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The purpose of the interview is to find people who will make good founders. It is not a salon for intellectuals to sit around and be "comfortable debating and discussing ideas in an extremely logical and thoughtful way". It's closer to a boxing match. We're definitely not looking for people to "smile and nod". In fact, we sometimes make misleading suggestions in order to see how founders respond, so simply agreeing with everything is definitely not a winning strategy.



The idea that you would make intentionally make misleading suggestions certainly would explain a lot. I was actually expecting that to some degree. I think what confounded me so much is just how ridiculous the statements were and how many there were.

At one point I was reduced to essentially defending the very idea of startups and technology innovation. In the stress of the moment I also assumed like the comments were made sincerely (call me naive) so I did my best to pick my jaw up off the floor and explain why they were wrong -- only to be cutoff half way into a sentence. Rinse. Repeat.

When I say I'm "comfortable debating" I don't mean that I need to be comfortable while debating. I grew up with lawyers in my family and in a household where heated debate was part of our every day life. I've worked with some extremely smart and opinionated people. I love a vigorous debate about topics I'm passionate about (like startups). No one who knows me would say I'm a pushover, and most would agree I'm very open to sound logic and evidence.

I think if there's one thing that felt very different in my YC experience it was the intentionally misleading statements. I really am not accustomed to arguing with people who repeatdly make disengenous statements just to judge how I'll react. It's one thing to take an arbitrary position and defend it, it's another to just throw out random misleading statements. To me that would seem to only muddy the waters.

I'm sure I could learn to play that game. Maybe the best founders are great their first run. For all I know I was judged okay on that front. I don't really know.

I do know though that one would learn a lot more about my ability to think by restricitng the conversation to an honest debate of the relevant issues.

Again. I respect all of you guys and know you're good people and ridiculously smart. I'm not making any judgements on that account. One of the reasons I find YC so amazing is that you don't have to be "someone" to get in. It's not an old boy's club. It is disappointing to me to see that tinge of VC arrogance in the interview process, which is why I point it out.


"In fact, we sometimes make misleading suggestions in order to see how founders respond"

Wait, really?... Being intellectually dishonest is not cool. If you cannot figure out the winning strategy without lying then you're not trying hard enough.

Asking questions where you are honestly open to consideration even though it seems wrong, that's great. Knowingly making misleading suggestions isn't.


I mean "misleading" as in "leading in the wrong direction", such as "have you considered doing X?", where X is something that I think is a bad idea. If they agree with every I idea I have, then they will even agree with bad ideas, and won't make for a very effective founder (because the reality is that investors will make all kinds of dumb suggestions).


I think that's what distinguishes street smart from book smart. Running a startup is like fight a war, not pursuit of intellectual truth. Or you can say YC has its own "Kobayashi Maru".




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