Y Combinator Application Rejected

It was a crazy idea to apply to Y Combinator Winter 2018 Application Cycle. We didn’t think we would get in and indeed we didn’t and that’s ok. We learned the valuable lesson of putting ourselves out there.

Nothing ever happens if you don’t ask, if you never step up and raise your hand. Nothing ever happens if don’t lay some form of consistent action forward while doing and trying something different than you have done before by co-creating with this universe. All of this is truly essential in building out opportunities that can bring new lessons, grow your business and making a difference in the life of your customers in our case our creative writers and the creative industry. Yet building out this habit requires a great level of discomfort and truly fighting million of years of evolutionary force that often pushes towards the ‘comfortable’ and resorting to doing things of ‘familiarity’. This constant state of discomfort is almost like building a muscle, the more you do it and practice it, the more naturally it grows and becomes second nature. I put ‘Applying to YC’ in this category.

This founders journey in entrepreneurship requires a reconfiguration of the self and being open to being changed and transformed outside of who you’ve always thought you were or thought you would and should become. It’s a tricky process and being open to receive these learnings and messages while being humble is key. This for sure has been a process I have seen in my life since starting out this journey. I am not the same person who started about 7 months ago.

There remains numerous best practices and measures you might gain through learning through books (Some Favorites I recommend: Zero–1 by Peter ThielBusiness Generation ModelLean Startup by Eric Ries), watching interviews & talks over the internet (A few favorites I recommend: David Heinemeier Hansson- Unlearn Your MBAMichael Schrage on Winning with Customers: Who do you want your customers to become? ) listening to Podcasts (One of my favorites: How I Built this on NPR and Seth Godin’s Startup school) as well as speaking with advisers, investors and friends. Yet this journey requires new thinking that you yourself must take into actions by executing, experimenting, failing forward, listening, reflecting and trying again over and over relentlessly.

You can see our YC application below. Some of our personal information have been blotted out but this is as we submitted. We could’ve definitely benefited by having reviewers or reaching out to entrepreneurs that have gone through the process before. It was a last minute affair that helped us learn so much about ourselves and what we are building at Syllble. I can tell you this much that a lot has changed in Syllble since submitting the Winter 2018 application back in October 2018. I was indeed disappointed by the results but I have felt an even greater motivation by our rejection, to continue doing our work, getting back up to prove user viability, have a much greater and narrow focus.

 
YC Rejection Letter

Here’s what has changed since then:

  1. We have a ‘Proof of Concept” and working towards more diverse ones: We published on Amazon three short fiction stories that have been entirely collaborated upon in person and/or online to prove this process works. You can buy it here.
  2. Greater focus on our mission: To empower all writers of the future, discover great talent and deliver the best stories you love. Breakdown barriers (which include writers block, lack of time, experience, knowledge etc) and bring writers more economic opportunities for success.
  3. We now have greater focus on our product and our ‘Collab Room’: We want to connect writers to publishers & filmmakers while identifying the writers that want to collaborate with other creatives to publish original work by providing a project management and peer review process. Syllble as a one-stop source for all production needs of fiction stories from the ground up — peer reviewers, editors, illustrators, publishers and filmmakers.
  4. Greater focus on our vision: To become the Internet’s primary production studio and a global hub of creativity where writers and creatives are sharing ideas, collaborating and producing some of the best stories (Short Stories, Novels, Screenplay, Comics, Animation, Films) in the world. Create timeless and universal stories that will inspire the imagination of people everywhere for generations one.
  5. Closer understanding of our value proposition we deliver to each of our customer segments.
  6. 5 CollabRoom Writing Groups gone through the process and 6 active Groups (minimum 2 to 5 people groups): All experimenting with different genres and forms of writing: Novels, Screenplay, Children’s Story and Etc..
  7. A low barrier to entry pricing strategy that is going to be implemented reasonably soon.
  8. Understanding the complexity of our competition more closelyBlcklistHitrecordReedsyWattpad
  9. Bridging access to underrepresented voices and writers of color.

YC Application Below

COMPANY

Company name:

Syllble

Company url, if any:

http://Syllble.com

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.)

[BLANK]

Describe your company in 50 characters or less.

Collaborative marketplace for writers

What is your company going to make?

Through our Collab-Room MVP: 
We are connecting writers with ideas to create original content that is publishable. Connect original content to online reader audiences and connect established writers to business and interested filmmakers to create television shows, animation, movies and signature stories.

Which category best applies to your company?

Marketplace

Is this application in response to a YC RFS?

No

Where do you live now, and where would the company be based after YC?

