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Michael Seibel, CEO of YC, is doing an AMA
243 points by mwseibel 103 days ago | hide | past | web | 293 comments | favorite
YC applications for the Summer 2017 batch are due in a week, so I thought I'd do an AMA to answer questions about applying to YC, how the program works, or anything else. I'll start answering questions at 10am.



How do you feel about non-profit startups developing pure Open Source software and services in exchange for donations, in the interests of bettering the ecosystem itself? Could a nascent Mozilla be a YC nonprofit?


I'm extremely interested in this, as the current funding model for startups restricts new technology to companies that are fiduciarily compelled to monopolize their market, siphoning user data and (potentially) damaging civic society in the process. Startups are still a very good vehicle for most problems, but for certain classes of problems, sometimes make things worse, and I'm curious if YCombinator is interested in helping out with those types of initiatives.


To be clear: YC accepts non-profits each round.

www.ycombinator.com/nonprofits/

The question of whether open-source producing non-profits fit into YC is still a good one. I couldn't find an info on whether they have already accepted such non-profits, but the incubator Fast Forward has:

> Intelehealth built an open-source intelligence engine for assessing primary care conditions

https://qz.com/792685/silicon-valley-wants-to-save-the-world...


Sure, and I'm aware of the non-profit initiatives. I don't think many people have considered producing actual software under a not-for-profit (except for Khan Academy?), probably because it's insanely expensive. Would YCombinator help facilitate funding a fully open Facebook or Twitter clone, for instance? It sounds outlandish to consider, but it seems equally outlandish to consider the 2020 election happening over essentially the same social stack & people will just be okay with that.

(Obviously, a clone itself wouldn't suffice, you'd need to start with federated identity, and....)


FWIW, YCombinator has funded a fully open, federated Facebook clone:

https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/diaspora#/entity

It didn't work out so well, mostly because a.) actually cloning Facebook is pretty hard and b.) users don't seem to want to switch to fully-open Facebook or Twitter clones.


Haha, interesting, I didn't know they went through YC at some point.

I'm making a strong bet that people do want to switch to fully-open social clones, because it's hard for me to imagine citizens of 2024 or 2028 conducting an effective political system using today's monolithic social technology. But the current ecosystem sucks for it.


A lot of YC non-profits produce "actual software". I know Watsi does, because I run the product and engineering team there.


Oh, certainly, I didn't meant to say that non-profits didn't create software, just that they're not primarily software companies, or working in domains that compete with traditional big vendors. Love the work you do at Watsi!


The nascent Mozilla was Netscape and a well funded company that achieved a multi-billion dollar exit (final valuation $10 Billion per Wikipedia)[1]. As a commercial operation it was able to hire a significant engineering staff to work heads down on browser development over a sustained period. In contrast most non-profits have to hire for and focus on donor development and don't have a period of massive commercial growth fueled by venture capital.

The Mozilla Foundation has a wholly owned for commercial entity, the Mozilla Corporation.

[1] If there was a nascent non-profit in the chain that led to Mozilla, it would be NCSA [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Center_for_Supercompu...] where Andreesen was developing Mosaic.


> In contrast most non-profits have to hire for and focus on donor development and don't have a period of massive commercial growth fueled by venture capital.

Everyone has to pay for marketing, and I'll give you the part about growth.

But is this because something inherent in a nonprofit stops it from growing? Is it that there are fewer nonprofits to sample wins from? Or is that venture capital is simply not structured to consider the upside of funding anything other than a bet on a huge exit?


I'm not sure. What I was trying to think about was 'what is a nascent Mozilla?' and the conclusion I came to is that it would have to look more like a fully formed organization or a commercial entity than something that would be obviously nascent and non-profit.

Thinking a bit more, big software related non-profits appear to be spin-offs from industry (Eclipse Foundation, Linux Foundation) or academia (Apache Foundation also from NCSA). In each case, the software came first as was the case with Mozilla and the funding followed because corporations found they had an interest in the software's continued development.

On the other hand, OpenAI might be a counter example where the money is coming to support research so that's a possible case where YC has funded a 'non-profit' at scale...though the model was recruitment rather than application.


Or perhaps they could pre-mine a coin they would be paid in: https://startupboy.com/2014/04/01/the-fifth-protocol/


This is probably off-topic, but this proposal seems dystopic and anti-disruptive. The ability to mine coins is proportional to current ownership of capital (i.e., ability to calculate proof-of-work). You "eliminate" spam by allowing the richest to send you emails. You charge for DDoS attacks. Uber and Lyft get traffic signal priority over individual drivers, and that's assuming that Uber and Lyft could even get started in a world where taxi medallion holders could just buy all the green lights and resell them to everyone other than Uber and Lyft. And if you can bid on computing capacity itself with proof-of-work, you're well on your way to a Yudkowskian horror story of sentient Ethereum smart contracts buying computer factories for themselves.

If I'm trying to write open source outside the confines of traditional capitalism, the last thing I want to do is require that people's usage of it is proportional to their riches.


This is interesting. I think there's still a deeper question of how to fund open-source technologies. Patreon seems to put the burden on individuals rather than companies. Maybe the answer is non-profits.


Hi Michael,

YC-funded companies are known to be large-scale consumers of free and open source software. They are able to leverage the competitive advantage provided by this digital infrastructure to build successful, high valuation businesses. Some of those companies have gone on to make great contributions to the Open Source community themselves.

Would YC ever consider setting up a fund for the builders and maintainers of the infrastructure that your companies depend upon?


I may be a bit dense here, but who are the 'builders and maintainers of the infrastructure'? Can you give an example?

I'm thinking Docker, GitLab, NPM are both in some ways doing both the development of their businesses, and maintaining the infrastructure and open-sourcing their code.

Are these not the sorts of examples you're thinking of? Does this require a separate fund?


That is a great question. @Alex3917 pretty much nailed it but I do have another example.

On April 7, 2014, CVE-2014-0160 aka Heartbleed was publicly disclosed. At the time, 66% of websites used OpenSSL (via Netcraft). Also, OpenSSL had 1 full-time engineer, and only a few volunteers. Yearly donations were about $2,000. 17 days after Heartbleed Jim Zemlin from the Linux Foundation as well as thirteen companies stepped up to the plate and created the Core Infrastructure Initiative and pledged to donate $100,000 a year for 3 years to help prevent the next Heartbleed.

The point is this, Open Source isn't free. Docker, GitLab and other 'open-core' businesses stand on the shoulder of giants. If they raise a round of fundraising or whatever Press Release hits the wire, they get praise (which is fine, I love it). But the only time a project like the OpenSSL project gets press is when something goes wrong which I don't think is fair to them.

We can keep being reactive or we can start being proactive. I believe YC has the capital and influence to change this thinking of Open Source doesn't cost anything.


> 'builders and maintainers of the infrastructure'?

Python, Django, Postgres, PyPy, Rest Framework...

I don't want to just list out all the dependencies we're using, but I'm guessing at least a simple majority of all the page views from YC startups involve Python.


Awesome and well-reasoned question!


Thanks! The right opportunity finally came. =)


Hello Michael,

I was suggested by few YC Alums that YC will not accept a startup if the founders are not working full time on it.

Question: In my case I am working full time because it's helping me fund my startup and It's actually helping me grow it due to connection to my peers (I am M.D from India working on a Health Startup). Is this a bad sign ?

I simply do not have the resources (and enough revenue) to quit my job Yet. But I am dedicated 200 % towards my startup and the vision. And I spend most of my time (outside of work) on my startup.


I am someone completely removed from the scene, and have never attempted a startup let alone applied to YC, but I do get the image that the ideal YC start up is one comprised of the following: 2 to 4 smart, young, and hungry developers that really just need food and rent money for three months so they can dedicate themselves 100% to hacking on their project.

That seemed to be the idea early at least. Now they're expanding and investing in larger startups who get more value from the alumni network and the face time with the YC crew. At the end of the day though, they don't want people to have the fallback plan of just letting their startup fizzle while they continue to work their day job. I don't blame them to be honest.


