This really just reinforces the fact that fund people, not ideas. The way it works in practice is that we work with the founders to find a good idea that will work for them (the idea needs to match the founder). The truth is that most people have good ideas in them, but just don't realize it. We aren't necessarily providing the idea so much as helping them to discover the idea that they already have :)
It makes perfect business sense for you, the reasons you outline are sound and I'm sure it will bring YC a lot of success, but it doesn't fit with what the (average) community member here thinks about entrepreneurship.
That's my understanding of the negativity, could be off the mark but it seems the most logical conclusion.
Also, I don't think we've ever accepted anyone who wore a suit to interviews.
Why is it OK to be wearing ill-fitting jeans and an oversized stained t-shirt from a tech conference? Is it thought that if someone is in to dressing well that they've taken time away from learning a new technology or focusing on their product?
Disclaimer: I dress in a somewhat dandyish manner.
This is the costume which indicates you belong to our group.
That is the costume which indicates you belong to their group.
Not necessarily rational, but certainly one aspect of how people work.
looks around the office at a sea of jeans and t-shirts
The issue with this argument is that almost anything you can say about suits applies to all clothing.
It's no co-incidence that during the dot com boom managers started dressing down. Did that make them better managers than when they wore suits? Or were the good ones still good and the bad ones still bad, they'd just adopted a different uniform?
If you pick on a particular uniform (in this case suits) rather than the concept that uniform matters then you don't solve the problem you just move or hide it.
Clothing is one of those odd and weird things that humanity might just shake out of the culture eventually. It is only of meaning to small minds.
It's like the priest who wears dignified religious clothing while hiding a darker side. Or the executive sporting $3,000 suits while causing financial damage to a nation. Or the clean-cut white kid wearing nice jeans and t-shirts while selling drugs around the corner. Or the cop wearing his uniform while committing a crime. Be careful about using clothing to judge and form opinion.
Now, I happen to think that a nice (not too expensive) suit can look really good. So can a nice pair of jeans and a t-shirt (particularly on a woman that can, shall we say, enhance the garments --call me a pig). I had to wear a suit my entire young life because I was sent to private schools. What this means is that I am just as comfortable in a suit as I am in jeans. I like wearing a suit for the right occasion. But if I have to code for 16 hours straight you are going to find me in sweatpants, and old t-shirt and sandals.
I still think digital "clothing" would be cool, and I get that there's a lot wrong with the way we use clothes to signal today, but anything that adds so much bandwidth to communication between people can't be all bad.
Indeed... Including programmers who wear suits.
Let's break a suit down:
jacket: why? are you cold? there are better garments, made of better material that can keep you warm in a variety of colder than comfortable climates.
vest (optional): why? it makes you look like a poker dealer, but you forgot your green rimmed sunshade.
tie: supposedly to add some color, but looks like a noose, or a lead rope used to guide livestock around (the signal I always get from a tie), may as well just wear a shirt with some color. Predecessors to the tie are generally regarded as silly looking today. Nobody takes an ascot seriously today, bolos look ridiculous, bow ties instantly turn somebody into a fussy professor, and nobody would be caught dead these days in a cravat http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/71/Louis1667...
oxford or similar shirt: oh where to start....buttons, from a time when fabrics couldn't be manufactured with the properties of jersey. Collar, to catch sweat from...all the sweating you're doing from the 3 layers of unnecessary clothing you're wearing. Sleeves, long to be proper, even if it's hot, buttons on the end, because again another vestigial holdover from primitive fabrics, or french cuffs, because who doesn't like to assemble their sleeves when they get dressed? Oh, and it has to be tucked in, leading to constant retucks throughout the day, or embarrassing shirt stays clipped to your socks or looped under your feet looking like some kind of lingerie reject.
Toss out that mess and we're left with ridiculous, overly expensive uncomfortable shoes that need constant maintenance, black socks and what are essentially just expensive slacks.
(edit: I'm frequently caught wearing suits for various work reasons, and I feel like an idiot every time I "suit up")
As a more accessible example: Why do you think more people wear shoes with shoe laces instead of Velcro straps?
