Startup Spotlight #41: Motion

Motion is Superhuman for the browser.

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I got the chance to speak with Harry Qi, co-founder and CEO of Motion, about what he’s working on at his startup, and any advice he has for emerging entrepreneurs.

Motion is Superhuman for the browser: it reduces friction and solves the biggest pain points when working in the browser. For example, Motion lets you instantly load up your calendar right from any page, help you easily clean up & organize tabs, and find & manage any Google document across all your accounts.

Qi is the Co-Founder & CEO of Motion (YC W20). After graduating from Dartmouth College in Math and Computer Science, he worked at Optiver as a quantitative trader for two years prior to starting Motion in 2019. Qi believes in taking big, calculated risks when young, which is why he decided to quit his job and found a startup at 23.

Startup Spotlight: Motion

Motion cofounder Harry Qi.

Problem: We spend hours a day working in the browser, but after decades of existence, the tool still has glaring frictions and design problems that hurt our productivity. Today, our browsers leave us managing dozens (or even hundreds) of tabs at once, struggling to find pages and documents, waiting for heavy web apps to load, and dealing with memory and CPU shortages that slow down our computers.

Market: There are 1B professional workers who use Chrome. If 1% pay for Motion, that yields $2.4B in a total accessible market (TAM) in a year.

Solution: Motion is a Chrome extension that changes the entire UI/UX of the browser - organize & find tabs, load up web apps instantly from any page, find a Google doc across all your accounts, all with a single command line and beautiful & fast UI components.

Team: The team has known each other for many years - Ethan and Harry were college friends, and Omid and Harry were high school friends. Harry and Ethan worked as quantitative traders for several years; Omid just graduated from Yale in 2020.

Recent Success:

Qi: We have been good at shipping product and iterating on it really quickly. I think this is largely due to our team working really well together. We've known each other for a very long time, and we knew we'd work well together before deciding to start a startup. We can also move more quickly because we cut out the bullshit when we communicate. There's not a lot of unnecessary argument going on, so we can focus on the real work (i.e. talk to users and code). We're the kind of people who share feedback straightforwardly, without worrying too much about hurting feelings.

Recent Struggle:

Qi: Since we are pre-PMF, finding PMF is definitely our biggest struggle. Finding PMF requires two parts: 1) discovering a real problem and 2) coming up with a great solution. I believe we've done 1), but 2) requires a lot of talking-to-users, product iterations, and good intuition. As a productivity product that changes the way the browser works, we need to come up with creative solutions, sometimes going against the conventional wisdom of how a browser should behave. Some of our solutions have worked out great, but most of them have failed. I think that's okay and expected because new, creative solutions that actually work are hard to find — otherwise, they would've already been built.

Founder Advice:

Qi: I think I can share some thoughts on how to pivot: before joining YC, we pivoted a dozen times and built 8 MVPs — basically, I would come up with a "genius" idea, our team would build it in a few days, we'd launch it and conclude that no one actually needs it, and then pivot and repeat. It took us close to half a year to learn this simple fact (from Michael Seibel who tried to hammer this principle into us): startups need to focus on a single problem and dive deep into it. The problem should almost never change. Not all problems are created equal - some of them are much harder for you to solve than others. To succeed, it is clearly best to choose the "easiest" problem to solve. The "easiest" problem is usually one that you have experienced yourself because then you have an unfair advantage — it's really easy to test whether a solution works: just try it out yourself and you'll know whether if it kind of works or if it's shit. When you try to solve someone else's problem, the product iteration cycle can get 10-100x longer, especially during the MVP stage. So "cheat" and find a painful problem that you yourself have.

Three Cool Founders You Should Know About:

Qi: Here are three founders you should check out next!

  • Gavin Dove, Founder of Fluent: Fluent is a chrome extension that helps you practice new languages while you browse the web.

  • Nader Khalil, Founder of Brev: Brev builds production servers.

  • Samantha Wang, Founder of Pory: Pory creates beautiful websites and web apps without coding using Airtable and other no-code tools.

Who should I profile next? Leave your suggestion in the comments:

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