Justin Kan

YC Partner and I started some companies.

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Job Post: Media Relations and Snap God

Justin.tv was nine years too early.

After learning about Snapchat Stories, I’ve become obsessed with Snapchat. As a social tool, it fulfills a need outside of messaging (1-1 and group communication) and Facebook / Twitter / Instagram (social validation). As a platform, I think Snapchat is on the tipping point of going mainstream.

I love putting my random adventures in travel, startups and entrepreneurship on my Snapchat Story. It’s led to a lot of positive feedback and serendipitous interactions. So, after discussing this with a few people and not coming up with any good reasons not to do it, I’ve decided to restart Justin.tv as a Snapchat channel.

I’m looking for someone to help me do it. You will:

  • Film stuff from an iPhone
  • Work on ideas to promote and grow our channel
  • Generate ideas for fresh content
  • Help The Artist Union and other startups I’ve invested in generate press ideas

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Why I love Snapchat

When I first heard about Snapchat, it sounded like a toy. That should have been the first warning. Exploding photos, good for sexting. I tried it, mostly for industry research purposes, found the UI confusing, saw I had very few friends active, felt old, and then didn’t open it for two years.

In October 2013, Snapchat added the Stories feature, allowing anyone to send a snap (photo or video) to their own linear channel called their Story. In order to view a channel for a friend you have to:

  • Specifically tap on your friend
  • You can tap to skip through a photo or video
  • Each photo or video has a 24 hour window it is viewable, and then it disappears

When I first tried stories I didn’t get it either. I didn’t really understand what it was for (or even how it worked), and I wasn’t friends with anyone who was posting any stories. Two years later, I opened Snapchat again, after hearing about

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The 99% (of startups)

Little known secret: nine months before we sold Twitch for $970mm, I tried to sell some of my shares in a secondary transaction at less than a fifth of that price – and I was turned down by every VC I asked.

This is for all the founders who know they have built something that people want, but the rest of the world hasn’t recognized it yet. There is a tremendous amount of excitement about the top 1% of startups, but there are hundreds if not thousands more startups that will make their founders and investors rich. Sometimes the startup ecosystem can seem like it is entirely Uber and Airbnb, but there are lots of great businesses and lots of big waves that are just getting started. Press stories and mega-rounds of funding are lagging indicators; trust your numbers and growth to give yourself confidence in the face of rejection.

Watching people play video games is a niche” is now “I’m in

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Three stories

It’s easy to recall the things that went well during your startup. Here are three stories about times when things weren’t going so well.


In the first two years of Justin.tv’s existence, we had a bus number of 1: Emmett was the only person who knew how the application servers worked, likewise Bill for the chat servers and Kyle for the video system. Because we worked pretty much all the time, this was deemed an acceptable situation (we had bigger problems, for example: having no revenue and a very unstable product).

Because we were young and terrible managers, we had an “unlimited vacation” policy, which translated into passively discouraging people from taking vacation. Still, some people knew their limits and took some time off, including my cofounder, Kyle, who one weekend planned a trip to Tahoe.

Key people leaving on weekends was always scary to us because weekends were always

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Survive and Thrive

This is an excerpt from the introduction I give to my group at Y Combinator at our orientation before each batch begins.

Several years ago my my cofounder Michael and I were recalling the early days of Justin.tv when he made a memorable observation to me: “Isn’t it funny that we knew so many geniuses back then?”

Michael was referring to the group of us founders that all lived in the same apartment building, called Crystal Towers, in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood. After we had moved in to work on Justin.tv in October of 2006, we were quickly followed by a slew of other YC founders, including those of Reddit, Dropbox, Disqus, Weebly and Scribd. The founders were all attracted by the community and because the apartments were leased month-to-month and came furnished. The founders in our early group were all close, and most went on to create companies worth hundreds of millions

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Be the first iOS developer for The Artist Union

Three months ago, James, Ranidu and I launched The Artist Union, a suite of social media tools to help musicians promote themselves. These tools are free for artists, because we 1) like artists, and 2) most of them don’t have much money anyways ;). Ultimately, our goal is to help artists make money directly off their audiences the way Twitch helped gamers make money.

Since we launched, we’ve seen tremendous growth and are now used by over 25k artists on the web. Our current mobile app (not yet released) is built with React Native and we want to make our first iOS hire to double our rate of iteration.

A little about you:

We started this company because we love music and want to do dope stuff in music. You should too. We are chill people who like hacking on stuff, going to house music shows, and DJing. Hopefully you like these things too. If you don’t, you probably won’t like working

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Fun with Magic

Over the past month I’ve been using Magic, the text for anything service, more extensively. Being able to fire off job requests and get them easily outsourced is a service I’ve always wanted to exist – so badly so that several years go I started Exec to do exactly that. Magic improves on Exec: it still uses human operators to do your task, but they are in a call center and outsource to other companies for real world operations, solving some of the problems we had around how to maximize utilization when your operators have to be in the real world.

Now that I’ve used Magic for a while, I wanted to share some of the more interesting things I’ve gotten the service to do. A fairly simple one: some of my friends and I were making a DJ set of trap music for a party, and wanted some more songs:

justin-kan-trap.jpg

That was pretty cool. A few weeks ago I wanted to change my flight, but Virgin America wouldn’t

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Be the first hire for The Drop

The Drop is looking to hire our first web developer! We launched less than 2 months ago, and until now, my brother and I have been the primary developers. As The Drop is growing we are looking for help to improve the website. Specific things you will do:

  • Develop and implement new features using Ruby on Rails for both desktop and mobile websites
  • Locate, understand and fix bugs reported by customers

You would come with:

  • Experience with web development in JS and Rails
  • Experience coding mobile apps is a plus
  • A passion for electronic music
  • An entrepreneurial spirit and analytical mind
  • An outgoing and positive personality
  • Good organization skills

We are an early stage startup with no revenue. The internship will be lowly-paid position but some benefits of this position will include:

  • Connections with top record labels and DJs
  • Ownership over a product

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The Founder’s Guide To Selling Your Company

For most founders, selling a company is a life changing event that they have had no training for. At Y Combinator, one big thing we help our startups with is navigating questions around the acquisition process. Originally, I wrote this guide for YC startups outlining what I’ve learned in my last ten years as an entrepreneur about selling startups. If you are going through an acquisition, hopefully this will be useful to you.

When to Sell

Similar to raising money, the best time to sell your startup is when you don’t need to or want to. Paradoxically, you are probably thinking about selling your startup as you are experiencing a lack of traction, tough competition, or difficult time fundraising. However, this is a bad time to sell your startup: you will have few bidders and be more likely to acquiesce to the demands of anyone who does show up.

The best time to sell your startup is when

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How to Pitch Your Startup On Stage

At technology conferences over the past couple months I’ve had the opportunity to meet some amazing startups by talented people from around the world. Unfortunately, I’ve often had to determine that their startups were interesting by deciphering a very confusing pitch.

One of the big things we do with startups during the Y Combinator batch is help them refine their demo day pitch. How you pitch is important, because investors (and other people you will be pitching, like press, potential employees and customers) don’t have an obligation to expend the mental energy to figure out what you are talking about. More likely, if you approach someone with a pitch that takes work to understand, they will just turn their brain off and go back to checking their phone (if they are in an audience) or nodding and planning an escape (if it’s just you and them). When an investor checks their phone during

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