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Mixpanel YCombinator Application

Mixpanel successful YCombinator application from 2009 summer batch (YC S09).

Product analytics to help convert, engage, and retain more users.
Mixpanel helps companies measure what matters, make decisions fast, and build better products through data. With our powerful, self-serve product analytics solution, teams can easily analyze how and why people engage, convert, and retain—in real-time, across devices—to improve their user experience.
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If you have a demo, what's the url?

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What is your company going to make? Please describe your product and what it does or will do.

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Mixpanel is a business intelligence service that helps improve online companies by tracking user interactions, engagement, and optimization avenues instead of just tracking page views.


Who writes code, or does other technical work on your product? Was any of it done by a non-founder?

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All code written thus far is safe to use based on the licensing.

How long have the founders known one another and how did you meet? Have any of the founders not met in person?

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I’ve known Tim for just over a year. We were in the same discrete math class, and I noticed that there were quite a few smart CS types and thought that we should get something going. After class one day I introduced myself to them and suggested we could do a startup. Then everyone expressed interest, but only Tim followed up. Since then we’ve been hanging out and talking about startups. Tim went to Singapore to study last semester, and when he got back I pitched Mixpanel to him. He was interested and I wanted a cofounder so I brought him on board.

Please tell us about an interesting project, preferably outside of class or work, that two or more of you created together.

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Recently we’ve been working on a music search and on-demand streaming site called SongRaptor ( We built it to use as a case study for Mixpanel; we use Mixpanel for all the metrics and we’ve been making design decisions based on this data. Eventually we hope to show the effect that Mixpanel metrics can have on the growth of a site. We haven’t gotten much farther than the most basic functionality yet. We’ve been spending most of our time on Mixpanel while our other friends continue development.

Please tell us in one or two sentences about something impressive that each founder has built or achieved.

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Suhail participated in OpenSocial while it was bleeding edge, developed an application that got over 1 MM installs, and an opensource javascript framework used by recognized application companies such as Serious Business w/ over 300+ downloads. Tim scored in the top 1% for the PSAT/SAT and became a National Merit Scholar. ASU offered him a full scholarship, and he followed the money.

Please tell us about the time you most successfully hacked some (non-computer) system to your advantage.

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Last summer I managed to get an internship at Slide, but a month after accepting their offer I decided I wanted more hourly pay. Before I even started at Slide, I was able to convince the recruiter that I had numerous offers still outstanding from companies like RockYou and Zynga and had in-depth OpenSocial experience that was deserving of a $10/hr raise. Luckily, she was able to get it and pay was very good that summer.


When will you have a prototype or beta?

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We currently already have a alpha build with a variety of clients saying they will or have integrated including some YCombinator companies: Posterous, TicketStumbler, and HeyZap. A beta will likely be finished either before summer starts or soon during. Our alpha version is already earning revenue at a profit and we are working on stream-lining this process.


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)?

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Mixpanel is going to bring the competitive advantage data-driven companies like Facebook and Slide have to everyone. Instead of just tracking page views and referrals, Mixpanel will let people learn about their customers by tracking interactions and engagement. We’re also going to help them identify and track their conversion funnels — the paths visitors take to registrations, purchases or any other goal page designated by the company. Today, companies have to spend their most scarce resources, time and money, to build out internal analytic systems specific to their application. These homebrew systems are less robust and insightful than the service we are offering.

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

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Our primary competitor is Google Analytics. Many of the inquiries we receive ask “How are you different from GA?” and a successful solution has been to explicitly say what we offer and how we are different from the beginning. We fear Google the most because of their market penetration and their engineering resources. Aside from Google, there are a few other companies entering this market: nuconomy, KISSmetrics, Aster Data, and Gumtrail.

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

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Working at Slide, known for being data-driven, inspired me to build Mixpanel. While at Slide, I got to work closely with Max Levchin on a specific product where he helped teach me how to truly build and iterate data-driven products from the start. Mixpanel was conceived from the ground up with companies like Slide in mind as well as the problems people there had to face letting us offer a more compelling solution. We can really say, we’re building an analytics platform the way large data-driven companies expect it to be.

How do or will you make money? How much could you make?

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Mixpanel’s business model is a subscription based freemium model. Based on the data logged and analyzed we can scale prices based solely on usage similar to that of Amazon S3. Our idea is to target small under-served startups before they build out an internal system. During that period, we aim to help, consult, build case studies, and provide a free trial to augment our brand and reputation before targeting larger potential clients.


Have you formed ANY legal entity yet?

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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.

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We’re considering entering other areas of analytics and business intelligence such as Mobile and outsourced data processing through Hadoop. After looking at your ideas page, we thought it was interesting that we might address #30: Startups for startups.

Please tell us something surprising or amusing that one of you has discovered.

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Users have the tendency to defy your expectations all the time. If you don’t listen, you won’t survive.

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