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Late Y Combinator Funding Application

Summer 2014

Url of a 1 minute unlisted YouTube video introducing the founders:
What is your company going to make?
YogaTrail aims to be the "Tripadvisor for Yoga" - we're a global yoga
directory with 50k+ yoga providers around the world at the moment (the
site has been live since last summer), aiming for 1 million.
Our current business model is "freemium', where yoga pros can pay to
get extra visibility on the site, in our newly launched mobile app, and in
newsletters. Revenue has been doubling monthly since the new year, and
we expect to be profitable at the end of April.
After succeeding as a directory with a 'freemium' business model, we
plan to
For each founder, please list (separate line for each item): YC username;
name; age; year of graduation, school, degree (unfinished in parens) and
subject for each degree; email address; personal url, github url, linkedin
url, facebook id, twitter id; employer and title for previous jobs. List the
main contact first. Separate founders with blank lines. Put an asterisk
before the name of anyone not able to move to the Bay Area.
Alex Klein, 44
2006, Columbia University, PhD in Physics
FB-id 677224021
Alex Jaton, 37
2002, University of Lausanne, Switzerland, M.A. in English & Spanish
Language and Literature
Sven Ernst, 36
2007, Payap University, (B.S.) in Computer Science

Please tell us in one or two sentences about the most impressive thing
other than this startup that each founder has built or achieved.
Alex Klein raised $3.5M from VCs to build an experimental nuclear fusion
reactor in a small lab outside of Boston.
Alex Jaton, despite her non-native English background, became a highly
successful and sought-after Editor at some of the most prestigious
publishing companies in the UK and the USA, generating millions of
dollars in revenue for the projects she commissioned.
Sven spontaneously moved to Asia, then ended up traveling between
Germany and Thailand to built 2 companies in both locations from
scratch. Today his team boasts over 20 employees in 2 countries,
creating digital projects for major global brands.
Please tell us about the time you most successfully hacked some (noncomputer) system to your advantage.
I invented an alternative plasma confinement concept in 1999 and then
found a way to build and test it in a world where "alternative fusion
concepts" have virtually no chance of getting any government funding.
As part of the hack, I had to earn a PhD in physics, get "in" with senior
scientists at MIT and other labs and institutions, and then circumvent
traditional channels to find private funding sources to invest in very
speculative technology. The whole thing took about 10 years, which is a
very short time, considering the scope of the hack. Sounds crazy, but it's
what happened.
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.
Alex Jaton and Alex Klein started a company to sell electronic versions of
out of print books (, no longer there). We dropped
the idea in favour of YogaTrail.
How long have the founders known one another and how did you meet?
Have any of the founders not met in person?
Alex and Alex have been married for 6 years, and known each other for 8.
They met Sven in 2011, shortly before founding YogaTrail together. The
Alexes met Sven when they pitched YogaTrail to a group of digital
entrepreneurs in Chiang Mai Thailand (Sven was part of the group).

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 discovered yoga in India in 2008, and we've done a lot of traveling
since then... so we ended up sampling a huge assortment of yoga. The
diversity of yoga is astounding, with countless different styles and all
sorts of teachers and venues. Experiencing all this variety was great, but
we also learned that there was a big problem to be solved:
It's very difficult to find the right kind of yoga using the web while
hotels have TripAdvisor and Restaurants have Yelp, there's no authority
site for yoga. We're well on our way to become that site, and we know
people need what we've built because they tell us so, and every day we
get hundreds of people creating their profile.
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)?
Currently, people find yoga via Google search or word of mouth. The first
option is dysfunctional, and the search results not only lack independent
reviews but are hard to sift through. The word of mouth thing is
suboptimal, especially for travelers.
Not yet live: we plan to add schedules to the site, so yogis can see at a
glance where and when the classes of their favourite teachers will be.
This will solve a major pain for millions of yogis who currently have to go
to multiple websites to do this.
Who are your competitors, and who might become competitors? Who do
you fear most?
There are many competitor sites out there (about 50), but they all fail
because they're generally built very badly, they're not populated, or they
restrict themselves to small regions. The biggest competitor is
", xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx.
Our biggest fears are actually caused by places like, who are
not competing with us at all at the moment, but who have the money and
the resources to quickly build a directory and throw lots of money at
What do you understand about your business that other companies in it
just don't get?

