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YC 120 (ycombinator.com)
273 points by jameshk 79 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 137 comments

The real question is, do I want to be in a room with 99 other people who wanted to be selected for this so much that they produced a video with answers to these questions? This whole thing is self-selecting for they type of person I'd rather not be having dinner with.

YC produces a ton of great resources that are very helpful, but this is one that makes me scratch my head.

Anecdotally, having gone through some selective institutions, I've seen this more than a couple times (though maybe this also says something about myself too...). My unfounded theory is that gatekeepers (e.g. admissions, HR) are inherently fool-able because they don't live the 'greatness' in candidates they seek to find. As a result, while most who get in have traits correlated with future success, others are simply great at advertising having those traits without any real hard-won skills.

I'm curious how someone who is not a physicist can tell if someone has the potential to 'finally solve physics.'

In other places YC has described this as bullshitting and their answer is Jessica. They claim (at least publicly) that she significantly shifts the ratio to favor people with real skill over those who are good at advertising it.


My first criteria would be show everyone the door that thought they could "finally solve physics."

What type of person is that? I'm honestly at a loss because it asks for nothing more than a simple narrative for why this opportunity fits the candidate, where the complexity of the video can be "turn on my phone's front camera and recorded for 60 seconds".

Is that a type of person? Is it a bad type of person? I don't understand the insinuation.

Many cultures/subcultures/microcultures place high value on being humble. This is the exact opposite of humble, it's blatant self-promotion. That's not necessarily a bad thing, in fact it's very much required in business, in interviews, in admissions, etc. But it does rub against those cultures who value humility and frown upon self-promotion.

As an example I grew up in a poor farming town in the Midwest. Everyone drove an older pickup. Occasionally someone's truck would break and they'd buy a new one. It was the gossip of the town, look at Mr So-and-So flaunting his wealth, his farm must be doing great, what's his secret, why is he showing off? A few years later his truck is dusty and dented and rusty but someone else's truck breaks and they get a new one, and now they're the talk of the town.

Recently I drove back into that town in my BMW... I should have known better. My grandparents called me afterwards to let me know how everyone in town is talking about them, my grandparents, for raising such a braggart of a grandson that he'd drive around town in a BMW. Doesn't matter how much money you have, you don't buy a nice car because it's self promotion.

Not saying it's right or wrong, but some cultures try to avoid people who brag about their own accomplishments. This goes hand in hand with other comments saying they wish they could nominate someone because some people would never nominate themselves.

Exactly this. I grew up in Switzerland. Talking about why you're great would raise a lot of eyebrows. I live in SF now, and in my experience everyone is "bragging" all the time. I know that it's not bragging in that sense, but it just seems like that to me.

When I'm pitching (or applying to YC or whatever), it's really hard for me to talk about my achievements in that way. I just feel bad doing it. Naturally, I do it less. For investors or partners that are used to people telling them why they are the next Steve Jobs 24/7, and assuming I'm doing the same, think I'm the dumbest person ever.

I will give that false humility is rampant, but it's incredible (and perhaps ironic) in the context because so many seem to be saying "Well I wouldn't want to be with these people." That is the opposite of humility.

Virtually all of life is self-promotion (however massaged and clouded we make it -- we see humility as a virtue because it's great if everyone else just gets out of the way), and sideways mechanisms to do it do little but feed into raw dishonesty. And let me say that I have pretty strong social anxiety so this contest has no draw for me, but I have no animosity for those who it fits.

As an aside, I grew up in a small, blue-collar working town, and it operates very similar to your description. But it isn't that people value humility, but rather that they impose their own limitations and hangups on others. It was the crab mentality.

Regardless, there are many paths to changing the world. Even if we accept the notion that only the bad wouldn't cow under humility, to quote Ahad Ah'Em (Asher Ginzberg) - "Men With Self-Confidence Come and See and Conquer". There is a high correlation between people who have a sometimes inflated confidence and those who actually affect real change.

"Men With Self-Confidence Come and See and Conquer"

Women with self confidence get put in a damned if you do, damned if you don't bind. They have substantial challenges trying to self promote. I'm convinced it's mostly systemic, not innate to women per se.

First time I've seen a quote from Ahad AhEm on HN.

isn't that one of the reasons you get a bmw, to exude class and status? otherwise, there are plenty of other sports sedans you could get, like a ford fusion sport or something, that embody different social messaging.

this isn't a critique of your choice of cars, but your reaction is interesting. some people in that situation would have their ego boosted. others would't care much either way. but this clash of cultural values seems to be a point of contention.

with that said, we each find our own balance between braggart and self-effacing behavior. neither extreme is particularly ideal. being social is all about negotiating esteem with each other if anything.

You're entirely correct. I'm just using that point to highlight that where I live right now, it's expected that I brag about how successful I am (like someone applying to YC 120), but some people could be uncomfortable with this because a BMW in a small town attracts the wrong kind of attention.

