What do you want to know about YC interviews?

by Michael Waxman · YC interview candidate · about 3 years ago

Our Y-Combinator interview is on Sunday morning. This is the freshly-hacked demo we plan to present; we built it in the last 36 hours. Ask us about the interview, and we'll report back. (Other YC interviewees and alums: we'd love for you share your perspective too).

So why did we choose to build this?

The lines between journalist and reader are blurring. News is becoming increasingly collaborative and interactive. Publishers, meanwhile, still maintain a wall between content and comments. We built Qomments in an attempt to tear down this needless barrier and let the wisdom of the crowds be heard. This demo is the culmination of months of experiments in how to enable two-way journalism, in which readers and writers craft stories together.

Ask Michael (and his readers) about YC interviews:

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  • Up_arrow
    Are you currently nervous?
    7 votes · about 3 years ago
    They seem reasonably calm.
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    · Paul Graham , I'm looking at them. answered about 3 years ago
    4 votes · about 3 years ago
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    Why should we fund you?
    6 votes · about 3 years ago
    We build quickly. We haven't arrived at anything particularly great yet, but we're confident that if we constantly get things into the hands of users, we'll get there.
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    · Michael Waxman , Co-Founder of Qomments answered about 3 years ago
    3 votes · about 3 years ago
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    What was meeting PG in person like?
    5 votes · about 3 years ago
    You don't really "meet" anyone - it's 10 minutes, you're bundled into a room and say hi, then the questions start. Then you're bundled out and you go home. There's no socialising. That said, everyone was quite friendly.
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    · Tim Bull , Co-founder trunk.ly, YC Interviewee answered about 3 years ago
    1 votes · about 3 years ago
    A nice guy and not as antagonistic / intimidating as interviewees may think.
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    · Jerry Guo , Co-founder of Qomments answered about 3 years ago
    0 votes · about 3 years ago
    Paul quickly identified many of the opportunities around our idea that we had brainstormed but previously decided not to focus on during the interview. He had an upbeat and creative personality.
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    · George Deglin , Accepted for S2011 answered about 3 years ago
    2 votes · about 3 years ago
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    What is PaperBuff?
    3 votes · about 3 years ago
    Paper Buff is/was a social news reader based around curation. It is what we applied to YC with originally. We felt that the app had some fatal flaws, and so over the past few weeks we've been scrambling to fix them or build something else. Ultimately, we built Qomments.
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    · Michael Waxman , I made Paper Buff with Jerry and Amir answered about 3 years ago
    1 votes · about 3 years ago
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    How many people were in the room?
    3 votes · about 3 years ago
    Approximately 7, plus the 3 of us. It was a bit of blur, but I can definitely recall, from my left-to-right: Jessica, Paul Graham, Harj, Paul Buchheit, Justin Kan, Sam Altman, plus someone sitting in the corner who did not introduce himself, and maybe one more person sitting near Paul B and Justin.
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    · Michael Waxman , I was there answered about 3 years ago
    0 votes · about 3 years ago
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    Looking back, would you do anything differently (preparation wise, during the interview, etc.)?
    3 votes · about 3 years ago
    Probably would have been good (considering pg's answer on here) to finish our thoughts on the business model. We think sponsored answers and charging readers to ask/answer questions could be interesting experiments to try. Another possibility is to be an ad network at scale.
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    · Jerry Guo , Co-founder of Qomments answered about 3 years ago
    0 votes · about 3 years ago
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    Did you get in?
    3 votes · about 3 years ago
    No.
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    · Michael Waxman , received an email, not a call answered about 3 years ago
    0 votes · about 3 years ago
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    What were pg & co. wearing during your interview?
    3 votes · about 3 years ago
    The same as always.
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    2 votes · about 3 years ago
    I have absolutely no idea (probably a bad way to start an answer); the interview was such a blur that you just don't have the luxury of wandering off mentally. I think pg was wearing shorts though.
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    · Jerry Guo , Just came out of the interview answered about 3 years ago
    0 votes · about 3 years ago
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    How much market knowledge do they ask about?
    3 votes · about 3 years ago
    They didn't ask us any stats. One partner started asking us about the business model but then someone jumped in with another question.
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    · Jerry Guo , Just came out of the interview answered about 3 years ago
    1 votes · about 3 years ago
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    What are overused/meaningless tech "lingo" that you should avoid?
    3 votes · about 3 years ago
    Pivot
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    2 votes · about 3 years ago
    "Social"
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    0 votes · about 3 years ago
    Passionate.
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    · Paul Graham , Bitter personal experience. answered about 3 years ago
    2 votes · about 3 years ago
    Hair on fire is probably the only hair on fire problem I know.
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    0 votes · about 3 years ago
