YesGraph’s Traffic and Conversion Numbers from TechCrunch, Product Hunt, and Hacker News

nuclear artillery

YesGraph is just getting started with our growth focused API. We announced our seed round on TechCrunch, then opened up our closed beta on Product Hunt. More recently, we had a few blog posts on front page of Hacker News.

Because we’re so young, it is really easy to differentiate traffic and impact. When you get a big spike, you know where it came from.

This means that we can compare the stats from those different sources, and also the downstream behavior.

When we announced on TechCrunch, we weren’t open for signup. So as a proxy, we are showing subscription to our waiting list. For Product Hunt and Hacker News, those are actual signups.

We’re showing total number of signups and visitors, not breaking out the source. So when we hit our mailing list that you could sign up, lots of conversions probably came from there.

We have a developer facing product. That means companies integrate our API into their products. As a result, it isn’t like a signup is what we really care about. We care about apps live in production. The eventual conversion rate isn’t obvious because that takes time to accumulate. So we’re not showing those numbers.


  • Story link
  • Date: February 27, 2015
  • Uniques: 2,281
  • Mailing list signups: 369
  • Conversion rate to mailing list: 16.2%

Product Hunt:

  • Post link
  • Date: March 25, 2015
  • Uniques to PH specific landing page: 4,767
  • Total uniques: 9,081
  • Votes: 376
  • Mailing list subscribers receiving announcement: 6,237
  • Opens on announcement email: 2,511 (40.3%)
  • Clicks on announcement email: 470 (7.5%)
  • Signups: 705
  • Conversion rate to signup: 7.8%

Hacker News:

  • Store your own analytics data:
  • The Math of YC Dilution,
  • What Changed at YC from W08 to W15,
  • Uniques to home page: 1,855
  • Signups: 44
  • Conversion rate: 2.8%

So what can we conclude from the numbers? The conversion numbers are a little off. It is easier to signup for a mailing list than for a service. Also my blog posts brought some traffic but it didn’t convert well. The post about analytics actually converted traffic to signup much better than the posts about Y Combinator.

We also see the relationship between Hacker News votes and traffic. The visits per vote go up with more votes.

The elephant in the room is that Product Hunt sends a hell of a lot more traffic than TechCrunch. I think the reason is that there are lots of TechCrunch stories that split attention, but we were in the top 5 on Product Hunt for the whole day. TechCrunch has a larger audience for now, but Product Hunt’s audience likes to get out and try things.

Overall, you should borrow these numbers if you’re trying to estimate impact of a press launch. Each of these bits are successful. It’s great to be featured in TechCrunch, we were at the top of Product Hunt, and we’ve had multiple front page of Hacker News blog posts.

I often see people have unreasonable expectations around what getting each of these produce. The best is to focus on building a great product and take a measured approach to getting publicity. It isn’t a silver bullet, because silver bullets don’t exist.


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What Changed at Y Combinator After 7 Years

My startup YesGraph just went through the Winter 2015 batch of Y Combinator. This is actually my second time, after going in Winter 2008 for my first startup Tipjoy. A lot changed and a lot stayed the same, so lets walk through it.



The W08 batch had 21 companies. The W15 Batch was 116. You can probably guess what needed to change for this to work. Size is in the background of this entire post.


YC is all about a focused effort to build your startup. They’ve refined how they phrase this, but the intent is that you exclusively:

  • Code and talk to customers
  • Eat, sleep, and exercise

You should do these at the exclusion of everything else, including hiring, fundraising, long term biz dev, conferences, vacation (obviously), and anything that isn’t about your health or your company’s core health.

The hiring bit was tough for me in W15 because we raised $1M before YC. I was eager but I’m only now ramping up. In W08, we’d raised $50K from friends and family, making it a non issue.


YC went from the 4 founding partners to over 20 full time and many part time. Paul Buchheit was always around in W08, though I don’t know if he was an official part time partner. He invested in and gave advice to the companies in the batch (thanks Paul!). Carolynn Levy was still at WSGR, but came by to give advice. Kate Courteau was also around, but again not officially besides doing all the great architectural work of the space.

Now you have a dozen YC alums that are back as full time partners. This increased firepower is the main way YC scales: horizontally. Everyone wants to meet with Paul Graham because his essays were startup preschool for many founders, but there just aren’t enough hours in the day for him to meet with everyone. Now he is retired from the day to day, and only does periodic office hours that almost instantly fill up.


YC has tried to mimic the earlier days by breaking the batch up into groups with group partners. So instead of talking to PG & JL, I mainly talked with Garry Tan and Justin Kan. It is important that these group partners know who you are and know your product and market. With so many companies, it is really easy to get lost as an advisor. This focus bring deeper insights.

Paul Graham is a kind of stateless incisive advice machine. I bet he couldn’t name what YesGraph does. Our last conversation was more cocktail party than office hours. In fact I didn’t have official office hours with Paul or Jessica or Trevor, though talked to them all informally. It’s actually great being an alum and coming back because it’s like meeting up with a friend you haven’t seen in a while.