For starters, shoe laces need to be tied, and they come undone. To use Velcro straps you simply have to press them firmly into place, and they take quite a lot of force to undo improperly.
The fact of the matter is the primary reason most people, by a huge margin, chose laces over Velcro is aesthetics (which Velcro sorely lacks).
I think part of the problem with hackers wearing suits is that they tend not to be comfortable in them, and they tend not to fit well, so they don't look quite right in them.
Personally, I like to wear nice jeans with nice shoes and a nice dress shirt, all which fit me well. It's somewhere between casual and dressy that's not the standard "business casual," and it's a style of dress I am comfortable in.
Or just wear cargo pants.
We know that cargo pants exist, but maybe they prefer a suit?
I've acknowledged your point no need to berate everyone down the line as well =/
(Not to mention they make you look like some sort of ex-marine wilderness survival nut or something)
It's lazy thinking. The whole ethos of casual dress at work was that it didn't matter what you wore, it was about what you did and thought and that we shouldn't make assumptions based on something so superficial.
That's now flipped and become some form of inverted snobbery where the people who objected to being judged on what they were wearing (or not wearing) are now doing exactly the same.
The point isn't that wearing a suit or jeans or whatever is good, bad or indifferent. It's that it doesn't matter.
I've got suits that aren't uncomfortable and weren't incredibly expensive. As for impractical that depends entirely on your life. I certainly wear them less now I have small children but when I was younger I never found it an issue.
In terms of social pressure, well yes, but that's true of a many many things that we do. If you've ever pulled on a clean pair of jeans to go out and meet a friend rather than the dirty (but still hygienic) pair you'd worn the day before, that's social pressure, when you don't just fart in front of people, that's social pressure.
Are those worse than my occasionally wearing a suit to go out with my wife because it makes her happy because she likes the way I look in it? Or because I've just been feeling a bit schlubby lately and fancy looking smart for the day? Or simply fancy a change?
I say this all as someone who typically wears jeans seven days a week and has casual dress as a significant factor when I choose a job.
You say that as if it is an absolute truth. This might be true for you, but it certainly doesn't hold for everyone.
Your argument isn't an argument against suits, it applies to any item of clothing other than the absolutely most basic, utilitarian items. It's an argument against fashion and self expression through clothing of all sorts.
Now if this is what you genuinely believe then that's fine but I hope you're applying the same standards you apply to those wearing suits to people wearing band t-shirts, anything branded where an equivalent non-branded item is available, or frankly anything that has been chosen for any reason at all other than it's absolute functional value.
Or my other clothes were in the wash. Happy now?
Is that not a clear enough example of why your argument isn't just about suits when I can just reuse your answer an it works?
In this sense it's a far better reason for a suit than for a band t-shirt. A suit is the primary output of a tailor, a band t-shirt is a commercial by-product of a band. There are better ways to support a band than buying a t-shirt - buying their records or seeing them live for instance. There is no better way to support a tailor.
As for the circular reasoning on its dirty - I agree but it's the same for both suit and band t-shirt. You have to have a reason to own it which I've given you.
Regardless of that owning and wearing a suit because I think it is a beautiful example of clothes design, regardless of whether it supports the creator or not, is a valid thing to do in itself that is neither narcissistic nor an example of social pressure.
And in case you think I'm desperately trying to come up with reasons but that they're not actually things any real person would do, I own only two suits, one of which (by Oswald Boateng) I own precisely for this reason - because I believe it to be a beautiful item (or more precisely two beautiful items) of clothing.
But the problem is still that your argument applies to lost of clothes, not just suits. Shirts are less practical than t-shirts. Buttons are fiddly and unnecessary, collars a pointless throw back to necktie and don't get me started on the practicality of cuffs. Most shoes are sub-optimal from a pure practicality point of view. Ironically many trainers aren't actually good for running because of the way they're balanced.
But I only wear it to interviews.
How about basic hygiene? Is that a no-no, too? "She is clean and doesn't smell. Must be covering for her incompetence." /s
I feel perfectly comfortable working in a T, jeans and sandals, and I pretty much wore a shalvar-jaaf (Kurdish pants) my entire graduate years, but if I am to meet anyone initially in a professional context I will wear a suite (fully aware of the reactionary views of the sub-set that apparently is so focused on surface matters that they would ignore technical competence and make decisions based on the fact that one wore a suite to, say, an interview.)