It's a big change of culture to to want to draw attention to your success rather than drawing attention away from it.

It's the other extreme, but Sweden is the same. If more of the world was like that, we wouldn't have subprime crisis

I think an events like this challenges people's slightly suppressed sense of egalitarian randomness (random egalitarianism?) they favor in place of equality.

They're optimizing for people who are good at storytelling. Storytelling is emphasized on at Ivy league admissions and MBA admissions. So that's the type of people they'll get.

well, shoot. I was going to apply but now I'm thinking TechStars is probably better. YC is great but I'm probably 'too dumb' because I don't look like a typical candidate on paper.

Peter Thiel has some interesting thoughts on the decline of SV. Interesting times to be an inventor.

It’s just a 60 second video answering 3 fairly straightforward questions. What’s so difficult about that?

There are 2 underlying implications: one due to the submission format and the other due to the framing of the questions. Answering self-promoting questions on video is more conducive to Type A personalities over Type B. This is not necessarily a bad thing. However, it is ironic for a convention where network strengthening is the primary goal since Type As generally don't need as much help networking as Type Bs.

Yes, if someone set up a honeypot to catch egomaniacs it would look just like that page.

> do I want to be in a room with 99 other people who wanted to be selected for this so much that they produced a video with answers to these questions?

No value to meeting any of these people? Even if just for future contacts that could be beneficial or ideas? I am not seeing much downside to this at all. If I had the time I'd fly out on my own dime and just hang around and 'press the flesh'.

I share the parent's sentiment. I don't expect everyone to share this opinion, but personally I think of it like applying for a job at a big management consultancy. Do I want to do a bunch of stupid shit and pretend to be a "thought leader" so that I can expand my network to include a bunch of people who don't share my belief that the interview process is such a lot of stupid shit that it's not worth doing?

For everyone who's being cynical about this opportunity: This seems like a great way to practice pitching what you do and why it matters. Personally, this seems like an interesting exercise, regardless of whether you get in or not.

For anyone else who is interested, it might be fun to have an organized "Show HN" where we exchange and critique pitches.

Edit: Since this is getting some upvotes, here is what I propose: I'll post a "Show HN" here at around 10am PST on February 15th. People can reply to that with links to their pitches, and then everyone else can respond/critique in the replies. (This should leave enough time for people to edit their pitches based on the feedback they get.)

the organized Show HN event - actually sounds like a better idea that the OP. hmm - maybe organized for the same April 26 - 28 weekend?

I was thinking online, but offline could work too. We could even do both. Maybe we'll wait to see how the online version goes first? If that gets traction then we can see about organizing an offline version.

Agree. Happy to help organize/buy coffee or beers.

I'm really struggling with how to structure this kind of video from a college student's (although with only one semester left) perspective. I've worked at a lot of different companies and have two or three "dream" projects, but as for what I'm working on right now? Does literature review count? Or relevant experience? I realize that people like me are not necessarily the target audience, but it still leaves me wondering if there is a perhaps a better way for me to frame my current experience and work into this kind of format.

Sorry, my original post was geared a little too much toward things you're already working on---which I think is not actually what the YC 120 call is asking for. I think they're looking more for what you'd like to work on, and to the extent that you're doing anything now it's more about demonstrating potential.

In my opinion, if you've done work with a lot of different companies, that's actually great experience to have as a college student! Working is one of the best ways to get exposure to different sorts of problems and ways of approaching solutions.

Personally, the way I find problems to solve is by trying to do everyday sorts of things---be that building an app, game, a scientific simulation, a data analysis script or whatever---and then observing what's hard about it. Do this a couple times and you may start to see recurring problems. Usually my biggest problem is that I tend to undersell myself because these issues seem "obvious" to me after I've been in the trenches for a while. But sometimes the obvious problems are the most fundamental.

Anyway, if you have ideas of your own, I'd say just go for it. The instructions say they're "adjust[ing] for whatever life circumstances you were born into", and I think it's probably not unreasonable to expect them to adjust for e.g. age and stage of life as well. Compared to people in similar age categories I think you'll compare favorably in an application like this.

So I actually think the _idea_ sounds interesting, but this is what sticks out to me:

> We’ll invite about 100 people who could use more of a network...

>What have you done so far that shows your potential for greatness, adjusted for whatever life circumstances you were born into?

To do something great that shows potential, you've probably already built a decent network, so I guess the value add is a network with much greater reach? Also, I've met people who've done astounding things "adjusted for life circumstances", but this would never reach their radar.

Can there be a nomination process? I just feel like the people for whom this idea makes sense would never know to apply or might not even find it applicable. Those people need to be sought out, not expected to show up. Regardless, I'd be curious who the final 100 are and how they fit the two criteria above.

