C. Just like ice and water hold 0 degrees until all ice melts, there are materials with different melting points. If we have one that melts at 70 C, you could keep it under your cup of tea/coffee to keep it warm constantly. Recharges in Microwave?
  10. Problem: production of meat takes a lot of land. We don’t think about that because someone else is doing it – we just pay. But if our consumption is tied to the production (ex every body “own” their batch of land) then we would be thinking a lot more…
  11. Comparison magazine: instead of looking at prices of T-mobile, you should see all cellular providers: prices, quality, deals…
  12. Mosquito locator – enhances mosquito sound. Just like your ears can locate the position of an object, microphones can locate a mosquito and possibly display it on a screen or lighten in up in the room.
  13. spoiled food tester – a device with which you can objectively measure if the food is bad or not. Chemically or something like that.
  14. A movement in which every shop or business or craft should have at least 1 free spot for people to learn. That would be advertisement and will bring pleasure to people to try new things they might like.
  15. Rice bags – they sell rice in bags. You cook it by throwing it in the pan with the bag. I just don’t get why they don’t sell rice bags only, so you can put any rice that was purchased in bulk.
  16. community cars. 1 car for 6 people and they sign up for it when
    they need it. This way there are so many cars that arent in use.
  17. farm with cows and other animals for fun. Paid maybe. With lessons? How to take eggs, how to milk cows…
  18. Center for starting businesses. Helping everybody that starts something.
  19. Social Restaurant with “we want to be on our own” tables and “want to talk to other
    people” tables 🙂
  20. Blood is basically a transporter of oxygen and nutrients. If you inject units that hold more and release more efficiently those two, you should be able to get superhumans. Farfetched, i know. Basically new and more efficient blood.
  21. Problem center. It could research problems people come with. You come and some people try to help you out in resolving the issue. A lot of people don’t know at all how to approach issues and start solving them systematically.
  22. Shower button – a button that starts and stops water, instead of a knob that turns for hot/cold.
  23. Modular blocks that you can use to build houses. You design what you want in the internet and then it calculates what blocks and how many you build it yourself. Lego houses.
  24. Ungarbaging – at the entrances of a park there should be garbage picking sticks. You walk in, you take one, and as you walk, you collect garbage and you leave at the other entrace. walking + doing something good.

Idea: Meeting 4 four?

As my last semester advances I find myself involved in more and more group projects. 3 of my classes have long term group projects. In addition, I am a participant in the Merrill Lynch competition where 4 of us communicate on a daily basis and meet weekly. I am getting more and more frustrated with the task of finding time where all people can meet during the week. This back and forth email swapping and trying to match availability is a nightmare. Not that those people have no time they can meet, but if it takes 6 emails to figure it out, then there’s definitely an inefficiency to be corrected.

How difficult is to make a little site where people can post their free time. Co-workers will be able to check out each other’s free times, and see on the fly if all four anywhere. If not, you can easily see the whole chart and figure out where would be the most plausible place to do a little effort and squeeze a bit more time.

Meetings Software

Idea: Consumer Products Troubleshooting By Crowdsourced Flowcharts

My airport extreme died few days ago. I restarted it a billion times, restarted the cable modem too. I had the weirdest problem – one computer gets the real IP and all others get distributed ones that start with 10.0.1.x and they don’t work. After tweaks, changes in name, hard resets I figured out somebody plugged the cable in the local port instead of the WAN port.

In the process of trying to figure out what the heck was going on, I made desperate tries to search for the problem in Google. I found a billion problems, all different from mine. I had to read the full threads to see what is actually going on and to find out the guy forgot to plug the cable. I thought how useless all those forums are. The days of the forums for that purpose are gone. Now that wikipedia demonstrated the power of crowdsourcing for building an almost complete set of knowledge on a certain topic and well organized too, it is time to dare a little more and aim at gathering the full pack of information and not answering only random questions that pop up.

So here is another startup opportunity: If you could make site where people can build trees with branched problems, specified tests and complete solutions for a certain product, no one would ever go to forums anymore. Basically a well done flow chart but real life problems instead of variables and expressions. For example, you start from the beginning: Is it powered? The you check the lights, and either go to branches for fixing power either you go forward to next step. And at every level you are told specifically how to check what you don’t know and what it means. All of this of course has to be editable by the public. Getting all the possible problems for an airport express I am sure is actually much more achievable than it seems, considering how many millions of people there are that have knowledge on the topic.

