In this episode, we’re joined by Jacobi Petrucciani to talk about how he grew a business as a teenager that he would later sell for millions…
Jacobi Petrucciani was always a very bright kid, he led his high school team to number 5 at the CyberPatriot National Competition and knows over 12 different computer languages.
While in college Jacobi started a business called Mimir which got him accepted into Y Combinator in Silicon Valley, the number one accelerator in the world.
Today, Jacobi shares what his journey was like as a teenager fascinated by computer science, building Mimir from scratch, and joining Y Combinator…
“We wanted to build a customizable platform and we did that for fun.” – Jacobi Petrucciani
“The infamous Y Combinator interview, you have ten minutes on the dot to do your pitch, answer any questions they have and then you’re kicked out.” – Jacobi Petrucciani
02:30 – How Jacobi got into programming and computer science.
05:32 – Reading computer language books and taking apart computers.
07:33 – Different computer science competitions Jacobi took part in as a kid.
09:54 – The cyber defense competition run by CyberPatriots.
12:12 – The encouragement Jacobi got from his parents.
15:52 – How Jacobi came up with the idea for Mimir.
20:00 – Winning cash and services in a Purdue University competition.
23:00 – How Jacobi got into Y Combinator and was flown out to Silicon Valley.
27:50 – How the interviews at Y Combinator work.
Connect with Ben Jones:
BEN: Hello, welcome to Money with Mak and G and today we’re going to meet a young man who helped lead his high school team to number five at the Air Force Association CyberPatriot National Competition. He knows over 12 different computer languages. This young man started a business in college. He was then accepted to Y Combinator in Silicon Valley, which is the number one accelerator in the entire world. He then went on to sell his business and got acquired, and he was actually nominated for Forbes 30 Under 30 for education. Stay tuned for this limited edition for some of our entrepreneurs and we’re going to get up close and personal with Jacobi Petrucciani. Hello, and welcome to Money With Mak And G and it’s my great pleasure to introduce Cobi Petrucciani, just an extraordinary young man. And I’m so lucky that he’s on the show today and his father Tony Petrucciani is here, as well, and we’re going to get to know him just a little bit better. How’re you doing today Cobi?
JACOBI: Pretty good. Pretty good. How are you?
BEN: I’m doing fantastic. And we’re really happy to have you here today. Tony, are You doing all right today?
TONY: Doing great. Thanks Uncle Ben!
BEN: We have the double Petros in the house today. We’re going to be doing more of an adult podcast today. So it’s going to be pretty fun. Frickin’ A! We’re going to probably be bleeping quite a few things. And we’re doing something a little bit new. We’re going to reach into what we call the magic of ‘getting to know you’ jar. Cobi, can you hold that up, make sure that you see it. There you go. We’re going to pull out a question and get started. And then we’ll just go ahead and jump right in.
JACOBI: You want me to pull one right now?
BEN: Yeah. And, part of the reason that you’re here is because you’ve been successful along the way, you’ve had a short career so far. Did you want to correct me on that one? Short career.
TONY: Well, he was a 30 under 30 nominee. I know I said nominee. And he actually did make the 30 under 30s.
BEN: Yes, he did. Forbes list allegedly. That’s right.
TONY: Who’s the lady from the daytime soap operas, gets nominated time and ever wins?
BEN: Oh, I can see her. She’s small. We’ll have to look that up later.
JACOBI: Martha from Arrested Development.
BEN: I can tell this is going to go nowhere fast. Cobi, what’s your question?
JACOBI: All right, I got one. What do you want to be when you grow up?
BEN: Oh, that’s a good one. What do you want to be when you grow up Cobe?
JACOBI: Well, I mean, for me, that’s kind of exactly where I’m at. Like, I wanted to be doing something in computer science. Pretty much, I mean, where I ended up was pretty good. I mean, to help other people to get into computer science and kind of, you know, just improve themselves and kind of be a force multiplier for whatever industry they’re in. And so I’m pretty much where I wanted to be when I was thinking about it when I was little.
