Justin Kan

Justin Kan

Partner, Y Combinator

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON January 04, 2016

Discussion

Justin Kan
Justin Kan@justinkan · Partner, Y Combinator
Hi I'm Justin Kan, an internet entrepreneur and partner at seed fund Y Combinator. I have founded many companies including: Justin.tv, Twitch, and Exec. At Y Combinator I invest and advise startups, and in my my personal time I am working on some fun projects. Most recently I built an art car for Burningman called Titanic’s End and am working on a project related to my love for electronic music. I'm excited to talk to you guys, so feel free to ask me anything!
Erik Torenberg
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
What's the biggest misconception people have about YC?
Danny Lowney
Danny Lowney@dannylowney · Growth ⛏@ Sup
@eriktorenberg intrigued 👀 nice Q man
Justin Kan
Justin Kan@justinkan · Partner, Y Combinator
@eriktorenberg People always think they are either too early or too late for YC. Some of the best companies, like Dropbox and Zenefits, were very early stage when they joined YC (basically just starting to build product). Other companies, like Gigster, had millions in revenue already when they joined, but were able to grow that significantly during the course of YC. This misconception has existed a long time: in 2008 my JTV cofounders and I had to convince Airbnb they could still apply to YC -- they thought they were too late because they had already launched.
Justin Kan
Justin Kan@justinkan · Partner, Y Combinator
What's up Product Hunt! Happy to be here answering your questions! EDIT: Also, reading off some answers on my Snapchat: justinkan
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
Justin! You've been working on The Drop, a community sharing and listening to the best new EDM. What sites/apps do you use to discover new music? (I'm a big fan of Spotify, Hype Machine, and SoundCloud).
Justin Kan
Justin Kan@justinkan · Partner, Y Combinator
@rrhoover Soundcloud, Sirius XM
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
@justinkan I listen to Sirius XM's Chill station when I drive my mom's car when I'm visiting home. It's really good.
Erik Torenberg
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
Welcome Justin! Knowing what you know now, If you were 22 in 2015, what would you do/pursue/work on?
Justin Kan
Justin Kan@justinkan · Partner, Y Combinator
@eriktorenberg same thing I'd probably work on or invest in today at 32 ;). I think the big white spaces in tech are all over: synthetic biology, drone delivery, VR games and entertainment experiences, SAAS software for industries outside of tech, cannabis, mobile apps and services for the developing world. But, you should probably work on things that solve your own problems or that you actually care about, instead of just picking something that seems lucrative.
Sydney Liu
Sydney Liu@sydney_liu_sl · Co-Founder of Commaful.com
@justinkan Hi Justin! Thanks for doing this. You started Justin.tv and Twitch way before live streaming became the cool thing to do. 1) How did you convince the early streamers to come? Why did they do it, especially if you didn't have a huge audience on the site yet? 2) How did you solve the chicken and egg problems? Both require streamers and watchers. Thanks! Sydney
Justin Kan
Justin Kan@justinkan · Partner, Y Combinator
@sydney_liu_sl Hi Sydney! 1) With Justin.tv, we got a lot of attention for what we were doing from the media attention around our own show. Because the idea of livestreaming my life was so outrageous, lots of people came to the site, and a few of them asked us how to launch their own broadcast. Twitch was probably more instructive: we had a few users who streamed gaming content on Justin.tv, but Emmett really had the idea of reaching out to other gaming video creators on Youtube and competing live streaming sites, and asked them what it would take to get them on Justin.tv Gaming (later renamed Twitch). After enough interviews, he came back with a list of features, which the team built, and then eventually more and more broadcasters came over. We also offered early gaming casters promotion on our directory and front pages as an incentive to come over. This kind of answers #2, because we focused on broadcasters who already had an audience, which they brought with them by marketing their stream on their social channels (facebook, gaming forums, twitter, youtube, etc). This is how we built viewership for the site.
Dudon Wai
Dudon Wai@dudonwai
