On Getting Into Y Combinator With Cognitive Behavioral Therapy App

Published: August 2nd, 2019
Koby Conrad
Founder, Quirk
from San Francisco, California, USA
started June 2019
market size
avg revenue (monthly)
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time to build
270 days
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Front, Twitter, Instagram
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Full time
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39 Pros & Cons
9 Tips
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Hello! Who are you and what are you working on?

Hey everyone! My name is Koby, together with my little brother Evan we are building Quirk, an app that provides Cognitive Behavioral Therapy on your phone.

Evan has suffered from a very severe panic disorder almost his entire life. On a daily/weekly basis he would get multiple severe debilitating panic attacks. In frustration my parents had tried just about everything, including putting him on medication that dulled his emotions, and some “heavier stuff” for when things got really bad.

Nothing worked for Evan, until he finally read a book called Feeling Good by David Burns.

Feeling Good teaches people how to do Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and if you’re anything like me, that term is absolute gibberish. Turns out however, CBT is basically the “gold standard” for psychotherapy which is used to treat anxiety, depression, stress, panic, and a number of other mental roadblocks.

The way it works is simple. Your thoughts, control your mood. 95% of the time it’s what you are thinking that is causing your feelings, not the other way around.

CBT teaches you common logical fallacies, and provides exercises to identify those fallacies within your own thinking to change your thoughts.

For a number of mood disorders, this is unbelievably effective. Just for his own personal use, my brother built Quirk 1.0 off one of the most effective CBT exercises and then he went from having daily/weekly panic attacks, to once every 6 months or so. Even if we never made a single dollar off Quirk, it changed my brothers life (and according to our feedback, hundreds of our users as well).

Eventually Evan launched Quirk publically on iOS/Android and I’ve been helping him grow it ever since (we’re a programmer + growth 2 person team).

Since our launch a few months ago, we have been accepted into Y Combinator, we were featured on TechCrunch, became the product of the day on Product Hunt, went to the top of Hacker News, and had a Reddit post hit #3 of all time on r/CBT.

Evan and I both quit our San Francisco tech jobs to work on this full time. Quirk is translated into over 13+ languages, and we’re going to change the lives of millions of people around the world.


What's your backstory and how did you get into entrepreneurship?

Honestly, I’ve been an entrepreneur since I was 6 years old selling lemonade with my 4 year old brother in the middle of nowhere Kuna, Idaho. We saved our money from selling lemonade and bought some chickens. Sold chicken eggs and then bought a baby cow. Raised the baby cow and then bought two baby cows!

Just get started. Jump in and start failing. Then fail over and over and over again. 7 years later I’m still failing, but I’m doing it in new and exciting ways.

And then my parents moved to the suburbs, killing our young entrepreneurial dream. 😭

In all seriousness, my “adult” career in entrepreneurship started when I was 19 years old dating this cute hippie girl. We built about 17,000 followers on our hippie Facebook page, back when Facebook organic reach was still good this meant we were hitting over 1,000,000 every month. Thinking to myself “we could make money off this” I proceed to do the next logical thing.

I dropped out of college to start an online hippie shop.

It actually turned out fairly okay. We built over 500,000 social followers, grew past $10k/mo revenue (90% margin), and got featured on Forbes, Business Insider, and hundreds of other publications.

And then as the social media history buffs might know… Facebook organic reach dropped off the map. Our sales went from $10k/mo down to $500/mo.

Out of necessity we then started two additional companies. A cleaning service called Boise Cleaning Fairy based off Maids In Black, and a digital agency called Boise Digital. The cleaning company we built past $10K/mo of revenue before selling it for a 2x profit margin. The digital agency we started specializing in mortgage lead generation and drove over $100,000,000 in mortgage production over a 2-3 year period.

It’s a little hard to summarize 7 years of the entrepreneurship rollercoaster, all of the losses and successes. The best thing I think I can say I learned, is that being an entrepreneur is about learning. There is no “end” point and no final “success” or “failure”. I started by not knowing anything, simply by throwing up someone else's product on a shitty blogger platform with paypal integrations.

While I have accumulated 7 years of experience and skills, I still don’t know anything. Being in Y Combinator surrounded by so many amazing talented people has taught me truly how deep the rabbit hole goes. How many rabbit holes there are in the first place.

You could spend your whole life learning about being an entrepreneur and picking up the skills required to run a business, and still not scratch the surface.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

Our current goal is to get profitable before we die. Fun times.

We should hit this anywhere between the next 3-6 months. Which works out just perfectly, because that’s about how long we have before we run out of money. No pressure.

