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Hack Reactor alums Patrick Stapleton (March 2013), Mike Moss (December 2014) and Scott Moss (November 2013) have worked together and stayed in touch since graduation. But in 2017, they made the decision to pull the plug on a successful shared consultancy gig with clients like Hearst’s Car and Driver so they could develop a product and found a company.
Tipe.io launched in September of 2017 as a text management system that empowers both developers and others to edit content in cases when typical content management systems limit user options. Now developers can build out content and edit it on the fly for interactive websites, VR, smartwatches, mobile and more. Before Tipe.io, developers that wanted to change content built alongside advanced digital functionality would have to go back to the original code to edit. As of September 2017, developers--and even nontechnical team members--can edit from the Tipe.io dashboard.
So now websites can amaze users with interactive experiences that are also optimized for SEO and updated with current and consistently refreshed content.
And then the Tipe.io team got accepted into Y Combinator--opening up a world of resources to grow their business. Y Combinator provides seed funding for startups but also helps entrepreneurs refine and position their ideas. Between 1-2% of Y Combinator applicants are accepted.
But let’s start at the beginning.
In 2013 Mike Moss was tired of working at Wal-Mart in Atlanta after dropping out of a for-profit college, Westwood (the college announced complete closures in 2016), where he was studying Information Technology with a focus on Networking. He felt stuck and asked his brother Scott for advice. Scott offered:
“You tried the college thing. It was expensive, it didn’t really work out, you didn’t really like that structured environment. Just come out here, you can try learning programming.”
Scott was living near San Diego, in Chula Vista, at the time, on assignment with the Navy. He was renting a single bedroom in a five bedroom house. Mike and Scott shared the room for four months. Mike got several jobs. He worked at Target, sold Kirby Vacuums and “muscle pills”.
Scott was getting out of the military and learning Ruby as he worked toward coding bootcamp. Mike was inspired:
Scott applied to DevBootcamp and was turned down. But, as Mike remembers, Scott had another plan:
So Scott drove up to San Francisco for the Hack Reactor interview. Mike came with him. Scott had an in-person interview with Tim Sze, another Hack Reactor Grad, now a Software Engineer at Google and Former Co-Founder and CTO at Compgun, also a Y Combinator company. Mike, exhausted from the long drive, fell asleep on a couch while Scott interviewed. Neither had money to stay, so they drove back to San Diego after Scott’s interview. What was their next move? Mike recalls:
“I’m still working at that same muscle pill company. I’m still selling muscle pills and creams for women’s faces and stuff. At the time I was making $10 an hour. But Scott got into Hack Reactor, so we went to San Francisco.”
In San Francisco, Scott and Mike first stayed at The Empyrean Towers in Oakland. It has one star on Yelp. It was dangerous, and they were looking to move on. Scott ultimately got connected with a roommate the way many students do:
“Hack Reactor connected us all on an email chain so I’m emailing all my class, getting to know them, and I found out Mehul was from Atlanta, which is where Mike and I are from, too. So we met up at a sandwich shop in the Mission. And we were like, Mehul, where are you staying?”
Mehul Patel lived in West Oakland with two other Hack Reactor grads--Peter De Croos and Patrick Stapleton. Patrick was working at Keychain Logistics (another Y Combinator company), his first job after Hack Reactor. Scott remembers learning from Patrick and admiring his success:
“We were like, this dude’s already got a job, he’s living proof! I was always over there, working with Mehul, and learning from Patrick because he seemed to have all the answers.”
After graduating from Hack Reactor, Scott and Patrick eventually began consulting on Angular, on and off.
Patrick is the creator of Angular Universal, server-side Angular. For websites to succeed in attracting users, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is important, but to fully optimize a website for search businesses must usually sacrifice interactive, dynamic elements. Angular Universal allows developers to render applications on the server so by the time the browser reaches the application, the meta tags for SEO are detectable. And at the same time, businesses can maintain an interactive interface.
Car & Driver Magazine (owned by Hearst Media) and Capital One wanted to use Angular Universal to rebuild their websites. Car & Driver came to San Francisco and pursued Scott and Patrick, who ultimately worked directly with the CTO. Scott shares:
“We were traveling everywhere, we were in New Jersey, Virginia, Portland, Atlanta, we were all over the place. We finally settled in Atlanta. Most of us had to be onsite. We hired some of our friends...Mehul, we hired him and Andrew Lu, another Hack Reactor grad who had also lived in that same first building with Patrick.”
Scott remembers when they made the choice to switch from consulting to developing a product:
“It had to be 1 or 2 o’clock in the morning. The idea to shift focus onto developing a cloud-based product seemed like great timing. Mike, Mehul, and Andrew were in Atlanta and they are all talented engineers. We could be making something right now. While we didn’t have financial resources, we all had time.”