@justinkan Hey Justin, I have a few questions: 1 - As a young first-time entrepreneur, what is your advice on working on multiple startups at once? 2 - Do you use virtual assistants, and how should I use them as a first-time entrepreneur? 3 - As an investor in Trygigster, what do you think about creating a webdev marketplace for the middle market (new grad coders looking for experience + SMBs with smaller budget)? Thanks! Dudon
Justin Kan
Justin Kan@justinkan · Partner, Y Combinator
@dudonwai 1) Don't work on multiple startups at once. Focus is 🔑 2) I used Zirtual, and now have hired that assistant directly. I also use Magic a lot. Zirtual has helped me a lot for basic research, flight booking and calendaring, but honestly when I was a first-time entrepreneur I just did all that myself and it wasn't a big deal. 3) The quality might suffer here, which would hurt the brand reputation, which I think is one of the big reasons people will come to a service like Gigster (strong brand reputation based on doing a lot of quality work). Also, I think Gigster will eventually drive the cost down for coding work and compete with you. But, you could try it!
Daniel Lee
Daniel Lee@dleesta · Product Manager
@justinkan @dudonwai Great emoji usage. Khaled would be proud!
Danny Lowney
Danny Lowney@dannylowney · Growth ⛏@ Sup
How has your passion for music influenced what you do in startup land?
Justin Kan
Justin Kan@justinkan · Partner, Y Combinator
@dannylowney I always wanted to do something in music, specifically in electronic music. Last year I cofounded a company with my friends @ranidu and @jamesfzhang to work on building interesting stuff in music. We started off by building The Drop (a community for discovering electronic music), and recently released a tool called The Artist Union (http://theartistunion.com), which helps artists promote their music on social media. We're working on a new iOS app right now. Ultimately, my goal here is just to build something cool that artists and listeners like to use. I also think many of the techniques we used at Twitch to make money for gamers should work for artists. I think music is historically a pretty difficult industry for tech entrepreneurs -- but I like hacking on it because I'm a super fan.
Jordan Gonen
Jordan Gonen@jrdngonen · trying my best.
@justinkan Could you tell me about your biggest failure ?
Justin Kan
Justin Kan@justinkan · Partner, Y Combinator
@jordan_gonen the failures are legion. Started my first startup, Kiko, with Emmett. It was an online calendar. We were college students and didn't use calendars. Consequently, ours wasn't very successful (we didn't really know what features to build and never asked any potential users). Started a clothing company. Knew nothing about clothing. Didn't market it very well (turns out distribution channels are very important!). Exec started off as Taskrabbit meets Uber. Most people didn't convert to regular users, because it was too difficult to think of things to use it for. (Simple, repetitive and scalable jobs are best -- i.e. Uber and Instacart).
Frank Denbow
Frank Denbow@frank_denbow · Founder of INK'A
@justinkan @jordan_gonen More on this clothing company :-)
Charles Kunene
Charles Kunene@charles_kunene · Co-founder & Product Designer @Obaa
@justinkan With both Justin.tv and Twitch, what social/cultural trends did you observe that gave you faith that these would be a success?
Justin Kan
Justin Kan@justinkan · Partner, Y Combinator
@charles_kunene Justin.tv: honestly, there wasn't much social evidence that this was going to work. I think we were encouraged by the fact that a lot of people started streaming. Twitch: it seemed like there was a wave of more and more esports content being produced (and gaming video content in general, on Youtube). Of course, Twitch Plays Pokemon was a cultural moment and was the first time the site really went mainstream.
Sajad Ghanizada
Sajad Ghanizada@therealsajad · Growth, Hurdlr
Hey Justin, what were some of your most used growth channels for the companies you've worked on in the past? Did you notice that some of your channels were relevant no matter the product?
Justin Kan
Justin Kan@justinkan · Partner, Y Combinator
@therealsajad Depends on who you are targeting. Twitch: direct outreach to video game content creators, sending our network development team to various events pro-gamers were at Exec (home services on demand company): yelp, local press, contacting companies and having them email discounts to their team members, SEO The channels really depend on what your customer base is.
Junius
Junius@juniusfree
Hi @justinkan 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!
Justin Kan
Justin Kan@justinkan · Partner, Y Combinator
