Y Combinator is the world’s leading startup accelerator. Since 2005 they have invested in over 1,900 startups. This includes some of techs largest and most well knowing companies such as Airbnb, Dropbox, Stripe, Reddit, Quora and Twitch.
In addition to the core Y Combinator program YC also run something known as Startup School. Open to founders across the globe Startup School is designed for earlier stage startups and is run as an online course where Founders report on their progress over a 10 week period. During this time founders also have access to lecturers and video content created by YC that is aimed at helping them create a scaleable tech company.
This year Y Combinator accepted 15,000 startups into the program after a slight technical glitch with their acceptance email process. Out of those 15,000 startups YC will also provide 100 startups with a $10,000 grant. In order to be considered for the grant startups need to complete 9 out of the 10 updates and attend 9 out of the 10 virtual Group Office Hours.
Finally, they need to submit an application to the W2019 Y Combinator Program….
So over the last 5 to 6 weeks I have been participating in Startup School with my startup Task Pigeon. I had already committed to applying for the W2019 Batch anyway, so making it a requirement to also be eligible for the grant wasn’t an issue.
In fact, I think it is an improvement. First YC will judge your application with the view of accepting you into the core YC program. If you are successful then you will receive their standard $150k deal for 7% of your company. Those that don’t make it into the core program, and completed Startup School, will then be considered for the $10k grant. So in effect the very vest of the startups out of Startup School will be removed from the pool of companies looking to secure the $10k grant.
Now, with that all said and done there are plenty of examples of YC applications out there. Lot’s are shared after the fact. Not so many before you know the outcome of the application. Given my long standing commitment to transparency at Task Pigeon I wanted to share my YC application today. Well before I know the outcome.
I’m realistic about my chances. I know I don’t tick every box. For one I am a solo founder. Secondly, I am non-technical as well. But there are things that I do believe go in my favour and have tried to get them across in this application.
Company url, if any:
If you have a demo, what’s the url? For non-software, demo can be a video.
(Please don’t password protect it; just use an obscure url.)
Describe your company in 50 characters or less.
Task management augmented by on-demand freelancers
What is your company going to make?
Task Pigeon is a task management application augmented by an on-demand marketplace of freelancers to help individuals and teams get more done each day.
With up to 40% of tasks that people add to their to-do list never being completed we need to move away from a world where software (i.e. Trello, Asana, etc) has just created better/different ways of writing things down, and actually help people get things done.
Task Pigeon achieves this by augmenting our underlying task management application with an on-demand marketplace of freelancers so that individuals and teams can outsource tasks or projects that are at risk of being delayed or cancelled altogether due to internal time constraints.
Which category best applies to your company?
Is this application in response to a YC RFS?
Where do you live now, and where would the company be based after YC?
(List as City A, Country A / City B, Country B.)
Sydney, Australia / San Francisco, USA
Email address of the founder who is filling out this application:
+61 403 806 298
|HACKER NEWS USERNAME||NAME||PROFILE UPDATED|
Please enter the url of a 1 minute unlisted (not private) YouTube or Youku video introducing the founders. (Follow the Video Guidelines.)
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.
I created Startup Soda, a free daily newsletter that curates the best articles, blog posts and tactical resources from Australian Startups, Founders and VC’s.
I did this because I believe that in order for the Australian startup ecosystem to grow and prosper more needs to be done to share the stories of the people within our community.
Startup Soda also provides a vehicle for me to give freely to others in the community. For example I promote new startups, events and initiatives and help make introductions amongst my network. This reflects my belief in giving to others without the expectation of return and on a personal front has allowed me to develop a large and connected network within the Australian startup ecosystem.
You can view the Startup Soda landing page here: http://www.startupsoda.com.au/
Here is a link to a recent newsletter: https://mailchi.mp/startupsoda/startup-soda-daily-newsletter-friday-28-september-2018?e=b839599ed1
How long have the founders known one another and how did you meet? Have any of the founders not met in person?