We have a number of new features that we want to add into Quirk right now, and are currently working at maximum 24/7 speed to try and add in everything we can before demo day. Expand our “learn” section, just did a massive design update, created custom “quirks” for each distortion, revise our screenshots, implemented notifications, started requesting reviews (which by the way is a HUGE help!), and a ton more in the works.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

Every business I have started came with its own challenges and unique problems. I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me it seems the most important skill you can have is to be able to learn new things.

An online hippie shop, a local cleaning service, a digital agency, and a mental health app, are all vastly different.

Every business I have started came with its own challenges and unique problems. The most important skill you can have is to be able to learn new things.

The hippie shop made money by leveraging a Facebook page. The cleaning service made money by ranking #1 on Google+. The digital agency made money through direct sales. The mental health app made money by ranking in the iOS/Android store.

Understand your channels of growth, and double down on what is working. In my opinion the #1 reason that people fail is because they build a business backwards. They have some idea for a product or service, and then try to sell it. All of my businesses have become profitable “successes” because I did the exact opposite. I found profitable channels of growth, and then built products to fit those channels.

Find a group of people and build them a product/service, don’t build a product/service and then try to find a group of people.

With the hippie shop that meant we had a big Facebook page and audience who wanted to buy hippie shit. With the cleaning service that meant the top service in Boise only had ~10 reviews. With the digital agency that meant our competition was so weak a couple of teenagers could take the business. With the mental health app that meant there wasn’t really a good product for people who did CBT.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

My favorite platform/tools…. Let’s see.

  • Ahrefs for SEO
  • Revenuecat for iOS/Android payments
  • Notion for documents
  • Clerky for filing/incorporation
  • Gusto for HR/Payroll/Benefits
  • Mercury.co for banking
  • Brex for startup financing
  • Backoffice for bookkeeping
  • Shopify for eCommerce
  • Fullstory for recording visitors (which we don’t do with Quirk though)
  • Amplitude for application analytics
  • Segment to tie everything together
  • Sketch because Adobe Illustrator is a nightmare
  • Apple Search Ads for profitable iOS advertising
  • Google SEM for scaling normal search
  • Facebook Audience Insights for detailed demographics
  • Auth0 for user accounts
  • And finally Bing, because they take me out for dinner

Jesus these services add up over time. It is crazy how much easier it is to run a business in 2019 than it was even 3 years ago. I think probably 80% of this list I started using within the last 2 years, and before that I either had to do it manually or it just didn’t happen. Let me be the first to say how absolutely amazing it is to not have to deal with bookkeeping, payroll, and benefits.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

For Quirk the most influential book is definitely Feeling Good by David Burns. Entrepreneur focused however I am a huge fan of the principles of the 4 Hour Work Week (just use them but work 40 hours), and how to win friends and influence people.

The most defining experience of my journey as an entrepreneur however has been recently with our acceptance into Y Combinator.

If I can take a second to plug this program, Y Combinator is life-changing. While there are a couple other good ones out there like TechStars, none of them really compare. It’s not the fact that they give you $150k when you are accepted and help you raise ~$1M - $2M+ at demo day. They provide access to “partners” which serve as mentors that teach you how to build a billion dollar business.

Almost every week we learn from the founders of companies like Airbnb, Segment, Pebble, Brex, and the people who actually built billion dollar companies.

I like to think of myself as a decently successful entrepreneur in my own right, but I can’t express how incredibly humbled I am being in a room filled with nothing but extraordinary people where “amazing” is the starting line. If you get the chance, apply to YC & keep applying. Check out their startup school, read Paul Graham’s blog. YC is YC for a reason.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

Just get started. Jump in and start failing. Then fail over and over and over again. 7 years later I’m still failing, but I’m doing it in new and exciting ways.

My technical skill set is in advertising/media buying. I’ve worked on ad campaigns with teams that spend over $50M/year with a 100% ROI. I know how to build websites, how to do taxes, bookkeeping, payroll, set up benefits, manage employees, some basic graphic design. I’ve imported and exported product from over 30 countries, sold thousands of things from tie dye skirts, to potatoes with messages on them, fake flowers, all the way to mortgages loans and insurance aggregation.

But at the start, I knew literally nothing. My knowledge is still only a drop in an ocean. But that’s the point.

Entrepreneurship is a never ending path of learning. So really, don’t wait to get started if it’s something that interests you. Launch ASAP and learn along the way.

Where can we go to learn more?

You can check out our website for Quirk, and then find us on the iOS and Google Play store! If you leave us a good review I will love you forever.

I love making new friends too, so feel free to hit me up on Linkedin!

And finally, there is a super duper top level secret newsletter that the marketing guy (me) isn’t allowed to touch, that gives you behind the scenes details into Quirk and lets you follow along with the development of our product. If you’re into that kind of thing.

Want to start a therapy business? Learn more ➜