Can there be a nomination process

YC/HN is for startups. You don't need to wait for permission to do something. If you want to nominate someone great, I would just email that person to encourage them to apply. Done.

I understand that, and if this was a normal application for its standard incubator, I'd understand. I read this as seeking out people doing exceptional work but aren't _already_ being noticed. A lot of this people might not be noticed because they aren't trying to be noticed, but may very well benefit from it, or they don't have the means to / maybe they were never pushed to put themselves out there. Encouraging application is certainly a good way to go.

This reminds me of charities and other organizations that only want to bring on experts. I really would like to join something like this but I feel that I'm not an expert in that area. I know I could provide a lot of value and show them ways to look at their problems differently, but I'm not what they are looking for.

I really think people can become experts (to a certain degree) and provide a lot of value and think differently about problems without having years of experience. A great example is the 4Chan user that solved the 25 year old permutation math problem by looking at it from a different lense.

Bringing people together to build their network is great. But I really think there is power in bringing people together who have a desire to change something regardless of how much greatness they think they have achieved.

Wow, I hadn't heard of the 4chan thing and it's super interesting!

Here's the wiki article with the improved lower bound for the 25 year old permutation problem: http://mathsci.wikia.com/wiki/The_Haruhi_Problem

And a news article: https://www.theverge.com/2018/10/24/18019464/4chan-anon-anim...

Here's the original thread where you can see people confused about what the actual problem is, I think it's a fun read: http://4watch.org/superstring/

> A great example is the 4Chan user that solved the 25 year old permutation math problem by looking at it from a different lense.

To be precise, the anonymous user did not solve the problem. They lowered the bound on the set of possible solutions.

EDIT: I realized this isn't sufficiently precise either...the user increased the lower bound of the set of solutions. What I originally said could be interpreted as the upper bound being decreased. That's not the case.

I think what we all want is a lot more more Elon Musks to push the world forward more quickly.

But he was only able to create Tesla and SpaceX because he gained a massive windfall from PayPal. That payout could have easily been an order of magnitude smaller, or even gone to zero. He wasn't even involved in the company so he got super lucky with that.

Even though he had a network of powerful friends, virtually all of them were too cowardly to invest in SpaceX or Tesla, especially after things got hard. They all thought he was a dumb "web startup guy" tilting at windmills and burning up his money.

His early investors totally bailed on him. The fact that he could personally bankroll his companies is the only reason they exist today. Having to answer to anyone else would have doomed him to failure.

So, you want more Elon Musks? Find super smart and crazily ambitious people and give them massive fortunes.

Elon Musk did not create Tesla, and it succeeded thanks to a massive low-interest government loan.

If you want more Elon Musks, start electing politicians that are willing to invest in things that private citizens can't or won't, and stop caring about whose name is on top of the org chart.

He was the primary funding for the company throughout its early life and then personally saved the company from failure. Without Elon Musk the company would not exist at all.

The DOE loan probably did save the company, but before Telsa there was no electric car company worth giving a government loan to in the first place. And they paid it back 10 years early.

Fisker, a Tesla copycat, got ~$1.4 billion in DOE loans and failed completely. Tesla got a third of that and succeeded because they had Elon Musk.

I am not sure I would focus on the money as a factor for Musk's success. There are a lot of rich, including newly rich, people who aren't Musk. The reason he isn't one of them is because he didn't want the money more than doing something real. Chances are that if he didn't end up with that money he would still have tried. As far as I know the plan wasn't really to build a company the size of SpaceX in the first place. But it was still to create a real company. Once he had literally shown up to the launch pad, opportunities presented themselves.

This is in many ways counter to current models for success. Where everyone wants a quick fix. Zero to hero. Where substance is a liability. Because if you have to accomplish something in particular, what is the angle? "Oh, a physics degree would be useful? Well, that is clearly unreasonable I want to be successful".

You want another Musk you get 'real' companies, doing 'real' work, selling 'real' technology. And where that is the main purpose. If it isn't, there is no need to work on technology that you sell. It becomes a disadvantage in an endless quest of prototypes and promises to please investors.

And yes, it is sort of ironic, but at the same time not, that one of our most celebrated entrepreneurs had a lot of backing of the US government and already existing industries. I don't think it makes much sense to critic that as such though.

> But he was only able to create Tesla and SpaceX because he gained a massive windfall from PayPal.

Agree. Bezos was earlier, but threading lighter. Carmack didn't have enough resources. Investors were slow even after 2004 X Prize. So Musk had little competition.

EDIT: interesting that just a few years earlier Andrew Beal folded complaining about unfair NASA competition. And less than decade before that McDonnel Douglas were trying to jumpstart with Delta Clipper... The window of opportunity isn't that big...

> What are you interested in and what are you working on?

I'm working on liberating child students trapped by coercive institutions. Inmates have a reason for their incarceration, but students are trapped through no fault of their own. Unlike students, inmates in prison have the luxury of choosing what they read.