BEN: Well, I think that’s a great place to start. Just because maybe that question wasn’t the absolute most fascinating for you, just because you’re doing what you love to do. Why don’t we go ahead and start back just a little ways into your high school career because that’s really where it kind of all started, is that the right way to put it? Pretty much. And what happened in high school, there’s some very interesting things that were going on. You went to an interesting high school that gave you a lot of flexibility and what happened?
JACOBI: Yeah, so, I had been programming for a bit of time before even high school. But going there, you know, it’s one of the only high schools in the state really, that even have a computer science program, which is what I knew I wanted to do.
BEN: And you were in Indiana, right?
JACOBI: Yeah. But so you know, I got really even further into computer science in high school, I met some pals who were very into that as well, and started just kind of doing contract work for computer science type stuff, you know, making apps for people, making websites for people.
BEN: And you had a little bit of a background, right, because your father Tony, we joke around quite a bit, but he started a computer company. So maybe you picked up a little bit of that excitement from him?
JACOBI: Absolutely. Yeah, like a lot of that. And I’ve been very fortunate to have somebody you know, my father is very technical, you know, got me very interested in it as a child. And that’s kind of how I kind of got into more of that.
BEN: And we know he was a major geek.
TONY: Well, I wasn’t super geeky. But I tell my kid, I just got this one woman. Oh, wait. We’ll talk about your sister. Okay. No, I didn’t know much about the hardware side of things. I mean, of course you go to school for that. When in college, we learned that Cobi would get on YouTube and we got him a soldering iron on Christmas. He started making little devices. You know, he got more advanced as time went on. He’s like, hey, I can make this thing out of a battery and some wires and solder it up and make a little arc welder. And I knew he was working on that. But I didn’t really appreciate how much he was using that around the house until I was out grilling one day and I saw these big scratchy dugout marks on my grill, my stainless steel grill, and he walks out there go, hey, you haven’t been arc welding on my grill, have you? And he goes…
BEN: Well, that was the start of it all, right? And I heard these stories about you that when you wanted to read a book, you kind of enjoyed reading the books of computer languages. Was that true when I remember?
JACOBI: Yeah, there were a lot of times that you know, I’d get a dad’s office and you know, find some books that are on the bookshelf and just grab them and steal, take them home, read them, like he had a lot of books about, you know, the languages they were using, of course, like BB6 and C++.
TONY: So he was like, hey, this is just like, learning about the dinosaurs back when they were really alive.
BEN: Wow. So you learned about that, you started reading about that. And I remember, you know, in the intro, we said, you know over 12 languages, which we know is true, right? But you also got a hold of some of his old computer boxes, right? And you started to take those apart?
JACOBI: Yes, some of them.
TONY: This is the first time I’m hearing this.
JACOBI: You remember I had like a little cluster I had built out of a few like old PCs, you know, and not much you can really use that for as a kid. But just something fun to do. And you know, playing around with that, and various Linux distributions, and just a lot of learning.
BEN: And you just had fun with it. You were just reading, you liked it, your dad was probably excited about it, because you guys could share some of that, is that right? You guys had some decent conversations about it?
TONY: Well, he went right past me. I mean, back in the day with YouTube and so forth. Like we didn’t have that when I was a kid. Right. They didn’t have computers back then. That’s right. But YouTube, he kept like, if he gets stuck on stuff that he could go and find resources almost anywhere, you know, answering a specific question. So he did a lot of research that way, not only reading, but experimenting. And the funny thing about kids and you probably know this, even with, you know, iPads with the kids is they’re not afraid to push a button. Yeah, that’s really crucial. But see what happens. Like back in the day we did that was like, oh, you just damaged a quarter million dollar computer.
BEN: And so you just like messing around, having fun, talking to your dad about it. You’re in high school, which this high school was a little bit more open, Indiana Private School, right? We’re going to say Park tutor, because it was Park tutor. It’s one of the best known in Indiana and you ran into some of your buddies. And wasn’t there a teacher involved in this whole thing?
JACOBI: Yeah, so our computer science teacher, one of my favorite teachers ever Ryan Ritz. Kudos to Ryan Ritz. Yeah, I mean, he just kind of helped us, you know, further our education in computer science related stuff. And, you know, he really encouraged us to continue learning outside of class. You know, he would take us to different competitions.