He answered a similar question (mine) below:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13895615


Thanks. But for me, I am NOT looking for any external validation. Except my users, whom I deeply care about. My situation (being in a Developing country) is a little different from your IMHO.


Your question was "Is this a bad sign?" And the answer to that is NO. You're doing just fine. But if you're looking for a funding from YC (which is an external validation btw), they would rather fund someone who are willing to quit their job and commit 100%.

Like I said there's nothing wrong with your approach. If you believe you're doing the right thing and you can see the growth then you are doing it right.

You WILL know when it's time to quit your job and commit when the time comes.


What's the best way to pick between two ideas when you like one idea better but the other is more feasible given your skill set?

>>>>>>>>>>>

We're two founders working on products for people of color.

We have two ideas we want to work: 1) a networking type idea 2) a media and entertainment idea.

We love both these ideas deeply, we've committed most of our time to idea 1 bc we can make an MVP for it but we want to work on #2 bc it will have more promise given market trends and we like the idea more.

The problem with #2 is that it requires a lots of capital to make video content and we don't have domain expertise in film production.

As a result we're torn as to what we should write about on the YC app. Our app focuses on the 1st idea but we mention the 2nd idea plenty of times. We would love your thoughts.

Thank you Michael for taking the time to be accessible to the community.


FYI, you should take a look at the application itself, it allows for multiple ideas


Hey Michael,

How do you when the right time is to quit a business that just isn't working? And how do you distinguish between normal obstacles and hardship vs real signs that signal the business isn't viable?


I want to be a farmer. I want to treat the farm like a startup. At which point in the application process can I try to convince you that you need a farmer in your portfolio? Also, when and where can I go into details to describe how it would be different from today's conventional operations?


I think if you can prove that you can scale revenue or users by the factor of 1,000 within 2-3 years, while only increasing headcount/staff by the factor of 10 then they would be interested.

That's basically the definition of a startup, so na matter what you do, if you can prove scalability like this, you are a startup.


YC has backed at least one startup for indoor farming lighting, Transcend (S15), and one for indoor gardening, Click & Grow (S15).


Farmlogs went through YC in 2012.


And FarmStead (S16) for crop monitoring.



Seeing some of the recent startups that have come out of YC and learning about what they're working on; I can't imagine how they'd scale to a billion dollar business. Question: Is this a signal that YC is now investing in companies that don't have such lucrative paths? If so, how does YC justify such a decision to their partners.


To be honest - it was impossible early on to see how Justin.tv (a guy wearing a camera on his head 24/7) or Airbnb (airbed rental) could turn into billion dollar companies. Often times we invest in great teams and just see what they can do. Remember hindsight is 20-20.


Don't you think the web is maturing and consolidating quickly and there will be fewer and fewer opportunities for a guy with a camera to build a billion dollar business?


"There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in."

The status quo is _always_ broken. Change is unceasing. Assumptions that are true today need not remain so in the future. This can happen to any product, business and their culture. Opportunities are everywhere, but we get normalized to reality pretty soon, the status quo fervently resists change, new things by virtue of being new are hard to do and fail often, and so we conveniently avoid spotting them.


This is such a motivational response, not sure if you intended it to be so (to that degree). Either way, thank you.


Think about the evolution of various web technologies:

Chat & Direct Messaging: Unix Talk, IRC, SMS, Jabber, XMPP, Snap, slack, etc.

Message boards: Usenet, gopher, BBS, Wiki, Blogs, Myspace, Facebook, etc.

You can literally look at almost any web technology, and it seems to be constantly reinvented, improved, and updated. It seems likely that the tools of today will necessarily evolve, at the hand of new upstarts.


Each is also getting more and more centralized and privatized.


Exactly. The software business is about commoditizing your competitors stack. The internet business is about eliminating commodity stacks.


"Everything that can be invented has been invented."

Charles H. Duell, US Patent Office 1899

I personally believe we are 23 years into what Wired forecast was a 200 year boom for Internet software. Sure there have been ebbs and flows the past 23 years(I know cause I was there on the front lines) but I am not about to cast Wired's forecast as wrong.


Hasn't that case (lone founder meeting with success despite no resources) always been an extreme outlier? For every success story you can point to, there are probably thousands of failure stories. So those opportunities becoming "fewer" would not even be noticeable.


Hi Michael, thanks for the AMA. When you evaluate an early stage biotech startup, what would you say is the most important thing that you look for? - clinically validated products, or a solid long term business model?

With Trump picking Scott Gottlieb to be the next FDA commissioner, the FDA approval process is expected to get more lenient. Would you say that YC (or investors in general) would be open to take more risks with high tech startups that do not have a clinically validated product as of now?

One more question - Given that the FDA process takes a lot of time, quite a few biotech companies often get acquired or merged with bigger companies that can afford to do so, without ever having actually gotten their product out on the market. Would you say that you look at the company's potential return in that sense when you evaluate startups? I'm not entirely sure if this question makes sense, so let me know if you want me to clarify!


Hi Michael, I'm wondering if you can comment on how you think the current political comment will affect the startup scene?

For example, I remember reading (sorry, no source) that YC is starting to hold events in Canada in order to welcome those who may not be able to come to the U.S. due to the current administration's executive orders. It looks like this may push startups out of the United States.

I'm hoping you can comment on this action, and other actions that might affect the startups in America and around the world, including, but not limited to actions involving education, public funding, military spending.

Thanks!


I think this is the source you're looking for: https://blog.ycombinator.com/us-visas/


Thanks for the source!


What percentage of YC companies are founded by solo founders? And what observations do you have of such companies viz-a-viz companies with founding teams?

Would you advise someone against being a solo founder? If not, is it much harder for a solo founder to fundraise?


I've once heard PG say that if you are an international startup, an important question is who will stay with the company back in your home country in your absence during the YC period. My founder and I would obviously both love to be there and we don't have a good answer for that. Any tips?


What do you think of teams that are working part-time (e.g. while in full time education/employment) on an idea with decent traction, but who are waiting for external validation (such as YC or other investment) before going full-time on it? Do you take it as a sign of low commitment?


I would say figure out what milestone in your business would convince you to go all in and strive for it. Your goal shouldn't be external validation. I know of no investor who is smart enough to tell with 100% accuracy whether you are working on a great idea or not.


You're basically asking YC to bet on you before you bet on yourself. If you aren't willing to go all in, what does that say?

Startups are really fucking hard. You have to have a serious belief and commitment to build a billion dollar business (which is what YC is investing in.) If you're unsure, that's totally fine, but you need to be the first to believe in your company and get used to being the only ones who believe in your company, in order to make it through the hard times.


Sure, but consider what you're selecting out with that approach. Recent grads who just need to scrape enough money for a room and some ramen can go all in on their idea. Mid 30's with a family can't. 20's person might find the billion dollar disruptive idea, coming fresh out of a less bounded college experience or youth in general. 30's person might find the billion dollar enterprise solution, having spent 10-15 years in fortune 500 companies.

I have bias to disclose - I'm in the 2nd category, and my ideas and projects are probably very different, with a very different target market, than me 15 years ago (or someone else 15 years younger than me right now). I'm also not seriously pursuing anything at the moment, so this is hypothetical: Not only do I have a roof to keep over my family's head, I also (no offense intended here) probably have a higher opportunity cost as a barrier as well. All in on an idea for me has hard and soft costs that are very different from someone just starting out. It's not to say someone similar to me should expect to throw a few hours every two weeks at a project and merit serious consideration, but putting 25% of time and energy for some is a BFD that I think passes the commitment threshold in certain instances.

Whether it's YC, a startup, or your role in a mature business of any size, you must approach ideas through various lenses beyond your own. Please take this all constructively, I'm not trying to say I'm better because I'm older or anything like that - my point is that there are broader considerations that make varying degrees of commitment to an idea more similar than you'd think.


> If you aren't willing to go all in, what does that say?

That you are smart enough not to weaken your negotiation position if you don't actually have to?


Unless you are weakening your negotiating position because you can't raise money?