> What have you done so far that shows your potential for greatness, adjusted for whatever life circumstances you were born into?

I have been actively working on increasing my influence so I can save those who can be saved during my lifetime. I have been tutoring, and teaching, and teacher training, and running programs in schools, constantly broadening my scope. My experiences working in public schools have convinced me that 'working from the inside' is a fool's breakfast. I am now working on founding a school in a methodical and careful manner so that it can succeed in Toronto and grow to other cities. If I'm lucky, I'll be able to liberate a few hundred students before I die, and the schools will succeed without me.

> In a best-case scenario, what do you want your obituary to say?

Loving grandson, son, brother, husband, father, grandfather, Ryan checked out at the hour of his choosing and saved 7 lives through organ donation as his final gift. His autobiography 'Not Everyone Likes The Flavour' lays out his reasoning for ending his life as 'passing the torch', exhorting young people everywhere to realize their true power to shape the world. His legacy endures in the schools he founded and the students he empowered.

I should be so lucky!

Just FYI, as someone who also considers schools to be coercive institutions, "schools are more unjust than prison" is a hugely unconvincing pitch. I'd advise you to frame it another way.

Thank you. I'm trying to come up with a good wholly-positive way of framing it in terms of benefits to leadership and innovation. I know I'm going to need a positive message to succeed.

Maybe something about allowing students to express their individuality and reach their full potential as humans through curiosity and exploration?

Wow incredible start! I’m interested in developing products that help liberate students.

I personally like these questions together:

• If you could have the resume you want, what would it say?

• If you could write your eulogy, what would it say?

(As the company/manager/advisor: How can we help you to get there?)

is your framework a reference to David Brooks' Ted Talk?


I had not seen this video, but it clarifies my thoughts on this topic quite a bit. Thanks for sharing!

How can we help you get to your eulogy? That could be taken a couple ways.

Regarding the third point, such networking events look like interesting enablers, so more of that please.

> If you could have the resume you want, what would it say?

It's hard to outdo some historical ones:

Great king, strong king, king of the world, king of Assyria, king of the four quarters (of the world), capable shepherd, favorite of the great gods, guardian of truth who loves justice, renders assistance, goes to the aid of the weak, (and) strives after good deeds, perfect man, virile warrior, foremost of all rulers, the bridle that controls the insubmissive, (and) the one who strikes enemies with lightning.

The god Aššur, the great mountain, granted to me unrivalled sovereignty and made my weapons greater than (those of) all who sit on (royal) daises. He made all of the black-headed (people) from the Upper Sea of the Setting Sun to the Lower Sea of the Rising Sun bow down at my feet. Thus did recalcitrant rulers come to fear battle with me. While they were abandoning their settlements, they flew away alone like bats (living) in crevices to inaccessible place(s).

On my first campaign, I brought about the defeat of Marduk-apla-iddina (II) (Merodach-baladan), king of Karduniaš (Babylonia), together with the troops of (the land) Elam, his allies, in the plain of Kish. In the midst of that battle he abandoned his camp, fled alone, and (thereby) saved his life. I seized the chariots, horses, wagons, (and) mules that he had abandoned in the thick of battle.

I joyfully entered his palace, which is in Babylon, then I opened his treasury and brought out gold, silver, gold (and) silver utensils, precious stones, all kinds of possessions (and) property without number, a substantial tribute, (together with) his palace women, courtiers, attendants, male singers, female singers, all of the craftsmen, as many as there were, (and) his palace attendants, and I counted (them) as booty.

With the strength of the god Aššur, my lord, I surrounded, conquered, (and) plundered 75 of his fortified cities, fortresses of Chaldea, and 420 small(er) settlements in their environs. (i 45) I brought out the auxiliary forces of the Arameans (and) Chaldeans who were in Uruk, Nippur, Kish, Ḫursagkalama, Cutha, (and) Sippar, together with the guilty citizens, and I counted (them) as booty.

I made that city Bīt-Kilamzaḫ a fortress again (and) I strengthened its walls more than before, then I settled therein the people of the lands that I had conquered. I brought down from the mountains the people of the land of the Kassites and the land of the Yasubigallians who had fled from my weapons and I made (them) dwell in the cities Ḫardišpu (and) Bīt-Kubatti. I placed them under the authority of a eunuch of mine, the governor of the city Arrapḫa. I had a stele made, had all the victorious conquests that I achieved over them written on it, and I erected (it) in (that) city.

From the booty of those lands that I had plundered, I conscripted 30,000 archers (and) 20,000 shield bearers and added (them) to my royal contingent. I divided up the rest of the substantial enemy booty like sheep and goats among my entire camp and my governors, (and) the people of my great cult centers.

