Comments: 1252 • Responses: 27  • Date: 

butchandthekid593 karma

How did you fund all those companies that failed, and then how did you get the money to fund Honey? Are you that good in "The Room"?

ketau846 karma

Starting companies/testing ideas is cheaper than ever today - especially if you are willing to get your hands dirty and learn to do the work yourself. 10 years ago when I started my first company on the side of a day job, my friend/business partner and I decided that we were going to learn how to do every piece of the puzzle ourselves, even if it took longer. Today I still lean heavily on that investment in my own skills. Invest in yourself for the long term. Even if the idea you are working on now doesn't turn into Facebook you will open doors you dont even know exist right now. Bet on yourself, but take the long view.

jtwizzy257 karma

Hey congrats man, but as a honey user i uninstalled the other day because it never found me savings on anything online.

What is the top savings for honey? What sites/products work the best?

ketau301 karma

Answered below, but will respond here too:

It really depends a lot on the stores you shop at and the products you buy. For example, Honey finds a working coupon code on Amazon less than 1% of the time. On other stores that use coupon codes, Honey finds a deal nearly all of the time. It all depends on if a deal is out there right now for what you are buying. Best stores for savings: clothing stores, department stores and godaddy (trust me on this one).

But that wasn't good enough for us so we have been working hard on a new way to help people save even if there aren't any coupon codes available. Stay tuned...

blothe178 karma

less than 1% of the time.

... yet you showcase your product using Amazon in the introduction movie. Kind of deceiving. Great product nonetheless and congrats on the success.

ketau105 karma

We made the movie a year ago before anyone had ever used the product and we had no idea what the numbers would be. It's actually bit us in the ass with negative reviews from people who say it 'doesn't work' because they only ever shop on Amazon. It hasn't been a priority to redo it yet. We've got some new stuff in the works and when we do will downplay the finding coupon codes on Amazon part.

smokebreak-16 karma

I had an awesome job in venture capital after getting an MBA at MIT.

He probably knew a shit load of people from getting a prestigious MBA and working in VC and had a bunch of his own money in the bank. Regular people can't do what he's talking about - you have to have money to make money.

ketau50 karma

I must not be that smart... we didn't raise a $ of VC money.

Actually the reason will surprise you. Having sat in the VC chair, my expectation for what it takes to raise money is VERY high. We were never anywhere near that bar in my view. So I have tried to bootstrap until we get to that point. My personal financial runway has leaned on the fact that my wife has a stable income and has been willing to make huge sacrifices to give me a chance. I completely agree that this isn't the case for everyone - but for different reasons.

krispykrackers387 karma

Happy to hear of your success, and amazing that reddit could help! PM me and we'll hook you up with some free ads for Honey :)

ketau99 karma


AstaraelGateaux252 karma

How does Honey/Google Chrome apps in general make money?

ketau419 karma

In general it's tricky to make money as an extension. It ranges from asking for donations to doing something super shady like selling user data, and everything in between..

Honey makes money in 2 ways: 1) We use an affiliate link on the "install success" web page. If you click through to buy something on Amazon, we get a small cut. 2) We use an affiliate link when we do a discount gift card search on Cardpool. If you click through to buy a discount gift card, we get a small cut. Basically our belief is that we make money only when we're adding value to our users in some way.

Rufi0h242 karma

Are you going to sale my information. I'll tell you now, its not worth very much.

ketau294 karma

You're right (its not worth much) and no we aren't selling your info. We're taking a long term view that if we can help you more easily find the things you want to buy and help negotiate prices that work for you there are ways to get merchants involved that don't in any way compromise your info.

ivanvzm387 karma

I might be in the minority here, but If you help me save 10 bucks I don't mind giving you 1.

Maybe there should be an option to allow costumers willing to donate you part of the savings and maybe even state what percentage and the maximum amount allowed (I'm cool with giving mostly 10% but if I save $1,000 I want to top your cut off at $50)

Edit: Thank you so much to whoever gave me reddit gold!

ketau53 karma

The thought certainly crossed our minds but we didn't think anyone would really do that. Reconsidering in 3...2...1....

ketau102 karma

you sir are correct ;)

Jackherrrer165 karma

How did you get the developers to work for free? What kind of incentives do they get for working?

ketau209 karma

Like most startups there are stock options that we all know could be worthless, but the bigger thing for Honey is working on really cool technical challenges with other passionate people.