BEN: There are competitions for computer science.
JACOBI: Yes, it’s a programming competition. So basically, like, we had quite a few of these.
TONY: Whoever could, you know, quote the most lines from Big Bang theory would win.
BEN: Oh, okay. Before Big Bang Theory. Okay, got it.
JACOBI: No, it is more like, we would go to various colleges, like one of the biggest ones was at IUPUI every year.
BEN: So that’s Indiana University, Purdue University in Indianapolis. So the combination of the two commuter schools just letting the audience know.
JACOBI: Okay, yeah. So yeah, it’s down there. And basically, what this competition was, is find a partner and here’s a bunch of problem sets, and you have two hours, and solve as many of these as you can, as fast as you can. And so like, they had like a giant leaderboard up on the wall that was like constantly updating, but you’d have like, the basic problems, which were pretty simple and like you basically code up a little solution and submit it to the judges all the way through like some really advanced topics when you broke that. Yeah, yeah.
BEN: So these advanced topics would do what, you just jump in you love those things?
JACOBI: Oh, yeah, I absolutely loved that. I was not the best but I did win a few of these competitions. Cool. You know, the math side of things like I’m, you know, I’m pretty into math, but I’m nowhere near as smart as my younger sister or some of the other people that were at school. But I did have the computer stuff down.
BEN: And then when he did that, I think your instructor at Park tutor, Ryan, he encouraged you. And did you guys kind of come up with an idea together or was it one of your co-founders that kind of came up with this idea from Amir?
JACOBI: Oh, so that was actually when we were in college.
BEN: Oh, I thought that it started in high school. Go ahead.
JACOBI: You know, so like, I got to know my co-founders really, really well in high school. But that idea did not come about until sophomore year of college.
BEN: And before we get there, and I’m sorry to cut you off. I just want to talk about the Patriot Games just a minute because on the outside, this thing is totally cool, right? I think you and I talked about how many actual jobs are out there for people who want to work in cybersecurity, right? Yeah. And they were trying to find great talent out there. So they ran this competition throughout the United States. And you can explain it better than I can for sure.
JACOBI: Yes. So basically, it was like a cyber defense competition. And so like the earlier rounds were all done remotely. And basically, they give you a virtual machine, which is just like a computer install of some server or some workstation. So they give that to you. And they’re like known flaws in the security of that system they give you and you have to go and try to resolve as many as you can, in a limited period of time. And like the later rounds of the competition would have multiple instances, like multiple computers, that all are potentially running different operating systems. And you need to basically harden their security. And make sure that you get all of the exploits that somebody’s put in place. And so like the first year, I was actually one of the founding members of our first team that actually got into a CyberPatriot competition. The first year actually is where we got to fifth nationally. But I was with one of my co-founders and a couple other people from school. And the final round was, I think, seven different servers, which were like three different operating systems. And, you know, just going in there and trying to harden the security before the red team attacks you basically, it’s like a, like a hacking team. But you know, it’s so much fun and there’s a lot of stuff that’s just like, really good to know and learn about. It’s a great learning experience.
BEN: So you had this desire for knowledge. You loved what a computer could do. You had the ability to experiment with the grill, right? You had the ability to experiment with some computer boxes that were antiquated. And that all led to just this kind of passion. Would you say it’s a passion? Yeah, it’s a passion. And so you got real excited about it. You’re like, what’s my next step? Dad’s over there. You probably guided him a little bit right to go to school or you doing?
TONY: Well, yeah. Well, I was just thinking about it. Before he was 18, this could not be in the US permanent record. Okay. Anytime we go anywhere, he’d get out his phone, you know, you’d have Linux on his phone or something that he’d hack into. I can’t remember where we were willing to spend time, some small Alaskan restaurant, fishing trip in Alaska, he hacks in, he’s like, hey, Dad, look, here’s your QuickBooks. I get logged into their QuickBooks off my phone like, whoa, okay, enjoy this all you want. Don’t actually do any damage. Secondly, don’t get caught after you turn 18 because you go to prison.
BEN: Right. So little words of wisdom.