I built palatial halls of gold, silver, bronze, ...-stone, breccia, alabaster, elephant ivory, ebony, boxwood, musukkannu-wood, cedar, cypress, juniper, elammaku-wood, (and) Indian wood, for my lordly residence, then I had a house with double doors, a replica of a Hittite palace, opposite (its) gates, constructed.

Since time immemorial, the kings, my ancestors, created copper statues, replicas of their (own) forms, to be erected in temples, and through their manufacture they had exhausted all of the craftsmen. Through ignorance (and) failure to give thought on the matter, they depleted the oil, wax, (and) wool in their lands for the work they desired.

(But) as for me, the foremost of all rulers, expert in every type of work, regarding large columns of copper (and) striding lion colossi, which none of the kings of the past (who came) before me had cast: with the ingenious mind that the prince, the god Ninšiku, had granted to me (and) taking counsel with myself, I intensively pondered how to perform this work. Then, with my (own) ideas and knowledge, I created a cast work of copper and expertly carried out its artful execution.

I made bull colossi with copper features, two of which were overlaid with zaḫalû-silver, (and) bull colossi of alabaster, together with bull colossi and sphinxes of white limestone, hold the door bolts of my palatial halls.

Sphinxes of alabaster, as well as sphinxes of cast urudû-copper that were overlaid with zaḫalû-silver, and sphinxes of cast ...-metal, whose features were brilliant: I erected over them columns of ebony, cypress, cedar, daprānu-juniper, juniper, and Indian wood, with pašallu-gold and silver inlays, then I positioned the architraves of the inner rooms of my lordly residence (on those columns).

I surrounded their (the palace rooms’) lower courses with slabs of breccia (and) alabaster, and large limestone slabs (and) made (them) an object of wonder.

I made those palatial halls beautiful. To be an object of wonder for all of the people, I raised the superstructure of the entire palace. I called it “The Palace Without a Rival.”

I laid the foundation of Nineveh's great wall, Badnigalbilukurašušu, (which means) “Wall Whose Brilliance Overwhelms Enemies,” upon limestone and made (it) 40 bricks thick. I raised its superstructure 180 courses of brick high.

I enlarged the site of Nineveh, my capital city. I broadened its squares, making (them) as bright as day. I had an inner (and) outer wall built and I raised (them) as high as mountain(s). I had gardens cultivated upstream and downstream of the city. I gathered in them fruit trees of the mountains and of all lands (and) every type of aromatic tree of the land Ḫatti. On newly tilled soil, which is beside the game preserve, I planted in great number all (types) of mountain vine, every type of fruit tree from all over the world, (including) spice and olive trees.

The Ḫusur River, whose waters since time immemorial had been deep and which none of the kings, my ancestors, had confined (i.e., made its water flow through a canal) so that they (the waters of the Ḫusur) poured into the Tigris River: to make (those) planted areas luxuriant, I dug with picks a canal straight through high ground (and) low ground, from the border of the city Kisiru. (Thus) I provided a regular supply of those waters to the plain of Nineveh and I made (them) gush through small canals into those gardens.

I mounted an expedition to search for water at the foot of Mount Muṣri, then I climbed high and marched with difficulty to the city Elmunaqinnû. I found sources of water in front of the cities Dūr-Ištar, Šibaniba, and Sulu, then I made their narrow openings bigger and turned (them) into springs. For a course for those waters, I cut through rugged mountains, confined areas, with picks and directed their outflow into the plain of Nineveh. I strengthened their channels like the base of a mountain. I provided a regular supply of those waters in them. (Thus) I forever added (them) as an addition to the waters of the Ḫusur River.

In summer, I enabled all of the orchards to be irrigated. In winter, I annually had water provided to 1,000 seeded fields in the plains upstream and downstream of the city. I created a marsh to moderate the flow of those waters and planted a canebrake in it. I let loose in it herons, wild boars (lit. “pigs of the reeds”), (and) roe deer. By divine will, vines, all kinds of fruit trees, olive trees, (and) aromatic trees flourished greatly in (those) gardens (planted) on newly tilled soil. Cypress trees, musukkannu-trees, (and) all kinds of trees grew tall and sent out shoots. The marshes thrived greatly. Birds of the heavens, heron(s) whose home(s) are far away, made nest(s) and wild boars (and) roe deer gave birth in abundance.

In the future, may one of the kings, my descendants, whom the god Aššur names for shepherding the land and people, renovate its dilapidated section(s) when that wall becomes old and dilapidated. May he find an inscribed object bearing my name, anoint (it) with oil, make an offering, (and) return (it) to its place. The god Aššur and the goddess Ištar will (then) hear his prayers.

(Extracted with slight modification from the translation at http://oracc.museum.upenn.edu/rinap/rinap3/corpus of Sennacherib 017, the King Prism. The original is longer.)

“Finally solving Physics?” Yikes.