This isn't a game theory experiment. It's not unreasonable for investors to want you to be full-time invested (if you can) before putting in money. Also, some people may want to run their company until it is profitable enough that the company can pay them a full-time salary.


a lot of people start by borrowing $50k from a parent (this is a fact). If the universe doesn't believe in you enough to give you parents you can borrow $50k from, why should YC? Surely they don't know better than God himself, and it would be insanely presumptuous of YC to think they do. There is clearly a reason that God passed on you and they are not in a position to second-guess this.

(/s in case you need it. If you still don't get it I am making fun of your position because it's naive and in my experience wrong. Sorry. Privilege comes in many forms and people don't tend to talk about them.)


To get a better understanding of YC's approach consider the following: there are a limited number of slots, they get substantially more good applicants than there are slots. What this means is that the question shouldn't be "am I good enough for YC?" the question is "am I better than 95% of other companies applying this batch?".

Now if you're YC and you see 2 identical companies and one set of founders is full-time and the other set of founders are part-time, it's safe to say that the full time founders will be given preference because they are more committed, etc.

On the flip side if you had phenomenal founders/company (at an extreme think if Mark Zuckerberg started a new company and applied to YC) being part time is not a big deal.

Unfortunately for you you don't have visibility into your competition for this batch, but you can use previous batch companies as a rough guide.


Expanding, what do you think about team that are working part-time while working to develop MRR that would make them ramen profitable? How negative of a signal is that?


I think that if you are bootstrapping cause you need to in order to pay the bills then that is totally fine. If you can work full-time on your startup and your are aren't - you should ask yourself why.


What are examples of some good answers to the why question? And some bad answers?


I think a good answer might be because the person was working on something else. Historically, there has been a line on the application about other ideas that the applicant thought about applying with. But that's just a guess.


hes implying that you arent convinced of your startup. there are no "good" answers at that point.


Thanks- that's what I thought, but I wasn't sure.


Can you provide some info on how does YC support hardware startups? More specifically, what is a good stage to apply?

We are working on building a demo-quality HW prototype, with the ETA of ~6months. That means we will not be focused on growth, but on tech development. Should we wait until we have a working system and apply to YC when we are ready to scale and grow it (this is our current thought).


Obviously you should listen to Michael over me, but as a former YC founder with a robotics startup I agree that you should probably wait until you're more focused on growth than prototyping.


Thank you, this lines up with our thoughts. We were invited for an interview in November (did not get funded as a too early stage) but just got an encouragement to reapply email, so need to decide what to do.

We see no need for funding (at least today) to finish our HW prototype; in fact if funded I am afraid a sizeable chunk of those 120k would be spent (wasted?) on moving to SV, getting some lab access, etc. The flip side is getting help earlier to shape the end product.


You want to join YC because you want the money and investors, but your product isn't ready yet so what's the money for? If you only need to pay your own living costs and small development costs for R&D, maybe you should look for an angel investor and a pre-seed round.

Speaking of, there's a void in the VC market for funds that invest in the R&D stage like this.


YC has traditionally been seen as provided seed round funding and its investment as being for living expenses and early development costs.


How would yo go about looking for such things outside SV, LA, NY ie. major places?

I agree with you that there is a void in R&D stage VC funds.


I've never had direct affiliation with YC at all, but I'd check this out:

http://blog.ycombinator.com/yc-for-hardware


Just so applicants are aware, YC founders no longer have access to Pier 9.


I am on your same boat. We been working for the past year to get the HW prototype build and at a stage where we can demo it. We are still around 6 months on finishing but lack of funding and advice would definitely accelerate our progress. (Paying for assembled boards instead of hand building each as a example of how it would make it faster.)


Happy to see if I can help. Email is ericmigi@gmail.com.


Hi Michael, is it a good idea to apply to YC to find quality co-founders? or in other words what is the right way for a single founder to apply? thanks.


It is not a good idea to apply to YC to find co-founders.


thanks.


Follow up: What would be the fastest, most efficient way for someone highly technically proficient to learn just enough business operations/basic 101 stuff to be functional?


Speaking as a solo technical founder: I think at this early a stage the most important non-tech thing is to understand your users, and optimizing your funnel so as to get as many users as possible in the fastest, most optimal rate.


Your #1 risk is you have a definite product in mind and will try to find the market for it instead the other way around. This is likely to kill your startup. If you avoid this, the operational biz stuff you can pick up along the way.

Feel free to email me (see profile) if you'd like to go in depth re this.


Read a book


Perhaps a bit less snark and bit more "here's some books to get you started"?


Hey Michael, thanks for this - should be a real eye opener!

Q: What are some of the top weighing attributes you're looking at for companies applying today, and how heavy (1-10 scale) would you say they count towards an acceptance decision. I'm envisioning a "credit score" for application.


The top 5 things I look for in an application are (in no particular order): 1) Can the team clearly communicate what they are working on? 2) Does the team have the technical talent to build and grow the v1 of their product? 3) Is the team moving quickly or are they waiting for approval from YC? 4) Did the founders have a personal or professional relationship before deciding to start the company together? 5) Does the team understand something about their space that is controversial or non-obvious?


> Does the team have the technical talent to build and grow the v1 of their product?

This means they can join YC without a v1? But I guess you should have validated your hypothesis in any other way, right?


You can certainly get into YC pre-launch!


> 4) Did the founders have a personal or professional relationship before deciding to start the company together?

As I understand this is desirable, right? I wonder if there are any good successful stories of newly-acquainted, "JIT" founders? How about data that supports that being friends or colleagues equals success and greater valuations?

My instinct tells me that a previous relationship is probably a good predictor of success. But it's always good to rely on hard data to avoid any correlational fallacies.


I haven't worked on the idea/MVP I applied with last time, instead working on scaling my existing business. Last time I didn't get an interview.

Is there a point in applying again with the same idea? The only thing that would have changed is that my other business, listed as an accomplishment, is now 5 times as successful. (In the 350k range vs 70k.)

I was also thinking of applying with that business, but it's not really a YC kind of company. Would YC fund an e-commerce company with no particularly unique approach, just selling on 3P marketplaces, and ambitions of growing to maybe pharmapacks level (100 million in yearly revenue, around the biggest such company)?


Yes! Many companies get in on their second or third YC application. There is no penalty for applying more than once and in some cases it actually gives you an advantage.


We got in on our second try with the same idea :). I think it's a good sign if you stuck with it and got some traction. We had even written this (embarrassing) medium post on how not getting in was a good thing: https://medium.com/@Open_Listings/what-we-learned-from-yc-su...


I didn't work on it at all because I was doing better with my other, boring business.


I don't know all the YC startups so this might have an obvious answer, but would YC consider a video game company for a batch, rather than software or tech?

Like a company trying to make something as disruptive as Pokemon Go, which required quick scale and reached a massive audience in a very short time.


There have been multiple video game and video game related companies in YC. Examples include Machine Zone(one of the more successful YC companies afaik), OMGPOP, Minomonsters and A Thinking Ape. Game related startups that did YC include Twitch and Humble Bundle, who are now both game publishers, even if they don't directly develop games themselves.

I think if you're doing something interesting in mobile, AR or VR, YC will definitely be interested in your application as long as you can demonstrate the potential for massive growth, probably a game as service product that is free to play. I don't see them funding indie game studios or traditional console game developers that are unlikely to scale.


Hi again Michael, another quick one for you: how important is charisma to be a succesful founder?

Do you think YC's application process is skewed towards accepting people who are great at talking?


I don't think it's important at all. PG has a saying that good founders become more formidable during their time at YC. Also, demo day prep and fundraising is pretty intense at YC so most founders get much better at talking about their startups after going through the program. That might explain the signal you are seeing.


I've been wondering this too. Many people I know are avoiding the YC/startup scene because it seems to be for the "cool" kids who know how to talk their way through something, and not those who are actually technically competent.


It's midnight here in india and i just noticed this session. I really want to know if there's any quick tip regarding international founders such as from india. I've been in touch with other Indian YC alums and have been getting feedback and suggestions for my YC application. I really am in doubt about how should i go with the application, i mean what exactly YC partners look for in the application the very first time, considering and international founder?