With the exception of the very small companies, every company where I've worked has had at least one hacker who wore a suit.
The suit-wearing hackers may outlast the lumber-hacker look.
It's kind of obvious when the guy on the other side of the table is wearing shorts and sandals that perhaps a suit and tie is inappropriate...
For instance, wearing a scruffy t-shirt and jeans with the suit to signal non-pretentiousness?
Personally, I enjoy wearing suits but if I ever go to Silicon Valley, I would like to avoid committing a faux pas :)
I know there are some great entrepreneurs that can build great things, but I have a feeling that great entrepreneurs + passion would go a lot further due to their irrational optimism and tenacity in their market/problem/area.
I'm taking that to mean, as an engineer, accomplishing a lot would entail building a lot of things? Or at least a few neat things? Even if they're in my spare time for fun, like the cummy OS I'm trying to write or for startup ideas I have that probably won't pan out?
I can't think of anything else because everything about my resume and past is just unimpressive at it's kindest and failure at it's honest.
I walked into YC looking like an unshaven hobo with a stupid linux t-shirt, and nappy unkept hair. The rest of my team was only slightly less homely. After being accepted into YC, I'm proud to say that I wash my hair but I haven't adopted a suit yet...
What I would worry about would be the fact that there is a difference between being given an idea and turning around a general idea into something new. If you are already in business, and you are going to be successful, turning around an idea you already have into something different is a familiar process and a necessary skill. On the other hand, the question becomes what happens with those who don't have an idea?
I can't speak for the people who will apply, but I know there is a huge difference between the attention I put into working on my own ideas and working on other people's. Ok, these categories aren't mutually exclusive. These aren't really comparable. Even if forced by circumstance into doing a specific thing for a business, it's different than being essentially hired by investors to implement their ideas. Again these aren't mutually exclusive categories or anything, but they represent something I would hope you'd be careful about.
One way to go about this would be to work with such people to find ideas after accepting them.
Being excited about something is important in running a business regardless of its size or scope.
Your response suggests you are aware of this. So maybe all of this just acts as validation that you are on the right path.
It doesn't seem like a bad idea, but I think the RFS already fills this need (as long as people know they can apply with an RFS but then do something different)
I wonder what % of those YC funds attended the Ivy League or other private u's vs. those who went to state schools?
1) It's a bad idea, or
2) The implementation needs work
I think the biggest difficulty in assessing things will be if it doesn't meet expectations, determining which of these applies after the fact.
Metrics only get you so far. They don't really tell you why you fail. They only tell you how far you are along your plan to succeed, and whether it is matching expectations.
But if things are failing, they can't tell you why, particularly in an experiment like this. Maybe it is genuinely a bad idea and nothing will make it succeed. Maybe it is a good idea but needs to be gone about differently.
In other words, you can show that you are doing what you think you need to do to be successful, and that you are not being successful, but you can;t show what changes you need to make in order to be successful.
The solutions do require manual labor, but they require creative labor. This area is more art than science.
If I was doing this I would assemble a list of reasons why this experiment will fail up front. I would revisit the lists in a year or so. I would ask which ones played into the problem. I would then ask what could be done about it. But that's me. Others have to find their own ways.
They should be able to tune the app-review and interview process pretty easily, at least to get the same amount of information as from teams with ideas. Figuring out if those teams, if accepted, are markedly different from those who came with existing ideas, that's a much harder problem.
Remember, 28 March deadline! Apply!
I think the reason that a portion of the public is acting negatively is because they're afraid that these changes will cause YC to become a playground for non-technical cofounders and nutjobs with ideas. I have confidence that the partners won't let this happen. They've already shown their willingness to revert back if it doesn't work out (limited trial run), so I really don't understand why people are pissed.
(There will be a FAQ about this sort of thing, but I wanted to get this launched today and only had 10 minutes to do it in before I had to go to office hours.)
You already said that experience is not necessary. So we are ALREADY at: "Apply with no experience, no idea, no team."