Well I think it's clear that the Silicon Valley folks (rightly or wrongly) are getting frustrated by the focus on "incremental innovation" in technology and it sounds like this is one attempt to foster more ambitious innovation.

While I get the underlying sentiment, it's worth noting that there have been examples of success, e.g. Deepmind with AlphaFold for protein folding with relatively little domain knowledge.

AlphaFold not only depended on a great deal of domain knowledge, it actually used one of the most famous physics-based methods. The only people who think that AlphaGo was made by a bunch of noob AI guys with a neural network are the people who don’t know anything about it.

I said relatively, they certainly had less domain knowledge than the competing teams. I have always been a strong proponent of combining ML and NNs with traditional methods.

Aren't there comics which show the opposite situation?

Yea when you start with a low IQ premise like this (AGI, etc...) you’re going to get a low IQ result. It would probably be more entertaining for the YC partners to fly themselves to Colorado and watch a couple TED talks. Or they could actually do some cursory reading on these fields and attempt to educate themselves.

Yeah that is laughable lol

How can physics be solved?

As Asimov asked it, "How can the net amount of entropy of the universe be massively decreased?"[0]


That's not solving physics. Physics is not a problem, it's a branch of the natural sciences. We can solve physics-related problems, but it's not like if we've solved enough physics-related problems we have solved physics.

That's like saying "solve this coffee table".

> That's like saying "solve this coffee table".

If I can set down my mug on the coffee table, I'll consider the coffee table to be solved.

You consider the problem of having your mug at a convenient height and distance from your sitting positing to be solved, but not the coffee table itself.

We need more VC funding. ;)

I see tremendous value in these efforts to enrich networks, but have no hope of getting through :( . All I see as answers to entry questions are sure not to give a pass.

Are there comparable venues for much larger sets of people? Those who can't brag about particularly nice answers to entry questions?

Why not try your hand at organizing your own meetup / networking event locally? Rent a room in your local community center for the day, put up signs at local community colleges and coffee shops to advertise.

There are other ambitious people out there, YC only wants to find the ones that they can use for their own goals. Don't wait around for them or anyone else if you have ideas and need a network. If they wont let you through their gate, find another way in.

I definitely feel the same way. This process doesn't seem very open to the average person. Unless you're a star researcher with some free time to kill, I don't really understand how I could make it through this process. Of course, that probably won't stop me from applying, but still, it is a little disheartening.

You guys should invite Sonja Trauss, known for her YIMBY activism in the bay area. Housing might not be quite as exciting as some of the things mentioned, but making it affordable makes a hell of a difference in people's lives.

And it also helps companies and just about everyone else, too, since they might not have to pay quite so much due to the extreme cost of living in that area.

This looks pretty interesting, so I decided to apply. Here’s my application and video in case anyone’s curious: https://goo.gl/mhCCNK

That obituary question is a bit morbid for my taste - but this sounds like an interesting event. Reminds me of yc startup school but more personal.

Book dust jacket bio might be a better framing of this question.

It's a ridiculous question. 99.9% of all obituaries look the same. An announcement of the death, maybe a quick mention of career, a list of close surviving relatives, and information about memorial services.

I would just submit that.

Obviously they want to know what you would like to be remembered for having accomplished. They don’t literally care what you want on your obit. They are asking what you would like to be known for to future generations.

Here's a great way of rewording that question: "What accomplishments of yours would you like people to remember?"

The idea is to reach the level of that 0.1%. What is in obituary of Isaac Newton? Christopher Columbus? Sergey Korolev? Shouldn't you aim to something like that?

Well the question is about would you like to see there, precisely.

What mention of career would you like ?

I'd be fine with "software engineer". I'd hope more space is devoted to mentioning that I was devoted to my wife and children.

This will be the new model for accelerators moving forward. Condense the most valuable interactions down to a few days and watch the magic happen. Cheaper, less time intensive, and more effective.

"a return to fact-based debate"

When was this fact-based debating era?

Not to be confused with Google’s Area 120, an internal start up incubator.


It’s funny the similarity in name!

Networks like this are extremely powerful for releasing potential energy. As much as I'd love to see the talks, it wouldn't be 5% the value of being in the room.

To get the 95%, you need to know how to use the presence. It's definitely not enough to be in the room, although I don't know how to learn to get values in being in the room without trying to while being in the room.

How do you do that? Any article/book you recommend?

This is frustrating and borderline cringe-inducing to read. YC clearly has their eyes on tapping introvert talent. That's a good thing. What’s not is trying to use the same stale tools and programs to catch them. Hint: this is not the crowd that will be comfortable talking on camera, about themselves, answering such bombastic questions. Try again.

Technically, the rules do not prevent submitters from uploading silent slideshows that just so happen to be in video file formats. Presumably anyone whose goal was "finally solving physics," would be clever enough to think of this. ;)

i give them credit for doing it. if they find something there, they can improve on it. v1 rarely nails everything (nor does v100!)

somewhat unrelated:

This is YC's mission statement: "Y Combinator provides seed funding for startups. Seed funding is the earliest stage of venture funding. It pays your expenses while you’re getting started."

