An Investment Analysis On 222 (YC W23)
Diving Into The Current YC Batch of Startups, One By One
In this post, I am reviewing 222, which is an exploration in serendipity. I’ll share initial thoughts, pros, cons, and final takeaways. The audience for this post is investors who are looking to evaluate YC W23 companies for potential investments or anyone who wants to think more like an investor.
First Impressions Of 222
I have no idea what 222 does, but that is expected seeing that it’s going heavy on consumer social. It also appears like there is no consistent messaging here. Let’s break down how they describe themselves on various channels:
Twitter: “finding your people at the places you'll love”
YC Website: “marketplace facilitating chance social encounters at hyperlocal venues”
LinkedIn: “exploring serendipity”
Their website’s about section: “No profiles, no DMs, no scrolling, no swiping. Just say "yes" & explore the chance encounters you'd have never experienced.”
So they don’t give us much, but if we triangulate the messaging, this has something to do with meeting people you don’t already know in venues you aren’t already familiar with. They also make it clear that this is not a technology company, or at least not yet. I am assuming the actual product is the experiences you have and the people you meet. Alright, let’s dig into some analysis.
What Looks Good?
Well, they nailed the market. Right now, there is a world wide search for what the next “big thing” is going to be in consumer. There appears to be a consensus around the fact that the next big consumer companies will look very little like the last ones did. Meaning followers will be out, connection will be in. Time on platform will be down, IRL will be up. The ad business model is out, and something new will replace it (which has yet to be discovered).
Based on all of that, it appears that 222 is hitting on all these trends, which means directionally they are correct. On their website, they list:
“This is not a dating app.
This is not a friend-making service.
This is not networking.
This is not mindless scrolling.
This is not random.
This is not the metaverse.
This is not routine.
This is not mundane.
This is not compliance.
This is not a distraction.”
I don’t really know what this means, but I do know it means they are actively trying to distance themselves away from the last generation of social apps. I think their website tells us something else too. The founders are kinda crazy, in a potentially good way. They are crazy in an ambitious way. Who in their right mind would list the above on their website without having a product to show. Sure, I get they’re trying to induce FOMO, but something less dramatic would do to create less FOMO. I think these founders are just super ambitious, which may be why YC liked them. Speaking of the founders, I think this is also a positive for the opportunity.
Impressive Founding Team
Keyan has a pretty impressive background for his age. He founded the Crescent Fund, which invests in Southern California founders. No easy feat, unless it fell into his lap. Then it’s less impressive. He also became a Kleiner Perkins fellow as well, demonstrating his ability to get into interesting rooms. Before his VC stint, he held internships at Facebook and Match + joined the Apple college program. Overall, I’m impressed. He seems to have a gift for networking, which will take him far on the capital raising side.
Arman is the AI guy it appears, which will likely be necessary to make this company huge. Oftentimes, companies have AI people when they aren’t needed but I do think 222 will need AI in order to figure out how to scale whatever solution they have. Arman has had AI internship stints at places such as DeepMind, USC Robotics and Embedded Systems Lab, and Google. He has also started companies before during his time in college.
He has very little work experience, but looks like he’s worked on projects in the past, showing he has an entrepreneurial gene.
My overall sentiment on the team is that it’s pretty strong. For a team building a consumer social app, it appeared they were quite social in college, being involved with tons of clubs and orgs. The CEO and CTO are impressive, Danial is probably also impressive or else the other two wouldn’t have brought him along. He may just be early.
They Already Raised $1.5M
According to Crunchbase, they have already raised $1.5M. Making an informed guess, we are assuming $500k of that came from Y Combinator. Which means $1M was split across the remaining 9 funds, including General Catalyst, 1517 Fund, Crescent Fund, Z Fellows, Wonder Ventures, and a few angels. These are very high signal funds, which means that 222 should have an easier time raising a seed round post Y Combinator demo day than other companies who haven’t already raised a round.
What Looks Risky?
Operating in Stealth / No Proof of Execution Ability
Other than the market and the team, at a glance without actually knowing them, this company is the ultimate risky. Why? It appears they are still in stealth mode. As mentioned, their website does not have much, and their socials don’t seem to be promoting the actual product or experiences they are creating. Sure, I bet they could be beta testing with a closed group, but they are not the only people thinking about this problem. Externally, they appears as some goofballs who through up a website in 5 minutes and picked a name out of a hat. The team is good, which is what makes this interesting, but there is zero sign of execution ability externally. I would love to see…SOMETHING that shows that there is some signal behind this company, other than founder/investor clout with the right names and logos.
The Problem Is Already Popular
I think that anyone can see a company like this and think it’s a good problem to solve. For reasons listed above, they are on trend 100%. But they are so on trend, there are literally hundreds of other startups trying to attempt to solve the same problem as them. It’s almost obvious. Meaning more competition, meaning higher CAC, more dilution, and a chance to become a race to the bottom. Now if their solution is as novel as they think it can be, then these problems go away. But off the bat, this is a simple space that many people are thinking about, which makes it harder to differentiate and break out.
Less Ownership Opportunity
If you’re reading this post right now, you missed out on the 222 pre-seed round, meaning you missed a massive chance to get in as early as possible. If you do invest, it will be at a higher valuation than the original investors, and since they are high signal, I’m guessing it will be quite a bit higher. Even though we are in the middle of a downturn, VCs still have a job to deploy capital. With a company as high signal as 222, I have a hard time believing they won’t be able to raise a massive seed at a high valuation.
I think this is a total moonshot with a high chance of failure, which makes it a good investment. With that said, combining the fact that the team already raised $1.5M from a handful of insider funds combined with the fact that they appear to still be operating in stealth in an inherently consumer social space, I don’t think the potential reward matches up with the risk profile. If we saw a massive launch BEFORE YC demo day and could see a product in action, I am 100% open to changing my mind. But I have a feeling they will be stealth through YC, raise more money for a pre-PMF product, and then they’ll be in trouble. As always, I hope I am wrong and 222 blows past my expectations. Thanks for reading.