There is only one next logical step. You're still 'buying the man/woman'. The last step is:
"New, apply to YC anonymously, without ever going or revealing who you are. No need to come even if you're accepted, we'll webinar the whole kebab and you can stay behind a skype handle and email."
Paul, I would like to do this! Please allow me to apply anonymously, without ever going or revealing who I am. (Of course, you'll know everything about the resulting company.) You might just be surprised...
We've all worked with that girl who succeeded at everything she touched. We'd hire her in a heartbeat, for any project, because she figures out how to make it work the best it can. If she's around, we can step back a bit and trust, and the project turns out better than if we'd run it our self.
She's worth way more than the guy who farts great ideas.
I have a negative reaction because although I agree with the principle of funding people in general, I'm skeptical of the idea of people who "want to be entrepreneurs" rather than people who become entrepreneurs to achieve something specific. (I've already made one comment to this effect that was downvoted to oblivion.)
It's not that ideas are worthwhile and are what you should get into yc. I am skeptical that a good founder wouldn't be able to come up with scads of potential ways they want to change the world.
The current YC model may have been met with the same response when first proposed (I expect it wasn't even this good, I don't know the history) but all indication is that the model works very well. And if they don't look for ways to improve further on that model, someone else may come in and eat their lunch. YC is a business too, you know.
Besides, if "execution is everything" then doesn't it make sense to not worry about the idea and focus entirely on the team? Even if it doesn't work out, I think there's no question that they should give it a shot.
This is very, very rare.
"Thus the "people not projects" principle was the other cornerstone of ARPA/PARC’s success. Because of the normal distribution of talents and drive in the world, a depressingly large percentage of organizational processes have been designed to deal with people of moderate ability, motivation, and trust. We can easily see this in most walks of life today, but also astoundingly in corporate, university, and government research. ARPA/PARC had two main thresholds: self-motivation and ability. They cultivated people who "had to do, paid or not" and "whose doings were likely to be highly interesting and important". Thus conventional oversight was not only not needed, but was not really possible. "Peer review" wasn't easily done even with actual peers. The situation was "out of control", yet extremely productive and not at all anarchic."
Sounds remarkably like YC.
Like Hollywood that created the studio system and theater chains, and Music Labels that created radio promotion and recorded music sales, Y Combinator has created the cookie cutter vertical for this century's hot new tech opportunity- the Internets. And God Bless them. They invented it, this model, it works and they are going to be billionaires cause they are creating the Value.
If I could buy 7% of a the future (earnings and primary asset) of an elite college super achiever (with a proven skillset and a track record of cool hacks,) in exchange for 7 Grand, man oh man, that is a no-brainer. Like signing Marilyn Monroe to a studio contract or getting half the Beatles catalog for a ham sandwich, or whatever they were advanced by Northern Songs.
And no, I'm not being snarky, because Marilyn Monroe without the movie studios would have been a waitress or whatever, and the Beatles without the music copyright machine would have been guys who worked day jobs who had a cool weekend band that was their real passion.
Sign all the boys who can sing and dance--its Menudo Monkees Backstreet madness!! If your Johnny Bravos can fit the suit, I say sign them up! Everybody wins, except the wannabes who find a reason to complain instead of doing anything awesome because they are, in their hearts...and in their lives, afraid.
Hooray for (New) Hollywood.
a) pick one and apply through the normal process (thus demonstrating they're capable of coming up with good ideas, and perhaps prototyping one), or
b) go through this new no-idea process instead (thus making it clear they are flexible in terms of what idea they pursue)?
Hmm, maybe selling companies to investors is a form of corporate sales after all.
Most successful entrepreneurs have ideas that seem bad for various reasons. YC's focus on critiquing founders' ideas (PG's sneers about mobile/social/local) suggest that YC is very confident that it knows which ideas will work and which won't.
In terms of predicting which companies will be successful in 10 years, nobody would ever have sufficient hubris to claim such foresight. But if the goal is to sell a company to VCs in 6 months, it's not hard to have a pretty good idea of the market dynamics.
Personally I'd rather see YC post "drafts" of business plans and let would-be teams start their own incarnations of those businesses and apply to YC with them. At least then it feels more like an authentic entrepreneurial spark than a search for pedigrees the VCs will buy into a few months down the line.
