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Ask HN: What will Y Combinator look like in 3 years?
42 points by twidlit on March 21, 2011 | hide | past | favorite | 30 comments
I am curious to know what people think Ycombinator will look like in the next 3 to 5 years. I think its interesting since Ycombinator is in a number of ways pioneering new ways to scale startups.

I'm thinking the single biggest change is that YC is going to land a Zynga or Groupon: a company whose meteoric rise to hundreds of millions in revenue and profit makes headlines, shakes industries, and will include "funded by YC" in every one of the numerous news pieces about it.

Who knows, it might have already happened, and we just don't know about it because they're still on the flat part of the hockey stick.

great thought here, they have definitely made some good bets and Heroku was probably just the tip of the iceberg, IMHO Dropbox is the one to watch of the older companies right now, I think there are several others that have large exit potential, Indinero, Carwoo, notifo, hipmunk and so on and so forth.

There are a few glimpses of what the future holds for YC but I think most of us can agree, it's pretty damn bright

Airbnb is a potential industry changer

Heroku's acquisition almost seemed like it approached that magnitude, from a valuation perspective.

Heroku is a much, much bigger company than anything I have ever done or aspire to do, and everybody even remotely connected to it should be justifiably proud, but it is not within an order of magnitude of either Zynga or Groupon. Either could have done that acquisition out of their free cash flow, and it would probably have been less than they spent on advertising in the next N months.

Interesting that you chose Zynga or Groupon and not Facebook or Google. I think it's the latter YC is looking out for more than the former.

Probably much the same. (Why change a recipe that works?) I imagine the largest changes would be:

1. More startups funded. Funding likely from a VC like Sequoia, but the bottleneck here is mentorship time. Which leads to...

2. More staff. Likely successful founders from previous YC rounds. (It's already begun with Harj, Alexis, and Gary.) This would mostly be moving part-time mentors to full-time partners. Something like around 20 "YC fellows.".

3. An office in SF, probably around SoMa. I wouldn't be surprised if YC started holding some office hours there, with the additional staff from (2). (Maybe it's already happening informally.)

And a bunch of other things: Startup School 2x a year, Startup job fairs. PG could have time to write a book about YC.

YC will attract an even larger following and the signal/noise ratio of applicants will become a problem in itself. The benefits of YC are clear so people will start to make it their goal to get into YC rather than build a great company.

This is outside the control of YC. Its a side-effect of becoming too successful.

I don't think we are too far off seeing "How to get into YC" ebooks or even discrete coaching on how to do well in YC-interviews.

Please forgive the pessimism but its my honest feeling.

I think this is a good point. Right now YC avoids using social proof as an evaluation tool. They look at the team's ability to work together, that they can ship, and their idea. As YC grows they need to make sure they don't look at who recommends them, how much influence they have, if they're famous.

They can get a %50 success rate, because they have developed a model of evaluating. As the value of getting in to YC increases, the ability to game the model does as well. Every blog post which tells you how to apply, shifts the companies accepted towards those who are able to win at that game.

Every applicant who goes in to that interview knowing it's not a presentation, but a demo followed by 10 minutes of rapid fire questions / brainstorming, has a big advantage. Every applicant who can get current or former YC founders to review their application has an advantage. Every applicant who spends time reading each and every 'applying to YC' blog post, has an advantage.

The big question is, are those advantages things which correlate with being a good startup founder. In some cases yes, in some no.

This is the real signal to noise problem that YC faces. Not that there might be 2000 startups applying each cycle, but that applicants learn how the theater works. They know the game, and are actors which present the perfect YC application. Then YC has to figure out, are these guys and gals really good at what they do, or are they telling me the story I want to hear.

That said, i bet even with the noise, YC has a better way of evaluating the potential future of startups than the 'who else invested, who's the advisors' model many angels use.

im wondering what the signal/noise ratio is like now, the first batch after the start fund. will be interesting to see how big and how awesome this next batch is.

