Journey to YCombinator

Martin Sosic

Co-founder @ Wasp

Martin & Matija at YCombinator HQ

Wasp became part of Winter 2021 YCombinator batch!

Here we describe our journey and how we got in after applying for the third time.

The beginning

About 2 years ago (start of 2019) brother and I first started thinking about the idea of a (domain specific) language that is specialized for full-stack web app development - language that removes boilerplate and makes web development simpler. We named it Wasp (Web App SPecification).

After working on it for about a year as a side-project (researching the space, talking with potential users, building a prototype, learning), we realized it will take our full-time dedication to make something serious out of it, so we quit the current job and went all-in into Wasp, bootstrapping ourselves while working on it, to see how far we can get.

The journey to YCombinator

Due to the nature of Wasp (open-source, web framework / language), we were aware that we will need to raise funds at some point if we want to survive. We had a startup of our own previously, and we worked in multiple startups in the past, so we already knew quite a bit about how to go about it and what to expect.

Therefore, as soon as we went full-time into it (start of 2020), we immediately applied for YCombinator (top startup accelerator in the world). Soon, we got invited to the USA (we are from Europe) for the final on-site interview!

We spent weeks preparing for the interview, polishing our pitch, vision, business plan, our understanding of our users, doing mock interviews - all for those crucial 10 minutes (yes, interview lasts only 10 minutes!). At the end we didn’t pass the final interview, however we got encouraging feedback that, although we are too early, we have potential and should try applying again when we make more progress. This made a lot of sense to us, since we had only a very basic prototype and little traction.

We decided to continue working on Wasp for some longer time and continue applying to YC and talking with other interesting accelerators/investors, and see where that gets us - if nothing else, we will learn a lot on the way :)!

Half a year later, after making progress on multiple sides, we went for a second interview (this time online due to Covid) and while we felt it was really close, we still didn’t get in - they wanted to see more traction, more proof that people want it.

Finally, by the autumn of 2020, we were in a position where we had released an early-alpha version of Wasp, managed to build an initial community (>50 people on Discord, 500 Github stars) and made it to “Product of the day” on the Product Hunt. With all that we applied for the YC for the third time and made it in!

Interesting fact is that if you applied to YC previously and got rejected, that is actually a plus when you apply the next time (it show persistence, and they can see your progress). Also, while we did spend significant time preparing for the YC interviews, all that preparation also helped us get a better understanding of our idea, what our users(developers) really need and how to properly present it, so it was worth it regardless of the result of the interviews.

What now?

Right now (Feb 2020) we are in the middle of the YCombinator program, building community, talking with developers and developing Wasp toward beta.

It is still just the two of us and Wasp is in early stage, but with amazing community members on our side and with YC backing us up, we are not afraid to dream big!