From YC Rejection to 10,000 Users in 1 Month | Codiqa
My co-founder Ben Sperry and I applied for the W2012 Y Combinator funding round last fall with Codiqa, our jQuery Mobile developer tools and services company based in Madison and Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
I interviewed with YC for the W2010 round with my last startup, which ultimately failed. It was a really great experience and I had a blast, even though we didn’t get funded. Being able to talk with really brilliant people in the orange room, meeting and pitching the partners, and exploring the tech capital of the world was an experience I will always cherish.
This time around, I was really confident we’d at least get an interview for Codiqa, so we submitted early and iterated on the application after that. A week before the application deadline we got a message on Hacker News from Robbert Morris with a question for us to clarify something on our application. I took this as a sign this would be the last time they checked the application. Too bad, since we made a ton of changes after that which might not have been reviewed (if that is true, it’s an argument against submitting early).
My good friend Ryan Oldenburg, now lead Android developer at Hipmunk, put me in touch with Steve Huffman, co-founder of Hipmunk and Reddit, for some much needed feedback on our application. He basically said that we needed to do a better job explaining why jQuery Mobile matters. In the end, we didn’t do a good enough job of that, and I think our other answers lacked substance and confidence (and were too MBA sounding). On Halloween night we received an email saying we were rejected, had a moment of sorrow, and moved on.
Not long after, the jQuery Mobile project started following our updates and expressed interest in what we were building. The fact that Codiqa is 100% dedicated to jQuery Mobile, we believe, set it apart from any other mobile app building tool. We began talking with Todd Parker, leader of the jQuery Mobile project, who was instrumental in giving us early feedback as we developed Codiqa, from its evolution as a desktop application to a web-based service.
We launched our private beta of Codiqa in January of 2012 to about 500 users. For two months we worked feverishly to build our MVP, fixing bugs and adding necessary features. We opened publicly in late February with an announcement to our mailing list and Twitter followers.
In February we approached Todd with a proposal to put a free, embedded version of Codiqa directly on the jQuery Mobile homepage. He loved the idea, and on the night of February 27th we went live directly on jquerymobile.com (scroll down to play with a basic version of Codiqa).
Since then, Codiqa has been growing beyond our wildest imaginations. By the end of this week we will have over 10,000 users, up from about 1,000 just a month ago. The excitement surrounding jQuery Mobile is huge, and we have people from all over the world using it. Here is a graph of total registered users over the last three months:
Here is a graph of new accounts per day over the last three months:
Codiqa launched with a freemium model: we have a basic builder that only allows HTML exporting, no saving on codiqa.com or using our sharing and theming tools. We try to upsell through saving your app instead of just downloading the HTML. Right now we are not satisfied with our conversion rate from free to paid. We are going to run some experiments, but we’d love to hear your ideas (NOTE: We just made a change which seems to be really improving this!). Here is a graph of free users and users with a plan (we just launched, so almost all users are still in their trial period):
And the conversion rate from free to paid:
We hit a major milestone yesterday: our first successful charge after a 30-day trial ended. We have about 1400 users in a free trial right now so we expect to successfully convert and charge a number of them to bring in some revenue.
For the next few months, our plan is to focus on our “hot dog” (see Rework) – the builder we’ve developed. We are going to be adding more components, fixing bugs, and updating our pricing to better reflect the use-cases we’ve heard from our customers. We are going to be launching an alpha version of our desktop builder in a month or so and are going to spend more time blogging and sharing our expertise with our users.
We are really excited for the next few months. We want to be very transparent about our growth as we bootstrap Codiqa. We would love to hear your feedback or any ideas you have on how we can grow Codiqa! Please leave a comment below if you have something to add. Stay tuned for more posts as we build Codiqa!
Pass the popcorn: Y Combinator startup caught stealing from 37signals | VentureBeat
Here’s some developer drama for your Saturday morning: Curebit, a Y Combinator startup that just closed a round of funding from Dave McClure’s 500 Startups fund, has been caught red-handed stealing HTML code, images, and the like from 37signals.
37signals, for those of you not familiar with the inner workings of the machine we call the Internet, is a web shop founded by Ruby on Rails creator DHH (short for David Heinemeier Hansson) and Jason Fried.
In terms of UI leadership and thought leadership, especially around startups, it is without doubt one of the more influential brain trusts in the web community.
In other words, not the most low-profile place from which to nab a little “inspiration.”
Evidence shows that not only did the Curebit team copy 37signals; they’re serving some assets right from 37signals’ original site. Click the images to see larger versions:
Check out these designs, code, and assets from Highrise, a 37signals product, and from Curebit:
In a Hacker News comment thread, one of the Curebit founders insists the whole thing was a big mistake — the team was just testing and slipped, fell, and landed on 37signals’ work.
“Were A/B testing different pages, came across the 37signals post, and were like, ‘Wow, we should see how that converts!’” wrote Curebit co-founder Allan Grant.
“We… did not really think through the implications of what we were doing. We just kind of thought about it as a fun test to run.
“Clearly it was stupid.”
Ironically, a 6-month-old blog post from 37signals about A/B testing reads, “What works for us may not work for you. Please do your own testing. Your conversion rates may suffer if you copy us.”
Your conversion rates or, you know, your credibility and integrity and the ability to have lunch in Silicon Valley ever again.
On Twitter, some of the Internet’s more colorful personalities are currently battling it out in a war of colorful words. After the discovery, DHH called the Curebit team “fucking scumbags” and Grant himself “a person of poor moral character.”
DHH then unleashed on Grant, saying, “I can’t believe you keep digging. For every [asinine] excuse, you’re making the original act an order of magnitude worse.
“There is no valid way to rip off people’s designs and have it be ok. Not ‘We’re small;’ not ‘We’re A/B testing.’”
To McClure, the startup’s leading investor in a recent $1.2 million round of funding, DHH writes, “Yo, is your money no good at Curebit? Because it doesn’t seem to be able to buy them decency or designers.”
McClure says he is “speaking to [Grant] about it.”
We’re willing to file this story under “lean startup wankery,” folks. Founders, take note: No matter how many corners you cut and no matter how small your team is, you still have to spend time and money on development and design. Yes, even when you’re testing. Otherwise, you will be publicly spanked and have your startup card revoked by some BDFL or other.