Many things, but first and foremost: the yoga community is a unique
crowd, partly because of their diversity (ranging from hippies seeking
enlightenment in remote Ashrams to high powered executives that use
yoga to de-stress during lunch), and partly because of its general distrust
of business and corporations.
The yoga market is peculiar because its grown to become a $20B/year
industry in a world where words like money and profit can be dirty
words, due to the spiritual and holistic lifestyle aspects that are
associated with yoga. We've been very careful to appeal to the entire
spectrum of yogis, and YogaTrail has been very well received to date.
Secondly: yoga professionals are organised into a vast network of
independent operators (the teachers) who are loosely attached to studios
(local) and yoga retreats (exotic and far away). Our site and database
structure is built around that idea, and we have viral invite loops that
exploit this social landscape.
Thirdly: community-based directories are a lot of work.
How do or will you make money? How much could you make? (We realize
you can't know precisely, but give your best estimate.)
Freemium: yoga pro's can create free profiles and publish a limited
number of events. Upgrading to a paid plan gets them more visibility,
unlimited events, and some other perks. We estimate
If you've already started working on it, how long have you been working
and how many lines of code (if applicable) have you written?
We've been working on YogaTrail full time for over two years, and the site
has about 16,000 development hours in it.
How far along are you? Do you have a beta yet? If not, when will you?
Are you launched? If so, how many users do you have? Do you have
revenue? If so, how much? If you're launched, what is your monthly
growth rate (in users or revenue or both)?
The site launched in June 2013, our mobile app launched last week.

If you have an online demo, what's the url? (Please don't password
protect it; just use an obscure url.)
How will you get users? If your idea is the type that faces a chicken-andegg 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?
We have two viral growth loops that are providing viral growth factor of
60% (10 users bring in 6 others, on average). They need some
optimizing... We're also very successful on social media (FB 100k fans,
Twitter 30k, Pinterest 20k), and we've built
Search traffic is also becoming a major source of new users (we get 5000
site visits per day).
If you're already incorporated, when were you? Who are the shareholders
and what percent does each own? If you've had funding, how much, who
from, and at what valuation or valuation cap?
YogaTrail has been entirely bootstrapped and has received no funding.
If you have already participated or committed to participate in an
incubator, "accelerator" or "pre-accelerator" program, please tell us about
We haven't.

If we fund you, which of the founders will commit to working exclusively

(no school, no other jobs) on this project for the next year?
All three of us.
For founders who can't, why not? What level of commitment are they
willing to make?
Do any founders have other commitments between June through August
2014 inclusive?
Do any founders have commitments in the future (e.g. finishing college,
going to grad school), and if so what?
Where do you live now, and where would the company be based after
The team is working out of Chiang Mai, Thailand. We don't see any
reason to change that, and the runway we have here is 10x what it
would be in the US.
Are any of the founders covered by noncompetes or intellectual property
agreements that overlap with your project? Will any be working as
employees or consultants for anyone else?
Was any of your code written by someone who is not one of your
founders? If so, how can you safely use it? (Open source is ok of course.)
Much of the code was written by our lead developer (Jordan), who's an
employee (not a founder). The site is built on Drupal (open source).
Are any of the following true? (a) You are the only founder. (b) You are a
student who may return to school when the next term starts. (c) Half or
more of your group can't move to the Bay Area. (d) One or more
founders will keep their current jobs. (e) None of the founders are
(Answering yes doesn't disqualify you. It's just to remind us to check.)

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
Please tell us something surprising or amusing that one of you has
discovered. (The answer need not be related to your project.)
Ive discovered that building a website like YogaTrail is in many ways
more difficult than building a nuclear fusion reactor. Just the technical
aspects are much more involved than I had imagined at the outset (with
all the different browsers, mobiles, etc) but the real challenge lies with
the users:
In science/engineering, things are very straight-forward: apply an electric
or magnetic field, and electrons move in a predictable fashion. But
humans are totally mysterious beings where the colour of a button can
have all sorts of effects.
Trying to figure out what people around the world want, what they will
pay for, and generally what theyre thinking when they use a website is
very challenging and often surprising, although taking a scientific
approach (testing and measuring) has been very helpful.