But--especially when resources were limited, what product was the right one to focus on?
Since Patrick had seen the Angular Universal clients struggle to integrate with a CMS, he was itching to build one that worked. And Scott was thinking about how they’d just spent a year consulting with huge global companies: what problems did these companies find unsolvable?
For starters, when companies would upgrade their tech stack from a tool like WordPress to a new framework like Angular Universal or React they had few options for how to get their content into the new framework and how to manage it going forward. The only way was to hard code the text, which didn’t allow those companies the flexibility of changing content on the fly like they could do with WordPress. Instead, a developer had to go back to the code and edit it with each change.
So, in September 2017, the team created a product that would give companies content editing flexibility after an upgrade to add sophistication to a site. And thus, Tipe.io was born. Scott explains:
“We allow developers to have the same flexibility of WordPress or SquareSpace but use any app that they want. It doesn’t matter if it’s VR, web, watch, mobile, we don’t care, any app you want, you can still have that flexibility of updating your content on the fly.”
The next step? Scott sized up the competition:
“We did some research on competitors in the same space and asked our consulting clients why they didn’t choose another CMS platform. Did the competitor CMS not solve the problem? By asking that one question, we uncovered some great insights we could use to improve our own product.”
The Tipe.io team saw two issues that they could tackle to outpace the competitors. The first was making the dashboard as user-friendly as possible. And they saw that many competitors were trying to convince nontechnical people to use these more advanced CMS solutions. They were going after marketing and content teams and letting those teams convince the developers. Tipe.io needed to go after developers directly. From Scott:
“The developers are the ones with the green light and they’re going to pick whatever technology they want, so they’re not going to listen to the content creators anymore like they used to ten years ago. We also saw that we needed to provide a solution that went beyond websites. Businesses need to manage content everywhere: on smartwatch apps, on VR, and mobile.”
As the team gained momentum on a product development plan, they realized resources and funding were the next steps.
“We reached out to a lot of people,” Patrick remembers. Scott adds:
“We needed money, and we were thinking funding is how we could get it. At this point I’d been Snapchatting Justin Kan, the founder of Twitch, for like two years. I never met him in person, but I had given him tips on working out, tips on music, he’d given me tips on startups.”
So Scott asked Justin what to do about funding. Justin suggested reaching out to Michael Siebel, the CEO of Y Combinator and Justin’s co-founder at Twitch.
“I emailed Michael Siebel and told him we were working on this product and that we’re a couple of months away from building it.”
Michael asked how long it was going to take to make the product.
Scott wrote back that it would take 4-6 months. Michael’s reply?
Michael told Scott to get in touch if he built it in a month. And, in the meantime, the team applied to Y Combinator’s startup program. Michael wished him luck. Justin assured Scott that if Michael responded at all, it was a good sign.
Then the team got things ready for Y Combinator and got an interview in Mountain View. The interviewers included: Paul Buchheit, who created GMail, Dalton Caldwell, founder of App.net, and Kat Mañalac, Director of Outreach. The interview lasted about 10 minutes. The interviewers asked rapid fire questions about market size, competitors, and strategic plans. The team learned the next day that they were accepted.
Scott explains what it means to be part of Y Combinator:
“It’s basically a bootcamp. It’s like Hack Reactor, but for a company, and less than 2% of companies actually get accepted. No one knows what the secret sauce is to get selected for funding. You just have to apply; you might get invited for an interview, and then they’ll grill you. And if you do get in, they’ll give you money, they take some equity and they connect you with this network full of other YC companies like AirBnB and Stripe. And then you listen to talks, they introduce you to investors, and they have a demo day with tons of the best investors in the world. Marissa Mayer was at the one this year. So they do all that, and then you’re a YC company.”
YC opens up a lot of resources. In addition to cash and networking, the team also got credits with AWS and Digital Ocean and other tech resources.
Tipe.io continues to progress from Scott’s home in Sacramento. They launched a private beta round and now have about 3,000 users, with customers from notable companies like Vonage.
Currently, the team is focused on optimizing product-market fit, based on YC guidance about how to use customer feedback to develop the business.
Tipe.io follows a traditional SAAS-model of pricing with subscriptions ranging from free to enterprise on a monthly to yearly basis. The team has aggressive growth goals for the next three quarters and everyone is excited to see what the future brings.
At Tipe.io Scott Moss is CEO in charge of finance, HR, and strategic vision and planning. Mike Moss is the CPO (Chief Product Officer), in charge of customer relations, marketing, and analytics. Patrick Stapleton is the CTO, he managed the complete developer experience and hires developers. All three team members write code. Gary Ryan, a Hack Reactor grad, recently joined the company full time, with another engineer joining soon, as well as contractors.