Colt's Patent Fire-Arms Manufacturing Company
Company url, if any:
If you have an online demo, what's the url? (Please don't password protect it; just use an obscure url.)
What is your company going to make?
A gun you can shoot multiple times without reloading. We're starting with a revolver but will eventually make rifles as well. We know the revolver doesn't have a great reputation, but we're using a new mechanical technique that lines up the barrel with the chamber perfectly using the action of the hammer. This means that you can fire our guns 5 or 6 times in a row without reloading. They are accurate and small enough for use on the back of a horse. We also manufacture our guns using machined, replaceable parts, so repair is very easy compared to current pistols on the market. These replaceable parts also allow us to assemble pistols more quickly than other factories, since we can have a line of workers, each of which install a single part at a time as the gun moves down the line, as opposed to a single worker building the entire gun. We think this will greatly increase our output ability.
If this application is a response to a YC RFS, which one?
Where do you live now, and where would the company be based after YC?
New Jersey now, New Jersey afterwards.
(Comma separated HN username and full name)
samcolt, Samuel Colt
NotThatEliWhitney, Eli Whitney Blake
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.
We haven't worked together before, but Eli has a great reputation as a gunsmith and inventor.
How long have the founders known one another and how did you meet? Have any of the founders not met in person?
We've known each other for about 5 years and met when Sam asked Eli to make the first run of 1000 revolvers in 1846. We have met in person of course.
How far along are you? 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?
We're not sure what kind of code you're referring to, but Sam has been working on this idea since he was about 16 (made his first model then out of wood) and we've now manufactured two batches of 1000 guns now (2000 total). The first batch had some success in the war against the Seminoles in Florida, although our design proved so interesting to the soldiers that many of them took the revolvers apart to see how they worked, and in doing so stripped screws and couldn't get them back together. Captain Samuel Walker in Texas has had great success against the Commanches with the weapons from our first batch and subsequently ordered our second batch.
Which of the following best describes your progress?
How many users do you have?
Do you have revenue?
What is your monthly growth rate?
Difficult to say, as we manufacture to order right now.
If you've applied previously with the same idea, how much progress have you made since the last time you applied? Anything change?
I previously applied with a first version of our revolver design, but didn't get an interview. Since then we have made a lot of changes and improvements in the design, most of which have come from talking to our early users who have tested our product in real battles.
If you have already participated or committed to participate in an incubator, "accelerator" or "pre-accelerator" program, please tell us about it.
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?
Sam has been obsessed with making things since he was a little kid. He has domain expertise in both designing and manufacturing firearms. We know people need what we're making because our users have used our product in the field and love it. The Texas Rangers have been telling us how much better our product is than what they've been using. A single shot rifle that has to be reloaded (which takes about 60 seconds) is just not useful against 70 Commanches who can fire arrows from horseback with deadly accuracy dozens of times before you can fire again. The ability to shoot 5 times in a row has been game changing for the Rangers and we think other people will find it game changing too.
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)?
The alignment mechanism we use is new. People thought a gun that can shoot 5 times without being reloaded is impossible. Not only can we do that, our latest batch of 1000 has been improved to shoot 6 times without being reloaded. It's much safer and more reliable than flintlock, which is what people are using now. It's also much easier to repair than what people are using now.
Who are your competitors, and who might become competitors? Who do you fear most?
There are lots of other firearm companies, but we have several patents on our design that gives us a monopoly on it until 1857, at which point we will try to extend it. We're afraid of other competitors trying to weasel around our patents and make similar weapons anyway, but we're not afraid to use legal action.
What do you understand about your business that other companies in it just don't get?
That interchangeable parts are the future. We also believe that the ability to fire multiple times without reloading is the most important idea in firearms ever.
How do or will you make money? How much could you make? (We realize you can't know precisely, but give your best estimate.)
We sell guns. We're going after military contracts first and will then sell to the general public. We could make up to 10 or 20 million dollars.
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 military is our first set of users, and once they help us work out all of our kinks, we'll use that as leverage to appeal to the general public. Veterans of the military will also want to have our guns after they leave the military. We've found that word-of-mouth has been working quite well in spreading news about our product, and other publicity and marketing are also being used to get users.
Please tell us something surprising or amusing that one of you has discovered. (The answer need not be related to your project.)
When Sam was about 15, he built a homemade depth charge to blow up a raft on a lake for the 4th of July. He learned that coating copper wire with tar is effective in waterproofing it, and that aiming a depth charge is difficult when it's underwater (the explosion was huge, but it missed the raft).
Please tell us about the time you, samcolt, most successfully hacked some (non-computer) system to your advantage.
When I was first trying to drum up interest in my designs in 1832, I started a series of shows and traveled around the country doing Nitrous Oxide demonstrations as "the Celebrated Dr. Coult of New-York, London and Calcutta". The theme of my demonstrations was The Divine Comedy, and I convinced people that I was a doctor to the point that I was once asked to cure an outbreak of Cholera on a riverboat. The shows helped me raise money and interest for early work on my designs.
Please tell us in one or two sentences about the most impressive thing other than this startup that you have built or achieved.
I designed a cartridge for use in revolvers to replace the paper ones currently in use. Moisture destroys these cartridges, so I designed one that uses a type of thin tinfoil. After testing in front of the Army, I sold them 200,000 cartridges.
Q: What is this?
A: It's Samuel Colt's Y Combinator application for S51 (that's Summer 1851).
Q: So it's a joke?
A: Um, yes.
Q: Why Samuel Colt? Why'd you write this?
A: Samuel Colt struck me as someone remarkably similar to the kind of person Paul Graham describes as being a good startup founder. He was very mischievous when he was younger, he was a hustler, he didn't give up despite failing twice before succeeding, and was a brilliant guy. He also found a small group of people who loved his product first and made them happy (the Texas Rangers) and then focused on scaling up. Go read his whole Wikipedia article, it's great.
Q: What's the time period of this "application"?
A: 1851, right before his company really started taking off.
Q: Eli Whitney Blake wasn't really his co-founder, you know.
A: That's not a question, but yeah I know. He was more of a contract manufacturer. But I figured he was close enough to be co-founder-ish for the purposes of this exercise.
Q: I'm an expert on Samuel Colt and you got something wrong/this timeline makes no sense/what even is this!
A: Tell me about it and I'll fix it! :)
Q: Who wrote this?
A: Sam Colt! With help from his time-traveling friend, Hunter.