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Headquarter Locations of Top 101 Y Combinator Companies (merchantmachine.co.uk)
103 points by beavershaw 5 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 64 comments



Back in the day, there was a single apartment building in SF where many of the YC companies started out. We used to joke that it might be more efficient for YC to just buy the building, since 1/2 of the money they were giving the startups was going to the landlord. This probably helped create a nexus in SF for YC. Heck, even YC itself develops all their software in SF.

But even besides that, it still makes sense. While it is true that there are many people all around the world with the skills necessary for working at a startup, many of them congregate in SF. If you want the largest possible hiring pool and you're set on having a physical office, SF will give you the deepest pool, since you probably can't afford to pay to move someone to SF.

I'm personally running my company fully remote so I can tap into the talent that has chosen not to move to SF (despite being here myself), and I suspect that trend will continue to grow, making it more likely for more companies to not be based in SF. On the flip side, even if the talent is elsewhere, it's still a huge advantage for our HQ and me to be here, because it's where all the investors and advisors are.


>While it is true that there are many people all around the world with the skills necessary for working at a startup, many of them congregate in SF. If you want the largest possible hiring pool and you're set on having a physical office, SF will give you the deepest pool

That's an assumption that sounds right and is probably true, but I haven't really seen anything concrete to back that up.

If the demand for SE's outpaces the supply (in other words, if there are more jobs than people to fill them), then the effective availability could be smaller than other tech centers, even if SF has the most total number of SE's.


> Back in the day, there was a single apartment building in SF where many of the YC companies started out.

The (in)famous "Y Scraper" https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-Y-scraper

Back when swatting was considered "fairly funny": https://techcrunch.com/2007/03/23/police-raid-justintv-more-...


> Back when swatting was considered "fairly funny"

Back then Justin was pretty much the only person you could swat. There weren't a lot of online streamers back then. They sort of pioneered the space. :)


Why not just build a YC branded "campus"? With 40 Gbe wired offices, dorms, labs, dining halls and the lot. Startup School could be expanded 10-100X. And teams wouldn't have to waste all that precious time in the early days?


My reply was going to be "that's not their core competency" until I read your last sentence and realized "well, YC is probably better at this than the companies they fund doing it individually.."


Alternate theory: it's important for a young company to practice things like finding office space, figuring out coffee machines, building independent team culture, learning how to recruit, filing state taxes, etc when they are early and mistakes are easier to fix.

Good companies are not just the product they ship.


Make that part of the YC process. Mock renting of space, filling it, etc. Have reviews of how they did, things they considered, etc.


> Heck, even YC itself develops all their software in SF.

A little off topic, but what software does YC develop?

Obviously there's HN, Bookface, and there's probably a bit of web development that needs doing for things like the Top 100 companies list, is there much else?

More generally, I realise that YC is a tech incubator so they're likely to develop software for things that other companies wouldn't, but do they really need a dev team? The blog could be Wordpress/etc, HN and Bookface could be Discourse. Is it all being over-engineered? Is there a large dev team where other organisations of a similar size might have one or two IT people?


Like many companies, the software at YC is like an iceberg: most of it lies beneath the surface.

Here are some of the things we build that you might not be thinking of:

https://apply.ycombinator.com/ - the whole process of receiving and processing 10,000 YC applications / batch

https://workatastartup.com - a site to help people find jobs at a startup

https://startupschool.org/ - a free online course in how to start a startup

https://leap.ycombinator.com/ - a private community for women in tech


^Jared runs the sw team at YC and we are hiring https://jobs.lever.co/ycombinator/8703c1d9-af67-4826-90e4-74...


Does YC sponsor h1b visas for people not authorized to work in the US?


Great, thanks for the info! Nice to hear that it's a fairly lean tech stack and small team (from the job ad).


Not in YC but I'm sure they have tools for all sorts of research and understanding of businesses in various sectors. I imagine they would build tools to analyze government reports, data sets published online, perhaps databases of relevant research papers. They've got 1000 companies in every sector imaginable; you're gonna need tooling to handle all that.


YC funds HN so poorly that they can barely afford a single core to run this web forum.


It doesn't have to do with funding. The codebase is just efficient so it doesn't need much to run very fast.


