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3 Dudes from Missouri Built a Product, Found Paying Customers, and Got Into YC

By Bryan Helmig · October 30, 2012
3-dudes-missouri-built-product primary img

In the tradition of recapping YC experiences, especially around the acceptance process during the beginning of a new YC batch, I thought it would be fun to quickly recap what we did prior to our YC S12 funding.

It all started at Startup Weekend where we combined our own prior needs for integrations with the recent explosion of web APIs. We spun together a quick demo and ended up winning, but the real work was just beginning.

First Swing, First Miss

We actually submitted an app for W12, but were understandably turned down with no interview. We were very green, and to be honest, we didn't have any traction or that good of a product. It was still just an idea and 54 hours of labor coming off Startup Weekend.

But, we pressed on and continued to work on the product. We found our first paying customers by sleuthing support forums chock full of integration requests. We would email them and explain the product we wanted to build, and then build it (if they agreed to sign up for a paid plan).

That is how we bootstrapped the product: one paying customer, one feature at a time.

Second Swing, Making Contact

Once we had a product that worked and real, paying customers (not to mention, a much more nuanced understanding of what customers wanted), we submitted once more to YC for the S12 batch. We got an interview. We were pumped.

Once we had the interview, we pestered every single YC company or alumni we had in our already sizable userbase for help and advice. We probably did 12+ mock interviews with the cofounders of Wufoo, Sendhub, Science Exchange, and many more.

We probably over prepared, but each and every interview helped us feel more comfortable. I remember our first mock interview: it was with Ash Rust at Sendhub and we. were. horrible. I don't think we answered a single question with a logical response: "that is the worst answer you could give". It got better though. By the end of our mock interviews, we had 1-2 sentence replies for all the obvious questions and got the patter down between myself, Wade, and Mike.

Interview Day

First Picture of YC Offices

While getting the interview alone was exciting, flying out to the valley and standing outside the YC in Mountain View building was a bit surreal. The nerves definitely came out, but luckily lots of alum were milling around giving advice on pitches and calming us down (thanks again, Ash)!

We selected the very last interview slot on Saturday. Our reasoning: we will be fresh in their minds and we won't have to wait long to find out an answer. The PG, Trevor and Robert interview track we had was running behind, so we kind of stood around nervously waiting all sporting our blazing orange Zapier t-shirts. We were the only group I saw wearing matching t-shirts. Finally, we walked in, shook hands, and PG immediately broke into discussion: "So, you guys are doing something with APIs?"

The rest was a blur. I remember three things:

  1. PG telling me to stop trying to get to the demo and just answer the questions instead.

  2. The partners starting to brainstorm around the product/platform we wanted to build.

  3. A way more casual conversation than expected. I even recall moments of awkward silence.

Finally the buzzer goes off and PG says: "Alright guys, time is up" and we get shuttled out. It felt 2 minutes long.


What followed was about an hour or two of waiting for the wonderful phone call of acceptance or the dreaded email of rejection. Mike was optimistic. Wade and I had mixed feelings. Sitting on the patio at Steak Out with an empty beer, we were delighted to experience the former. If I recall correctly:

"Hey Bryan, its Paul. We loved you guys, we'd like to fund you."

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