I can’t tell you how excited I was when Brett Hagler, CEO and co-founder of New Story (funding life-changing houses for homeless families), told me that they were accepted into Y Combinator (YC). YC is THE premier startup accelerator program in the world, and very few startups make the cut to get into the program.
Side note: I donated my last birthday to New Story. I hope you’ll consider doing the same!
I told Brett that after the first month of the program, I wanted to interview him for my blog. He graciously accepted, so I kept it to five questions since I know they are working their tails off at YC!
How is being a part of YC going so far?
We’ve been at YC officially since June 1st. The pace has been 1,000mph, and the growth has been extraordinary for us. We set our goal to fund 100 Homes in 100 Days – which seemed insane at the time – and after 28 days, we’ve funded 29 houses! Each house costs $6,000, so in the past month, we’ve done more in revenue than we did in our last 4 previous months combined.
Setting such an ambitious goal has forced us to do things we “normally” wouldn’t do, because we “have to hit the goal of 100 homes.” I’ve learned that by having piercing clarity on one clear metric is incredibly powerful. I literally filter every decision through the question, “Will “this” help us get there?” Everything is focused on weekly goals that all add up to hit the one metric we’re going after. We really focus on our weekly growth rate.
How can people help you maximize your YC experience (and hit your goals)?
The best ways are…
(1) directly fund a house on behalf of your family or your company
(2) start a crowdfunding campaign to help fund a house
(3) become in-kind donors — an example is Atlanta-based film company, Friendly Human (they’re amazing) – who is coming down with us to Haiti on July 15th to shoot a brand video!
These are the best ways to help us grow. What’s really cool about focusing on growth is that the faster we grow, the faster we move families out of life-threatening dangers and into new homes.
What have been the biggest surprises so far?
How willing people are to help. During the first week, the founders of Airbnb came to speak, and Brian (their CEO) said, “be shameless about asking for help.” I’ve kinda made that a mantra, it’s been valuable so far. This relates to anyone – if you reach out to someone in a thoughtful, humanized way, they will help you. It might take some polite persistence – but that’s what good entrepreneurs do and that’s what good entrepreneurs respect.
What’s the most interesting experience you’ve had so far?
Hearing the Airbnb founders tell us their detailed story of how they got off the ground. It’s truly an “epic” startup story of sheer perseverance and grit. They just wouldn’t die. For over a year and a half, they did less than $500/month in sales, every investor laughed at them, but they kept pushing. They literally came into YC in 2009 with a binder full of maxed out credit cards, and during YC things started to get better. Not only are they maniacally determined, they are also genuinely kind and humble guys. That was very inspiring.
And I can’t help but ask this one, are you guys planning on coming back to Atlanta?
We still don’t know! I’d like to be in Atlanta, but it depends on the funding support we can get in Atlanta for our operations. Since we give 100% of public donations to the need, we have to have a core group of private donors that fund our ops. We will be wherever makes the most sense in order to get funding and bring on world class talent.
If you want to reach Brett directly, you can do so by emailing him at: Brett AT newstorycharity DOT org.