TONY: So that was why I encouraged him to stay out of prison. Apparently, it’s a bad place.
JACOBI: I’ve heard it’s bad.
TONY: I mean, I’ve seen the movies. Not good.
BEN: So you went ahead and got through high school, you really enjoyed the open thinking and then you went on to, did you encourage him to go to Purdue for computer science?
TONY: Well, I wanted him to go to the top school in Indiana, which is Ball State University. For you, and you and you and you. So I went to Ball State.
BEN: Are people afraid of the bird?
TONY: Oh, it’s the most fierce Robin sized bird on the planet. So, but my wife, his mother, your sister, Yes. All three of them went to Purdue. And although she’ll say she didn’t influence kids at all, they heard the stories. And so Purdue’s kind of like oh, that’s a top engineering school, computer science, etc. So three of the four kids went there. So did I encourage? I encouraged all of our kids, we told them the rules you had to live by is, one: you had to graduate high school, two: you had to graduate from college. Then three: then you get married and then four: then you have kids. That was kind of our step, right? Those were the steps that I didn’t want to try to over engineer the whole thing. It was like hey, if you get yourself a good education, get yourself a good job, get yourself a good spouse, and then you can have children and you can support your children because that’s the way it goes.
BEN: So then you go to Purdue and so you did graduate from high school right? Can we confirm that?
JACOBI: Yes, I have that piece of paper.
TONY: We’re not even sure. You know we think he may have hacked into this school system and given himself credit so he could get out.
JACOBI: I did have the admin password.
BEN: Computer science in high school, he started getting all A’s and every one of his subjects Right.
TONY: Which was scary because he got an A in math which is scary.
BEN: A in English, super sketchy. So you went ahead and went on to Purdue. You went into computer science, you kind of got brainwashed by your mother, my sister exactly that you always believed gold and when he called it black and gold.
TONY: By the way, we said this in the last episode, I think, but Uncle Ben did go to Purdue for a year and then transferred to IU, Indiana University/ And the year that he did, the average IQ went up at both schools.
BEN: Wow. Let’s do the math on that. Okay, that was below the waist anyway.
TONY: We were talking about that earlier about impeachments. Yes. President Clinton was only impeached once but apparently, the Donald’s been impeached twice now.
BEN: Yeah. Well, you know, Donald always takes over the top. And so we’re trying to keep it at least on the rails a little bit. So you get up for Purdue, and you’re talking to your buddies who you met in high school and you’ve got some chops on you already for some computer skills. Right. And you guys came up with this idea. What’s the idea?
JACOBI: Yeah, so basically, me and my two buddies are a year below me in high school, but you know, we’ve been friends for forever. We play games together all the time and stuff like that. Yeah, online gaming. We’re sitting in our computer science class at Purdue. You know, one of the larger classes because it’s, you know, freshman, sophomore year type class.
BEN: Is it a weed out kind of class a little bit maybe?
JACOBI: No, actually, it’s like a pretty general class to weed out classes like, the next year in the following. But so we’re all sitting together, you know, we all have experience in computer science. We’re in like this intro class, basically.
BEN: Because high school, just to kind of set it up for everybody, you had more computer science classes available to you in high school than many other schools across the country.
JACOBI: Yeah, at least at the time it was very, like, uncommon to have computer science in high school, which I find very weird. You had a couple of years, didn’t you? Four years, actually, all four years of high school, I was doing computer science stuff. And that’s very unusual compared to pretty much every other high school in the country.
BEN: So you’re at Purdue, and you’re doing an intro course, but you’ve had four years.
JACOBI: So they didn’t let us test that like at the time, they weren’t letting people test out of it, because it was common to have computer science experience. And so like, even though I’d already had probably six years of experience doing that type of stuff at the time, they were like, yeah, no, you can’t test out of this, you can’t skip this class, you have to take the intro class. And so like we’re sitting there in like this intro class for language we’ve already spent years programming and they’re like, yeah, write a ‘Hello World’ program. And they have a three hour lab to do that.
BEN: And for us, non computer science people, if you have six years of programming, how long will it take you to do a ‘Hello World’?