Just go with the basics:

1) Here is a massive opportunity

2) Here is the awesome founding team

3) Here is why we will be the ones to win this huge opportunity

4) Here are some proof-points (e.g. customers, product development, etc.) that back us up

YC goes out of its way (like to Vancouver!) to find the best startups in the world. If you can nail those 4 things, it doesn't matter where you're from.


Ashu fellow Indian Founder here. I think it's mostly about dedication, domain expertise(if applicable), progress and traction. They list it out here http://www.ycombinator.com/howtoapply/


you will never get an answer to "what do YC partners look for". And we as alums dont really know - we have some ideas, but I'm pretty sure they are not accurate.


Hi Michael,

As international founders (Egypt), our team is a bit worried about the whole visa situation. I heard the interviews are generally held 2 weeks after the invitation. Do you help with obtaining a visa for the interview and is 2 weeks enough time to go through the whole visa process?

Thanks!


We do help founders with visas. We prepare invitation documentation and work closely with an immigration law firm that we give founders direct access to. We also have late interviews for founders who need more time to get a visa and will even do interviews outside of the country or remotely if required (see here: https://blog.ycombinator.com/us-visas/).


I'm (obviously) not Michael, but this blog post from about a week ago might be relevant to your question: https://blog.ycombinator.com/us-visas/


What do you think the most over-saturated space is right now? What are the biggest unaddressed opportunities that you have seen?


What happened to pg, is he still involved in YC day to day operation or the application process?


(edited for tone) PG and Jessica are currently on sabbatical in the UK - after running YC for 10+ years they are taking a little break spend more time with their kids


> after running YC for 10+ years they deserve a little break no?

With all due respect what is so special about running YC that means you deserve a sabbatical?

They are taking a sabbatical not because they deserve it but because they can afford to do so financially and have left their organization in what they feel are very capable hands.

It is actually atypical in most professions in the US (at least outside of teaching or academics) to be able to step away other than for a somewhat short vacation. And business? It moves to fast and the competition is most likely hard at work step away and someone else is there to take your place.

Hats off to them for creating an organization where they can do this but most people who are in either traditional businesses or professions (medicine, law as only two examples) can't do something like this.

Edit: Predictable downvotes. Everyone looks at this through a lens that says the commenter surely is showing disrespect or lack of knowledge for how special YC is.

Edit2: Noting that it has been edited for tone so...


With Graham, taking a break (or 'hammock time' as Hickey might phrase it) appears to be a pattern if one can draw a pattern from two data points. After selling Viaweb and working a Yahoo for a bit, Graham wrote and painted and created a new dialect of Lisp for several years before the experiment that led to YCombinator (there may have been consulting and investing in there too, it wouldn't surprise me but since I've never seen anything directly stating there was, it would not surprise me if there wasn't)...and Graham's descriptions of why he did a startup includes not having to get 'a real job' so to speak.

When Graham turned over the public face of YC to Altman, I was like, huh? Since then, I've come to think that 'I'm going to take my money and learn to paint' is one diffs between Altman's and Graham's personalities...though in fairness Graham was well into his thirties when he made his first millions and Altman was just 29 when he became president of YC.


It takes 3 points to confirm a pattern. :) Otherwise, it is nice and fortunate to be able to take time off (if you choose) to raise your kids, especially as a family. Especially when they are young and before school starts.


> but most people

PG isn't "most people". He's a super successful guy, so I don't see why you are comparing him to everyone else.

And about him taking a sabbatical: he can do whatever the hell he wants because he can afford to. It's true that many of us can't, but that's just how life is my friend.


>Edit: Predictable downvotes. Everyone looks at this through a lens that says the commenter surely is showing disrespect or lack of knowledge for how special YC is.

What makes you think they don't deserve a sabbatical?

More people in general should have longer vacations/sabbaticals in the US. The US is behind on this, and it is detrimental. The sabbatical itself has shrunk from historically being a year or more to just three weeks in some places here.


> More people in general should have longer vacations/sabbaticals in the US. The US is behind on this, and it is detrimental. The sabbatical itself has shrunk from historically being a year or more to just three weeks in some places here.

Perhaps for those that are employees of a larger type organization where there are fill in alternatives this could be a good thing. But for people that are not employees (they own the business or the success of the business has a direct impact on their financial benefits) this is not as easy as it sounds. Or for key employees of a business that have direct relationships to the customers or the product quality of the company.

Why?

Competition. And other alternatives that a customer or a client could use.

Let's say you are an attorney or a consultant. You have clients that give you business. They deal with you because a) they like your work and b) you are there when they need you. c) you have developed a rapport with them.

So now a new problem arises. They contact you but you are away on sabbatical. So what do they do? They try someone else. And maybe they never return. Really.

Or take even the person who cuts your hair. You've been going to them loyally for 10 years. Now they go away for 6 months. During that 6 months you find another person and keep using them.

I was told once that (and don't know if it's true) by a starbucks manager that when they renovate a store they never close it down entirely which would make the renov work much easier. Why? They have found that if you interrupt peoples morning patterns the store will lose business people either brake the habit or they find alternatives.


>what is so special about running YC that means you deserve a sabbatical?

I missed where this was claimed to be "deserved"?

>It is actually atypical in most professions in the US (at least outside of teaching or academics) to be able to step away other than for a somewhat short vacations[...]but most people can't do something like this.

I'm trying to figure out how this is relevant? Would you elaborate? I don't care about disrespect, but ignorance (i.e. lack of of knowledge) and illogical claims are problematic for me. "Special"?

I missed the parent comment before it was "edited for tone," but your comment comes across with a bit of undue animosity.


> I'm trying to figure out how this is relevant? Would you elaborate?

Well to restate my original comment was based on the use of the word "deserve" not the re-edited version. Apparently it was thought that that wasn't well put. And it's unclear to me why I was jumped on other than the obvious reason of this being HN. To your question the relevance of stating what is typical in other professions is because the vast majority of people can't simply take a sabbatical even if they have the money to do so. It's not unusual to make a comparison and the comparison once again had to use of the word 'deserve'. So many people 'deserve' was my point. However by the nature of what they do they simply can't just go away and come back and have everything be the same. Once again this has little to do with whether they can afford to do that or not. You don't want what you have created and worked for to be damaged and often by leaving it in the hands of others (w/o your oversight) that can happen. If you were an architect that was wealthy but had a various projects in play you are not going to go away like this. If you are an attorney with multiple cases in play you are not going to go away like this. If you own a small bodega you are not going to go away like this. If you are Tim Cook you are probably not either or Marissa Mayer (a few years ago). If you are a family practice doctor ditto. That's in addition to (in some businesses or professions) losing important clients that you have worked hard for many years. Or in a small business (or even medium business) where you have clients and customers that could easily leave for a competitor if you are not there personally to clean up and address any problems.


Ok, now I see. I am a mediocre programmer at best, and I live in a rural area. I often take 5 weeks off because I know how to save money (no gf or kids), and I've operated in the capacity of a contractor for 6 yrs. I do have Denver-based, fellow contractors that I can hand stuff off to, but I was always fearful of starting a family I could not support. I see this as a matter of choices.


Surely he just means a break from YC. And running YC was a job that required always being "on-call" in the early days.


"on call"? Plenty of businesses require the entrepreneur to be 'on call'.


Plenty of businesses require non-entrepreneurs to be on call too.


you jelly?


Yes absolutely, I'm only curious because his essays inspire me to think differently about work and attracted me to this community. Thanks for your answer


Same here - thanks for the question :)


Hi Michael,

If a startup has taken a lot of dilution before applying for YC, is YC flexible enough to not dilute the founders but come up with a structure that makes them get 7% through a secondary sale or some other tactic which makes sense for that specific situation?

I have mostly come to the conclusion that the answer is no because YC likes to do stuff in a standard way and there is no room of flexibility w.r.t that aspect of the program terms. Just wanted to confirm that though.


