lumiverse YC application

I have applied to Y Combinator with my startup, and my application has been rejected. I am planning to keep working on it, improve it, and reapply for the next batch. Meanwhile, I have decided to publish my application — I hope it can be valuable or interesting to someone.

Also I hope to receive some feedback. I’m working on this project alone, and I would benefit from a fresh pair of eyes. So if you have any critique or ideas on how it can be improved — please let me know.


Application:

Company name:
lumiverse

Company url, if any:
http://lumiverse.io

Describe your company in 50 characters or less.
Helping creators and audience to find each other.

What is your company going to make?
The best platform for publishing, discovering, and discussing educational videos.

In the future — expand into other types of videos, and become to youtube what hacker news is to reddit.

Which category best applies to your company?
Entertainment

Is this application in response to a YC RFS?
No

Which program would you like to be considered for?
Both YC Core and YC Fellowship

Founders
Ray Alez raymestalez@gmail.com

Please enter the url of a 1 minute unlisted (not private) YouTube video introducing the founders. (Follow the Video Guidelines.)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=91YXv4plB6Q

Please tell us about an interesting project, preferably outside of class or work, that two or more of you created together. Include urls if possible.
http://fictionhub.io is my previous(and ongoing) project, a platform for sharing, reading, and discussing fiction.

http://webcomics.io — a webcomics publishing platform.

How long have the founders known one another and how did you meet? Have any of the founders not met in person?
So far it’s just me, but I’m looking for a cofounder.

PROGRESS

How far along are you?

MVP works, beta version is online.

Personally contacted several amazing video creators, invited them to join the platform, received great feedback.

Interacting with our first users, getting feedback and suggestions.

Working on improving the code, adding features, getting ready to “officially” launch.

If you’ve already started working on it, how long have you been working and how many lines of code (if applicable) have you written?1.5 months, 54k lines

Which of the following best describes your progress?
Public Beta

How many users do you have?
216

Do you have revenue?
No

What is your monthly growth rate? (in users or revenue or both)

I have shared the beta on HN just a couple of days ago, it was the top post for a while, now we have 216 users, and 73 people have subscribed to a monthly digest of our best videos.

IDEA

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?

For a few years I have worked as a digital artist, making VFX for several movies and 3D animated cartoons, then learned programming and became web developer.

Also, I am an aspiring video creator, working on a series of tutorials about 3D graphics, and an animated series of videos about rationality.

I have spent several years thinking about how the perfect platform for sharing my art and tutorials would look like, and now I am building it.

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 99% of my target audience uses youtube, but most of them are frustrated and dissatisfied with it.

Among many other things, the biggest advantages lumiverse has over youtube are:

- Perfect discovery system (it’s easy for creators to get noticed.) 
Lumiverse has a discovery system similar to reddit, which helps video creators to be discovered by their audience.

- Right monetization system 
Instead of using ads, lumiverse will monetize by allowing creators to sell their video series, which makes much more sense for my target audience, and makes a huge difference.

- Amazing community. High quality of content and discussion 
Lumiverse will use product-hunt-like invite system, that will allow us to keep the quality of content and discussion very high, and build an amazing community.

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

Depending on the angle you look at it from, you could say they are youtube, vimeo, vid.me, udemy, codecademy, or even reddit. These are giant companies, but none of them compete with lumiverse directly.

At the moment, there’s nobody I know of who is competing with us directly, that is, nobody who would take over the niche and be more valuable to people in my target audience than us.

vid.me could be our biggest competitor, but instead of going for high quality and intelligent videos, they went for the the lowest common denominator gif-like videos, so we have very different TA.

The biggest fear is that people will not care enough about lumiverse and will just keep using youtube, because it’s the default, but I think we are past that point, because there’s already quite a few people who are very eager to join us.

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

  • This is a time for youtube to have a competitor, because many things they do can be done much better.
  • It’s possible to compete with youtube and overcome the network effects by focusing on a niche audience and expand from there.
  • There’s a huge audience of people looking to discover smart, intelligent, challenging, high quality videos, and there’s no convenient way to do that at the moment.

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

Primary way:

  • Sell video series. 
    Video creators use our platform to build an audience, and then sell video series to them. At first these will be educational courses, when we expand into other types of videos — these can be tv shows, stand up specials, and many other types of video content.

Secondary way:

  • Produce original content. 
    In the future, when we have more resources, we will create amazing educational series on science, technology, business, and maybe even original tv series.

Other ideas to experiment with:

  • Youtube-red-style monthly subscription, giving access to all premium content, sharing revenue based on number of views.
  • Tipjar or Patreon-style donations.
  • Pro accounts for video creators.
  • We can go meta and sell products teaching people how to create and make money from high quality videos.
  • Kickstarter-sort-of-thing for launching bigger projects(movies or animated series).

For now, just from selling video series: 
Suppose one video series can cost $25(actual price range is $5-$500), we get 20% of each sale, so it’s $5 per sale.

If we have 1M users, 10% of them buying 2 series per year, that will make $1M/yr in revenue.

Of course these numbers can vary widely depending on our level of success.

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?

Main plan:

  • Personally contact awesome video creators, ask them to join the platform(already works, we have some amazing people on board).
  • Add their videos, promote their work, bring them(and us) traffic, and build the audience of viewers.
  • Audience and traffic gives other video creators more incentive to join.

Also:

  • When some creators love lumiverse enough to completely switch from youtube, they bring their audience with them.

We already have 10+ video creators who have joined(added their videos but haven’t switched yet) who have 50–500 thousand youtube subscribers each.

Also:

  • Create original content.

If you had any other ideas you considered applying with, please list them. One may be something we’ve been waiting for. Often when we fund people it’s to do something they list here and not in the main application.

http://fictionhub.io — platform for sharing/discussing/selling fiction. Current fiction publishing platforms suck and I can do better.

Please tell us something surprising or amusing that one of you has discovered. (The answer need not be related to your project.)

I have a theory that can actually explain how comedy works. In short — if you imagine brain working sort of like ANN, some neurons are shared between several networks, and are responsible for recognizing multiple patterns. When the brain confidently recognizes some pattern, makes predictions, and then is forced to switch into another one, unexpected, but having some parts in common with the first one, we laugh.

The theory is incomplete, but I have a lot of ideas that actually make sense and explain/predict a lot of things. I hope that a few months from now I will have a complete framework, and will be able to consistently teac h anyone to write jokes.

Hopefully, in the future, I’ll be able to teach computers to do the same, on the rudimentary level at least.

You can read more about it here: 
https://medium.com/@rayalez/comedy-theory-fd142076657e

CURIOUS

What convinced you to apply to Y Combinator?

Paul Graham’s essays are what opened the world of startups to me, I’m a huge fan of YC, and being a part of it was always one of my biggest dreams.

How did you hear about Y Combinator?

Paul Graham’s essays, Hacker News