(List as City A, Country A / City B, Country B.)

Washington D.C.

CONTACT

Email address of the founder who is filling out this application:

(REMOVED)

Phone number(s):

(REMOVED)

FOUNDERS

Founders

HACKER NEWS USERNAME

(REMOVED)

Please enter the url of a 1 minute unlisted (not private) YouTube video introducing the founders. (Follow the Video Guidelines.)

https://youtu.be/3-wTqkUlVeQ

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.

N/a

How long have the founders known one another and how did you meet? Have any of the founders not met in person?

We have known each other since 2013. We met during our Graduate School at Eastern Mennonite University’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding studying Conflict Transformation

PROGRESS

How far along are you?

Private testing of 4 collabwriting teams while leveraging a Slack for the group, google docs and zoom conference call. We have 4 short stories between 2 to 5 pages formed within one and half week.

How long have each of you been working on this? Have you been part-time or full-time? Please explain.

Both of us have full-time jobs so we have been focusing part time on this endeavor in the afternoon and during the weekends.

Which of the following best describes your progress?

Private Beta

How many active users or customers do you have? If you have some particularly valuable customers, who are they?

In the Slack group we have a total of 20 people: 
Collabwriting-in-person team 1: 3 people 
Collabwriting online team 1: 2 people 
Collabwriting-in-person team 2: 4 people 
Collabwriting-in-person team 3: 4 people

From our key customer archetype and the most valuable are individuals who don’t think they can write.

Do you have revenue?

No

Anything else you would like us to know regarding your revenue or growth rate?

N/a

How much money do you spend per month?

0

How much money does your company have in the bank now?

0

How long is your runway?

(e.g. 5 months)

N/a

If you’ve applied previously with the same idea, how much progress have you made since the last time you applied? Anything change?

N/a

If you have already participated or committed to participate in an incubator, “accelerator” or “pre-accelerator” program, please tell us about it.

N/a

IDEA

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?

Writers deserve more creative freedom, wealth and abundance from their art. The current publishing, writing and film-making industries are very top down. This idea came from my own personal life. As an avid reader, poet and fiction writer working on my first novel around my immigrant experience coming to the United States, I’ve always felt I didn’t have a creative community that i could share and bounce my ideas with nor did I have proper connections to understand the writing field, nor make my writing much more of a reality while building my skills and growing my reader audience that could then afford me my dream of having a critical voice in our society and culture today in spite of everything that is occurring in the U.S.

Having experienced different problems over the years such as writers block, not having enough time to create, not being held accountable to somebody else nor having a reliable editor, I first and foremost wanted to explore ways in which people’s creativity could thrive as well as get connect them with the right people to get their stuff out there.

Every single person that has gone through this process has expressed immense joy of collaboratively creating with others. Before we got started, Bshara and I market tested by contacting writers and freelancers through Survey Monkey, then conducted many phone and in-person interviews. It was then and there we discovered a vast array of the problems/pain points similarly to what I had experience extended to much more people not just writers but many creative entrepreneurs. Many people right now need this. 
We are starting with connecting writers to readers.

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)?

At the core of what we are building is a decentralized production collab team that allows people to create together in a fun way. We are focused on making a structured process where people can collaborate and explore their creativity in an unfettered way both in person and online. We want to charge people to join a CollabRoom group to create with others original content then connect them with the right people to have their finished product (book) distributed to different markets and audiences (readers and filmmakers). We want to cut out the agent and give people an equal footing in having more access to opportunities of getting their work (seen by the right people) out to the world. Through the collabroom we can address many pain points bring them more accountability, structure and time, confidence in growing as a better writer then having a voice and influence to make a difference in the world.

People go on Reddit to collaborate writing. People even go to college and spend four entire years to learn how to write. People sign up for writing workshops to break their writers block. People submit their screenplays and novels in thousands yet just few a few are picked by major publishing companies and certain narratives that impact the world negatively are repeated.

As for established writers who often lack the wealth from the small royalties they receive, we want to connect them together with other published writers through the collabroom through which they can work to meet Businesses needs and create the kind of unique storytelling that can inspire employees and business leadership as a mean to get paid and find the time to write.

Who are your competitors, and who might become competitors? Who do you fear most?

https://Reedsy.com 
https://Wattpad.com 
https://Scifutures.com

We fear Reedsy the most.

What do you understand about your business that other companies in it just don’t get?

Our business is focused around the creative process and finding the best way for people to collaborate from the get go, unclog their creativity and create best stories and product for the best audience.

If done right this can eliminate the agents role within many industry and provide direct access to many creatives within the writing industry, entertainment and filmmaker.