Does YC have any evolving thesis as it comes to particular technologies, such as Blockchain or Quantum technologies? For example, are there attempts to achieve internal consensus on the use of Ethereum?

(Full disclosure: I applied with an Ethereum wallet one year ago and got an interview but was told that the path to market wasn't clear enough. The project was ultimately absorbed into a different incubator. )


At YC we don't have strongly held opinions on exactly how technology will develop over the next 10 years. We simply want to fund the strongest teams and help them accomplish their goals.


Is that equally true of the incubator side and Research?


i know you've funded a handful of single founders but what is the current outlook on them?

also, how developed must a startup be to apply. should the product already be developed?


While we prefer that a team have co-founders we regularly fund single founders. Also, we fund a wide range of companies from those who are just starting to those who are post-launch and have raised seed funding (and everything in between).


What do you look for when considering a solo-founder? Given that the bar is higher.


I'm also curious about this.


At what stage have solo founders generally hired their first employees? I imagine a solo-founder startup would probably require the same amount of manpower, but the leadership structure would just be a little less flat.


From Paul Graham's tweets (https://twitter.com/paulg/status/322219801525223424), it appears that YC ranks startups when they are accepted into YC.

Do you really do this for every startup in YC?

If so, are your internal rankings accurate predictors of startup success?


Hi Michael. You've done YC twice, why?

It sounds like if you do it once, you already get a solid network, and you probably don't need the cash. So I don't really understand what made you go back there.


That is a great question - I'm actually going to post a blog post about this early next week. Quick summary: 1) It is motivational to work around a bunch of other super hungry startups 2) YC is a great tool and the more experience you have the better you are at using it 3) While I did have a good network I didn't have a ton of relationships with current early stage founders


Hello Michael.

How would you characterize the effectiveness of the scaling that YC has done over the last few years? Meaning, the increase in partners coupled with broadening of the scope of markets, not to mention YC Research.

Too much too soon, going well as planned, could still do more...


Hey Michael, with getting rid of the Fellowship, and moving to the MOOC, does that mean YC will look at some of the early stage companies the Fellowship would have looked at thus expanding their scope, or is that the purpose of the MOOC?


I think both - we always want to accept early stage companies to YC. Also I think the MOOC will be a great way for any company to get value out of YC.


How will the MOOC tie into your investment decisions now that the fellowship is no longer available?


How does YC feel about funding on AR, VR and mobile games technology?


He wrote about VR two months ago: https://blog.ycombinator.com/vr/

> Recently I’ve heard a lot of investors say “There isn’t a whole lot of new stuff to do in consumer. There’s already an app for that.” With VR, there isn’t already an app for that.

> I think we are no more than two years away from an explosion of new consumer startups and I cannot wait to start funding them at YC.


Hello Michael,

Thanks for the AMA

Question: Is there are more stringent criteria for accepting international founders and companies, focused on their local markets?

The reason I am asking this is because most of the companies from India in the latest batch, seem to have a lot of traction and/or significant amount of funding before being accepted into YC. Most looks like good candidates for Series A.

Vs other US based founders and startups in the current and previous batches


There isn't a higher bar for international founders or companies working on a non-US market. The number one reason why companies don't apply to YC is cause they don't think they can get in. I think this applies double for international founders and is why we have increased our international outreach. My best guess is that you are seeing more post launch international companies in YC cause they are more confident in applying.


Thanks that makes a lot of sense.


we (RedCarpetUp) were accepted to YC with extremely minimal levels of early funding.

Feel free to reach out to me if you have India/YC questions.


What is the best way to reach you for YC related questions?


My email is my profile


Hey Michael, Thanks for the AMA. How do you approach an application when you have no domain knowledge of the field in which the startup is working in?


That is a great question! First I look at how clearly the founders communicate their idea and their insights. When someone has a truly deep understanding of their domain, they are able to explain it to intelligent people from any background.


Hi Michael, as a tech person, I'm not articulate enough to sell my ideas (and I have lots of them :)) or explain problems that need to be solved. Does YC sees that articulate founders (speech & presentation/looks) is a pre-requisite? Looking back at recent YC allumni, there have been 'easy' problems solutions (eg, tea bot, uber condom, smart mattress etc). I have a feeling that it was not easy for Mark Z to explain what Facebook all about. I understand that founders need to be able to sell ideas to VC. How can YC help companies with not-so-articulate founders? Thank you.


Where do you see the trend of companies being politically active and taking a side in the debates happening in society going in the next 5-10 years?


Hi Michael,

Thanks for doing this!

My question is: How can we make a better environment for discovering cures/vaccines? Can we create a almost like a "YC" for research of biological sciences.

Although, I don't know much about this area, I feel there needs to be a better way to allow the most intelligent people have the resources they need to discover cures/vaccines etc, with no external barriers. Thank you.


The modern biotech sector as a whole (excluding pure pharmaceutical therapeutics) is a pretty small compared with the tech sector. It's really challenging to build a company in a new ecosystem like that. Getting resources into the system in order to get the flywheel running is tough. Good ideas on jumpstarting what will inevitably a valuable technology would be great to hear. But like all research, it's an investment - obvious returns might not come in the short-term.


Do you think the startup ecosystem is too focused on the Bay Area? Is YCombinator funding startups that don't have a Bay Area presence?


Over 35% of the current batch is international (moved from outside of the US to participate in YC). Almost all of my startup friends from when I did YC came from outside of the Bay Area. One of the great things about YC (and why I'm a partner here) is that we run an open application process with no pre-requisites. You don't have to know anyone, come from some particular background, go to some specific school, or be from the Bay Area.


Out of all the companies that YC has funded, which one do you consider to be the best? How about the second best?

By best I mean one which has had the most positive impact on people's life, where positive impact is some function of just two variables - the number of people affected and the intensity of that affect.

Also of these two variables which one do you weigh more and why?


Thank you for taking the time today. It's neat and rare to have a somewhat direct line to someone in your position.

What's the "big thing" 10 years from now? Ie Are smartphones still the rage and hottest "endpoint"? Did security wind up being the highest demand/pay IT career path? Etc


Honestly, this is not how I think about YC. We don't spend a lot of time thinking about what is going to be "the rage". We are excited about funding great founders and some subset of what early stage founders are interested in today will become the rage 10 years from now.


I was looking more for your prognostication - somewhat like Gates did in "The Road Ahead." I figure you're in a somewhat unique position to speak to what's upcoming on the horizon and likely to be disruptive.


How does YC feel about funding seed stage projects that have to test market before actual growth? I'm currently CTO of a new distributed entertainment platform, and the investors we're talking to all want us to grow now. Conservatively, we feel if we seek growth now we'll be in some minima of quality that is too similar to competing products and not actually different enough to be sustainably disruptive. We ideally want a year of experiments before we commit to attempting explosive growth. Thoughts?

PS. We are raktor.org, working on telepresence participatory theatre, which we believe is the future of entertainment. Currently in VR, though whether it's VR or not is not relevant to our long term goals of being an Uber-for-theatre-performers.


BTW this Chrome Extension makes it track users in HN comments: https://github.com/brhs/hnuserlist (e.g. read all of mwseibel's comments)


Does YC typically invest on startups that may possibly have overlapping market segments?

For example Boom Aero focused on supersonic and another startup applies to YC with subsonic aircraft.

From what I read typically VC firms usually don't fund two companies as such example.


https://www.ycombinator.com/faq/#q8

Q: Will you fund multiple startups working on the same idea?

A: Yes. If you fund as many companies as we do it's unavoidable you'll end up with some overlap. Even if you tried not to accept competing companies, you'd still get overlap because startups' ideas morph so much. The way we deal with it is that when two startups are working on related stuff, we don't talk to one about what the other's doing.

In practice it has not turned out to be a problem, because most big markets have room for several slightly different solutions, and it's unlikely that two startups would do precisely the same thing.


Thanks,

I read that a long time ago and forgotten that was there.


What is the name of the company doing subsonic aircraft?