Yes, I am committing one of the cardinal sins in the world of startups. I am a solo founder, but let me take this opportunity to tell you a little bit more about me and why being a solo founder isn’t the end of the world.
I purchased my first business, a retail surf shop as a 16 year old high school student (~12 years ago now). No, I wasn’t a trust fund kid, and didn’t get a handout from my mum or dad. I did it through hard work and sacrifice. Here’s how…..
I started working when I was 11. I had multiple paper runs and saved every dollar I earned. When I was 12 I taught myself how to invest on the stock market. This was before apps like Robinhood so I was investing $500 per company (all my money at the time) and self-taught myself both fundamental and technical trading analysis.
When I was 14 I got my first job (McDonalds). When I was 15 I got a break. I found a new job at a hardware store that didn’t have an “award wage” (basically like minimum wage) for anyone under 18. I went from earning $5 an hour to $15.
The catch? I had to work Saturday and Sunday, plus an afternoon or two mid-week. This combined with my paper runs meant I often earned $500 per week or more.
Now this is where buying a business as a 16 year old comes into play. There as a retail surf shop across the road from the hardware store where I worked and on my lunch break I saw the “For Sale” sign. I reached out to the owner and after a couple of months negotiated the price down to stock value only, or $20,000.
It took all my savings, but I did it. And in July 2005 I became the owner of the store (which I would rename to Liquid Surf) and employed a team of up to 3 staff. I ran the business for almost 3 years (while still at high school) and it taught me more about business than any text book or blog post ever has.
How far along are you?
Task Pigeon is a live, revenue generating startup that has been growing Monthly Active Users by an average of 17% for the last 8 months.
We have proven that individuals and teams are willing to pay for our application with 65 paying users added during Startup School. We have also successfully started to grow Monthly Recurring Revenue with our largest team comprising 15 users from a $1bn publicly listed company in the UK.
In addition, we have started to prove demand for our marketplace offering that augments the underlying task management application. In the past week we have had two users sign up to utilize this service, tapping into our ability to provide Virtual Assistants on demand (just one of the offerings we have) to assist with tasks they needed to complete.
How long have each of you been working on this? Have you been part-time or full-time? Please explain.
I have been working on Task Pigeon for over 18 months now. During this time I have worked full time hours on Task Pigeon each and every week but do still hold down another job (with the view to go full time on Task Pigeon ASAP).
I understand that this is often not viewed favorably but I would argue that I put in just as much if not more effort than the majority of founders out there. I have sacrificed a lot to ensure I have the time to dedicate to Task Pigeon with early mornings, late nights and letting go of a number of hobbies/sports I previously pursued.
Furthermore deciding to retain my job for the time being was a conscious decision I made. Having that income allowed has me to invest more in Task Pigeon and ultimately provides an endless runway of funding so that I can continue to test and iterate where required in order to achieve our ultimate goal of empowering individuals and teams to get more done each day/week.
Which of the following best describes your progress?
How many active users or customers do you have? If you have some particularly valuable customers, who are they?
In September 2018 we had 418 Monthly Active Users. Our Monthly Active User base has been growing at 17% MoM for the past 8 months.
What has surprised me the most is our ability to attract some large companies to Task Pigeon even though we are an early stage startup. Our largest paying customer is a 15 user team from a $1bn UK listed company.
Engagement is also increasing month on month. For example between August and September the number of new tasks created by our users increased by 32%.
Do you have revenue?
What was your revenue in the last full calendar month?
(Please use USD. If none, enter ‘0’)
Your revenue 2 months ago?
Your revenue 3 months ago?
Your revenue 4 months ago?
Your revenue 5 months ago?
Your revenue 6 months ago?
Anything else you would like us to know regarding your revenue or growth rate?
We recently launched an updated version of Task Pigeon (which I call our V3). If was focused on improving the UI/UX of the application without losing the core functionality that our users have come to love. Since pushing that update we have seen an increase in user sign ups, MAU’s and user engagement which has been extremely encouraging
How much money do you spend per month?