It is basically a flowchart. I am sure a lot of companies use flow chart for problems, but I think time has come for this to become a standard practice for consumers to crowdsource all possible outcomes into one manageable application.As with all other ideas I have posted I believe there is huge potential, it is not difficult to make but I am just busy with other projects and just don’t have the resources to create it. If you do decide to do it, write out a message, I will give you extra hints, ideas, maybe help with other things. I definitely want to be a tester and can bring bunch of users too 🙂

Idea: Dating/Meeting Site In Real Life

Trigger: I went for another weekend to Boston. I was thinking about Artificial Intelligence and how I can make a simple Artificial Neural Network to learn some simple concept. How could I get in touch with someone that knows how to do that? I am in Boston after all, there are plenty of amazing colleges (MIT, Harvard blah blah) that have professors teaching this stuff. And as a matter of fact as I am walking around the streets of Boston, I am probably seeing them all around…except, I don’t know it.

The Problem: The big problem, I thought, was that no one knows anything about anyone on the streets. These are people that just come and go without giving you one bit of information (the look of a person is exception, which if you think about it is the prime way of meeting people online – pictures). At the same time, plenty of people that go past you in the grocery store are probably very interesting people with whom you can connect very well. The only way to find anything about strangers is to talk to them. But how do you know who to talk to? Should you act like a nuts job and talk to anyone?

The Idea: It would have been nice therefore to have a website where you can put specific information you are characterized with and information you are looking in other people. In my case I am looking for someone that is working with ANN. Once I setup those preferences I walk out to the open world. I carry a phone/watch/device that connects wirelessly to other such devices, checks the preferences of two people walking by each other and beeps if they match.


This way, I can walk around in CompUSA and meet ‘randomly’ a professor in ANN that was looking for a flat screen, he would probably be more than happy to talk about it, since he posted it on his profile for that specific reason. This taps into a totally new way of dating/meeting services, because it has the following very important advantages:
. . . (1) It is much more natural. There is a very big problem with dating sites: it’s the notion that if you are signing up on one, you are probably doing it out of despair b/c you have tried all your real life alternatives (or so you think). This moral underlying guilt prevents many people from using such services. But if you could meet someone in such a natural random way (on the street while shopping) then things look a whole lot different.
. . . (2) Confidentiality of information. There are many cases in which you want to make a piece of information available to the public but at the same time really only to certain people and not to others. Take a weird but true example – HIV positive person. He wants to find a date (most probably HIV positive too) so he has to state that fact and make it available to public. However it would have been nice if only the other HIV positive people new, rather than just about anyone that can exploit that information. Thus your device will only beep on the right occasions.

Difficulties: I discussed it for few days with Alek. We had the idea of making it work with cell phones because it will be easier to start the service. However, it turns out GPRS and bluetooth will not be a very likely option. Wifi could work if the area is fully covered, but again, I think cell phones are at a disadvantage. Also anything else that is more practical (a watch or a device specifically designed for the purpose) will be too expensive and will require investment and experience, neither of which we have. You got better ideas on execution, get in touch with me! You have that ready? I will definitely sign up!

Idea: ScratchStretch

Trigger: I was walking on Times Square and I saw a huge advertisement that looked like a canvas with random drawings on it. I don’t remember what it was exactly, but I thought, “What if I could make a huge gynormous or endless canvas where everybody would be able to draw whatever they want. Somewhat like an endless graffiti? How about if you could purchase of your area? how about if you could add multimedia? How about if you allow user created flash applications? How about if you make it a real estate business?…”

How: I wanted to make it on my own, but needed time and money. Requires extensive communication with server and the mouse movements need to be well sync-ed with users. My friend Alek needed to help me with the backend, I was going to make the fronted with flash.

Mistake: It was nearly impossible to explain it. It takes me hours and hours to explain the complicated idea and the possibilities that arise. I need paper to draw, I need then to always answer many questions and often by these questions I would think that the person facing me totally does not understand what kinda of digital world I am talking about.

The Story: As we thought we had to get some funding. One of the few things we did was apply for Ycombinator.com. Paul Graham did ask me some stuff after we submitted the application (which didn’t surprise me, given the very limited paragraphs in which we had to explain the idea). We didn’t get accepted for one reason or another. Between the feeling of rejection, the ambition, and the excitement we decided that we should try it out even if we didn’t get the funding. And so we started. It took us only 2, 3 days to give up. Over those days, we argued each trying to impose their own vision of how this idea can be done and what it should be like. It turns out it was so complicated in terms of concept that both of us founders had different idea to the point we didn’t even write one line of code before we let go. After all PG had made a good choice.

There was thousand ways of explaining it. “Social networking with a spatial perspective”, “Facebook on 3d”, “Drawing canvas where you could lay your web page at coordinates 300:320”, or “The useful Second Life.”

Every time I tried to explain it with a different term, it would confuse the listener even more. If I had it built maybe people would get the idea. But I can’t do it on my own, which is why I am posting it. It would look like a mix of GE’s drawing site,
Eric Deis’s experiment which works better when there are more people:
Google Maps:
and SwarmSketch:

If you could post a music player on Boston and hear it everywhere on the canves within a radius of 1000pixels it would be quit fun. If Nike posted an add at 400:400, then the value around it would appreciate due to traffic. And little by little, according to the content around, cities, villages of virtual information would emerge. A new market for spatial website management emerges. Instead of domains that are virtually attached by links, everything would be like in real world marked by dependency of distance.