This situation makes me wonder how much of the ideas and direction came from the incubator, and how much came from the team - and who's specific vision, etc.. I don't know how far ahead, long-term thinking (re: strategy, future features, etc) could be figured out if ideas weren't solidified over a period of time. The depth of the ideas I don't think in most cases would go very far.
From my own experiences putting time into development without first having a solid idea of what you're wanting to create ends up being a lot of extra development time.
For myself, I have spent years evolving my ideas and now I'm very ready to find technical co-founders / core team members. I've been told by some very experienced and very wise folks that I have everything else figured out.
Also, I don't see any company posting drafts of business plans. It would give away too much. I do always wonder where these 'other ideas' come from though. I would think people would keep their best ideas that they'd hope to be able to do someday, for themselves, and only share their secondary ideas that they'd never see themselves doing.
I do see this being beneficial for incubators in being able to experiment with relatively minimum costs to them, though is this really going to yield big results for the team members or are they selling themselves short?
This job does not exist.
600K is high, but maybe possible.
Sure, people who come up with an idea to do a start up usually change it midstream, but they actually come up with one and set out to achieve it. If you can't even think of something to work on, then I don't think people should be falling over themselves to give you money to just come up with something just because you're 'smart' ... it just seems to commoditize and cheapen the process in my opinion. Plus if it doesn't work out, now they have the easy out ... "It wasn't even my idea".
Yes, I know the founder of Yelp got handed $1 million to come up with something and they got Yelp ...
Yes, I know I haven't done this day-in day-out for years like you guys have ...
but it still upsets me. maybe I just need to give it 5 minutes.
I'll sit down now.
YC is directly integrated into the heartbeat of Silicon Valley, gaining more insight into where the puck is going to be, far better than any outsider. If they can match traits of a group/person to an idea only they have the privilege to imagine, you might have a winning combination.
The fact that people are complaining about this likely means it's a good idea, or should at least be tested. Occasionally throwing a monkey wrench into the machine is always good practice.
Colleges do this already by accepting smart students who don't know what to major in yet. Who cares if it takes them some time to figure it out? They're smart! They'll get it!
Colleges do this to get their tuition money, not out of the goodness of their hearts. Who cares if they don't know? Society standards dictate most of them will stick it out and pay for four years of something.
The top students who will become prestigious alumni are by and large not the same students who don't know what they want to major in yet. For every Steve Jobs-like outlier you have a ton of executives, accountants, doctors, and engineers who know that's what they want to do. The major-less students will generally either pay for four years of psychology or be successful for unrelated reasons (legacy status and family connections, the occasional dumb luck).
If YC thinks trying to pick out the outliers, the lucky, and the connected from their application pool is worth the trial, power to them.
I don't know what happens when you take smart people who are confident they can solve problems and give them problems.
Maybe they can actually solve them, maybe they can't, I have no idea, but I look forward to watching it and seeing what happens.
I know YC wouldn't ever say "right, here's your new business plan", and I suspect the aim here is to be able to find ideas that these idealess-founders will be passionate about.
The other thing to think about is that everyone, i mean everyone has some idea they have thought about which could be a business. If you're the 1% that have never thought of something that could use a change in this world, then the no-idea application probably doesn't apply to you. For the other 99, you can come in with a handful of things that bother you in the world which could be solved by software and YC will more than likely help you pick something they know has a pretty good shot if you are willing to put in the hours.
Even though many companies pivot to ideas nothing like their original, the original shared vision by the team is what keeps it together and unified.
I have no doubt that there are groups you could hand an idea to that would go at it with gusto, I just don't think most will.
Also (I'm starting to wonder if you read the announcement) we don't hand people ideas. We encourage them to solve problems they already knew about but had been overlooking.
In the end, the person is going to have to become passionate about the idea. That's hard. When you're talking about a group that comes in together and wants to start a company together, it is much harder.
Honestly, if someone comes in just wanting to start a company without an idea, it sounds to me like they are more in love with the idea of being a founder than solving a problem close to their heart. I don't think that I would be interested in people like that.
