- assigned mentor: we were assigned a former yc startup founder as mentor. the mentor had 30 minute 1-1s with us once a month and gave us useful advice on a wide range of matters.
- weekly homework: choose a single metric you'll measure through the duration of the course and report the metric and growth weekly. The metric could be DAUs, number of customers you've talked to, whatever. It's for you to figure the most important thing to focus on. We were running the startup in a bit of an ad hoc manner until startup school; weekly metric reporting helped focus our efforts in service of a single meaningful metric.
- group calls: we were lucky to be in a good peer group comprising about 30 startups of all kinds -- medical device to SaaS to consumer apps. There were weekly 1-2 hr calls chaired by the mentor. Before the meeting, the mentor sent out a questionnaire to fill out -- what's your product's value prop, what setbacks have you faced, etc. -- and startups would be randomly chosen to talk about their response to the questionnaire. Lot of time for Q&A. Our peer group is still in touch through a facebook group, where we occasionally share progress.
- Demo day: record a 2 minute video talking about our startup. This forced us come up with a concise statement to describe our startup and gave us a platform to showcase it.
If I had to summarize the benefit of startup school, it would be three things:
- quality mentorship
- diverse peer group
- forcing function for startup to hit goals
I'll venture to say it's probably one of the most valuable things an early stage startup could invest time on.
Was that actually useful? I can't imagine them understanding (or remembering) anything about your company in that little time.
We had mandatory N to 1 meetings. Those weren't that useful for us (it felt like we were a bit further ahead than other companies) but a few companies got a lot of value out of it.
Our optional 1-1 were insanely useful. Our mentor was a yc alum saas cofounder. He was took notes and saw our homework every week. His perspective was priceless and there weren't many problems we were facing that he hadn't already seen. Like other people mentioned, you come with a problem and they help you understand how to tackle it.
For us it went like:
* A quick status update on what we've accomplished since the last meeting, some back and forth.
* Discuss the main problem we're working on. (For example: "We're stuck on how to improve our inbound traffic")
* Talk about next steps or deliverables for the next meeting. (For example: Try to acquire 10% more users)
It was a great program and I'm excited to try again with my new project.
That's unfortunate... I think that most often picking the right problem is the most important problem itself, but that requires a lot of context.
I'm glad you enjoyed it though!
For example, SEO content marketing targets problems people search Google for and create content that helps solve that problem while advertising the product/service in some way. A good example of this is Digital Ocean's "how to set up software X on operating system Y" articles - good SEO, solves people's problems, and advertises directly to their customers/users.
There are other implementations, like more traditional display advertising and product reviews, but they all follow the same formula: create awareness and gives people solid reasons to come to your product/site/app.
Is the $10k funding awarded at the end of the cycle?
I think it says that the $10k will be awarded to 100 companies that complete the course so I assume at the end
Developing the product was always a bit of a hobby but patiently over 5 years since it transitioned from freeware to commercial, annual subscription billings have grown to over $500K. We estimate that our current customer base is a 3-5% of the TAM. The product business itself is already profitable because it requires barely one FT equivalent person for development and support (i.e. 2-3 people part-time working on it, mostly dev, a bit of support).
Since it has a hobby, we fully relied on a low touch sales model so we never have done ads, conferences or engaged in sales efforts. Instead we grew via network effects among our customers.
What I'm trying to say is that in all these years we've figured out some things along the way (most notably product-market fit and business model) and clearly left other things on the table (sales, marketing, recruiting) to fully develop the opportunity further.
Back in 2014 I found immensely useful the "How to start an start up?" video lectures hosted by Sam Altman.
Given our slow motion, age (I'm over 50) and probably the fact that our company would be an outlier in the group calls, what would make most sense for me to apply for, Startup School or Audit Startup School? Of my team most likely only I will have enough time/motivation to take the online course.
1. Can I still apply if I have a fulltime job in addition to working on my startup?
2. Must the company be established before the program starts, or can it be established a few weeks later?
3. Do you expect the product to be launched during the program, or can it be launched later this year?
1. Yes, definitely.
2. No, it doesn't have to be established yet. In fact, we're working with Stripe Atlas, who will help you incorporate and set up your company bank account.
3. Depending on your idea, we'd likely encourage you to launch _something_ during the program. But if you're auditing, you're on your own timeline.
I have a doubt about the target audience for this initiative.
Is it the same target of YC, i.e., companies/teams with the potential to become a company worth hundreds of millions of dollars or more?
Or there is a chance for companies of more humble ambitions, a "indiehackers/bootstrapping/microconf style" company to be accepted?