This is how we tried to explain it at YC: A spatial application in the form of an unlimited interactive whiteboard, that is divided in X and Y coordinates. People will not only be able to freely roam and draw, but also upload music, images, videos as well as Flash applications anywhere on the surface. This way, users will be able to upload media, and also tools to modify it. As they create new content they will want to keep it by purchasing physical space on the X:Y plane. In time, popularity of owners, physical positioning, and content of the ???land??™ will create dependencies among the citizens of the now populated ???cities??™. Hopefully, we will be able at a later point to introduce Z dimension for 3D.”

I think its a cool idea, but its difficult to be done and its almost impossible to be explained. If you can get the idea, or if it sparks something similar of yours, and you think you can do it – please feel free – make it. I’d love to see it alive. Tons of money there!

Moral: Sometimes simple things may turn out to be a better choice…

Idea: KillPod

Trigger: We had iPods, but we wanted immediate access to any song at any point, we didn’t want to look for downloads, put them on computer and only then transfer to iPod. We wanted a piece that streams music to a cellphone, caching only the recent songs and the most probable to be listened next.

How: Flextronics would build our music phone by our specifications and design, music.net would provide us with huge content of songs for which we would pay per stream, and then we would partner with one of the cell phone carriers to provide the wireless service for a flat fee of $5 or $10.

Mistakes: We wrote too much that in the end no one would want to read, and at the same time did nothing. We also overestimated ourselves and were overly optimistic about “killing the iPod”.

The story: We knew what we wanted, so we set off to make it. As we have studied in Junior Achievement class, every business starts with a well written business plan. Ah, yes, Business Plan! We had just won the national competition for business plan so now we were confident and wanted to create a real business. Oh boy was it writing. We ended up writing a plan close to 50 pages describing everything you could imagine – market, future competition, financial information, technical details… Anything you can possibly brainstorm.

It looked great (to us). As a matter of fact, we were high on our own project. We valued the company to 100million and were planning to quit college. It was all set up, we didn’t need crappy classes anymore, we were rich. But were we far from truth! Long time we kept thinking, rethinking, and tweaking it. Every so often we would decide to send it to an investor and worked for another week of improvements before that. But there was another problem that we didn’t realize at the time: no one that had money to invest had time to read anything more than 2,3 page executive summary. We had close to 50(with financials and other stuff)! It was an endless writing of a story, that would never become true.

We also didn’t really quite get the scale of our venture. There was just no way we could get such big players in our game. We were just two college (freshmen) students that wanted to create something better than iPod. I laugh now at myself and my foolishness.

Also, a major issue was that we ourselves didn’t do anything really. Everybody on the line of ‘killing the iPod’ had a practical purpose- Verizon provides the wireless midium, Flextronics builds the phones, Music.net dumps terabytes of music on our server and what are we doing? We are connecting them. Making phone calls. That mean that even after incredible and impossible amount of work to make this happen, we were easily cutable out of the deal. We didn’t put any real value in providing the service.

One more problem that didn’t really become very clear from that project alone, but you can definitely mark it out: its not always about creating the best and newest. Sometimes the technology is not ready. We wanted to use 3G back in 2005, but there was barely any implementation. We thought of WiMax, which is still not out for consumer products even today! And what’s more subtle: sometimes just the market is not ready. You can introduce a brilliant product, but if its not the right time for the right price, you will lose because people will not be able to understand how good the product is. Its also not about efficiency but about money. Why would Apple provide flat fee for all their music, if they are milking you $.99 per single song! Of course this will be the model until people are ready to stop paying for it.

The Moral:
– Don’t write huge business plans, 2 pages is more than enough for investor. Actually don’t write business plan at all. Thinking is easy but it probably has 2% significance, the rest is DOING IT. Also, things change as you go along, so wasting 2 months of brainstorming, for an idea that will change later is pointless.
– Make sure you pick up a REALISTIC idea. Don’t fly in the sky, because you will fall sooner or later.
– Don’t talk too much before you do anything. People can mock you for a long time how instead of being a millionaire that took over Apple you are still a college student, writing some anthropology homeworks or some crap..

PS. Alek wrote about his KillPod experience on his Bulgarian blog.

Here is a link to our bplan…if anyone is interested.

Undone Ideas

I constantly come up with random ideas. Most of them are web related, but some are simply practical things in life. I think that I will start sharing them. For most I haven’t taken any steps on implementation and for the ones i did – I haven’t done much (whether because I didn’t like it, didn’t have time or something else). But maybe you can do it. Or maybe you can find the missing piece of the puzzle and then we can do it together. This new category is dedicated to such ideas.