Ilya Sukhar

Ilya Sukhar

CEO of Parse, part-time partner at Y Combinator

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON January 19, 2016

Discussion

Ilya Sukhar
Ilya Sukhar@ilyasu · CEO, Parse
Hi. I'm Ilya. Excited to be doing this. I started a platform company called Parse because I thought mobile development was way too painful. I sold it to Facebook in 2013 and ran it there along with a bunch of other platform-related projects for a couple of years. At this point Parse enables hundreds of thousands of developers to build apps that reach hundreds of millions of devices per month. I left Parse/Facebook recently to spend some time exploring and figuring out what to do next. I'm also a casual angel investor and part-time partner at Y Combinator. In general, I really like helping other people build things and have been directing my energy that way for some time.
Kasperi Apell
Kasperi Apell@kasperiapell
Hi Ilya! Thanks for doing this. What book has had most profound impact on you and why?
Jennifer Barthe
Jennifer Barthe@jenniferbarthe
@kasperiapell Thanks for asking this question. I was wondering the same thing.
Ilya Sukhar
Ilya Sukhar@ilyasu · CEO, Parse
@kasperiapell Let me think about it and get back to you!
Sydney Liu
Sydney Liu@sydney_liu_sl · Co-Founder of Commaful.com
@ilyasu Hey Ilya! How's the chess going? ;) Hope things are going awesome and thanks for doing this AMA! What are your top 3 hacks that you have learned from running Parse? These can be productivity hacks, meeting hacks, email hacks, growth hacks, product hacks, etc. Thanks a bunch! Sydney
Ilya Sukhar
Ilya Sukhar@ilyasu · CEO, Parse
@sydney_liu_sl Hey man, good to see you here. My chess is improving pretty quickly but I still have a long way to go. I just lost two games this morning :( I’m not sure what qualifies as a hack these days but I’ll give this a shot. 1. Productivity — I found it hard to focus on important and non-urgent things amidst all the non-important and/or urgent things that inevitably happen in a startup. So I got in the habit of making an index card every night before bed with the 3 things I wanted to get done the next day. I don’t like to have much in my pockets so carrying it around was a good constant reminder if I needed to refocus. 2. Email — I created a filter that took all emails that were not specifically addressed to me (i.e. I wasn’t on the To: line) out of my inbox. I then naturally checked those emails with much less frequency and often the threads would resolve without my input when I’d otherwise feel compelled to jump in. 3. Product — In the earlier days of Parse we had a system whereby we’d record every time a person asked for a particular feature or bug request, no matter how they made the request. So we had a tally and a list of emails for just about anything it was reasonable to build. It helped a ton in prioritizing our roadmap but, more importantly,it let us email people personally whenever we built something they’d asked for. The delight and loyalty inspired by a personal email from a founder about a feature request someone made in an offhanded manner at some conference 8 months ago is priceless. It’s hard to scale and we eventually dropped this practice but I’m going to do it again if possible.
Zach Cmiel
Zach Cmiel@zach_cmiel · CEO, PoKoBros
Hi! When you were bought by Facebook, how was the transition to working under them? Were you able to control your product as much?
Ilya Sukhar
Ilya Sukhar@ilyasu · CEO, Parse
@zach_cmiel It was pretty good and product control was especially straightforward (and remains so, I think). Some other things were harder -- for example, transitioning our recruiting and hiring practices to theirs. And figuring out how to work across organizations inside the company was trickier. Overall, though, they kept their promises and didn't tell us what to do that much.
@ilyasu What was the reasoning behind selling your start up to Facebook versus selling it to another company?
Ilya Sukhar
Ilya Sukhar@ilyasu · CEO, Parse
@iamcuan We weren't really evaluating a bunch of acquirers all at the same time. We had spoken to other companies at various times but they were all pretty different propositions. We were actually about to sign a Series B term sheet when the Facebook conversations really kicked into high gear. So the alternative was continuing at it on our own rather than another acquirer.
@ilyasu In what industries do you see the most growth on Parse?
Ilya Sukhar
Ilya Sukhar@ilyasu · CEO, Parse
@iamcuan Mobile gaming and agency-built big brand apps were the most consistent growth areas for us.
Junius
Junius@juniusfree
hi @ilyasu My question is related to product development. How will you spend your time if you've got one hour to solve a user problem/need? Thanks!
Ilya Sukhar
Ilya Sukhar@ilyasu · CEO, Parse
@juniusfree Most impactful things take longer than an hour. But, if I had just one hour, I’d talk to a user in depth about their problems.
Rich Allen
Rich Allen@rich_allen · Co-Founder of Streamly
Hi Ilya How would you best recommend networking with people in the valley so that when you try to get investment and mentors you have a network? Especially if your based in the UK at current?