How much money does your company have in the bank now?
How long is your runway?
(e.g. 5 months)
I continue to fund Task Pigeon out of my wage so can keep Task Pigeon going personally for at least another 9 months without external funding if required.
If you’ve applied previously with the same idea, how much progress have you made since the last time you applied? Anything change?
No, I have never previously applied to YC.
If you have already participated or committed to participate in an incubator, “accelerator” or “pre-accelerator” program, please tell us about it.
No, I have never previously participated in or committed to participate in an incubator, accelerator or pre-accelerator.
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?
I came to the idea for Task Pigeon with the fundamental belief that there isn’t a one size fits all approach to task management. Despite trying numerous tools I hadn’t found anything that felt quite right to me.
During my user research phase I discovered this was a common issue. Often staff found themselves forced to use a task management application that their company had signed up for, but it didn’t suit how they wanted to work.
Task Pigeon overcomes this by providing a variety of views, such as task tiles, list views and kanban boards. Ultimately this flexibility allows individuals within a large team to work how they want, without being dictated to by the tool/style of tool chosen by management.
More broadly speaking however I have been engaged with and utilized freelancers on a number of occasions. Through this process I came to learn that the workplace of the future is likely to be split 50/50 between employees and freelancers.
Not only that by according to a report by Accenture the traditional purpose of corporations and management models will be displaced by digitally connected marketplaces. So when I looked at existing providers in the market I saw that they fell in one of two camps. Either they handled the task management needs of an organisation, or offered a solution to find freelancers. But they didn’t marry the two together.
As a result Task Pigeon provides this flexibility. It is a task management tool at its heart but removes all of the unnecessary complexity if you find yourself snowed under and unable to complete the task. Instead of going to a completely separate tool and searching for the appropriate freelancer you can outsource the task via Task Pigeon in just a few clicks.
To test that people actually wanted what I was building I conducted numerous user interviews, set up a small pre-sale campaign before we even wrote a line of code and have continued to engage with our users since launch. Since then we have proven a need for both our task management application and the marketplace with a consistent increase in Monthly Active Users, growth in our paying user base and completion of tasks via our marketplace.
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)?
Task Pigeon augments our task management application with an on-demand marketplace of freelancers.
Why is that important? Well, firstly, existing task management / project management tools are all essentially focused on helping you and your team write things down. They are essentially just a better, more digitized version of pen and paper.
What they all ignore is the underlying issue. That is that, up to 40% of tasks people add to their to do list are never actually completed. So how do you solve that?
The answer is Task Pigeon. For example, let’s say Sarah assigns John a task to complete by Friday, but John’s week ends up getting overloaded with more urgent work. Currently this team would face two options. 1) Delay the task to next week or 2) cancel the task altogether. Task Pigeon introduces a third option and allows you to outsource that task in just a few clicks.
What substitutes exist currently? To achieve this you/your team would first need a task management application. Here our competitors are the likes of Trello, Asana, Monday.com, Wrike and Basecamp. Secondly, you would need to find a platform that allows you to find and source freelancers. Here the two most common options with be Upwork and Freelancer.
The problem with both of these outsourcing platforms is that you have to a) create a job b) wade through ten’s of submissions c) shortlist candidates d) select a candidate e) assign them the job. It all takes so much time. Time that you are not going to bother spending if the task was a 500 word blog post or some internet based research.
Task Pigeon removes all that friction. There is now searching for freelancers, no haggling over the price. Everything is predetermined. You just select the task you want to outsource and we take care of the rest.
Who are your competitors, and who might become competitors? Who do you fear most?
On the task management from Trello, Asana, Monday.com, Basecamp, etc would be our largest competitors. Interestingly enough some user research we conducted highlighted that people outside of the tech ecosystem haven’t heard of these platforms as often as you would think. Therefore I don’t believe any one player has achieved a dominating position in the market.