Is there a chance for non technical founder if we dont have a prototype and no programmers in the team? We only have an idea and a lot of passion of it...is it still worth applying?


What are the current in-between steps for YC? What normally happens after application submitted but before acceptance e.g. in person interviews, video interviews? What other steps are involved and what's the reason for them?


Hi, Michael. Thanks for taking the time to do an AMA.

Where do you fall on the spectrum of looking for high probability wins vs black swan hunting? To put it another way, how high of a failure percentage would you accept so long as it maximized total cohort value?

E.g. would you accept see it as a loss if you funded the best single startup of the decade and all other YC funded companies failed? How about a 90% failture rate, but huge winners bringing a bigger return than YC has historically had? How do you balance the desire for a good hit rate vs a good total return?


Personality type question. For a two founder (technical & business) startup it would be important for at least one of them to be conscientious and the other to be creative. For example you might have a genius but unruly technology lead, tempered by a focused product and business partner, or you might have a visionary and rule breaking CEO tempered by a hard working diligent technical workhorse. Both appear to be a successful combinations.

Which pairings of personality type and role works better in your experience for YC applications?


How important is the video?


Very important. It's mentioned on their site


Considering the current evolution of automation and the global forecast of high unemployment rates, that will be a problem for the whole economy (with Bill Gates suggesting a tax on robots), what are your thoughts about education? We currently educate kids based on a system that assumes the current jobs are going to be there in 15-20 years and for the rest of their lifes. Can startups and technology help in improving education considering the future world considering the current pace of automation in most fields?


What are some of the more well known YC companies of the previous 3 years? Some posterchilds like Dropbox and AirBnB were a few more years ago. (from traditional IT category, not FinTech, etc)


In no particular order here is a small subset of YC companies from 2-3 years ago that I bet will become household names in the next 2-3 years: Theorem, Algolia, Bellabeat, Flexport, Cruise (I guess a lot of people know about these guys already), Gobble, Front, Ginko Bioworks, Rigetti, Checkr, RazorPay, WayUp, Gitlab, Lob, Remix, TripleByte, Lugg, Jopwell, Gigster, and GiveCampus.


Based on the S17 batch, what %age were People of color, women and LGBT?


13% of startups in this batch have either a black or latinx founder and 22% have a female founder.


In what ways have your criteria for selecting great startups changed or evolved over the past 5 years? (either your criteria personally or YC's general criteria)


I don't think the criteria has changed much. I think personally I've had to learn not to get caught up by pet ideas. It is easy to ignore obvious red flags when you read an application where you would love to be a user.


Hi Michael,

How will computer science ever be taught to the general K-12 population if software engineers make $102k and teachers make $45k in the US on average? This gap seems to only be increasing too.

How should we think about developing solutions to solve the problem of affordable CS education for everyone?

Even with the best textbooks, curriculums, etc., it is probably not enough for the average teacher (definitely without a CS background) to teach CS effectively.


What should I do to become the next CEO of Y Combinator?


1. Be bros with the current one

2. Make sure there is enough online sniping so the current one thinks it isn't worth it.


Will YC start branches outside of Mountain View sometime? I know the Boston branch existed at the beginning and eventually was consolidated into MV. In particular, I'd love to see YC go out and tap the untapped talent markets in Middle America. This seems unlikely considering that even Boston was considered too detached. Remote classes are also an interesting prospect IMO.


The most recent answer I could find re YC funding multiple competing companies is Harj's from 2010. What's YC's stance now?


hi Michael, thanks!

considering the 1% rule, do you think our culture of media consumption is in our nature or something we've created? is it a trend? do you think there will be more room in the future for companies that serve amateur producers? can we create more producers?

sorry for so many question marks. it's a single question- poorly formed. :)


How much do you value the idea v.s. the person(s)? I.e., do you evaluate more on the idea or the people behind the idea?


Hi, any advice for solo founders, if the startup isn't launched yet, but expected to launch in 1 month? Thanks.


As a solo founder: my main advice is just do everything you can to create value and hustle. I don't want to paint a rosy picture --- being a solo founder is a hell of a lot of really, really hard work. It's not enough to just be good at writing software. My top recommendation is to find a cofounder you have worked with before that you really trust, and barring that, make sure you have a solid support network of friends and (hopefully) a supportive partner. The emotional rollercoaster is real and it can f_cking hurt.

The number one skill you can have as a solo founder is a tremendous amount of self-awareness and self-reflective ability. You're not going to have a business partner telling you when you're f_cking up, and you can't rely on really early stage investors too much for this, either (even after they've invested) because as empathetic human beings it's often better to give somebody the chance to figure it out on their own than risk alienating them. So be the person that figures it out on their own.

Aside from that, listen to the advice people give you, and take it seriously, but judge them by their motivations and actions, not necessarily the content of the advice at face value. A question from a prospective investor like, "how do you compete with [X]" isn't necessarily looking for an answer - if their action is they don't invest, it's probably more of a signal that the story you're telling them is raising red flags about [X] and you're not going to convince them today and move on. Figure out how to take [X] out of the equation in your story. (But it's good to know, for the sake of the business, how you plan on dealing with [X]. Storytelling-by-pitch is only a high level overview of a robust business strategy.) Similarly, keep in mind many active founders have motivations around self-interest of talent / IP acquisition first and foremost --- there are many, many helpful ones but at the end of the day they all have a business to grow just like you do.

Finally, with all of that in mind, trust your gut. If you believe in what you're building, and you're creating value for your customers, that's all that matters. Find believers. They're out there. Love others and accept love that others are willing to give. Listen to your believers when they speak. (Early investors, employees, etc.) They've already made actions you can trust (re: above), so their words are an order of magnitude more valuable.

Re: YC specifically, I can't be helpful there, but thought I'd jump in. I hope Michael has valuable advice about timelines and such.


Thanks for the advice.


No problem. For what it's worth, I'm still pretty close to the beginning of my journey and wouldn't be here without a fantastic group of amazing, supportive friends, family, colleagues and investors.

I wish I had received more advice like this earlier on, and hope that's helpful for you. You'll probably hear, "find a cofounder" a heck of a lot but it's not necessary. It is extremely helpful, so always have your head on a swivel looking for the right people, just try to understand what you're getting into from the start. :)


I'm a solo founder. Like yourself, about 4-6 weeks away from launching. I'm going to offer a different perspective than @keithwhor.

Yes, you need to have many skills than writing software. You need to know how to cold call/email, how to cultivate relationships over many mediums, how to ask for more things that are offered, how to push for that sale, how to essentially moon-shoot and to know everything is a negotiation. Oh and work 18+ hour days as well.

There may be skills that you don't have yet. Don't worry, being an entrepreneur means that you'll gradually get better at each skill and with each attempt will get stronger until it feels second nature. Keep pushing your own boundaries.

Want to know the difference between a founder with his first company and a CEO (with his first company) at 3 years? He's just 3 years ahead of you and been through the mill and gained experience. There's nothing you can't do by yourself.

Should you get a co-founder? As someone who has gone through the carousel of missed opportunities such as:

- Starting a venture with 2 other people as a team, who through they brought in a lot of strengths and relationships, but when push came to shove, had squat to offer. It went nowhere quickly.

- Trying to start ventures where for the other person was a side hustle and for me, was the only thing going. You can't have 1 co-founder betting 100% and his time, where the other is giving 50% or less and is distracted!

- Finally, to then being a potential co-founder myself to a company that imploded after making them a monumental success (multiple millions generated - NET) in 12 months of joining and getting nothing. To then being a co-founder of another company with a parter and then getting nothing at the end!

To say things haven't gone well is an understatement. But with each step, a lot of lessons were gained. Now that knowledge and lessons are being applied to my venture and I'm making great strides.

For me personally, the only thing a co-founder could do at this point. Is dilute my share of the company to 50%. Hmmm, no thanks.

As a solo-founder, everything is done your way. You know the vision, the path to getting there, the sales pitch, the numbers, how you want to grow your company. The company should really bend to your will. I see the company as an extension of your will. If done right, the gaps that you have are either filled by 3 things:-

1) Companies that exist to fill it for you. If it doesn't work out, fire them and find one better. Your equity still stays the same.