Ilya Sukhar
Ilya Sukhar@ilyasu · CEO, Parse
@rich_allen Build something cool. Then show it to people over email, Twitter, HN, whatever.
Rich Allen
Rich Allen@rich_allen · Co-Founder of Streamly
Ben Tossell
Ben Tossell@bentossell · Makerpad.co
@ilyasu What are your favourite questions to ask founders?
Ilya Sukhar
Ilya Sukhar@ilyasu · CEO, Parse
@bentossell "Why is this better than what exists today? Would you use this yourself?" "How are you going to get people to use it? How many? How long will that take? And how much will each of them pay you?" "Why are you starting a company?"
Ben Tossell
Ben Tossell@bentossell · Makerpad.co
@ilyasu I often ask the first one to ppl on Product Hunt :)
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)@emilyjsnowdon · Operations @ Product Hunt
@ilyasu what is the main piece of advice you would offer to an entrepreneur or founder looking for an angel investor? Is there a phrase or piece of wisdom you find yourself often repeating?
Ilya Sukhar
Ilya Sukhar@ilyasu · CEO, Parse
@ems_hodge Beyond what I mentioned in other answers already, I think it's a major 🔑to be deliberate about the timing and purpose of fundraising when at the angel stage. Why are you raising now? Do you really need the money or are you just doing it because everyone else is too? If you can't pay rent, is my check really going to save you or are you going to be in the same position three months from now? I find myself asking founders these questions a lot.
Lejla Bajgoric
Lejla Bajgoric@lejlahunts · Intern, Product Hunt
Hi Ilya! How does someone as accomplished as yourself "figure out what to do next?" What does that process look like? And have you reached any conclusions, or initiated any new pursuits just yet?
Ilya Sukhar
Ilya Sukhar@ilyasu · CEO, Parse
@lejlahunts If I had a great answer, I’d have written a self-important Medium post about this already :-) I went traveling for a few months to clear my head and reset. I’d spent my 20’s prioritizing work above nearly all else so it was much needed. I came up with a rough, fairly abstract framework for evaluating opportunities but deliberately avoided thinking about specifics so that I could actually relax. Now I’m spending a lot of time talking to smart friends and colleagues and hacking a bit on my own. No conclusions just yet but I’m excited to get back into the grind!
Ravi Vadrevu
Ravi Vadrevu@raviformative · Autonomous Hiring Intelligence
@ilyasu - I love Parse and I was an early Facebook Developer back in 2010. So what's coming next for Facebook in terms of developer ecosystem. I see apps like "Notify" coming from FB to sign up for engagement when they are supposed to come through an dev ecosystem!
Jonathan Toby
Jonathan Toby@jonathantoby · CEO SPEAQUS
@ilyasu I am Toby from SPEAQUS, quality training recommendation website. We are looking to inspire people through knowledge. By the way, we all know that as a CEO, we have to be motivated and productive all the time. What is the secret of yours to keep going till end? What are daily strategies that you have to have a clear mind? Thanks
Ilya Sukhar
Ilya Sukhar@ilyasu · CEO, Parse
@jonathantoby There’s no silver bullets. It’s going to be stressful and tiring but here are a couple things that worked for me: 1. Talking to users. Whenever I felt down, it *always* helped to talk to someone that liked our product. So, when I was stressed, I’d fire off a bunch of emails to relatively happy users at night, wake up to get some cool responses in the morning, and then feel more energized to tackle the challenges of the day. 2. Exercise. I figured this out way too late but exercise is dope. If I had to tell 18 yr old Ilya something that wasn’t the typical “buy AAPL”, it would be “exercise, trust me.”
@ilyasu What's Y Combinator's views on marijuana start ups?
Ilya Sukhar
Ilya Sukhar@ilyasu · CEO, Parse
@iamcuan I think we’re open to them and sometimes very excited, assuming everything is legal. For example, we funded Meadow (“Uber for weed”) recently.
@ilyasu How do you schedule and organize your day to ensure maximum productivity?
Taha Ozket
Taha Ozket@tahaozket · Co-founder, Pushmote
Hi, Ilya (@ilyasu)! How do you mentally prepare yourself to start a new startup?
Anna Savina
Anna Savina@hashevatski · RUKI Editor-in-Chief
Hi Ilya, thank you for joining PH! As an investor, do you see good startups and founders coming from Russia? Which tech entrepreneurs from the country are particularly interesting? Do you see any potential in the Russian tech industry?