JACOBI: Like, however long it takes to type out hello world on your keyboard. So I’m sitting there in this lab, right. And they’re like, they have this huge sheet that’s like, here’s what you got to do for your first lab. And it’s a three hour lab, mind you that they have every week. Each week is progressively a bit harder. But it’s an intro class. And so the first weeks, like, write a Hello World program. And I’m like, are you, are you serious? But so I’m sitting there, I just write it out, go and turn it in and I just leave within like the first five minutes and people are looking up at me as I’m leaving, like, what the hell? How’s this guy like leaving already? Lunch, I went home and played Halo. The funny part, right is like, I’m sitting there with my buddies from high school and I’m just thinking like, you know, we just did this lab, right, like, we’ll get our grades back, almost immediately I’d hope. I mean, programming makes things faster and automates stuff. But so you know, two weeks goes by, we still don’t have our grades for that program. And it’s like, it’s all about automation, it’s all about making things more efficient and faster. But they’re hand grading our assignments and it makes no sense to us. And we’re like, wait, like, how are we supposed to be taking these classes, if they’re not automating any of this like, you know, other classes like math and everything, you can automate the whole like homework process and grading homework and stuff. But computer science is all about automation. And so it’s like, why are we not utilizing that for our classes? It makes no sense. You know, so, I mean, we went out the rest of the semester. And, you know, just experiencing people taking two to four weeks to give us back grades on our projects. And it made no sense at all to us.
BEN: So you decided to just create a program for it, right?
JACOBI: Yeah. And so basically, we’re like, what would it take to like a prototype, a platform where you could build assignments, where they could be instantly graded.
BEN: And almost every computer science school or school offered class across the country could use this?
JACOBI: Yeah, yeah, exactly. That’s what we wanted to make. We were like, what would it take to build this. And so one weekend, we just kind of stay out there and build out like this beta version of the platform where we’re just like, you know, you can just build out your projects on here and people can submit their code and get an immediate grade for it. And even feedback based on like, what kind of code they’ve written. And we’re like, why are all of these universities not doing this? This makes so much sense, especially for computer science. And like, we wanted to build a very customizable platform and everything. And what’s really funny is, we did that for fun, basically. But shortly after Purdue had started this kind of startup incubator, a kind of competition called The Boiler.
BEN: And an incubator for those people that don’t know out there, this is to help companies that have good ideas, to incubate them, take care of them so that they can actually flourish and grow into a company, right?
JACOBI: Yeah. Or to help a company grow at a faster rate than they would normally.
BEN: Isn’t that an accelerator? The accelerator kind of gets you started. The accelerators are like, you got a good job, or you got a good idea, now we can help you grow.
TONY: Like you got it. Yeah, you get the idea. You get the egg, you need to kind of take care of it and it births into a real idea and a real company. Yeah.
BEN: And then you can grow. Go ahead.
JACOBI: Yeah, so we basically heard about this competition, The Boiler. There was like a little bit of prize money available for the people that came in first through third. And it’s basically just, it’s kind of like Shark Tank if you’ve seen that show, where it’s just like, you know, pitch your idea and this competition was just who has the best pitch and who has the best like product idea. And so the three of us worked on our product and kind of built it out a bit more, you know, started talking to certain instructors to try to get some people on the platform and stuff. But you know, we put together our entire pitch deck where we could talk about it. Sure. And we actually ended up winning the competition, which gave us a I think it was around $10 grand in like, grant money basically.
TONY: He got some services, like with a law firm to help them set up a company and they get all kinds of other goodies.
BEN: So cash plus services. Yeah, yeah. So now what do you think of yourself? So did you like what you came up with the idea to go dude, I’m going to blow this out, we’re going to make millions of dollars? Or did you just say, Hey, this kind of fun is my passion?
JACOBI: Yeah, it was more of just like a hey, this is fun and I wonder if we can build something better than you know, what one of our instructors are currently using.
TONY: You mean, build a computer that’s better than people?
BEN: Didn’t you also tell me though, it takes like, when you get the more complicated computer programs that it takes like an hour for a TA to grade, give feedback. And then you essentially consolidate all that time. And it could be immediate feedback. And any university with half a mind would go oh, yeah, this is totally beneficial.