On the outsource/freelancer front platforms such as Freelancer.com and Upwork are out main competitors for general tasks. There are also other platforms that offer freelancers for a more defined scope such as blog writing (i.e. iWriter) ,marketing (CloudPeeps) or general virtual assistants (i.e. People Per Hour), etc, but again that requires going out of your existing task management tool and into another in order to find and source someone appropriate to complete the work for you.
In terms of who I fear most it would be a well funded company such as Asana or Trello (acquired by Atlassian) deploying additional resources to build out a marketplace of their own. Alternatively, I see Upwork as the most dominant player on the freelancer side and they could either build or acquire a task management application that they integrate closely with their marketplace.
What do you understand about your business that other companies in it just don’t get?
That people/companies don’t license task management or project management software to help them write things down. They license this software because they have an underlying need to get more things done.
While digitizing what was previously a pen and paper based task or something that was done over email does provide some benefits it still doesn’t get to the root of the issue.
All of these tools (Trello / Asana / etc) are great at what they do. They cut down the time it takes to find information associated with tasks, to see what it is due, who is responsible for it, etc but they don’t then take that next proactive step of helping you and your team move tasks off of that to-do list.
Task Pigeon solves that issue via our marketplace and the long term vision is centered around helping you and your team get more done. Ultimately this allows businesses to move faster and turn on / off additional resources as and when required.
How do or will you make money? How much could you make?
(We realize you can’t know precisely, but give your best estimate.)
At its core Task Pigeon is a SaaS task management application with both free and paid tiers. Our free tier is limited to a maximum of 5 users and has more limited functionality. The paid tier starts at $9 USD per user, per month.
Our marketplace offering augments this and provides an additional revenue stream. We have adopted a typical marketplace model and take 20% of the fee from the freelancer.
Long term I expect the split of revenue to be 70% from Monthly Recurring Revenue associated with the task management application and 30% coming from the marketplace.
Applications such as Asana have shown that there is demand for a paid task management application. According to recent reports they have 50,000 paying customers. Even if we assume an average of 10 team members per team (likely to be much higher once we engage enterprise level accounts) that would equate to 500,000 paying users or $4.5 million in Monthly Recurring Revenue (at $9 USD per user, per month).
I really only see that as the start though and am taking on this startup because I see a path to building a multi-billion dollar company. Why? Because the future of the workforce is likely to be split 50/50 between employees and freelancers.
That means that 50% of the current staff budget of corporations all across the world is potentially going to be allocated to engaging with freelancers. To make that process streamlined though there first of all needs to be a task management application that marries task management with access to freelancers together.
Task Pigeon provides this access, so in time we become much more important to a company than merely being a task management application. We provide access to freelancers on-demand so that their employees/teams can get more done each day (and without all the hassle of posting jobs, waiting for responses, haggling over times, etc).
With 125 million formal SME’s in the world even if we take just the top 10% of the market this results in 12,500,000 SME’s that could potentially benefit from our product and service. If we assume an average of 10 employees at this top tier and an average cost per user of $9 USD per month that equates to an total addressable market of $13.5 billion p.a. for the task management side alone.
If we then assume just 30% of the top 10% of SME’s engage with a freelancer platform that’s a total marekt of 3.75m SME’s. If they each spent on average $500 on outsourced work each year that’s an additional market of $1.87billion to target (with our marketplace set up to take 20% of all fees).
Targeting the SME market proves how there is a multi-billion dollar market in both segments. In time of course we believe going upstream to enterprise clients will only expand this number and our potential. In fact 25% of Fortune 500 companies are already using freelancers / on-demand workers and a report by Accenture showed that 85% of IT and Business executives expect to increase their use of freelancers in the coming year.
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?
Task Pigeon is live and has seen 17% average growth in Monthly Active Users over the last 8 months. Currently our user acquisition strategy focuses heavily on content marketing and SEO. I have been developing a comprehensive blog at https://blog.taskpigeon.co even prior to our launch.
