How to Get a YCombinator Interview: Sniply YC Application

4-Week Old Startup Gets YCombinator Interview — Here’s Our Application

If you have an online demo, what’s the url?

Website: http://www.snip.ly
60-second walkthrough: https://vimeo.com/89670092

What is your company going to make?

Snip.ly is a link shortener that drives conversion. It lets you embed messages into every page you share across social media. Here’s an example of my Snip.ly message on Y Combinator’s home page: snip.ly/dBy. It works like a link shortener, but allows you to embed into the page your own call to action, commentary, announcements, and pretty much anything you want. You can promote yourself while sharing articles from TechCrunch, Forbes, Mashable, etc. Every shared link is a lost opportunity if you’re not using Snip.ly.

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?

Sharing is huge. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn Newsfeeds are filled with content people are constantly sharing. Yet few share for the sake of sharing. People share to build thought leadership, an audience, and a following, so they can ultimately push their own brand, their messaging, campaigns, and Call to Actions. Sharing is meaningless without conversion. We built Snip.ly as a link shortener that drives conversion, by allowing people to embed their own Call to Actions into the pages they share, extending their brand into shared content and driving conversion. We know people need what we’re making because we can see hundreds of snip.ly links being shared everyday. Check out this real-time twitter stream: https://twitter.com/search?q=snip.ly&src=typd&f=realtime.

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)?

Currently, people primarily use Bit.ly for link shortening. However, Bit.ly serves absolutely no purpose other than simply shortening the link. It does not drive conversion, it does not extend your brand, it does not include your call to action, it just offers extra characters in your tweet. After sitting on the front page of Hacker News with a ton of comments from the community, no one has pointed out any substitutes or similar services, which leads us to believe we’ve built something that doesn’t exist yet. Also, the fact that we were voted to the top showed us that not only is it new, it’s something that people want. We saw the same results on Reddit and Product Hunt.

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

Link shortening is the vehicle of which we use to deliver our value proposition, which makes Bit.ly one of our competitors, since they’re integrated natively into many platforms. To counter that, we built a browser plugin that integrates Snip.ly everywhere for our users. Another potential threat would be social sharing dashboards such as HootSuite and Buffer, both of which could integrate our functionality. However, it’s safe to say that their value propositions are sufficiently different. HootSuite focuses on managing social media relationships across multiple accounts, and Buffer focuses on enabling consistent sharing activities. On the other hand, our value proposition is driving conversion through sharing.

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

What we understand is that sharing is all about conversion. It’s not just about sharing more consistently (Buffer), it’s not just about managing relationships (HootSuite), it’s not just about having more characters in your tweet (Bit.ly), sharing is meaningless without conversion. It is the underlying motivation behind sharing, and we get that. We also get that the closer we are to the true motivation, the more valuable our product is, and the more likely our users are willing to pay for the service.

How do or will you make money? How much could you make? (We realize you can’t know precisely, but give your best estimate.)

We believe that when you help people make money, it’s easy to make money. Snip.ly generates a clear ROI since we drive traffic directly to the users’ Call to Action. We plan on introducing a performance-based subscription model, for example, free for up to 100 CTA clicks/mo, $10/mo for 1000 CTA clicks/mo, etc. We could also charge premium for customization features such as custom positions, sizes, colors, fonts, etc.

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?

Snip.ly is inherently viral. Every Snip.ly link that is shared serves as promotion for us since we have our logo on every Snip. The people who use snip.ly are influencers, people who actively strive to build a following, so our reach grows exponentially over time with each user we acquire. Many who follow influencers tend to have a following of their own, so the viral cycle keeps rolling. We don’t face the chicken-and-egg problem since Snip.ly is a tool that rides on natural sharing behaviors and existing networks.


The entrepreneurial spirit is all about sharing. We decided to share this to help others prepare for their YC interviews in the future. Please pay it forward, share this with your friends, we’re all in this together!

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