@juniusfree I'd say it starts with interviewing that user and figuring out what they actually want. From there, it becomes much easier to brainstorm possible solutions.
Erik Torenberg
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
OK last q's ;) How has The Drop evolved? What have you learned about that world since building it? Are you guys going to release an album anytime...?
Justin Kan
Justin Kan@justinkan · Partner, Y Combinator
@eriktorenberg we started out trying to build a community for discovering music. Turns out most people don't really care that much about discovering new music. We've moved on to building The Artist Union, a set of tools for helping artists promote themselves on social channels. Ultimately, I'd like to apply some of the things we learned at Twitch on helping gaming video creators monetize to helping musicians make money -- I think there are a ton of parallels. No plans to release an album but we have discussed creating an artist management company.
Ildi Xhaholli
Ildi Xhaholli@madebyildi · Creative Artist
@justinkan @eriktorenberg hey Justin. I know this Live session has ended but I thought i'd try and still ask a follow up question. When you say that it "turns out most ppl don't really care that much about discovering new music" what evidence did you see to come to this conclusion? Would you say that today people want new music to come to them instead of going out to look for new tunes (go on Twitter vs visiting your fav Blogs)?
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
@justinkan thanks so much for being here! What's the best piece of career and life advice you've ever received? Flip side, what's the worst?
Justin Kan
Justin Kan@justinkan · Partner, Y Combinator
@ems_hodge Stand next to people smarter than you are. (basically, this describes all the cofounders I've worked with :)). Don't think I remember the worst advice I've received ... I've been pretty lucky.
Laksman
Laksman@laksman · Entrepreneur
@justinkan Hi Justin, thanks for doing this AMA. Besides the size of the classes, what would you say are some of the differences in going through YCombinator in its early days as opposed to now? Thanks again!
Justin Kan
Justin Kan@justinkan · Partner, Y Combinator
@laksman it is much, much easier to build a product (because of the proliferation of PaaS) and raise money (more capital interested in startups) today.
John S. Kim
John S. Kim@doshkim · CEO, SendBird
@justinkan 1) Is there something you disagree strongly with smart people (or the general population) that you wouldn't acknowledge in the public? (I know this is public) 2) What's your favorite car?
Justin Kan
Justin Kan@justinkan · Partner, Y Combinator
@doshkim 1) Yes. 2) Tesla Model S -- they just build a better UX
Stefan Bielau
Stefan Bielau@stefanbielau · Managing Partner, Dynamo Partners
How much of your time at Y Combinator you spend w/ European startups? Selection process and post-investment. What are the strenghts you recognize in European startups?
Justin Kan
Justin Kan@justinkan · Partner, Y Combinator
@stefanbielau basically equal time to the ratio that they apply compared with other companies. We like funding startups from Europe -- there is a broad talent pool there. I think there are especially strong programmers coming to Silicon Valley from France and the Eastern European countries.
Stefan Bielau
Stefan Bielau@stefanbielau · Managing Partner, Dynamo Partners
@justinkan thanks, appreciate the feedback.
Ranidu Lankage
Ranidu Lankage@ranidu · CEO at Audius
@justinkan what are the top 3 things you look for when investing in a seed stage startup?
Justin Kan
Justin Kan@justinkan · Partner, Y Combinator
@ranidu 1) team 2) growth 3) if I learn something
Emmad Mazhari
Emmad Mazhari@momazhari
Hey Justin! 1. Love your snapchat. It's major 🔑. 2. What are your thoughts on the tradeoff between going to college or working on a startup? What do you think about college kids applying to YC?
Justin Kan
Justin Kan@justinkan · Partner, Y Combinator
@momazhari college is pretty fun. I wasn't mature enough to work on a startup when I was in college. Here are some thoughts I've had on college vs working http://areallybadidea.com/drop-o...
Kingsong Chen
Kingsong Chen@kingsongchen · Dev
@justinkan Hi Justin. What are some unique and/or entrenched industries that you're interested in exploring?
Justin Kan
Justin Kan@justinkan · Partner, Y Combinator
@kingsongchen I think my list from above in answer to another question applies here: synthetic biology, drone delivery, VR games and entertainment experiences, SAAS software for industries outside of tech, cannabis, mobile apps and services for the developing world