2) Employees, hire fast and fire even faster. Again, you didn't lose any equity.

3) Contractors, have clear goals and time-schedules. Even reward with bonus for being early/on-time. Nope, no equity lost here.

As for me. I have multiple vendors which are going to fill gaps in my startup. I have contractors when the time is right and I already have potential employees when I have the funds.

I have a business plan which lays out the roadmap for the next 12 months post launch. Sure, things can change, but if you have guidance, you know when it's right to do something.

Having a co-founder(s) dilutes all of this. Now you have someone else's perspective you need to take into account. Oh that perspective conflicts with yours? Now you have to either give in or get them on board. If you give in, where are you going. Can you completely trust that what they say will work out? What does your gut tell you?

From previous experience, good luck with that and/or the outcome. I've been through plenty of mistakes where my gut was proven time and time again.

Oh and that co-founder, is he as good as you, or better? My previous co-founders were not a match to my technical skill with the skill they were bringing in. This lead to conflicts of understanding, both the vision and what technically could be possible. You know what lower smarts gets you? The co-founder coming into your realm and second-guessing you because his "friend" is now running some new stack/shiny object and you aren't.

My ethos. Don't get a co-founder, get an employee. An employee you can lead the direction and get what you want implemented. Oh and employees scale, more co-founders will just dilute equity until there's none on the table for an investor.

----

Btw, if you have a co-founder and it works. Great. Understand, It's not for everyone.


Ok, thanks.


Hi michael

What are the top three things that you'd look for in a healthcare startup from India applying for YC summer batch 2017?


Hey Michael, thanks for doing this. Can you comment on the responsibility of companies like Y Combinator (or more generally, Google, Apple, etc) to be involved in causes for social change? How does a company like yours draw the line on profitability vs activism, and how do you choose which causes to stand behind?


We applied for Y Combinator Winter 2017. We were not selected for the in-person interview. The company has faced lots of restructuring after that. Some founders left and new people came. Product changed but the vision is still the same. Do you think it will have the negative effect on our application ?


Hi - Thank you for doing an AMA.

One factor when evaluating startups is how long it will take to get everything ready. Some can launch in a month, but some depend on breakthroughs or environment shifts that will take a decade to happen.

Is there a Goldilocks zone that lends itself to better outcomes? How far into the future is too far?


Last year it was reported that YC was considering a China program. Given that the competition here is so poor, and Chinese domestic capital currently so readily available, it seems well timed. Can you confirm if or when we can expect this to come to fruition?


How does the $120k get allocated to the startup? Can cofounders take a tiny piece as a monthly income?


That's exactly what the $120k is for.

From the YC FAQs: "Half (maybe more) of the startups we fund don't need the money. And in fact the money is a only a small part of what YC does. The money we invest works more like financial aid in college: it ensures that the people who do need money can cover their living expenses while YC is happening."


Founders spend the money in any way they choose. Its stated on the site.


Is it allocated on day one? Full amount? Or gradually throughout the 3 month batch?


All at once. Timing of the payment is based on how long it takes to fill out the paperwork, which is highly variable based on company structure, maturity, organization, etc.


Hi Michael, what are the biggest companies you've missed out on? Do you keep an anti-portfolio like BVP? https://www.bvp.com/portfolio/anti-portfolio


YC has announced in the past that they can't answer this question, because they keep rejections confidential.


I think SendGrind, Buffer, Couchbase and Ionic Framework are a few notable ones that were previously discussed. BTW: great to see you here. I used Feedly(get stream) a while back in a project of mine and it worked liked a charm.


Small world :)


If founders have a product already deployed but have many future plans for it, do you recommend they focus on explaining what the product is currently, or what the plans are for the future state of the product? (for the question "What are you going to make?")


How long is too long for nonprofit explanations of what they do? I tried a hyper-dense at 171 words but few found it understandable. I wrote a more comprehensible version but it's currently 325 words.


Hi Michael, how do you guys do your financial analyses / reporting? Any pain there?

Just asking cause you may be interested in my product, (or in accepting me in your summer session haha).

Seriously though, startup accelerators never talk about their internal tools, any insight?


YC sends out emails to previous applicants who were in some percentile but weren't accepted to encourage them to apply again.

Are their chances any better? What could've happened since the last application that would make their current application worse?


How are companies in the program paired up with mentors? Do mentors specialize in specific business spaces? Do companies work with different mentors for different parts of the program, eg marketing/technical advice/fundraising?


I know a lot of VC funds really don't favor Services and Solutions companies really well - and of course prefer SaaS due to obvious reasons. What does YC think about Services related companies? Would it be a waste of time to apply?


Hi Michael, Is YC actively looking for partners with hardware startup experience? Correct me if I am wrong currently YC doesn't have any.

The only one I recall is Luke Iseman (great guy) that left this year (currently a YC alumni).

thanks for taking the time to reply.


Luke is actually in the current YC batch. There will be a YC alum working with hardware companies in the next batch - announcement coming in the next month or so.


$100 says it is Eric Migicovsky


I will second that.


For AI companies, they might have to do things manually in the beginning to collect data and train their algorithms. Many people criticize them as wannabe AI companies. What are your thoughts on such early stage companies applying to YC?


I don't have a co-founder at this moment. But I am working on an MVP that make sense more in India than here in the USA. I am from India but live in Bay area. Can you suggest what is the best way to build this product into reality?


Fellow Indian Founder here. PG once said (I think to AirBnB) go where your users are.


What things will we take for granted in 10 or 20 years that we don't have now?


I'm hoping it's eink displays in everything.


Hi Michael,

Has YC ever considered moving from the Bay Area due to the high cost of living there?

What advantages does YC see in being in the Bay Area that prevents them from moving elsewhere, or setting up a satellite office in, perhaps, Vancouver?


How long can a company that sells to the public (the term is escaping me) avoid the draw of B2B? Should they?

Is there any unintuitive advice would you give to companies that might want to start selling to companies?


How important is founder/product fit for successfully applying for YC? If a founder is doing something totally outside of his domain expertise/experience, how can he still pursue it?


The tone of your comments makes it sound like you are really focusing on international investment. Did the recent elections lead to you making that your focus, or was it a focus beforehand?


I don't mean to set that tone - I think international founders disproportionately believe that YC is only focused on the US so that is why we talk about it a bit more. YC has always accepted large numbers of international founders.


Will top teams from Startup School MOOC be accepted into Summer 2017 funding cycle? Or they will have a completely independent path and own demo day not related to the main program?


The programs are independent. We hope that some top MOOC teams will apply to YC and join the summer batch.


What are key things international (UK) applicants should be aware of?


Hi Michael!

What advice do you have for technical solo founders who have also been doing user acquisition at a reasonable high conversion rate, applying to YC S2017? (besides go find a co-founder)


Cheers Mr. Seibel,

(I'll assume you're rich and were smart enough to take a vacation somewhere along the line.)

Where is the coolest place you've ever visited ? (and what about it did you enjoy ?)


For early stage companies who don't have real metrics on their user acquisition channel, what is expected as an answer to the "How do you get users.." question?


Being at the edge of your field seems important if you want to succeed at a startup. How much time spent developing skills should someone spend before starting a startup?


What's an upcoming changes to YC you're excited for?


I'm really excited for the Startup School MOOC we are launching soon and excited about all the new software we are building to help the new YC batch and all the alumni. Most people don't realize how much of a software company YC is. We run our own internal mini-facebook, internal quora, and a host of other sofware to track companies and read applications.


Has YC thought about doing a campus per batch and would it allow a startup to do this for YC as launching point for further growth both inside and outside of YC?


What do you look for when considering a solo-founder ?


What do you think is the best way for a non-profit to get funding 1) to prove market fit, and 2) ongoing funding to sustain the organization?


I think the best way for a non-profit to succeed in general is to have a business model that doesn't require it to raise money from donors.


