Me and my Co-founder, Nishchal Gaba, applied to YC’s Summer batch 2018 with our startup Learn Venue. Although we didn’t make to the interview, we did get a video call request from the YC partner, Gustaf Alstromer.
YC does not give out personalized feedback on the application. However, we did reexamine out the application and we believe that our value proposition was not enticing even though our technology was ‘super cool’. Also, we were selling our product to the enterprises which, according to experts, is a very difficult thing to do as there was a huge switching cost involved with our product.
Filling up the application form did help us in understanding the shortcomings of our business. We definitely recommend startups to fill up this form even if you are not applying to YC. This will bring a lot of clarity to your business. At present, we have pivoted our product and are building an SDK for App developers.
Our application form
Company URL, if any:
If you have a demo, what’s the URL? For non-software, demo can be a video. (Please don’t password protect it; just use an obscure URL.)
Describe your company in 50 characters or less.
Embedding vision AI in low-cost devices.
What is your company going to make?
We are developing an AI-powered operating system, VisionOS, for low-cost security cameras that will enable them to detect objects such as people, vehicles, or animals in a live video.
Today, these security cameras lack the ability to detect objects in a live video feed as object detection is computationally expensive and the low powered hardware of a security camera makes it impossible to do so.
With our technology, the security camera will be able to run object detection on the device itself and in real time. Our technology is up to 62x faster than the state of the art methods.
Which category best applies to your company?
Is this application in response to a YC RFS?
Yes – AI
Where do you live now, and where would the company be based after YC? (List as City A, Country A / City B, Country B.)
New Delhi, India / New Delhi, India
Email address of the founder who is filling out this application: –
-Redacted– Phone number(s): –Redacted–
Please provide the email addresses of the other cofounders in the startup. No need to add yours again. Founders must have at least 10% equity in the company. We will send an email to each founder to fill out additional information about themselves.
Please enter the URL of a 1 minute unlisted (not private) YouTube video introducing the founders. (Follow the Video Guidelines.)
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.
Before working on this idea we were building a chatbot that could answer questions by searching inside videos like: “When was this taught in this lecture?” and it would pinpoint the location in the video when it happened. The demo is available on the website:
https://learnvenue.com/#demos – “Spoken Phrases demo”
We made progress with the chatbot and reached out to the CMO of India’s largest online course provider. He looped in his fellow CXOs and VPs in a video call with us to understand the product. We then had to back out as they literally asked us to log into our servers and show how it’s done.
After this debacle, we reached out to other online course providers and they were all very keen on using this technology but they couldn’t find a prominent use case for it. We then extended this idea to searching real-world objects inside videos such as people, vehicles, or animals. While working on this problem we realized that our computers were painfully slow to analyze videos for objects – this was the premise of this startup.
How long have the founders known one another and how did you meet? Have any of the founders not met in person?
We have known each other for almost 7 months. We first came in contact in July ’17 when Nishchal was going to return to India after completing his masters in AI. He was looking for opportunities in startups and discovered this. We discussed and assessed each other for over a month before deciding to work on the opportunity of video intelligence.
Nishchal came back to India in October ‘17 and since then we have been meeting and working together. Within this time period, we have completed a product that can search inside videos and pivoted it to achieving on device intelligence.
How far along are you?
It will take 2 more months create a functional OS that can be integrated into the security cameras. However, the core technology that enables AI models to run on low-cost devices is working today.
How long have each of you been working on this? Have you been part-time or full-time? Please explain.
We have been working for almost 4 months together on this. The startup is, however, 2 years old and I along with other team members – most of whom have left – have been working on it before I boarded Nishchal as a Co-Founder. The idea has been pivoted 3 times in those 2 years. Nishchal and I both work full time on this startup and do freelancing for our expenses.
Which of the following best describes your progress?
How many active users or customers do you have? If you have some particularly valuable customers, who are they?
We have demoed the prototype to an IP camera manufacturer in the US and to a local factory owner. The factory owner made us an offer of $250 to install it.
Do you have revenue?
How much money do you spend per month?
How much money does your company have in the bank now?
How long is your runway? (e.g. 5 months)
If you’ve applied previously with the same idea, how much progress have you made since the last time you applied? Anything change?