Until suddenly it does and we see Sorry, we can't serve your requests this fast.


Honestly can't relate. I usually use HN when I have a poor cell signal because it loads so damn fast regardless.


> While it is true that there are many people all around the world with the skills necessary for working at a startup, many of them congregate in SF.

It seems odd that this doesn't appear to scale with population size. One would expect many multiples of people with these skills in cities with higher populations.


They are in the other cities, but it's a network effect. The most interesting jobs are in SF, so they move to SF, so when people make new interesting jobs they do it in SF because all the people are in SF.

As I said, I hope this trend reverses as more people accept remote work as a good way to do business. But until then, it is what it is.


I suppose that all depends on what kinds of jobs you consider to be interesting.

At the very least, those who believe the most interesting jobs are in SF congregate there. And people who create jobs matching that belief do it there.


Tech expertise depends on a bandwagon effect to create sustainable pools of labour. It's very difficult for isolated individuals to kick-start a tech scene from scratch, even in a very large city, so it happens rarely.


Headquarter location is kind of an arbitrary line to draw, especially with poor data. Many of these companies are fully remote or have multiple large offices.

Just off the top of my head: PagerDuty has a large office in Toronto. GitLab and Zapier are very remote-first focused, I'm sure there's a dozen more on that list.

The problem is that almost all of these companies started out in the Bay Area when they did YC there. It's hard to find up to date information about how SF-centric they are now that they've matured, but it's easy to assume that they are by default.

This feels as useful as talking about incorporation state (so much Delaware!). I'd love to see more data about how distributed companies are these days vs being monolithic offices in SF.


It's not completely arbitrary. Where the HQ is usually shows where the company got started and experienced its initial growth. Also, while a company may have multiple remote offices, most execs will be in HQ and that can have a huge impact on the culture of the company. A Google office in Japan may feel more like a Silicon Valley company than a Japanese company's office in Silicon Valley.


I do believe that but this particular data set will demonstrate very little evidence of that since since the very likely biggest reason Y Combinator companies seem to be centered around SV is because that's where SV is; and so the data is biased beyond usability in this manner.


Does YC incorporate the companies in CA or Delaware?


I think more than anything this information shines a light on how much opportunity there is for investment elsewhere.


I'm a little surprised that there isn't a single "top" YC company in Seattle. Why is that? It seems like the city has talent and capital.


This seems like an instance where visualization confuses more than clarifies. The paragraph at the bottom of the page presented as a table would be more comprehensible.


Technically speaking they’re all Delaware C-corps ;)


Is the map keyed incorrectly? California is colored purple, but that means only 4 HQs are located there, not 74.


Kind of hard to see, but I believe there is a black dot (74) on the bay area


The map separates the Bay Area of California from the rest of California, hence being 74(if you zoom in to see the dark portion for the bay area).


This thing is a data visualization nightmare.


Makes sense to me. If you really want to make it big in fashion, you move to a fashion city. If you want to make it big in music, you probably move to LA, Brooklyn, or Nashville. Startups are a scene too; you can succeed elsewhere but why make it harder for yourself?


While your comment makes sense, I think you're underestimating the size of the world outside of YC's circle.

It's incorrect to be in the delusion that you have to move to the valley to be a top company, but that depends on the definition of top, which here is valuation and it's hard to beat valuations that the Silicon Valley can afford and help realise because of the ecosystem that's formed over the years.

YC is based in the USA, so it's not really a surprise that you'd have to move there to be a top YC company.

You can build a top company anywhere in the world, even if your definition is that of valuation, the process remains by and large the same that YC advocates in documents such as the startup playbook and the startup school courses (the parlance may be different in material from different sources), and I believe that it gets easier to build a top company where you are if you make your own definition of top as valuations could be deceiving.

You don't necessarily have to move to SV to make a top company by valuation, top YC company: stats suggest yes, but I still believe there's slim chances you could do it from anywhere, YC tries hard to be inclusive, however their location presents them with constraints, hence the stats.

To decide where to move in order to build a top company, first understand what is your definition of a top company and whether you really want to disrupt your life, move to the valley, and build what the world calls a top company.