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    How much did you prepare?
    3 votes · about 3 years ago
    A lot. We talked to a dozen or so YC alumni (all of whom were incredibly helpful), we did mock interviews, we read up on pg's essays, we talked to current users and potential users, and, most of all, we tirelessly worked on our product.
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    · Michael Waxman , Co-Founder of Qomments, YC interviewee answered about 3 years ago
    1 votes · about 3 years ago
    Michael spent the last 36 hours before our interview basically cooking up this demo. We ended up checking out of our hotel five hours late on Sat, but apparently people in SF are so laid back that our flimsy excuse: "we're cranking on code" worked. They also cancelled most of our Internet charges because they thought no one could have had so many devices hooked up.
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    · Jerry Guo , Co-Founder of Qomments, YC interviewee answered about 3 years ago
    2 votes · about 3 years ago
    A lot. We spoke to as many YC founders as we could reach, we organised mock interviews with friends, we arrived early and practiced pitching with Alumni.
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    · Tim Bull , YC Interview, April 2011 answered about 3 years ago
    0 votes · about 3 years ago
    They seem well prepared.
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    1 votes · about 3 years ago
    A lot. Arranged meetings with over a dozen people to practice our pitch and refine our idea. Continuously followed up by email to get more feedback as our idea changed. Ultimately the final plans for our business were based on direct suggestions from publishers in our target market. We asked everyone we spoke with for the harshest criticism possible and refined both our plans and our pitch until we could best address every flaw they could find.
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    · George Deglin , Accepted for YC S2011 answered about 3 years ago
    1 votes · about 3 years ago
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    What do you like and what do you dislike about Qomments?
    3 votes · about 3 years ago
    I worry about how it will make money.
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    1 votes · about 3 years ago
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    When was this built?
    2 votes · about 3 years ago
    We started with the idea in the afternoon of Friday, April 29, and launched it early morning on Sunday, May 1 for our YC interview at 10:15 am. We're currently turning this prototype into a javascript widget.
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    · Michael Waxman , I wrote all ~1,000 lines of code answered about 3 years ago
    0 votes · about 3 years ago
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    Where you already in the area, or did you fly in for the interview?
    2 votes · about 3 years ago
    We flew in from New York.
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    · Michael Waxman , Co-Founder of Qomments answered about 3 years ago
    1 votes · about 3 years ago
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    What are your next steps?
    2 votes · about 3 years ago
    We're going to release an actual embeddable version of Qomments within the next week or so, and pilot it on several blogs. We're also working on a totally unrelated idea in the online dating space that we plan to launch soon, as well.
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    · Michael Waxman , Co-Founder of Qomments answered about 3 years ago
    1 votes · about 3 years ago
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    Was Jessica as nice as everyone says?
    2 votes · about 3 years ago
    Nicer.
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    · Michael Waxman , I met her answered about 3 years ago
    0 votes · about 3 years ago
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    How does Qomments compare to Disqus?
    2 votes · about 3 years ago
    Disqus is focused on traditional threaded comments; Qomments is focused on Q&A, which offers an entirely different prompt and structure. Although they each can serve a similar purpose, we think Q&A is significantly different enough that it requires its own set of tools in order to work.
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    · Michael Waxman , Co-Founder of Qomments answered about 3 years ago
    1 votes · about 3 years ago
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    Are you going to keep going?
    2 votes · about 3 years ago
    Definitely. We're going to sign up a few publishers and figure out if there's a product-market fit. In the meantime, we're also looking into an idea or two that we've wanted to try.
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    1 votes · about 3 years ago
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    Did Qcomments apply as a response to the journalism RFS?
    2 votes · about 3 years ago
    Yes, but we applied with a different app, Paper Buff, which was a social news reader.
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    · Michael Waxman , Co-Founder of Qomments answered about 3 years ago
    0 votes · about 3 years ago
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    So when will you know if you are in or no?
    2 votes · about 3 years ago
    They emailed us around 8:00PM that night. You get a call/email sometime the same night.
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    · Wesley Zhao , Rejected couple days ago answered about 3 years ago
    1 votes · about 3 years ago
    We got the rejection email at 7.
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    · Jerry Guo , interviewed for YC summer 2011 answered about 3 years ago
    0 votes · about 3 years ago
    Got a call earlier than expected at 5:45pm.
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    · George Deglin , Accepted for YC S2011 answered about 3 years ago
    1 votes · about 3 years ago
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    How is this different from Quora?
    2 votes · about 3 years ago
    We're a distributed Quora. Defining the community as the audience of a particular blog means allowing for different answers depending on place and time (while Quora is a centralized repository of canonical questions and answers).