Ilya Sukhar
Ilya Sukhar@ilyasu · CEO, Parse
@hashevatski I love meeting founders from Russia. There’s clearly a ton of technical talent there. That said, I don’t spend much time thinking about the Russian tech industry itself because I’m not sure that the country has the right economic framework set up to produce globally impactful startups. I prefer Russian folks working in the US.
neerajshukla
neerajshukla@reborn_daily
What do you think are the next frontiers of B2C apps on mobile? Things seem a bit stagnant after Facebook, Twitter and a few chat apps. What would be the enablers for growth/possibility of such apps? Or do you think mobile apps would be like TV channels and only few would matter.
Ilya Sukhar
Ilya Sukhar@ilyasu · CEO, Parse
@reborn_daily I think the platform providers need to evolve the rules of the road in terms of distribution in order for things to shake up in a big way. It remains to be seen whether that'll ever happen but both Apple and Google are doing interesting small experiments to that effect. Another possibility is that more owners of big consumer surfaces try to jam in new platforms on mobile, in the spirit of WeChat.
neerajshukla
neerajshukla@reborn_daily
@ilyasu Thanks for your answer Ilya!
Larry
Larry@larry_lawal
@ilyasu What sorts of things do you like to help other people build? Also what are your top 3 favorite subreddits?
Ilya Sukhar
Ilya Sukhar@ilyasu · CEO, Parse
@larry_lawal Anything I can be helpful with! Hmm, good question. The subreddits that come to mind right now are: r/AskHistorians, r/pcgaming, r/programming.
Kirill Zubovsky
Kirill Zubovsky@kirillzubovsky · Troublemaker. Founder. Dad
@ilyasu "Fake it till you make it" is words a lot of entrepreneurs live by. Can you give us examples of some interesting way you propelled Parse in the early days?
Ilya Sukhar
Ilya Sukhar@ilyasu · CEO, Parse
@kirillzubovsky I think we dedicated an unusual amount of time to "marketing and sales" relative to the power and maturity of our product in the early days to earn credit and notability among developers. Some examples: 1. We'd try to get well known apps to use us in a minor, ancillary capacity. Then we'd use those as reference customers for the next conversation. And so on. 2. We'd answer lots of newbie questions on various forums in a "here's how you do it step-by-step tediously the normal way or ... just use Parse" manner. Because we were being generally helpful, the communities didn't mind too much that we were also promoting Parse. 3. We built a lot of sample applications and wrote a lot of mobile-related blog posts to get people's attention. Many users first came to Parse via one of these content marketing efforts.
George Kedenburg III
George Kedenburg III@gk3 · Product Designer, Facebook
What's left on your travel destination list? Where was your favorite spot to visit recently?
Ilya Sukhar
Ilya Sukhar@ilyasu · CEO, Parse
@gk3 I'm done for now. I'd like to explore South America but that'll have to wait. My favorite place was Myanmar (fka Burma). It was so interesting to talk to people whose lives have changed very quickly in the recent years due to a relaxed policy environment and an influx of technology. Lots of people have 3G but no fixed line electricity!
Rich Allen
Rich Allen@rich_allen · Co-Founder of Streamly
@ilyasu What would your top 3 tips be to prepare an application to YC?
Ilya Sukhar
Ilya Sukhar@ilyasu · CEO, Parse
@rich_allen There's a lot written about this topic and I think it's been well covered. That said, my tips: 1. Write clearly and concisely. 2. Spend a lot of time on the "how will you get users?" section. 3. Don't try to be too clever. If you find yourself trying to "hack the system", maybe spend that energy working on your product instead.
neeharika sinha
neeharika sinha@neeeharika · Google, Threadchannel
hello @ilyasu Great to meet you here. As an Angel Investor what excites about first time entrepreneur? What is a best way for a startup to connect with you? Thanks
Ilya Sukhar
Ilya Sukhar@ilyasu · CEO, Parse
@neeeharika Formidable folks working on clearly valuable and impactful things with a reasonable game plan of how to get there. You can email me! The first challenge is finding my address but it shouldn't be too hard.
Porsche Tysk
Porsche Tysk@porsche_tysk
Hi Ilya, many thanks for doing this, greatly appreciated. 1. Why does Y Combinator not accept more single founders as well as non programmers. I am a strong believer that forcing teams together on equal terms early on isn't the best solution as you often end up settling for second best talents. I personally prefer single founders with a bunch of talent and assist them hire the best talents. Mediocracy Is always to be avoided. I understand it's done to spread risk of one founder not working out or incapable. 2. Time taken to fundraise is advices to take no longer than 3 months. Few manage to do this without having strong existing relationships. What's your view on fundraising? 3. When is Y Combinator coming to Europe?