I applied.

I am looking for people who are interested in transforming education. If me and a group of similar minded individuals are able to make people learn twice as fast, then that would be a huge win for the world.

People say that education (idea generation and implementation) comes easy to me. And I also find it the most fun sector to work in.

If the ed tech startups of the world are reading this: I'm available [1]. If you want to be in education too, then let's meet up (IRL or online)! My email address is in my profile.

[1]: this invitation is also extended to YC.

Hi! Maybe we should talk :)

Here's my website/profile: https://www.csdojo.io/

Will the answers be kept confidential?

First let me say I think this is a great idea even just the marketing and publicity angle alone. [1]

That said I always love the arbitrary numbers they assign such as '100' or similar those '30 under 30'. And so on. Heinz of course popularized 57 varieties of ketchup (not sure I have seen that duplicated).

Why not say 'roughly 100'. Give yourself the flexibility to go up or down if needed.

[1] This is what happens when money meets creative ideas.

I had a conversation with colleagues literally last Friday in which I mentioned a version of question #2. I've always wanted to ask that question to candidates, but felt they would struggle to think of a way to phrase an answer in an interview setting...

YC has come up with a very concise prompt, though, so I'll have to give this a try next time I'm out recruiting...

Second question is very delicate. You definitely don't want to discuss something which may end up being unattainable. Say, you're working on a new physics, and you don't have something to show in form of math theories or experiments. Chances are you'll be labelled a nut, which from a nerd community could be counterproductive (see "ought to work on a good ides which looks like a bad one"). So you want to germinate your ideas - and perhaps throw those not good enough - until you have a sort of MVP. Which defeats the idea of the second questions substantially.

If you have something to show, it's more in venue of incremental, predictable work, and less in "out there" ideas perhaps.

Perhaps a better messaging here would be - if you're working on gene editing, nuclear fusion, or some such radical and ambitious project, we want to hear. Tell us the path you took to get to this point, and your ideas for the future. Then select from everyone who writes in?

> if you're working on gene editing, nuclear fusion, or some such radical and ambitious project, we want to hear. Tell us the path you took to get to this point, and your ideas for the future. Then select from everyone who writes in?

You are describing a scientific conference, or perhaps a grant proposal.

Unlike NSF/NIH/etc., they're not really asking for people who have dedicated their lives to a problem to write up a compelling and realistic plan of attack for a hard tech problem. That can't be done in a few minutes of a video, and certainly can't be done if in that video you also have to write your ideal obituary. What they're looking for, I think?, are charismatic and driven leaders.

WHEW! Sama's worldview is so technocractic it's rather disturbing.

The world is _actually_ shaped by mothers and fathers. Teachers and physical therapists. Doctors and pastors. Friends and romantic partners.


I hesitate to write the following because I'm not going to express everything how I actually think. But it should add to the discussion...

Here's an interesting spin on it. I'll give my "real" answers and my technocentric answers. Both could be said by accurately. But my worldview aligns much more with the former.

#Honest answers

>What are you interested in and what are you working on?

I'm interested in creating a world where everyone has a human network of mutual support and care. I'm genuinely concerned that the technocentrist worldview that seems to consume a generation of our brightest minds will miss the human element of life and lead society in a worse direction. I am building neighborhood-level community with the lower middle class and poor.

>What have you done so far that shows your potential for greatness, adjusted for whatever life circumstances you were born into?

I work with what I have, to best of my abilities, to love and serve others. I'm often selfish and mess up. I try to correct my mistakes and hope to get better.

>In a best-case scenario, what do you want your obituary to say?

Loving husband and father, caring neighbor, and example of a life of service.

#Technocentric answers:

>> What are you interested in and what are you working on?

I'm building better automation in the tech stack for life science research to accelerate the discovery and delivery of medical care for the sick and dying.

>>What have you done so far that shows your potential for greatness, adjusted for whatever life circumstances you were born into?

4.0's, valedictorian, PhD, publish in fancy journals, design and deliver millions of dollars of research systems to all the major pharmaceuticals, ya ya yah...

>> What have you done so far that shows your potential for greatness, adjusted for whatever life circumstances you were born into?

Discovered a tailored medical care approach to eliminate deaths caused by cancer. Loving husband and father, caring neighbor, and example of a life of service.

Agreed. It's easy to assume that technology is good for society when it's fun to build it, ship it, and backwards-justify what you've done. Are we sure that AGI will be good for society? If not, why should we try and push to develop it as fast as possible?

I once saw a presentation from Machine Intelligence Research Institute. The presentation listed global dangers to civilization, including AI. Then it was mentioned that, done right, AI could actually solve at least some other problems. That was justification for MIRI efforts.