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    · Jerry Guo , Co-founder of Qomments answered about 3 years ago
    0 votes · about 3 years ago
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    What was the hardest question they asked you?
    2 votes · about 3 years ago
    Questions were right on to the points, so we were ready for all of them and it made the interview even faster.
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    · Amir , I was one of the co-founders in an interview answered about 3 years ago
    0 votes · about 3 years ago
    It's funny; the two hardest questions we were asked we specifically prepared for, and yet we still had trouble answering them. They related to the equity distribution and to the status of one of our co-founders who hasn't dropped out of his PhD program. Our inability to answer these questions well very likely factored into our rejection because of a "lack of cohesion among the founders." At the same time, these were both facts that we only could have dealt with in action (e.g. change the equity, or have Amir drop-out or not have joined the team), so no amount of interview prep could have changed how these questions played out.
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    · Michael Waxman , YC interviewee answered about 3 years ago
    2 votes · about 3 years ago
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    What's the worst mistake a team could make in the interview?
    2 votes · about 3 years ago
    Being inauthentic and pretending that you know more than you do. The interview is mostly a function of the team you've put together, not how much knowledge you have and if you've thought through every possible scenario. There are things you don't know, and that's fine and good.
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    1 votes · about 3 years ago
    Being incomprehensible.
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    2 votes · about 3 years ago
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    What is the status of this site?
    1 votes · about 3 years ago
    We're currently working on another project over at joingrouper.com. But we still think there's something here with collaborative content, and may return to it one day.
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    0 votes · about 3 years ago
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    So, you got a "we'd like to interview you, but for one of your alternate ideas" e-mail? Was that worded differently?
    1 votes · about 3 years ago
    No, we actually pivoted (noted that someone else answered here this is overused) 36 hours before our interview. We had a pre-interview chat with Alexis a couple weeks beforehand, and told him our dilemma that we didn't really like our original product. This got back to Harj, who emailed us about it. We replied that we were going to build a new product, so I think we committed ourselves at that point, despite not having any idea what it would be.
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    · Jerry Guo , Co-founder Qomments answered about 3 years ago
    0 votes · about 3 years ago
    We actually didn't get that email. We decided to change our idea pre-interview because we weren't getting particularly positive feedback from our users, and looking out we felt the space we were in was a dead end.
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    · Michael Waxman , Co-Founder of Qomments answered about 3 years ago
    0 votes · about 3 years ago
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    What was the reason YC gave you for your rejection?
    1 votes · about 3 years ago
    Lack of a business model "to make startup scale money" with Qomments, and lack of cohesion among the founders.
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    · Michael Waxman , Co-Founder of Qomments answered about 3 years ago
    0 votes · about 3 years ago
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    What happened after the interview? Do you fly home?
    1 votes · about 3 years ago
    We flew in from the East Coast, so we're sticking around for a few more days to see friends and meet people. We hung out at YC for a little while after the interview (and got to talk to some awesome YC alumni and other applicants!), then got lunch in downtown Mountain View, where we currently are, enjoying the free Wi-Fi.
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    · Michael Waxman , Co-Founder of Qomments answered about 3 years ago
    0 votes · about 3 years ago
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    How's the coffee at YC interviews?
    1 votes · about 3 years ago
    They also have soft drinks and the partners seem to be constantly coming out for bagels. But I would advise against caffeine as your adrenaline will definitely be on full throttle already.
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    · Jerry Guo , Just came out of the interview answered about 3 years ago
    0 votes · about 3 years ago
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    What's the YC office like?
    1 votes · about 3 years ago
    Generally smaller than what I had imagined, though the communal room is very airy and has a clean aesthetic. The interview room is behind the kitchen and quite cramped. Founders on one side and the partners squeezed around the other; structure is definitely more conducive to demos where you give them the link and have them play around with a live product rather than you trying to show it on your screen (too small for the 7-8 people on the other side to see).
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    · Jerry Guo , Just came out of the interview answered about 3 years ago
    0 votes · about 3 years ago
    It is like a medium size partitioned warehouse inside of an orange. This orange has a very cool robotic lab inside. I love the restroom which you can read "Language and Problems of Knowledge" in its restroom.
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    · Amir , I am here and I looking around. answered about 3 years ago
    0 votes · about 3 years ago
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What is Qomments?
Qomments is an embeddable discussion platform that uses questions and answers instead of comments.
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We think traditional comments are broken, and that the future of news will be collaborative and interactive.
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