If you have already participated or committed to participate in an incubator, “accelerator” or “pre-accelerator” program, please tell us about it.
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?
We stumbled upon this opportunity while we were building a chatbot that answers queries by searching inside videos. We realized that our AI models ran very slowly on our computers. It took around 1.5 Hrs to analyze a 1-minute video. So we decided to venture into research and figure out a way to make it run faster.
Nishchal has core expertise in AI and I have expertise in UX. Plus I possess horizontal skills ranging from deep learning, UI development, managing servers, and backend services. We also are in touch with industry experts and through them, we are understanding about the security/surveillance space.
We have got in touch with an IP camera manufacturer based out of US, and have discussed the possibility of integrating the OS into their hardware. They are pretty keen on our technology and we are in verbal talks with them.
To understand whether the end consumer will benefit from AI-powered surveillance, we got in touch with a local factory that was installing security cameras. We gave them a demo on a raspberry PI that detected people as they appeared in the frame without using the internet. He offered us $250/camera to install the system.
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)?
We are making new AI models that enable low-cost devices to analyze videos on the device itself, thus eliminating the need for relying on Google and Amazon cloud intelligence or investing money in costly computer hardware. Our AI models can run 62x faster than the current state of the art methods.
In the security space, the video is analyzed only post an incident. Which today is done by humans. ‘Netatmo Presence’ is a security camera that can classify objects such as people, car, and animals in a video.
Recently, Amazon announced ‘Deep Lens’ video camera which is also able to “classify” live video feed and they are targeting it at developers. It is a step in the right direction.
However, we must mention that image classification is not the same as object detection and is at least 20x less computationally expensive.
Plus, there are IP cameras in the market from Nest, Blink, Hikvision that can detect motion and then trigger a notification to the owner. However, it cannot differentiate between a motion caused by innocuous objects, such as pets, and intruders.
Who are your competitors, and who might become competitors? Who do you fear most?
Our direct competitor is XNOR.AI. It is a startup based out of Netherlands. We both share similar technology and vision to make the device intelligent rather than the cloud. Google and Amazon Cloud video intelligence also pose a threat indirectly. There is always a chance that Google tries to venture into on-device intelligence. However, we believe that it will be against their established infrastructure and services around cloud intelligence. But we do fear this the most.
What do you understand about your business that other companies in it just don’t get?
OEMs do realize that using cloud or an on-premise server is not the best way to analyze video content from all the security cameras that are sold by them. Firstly, there is a perpetual cost associated with using it and secondly, there is a limit to the number of videos streams that can be analyzed at the same time with the limited computational power.
For consumers, if the security cameras were to use the cloud, then the bandwidth required to upload the camera feed would be over 40 GB/day – just to figure out if there were unwanted people or vehicles in the video. Worst if the network breaks down leaving them vulnerable.
Making the security camera do the job of identifying the objects is the best way forward. The camera must be made intelligent in itself. And thanks to our technology, the low-cost devices can now analyze the video in real time without the need for depending on the cloud.
How do or will you make money? How much could you make? (We realize you can’t know precisely, but give your best estimate.)
We will be licensing the VisionOS to the OEMs such as Bosch, Panasonic.
We charge $25/ device.
Security cameras sold in the World in ‘16: 52 Million units; 17% CAGR
TAM : 52 Mn x 25$ = $1.3 Bn
SAM (IP cameras): 38 Mn x 25$ = $950 Mn
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?
Since we are a B2B startup getting the right connection to the OEMs will get us there.
Have you incorporated, or formed any legal entity (like an LLC) yet?
If you have not formed the company yet, describe the planned equity ownership breakdown among the founders, employees and any other proposed stockholders. (This question is as much for you as us.)
Please provide any other relevant information about the structure or formation of the company.
Are any of the founders covered by noncompetes or intellectual property agreements that overlap with your project? If so, please explain. NA Who writes code, or does other technical work on your product? Was any of it done by a non-founder? Please explain.
Nishchal writes the code primarily for the on-device intelligence technology. We together research on it. Servers and designs are handled by me. We have one more team member (non-founder) who is developing the OS.
Is there anything else we should know about your company? (Pending lawsuits, co-founders who have left, etc.)
People have worked and left the previous pivots of the startups – non-founders. Also, they were not legally our employees.
