Waterloo to Mountain View: Conrad alumni thrive at Y Combinator

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Y Combinator logo2014 has thus far been a very successful year for Conrad Centre alumni. Among the many achievements of past and present students were three acceptances into the coveted Y Combinator (YC) program. This year three companies led by Conrad alumni, Piinpoint, TicketLabs, and GamePress, ​packed up their belongings in Waterloo, and moved to Mountain View, California, to take part in the exclusive program. Piinpoint was founded by Adam Saunders and ​Jim Robeson, Master of Business, Entrepreneruship and Technology (MBET) alumnus; TicketLabs was co-founded by ​Ian Roberts and Patrick Hannigan, Enterprise Co-op (E Co-op) alumnus; and GamePress was founded by E Co-op alumnus Behroz Saadat, and his cousins, Hamad and Murtaza Saadat. 

Y Combinator: Make something people want

Y Combinator provides seed funding and mentorship to startups through an intensely entrepreneurial three-month program. Since 2005, the program has funded over 700 startups, including Dropbox, AirBnB, reddit, Thalmic Labs, and 9gag, just to name a few. There are two rounds of acceptances each year, one in the winter and one in the summer. Startups are selected through an application and in-person interview process.

The founders of accepted startups are required to move to the Bay Area for the duration of the program. While there, they attend weekly dinners with all startup founders and guest speakers, and have access to open office hours with YC experts. Participants show off their hard work at the end of the program on Demo Day, where they present their business to 450 top startup investors.

Y Combinator taps into a company's potential, and gives it the opportunity for explosive success. University of Waterloo startups have been accepted into the past eight consecutive rounds of the program, drawing great attention from Y Combinator.

 “Something is going on in Waterloo… the applications we get from Waterloo students are better than … any other university.” – Paul Graham, Co-Founder, Y Combinator, 2013

Today, applicants to the Winter 2015 Y Combinator cohort expect to learn if they have been invited for an interview, which will take place between November 13 and 18. News of successful applicants can be expected at that time, as selected teams are notified after each day of interviews. 

Piinpoint and TicketLabs are two Conrad alumni companies to successfully complete the program. Lean about who they are, and their Y Combinator journeys:

Piinpoint

Piinpoint logoPiinpoint is an online platform that enables businesses to find the best location to expand their brick-and-mortar store. The software can also forecast future sales, identify competition and target markets, and generate detailed analytical reports for the suggested location. 

Jim Robeson head shotJim founded Piinpoint in July 2013, soon after completing the MBET program. He partnered with co-founder Adam Saunders the following month, and the two have grown their team since. Jim says that he uncovered the true importance of passion and determination during the MBET program, and that the courses allowed him to further his understanding of the market, competitors, and the value in validating your problem. for Piinpoint. In regard to Y Combinator, Jim says, "[MBET] opened my eyes to the size of the Waterloo startup community, which in the end helped me get into Y Combinator and secure one of our flagship customers." 

The team moved to California in January, 2014, and worked for three months to develop their product. Jim raised $250,000 before he attended YC; he has since raised additional funds from investors all over the world.

Since graduating from Y Combinator, Piinpoint has returned to Kitchener-Waterloo, continuing to work from the Velocity Garage

TicketLabs

TicketLabs logoTicketLabs helps smaller artists and managers build, engage, and monetize their fan base. The application collects data from fans of the group or venue, including location, listening habits from third-party services such as Spotify, and "fan types" such as big spenders, influencers, and loyal fans. These insights can be used to strengthen marketing strategies and sell tickets directly to fans. 

TicketLabs was founded by Ian Roberts, who completed his Bachelor of Science in April, majoring in biochemistry, and Patrick Hannigan, who is in his final year, of computer science. They launched TicketLabs in January 2014, while Patrick was working on the company during his Enterprise Co-op (E Co-op) term. Ian says that through E Co-op, he and Patrick learned that choosing a project that you are passionate about, and working with people who you enjoy and respect is essential to achieve and maintain the focus needed to get your company off of the ground.

Ian Roberts and Patrick Hannigan infront of Y Combinator logoJust five months after launching the company, Ian and Patrick moved to California to participate in Y Combinator. Of his time at the incubator, Ian says that he learned "there are always a million things you can be doing as a startup, but all that you should be focusing on at an early stage is getting a product out as quickly as possible, and then speaking to customers every day to build something that they love." 

TicketLabs completed the Y Combinator program in August, 2014. Since then, the company has surpassed $1 million in sales through their e-ticketing service. 

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