PS - No disrespect to valuations, the Silicon Valley or anyone's ideologies.


I don't think we actually disagree on any of those points. You can definitely build businesses anywhere in the world but people move to scenes to increase their chances of an outsize success. Plenty great bands come from small towns and regional scenes but a disproportionate amount of famous, world-touring bands are based out of Brooklyn or LA and the musicians you might meet there are aiming for that lifestyle.

If you define success differently, it's all up for grabs. If you want to build the next Uber, you are giving yourself a bigger shot (and tough competition) by moving to SF. Of course, companies like Mailchimp are massively successful outside of the bubble but there just isn't the same pressure and rising tide in a city like Atlanta than there is in SF.

I suspect many people end up in the Bay Area not to risk it all, disrupt their lives and start a company but simply because they got an awesome job at a growing company. Further down the line the scene makes them consider 'maybe I could do this too'.

FWIW, I got advice when starting my business to move out of the Bay Area and somewhere way cheaper to extend my runway. I'm glad I didn't because even with smaller monthly expenses I'd lose out on the small network I have and the luck afforded to me simply by being here.


I never assumed any disagreement; just felt the need to add the following.


> To decide where to move in order to build a top company, first understand what is your definition of a top company and whether you really want to disrupt your life, move to the valley, and build what the world calls a top company.

Actually I would instead say "Do you want to build a top company fast?"

If you are willing to grow organically, nobody cares where you are located. In fact, you are probably better to be located in a decent place that is a little off the beaten path.

However, if you want to do the VC dance to "Go big or go home", then you probably need to be in Silicon Valley.


There’s a huge amount of selection bias here when YC itself is located in SV.


I was glad to see Portland represented (hey, inDinero, greetings from NE Portland!). Sometimes startups refer to this part of the Pacific Northwest as “Silicon Forest”, though that hasn’t seemed to take off.

My old stomping grounds in Los Angeles made a good showing (Hush, SFOX, GOAT, and Soylent), and my bet is more and more future startups will be based there than anywhere else outside of SF and NYC.

Sometimes called Silicon Beach, which was originally the name for San Diego’s startup scene and later claimed by Venice & Santa Monica — though it really refers to all of LA at this point.


Non-competes aren't enforceable in California. I think that is something often overlooked but key to why California continues to overwhelmingly dominate for startups.


The most striking thing about this map to me was that you could draw a straight line from the bottom of Virginia all the way across the United States and you wouldn't find a single top company until you hit Los Angeles. There are about 100 million people that live in that area so it's surprising that there isn't at least 1 company headquartered there.


> The most striking thing about this map to me was that you could draw a straight line from the bottom of Virginia all the way across the United States and you wouldn't find a single top company until you hit Los Angeles.

Why is it surprising? YC has historically required relocating to the Bay, so it's not really surprising that the vast majority of top 101 YC companies are in the Bay, or that of the 27 that aren't, there are many paths on the Earth's surface that include 100 million people and none of those relocated top YC companies; and that is even before considering the (also unsurprising) concentration of non-Bay top YC companies in NYC, which leaves even fewer for the rest of the planet.


I didn't say surprising, I said striking. No one has decided to relocate to San Diego, Austin, Dallas, San Antonio, Houston, Phoenix, Atlanta, New Orleans, Miami, Nashville, or Charlotte? I think it would be silly to equate populations of people that differ wildly in language, customs, and economic opportunity. The world is not evenly distributed. Besides there aren't that many ways to divide the world by 100 Million people, there are 76.


> No one has decided to relocate to San Diego, Austin, Dallas, San Antonio, Houston, Phoenix, Atlanta, New Orleans, Miami, Nashville, or Charlotte?

There's only 12 in the US outside of the Bay and NYC, the first of which is where YC companies are at some point compelled to be, the latter of which clearly has a sui generis draw. (Presumably, those outside the US are driven by differences in language, culture, etc., that you point, correctly, to and thus shouldn't be expected to be some random place in the US.)

I don't think it's really all that striking that of those 12 companies, there aren't any in the region pointed to.

> Besides there aren't that many ways to divide the world by 100 Million people, there are 76.

