When I first heard of it via twitter, I was intrigued, but I was also put off by a venturebeat article which identified one if its founders, Jacques Crocker, as a Rails demigod. Since I am pretty active in the Rails community and had never heard of the guy, I was pretty skeptical.
I caught up with Jacques and co-founder Joe Mellin at a pre-launch gathering in San Francisco on Thursday. Jacques claimed the “demigod” title was made up by the press, and seems a genuine down-to-earth guy. When I arrived there were just 4-5 people sitting around a table, and it was clear that the nReduce guys didn’t expect more than 8 or 10. Pretty soon, it was a standing-room-only crowd with a lively group of entrepreneurs.
I got the chance to talk to both Jacque and Joe and hear their stories. I wondered how and why they were doing this thing. nReduce accepts all startups, they give you no money and take no equity. On Thursday they had over 300 startups signed up, with 83 in SF, today I see 500+ on their website.
Jacque decided to create nReduce after his startup was rejected from YCombinator and he wanted to create that kind of environment for himself. The YCombinator program is attractive for more than the insider-track to investor intros — people liken it to going to college, where you learn as much from your peer group as from your professors. And after graduation, your peers become an important network through your career. Jacque will be participating in the program himself.
I completely agree that for an early-stage startup, execution is tough enough. I love the idea that getting into the program should have no barriers, but staying in it should be tough — mirroring what is the real-world startup experience. Jacque told me he wanted to create a YCombinator-like experience, but for everyone. The deal is that anyone can join, but you need to ship every week. If you don’t ship two weeks in a row, you are dropped from the program.
Joe Mellin, who is building the nReduce web app himself, gave me some insights about how it works. Tuesday nights there will be both virtual and in-person meetings, for the cities where there are enough teams. Tuesday will have presentations to inspire the startups and the chance to demo to each other. On Wednesday, Teams will submit a description of what they shipped the previous week, along with a video, screencast or some evidence of their progress. There’s no incentive to submit something lame, since the goal is to be able to show prospective investors your ability to execute. At the end of 12 weeks, participating startups will have a 3rd party record of their progress. Since one of the key questions investors have is whether a new team can execute, the nReduce theory is that this will save time for investors as well as providing support and structure for startups. It feels like a 12 step program meets survivor. They are seeking sponsors and it seems like a great way for startups and big companies alike to get in front of a vibrant tech crowd — whether these particular startups succeed or fail, these entrepreneurs will be making great things happen in the tech world for years to come.
At the event on Thursday, I met a wide range of startup founders — two companies had just started 2 or 3 weeks ago, some still had their day jobs, one had recently graduated from another accelerator and had just signed their first customer. I love the diversity of experience represented in the group and look forward to seeing what Jacque, Joe and their team cook up for the Tuesday night kick-off.