Working with the founders is probably my favorite part of Y Combinator. So when “alumni” come to visit, I get especially excited. I’m spoiled when we’re in Silicon Valley, since so many YCers live in the Bay area. Many will crash dinners or else I’ll stop by the Y Scraper when I’m in the city to say hello.
Besides the 19 new startups participating in this summer’s funding cycle, I think there’s only one active alumni startup in Boston (more on this in a future post). So I was delighted when a few of our alumni visited Cambridge last week.
Zenter: Victory lap
Wayne and Robby of Zenter flew out to meet the new founders and talk about what they wished they’d known in the first month of YC. This was the first time we’d seen them since the Google acquisition and it was nice to see for myself how happy they seemed. Their main advice for the founders: channel all your hacking ability into making something users want. Especially in the months leading up to Demo Day.
Wufoo: Getting it right
Kevin Hale of Wufoo also visited and spent hours giving the founders design feedback. (He’s extremely talented in this area.) Kevin founded Wufoo with brothers Chris and Ryan Campbell. They moved from Tampa to Mountain View in January ’06 and, like the Zenters a year later, took advantage of the next 3 months to work nonstop on their product. They rewarded themselves occasionally by watching LOST, but other than that, they were programming animals.
They raised some angel funding before returning to Tampa in April ’06. We worried the Wufoos would be hosing themselves with this move (do you know any software startups from Tampa?) but it seems to have worked out OK. In the 15 months since, the founders have accomplished a lot. They launched a year ago and have consistently added new features. They also care a lot about customer service. Apparently their average response time to emails from users is six and a half minutes-- and it’s only three guys!
They have all sorts of clever tricks to help them stay productive. I can’t say too much about the most amusing one, since I think Kevin plans to write about it on Particle Tree, but the payoff is a trip to the winner’s destination of choice with the loser assuming the role of “trip bitch.”
Kevin’s most exciting news was that Wufoo is now profitable. He showed me a graph with a nice smooth upward curve. Assuming they don’t make some huge mistake, the Wufoos are in a place most “Web 2.0” companies would envy: they’ll never have to ask investors for permission to keep working on their product.