What funding options, other than VC money, shall early-stage companies explore more? E.g. r&d tax credit are great in UK.


Should an application explain the founders' vision of how the startup is expected to scale or should it focus on the now?


both!


Hi Michael,

What advice do you have for some who is happy with their current trajectory, but might want to start their own business in say 10 years?

Thanks!


For global SaaS companies applying from out of US, is sitting outside of the core market, Bay Area etc, a red flag?


Absolutely not!


Why do you think Silicon Valley is so prone to armchair political science? How can we fix this approach?


If I have a great product that people love but without a clear business model. Do I stand a chance at YC?


Short answer: yes. Longer answer: what business model do other products in your space use and why isn't that a good business model for you?


what is your definition of a superstar salesperson for an early-stage post product market fit startup? what differentiates the top 10% of salespeople from the rest?

what resources do you recommend to learn sales if you're young and inexperienced and want to begin your startup sales career?


Do you think that YC, startups, and VCs should seek viable models to support wildlife and animals?


At what point exactly does YC transfer funds? Upon acceptance or at the start of the program?


Why are YC companies having more difficulty raising Series A than they were a few years ago?


Hi Michael, has YC considered funding founders not based in (or able to move to) California?


I'm not Michael, but I think I can answer that. Moving to CA for the 3-months of YCombinator has traditionally been non-negotiable. After the 3 months is up, you can move wherever you like, and many do.

The only exception to this I'm aware of is that, in light of recent US immigration policy, YC is optionally holding interviews for S17 international founders in Vancouver, and is reportedly planning to "experiment with allowing founders who can't get visas for the duration of our 3-month program to participate remotely." https://blog.ycombinator.com/us-visas/


How does YC look at companies solving sizable problems but not necessarily tech focussed ?


Can you be more specific?


Where do you see e-sports in 5-10 years and what role do platforms like Twitch play?


Here's a short question: how do I decide between grad school and startup land?


What kind of furniture are you using? Standing desk, special ergonomic chair?


"For most startups the model should be grad student, not law firm. Aim for cool and cheap, not expensive and impressive. For us the test of whether a startup understood this was whether they had Aeron chairs. The Aeron came out during the Bubble and was very popular with startups. Especially the type, all too common then, that was like a bunch of kids playing house with money supplied by VCs. We had office chairs so cheap that the arms all fell off. This was slightly embarrassing at the time, but in retrospect the grad-studenty atmosphere of our office was another of those things we did right without knowing it." http://paulgraham.com/start.html


With the continued concentration of many tech positions to a handful of tech hubs in the country, are you doing anything to improve the economic conditions of the Midwest US? Or are you primarily investing in the coastal areas alone?

edit: I find your lack of response to this question telling.


What skills / traits are you looking for in nontechnical founders?


Propensity to/rate at which they are becoming technical?


currently thriving in the UK urban scene with our platform and we want to introduce products that help artists generate revenue. What advice would you have for niche in accomplishing this?


Should companies apply if they haven't coded their product yet?


If you have a track record, they would be interested, like any investor.

If you don't have a track record, no revenue, no users, no product, most likely not, just like any investor.


Is applying to YC for the third time a bad indicator/sign?


Not official YC advice. But I believe I read somewhere Avg. YC company gets rejected twice before being accepted. What matters is are you making progress in the direction of your vision.


From what I've seen over the years (~9 yrs, to be specific), it is actually encouraged. however, they will look for progress over the course of your applications.


not at all!


How important it is generating revenue before applying to YC ?


It is not particularly important in and of itself. I would say though that if you have a product that people should buy (instead of using for free) the earlier you start charging the faster you will learn.


Is it possible to participate in YC without selling equity?


Hi Michael. Do YC invests in Indian Startups ?


What do you think about conversational interfaces?


Why do you keep banning DHH from the hacker news?


Is DHH really banned?


No really banned, but any of his articles will magically be removed from the front page.


Are there any types of companies or areas of interest that you are focusing on in this batch? And if so, would you please elaborate on it.


are you guys considering decentralized web apps as well? e.g.) ipfs/ethereum based web apps


We consider every single application. There is no point in guessing what areas we are interested in. Assume we are interested in every industry and every type of product.


you stole my name! bastard! ...also I have the same question

edit: sort of forgot to abide by community norms here and keep my comments on-topic. apologies


We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13896017 and marked it off-topic.


thanks.


If your comment was the worst sort of thing we had to deal with here I'd get a lot more code written.


Interestingly, I've been fighting for years over the username "johnhenry" within the tech space. If you're hoping to secure those username, more power to you -- I just hope your name is actually "John Henry".


I...just like the fable, haha. I am happy with close derivations.


Is there any appetite at YC for a non-profit that is pro-Trump and plans on working with the new POTUS to further his agenda?


This is a great question. It seems like it'd be difficult for YC to be neutral on such topics, considering they are actively pursuing pilot projects on things that very left-wing, like a basic income.

From the perspective of a non-profit, it's probably less likely because the argument is probably less "invest and see what thrives [so we can make money off anything that makes money]" and more "help craft the world in our image". While YC is, in general, pretty good about staying above the partisan fray (even if they do clearly prefer left-wing policies), I think they'd have a harder time supporting a non-profit whose beliefs and/or values they didn't feel properly aligned with their own. I'm not sure what the value proposition in that would be for them.

Personally I'd be worried that YC would even accept a pro-Trump founder. It was nice that they didn't shun Thiel despite public pressure, but they did feel the need to write a blog post justifying his presence and disavowing his political beliefs. One has to wonder how far they'd be willing to go for a lowly founder whose tweets, Facebook posts, or HN comments didn't mesh with the party line.


Wasn't this basically answered by the Pinboard fiasco a while back? (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11633517) It wasn't really over left-wing/right-wing political differences but there was a clash.


Thanks for the link. I do vaguely remember seeing a controversy around that, but not really having the time to get into the threads. No one really knows what happened on the call between "kevin" (who I guess is important) and idlewords, but it does seems like they were quick to dismiss him.

I could probably understand if they tried it for a month or so and it fell apart; it is true that some people have personality clashes that are not really worth the investment to overcome vs. having each party just move on independently, but he seems to expect a "connection" to materialize in a couple of minutes.

That speaks to the bubble that these VC types end up believing to be reality, and unfortunately it means that a lot of people who aren't necessarily convinced that there's any reason they should be pitching a VC are written off as low-energy merely because they're being compared to all the sycophants who will say anything to get a check.

The next question is whether someone being conservative, a Trump supporter, and/or both is enough to make the YC partners feel like they can't establish a "connection". One would hope that Thiel is proof to them that it is possible. The question is whether they'd give the benefit of the doubt to someone who doesn't already have billions of dollars.


> The next question is whether someone being conservative, a Trump supporter, and/or both is enough to make the YC partners feel like they can't establish a "connection". One would hope that Thiel is proof to them that it is possible. The question is whether they'd give the benefit of the doubt to someone who doesn't already have billions of dollars.

I'm convinced they wouldn't. The various opinion pieces posted by sama made it pretty clear that they've got a particular agenda and the choices for YC applicants going forward are either 1) hop on the wagon, or 2) keep your beliefs to yourself.


Hi Michael, I am a UC berkeley student and along with a few friends we have made a daily newsletter service (www.wokenews.co).

As a bipartisan political newsletter whose primary user base right now are college students in Berkeley, would you have any recommendation on how to expand beyond this bubble of student subscribers? Maybe on how to reach out to influencers who may be willing to help?


Sam Altman wrote about the current make up of YC founders based on their gender and ethnicity. If I recruit two co-founders of color and one woman primarily for the purpose of getting into YC is that shunned upon?


I would recruit founders you have had either a personal or professional relationship with and who you think you would want to work with for 10 years.


Not affiliated or related with yc but I imagine yes, it would be frowned upon. Don't hire them because you want to get into yc, hire hem because they are good at what they do and a good fit for you. Secondly, while getting into yc is a laudable stepping stone, you should think of life beyond yc. If you don't get into yc, will you fold your company? If yes, then you're already not committed enough.




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