It's like they don't know what to ask, so they went with what you came up with. Well, if they can't figure out what information they need on their own, how are they going to figure out who to invest in on their own?
How is it possible that PG nailed down exactly what every seed investor would ever want to know about startup founders seeking funding? Don't these investors have any other questions? Do they actually call people hackers in real life? Is a couple sentences about each founder the maximum all investors are capable of reading?
So I'm left wondering if the lack of thought that went into the application carries over into the rest of the program.
If this were a statically typed conversation, it would have been impossible to make a mountain from this molehill.
2) It's a programming language joke. MoleHillFactory (a Haskell example would be better, but I don't know it) wouldn't be able to return objects of type Mountain. Maybe it's not funny, but I kind of liked it:-)
Your argument doesn't really sway me: I'm judging the program based on something real; you're judging it based on what must obviously be the case.
I don't completely write-off a YC-clone just because they put zero thought into the application form. But it does alter my impression.
I disagree with your static typing argument too. "Mountain out of a molehill" means making a bigger deal out of something than it is. Which means both things could be class Mound, just with different values. So in this case static typing wouldn't have saved the day ;-)
Reading that, it occurred to me that one of the gotchas here is the statelessness of the web. "Statelessness" isn't quite what I mean. "Contextlessness" might be better. URLs are pointers that jump directly to content that mostly gets consumed atomically, without reference to anything else the author has said/done. Of course if readers want context they have ample opportunity to explore: look at what else is on the site, google the sources and so on. But most won't. (I often do, but I didn't this time.) I wonder if one way to mitigate this is to make content more self-describing.
For example, would it have changed your perception of the Founders Co-op application if it had, at the bottom, a link to a FAQ like "Isn't this just like YC" or even "How is this different from other early-stage funds"?
If there is competition, then founders only win out in the end. If someone was 'pressured' into accepting before other options played out that should be a huge signal to the founder that the firm is less than desirable.
They are, though. All we have in common with seed stage incubators is investing at the seed stage. What these guys have in common with us is a whole list of distinctive things: investing in multiple startups simultaneously, taking about 6%, using an application form instead of accepting business plans, making founders move to where we are, using a three month timeline, having weekly dinners, bringing in outside experts to speak to the founders as a group, having a Demo Day where they all present to investors. Often whole chunks of text on their sites are paraphrased from ours.
>12. Why would your project be hard for someone else to duplicate?
It clearly illustrate the apparent problem YC will face in the future, I think you should think of something to avoid complete duplicate. From my view I think the value of YC is in its network and Knowhow, any founder will recognize that.
As it's getting harder and harder to even speak to you guys the temptation for founders to go the other way will even be stronger. I'm sure you can come up with something.
I assume one of your main distinctive features is unique to YC - you.
Surely by continuously refining the detail you can be one cycle ahead of the competition - possibly shortening the 'application open' window.
Why not release more data on your successes. They can't copy that.
Seriously though, YCombinator could always franchise their system. That way, they at least profit when others use the fruits of their labors.
It is natural to be concerned about competitors, but everyone who is being abrasive to these other angels for copying a couple aspects is harming the angel investment community overall. YC is just a couple people with a couple MM, they can't fund everyone.
Bonus similarities: appealing to the young, first session occurred immediately after google's finished, setting up mailing list forum for those interested, primary announcement occurred on slashdot.
Later we tossed some aspects of that (going back to school in the fall doesn't work well with startups), but kept others, like the 3-month cycle.
Of course everyone has their own interests in mind, but what seems to make YC's self-interest compatible with a founder's self-interest is the degree of freedom afforded the founder. As you said in one of your essays, investors can often suffocate a startup by not allowing enough freedom, which isn't in either of their best interest.
Wait a minute, aren't you the guy who gives them 5 minutes to accept once you make your offer?
If they did their interviews/acceptance AFTER you, it would be the same situation with YOU pressuring founders before they'd heard back from anyone else!
Pot. Kettle. If you really care about the founders then you all need to get your schedules together so founders have the option of choosing from multiple offers. Leave the window open longer. It's pretty easy. Give them the forms and have them mail them back once they decide. Like college acceptance; this is a solved problem.
Sure. And if we stole their wallets we'd be robbers. But we don't, do we?
I'm going to propose to all the clones that in future we all have a common date for startups to make decisions by. But since we currently decide last, we're not pressuring anyone.
No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible, eh?
And then there's the "accept immediately or you failed an IQ test" attitude. If you have a common date with the others then that's got to change.
Now, if YC and all their clones could agree to a similar cycle, so that founders could pick between different offers, then I would say that YC were the bad guys. But that's not the case (yet).
You do the interview. Then you get a phone call with a percentage mentioned and no negotiation allowed. You say yes or they claim you "failed an IQ test". 5 minutes to decide.
> then it's just not worth YC's time
Yeah, not when you do this stuff in bulk, assembly-line style, with most companies fizzling out if they don't fund them (so very little risk of "being proven wrong").
To the second point, I agree with you that an assembly line style makes individual negotiations impossible. But I'd say two things: (a) that's a feature, not a bug, and (b) if you're a young founder with no track record, exactly what are your other options?
I believe another program like YC is valuable. Paul has stated several times that there are good ideas and good teams that he simply could not invite to YC because there were more stellar groups he invited. It does not mean that those not invited by YC should not have the opportunity to be funded. The Seattle program is simply another route to the ultimate goal: a nice payday.
See myth #10
Do something a bit bad, get some publicity, then apologize profusely!