Agreed that AI could have large positive or negative effects on society and I think the kind of work that MIRI does is incredibly important. I wish that this application took MIRI's outcome-driven approach rather than being tech for tech's sake.

Personally, I'd prefer a dinner with real you over techno-centric you any day.

Though I do wonder if YC at this point could even select for authenticity, empathy, and genuine pro-social goodness if they even tried. We all know that you need to keep your audience in mind when writing. How many applicants sincerely view the YC audience they would be writing here for as anything other than mega-capitalists with a fetish for "disruption"? (I know I'm being unkind to some decent people who work there, but this stereotype isn't too far off base).

A system that only filters on "who is most likely to be able to disrupt industries and seize income for themselves and investors" will never be able to differentiate between good and bad people. At best, the bad ones will only be selfish, at worst, they will abuse their power and make the world a worse place because it is profitable to them.

I agree with your concerns completely on the issues with technocracy. I'm going to focus on making my own community stronger and building out my networks with people that would have been missed by the VC meat grinder. I may still fail at fixing big problems like I want - but at least my conscience will be clean knowing I wasn't complicit in making things worse.

Something is fundamentally dishonest about the way Sam Altman recruits people. Something that PG never had problems with

How hard is the 1 minute limit on the video? Is it a big deal if the video is 2 minutes? Some things might take a bit of time to really explain.

If you do longer, I’d make sure the most important bits are in the first minute.

Not a hard limit.

I mean, I'd love to go...I live in Boulder too

I am having trouble seeing what the deadline for this is. Am I missing something obvious?

"The application deadline is Feb 18th at 11:59 PM PST."


curious to know who the "20 people who are already at the top of their fields" are.

...wondering why they wouldn't publish that so that folks who apply have a better idea who they'll be spending time with.

100 introverts walk into a bar...

Your chance to have dinner with the next Elizabeth Holmes?

> Aside from some basic information, all you need to do to apply is submit a one-minute video with answers to these three questions:

> What are you interested in and what are you working on?

> What have you done so far that shows your potential for greatness, adjusted for whatever life circumstances you were born into?

> In a best-case scenario, what do you want your obituary to say?

Ugh... what a terrible selection process...

"Please don't post shallow dismissals, especially of other people's work. A good critical comment teaches us something."


People eventually get tired of giving useful feedback to unhelpful people. Maybe that's a piece of advice someone should share with sama sama.

There's no obligation to give useful feedback. Just to not waste people's time with unuseful feedback. We want to maintain the high signal to noise ratio. If you don't feel like providing signal is worth your time, the correct alternative is not to add noise.

You may not owe Sam or any individual better than this, but you do owe quite a bit better to the community you're participating in here.

I hope so.

I thought these were all very relevant questions. Fit is everything, and presumably they already have the candidate's resume / portfolio to review, so they're digging into more qualitative stuff

Fit of what to what? If it's a fit of candidate to the event, then YC doesn't have information about potential applicants. If it's a fit of somebody already well inside YC circle, then that should be stated - but I don't think YC would limit their intent that much, even though the size (120 people) suggests otherwise.

So, no, I don't think this kind of fit is good here.

These seem poorly phrased, too broad and not connected enough to succinctly answer in 1 minute. How about:

1. What do you want to accomplish with your life's work?

2. What have you accomplished so far to get there?

3. What's next?

1 and 2 seem like good questions, but 3 does look like a bullshit question.

To me, 1st and 3rd are way more reasonable, than 2nd.

I like it. I’m curious what makes you say it’s terrible?

It self selects for people who are great at talking about themselves i.e narcissists.

I think the intent behind question 3 is to find people who want to work on something that defines their life enough it makes it on their obituary.

Selecting for life passion, not temporary dreamers.

Bit obvious for that, isn't it? (Although I guess "willing to say whatever they think YC wants to hear" might be part of the filter too, possibly in multiple ways)

If you don't have anything interesting to say about yourself or your ambitions, maybe you just aren't that interesting of a person...

But maybe not?

i don't think you're imagining the selection process properly.

i think to get the right mental model, imagine instead that they only wrote "send a one-minute video and convince us to invite you".

That exactly how it looks, and this approach seems wrong here. For somebody who can articulate - on video, no less - you have some who can't. Not sure who's more promising.

Really puts a damper on people who are interested in immortality.

that's actually really funny (still chuckling)

It’s adorable because initiatives like this are designed to get fresh blood into a system, but the people running the system are afraid of fresh blood, so you get selection criteria like this. :)

http://n-gate.com/ is gonna have a field day with this

Yeah these questions scream “only 20 year old naive idealists need apply”

The obituary question is so insincere and disingenuous.

is this like a tie-in with the HBO series or something?

SO, are you going to share the candidates prior to the retreat?

Can we vote on people we feel should be there?

Can we see their submission videos?

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