Company url, if any:
Please enter the url of a 1 minute unlisted (not private) YouTube video introducing the founders.
YC usernames of all founders, including you, guynamedloren, 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.)
YC usernames of all founders, including you, guynamedloren, who will live in the Bay Area January through March if we fund you. (Again, that's usernames, not given names.)
What is your company going to make?
GitHub for writers - a platform for hosting, collaborating on, and publishing writing projects. Types of projects include: textbooks, ebooks, novels, research papers, technical documentation, engineering journals, legal documents, teaching materials. Collaboration is version controlled and asynchronous, built on top of Git, a version control system with mass adoption by developers (but inaccessible otherwise). Content is written with markdown syntax, so it's formatted, compiled, and exported into consumable formats (PDF, ePub, and Word) with a single click.
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.
guynamedloren; Loren Burton; 24; 2010; University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, bachelors in Enterprise Systems Engineering; firstname.lastname@example.org; madebyloren.com; github.com/aguynamedloren; aguynamedloren; @madebyloren; currently funemployed, was previously a lead full-stack developer at Grubwithus
Please tell us in one or two sentences about the most impressive thing other than this startup that each founder has built or achieved.
Between completing my engineering degree and finding a job, desperation struck as I nearly ran out of money and couldn't pay rent. I capitalized on a freak snowstorm by designing a t-shirt and building a website to sell it (www.snowday2011.com). The site went viral on social media, generating hundreds of thousands of visitors and $6k in sales in two days (at 75% net profit margin). I went from idea to profit in roughly 4 hours, and the t-shirt that I was selling didn't even exist until weeks later.
Please tell us about the time you, guynamedloren, most successfully hacked some (non-computer) system to your advantage.
I hacked the job market w/ 'Loren wants to work at Airbnb as a Frontend Engineer'
To bypass the standard job application process (resume + cv) and boost my odds, I built a website tailored to Airbnb highlighting my experiences and qualifications. For a bit of fun, I didn't share the site with Airbnb directly, but used the power of social media to catch their attention. It was wildly successful. I posted the site to HN and dropped a "share on twitter" button on the bottom of the page, racking up tens of thousands of hits and hundreds of tweets. I was in touch with Joe Gebbia (thanks pg!!) within hours, who expedited the interview process, and I flew to SF the next morning. Though I didn't get the job, the 'stunt' garnered interest from 25+ startups (several YC), which led to a position as an early engineer at Grubwithus a week later.
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.
How long have the founders known one another and how did you meet? Have any of the founders not met in person?
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'm working on this because after years of collaborating on code with GitHub, it blows my mind that the equivalent doesn't exist for non-developers. Collaborative writing is a fragile process, even with modern tools like Google Docs and Dropbox. One unlucky group member always gets stuck merging a bunch of different versions of a research paper together. Sophisticated version control is not at the core of these tools, so they break down for anything even slightly complex.
I have experience building production apps (both independently and in teams), a deep understanding of Git and the coding chops to build this. The alpha is already live. Though I only dabble in writing, I have been in contact with experienced writers and early users of the platform to ensure that it is suitable for non-developers.
To validate the idea before I started coding, I wrote a blog post explaining the concept  and threw up a landing page to collect emails and measure interest. From that:
- nearly 100 people contacted me directly: professors, students, spec writers, grant writers, bloggers, novelists, researchers, scientists, product managers
- 3,500 people subscribed for beta
- I received an unsolicited monetary donation (which I didn't accept)
- the idea got some press (forbes.com and slate.com)
- CEO of a competing product contacted me for possible integration
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)?
The newest part is the collaboration workflow: there is a master version of a document, contributors work on individual versions, those versions are funneled into the master version after review. Because Git is running under the surface, this process is highly efficient - no copy-pasting or renaming files or anything painful, just a few button clicks and some automation. Developers have been using this workflow to collaborate on code for years (via Git and GitHub), but it's indecipherable for non-developers.
A huge benefit of this workflow is that content can be open source: since the project owner controls the flow of changes, anybody can contribute without concern of abuse or vandalism.
This is a deviation from tools like Google docs or Dropbox, where there's a single version of a file and editing is a free-for-all: any collaborator can write/delete anything. Sometimes this can be disastrous, especially for larger, less cohesive groups, or projects where more formality is required.
Substitutes: emailing Word docs (w/ 'track changes'), Google Docs, Dropbox. Adventurous individuals try GitHub.
Who are your competitors, and who might become competitors? Who do you fear most?
Atlas (O'Reilly Media) - most similar in terms of approach ('GitHub for writers'), big potential with O'Reilly backing
Editorially - writing tool for small teams (ie group of journalists), only private projects, only single writer/editor at a time
GitHub - have mentioned their eventual expansion beyond code and are already moving in that direction (eg: recent support for spreadsheets and 3D models). I fear them the most because they realize the opportunity, have the team to make it happen, a track record of solid execution, and a massive userbase.
Might become competitors:
Draft by Nate Kontny (YC W06/S11) - version control for writers, but designed for short form content (vs long form), private projects only
Authorea (Harvard) - 'collaboration for scientists' - writing platform based on git, has public projects, but heavily geared towards scientific research
Sharelatex.com - implementing git right now, so it starts to get into the same ballpark
Academia.edu, TeachHub, Wattpad, Quip, SelectedPapers, Substance, Repositex, Open Science Framework, Kivo, Word, Leanpub, Google Docs, Dropbox, Scrivener
What do you understand about your business that other companies in it just don't get?
Comment: A big factor of success in this space will be the teaching of git to writers through videos and the UI.
How do or will you make money? How much could you make? (We realize you can't know precisely, but give your best estimate.)
1) Charge users: monthly fee for private projects and organizations [$5 - $200/mo]
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?
I've been working on this full time for 2.5 months.
I've written tens of thousands of LOC by myself in Rails. Adding in the open source projects that I've built on top of, it's hundreds of thousands of LOC.
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)?
Currently in alpha, 350 testers finding bugs and kicking the tires.
Entering beta next week, 3,500 emails on beta list.
If you have an online demo, what's the url? (Please don't password protect it; just use an obscure url.)
Login not required for browsing, but required for editing:
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?
1) It's inherently shareable: writers want feedback on their work, so they invite their peers. As an experiment to validate my theory, I emailed 70 people (who expressed interest) to a private alpha, and 130 people had signed up within a few days.
Comment: Did you track referrals? Hard numbers will help your case here
3) Active involvement in online writing communities (writers.meetup.com, writers.stackexchange.com, tex.stackexchange.com, reddit.com/r/KeepWriting, reddit.com/r/write), especially where version control is mentioned
4) Partner with writing competitions and programs (eg National Novel Writing Month - nanowrimo.org)
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, who from, and at what valuation or valuation cap?
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.)
100% (just me for now, this will change when i bring cofounders on board)
If you have already participated or committed to participate in an incubator, "accelerator" or "pre-accelerator" program, please tell us about it.
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?
For founders who can't, why not? What level of commitment are they willing to make?
Do any founders have other commitments between January through March 2014 inclusive?
Do any founders have commitments in the future (e.g. finishing college, going to grad school), and if so what?
Where do you live now, and where would the company be based after YC?
After: SF or LA
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?
No noncompetes, no consultants
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.)
All code is mine + lots and lots of open source
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.
Please tell us something surprising or amusing that one of you has discovered. (The answer need not be related to your project.)
When A/B testing, sometimes the ugliest designs perform the best, and prettiest designs perform the worst. Good design is important, but keep an eye on the numbers.