I think unfortunately for YC the noise level will rise significantly. Before the start fund YC wasn't about money but rather building great products around strong individuals / teams. The funded believed in what they were doing and YC believed in them and together they walked a path toward success. While that won't change going forward, I think there will be a lot more people who apply and aren't as passionate or haven't thought about their ideas in as much depth but see money at the start of the rainbow as a way to figure it out.

I don't think that it's silly to ask whether the law of diminishing returns has to kick in at some point. Not for the investors, but the founders. PG and co cannot be cloned or replicated. PG can pick winners but he cannot create more time. If you consider the primary value of YC to be PG, and accept that a YC startup founder will get a progressively smaller slice of the pie that is PG's time... then you have a function for decreasing founder value for the equity they give up for YC.

Now, given that the recent $150k situation is in effect, it means that in three years the typical YC startup will have more money and less individual attention from PG. He can continue to hire amazing folks like Harj and Paul to spread the love, but at some point there has to be a point on the graph where time and value peak.

I speculate that the peak will occur in 2011. I am hugely grateful to Paul for his contributions to my world, so I will only say that I sincerely hope he and Jessica take a really awesome vacation at some point in the near future. I'd chip in $100 for that, because I've received more value from his essays and HN than any other single source of information and networking.

I wonder what the Y Combinator competition will look like in 3 years ...

YC sounds amazing from the outside. I'm not a part, nor will I ever be. (I'm an entrepreneur in the software space, but I'm not a technical founder and have no plans to pick up any books on code, which means I'm out of the running immediately...and understandably.)

However, also from the outside, it seems like YC is creating entrepreneurs that experience their first business startup in a dreamworld that doesn't exist anywhere else; a bubble if you will, but not the kind of bubble that pops and brings down an industry...more like the bubble that private school kids experience during high school that sends them into a tizzy when they breathe the free air of college.

What happens to these founders when their first startup fails and they try again in the real world without the thick black book of strategic contacts in PG's back pocket and the guaranteed $150k from Yuri and Co? Starting companies out here in the "ghetto" (where money is earned, not given) is hard.

There is a story that's sitting near the top of HN right now that says YC is like a bootcamp for founders. That's a joke, right? I'm pretty sure it's more like summer camp for founders...or maybe a gentleman's club for founders where the sexiest startups dance on stage and investors try to stick money in the g-strings of the founders.

So, getting more to the point, I'm less concerned about what Y Combinator will look like in 3 years and more concerned for the founders that fail on round one and don't have the cushion of YC's couch to sleep on while they dream up their next big idea. But YC will most likely be exactly what PG wants it to be in 3 years, just like it always has been.

FallbackPlan == getARegularJob();

This just became my Facebook status.

I think a 10 to 20 year timeframe is even more interesting to think about.

I think the new funding deal by Milner and SV Angel may snowball into more angels and VCs offering blanket investments to all YC acceptees on easy terms as soon as they're accepted, which will compound the rising applicant pool and place more burden on the initial review and acceptance process.

At a deeper level, I think YC is at the forefront of motivating lots of people to consider founding or working at a startup as an alternative to a traditional job at an established company, and to develop the skills to be able to do so.

Considering Y Combinator is already 5 years old and hasn't changed drastically, I think we can expect the same in another 3-5 years. Iteratively improving their process, using their data and experience to make better decisions, and ultimately improving their success rate.

I expect to see some Heroku sized exits for YC companies as well. Maybe in 5 years there will finally be a YC company which goes public. In either case, I don't see YC drastically changing.

Same principles, evolved way of thinking due to experience. But I think it wont change to much, because they got it right, now it's just a matter os polishing

Would YC ever go the Techstars route and make it a city by city 'franchise'?

Seems unlikely. They sold their Boston office location and if you were maintaining a geographically distinct second location, Boston would be where to do it.

Not so sure about that.


And if, as nearly everyone who knows agrees, startups are better off in Silicon Valley than Boston, then they're better off in Silicon Valley than everywhere else too.

Perhaps it was just that it was not the right time (or place)


The most efficient answer to this will be given in 3 years from now.

Most correct answer; the most efficient was given by depoisfalamos.

It wasn't to efficient.

3 to 5 years old Y Combinator !!!

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