This is a great idea and people at most should at least have a neutral approach.
edited- I didn't mean this as a comment to Daniel's comment. It was meant for the grandparent
Same with Sam Altman, just because someone is a very prominent YC founder doesn't mean everyone has to agree with everything they do.
We considered switching ideas in the middle of YC. One of the reasons the partners talked us out of it was that we weren't particularly well suited to tackle the new space we were thinking about.
Teams initially accepted by YC were accepted on the basis of an idea. I am going to take a bit of a leap of faith and suggest that a significant portion of self worth was placed in the nurturing of that idea. When it came time to pivot or in some cases completely alter their business plans, I suspect that a lot of that initial value was then grafted on to the new plan as a way of salvaging ego meaning that the same level of devotion then seeded the second idea.
Will this work? Who knows...it is certainly an interesting experiment. To be frank, it seems like a step away from the wild west toward the corporatization of start-ups. Essentially hiring talented people, pushing them in a direction and seeing what they develop.
If a team knows how to go quickly from idea or concept, to market definition, to customer discovery, to validation very quickly it's not a problem. Most people don't even get out of the building to talk to customers routinely. They build something and see what sticks.
I would rather take a team with no idea but were really good at customer development over a team with a concrete idea but no customer development experience. The no-idea team can quickly figure out if an idea solves a problem for a big enough market and if they are willing to pay it.
My co-founder and I were in a similar boat until we found a process that worked for us to uproot unmet needs, but, if we hadn't, we'd definitely be exploring this track.
If this model works out, I wonder if we'll eventually see traditional universities funding startups for top students out of their endowments.
Very exciting experiment, if you ask me.
You really think you can teach all the business principles you "need to know" in a few months, huh? But I bet if I said lets take some business guys and teach them everything you need to know about coding in a few months, you'd probably think I was crazy.
Seriously, the "what it takes to successfully run a business" is so underestimated around here it makes me shudder. But, I guess that's probably why most people here aren't actually running successful businesses.
So if these applicants don't have an idea, then are they expected to not have any sort of work on a product? And if so, doesn't that make it a lot harder to evaluate their body of work and quality of their team?
To make an analogy, PhD students usually don't have a project to work on when they start and if they do, that usually changes. Yet many of them become excellent researchers and leaders of their field in the future.
That's probably stating the obvious (but sometimes it's worth doing that).
Edit: The analogy does works but you might want to consider subjects as 'startup areas' e.g. consumer, enterprise, infrastructure, etc
One of these groups was Auctomatic, which did pretty well. Another is in the current batch and isn't launched yet.
Obviously having technical founders can have many benefits, including:
a.) Can create technical product yourself, spend less on coders initially (e.g. Zuckerburg)
b.) Some products may need complicated code even for a POC (whereas sites like Twitter, less so. Any mediocre dev could make a badly written Twitter clone)
c.) Easier to think of technical ideas. For example I doubt a non-technical person would think of creating BitCoin. On a smaller level, could fail to think of feature-sized ideas within a company.
I think that, if Twitter didn't exist and I decided to create it, lack of coding skill wouldn't be a problem, as long as I had funding for coders to replace the technical founder's early role. Don't get me wrong, I'm not claiming I could do what Twitter have done, but I don't think that the things I'd have done worse would be because of technical ability, the same as if I was hired as a lawyer my failings wouldn't be for tech/code reasons.
As an example data point, the company I work for is a digital publishing company, creating and managing content websites. Founded by people from hardware distribution industry, and successful - yet I would argue that our core business type is similar to Reddit, in that success/failure comes more from business decisions than "wow, you coded a better website than other people!" (Reddit being better than Digg, for example, is much more than "Reddit is coded better".)
Well, let's be fair here - he did implement their idea, at least the important part of it, the bit without which Facebook probably would have been a flop (the early elite school exclusivity, which was a major selling point especially at the first few schools, since there was nothing else particularly special about the site itself).
He just decided to keep it for himself rather than hand it over when it was ready.
Despite your opinion that it they are unnecessary, is it a coincidence that all the startups you name had technical founders? Obviously your chances of success are not zero without a technical cofounder, but empirically a technical cofounder does seem to be a common factor.