How do or will you make money? How much could you make?

(We realize you can’t know precisely, but give your best estimate.)

This November with our soft launch during the “National Novel Writing Month”. We are going to charge creative writers $10/month to participate in the collaborative process. Charge readers $1/month to get access to the platform where they can follow writers and read their up to date stories as they write it, they can read for free. Sales will be through Amazon, Print on Demand, bookstores and contract with filmmakers and businesses for signature stories. Most royalties will go to Writers %50 — Editors, Illustrator and marketing %35 — Syllble %15.

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?

Through social proof of created stories we will use word of mouth and then attract established writers and filmmakers who can create social buzz about our platform. We have also thought of making this an invite only community at first that can create a sense of exclusivity.

EQUITY

Have you incorporated, or formed any legal entity (like an LLC) yet?

No

If you have not formed the company yet, describe the planned equity ownership breakdown among the founders, employees and any other proposed stockholders.

(This question is as much for you as us.)

Founders — 80%: 
-Fabrice 40% 
-Bshara 40% 
Employee Pool — 10% 
Advisory Pool — 10%

Please provide any other relevant information about the structure or formation of the company.

We are exploring the long tail business model.

LEGAL

Are any of the founders covered by noncompetes or intellectual property agreements that overlap with your project? If so, please explain.

N/a

Who writes code, or does other technical work on your product? Was any of it done by a non-founder? Please explain.

N/a

Is there anything else we should know about your company?

(Pending lawsuits, cofounders who have left, etc.)

N/a

OTHERS

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.

N/a

Please tell us something surprising or amusing that one of you has discovered.

(The answer need not be related to your project.)

I have discovered that when I write fiction stories, characters within the stories often begin to take a life of their own and they almost take the lead in the direction that they want to go. You almost have to listen to them, understand their needs and why they do what they do to create the world around them. It reminds me of the process of listening to the customer.

CURIOUS

What convinced you to apply to Y Combinator?

We have nothing to lose but everything to gain in really building something people will have fun with and love. Plus also having the chance to have a real impact in the world and bringing underrepresented ideas and voices to the table of storytelling is invaluable.

How did you hear about Y Combinator?

CouchSurfing Meetup back in NY 2015 from a now Founder of a backed company at Y Combinator

Article Originally Posted on Medium

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Syllble: a Startup in search of creating Magic and finding true Creativity

At Syllble (A creative community and collaborative Marketplace for writers), we are focused on building and finding the best culture and iterating the best possible process where writers, storytellers and people from all walks of life can collaborate through our collabRoom (MVP) production teams while harnessing their imagination and creativity in an unfettered way. The power in collabwriting lies in using the brain power of many people to look at a specific issue or idea than one person, it’s faster, more fun and yields better and faster results. In today’s sharing economy connecting people is easy but finding a structure that removes all barriers to creativity away from fear, time, lack of trust, judgment, experience, and hierarchy is hard. I believe as we refine this process towards this goal we will help people build the best stories (product) that we can connect to different markets: readers, filmmakers, and businesses.

Secondly we believe that our users deserve all the wealth and abundance they can receive from their creativity. We want to test this out in three ways — first connect their original content (products) to readers and a broad audience. Secondly, connect their original content with interested filmmakers, producers and animators. Thirdly, connect our more experienced writers and storytellers to businesses whereby they utilize the same process (CollabRoom) to design signature stories among other things that will fuel, motivate and inspire the employees of these business and build a culture that will lead to higher forms of productivity in the workplace, we believe this (businesses) in a Marketplace for writers is yet another form of wealth that can support writers in their endeavors and really give them the freedom to create and write more often.

Though this is a very big picture vision we believe that carefully iterating step-by-step, version by version while closely listening to our users and writers will be key in forming an early platform with a solid foundation that is really useful to their lives and their needs. So far in the span of three weeks we have formed four collabwriting teams (three teams in person and one online). We have 53 people in our growing Mailchimp email list. In our search for simplicity, they each have created together a short story while leveraging slack, google docs, Zoom conference call and Skype. Through observation and feedback so far we have learned a great deal in building a uniquely curated collabRoom for writers since the initial first batch of our initial market research (survey monkeys and personal interviews). Again, our immediate goal right now is finding a process where writers, freelancers and collaborators can freely create. Our promised is a book published in their names in three months.

Technology serves the mission, as a result if we can build this process while leveraging free and accessible tools to engage people to meaningfully collaborate and co-create, then building an online platform will be a simple endeavor. First building something people love and one that works is key and our priority.