Group Office Hours

The weekly dinners when there were fewer companies in W08 brought a more intimate setting. YC has tried to mimic this with group office hours. I should preface that they are always experimenting and changing things up. I probably missed some earlier versions of this and will miss what they try for the next batch.

There are certainly lots of questions that benefit the group. Many companies are trying to scale sales. Many companies are trying to grow a consumer audience.

There were more product demos and founder to founder feedback in W08 than in W15. There was more product advice and less growth advice.


The YC Alumni network is huge. That is amazing to get reach into so many companies and their networks. But there is no such thing as an intimate group of thousands. With size comes dilution per relationship. Sam Altman said, “you can’t all just email Drew Houston at Dropbox about anything; respect their time.”

I completely agree, but in 2010 I started working at Dropbox by emailing Drew.

Going through a second time is interesting because I was ostensibly already part of the network. But there is a difference between having had a YC company and currently running your YC company.


YC in W15 has a chef. YC in W08 had PG and crock-pots full of slop. That is what they called it, but I actually really liked it! They still serve no beer, which I’ve always found a bit odd. Founder bring their own sometimes.

The dinner speakers are stellar. There were more YC alums in W15. There seemed to be more billionaires in W08. On balance, I bet startups that recently escaped the trough of sorrow to reach initial traction are more valuable for young companies. In W08, Ev Williams doesn’t actually know why Twitter took off. Marc Andreessen is a lion and gave a convincing case in W08 for why Ning’s “double exponential” viral loop was going to take over.


At this point, I’m already connected to very many notable people in tech. I’ve seen everyone important at least give a talk. I can predict exactly what an investor will tell the batch about how to pitch them. I’ve successfully pitched many investors and go to them for advice.

But there is something useful about being told the fundamentals. It isn’t as complicated as you like to think. You aren’t special. You just need to do the work (code and talk to customers) to win. Growth solves all problems.

There was less product advice in W15, but the advice I got was good. That is probably because the product I’m building is more complicated and harder to give advice about. Partners aren’t going to dig into YesGraph’s machine learning or social graph analysis. It was easier to advise building something for Twitter at Tipjoy. There are many developer facing startups that have successfully gone through YC, so I did get great advice there. Some came from part time partner and Parse founder Ilya Sukhar, which shows that the part time partner contribution is significant.

The best advice came from 1:1 office hours, like with my group partners, Garry and Justin, and Sam Altman. It was the most detailed and focused.


YC has more software to organize things, but it is just getting started. The office hours booker is convenient, but doesn’t have notifications. Hacker News now has a YC founder forum that helps scale the community, but it also doesn’t have notifications. There is software to organize group office hours, but that software is google spreadsheets.

Overall I’m excited to see what they can do here. LinkedIn has one core job, professional networking, and it fails miserably for a group as powerful as YC. Once YC ups their software game, it will be more powerful than any other tool out there. They definitely have top software talent working on it.


The founders in the batch are really excited. Nothing has changed there, and I love it. Many are really fresh. Many more are far more experienced than I was the first time through. Everyone wants to win. But startups are highs and lows, and when companies are going through tough times fundraising, the network is there.

Sometimes they need to say things that I’m surprised they need to say. This is what happens at an operational scale I guess. I’ve heard some surprising things about what some idiot alumni have done, and they just don’t want to see it repeated. They also need to be crystal clear in their advice, which means saying some things obvious to almost everyone. That “almost” is the key bit.

The partners are all wonderful people. This post from Jessica Livingston about culture is spot on. There is something special about the people they recruit to be involved in YC. Their advice is often blunt, and there is a fine line between incisive and harsh. The tone sets up an environment that balances willingness to ask any questions with the direct advice needed to solve the problem.

YesGraph Specific

So why did YesGraph apply? We actually got rejected for W13 when we applied with a recruiting idea. Thankfully we eventually got in so I can actually tell that story! You’d be surprised by the number of YC alums that get rejected when applying again — and they eventually get in.

After we pivoted to focus on growth and raised a new round, we were focused on something in our wheelhouse. The team was better suited for the product and market and overall in a better position to win.

So why apply again? The advice and network are a wonderful reason to do YC. It’ll help with recruiting and future fundraising.

For YesGraph specifically, another strong factor was that we were a developer facing service. Our batchmates proved to be excellent early customers, giving essential feedback on the product. I talked to lots of companies about growth, and hearing their concerns and how they thought about the world was wonderful. This focused user research would be hard to replicate because the tone of willingness to help is more rare with normal use research.

Also, there have been some amazing developer facing services coming out of YC. Heroku, Parse, Stripe, Docker, and more. I think it is because the partners are so much more technical than most investors, and they’ve built companies of their own. They know such services matter and how to support them.

Another factor is Demo Day. I’ve fundraised enough to know that it is painful at best, and deadly at worst. Demo Day is something special, and many companies going through it don’t even know how good they have it. Demo Day sets up the perfect environment to make a market with artificial deadlines with investors filtered in batch. If fundraising is a painful marathon, Demo Day is like steroids. It makes it easier to get to the finish line and is an unfair advantage over other startups.