Ilya Sukhar
Ilya Sukhar@ilyasu · CEO, Parse
@porsche_tysk 1. We do accept single founders! I was one! That said, the bar is much higher because startups are very hard and having another person to share the work, stress, responsibility, etc is extremely valuable. Also, if you can't convince one very talented person to join you equally, how are you going to convince other very talented people to join you as employees? You'd better have a good answer to that. 2. 3 months seems pretty arbitrary but I do think that you can figure out pretty quickly whether investors are biting or not. If they're not, better to get back to working on your product than talking to N more investors with the same pitch and data. 3. We have plenty of startups applying and joining from Europe! What would you like to see? More events in Europe?
Porsche Tysk
Porsche Tysk@porsche_tysk
@ilyasu @porsche_tysk 3. How about creating a Y combinator in Europe? 1. I find it relatively easy to find good talent but determining the fair equity split is more difficult as it's often cheaper and better to hire them but for that you need funding. Being a co-founder doesn't mean you are stable of leading. There are a lot of great programmers but they are for hire and not for startups as they would then prefer to try and fail one of their own ideas but often do not have the guts to do it and hence look for best pay.
Ilya Sukhar
Ilya Sukhar@ilyasu · CEO, Parse
@porsche_tysk Y Combinator in Europe is Y Combinator! We think most founders benefit a lot from moving out to the valley for three months. Many stay, some don't. Either way, I encourage you to apply.
stepan ilyin
stepan ilyin@stepah · Co-founder, Wallarm
What is the right way to get a piece of advice for our startup from you?
Ilya Sukhar
Ilya Sukhar@ilyasu · CEO, Parse
@stepah Email me.
Jourdan Bul-lalayao
Jourdan Bul-lalayao@jourdanb21 · Co-Founder & CTO, Jobox
@ilyasu Hey Ilya! Thanks for chatting with us here on Product Hunt! From what you've seen, what are all the common themes/qualities that are shared among the startups that have been accepted into YC? Basically, I'm wondering what YC looks for in startups/founders/teams/etc. that apply?
Jourdan Bul-lalayao
Jourdan Bul-lalayao@jourdanb21 · Co-Founder & CTO, Jobox
Also, if you had only one tip to share with entrepreneurs on how to build a successful startup, what is your absolute #1 tip? The question is vague as I'd love for you to answer based on your interpretation of the question!
Ilya Sukhar
Ilya Sukhar@ilyasu · CEO, Parse
@jourdanb21 Make something people want. That’s the most important thing and everything else follows.
Vassili van der Mer.
Vassili van der Mer.@vassvdm · Founder at Sevendays
@ilyasu Hi Ilya! How hard was it to let go of Parse after putting so much energy into it? Are you still involved in any way?
Ilya Sukhar
Ilya Sukhar@ilyasu · CEO, Parse
@vassvdm It was super fucking hard. I still miss it a lot. I'm not involved day to day but I occasionally message Kevin & James (my cofounders) with my suggestions ;)
HomeWhiz
HomeWhiz@homewhiz
What would you do differently knowing what you know now if you went back in time to the beginning of your start up? From the perspective of 1. Traction 2. Product Development 3. Funding 4. Team? Thank you for your valuable time. Rama
Le Grace Huang
Le Grace Huang@rock3m · Co-founder of Speak
@ilyasu When you were with Parse, had you guys thought about supporting relational databases?
Ilya Sukhar
Ilya Sukhar@ilyasu · CEO, Parse
@rock3m Yep.
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)@emilyjsnowdon · Operations @ Product Hunt
@ilyasu what's the scariest thing you've ever done? 😱
imad chakri
imad chakri@imadchakri · Founder and CEO @PocketDoc
@ilyasu Hi Ilya , i'm wondering if you're working on something new at the current time , ? if no you can join me to build the next thing
Alessandro Mazzola
Alessandro Mazzola@mazzola_ale
Hi Ilya! Do you think in the next decade will we see the birth of new social networks like Fb and Twitter? Thank you!
Ilya Sukhar
Ilya Sukhar@ilyasu · CEO, Parse
@mazzola_ale I think so!
Danny Espinoza
Danny Espinoza@abcdannye · Founder @looksyvideo
Hi @ilyasu saw you at a CEN event a couple years back and agreed with your dour analysis of Cornell's attempt to understand the valley and the startup world in general; has your position changed at all?
Ilya Sukhar
Ilya Sukhar@ilyasu · CEO, Parse
@dannyjespinoza Not really, no. I think Cornell is quite bad at engaging with the startup scene here in the valley. Cornell Tech in NYC seems very promising though.
Rich Allen
Rich Allen@rich_allen · Co-Founder of Streamly
Thanks for doing this chat. Some really interesting points made.
Sara Pelaez
Sara Pelaez@sarapelaez92
Hi @ilyasu, why do you think mobile development is way too painful?
kireza totev
kireza totev@kirezatotev · kireza totev
kireza totev
kireza totev@kirezatotev · kireza totev
Kireza totev
kireza totev
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