One of the best sessions of TechCrunch Disrupt NYC was Paul Graham’s Office Hours — where Y Combinator founder Graham sat down for a few minutes with entrepreneurs, analyzing and critiquing their businesses on the fly, with essentially no time to prepare. In short, it was fantastic.
Well, we know a good thing when we see it, and Graham has been gracious enough to return to the stage at TechCrunch Disrupt SF, where several startups will each get 6 minutes to discuss their companies. Joining him is YC Partner Harj Taggar, who joined the firm last fall. Here are my notes from the session, and we’ll be posting the video shortly.
TapToLearn makes iPad apps geared toward age 8-13 kids, and is looking to teach them with touch-based apps that deal with Math, English, Grammar, Spelling. So far their apps are already seeing large-scale adoption in schools, with sales driven through Apple educational pricing.
Graham: “You guys are doing a lot better than most of the startups I talk to… you’re doing great now, with 20% growth. The question is where you’re going to top out. Do your apps seem like games or educational apps?” A: Educational apps. Graham: “You could expand more into the game space, I’ve always thought games could be more educational.”
Taggar: “What are the reasons schools give if they turn you down?” A: That we’re not comprehensive enough. There isn’t anyone behind the scenes making schools happy as far as making sure the app offers what they want to teach (but this is coming). Graham: “You guys are doing everything, there’s nothing that I can suggest. You have a super successful business growing 20% a month”.
ReadMill– Social sharing for ebooks. We have our own ebook reader, but hope to tap into other eReader platform. Graham: “People have to use your reader to use your features.. that’s a big step. Do you have any evidence as to how hard it is to get people to use your ebook reader?”
Taggart: Doesn’t Kindle already lets you do some of this?” A: The problem is that Kindle doesn’t have any connection to your social graph. PG: If they integrate with Facebook Connect is there room for you? A: There are lots of reading apps other than Kindle, we hope to be the independent third party.
Graham: What are readers excited about? A: Probably quote sharing. People find a passage they like and share with friends, and collect for later reference. And it’s available through an open API.
[Regarding the fact that ReadMill still requires invites and is turning away some users] Graham: You want to know the rate at which it spreads; you don’t know how well you’re optimizing it right now. Why don’t you launch it? The point to launch is when anybody in the world would say oh, I’m glad they launched”.
Slides.io is Keynote with chat, video. Graham: “I’m sure the vast majority of presentations where Keynote etc is used is a meeting with 10 people at a giant company… is that who this is for?” A: “Distributed workplaces. We were originally were thinking conferences, everyone is distracted and could watch these…” Graham: “How big is the market? It’s like enterprise sales which are slow… you need to figure out, what is the feature people will use?” Graham: “Surely any presentation app can let you do real-time presentations — we funded two that were acquired.”
Omniplaces. Location based search. Like Google Maps search, but more powerful. “We want to solve the problem of fat fingers.”
Graham: “Google can definitely deal with that, you can misspell in Google search and Google can figure out what you’re looking for… What are going to be the popular searches?”
A: If you want to get information from different sites, like Yelp and Google Places, it’s very inconvenient to have to visit these different addresses, we can aggregate the information.
Graham: “When are you better than Google though?”
A: “If you start to type in “Ghirardelli Square”, show you results before you finish typing.
Graham: “This is commercialized research? Ouch. It’s often a solution in search of a problem… I’m worried about you guys, you’re competing with Google on something Google is good at. You’re competing with Google at search… I would make yourselves much better than Google at a very small thing…”
TestRanking– Google Analytics for consumer electronic products.
Graham: Who is the user who looks at these analytics?
A: Right now if you want to buy a laptop, you have to make sure it’s available, look at the price, look at all the features, figure out what they mean. We have a website that tells people about 300 attributes and tells people what each laptop is good for and what they should get.
Graham: “Your traffic was growing and now it’s flat. You were getting traffic from Google…” Now what?
A: We are selling data to businesses, like the computer companies who want to know what people are saying about them.
Graham: “Sounds like something they might have someone in the company doing, and maybe you could appeal to that person… Problem is, you could probably grow that into a business that would pay your salaries, but not into something that would be like a giant startup.”
CardFlick– Create and share digital business cards. The user logs in, the service in your info, and info, fills out card for you. log into ap. People can flick the card to other users to swamp the information.
Q: So what about Bump?
A: “Bump sucks” (me: huh?)… Bump tells you the data, but this is about the person
Graham: “Maybe there could be a gag aspect, put two iPhones next to each other and you flick, you can see the image of the card go from phone to phone. I can see people being interested like that.” (That’s what it does). Taggar: “Kind of like Bumping your phones together…”
Graham: “I would worry about the security thing; it just takes one bad story, and everyone jumps all over that.”