BigRedRatchet134 karma


ketau111 karma

Where are you shopping and what types of products? Amazon uses coupon codes as a very minor part of their pricing strategy so Honey 'works' (finds savings) less than 1% of the time. Other stores have near 100% success rates. Were there coupon codes you found somewhere else that we missed? We're always working to make our database of codes better but can only give you deals that the merchants have available. We just make it easier to find them when they exist.

Our next product release (pre-holiday) will start to help you find savings on Amazon too though... Stay tuned!

filterplz83 karma

i have honey installed and it hasn't worked for me once. I buy the vast majority of all my items except groceries and gas online. Am i just shopping the wrong products?

ketau106 karma

It really depends a lot on the stores you shop at and the products you buy. For example, Honey finds a working coupon code on Amazon less than 1% of the time. On other stores that use coupon codes, Honey finds a deal nearly all of the time. It all depends on if a deal is out there right now for what you are buying.

But that wasn't good enough for us so we have been working hard on a new way to help people save even if there aren't any coupon codes available. Stay tuned...

TheVikO_o52 karma

Hey congrats :)

  1. What type of companies were #1 and #2?

  2. Have you figured out how to monetize (Yes/No)? If No, does it bother you everyday?

Good luck with your venture buddy :)

ketau139 karma

1 was a monthly subscription date night service for couples. My wife and I weren't spending enough quality time together so it was to try to solve our own problem. The monthly subscription = financial obligation to spend time together every month.

2 built a model to predict the wait time at any restaurant either now or in the future. We made hundreds of thousands of robotic and human phone calls into restaurants across the US to get training data for the models. I apologize to all of the hosts/hostesses we harassed in the summer of 2012 to get the data ;)

dp-38 karma


ketau41 karma

Well since a Turker posted us to reddit and launched us: Yes!

But seriously, yes we found it to be a great place to quickly find people to do a lot of small tasks at a reasonable price.

Oh, and thanks for helping us test!

cocoahat_gnarwhale27 karma

Hey Ryan, thanks for doing this AMA. I'm a co-founder of Wool&Prince, a recently successful Kickstarter, which was started by my good friend Mac Bishop, who is also a Cornell graduate.

A few questions:

1.) Ninja edit; Question has been answered.

2.) You say you're developing it with unpaid workers. How are you breaking out the shares, by how much work each person puts in? What incentive do they have to work for you? Passion sure, sure, but people have to live...

3.) Should someone come along and want to invest heavily or buy your company (if the right price obviously) how are you handling dealing with that with your employees, who may be laid off/dropped/and also splitting shares?

4.) For our company, Wool&Prince, we decided to take the long road and resist any outside investors or bank loans. Do you think this is a viable option for a fast growing company today? (that has much more demand than we have capital to produce product)


ketau11 karma

Congrats on the kickstarter! Go Big Red.

2) stock + several MAJOR contributors have other jobs (including full time)

3) it has come up but right now we are focused on getting our next creation out the door, well other than me doing this today.

4) I'd say it depends a lot on what the team can do with limited resources and the profile of the industry you are in. For what you do it sounds like the challenges I had with my first company (YouShoot = digital camera rental for events like weddings). Our capital need was for marketing, but the cycle time from ad spend to purchase decision to collect cash was close to a year. That stunted the growth we could do organically and the market wasnt exciting enough (with those economic realities) to raise $. Fortunately we kept our day jobs/went to business school and used student loan financing!

WhiskyBraj27 karma

Congratulations mate. What tips can you provide regarding starting your own company? Also whats your advice for someone who's been laid off in a large corporate downsizing phase, to get back on their feet both mentally and professionally.

ketau41 karma

Thanks! I'll take the second part. Being laid off sucks. Even if you know it could be for the best it still sucks. I took it personally and honestly it impacted how I felt about myself as a provider for my family, even when my wife was a supportive as anyone could possibly imagine. Life is full of experiences that will shape who you are but in the middle it may not make any sense at all. This is normal. Learn from every piece of life and you can become the best version of you. I'm still working on that.