Can you explain if every startup is accepted or not? In the link it states "Last year, over 13,000 companies applied to participate in Startup School, and 95 YC alumni volunteered their time to advise over 2,800 of those companies participating across 141 countries." How many companies will be accepted this year? Or do all applications get accepted?
Most companies in the program are in the 0-1 phase, but there were a few in my group that were 1-N. The program format is flexible, so it’s fairly easy to tailor content to your audience.
YC core has a similar dynamic, and individual companies in a batch fall along a fairly wide range in terms of stage / progress. They only break out a formal growth track once companies have >50 employees.
YMMV depending on your mentor of course.
Sorry to ask a rather trivial question but I can't seem to reset my password from last year's account; when I type a new password (on the form one gets to, from the reset email), the system says "Please review the problems below:" but the problems aren't shown...
Is it important to keep the same account as last year or should I create a new account?
A question — how does setting up the group office hours timeslot work? Is there a selection or a way to mark preferred times? If it's standardized, roughly what time ranges are the hours held? (My cofounder and I will be in Asia during the program.)
We're really eager to apply, but we're just curious what it means to "complete" the course - would we need to be in Mountain View during those 10 weeks to attend the lectures in-person?
Do you need to already have a cofounder to be accepted into the online startup school?
I’m extremely interested in founding and launching a startup, but don’t necessarily have one established yet. Is there any way to audit the online course’s content?
The content will revolve around similar topics, but we'll do deep-dives into content that we did not get a chance to last year (sales for B2C and B2B, building and managing technical teams, and design principles for example). We're looking to build upon all of the past pieces as you can see with the new Startup Library.
We'll announce the final curriculum soon!
It seems like best advice and strategies for those routes have some overlap, but also a lot of points where good advice for one is bad advice for the other.
* why should we take this course?
* what have you achieved after taking this course?
* did it help you build/finish your startup?
Perhaps more importantly you make connections. Just yesterday I was speaking to someone from my startup school group, and I did startup school over a year ago. They provided feedback and I provide them feedback, we also found synergies and can introduce one another to other teams, sales, etc.
I'd argue startup school isn't going to help you "finish" your startup. Only you can do that... You're motivation is the real premise behind the whole thing. However, they can give you the tools and connections to make it easier. It's always a cost benefit analysis - "is this worth doing?" Is something startup school helps answer, and also tips the balance (slightly) towards being a bit easier.
For reference, I'm still working on my project a year out (with some revenue):
Startup school helped me get free AWS credits (which helped significantly), helped make connections, and perhaps more importantly - helped with introspection. I should note, I didn't even launch a prototype until the last few days of startup school... It would have been more helpful had I had something at least half way through.
>Organize Your Companies Knowledge
Can I be your grammar Czar?
Thanks for the input.
I wasn't ready for releasing it, and was breaking some stuff last night. Thanks for pointing it out :)
1) Content - learn a lot from lectures
2) Accountability - office hours will hold you to your goals and keep you making progress
3) Mentorship - Experienced founders and office hours mates will help you make sure that you are working on the right problems in the most efficient way.
4) Community - it's inspiring and energizing to be around founders in a similar position as you. Plus, it can give you early users and customers. (Our first customers were through Startup School).
> what have you achieved after taking this course?
My co-founder and I make enough profit to live on our business while traveling full-time.
> did it help you build/finish your startup?
Yes. And, I want to participate again this year. Our 2017 problems were building the right product. Our 2018 problems are navigating product/market fit and growth.
You get placed in a cohort representing a wide range of business plans and industries. Some were moonshots requiring a lot of capital-raising and dealmaking, and others (including ours) were smaller SaaS products targeting particular business niches. There were participants at each stage of the startup pipeline, some without a product (or even a concrete idea), some just starting to sell to customers, and some mature companies with employees and interns and such.
We were making a lot of mistakes common to first-time founders, building things without first asking our customers about them, not experimenting with our message, etc. Meeting with our mentor helped us combat those issues and probably was the difference between having a functional company and not.
We'll probably try to do it again this year. Our challenges are different; last year we were trying to get our product built and get acceptance for our first few customers, whereas now we're trying to figure out how to scale our sales pipeline. I'd recommend it to anyone working on a startup, regardless of where they are in the process.
* We got accepted into YC after being in Startup School.
* Yes, I believe that the lessons in the course have been important for us.
I guess it depends on what mentor you get. I've heard of people having excellent mentors, and others that didn't even show up half the time.
But it probably also depends on your experience level as an entrepreneur. If you are just starting out with your first venture, then it can definitely be helpful if your mentor doesn't suck. If you are experienced or your mentor sucks, it's a waste of time.
I ended up wrapping up the idea I was working on. I've gone back to consultancy, still toying with other ideas looking for something else to try.
