We at Pigeon wouldn't be here today without local support from the startup community. That's why we jumped at the opportunity to give back and become a gold sponsor of an annual startup event, a condensed weekend during which time an idea goes from concept to prototype before it's pitched to influencial judges.
Basically, anyone can sign up as a developer (front-end, full-stack, whatever), designer, or as a non-technical attendee. Some people come with ideas they pitch, and everyone gets to vote on the ideas they think could be a success before branching into functional teams and getting to work. All in all, we hope this year is another great success for the organizers and are thankful they're bringing something like this to the beautiful city of Pensacola, FL.
I believe in the idea of community. A strong community is what made me the success I am today. When you are a part of a community, you are blessed with the knowledge and camaraderie of others who understand. You support them, they support you.
I’m sad to say there are some in our own startup community that have disappointed me and the Pigeon family. I’m trying not to rant here, but all I have to say is that if I had the same mentality about different ideas as some of my fellow start-uppers, I would not be the successful dreamer that I am today.
Let's backtrack a bit. I was at an opening for a new juice/oxygen bar. It was a fellow start-upper whom founded the soon-to-be doomed business. I walked up to the conversation my friends were having, with a glass of cranberry-air in my hand. I was shocked to hear one of neighbors from the office next to us claim how “easy” Pigeon is to operate.
Saying Pigeon is easy is an insult to anyone who values communication.
Do you know how hard it is to select pigeon eggs? Our egg-to-flight training process takes months. Without our meticulous step-by-step process, Pigeon cannot guarantee the success rate that we are so proud of. What other startups or well established companies can claim such a feet?
I can understand someone not really understanding what we do. If you told me 10 years ago that I could watch 40 years of “Dr. Who” episodes from my phone, I would laugh. But there is a difference between ignorance and arrogance. Pigeon has been upfront about what it is, whom it serves, and what are methods are since we started in April 2015.
Just because it is old, doesn’t mean it is simple. Please don’t call it that. We are not claiming to have a new idea. We are claiming to have a new take on a classic method of communication.
Pigeon is a modern idea for a modern America. It’s just that simple.
Practical one-way communication immune to cyber intrusion
What is your company going to make?
Pigeon is part aviary and pigeon breeder with roots in pigeon racing, and it's also a software company. Customers place an order with a message and address, and a member of our team works with the appropriate pigeon from the fleet to ensure a timely arrival at the correct destination.
Which category best applies to your company?
Where do you live now, and where would the company be based after YC?
Please enter the url of a 1 minute unlisted (not private) YouTube video introducing the founders. (Follow the Video Guidelines.)
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.
Josh and Brian are working on a side project trying to launch the first ever freemium cloud-hosted phone system. Chad and Andrew are videographers on the side and have a few revenue generating businesses.
How long have the founders known one another and how did you meet? Have any of the founders not met in person?
Josh and Brian have worked on projects in the past. Their first startup is still operating today. Brian used to work with Andrew years ago at a telecom software company, and all four individuals are currently working out of a co-working space in Pensacola, FL and came together for this project.
How far along are you?
We've secured seed funding for a fleet of 6 adult pigeons. Pigeon is currently in a private beta phase. Signups who refer others can improve their place in line the more they successfully refer.
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?
5 months & 55000 lines of code
Which of the following best describes your progress?
If you have already participated or committed to participate in an incubator, "accelerator" or "pre-accelerator" program, please tell us about it.
We do currently work with an incubator called Precision Incubators (www.precisionincubators.com).
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?
Two members of our founding team have backgrounds in pigeon racing or are poultry enthusiasts. We have yet to see a bird-based communication system with a quality onboarding process and pricing structure that makes sense. Our initial market research suggests Pigeon can become a major player in the pigeon-as-a-service (PaaS) space.
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)?
To our knowledge no other companies do exactly what we do. Some substitutes exist, but they're not PaaS businesses. Alternatives include non-organic parcel delivery services and internet messaging applications.
Who are your competitors, and who might become competitors? Who do you fear most?
Pigeon will be first to market in its specific niche, but indirect competitors include FedEx, UPS, USPS, and instant messaging applications like Slack, Google Hangouts, and AOL Instant Messenger.
What do you understand about your business that other companies in it just don't get?
Receiving a custom message you know took real time and effort to reach its destination makes the emotions soar sky high. It's difficult to explain to non-pigeon users (NPUs), but the excitement is real and will create consistently loyal customers once they begin using the service.
How do or will you make money? How much could you make?
We have a 92% delivery success-rate, which is accounted for in the pricing model. Users pre-pay for each successfully delivered message and are refunded if a message fails. Pigeon has a very robust training program and should be able to scale well during the first 3 years.
How will you get users? If your idea is the type that faces a chicken-and-egg 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?
The private beta establishes a user base pre-launch and lets us gauge market interest. We don't believe we face a chicken-and-egg problem because we don't plan to raise any chickens, only pigeons.
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.
We had entertained thoughts many months ago to employ hawks, owls, or ravens instead of pigeons. Training time and operating costs would have been prohibitively expensive, and we would have needed to bring in another co-founder to help us manage the unfamiliar birds.
Please tell us something surprising or amusing that one of you has discovered.
The most surprising thing we discovered when founding Pigeon was just how unregulated the PaaS environment was. There's little to no oversight with regard to airspace restrictions and message content. We see this changing over time as the industry matures.
What convinced you to apply to Y Combinator?
Starting a business in a fairly new industry is scary. We hope to leverage YCs alumni and proven track record of mentorship to make this a success.
I'll be the first to tell you, Pigeon is awesome. Our handpicked, personally trained fleet constantly surprises us, in terms of intelligence and memory as well as physical ability.
Queue up the terror when, 4 months ago, our top performer at the time (Steve) hit a slump for seemingly no reason at all. We knew it had to be a parasite; any pigeon breeder worth his salt can recognize the symptoms of tapeworm or ascariasis. The real problem for us wasn't even disinfecting the loft (not a single member of the fleet picked up Steve's symptoms thankfully).
No, the real problem was deworming, fixing our champion bird in the first place.
We applied BelgaWormac.
We used Ascapilla.
We gave Steve a multivitamin and probiotic religiously.
As our terrible luck would have it, Steve did indeed have worms, Capillary worms. I hadn't even heard about these at the time, and to my credit they're almost impossible to detect. So following two more trips to the bird rehabilitation clinic, we finally obtained the right kind of dewormer and saw steady improvements in Steve's diet and demeanor. I wouldn't say it was our scariest ordeal since starting Pigeon, but it was definitely Steve's scariest.