WhiskyBraj15 karma

Excellent advice. As a journo that was laid off in a large down sizing 6 months after gaining a graduate position, I certainly took it the same way. Have since floundered between meanial work and going back to university.

ketau38 karma

Keep investing in yourself. The world is moving towards a place where everyone is an entrepreneur of their own career. So as scary as startups are, realizing that a 'safe' job with a 150 year old company can disappear in 24 hours has made me realize that I would rather take control. Always bet on yourself.

grneyedgrl0113 karma

Wow, Honey looks like a brilliant idea! I hadn't heard of it. I have a couple of questions: 1.How did you get the idea for Honey? 2.How were you able to support a family and a mortgage after being laid off?

ketau18 karma

1) with no income saving money was very important but with 2 kids we didnt have time to always search for codes (that often dont work) 2) my sugar momma rocket (payload) scientist + burn DEEP into our savings

Piercey939 karma

Fantastic idea! How many hours would you say have been dedicated to this project? Also, what programming languages have you utilized for this project? Are there any languages you prefer?

ketau11 karma

The initial version was 100% javascript on the client side in a chrome extension. Fortunately (for everyone) I have been able to surround myself with people more skilled than myself and the code was completely rewritten. Typical stack now with php, mysql, javascript, jquery. Most recently I've been working with redis (not reddit) and am a huge fan. Wicked fast (too many years in Boston...)

Pajama_Porno6 karma

What was it like working in venture capital?

ketau16 karma

As advertised (awesome). Imagine seeing the smartest, most passionate people in the world, working on the most innovative ideas you have ever seen every single day.

On the down side, I have found that I love to build things. As a VC the role is more like the coach (or scout) than the player.

minute_made_man6 karma

Where did you go to undergrad? What was your degree in? Meet your wife at MIT?

ketau23 karma

Cornell class of 2002 in Operations Research & Industrial Engineering with a minor in Computer Science. I actually met my wife in the freshman dorms at Cornell 14.5 years ago, married after graduation, and we made a joint decision that she would go to MIT for her PhD in physical chemistry (instead of moving to SF or LA the other considerations). Mad respect for PhDs and the effort that takes. MBA = party by comparison (or not by comparison...)

ArchDeluxe12854 karma

Since Honey doesn't really generate traffic to other stores, nor is it really being helpful to the store the person is already shopping at, have you faced any opposition? And how is something like this a money maker?

ketau14 karma

Great observation, and at the core of the question: 'How the hell do you make money with Honey?'

Opposition has been very limited, not sure if that is because we aren't big enough or because merchants recognize the value in keeping a shopper in the shopping cart instead of doing the usual new tab search for coupon codes on the site you are already at. Honey helps close sales. We also don't drop any affiliate cookies like the coupon code sites do, so there is actually a savings to the merchant there.

Right now we think the coupon code process is completely broken for the shopper (pain in the ass) and for the merchant (paying an intermediary that doesn't really drive new sales either). We do think there is a place in the market for someone to do a better job helping shoppers find the best deals on stuff they actually want to buy. Stay tuned.

sd_slate3 karma

As a (newly indebted) MBA who's thinking about starting a business myself - how long did it take you to learn to code? Did you teach yourself as you were building your first businesses?

ketau5 karma

Congrats on the MBA, sorry on the debt and payments that come with it!

I started 'coding' on a TI-82 calculator in high school and did a computer science minor in college but never have professionally coded for anyone else. My real jobs have always been more on the business side. Building my first business was my first opportunity to write code that other people used. It was with that business that I realized if I ever wanted to implement any of the ideas I had it would be very helpful to get all of the skills (including coding, but also graphic design, etc) that would get the idea off the ground with close to $0 spent.

That doesn't do you any good right now though so I would suggest 1) start learning to code - 'real' developers appreciate and respect you more, and 2) take the long view on where you want to end up. If you keep your startup on the side of a real job and think of it as a long term learning experience, it is a lot easier to deal with the inevitable reality that most startups dont work. It wasn't until I was full-time on startups that the pressure of failure really started to get to me. When I had a day job I always had an excuse. Sometimes that is the better way to stay happy with where you are in your life.

Tricks_3 karma

wow congratulations on you success, I will check it out and might start using your site and recommend it to friends. I never had the guts to start a real business on my own even though I work freelance for the last ~5 years.

ketau4 karma

Freelancing is a great first step to starting a real business. Hey, you're even bringing in real $ and building a client list. Give yourself more credit.

Rowland19953 karma

Thanks for being an inspiration to future small business owners.. Every time I read successful stories about startups it really keeps me inspired to think of new ideas. Thanks for posting and good luck.

ketau7 karma

Keep the inspiration, but don't let it be your measuring stick. Don't measure yourself against the sugar coated view of 'success' that other people project. Success and happiness are a multi-dimensional optimization problem. There will always be trade-offs and reaching for the absolute maximum for any one dimension of your life is going to leave other aspects hurting. Make the right choices for you.