JACOBI: Yeah. The first versions of our product, obviously, were a bit more limited. But our product right now, basically eliminates the need for your TAs to hand grade anything. It’ll give automated feedback on your code, It’ll give you suggestions on how to better your code, it’ll give you a grade. And it’s all basically immediately even with, like, some of our instructors even running their exams on our platform, to have you know, like everything with instant feedback and like, you know, a timed exam.
BEN: So you essentially have one that’s $10,000, you set up the company, now you’re working on it, and you’re deciding kind of what to do with your life, right? And did you ever in your wildest dreams first of all, think, can I say it that you didn’t graduate college? Wait, what?! We all know it, and we all joke about it. Yeah, go ahead.
JACOBI: Yeah, I never thought that, that would be the case for me. Like, my dad said earlier, the plan is: graduate high school, graduate college, get married, have kids. But I never thought it was possible before.
TONY: And by the way, you don’t have to get married and then have kids. But if you want to have kids, you need to be married. That was our thing. I’ve put a lot of pressure on him. I’ve been doing some arranging stuff. I’ve got him arranged with a couple. I picked one out, and I’ve had them dating for like three years now.
JACOBI: I never imagined that was even like a thing. That was a possibility anymore. You know, like, because the thing is, I mean, even these days, right, like most jobs, you need to have a college degree in order to get kind of the higher paying jobs.
BEN: But you got your college education through being accepted into…
JACOBI: Y Combinator. Yeah, that was good. I mean, I did have three and a half years of college education.
BEN: But you put your application in for Y Combinator, which said, hey, we got this company, we think it’s going to do something, you guys can help accelerate our growth because we got a viable thing, a viable platform here, a viable idea. You get accepted, right?
JACOBI: Yeah. So right after the boiler, right? We want a little bit of money and some services and stuff. And we’re just sitting there thinking like, oh, that’s pretty cool. You know, like, we made something that works for people and people are using it. And like we won that competition, a little bit of money. So actually, the following summer, so that was like spring, probably 2014, I think. But so that summer, we basically just sat there and paid ourselves to work on the platform. And so we kind of turned it into more of a business. We started kind of trying to sell to more places. And I just remember, it’s fun thinking back about this, but like, I just remember driving to my buddy Praha’s house house every day, one of the founders, one of the co founders, and I’d stop by a CVS and grab some energy drinks and like, go over there and we would just code until 8pm or 10pm. And I’d drive home and go to sleep, wake up, do the same thing the next day. It is just weird thinking back on it. But yeah, after that summer, right, we were still working on it and kind of selling it throughout my junior year. Yeah. And we like, it’s funny, because we kind of jokingly applied to Y Combinator, because we didn’t think there was any chance that we would get in. And so we put together our application, we put together a video of us talking about our platform, and like what we wanted to do with it. And we were really surprised to get an email that was like, hey, we want to fly you out here to talk to us about this. And so, Colton, my other co-founder, wasn’t actually available for that weekend. But Praha and I flew out there. And like, you know, we had a good time just hanging around Mountain View and stuff.
BEN: And where were you, because we didn’t really say? You said Mountain View, but you’re talking to Silicon Valley, California. You’re heading out to Cali.
JACOBI: Yeah. So they paid for our flights and everything to get there in our hotel and everything. We flew out there, we kind of hung around for the first day because our interview was on the second day. And then on the second day we’re practicing and everything for our pitch.
BEN: And a pitch just to clear it up because once again, a lot of people may not know this. It’s to say, hey, here’s what our business idea is, this is why we think it solves a problem, this is why there are the number of people that actually will use this and why we think it’s a really good idea. Right? And please help us.
JACOBI: Exactly. And with Y Combinator, especially, it’s like a very special event. They interview 1000s of founders for each batch of Y Combinator. They do a winter batch and a summer batch. And they interview 1000s of people. It’s like the infamous Y Combinator interview. And it’s like this extremely nerve wracking time. You have 10 minutes on the dot to give your pitch, answer any questions they have, and then they just kick you out. And then they bring in the next people. And so I was super nervous, I’ve never been more nervous in my life
BEN: Because you’re a good guy, and you’re just kind of low-keyd and you’re just kind of doing your thing.
