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One Month Y Combinator Application

a guest Sep 16th, 2014 13,592 Never
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  1. Your YC username: mattangriffel
  2.  
  3. Company name: One Month Rails
  4.  
  5. Company url, if any: onemonthrails.com
  6.  
  7. Phone number(s): (Redacted)
  8.  
  9. Please enter the url of a 1 minute unlisted (not private) YouTube video introducing the founders. (Instructions.)
  10.  
  11. YC usernames of all founders, including you, mattangriffel, separated by spaces. (That's usernames, not given names: "bksmith," not "Bob Smith." If there are 3 founders, there should be 3 tokens in this answer.)
  12.  
  13. YC usernames of all founders, including you, mattangriffel, who will live in the Bay Area June through August if we fund you. (Again, that's usernames, not given names.)
  14.  
  15. What is your company going to make?
  16.  
  17. A 30-day online crash course in web development.
  18.  
  19. If this application is a response to a YC RFS, which one?
  20.  
  21. 123456789
  22.  
  23. For each founder, please list: YC username; name; age; year of graduation, school, degree and subject for each degree; email address; personal url, github url, facebook id, twitter id; employer and title (if any) at last job before this startup. Put unfinished degrees in parens. List the main contact first. Separate founders with blank lines. Put an asterisk before the name of anyone not able to move to the Bay Area.
  24.  
  25. mattangriffel; Mattan Griffel; 24; 2010, New York University, Philosophy & Finance; mattangriffel@gmail.com; http://mattangriffel.com, https://github.com/mattangriffel, mattangriffel, mattangriffel; Partner at GrowHack.
  26.  
  27. Please tell us in one or two sentences about the most impressive thing other than this startup that each founder has built or achieved.
  28.  
  29. I created the most popular online Skillshare class ever (with over 5,000 students), manufactured and sold my own brain supplement (currently generating $6,000 in revenue per month), and managed to do both while living in NYC on less than $30,000 per year.
  30.  
  31. Please tell us about the time you, mattangriffel, most successfully hacked some (non-computer) system to your advantage.
  32.  
  33. In February I spent a month in Buenos Aires working on a book about growth hacking. I was afraid about starting with a blank slate. So the day before I left, I organized a 3-hour lecture and promised anyone who attended a free copy of my book when it was done. I recorded the session and paid someone on Elance to transcribe the audio into text ($200). The day I arrived in Buenos Aires I opened my email to find a 140-page transcription of my talk. It was beautifully formatted, with "Um"s and "Uh"s removed. Over the course of the month I extended the content to create a 250-page manuscript. Wiley emailed me out of the blue because they're looking for authors to write a book about growth hacking (my name shows up on the first page of Google search results) and I'm in talks with Wiley and a few literary agents, though I'm strongly considering self-publishing instead.
  34.  
  35.  
  36.  
  37. (I spent a lot of my time in Buenos Aires interviewing folks like Andrew Chen, Noah Kagan, Eric Ries, and Gustaf Alströmer about startup growth.)
  38.  
  39. Please tell us about an interesting project, preferably outside of class or work, that two or more of you created together. Include urls if possible.
  40.  
  41. Over the last few years I've helped launch over a dozen products at various startups, so I've started teaching a popular workshop at General Assembly on growth hacking for startups. On Slideshare the slides for the class have been viewed and shared over 118k times (http://www.slideshare.net/mattangriffel/growth-hacking). I was able to bring together a solid team of writers and strategists – including my good friend and business partner Conrad Wadowski – and started GrowHack, a growth hacking agency for startups (http://www.growhack.com/). So far we've done training or set up monthly retainers with companies like Detroit Venture Partners, Quotidian Ventures, First Round Capital, Betterment, JPMorgan and Pepsi to help them (or their portfolio companies) better understand how to acquire and retain users.
  42.  
  43.  
  44.  
  45. How long have the founders known one another and how did you meet? Have any of the founders not met in person?
  46.  
  47. I'm a solo founder. However I'm building a team for support that already consists of three of my best former students as TAs to help with questions, a Thiel Fellowship semi-finalist to help with operations, the head of user growth at SideTour to help get new students, and the lead designer at BOXEE to help with UX/UI.
  48.  
  49.  
  50.  
  51. I'm also the NY Ambassador to the Sandbox Network, a global network of 800 entrepreneurs under 30 years old (http://www.sandbox-network.com/), so I potentially have a large network of incredibly talented people to tap into to build a bigger team.
  52.  
  53.  
  54.  
  55. Why did you pick this idea to work on? Do you have domain expertise in this area? How do you know people need what you're making?
  56.  
