Instabug is based in Cairo, Egypt and was founded during Omar Gabr and Moataz Soliman's last semester at Cairo University. From graduating college in 2012 to graduating from Y Combinator in 2016, the duo built a team, launched an MVP aimed at customers abroad, developed the core product, expanded into an adjacent vertical, grew Instabug's user base, and secured larger and larger investments.
This article is part of a series of blog posts about Instabug's startup journey — the struggles behind the scenes of the company's "wins" and lessons learned from overcoming them.
Join us on Twitter to follow along on our journey.
Instabug Untold Stories
Episode 2: How We Finally Got Into Y Combinator
This is not a step-by-step guide for how to hack your way into Y Combinator. Tl;dr—there are no hacks. You just have to do the work, stay focused, try again, and prove yourself."I think we applied four times, maybe more," Moatazo- how we heard def pg's articles like startups=growth and these kind of blog posts that have been around for a long time nad these were the go to articles when we were thinking of something following sam pg and other people in yc that was the first thingsecond was hn knowning about hn in general knowing we need to launch there ychttps://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5526949https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5533748third flat6 within the program they mention yc a lot it is the biggest accelerator...we wanted to be part of a strong network we heard a lot about the program itself we wanted to be there we knew the partners by following them on twitter getting the right advice from people we know are good6k applicants500 interviews90 companies1.5% acceptaince rate
First YC Interview (Rejected)
m- applicationno matter how many recommendations you get you wont get an interview anywayto get an interview without recommendations its really hardyou need a super interesting idea in the areas they are interested in (RFPs)and were not these type of companies buzzwords related products for us we needed to have these recommendationsbut actually the application is v useful thinking through these questions was an exercise in itselfgoing through all the details you need to think about as a companyduring the interview the first thing they asked us why is this product defensibleit didnt go well in any wayfrom the v first question it was v clear we were not getting init was like they had a list of checkboxes and they were crossing no no nono validationproduct was super tinyand we were not monetizing the productthey had all the concerns that made sensefrom their perspective it sounded too risky and it made sensea couple hours we got an email from one of the partners or you get the callGeoff Ralston, Garry Tan, Aeron HarrisThe rejection e-mail from Garry Tan, November 2013: I’m sorry to say we decided not to fund you. You are the kind of thoughtful, talented hacker founders we especially like to fund, so this was a tough one for us since we liked talking with you... But as I said, we liked you and YC isn’t like applying for college where you only get one shot. We’d encourage you ship software to users and iterate quickly. We’d very much welcome hearing from you again in the future.
Second YC Interview (Accepted)
m- the last application was most focusedwe sent to all people we knew at ycget people to recommend usthe video is the hardest thing about the whole yc app bc you have to say everything in exactly 1 min it was 1:14 we were super rushed in the whole descriptionexplaining the product what we do vision of company current users team answer a lot of questions in only 60 secs which we didnt do
it was completely differentSam Altman, Carolynn Levy, Dalton Caldwellwe got into the roomthey are v friendly sam altman it was crazy meeting them in personsam asking us what do you doomar went into the pitch rehearsed word by word 60 secsthen they asked
first how are we able to ask these big companies to use us although were base din egypt
how much, why, how to increasehow we retain our usersthe fact that we visit all our users and we bring them souveneirs for them it was mindblowing
team, egypto- someone opens the door and khalas it is done10 min talk 5 min to decidem- coming out of the second interview it was clear we did way better than the first one positive paceafter we were done we had a couple of meetings with our users then we went to have dinner at chipotle/panda express then we had the call from samThe offer call from Sam Altman, November 2015:
The 59-second call offering Instabug a place in Y Combinator's Winter 2016 batch. m - by comparing instabug in 2016 to 2013 we had a lot more users, and they were not just users using the product, they were also paying for the product, it might sound cheesy but we were always following the things they say in the blogs and videos and what they usually say is two things talking to your users and writing code. at the time we were doing literally only this. i was the one writing code and omar was the one meeting with the users.
What Happened in Between
m- i think it was different at each stagewhat does the company do - we refined the pitch each time we appliedwhat progress - each time we had more progressthe constant thing was that we really like the brand and pg and that was the thing that was constant across the wayand i think we matured a little bit between the first and second oneo- there was a lot of valid points yes thats a risk there are a lot of other riskswe were v close to customers at that time so we knew that this is something actually needed and people would actually use and we knew there was a demand and the challenge of people using it for a long time thats a problem that could be solvedok lets try again maybe were not at the right phase maybe we need to actually prove the model so we did that
- November 2013: First YC Interview (Rejected)
- December 2013: Raised $300,000
- January 2014: Inevitable Re-Write
- March 2014: First Big Company Signed Up: SoundCloud
- April 2014: Second Application (No Interview)
- August 2014: Launched Android for Instabug
- August 2014: Partnered With GitHub, Zendesk, Atlassian, Freshdesk
- November 2014: Third Application (No Interview)
- January 2015: Monetizing Instabug
- October 2015: Became Profitable
- November 2015: Second YC Interview (Accepted)
m - by the time we got in, we were planning to raise anyway and we planned to do yc and we timed a specific release to do it during yc and we planned to raise during demo day
we made sure it was going to fit the plan we were going to do anyway
Read part one to find out what happened behind the scenes of Instabug's $1.7 million fundraising round, which it closed just three days after completing Y Combinator's Winter 2016 batch, and stay tuned for the next episode: The YC Days.
- moataz: old applications
scribd jarred freedman user came toe gypt after acceptance spent a day at the office talked to teamyc companies using us and used them as a reference and we asked them to recommend usoffice hours with pg and it was one of the most insightful 30min ive ever had in my life