There's a lot more than 76 ways; any particular division into 100 million population units will have 76 non-overlapping regions, but there is a very large number of ways to draw those regions (even if you restrain it from the simple combinatorial problem and require contiguity), and thus a very large number of potential regions.


"Besides there aren't that many ways to divide the world by 100 Million people, there are 76."

There are (7.6B choose 100M) = (7600000000! / (100000000! * 7500000000!)) > well over a googol. Different ways to slice up the world do not have to be disjoint.


You know what I meant, stop being pedantic.


What you meant is nonsensical.

If you want to return to the original question of why 76 out of the top 100 YC startups are in the Bay Area and zero of them are in the South, east of LA - it's because the only populations that matter for a tech startup are founders, early adopters, angel investors, venture capitalists, executives who have scaled a company by 100,000x, corporate lawyers, digital marketers, engineers, DevOps/SRE, UX researchers, UI designers, product managers, and (for a B2B startup) enterprise sales reps. All of these populations are abundant in the Bay Area. Many of them are missing entirely in the South, or if they're present, they're rare enough that there isn't a liquid market for them. If you're a founder, you can go wherever you want, but you're only one of the limiting regents for a startup. Without the other, less glamorous ones, your startup is not going to take off.


I think the advantages of the Bay area are overhyped. If you take a look at the of number of people that are employed by these companies, few of them employ more than 500 people. A lot of them employ less than 100 people. I think you can find 100 qualified people to do all of the tasks you need in any US city that has over a million people. VCs and angel investors have to beg great companies to take their money. However, it's best to not need outside investment at all. It's easier to keep the burn rate low if you're in a cheaper city.

https://www.ycombinator.com/topcompanies/


It's certainly possible, and I see from your profile that you've put your money where your mouth is. It's interesting that this holds true out of the 100 most valuable YC companies, though. YC has funded close to 3000 companies, which is pretty close to a representative sample, and those companies originate from all over the world. If the Bay Area didn't have a real advantage in growing & scaling companies and it was all hype, I would expect the market to wash it out of this sample.


It's neat that on the map usa is divided into states but other countries are, well, just countries. Why not draw the countries into smaller pieces as well?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federated_state


If there were many companies per "other country", that would make sense. There are very few companies outside US in the list, and the only country with two entries is UK; both companies are in London.

If the chart had, say, 10 companies from India, showing the borders of India's states on the map would definitely make sense.


Canada also has two entries


IMO the key factor is that so many investors are in California and investors prefer to have a founding team locally accessible.

What else? Talent? Yes, but at a cost that is becoming unbearable for early-stage startups. Customers? Maybe if you are B2B technology, but most startups are not.


The HQ state for RazorPay (the company located in India), is Karnataka.


What, they couldn't figure out the state in which Bangalore (India) is located?


So why isn’t YC in SF?


I can't tell if this shows a terrible bias towards NA or if people who aren't from NA don't even bother applying for X reason(s) or get rejected.

edit: I am getting downvoted to hell for some reason when I'm simply trying to start a discussion based on a fact... hmmm... I don't get HN...

"The only other countries with top companies were Canada (2), the UK (2), Colombia, India and the Netherlands."

"94 of the top 101 companies are based in the US."


The map shows headquarters location, not where the founders are from. Many founding teams came from around the world, but put their company headquarters in the Bay Area because of access to engineering and design talent and later-stage investors.


> Many founding teams came from around the world, but put their company headquarters in the Bay Area because

...they have to for at least 3 months to be a YC company, and after that the question is what is the compelling reason to move?


> I can't tell if this shows a terrible bias towards NA or if people who aren't from NA don't even bother applying for X reason(s) or get rejected.

Why not both?

There's a probably at least a bias to English fluency, if not a blanket rejection of non-English applications.

There's been a long-standing bias towards teams, which mandates a level of charisma and social skills that many talented engineers struggle with. For a long time, YC completely excluded solo founders.

And I believe being on-site is another requirement, which is classist. People from other states and countries who don't already have affluence probably don't even bother.


> I can't tell if this shows a terrible bias towards NA

YC requires a 3 month relocation to Silicon Valley.

That itself creates a pretty strong bias.

There are probably language, cultural, and other biases at play, too.


You might be misinterpreting the data here.




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