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.
Our technology can also be used in:
Developing an SDK:
The SDK can be used by mobile developers to harness the power of the mobile device to run computer vision applications.
To detect objects in a live video stream. Think of Google Glass with added object tracking to achieve near ‘Iron Man’ capabilities. Drone OS: Drones are essentially low powered computers and our technology can provide them with much needed visual intelligence data for navigation, object tracking, or object avoidance.
Reducing the number of servers:
If our technology were to be deployed in servers, it will require less number of them to run AI models such as image classification, speech recognition, or video intelligence.
Vision for the blind people:
Once integrated into Google glass type of devices it will deliver much more useful information about the environment to the blind person than current ‘smart’ cane that only tells if ‘something’ is ahead of them.
Please tell us something surprising or amusing that one of you has discovered. (The answer need not be related to your project.)
Founderspeak – /faʊndə-spik/, noun
Speech used by founders to get the attention of people and investors at large with an ulterior motive.
“I’m not looking for money, just your feedback.”
Translation: I need your money.
“We have 100s of organic sign-ups.”
Translation: We forced 100s of people to sign up.
What convinced you to apply to Y Combinator?
I’ve been following YC since 2015. Last year in October, YC held office hours in New Delhi, India. We got selected for it and spoke to Anu Hariharan about the stuff we are building. Those 10 minutes were enough to question ourselves about the startup. She convinced us as to why technology companies proliferate in the Valley. We decided at that time to apply for the next batch (S18).
Recently one of our mentors has advised us to look for acceleration opportunities outside of India as it will be hard for us to find the ecosystem that supports technology startups in India.
Plus, our target market is mostly outside of India and being in the valley will make sense.
How did you hear about Y Combinator?
Last year of my college (2015). Been following it since then.
—- Saurabh —-
Please tell us about the time you, saurabh_io, most successfully hacked some (non-computer) system to your advantage.
Early in 2016, I participated in an event called Startup Weekend. The rules were: participants had to pitch their ideas and they were put to vote. The ideas/people that received the most votes had to form a team with the other participants and work on it.
I pitched my idea but it didn’t make it through the voting stage. I went to the organizers and told them that I want to work on my idea but they just reiterated the rules to me. I persisted and finally, the organizers challenged me that if I can make a team of at least 4 I can work on it.
I took the challenge and started approaching the participants, cajoled them, and successfully built a team of 6 – which was the largest. We became the runners-up of the event and won $500 as well.
Please tell us in one or two sentences about the most impressive thing other than this startup that you have built or achieved.
I have got a patent on the world’s cheapest, $100, Braille printer. I hacked an XY plotter to work as a Braille Printer.
I’ve also pitched a product on a nationally televised show named “Pulse The Venture” on CNN News 18. It was a chatbot that could answer scholastic questions.
I’ve built a startup with 4 fellow students in college and ran it for a year. It was a platform that connected students with vocational training institutes.
—- Nishchal —-
Please tell us about the time you, nishgaba_ai, most successfully hacked some (non-computer) system to your advantage.
I conducted several workshops during my undergraduate years and faced a trivial problem; we needed separate permission from the higher authorities to conduct them and each permission was valid for 2 months only.
Once I needed the permission for a whole year. I figured out a gap between how the higher and lower levels of management operated in my college: once approved at a higher level, the lower management never questions it. I intentionally wrote the permission letter highlighting the starting date of the workshop on the first page and added a paragraph on the second page stating the requirement for the whole year. Generally, the higher authorities are short on time and skim the first page and take decisions accordingly.
My permission application got approved by the higher management. I went to the lower management and highlighted the part of the requirement for the whole year. They approved it without questioning the duration.
Please tell us in one or two sentences about the most impressive thing other than this startup that you have built or achieved. I’ve worked with NGOs to impart academic and moral education to 100’s of homeless and underprivileged children in Delhi for 4 years.
I got admitted to the University of Edinburgh, one of the top 20 universities in the world, on the basis of my academic performance and projects in machine learning.
I was awarded Scholarship for Higher Education by CBSE, Govt. of India for scoring top 1% in science stream nationally.
We now know our shortcomings. We will rectify them and apply again for the next batch YC(W19).