A personal emergency actually prevented YesGraph from presenting at Demo Day. Considering we raised a seed before YC, this isn’t bad timing actually. We’ll make it up in the S15 demo day, hopefully targeting our Series A. We have a lot to do between then and now to earn it.

If you want to help us make it, go try out YesGraph. We help your app grow by recommending who users should invite. If you already are using us, tell your friends about YesGraph.


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The Valuation Boost Needed to Justify YC Will Surprise You

My startup YesGraph just went through the Y Combinator Winter 2015 batch. (YesGraph helps your app grow. Check it out). I get asked all the time by folks that haven’t been through YC whether it was worth it. Many people that don’t understand fundraising and dilution enough to even calculate this. So let’s walk through the numbers.

Most people think: ok, they take 7%, so you need to be 7% more valuable to justify the investment. Maybe if you understand fractions, you know you need to be 1/(1-7%) = 7.5% more valuable to make it up. This is completely wrong math.

To match the dilution from their investment, you need to have a far higher valuation of your next round. Let’s walk through an example.

Company A doesn’t go through YC, but eventually raises $1M on a pre-money valuation of $6M. They will end up giving up  $1M / ($1M + $6M) in dilution, or 14.2%.

Company B does go through YC. So that means 7% dilution. Then let’s say that the company raises that $1M seed. What does the valuation need to be to hit 14.2% dilution total?

7.5% higher would mean around $6.5M.

Actually it needs to be $11.7M pre to reach the same dilution. That is a 96% higher.

Here is a table to illustrate why, and here is a link to the source spreadsheet. In short, to target the same total dilution, you need to give up less in the seed round.

Screenshot 2015-04-22 11.30.08

But this math is also wrong!

This assumes only one round. If YC makes your startup more valuable for your Seed plus Series A and Series B, then you can amortize the dilution across multiple rounds.

This gives a hint about why all this math is wrong. Sure, you have multiple rounds, but what is your real goal? You want your startup to win. You want it to be a breakaway success that makes a lasting impact in the world.

If you do, you are rewarded handsomely. This is why VCs have power law returns. The breakaway successes are worth 100X those that fail.

So how do we calculate value on a long enough time horizon, like 5 or 10 years? It turns out it is binary: did you win or not?

That valuation? That is really based only on the likelihood of winning. A $6M or $12M valuation is really just saying there is a 0.6% or 1.2% chance of being worth $1 Billion.

That changes the calculus. You might ask, are we 7% more likely to win? This is only a single shot, and not some statistical exercise with expected values over thousands of trials. So you could also round the question to: are we more likely to win?

I think the answer is unambiguously yes. This is a great rubric for thinking about your company generally. Are we more likely to win with this hire? Will this new product push make us win? Will this new investor help us win?

To be clear, the wrong choices for those questions can easily be a resounding, “No!”

There are negative hires. There are investors that suck. You make wrong product decisions all the time.

But the YC advice, the cred that it gives you, and, yes, the boost in your fundraising efforts, all make it a YES.


This was actually my second time through YC. I also went through in W08, and a lot has changed since then. If you want to get the next post about what changed since, subscribe here. And if you want your company to grow faster, go signup for YesGraph.


Meet the YesGraph Team: Judith Shahvar

This is the third post (part one: Luke, part two: Vincent) in our “Meet the YesGraph Team” series where we highlight the people that help build YesGraph.
Judith Shahvar

What do you do at YesGraph?

I am the Operations Manager so I wear many hats including office management, culture, customer service and recruiting.

How did you join YesGraph?

I worked with a recruiting agency. It was great to experience recruiting from the candidate perspective.

What’s one interesting fact that not many people know about you?

I have been to 6 of the 7 continents, only Antarctica to go! Continue reading

How YC Companies Found Employee #1

When YesGraph’s founder, Ivan Kirigin, was looking to make the first hire, he asked YC founders on how they did it. The responses were diverse and fascinating. We pulled some quotes, but they aren’t attributed.

Hiring doesn’t happen overnight

y-combinatorThere’s a strong chance that the person you want to to hire is not actively looking, which means it will take time and significant effort to convince them to join you. Expect to meet with them on numerous occasions, and seek to understand what they would look for in a career move. Even if they aren’t interested, you may be able to assist them with their next career move.

I have spent a lot of time looking for a first hire and it took a while to find him. When I did he was working for another company nearby and we did a little “dating” – meeting up for lunch, “bumping into each other” at events and really got on. When I felt my company was in the right spot and that he was in a receptive place I then “asked him out formally” and proposed that he joined me.

So, I know that you’re seasoned and have heard all the same advice I have a million times but from my own experience: believe the wisdom around hiring extremely carefully and slowly. Give your potential hires significant and real projects and see how they do. And most of all, stay objective. Don’t get excited that you found someone good and excuse them for not being as great as you really need that first hire to be. Continue reading