JACOBI: Yeah, what it normally is, is they bring you into a room, there’s four Y Combinator partners. and so that’s just like the people that are running the group. And they’re generally very famous people and very successful people. So people who have also run multimillion dollar startups or billion dollar startups, and they’ve sold them.
BEN: Have there been any successful companies that come out on Y Combinator you can kind of talk about?
TONY: Yes. This is the same week that they have had two big IPOs here recently.
JACOBI: Yeah. If you’ve ever heard of a little company called Airbnb, or DoorDash? They both IPO within the same week for billions of dollars.
BEN: Didn’t Dropbox come out of there? Dropbox as well. And there was another one that was in there, I can’t remember. But there were a number of them. To rattle off to me, and I’m like, oh, Twitch didn’t come out of there?
JACOBI: Twitch.tv, one of the cofounders, it was a Y Combinator partner. I actually met him while I was out there for that time. Justin Khan is a really cool guy.
BEN: So you have all these famous companies, and that come out of Y Combinator. And then you also have a high hit rate, right? Because Tony, you know, in VC, and even your angel stuff, your hit rate of something being successful is what one out of 10 new startups? Yours is a heck of a lot better.
TONY: Ours is better. It’s tough. I mean, you know, you just think about in general before we get into this whole pitch business, you know, the old statistics were, I think it was, you know, one out of five companies make it past the first year, and you go about five years and see, you know, just like five companies out of 100 make it five years. I mean, just not backed by venture capital or angel investors but just in general, it’s really tough.
BEN: Then you get out to Y Combinator and why don’t you tell me some stats like crazy, like two out of three get acquired or something? They have the official stats, but yeah, they have a really good hit rate. Like, they’re not bringing you in, if they don’t think you got a real chance.
JACOBI: Yeah, because the acceptance rate, last I checked, was like less than 4% of people who apply to Y Combinator actually get in. They’re very selective and who they bring in, they’re really good at what they do. Because I mean, it’s just a group of very successful people who have done that before.
BEN: And they don’t want tech, right? They don’t want to, like, if you own a farm, they don’t want you in Y Combinator.
JACOBI: They want things that are very scalable, and like, you know, very real attempts that kind of like mean shouting basically an idea. But so yeah, just a crazy amount of really successful people, pretty famous people that you’re like, they put you in the room with them, you sit there, there’s just a board of people basically looking at you, and you give your pitch. And after you give your pitch like you normally give it for three to five minutes, you give a pitch and they start asking all their questions. And they like to start drilling really hard on anything that they think is like, a little bit off or like something questionable. They just started that.
TONY: I think that total addressable markets bullshit.
JACOBI: Exactly. That was funny. I’m sitting there with Praha, right? It’s just me and Praha, we’re just both college kids sitting there in front of, like, a bunch of famous, rich people. And like, we give our pitch. And immediately, two of them kind of stare at me and they’re just asking me a bunch of questions, rapid fire. And like the other two are asking Praha questions. And so like, I’m just sitting there, trying to hold myself together while answering all these questions. Like, I’m just super nervous. I’m like, oh, my Lord, what am I doing here? But yeah, just rapid fire questions until the 10 minutes are up. But of course, the 10 minutes felt like an hour at the time. But yeah, just super intimidating. But you got through. Yeah, well, in the funny part, right is like I got through. And I walked out of there feeling like, oh, my god, that was awful. Like, I don’t think they’re going to accept us after that. Like, wow, I just left there feeling really bad. Actually Praha and I went back to the hotel room. And it’s funny because of how it works out there.
BEN: We’ve just learned some great stuff from an amazing young man. He had a passion for tech, worked hard, had a great idea and put it all in action. He didn’t necessarily think about being a millionaire or building a company. He simply thought about solving a problem. He had a passion and went for the ride. His parents didn’t come from money, but he worked hard and took the risk. What a great story. This is the end of Part One of the story about Jacobi Petrucciani, entrepreneur, a passionate techie and has a desire to solve a problem. We’ll see you next week on more Money with Mak and G, the limited series about those successful people and how it all happened.