Storytelling of Syllble

Why stories? We chose to first experiment with stories because stories are everywhere. We will never run out of stories. Stories can change the world for the better or destroy it. Stories can shape our behaviors and our way of thinking. Stories can indeed improve so much of our society and this is what we are doing with Syllble.

Research as even shown that people who readily read fiction are much more empathetic than their counterparts who don’t, because they are able to place themselves in the shoes of these characters in intimate ways.

I especially wanted to anchor the creation of Syllble fiction stories within specific principles that writers should keep in mind while building their fiction stories during the collaborative sessions:

1) Social commentary: how is this story whether science fiction, horror, romance, etc.. allows us to see something deeper of the human condition and the social ailments of our society today? This is what fiction was originally intended for back in the days.

2) Capturing the zeitgeist of the day: what different themes and events are happening around the world or in your own community currently? How do we capture these themes within fiction?

3) Hero’s journey: How so we explore these archetypes and myths? As they remains an essential process of storytelling that hits at the core of every existing culture around human history that has ever lived on the planet, one Joseph Campbell had clearly elaborated.

4) Create raw characters — show not tell: Create characters that pull and move people to feel in ways that had not before.

Inspiration for Creating Syllble Platform is Everywhere

Many things has inspired this shift in ‘writing’ we seek in the way we had originally conceived of Syllble here, in our hopes to try to bring some of these elements below within a platform that could sing all together for writers. Yet a major challenge remains not being able to filter all the feedback coming back out of the project, our strategic direction/vision, then deciding who to listen to, what to listen to get good business, product and professional direction:

1) Disruptive forces within the writing and publishing industry: Amazon “Print-on-Demand”, Audiobooks, Blogs, Ebooks.

2) The Martian by Andy Weir: He experimented in crowdsourcing and crowd-storytelling the science of his self-published novel “The Martian” which then became a successful movie. The Martian was not only successful because of the accuracy of the space science and his interesting storytelling methods but because those who had played an active role in the creation of the book where more willing to buy it after its completion. The very act of crowdsourcing and crowdstorytelling through Reddit was key in building an engage audience that had created buzz and social traction all around (an organic form of marketing) something many writers today lack.

The possibility remains endless in engaging different industries, fields, interest groups with fiction story writers that can fuse so much of the empirical or specific information that has been siloed within a specific jargon filled language. Fiction collaborative processes can spread that information to the to the mass in a creative way. Lets say fields of Biology, Economics, Art History, Urban Planning, Physics connecting with Story writers. What role can Syllble play in that connection? Could innovation and new discoveries in these fields follow suit?

3) Axe Cop: Axe Cop organically grew from the collaboration of two bothers into a now popular comic book and Television show. How can the collabRoom teams serve in creating decentralized production methods of building the next generation of superhero comics, graphic novels, animation shows, short films that can be entertaining and much more inclusive to different underrepresented voices.

4) Companies such as Disney, Pixar and Apple: The way they have engaged creativity, leading product design, company culture and vision.

5) Anime production: As an avid watcher of Anime (One Punch Man, One Piece, Naruto, Attack on Titans, Fullmetal Alchemist..) It’s always fascinated me to see how these manga have turned into television series.

6) Reddit WriteWithMe: Something very interesting has been happening in Reddit around Collaborative writing. There is a need.

7) Soho Artist in Residence NYC/WeWork: Could Syllble have creative office spaces inspired in different cities that enables and centers people to meet, create, focus and collaborate even more?

Everyone is a Storyteller

The next time you find yourself describing something that happened to you, to your friend, or something you saw with your own eyes, then you are a storyteller, yes you. All of these stories are stored deeply within us, in our memories and subconscious mind all brought together merging through our imagination. Flannery O’connor famously said, “Anyone who has lived to the age of eighteen has enough stories to last a lifetime”, I think this goes far beyond to express the deep well of creativity that’s lies hidden and unexpressed in all of us. Challenge yourself to create something that matters in the world. Visit our website Syllble.com and sign up to get more information on how you can explore your creativity and do some collabwriting. Do you have writers block? then sign up for Syllble and our initial beta testing. We promise you that your creativity will be unleashed. Through Syllble you can become a better writer, experiment and find the time to create with others.

In the next article, I hope to explore more in depth the self-prototyping process (Version 0.1 MVP) that I did with others before the first collabwriting group was even formed. I want to shared the story that was created, what were my initial learnings of the process, some of my struggles, thoughts and reflections. Also, expect an article on Syllble finances and the pricing strategies we will be implementing to test in our search to make this marketplace viable and a sustainable one.

Originally Published on Medium