Did it help? Not really. My sticking point seemed to be that I was selling (or not as was more the issue) b2b software mostly geared to massive companies. As my mentor succinctly pointed out it's a hard game to get into because other businesses start by looking for the cloud of logos of other companies who use your software. That was the start, middle and end of his advice for me - and a fair summary of the impass I'd reached.
I've been left thinking b2b procurement is probably an area that could do with shaking up but I don't have any answers there - not surprising given I couldn't crack it at all.
Much of the course advice felt irrelevant to the actual problem I had with getting things going. But if you're targeting consumers or smaller companies, have some traction, are generally spinning a lot more plates with your business, want to move to the US and get into YC proper, it's probably far more relevant.
>Not working my 9-5 job that pays 2k/week
>Not obsessively working on my app after work 4hr/night 5 + 12hr2= 44 hours/week of not programming
Im sure its a great opportunity, but I am unsure if its the better decision. I already have a community that visits Efficiency Is Everything, I already can program, and I have a significant savings.
Business skills may be a real thing to learn, but its a risky 10 week proposal.
Anyone care to share thoughts on this decision? I would rather find out I'm wrong, than be wrong and make a bad decision.
The program itself only has two requirements: that you are working on a startup (PT or FT) and that you're able to commit ~3 hours a week of to watch the lectures and attend office hours.
On balance, if you have a great idea, you'll be better off growing it with good mentorship compared to the small risk that it gets stolen by a mentor.
Advisors use most of their time on this doing group office hours sessions. Last year each advisor had around 25-30 companies each, so we only needed 100 or so. They're all YC alum who love to pay it forward.
Anyone can audit the course. If you'd like to participate fully, it is an application process.
- The photo image uploader does not seem to work (FF61).
- The email validation link threw a 500 error on first try, second try succeeded.
- The company name field in the second form cannot be empty, even though the field description says 'if you have one'.
In other words, your chance of getting into YC by these means, is about 2%. Still might be worth, just for the information alone though.
I'm guessing that people who apply to Startup School tend to be very early in the founding process, which gives them an a priori lower chance of getting accepted (even though YC is open to super early stage), and then SS raises it.
Also, the kind of people applying to Startup School are probably not the kind of experienced founders whose application looks more promising at the very early stage.
I have a question, though. In the "What industry do you plan to launch your product in?" question, one of the responses was "Diversity." What exactly do you mean by "Diversity Industry" and can you give some examples of companies in this space?
>Those companies will also receive a video interview with a YC partner later in the year for advice or aid in applying to a future YC batch.
I laughed at that comment due to how it shows how competitive it is to get into YC.
Think of it as a crash course in starting a company. Just because you can't make it to the Bay Area doesn't mean you shouldn't have access to advice and community! We just want to help startups be better startups.
Appeals to altruism aside, what's Y Combinator's incentive here? Is the hope that companies will feel loyalty to YC, and join the core program?
Last week I talked with a competitor. I detailed my plans for the next 6 months. It commits me to follow them, and may incite discussion.
There is almost 0 risk they can match the features or my timeline. I am quite productive, and there is no secret sauce. Just complexity, and interdependance. Can't have a baby in 1 month with 9 mothers. And should they do, I will be happy to copy the unique features they add.
The disclosure opened some talks however. I am ready to sell consulting or some specific parts they need to do their product, and that have not much of an impact in mine.
I have an idea I wish to persue because it solves an actual problem I face everyday and by building it it would make a lot of other goals I have much easier to obtain.
I am mostly just interested in the case studies of how other startups do things. Mostly curiosity about how YC
Obviously for people that hang out on HN, we already had some shared understanding. But a list of recommended readings to make sure all gaps are filled would be very useful as well.
The reason to do the course is that it's actually a program.
You'll work directly with a mentor who is a current YC founder and get to know other companies in your group.
As for location/geography, as long as you have a device with internet access you can be wherever works best for you. We'll do our best to align timezones so scheduling is easier for you and your group during the course.
I forgot my password, and have trouble setting a new password for the previous account via the reset link; the website says "Please review the problems below:" but doesn't show anything else...
Should I create a new account...?
If I were to change gears (Say, go from one business idea to another), should I re-apply with the different idea?
Can you please provide some idea of selection criteria and if possible, selection percentage?
Do you need to have a co-founder to get into the online startup school?
This company just raised $10M A round. Fantastic backers, industry-experienced CEO. A very technical enterprise product. We saw their demo. The website is very detailed. Never signed any NDA.
We have managed to code a similar MVP product. We also have a different technical and feature road map. This is not a $1BN target - maybe eventual acquisition at low 9 figures.
Do u think this is a valid candidate for YC Online ?
Would u strongly steer us away from such an approach ?