  57. A year ago - as part of my last Y Combinator application - I taught myself how to code in Ruby on Rails. I realized that there are a lot of things wrong with the way we teach non-technical people how to code. Within less than a year I won the official Meetup Battle of the Braces hackathon (http://www.meetup.com/Battle-of-the-Braces/) on my own.
  58.  
  59.  
  60.  
  61. My experience turned into a series of blog posts (https://generalassemb.ly/blog/on-learning-to-code-pt-1),  a talk at internet week (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T0qAjgQFR4c), and a project-based online course.
  62.  
  63.  
  64. The online course covers the topics I wish someone had taught me when I first wanted to build my own web application. They're all videos so it's been easy to scale to thousands of students and iterate on the content. The focus is on getting an application live as quickly as possible, while still making it as functional and good-looking as possible.
  65.  
  66.  
  67. There are millions of people out there who have an idea but don't know how to build it. They're currently being underserved by every single resource that is currently available.
  68.  
  69. What's new about what you're making? What substitutes do people resort to because it doesn't exist yet (or they don't know about it)?
  70.  
  71. Honestly, the current online resources focused on teaching people how to code just don't cut it. There's a huge but largely unrecognized difference between the kind of skills that sites like Codecademy teach and what people actually want or need to know to build web applications.
  72.  
  73.  
  74.  
  75. At One Month Rails, the focus is on helping someone deploy a web application as quickly as possible. Most of my students have never seen a command line before, and yet they are able to have an application live on Heroku in less than one hour. It's a magical moment.
  76.  
  77.  
  78. Maybe it's not defensible, but I feel as if I've discovered a better way to teach non-technical people how to code. People reach out to me every day telling me this is "the best $20" they've ever spent. Most of them have tried to learn how to code before on sites like Codecademy and never succeeded.
  79.  
  80.  
  81. The core of the idea is not about education, it's about getting a non-technical person to a fully-functional, beautiful web application as quickly as possible. Right now it happens through engaging video content, but slowly we're identifying big points of friction in the process (like getting the entire development environment set up on a local computer) and eliminating them using technology.
  82.  
  83.  
  84. Who are your competitors, and who might become competitors? Who do you fear most?
  85.  
  86. Online competitors include Codecademy, Treehouse, Code School, Thinkful, AngelHack (they'll announce it soon), Khan Academy, Skillshare, Lynda.org, and Code.org. Potential competitors include offline "bootcamp" programs like General Assembly, Flatiron School, Starter League, Dev Bootcamp, as well as more traditional for-profit institutions like University of Phoenix.
  87.  
  88.  
  89.  
  90. My biggest fear is that the big for-profit players like University of Phoenix shift in the direction of web development and are able to outspend smaller startups to capture the mainstream market.
  91.  
  92. What do you understand about your business that other companies in it just don't get?
  93.  
  94. People. If other coding education companies really understood people and their motivations, they would never start by introducing variables and data types. In its FIRST LESSON on Ruby, Codecademy explains that Ruby is "Interpreted", "Object-oriented", and "allows users to manipulate data structures". Are you kidding me?!
  95.  
  96.  
  97.  
  98. People are lazy and get frustrated or bored quickly. They want to learn how to code because they want to build something and they can't find anyone to do it for them.
  99. Other companies focus solely on developing code fluency. I'm not saying there isn't a market for developing fluency in code, but the market for helping non-technical people quickly get their own web apps live is much, much bigger and largely unaddressed.
  100.  
  101.  
  102.  
  103. How do or will you make money? How much could you make? (We realize you can't know precisely, but give your best estimate.)
  104.  
  105. In less than 5 months of existence, One Month Rails has made over $80,000 in revenue by selling our product across platforms like Skillshare, Udemy, and General Assembly. For-profit trade institutions like University of Phoenix (which is shifting its focus online) have been able to generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue per year from their programming departments alone.
  106.  
  107.  
  108.  
  109. Now consider this: 16% of sites on the web are built on Wordpress, a blog publishing platform people use because it's probably the easiest way to get a good looking site live relatively quickly. Yet even something as simple as getting your own Wordpress site up is way too complicated for most people. People who use One Month Rails are able to have their own application live on Heroku in less than half an hour.
  110.  
  111.  
  112. If One Month Rails can provide people a better and more flexible alternative for helping individuals deploy their web applications, the potential impact reaches far beyond just education. Imagine a world in which everyone has the understanding and tools necessary to build not just a content site but an entire web application.
  113.  
  114.  
  115. As One Month Rails evolves to better serve the needs of non-technical people building web applications by including web app hosting, plugins, and other services, the potential market grows well into the billions of dollars per year (if cloud solutions like Salesforce or Windows Azure are any indication).
  116.  
  117.  
  118.  
  119. If you've already started working on it, how long have you been working and how many lines of code (if applicable) have you written?