We do run some retargeting campaigns using Google Adwords and Facebook Ads but the budget on this is minimal at this stage and is more about keeping Task Pigeon front and center of mind for those who are going through out 14 day free trial.
Interestingly enough, unlike most startups with a marketplace we haven’t faced the traditional chicken/egg issue. Most people who sign up for Task Pigeon originally engage with our application because of our task management capabilities. It is then within the app that they learn about their ability to outsource tasks via our marketplace in just a few clicks. As a result we have a growing user base to tap into for our marketplace offering.
On the supply side I have developed a curated list of freelancers who I have worked with in the past. When a new job comes in via the marketplace it is routed to one of the pre-vetted freelancers I have worked with. While this isn’t scaleable it will serve our needs until we have 20+ orders a day coming in. At which point we will need to source additional freelancers for the platform but will be able to do so with the proposition that we have business waiting for them straight away.
Have you incorporated, or formed any legal entity (like an LLC) yet?
What kind of entity and in what state or country was the entity formed?
(e.g. Delaware C Corp)
Pty Ltd company in Australia
Please describe the breakdown of the equity ownership in percentages among the founders, employees and any other stockholders.
Paul Towers – Founder & CEO = 100%
List any investments your company has received. Include the name of the investor, the amount invested, the premoney valuation / valuation cap, and the type of security sold (convertible notes, safes or stock).
Please provide any other relevant information about the structure or formation of the company.
Standard Australian Proprietary Limited company. I do however understand that if successful with my YC application there is a need to register as a Delaware C Corp and am happy to do so.
Are any of the founders covered by noncompetes or intellectual property agreements that overlap with your project? If so, please explain.
Who writes code, or does other technical work on your product? Was any of it done by a non-founder? Please explain.
I know my chances of getting in are diminished when I say this but I have outsourced development work on Task Pigeon. Before you write that answer off entirely though let me explain further.
I’m not one of those non-technical founders who doesn’t have a clue. I tapped into my network to make sure I was bringing on the right people and am extremely proud of my resourcefulness and ability to bootstrap Task Pigeon to where it is today. In fact I built our entire MVP for only $8,000 (and that included the cost of registering the company)
The benefits I have of outsourcing is that I can be extremely cost efficient. Even $10,000 USD would allow me to significantly advance Task Pigeon from where it is today.
Is there anything else we should know about your company?
(Pending lawsuits, cofounders who have left, etc.)
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.
No, I’m 100% committed to Task Pigeon
Please tell us something surprising or amusing that one of you has discovered.
(The answer need not be related to your project.)
The limit of human potential is something we all underestimate. Six years ago I read the story of Pheidippides who ran from Athens to Sparta (a distance of 153 miles) to seek aid in fighting the invading Persians.
He is said to have run the distance in a day and a half or 36 hours. This run had never been replicated until 1982 when five Royal Air Force officers attempted the course. Three of them completed it, proving it could be done and the following year a competition was born.
Today the course record stands at 20 hours and 25 minutes, but it was the original story that propelled me to take up the sport of ultrarunning myself (since put on hold to focus on my startup). While I haven’t completed a 153 mile race I have competed in numerous 24 hour endurance events and 100km trail runs. Each and every time I believe I have learned something new about myself, as well as the power of perseverance and commitment to a goal or cause.
What convinced you to apply to Y Combinator?
Fundamentally I believe in the ethos of Y Combinator. I believe that despite the competitive nature of startups, the wider YC community is genuinely interested in helping fellow YC founders and seeing them succeed. We all know that starting (and growing) a startup is tough, so having this network to tap into over time is invaluable.
In addition to that I have followed YC for many years. I believe your consistent track record is evidence of the approach you take with companies that go through YC and believe that being exposed to that same environment will allow me to accelerate Task Pigeon and increase the potential beyond what even I believe it has today.
I also being my hardworking, committed and dedicated nature fits what YC is looking for in a founder despite the fact that I am non-technical myself.
How did you hear about Y Combinator?
From immersing myself in the startup ecosystem over the years
Also published on Medium.