  120.  
  121. I've been working on a web app since November and `rake stats` shows me 615 lines of code and 415 lines of test code.
  122.  
  123. How far along are you? Do you have a beta yet? If not, when will you? Are you launched? If so, how many users do you have? Do you have revenue? If so, how much? If you're launched, what is your monthly growth rate (in users or revenue or both)?
  124.  
  125. The web app is live – it allows users to sign up to access videos, lecture notes, tracks progress and generates certificates – and serves around 500 unique users per day.
  126. As we're still bootstrapping, all of our users come in and pay through other educational platforms like Skillshare, Udemy, General Assembly, and
  127. Appsumo.
  128. Upcoming features include payment processing through the app, multiple paths to build different kinds of apps, and the ability to see progress on a user-by-user basis.
  129.  
  130.  
  131.  
  132. So far over 6,000 users have paid between $20-50 each to sign up and the feedback is incredibly positive.
  133. We've generated over $80,000 in revenue with almost no cost. When we opened up the most recent class, 3,000 paid users signed up in two weeks (40% growth week over week versus previously).
  134.  
  135.  
  136.  
  137. If you have an online demo, what's the url? (Please don't password protect it; just use an obscure url.)
  138.  
  139. http://onemonthrails.com/lectures
  140. Most users currently sign up through http://www.skillshare.com/Teach-Yourself-to-Code-One-Month-Rails/1289605848/1921775376/ which has somewhere around a 10-13% conversion rate.
  141.  
  142.  
  143.  
  144. How will you get users? If your idea is the type that faces a chicken-and-egg problem in the sense that it won't be attractive to users till it has a lot of users (e.g. a marketplace, a dating site, an ad network), how will you overcome that?
  145.  
  146. The feedback from graduating students is tremendous, so we get a lot of new users through referral. Since learning to code is a hot topic, there's a lot of opportunity for content marketing, as well as speaking engagements. Finally, given the fairly high transaction value, we should be able to profitably run pay-per click advertising.
  147.  
  148. If you're already incorporated, when were you? Who are the shareholders and what percent does each own? If you've had funding, how much, at what valuation(s)?
  149.  
  150. One Month Rails is currently a part of The Front Labs LLC, which I incorporated in August of 2011 in Delaware.
  151. I currently own 98% of The Front Labs LLC and the remaining 2% is owned by my good friend and angel investor Jay Weintraub. Jay invested $6,000, which values the company at $300,000.
  152.  
  153.  
  154.  
  155. If you're not incorporated yet, please list the percent of the company you plan to give each founder, and anyone else you plan to give stock to. (This question is as much for you as us.)
  156.  
  157. If we fund you, which of the founders will commit to working exclusively (no school, no other jobs) on this project for the next year?
  158.  
  159. All of me.
  160.  
  161. For founders who can't, why not? What level of commitment are they willing to make?
  162.  
  163. Do any founders have other commitments between June and August 2014 inclusive?
  164.  
  165. I'm speaking at The Conference with Alexis Ohanian from August 19-23 (http://mediaevolution.se/theconference/speaker/mattan-griffel/).
  166.  
  167. Do any founders have commitments in the future (e.g. finishing college, going to grad school), and if so what?
  168.  
  169. No.
  170.  
  171. Where do you live now, and where would the company be based after YC?
  172.  
  173. New York, NY.
  174.  
  175. Are any of the founders covered by noncompetes or intellectual property agreements that overlap with your project? Will any be working as employees or consultants for anyone else?
  176.  
  177. I'm currently a growth hacking consultant at Quotidian Ventures in NYC (not under any noncompetes or IP agreements).
  178.  
  179. Was any of your code written by someone who is not one of your founders? If so, how can you safely use it? (Open source is ok of course.)
  180.  
  181. All code not written by me is open source.
  182.  
  183. Are any of the following true? (a) You are the only founder. (b) You are a student who may return to school when the next term starts. (c) Half or more of your group can't move to the Bay Area. (d) One or more founders will keep their current jobs. (e) None of the founders are programmers.
  184.  
  185. (Answering yes doesn't disqualify you. It's just to remind us to check.)
  186.  
  187. yesno
  188.  
  189. If you had any other ideas you considered applying with, please list them. One may be something we've been waiting for. Often when we fund people it's to do something they list here and not in the main application.
  190.  
  191. An app to send a picture to a doctor for diagnosis, a marketplace for second-hand airline tickets, reliable Wifi for conferences, a line of brain enhancing supplements, among many others.
  192.  
  193. Please tell us something surprising or amusing that one of you has discovered. (The answer need not be related to your project.)
  194.  
  195. The Nike logo was designed in 1971 by a graphic design student for $35 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swoosh).
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