Of course, in most of those cases I would assume that the person/s providing the money would have a lot less input into the final product than a non-technical founder would have in a company, so perhaps they're better compared to a VC than a founder?
I imagine a conversation with Mozart went something like this:
"Mozart, I want a libretto."
"What should be in it?"
"It should be about birds."
"Okay, I'll get on it."
The corresponding conversation in our world would be:
"Jack, I want a piece of software."
"What should it do?"
"It should be like a blog but every post limited to 140 characters."
It is Mozart and Jack who end up making 99% of the design decisions. What I'm saying that once the guy hiring the creator gets so involved that a good portion of the decisions are his/hers then that's a very inefficient way to compose a piece of music or a piece of software, and you're better off doing the composing yourself. Of course in many cases marketing is more important than the technical side, but this is no different. In a startup with just a couple of people the contribution comes from the guy doing the marketing, not a guy deciding the rough marketing strategy. In a big company the influence reverses because the business decisions have a lot of leverage simply because they affect what a large number of employees are going to do. Simply put, the question you're asking is "Could twitter be done by me getting YC (and later VC) money and then hiring a programmer and a marketer?". The right question is "Why would the YC give the money to me instead of the programmer and the marketer?". Note that a perfectly valid answer for a lot of startups could be "I have connections and experience in the field" (especially for e.g. medical or payments startups), but the answer needs to be something.
I'm not sure about Twitter, but I think so too in that case.
So maybe it IS important.
Didn't the airbnb founder(s) have little/no coding experience?
First, is market size. If you have a great team and a great product in a small market, you won't make much money. Conversely, you can have a bad team with an okay product in a large market, and still make a decent return. The market is assessed first because you can't change it. It is what it is.
Second is team; the quality of the team is more important than the product in the earliest stages of a company. It's the second hardest thing to change. It's really hard to replace a cofounder.
Third, and last, is product. It's really easy to change a product. The classical/somewhat cliched pivot.
With this in mind, YC can attract stellar talent, point them at a big market and say "innovate and iterate!"
As PG mentioned, this has already happened to some extent. I think this is a clear pathway for exceptional engineers to come together.
This effectively opens the floodgates but it might also reduce the number of poorly thought-out ideas since teams now have a different access point.
Fits well with the 'replace university' comments in the PyCon talk.
edit: Makes me wonder how about the proportion of people who apply with demos (and how advantageous that is -- or is not).
I've always thought "I want to be an entrepreneur, now what should I do?" was backwards. Rather, it seemed to me that history of real innovation is full of "I have this great idea, I guess I have to be an entrepreneur now". For example, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Ford.
But maybe my perspective is skewed by a type of survivorship bias -- were Wozniak/Jobs initially working on other projects that failed and pivoted towards Apple? Or maybe they happened to hit on a good idea first, but what about others? I guess YC has the data, so maybe it's time for me to re-evaluate how successful companies are born.
edit: not here, here. Submit to HN. Write a blog post.
Getting funded for anything including hardware and/or medical stuff is quite hard.
On another aspect of it, the negative reaction of some, I think there may be a subconscious message that this makes it more about what someone has done than is doing or will do. That probably threatens some folks a bit, even if it doesn't practically make any actual difference to their chances.
I'm sure this is impossible to generalize, but I wonder if in some circumstances it might even save people a few weeks of time. If a lot of teams change their idea during YC, presumably in some cases it takes them a while to decide (or to be convinced by the partners) to do so. Whereas if they go in not attached to any particular idea, it might be easier for pg & crew to talk them out of their bad ideas so that they reach a good idea more quickly.
Is there ever a risk of unintentionally assigning one of the ideas of a lesser group to one of these "All-star" groups without an idea? Like in a brain-storming session, who gets the embers going? I know there's a statement about this on the application (if you're worried about copying not to apply) but it would be interesting to know.
Personally, if I applied to YC I would apply with an idea but remember most investors won't invest without seeing traction and if the company removes some of the risk etc.
YC used to let you just apply with just an idea. The HackerSchool/HackerRecruiter guys were accepted with just an idea (although they built a prototype before their interview) and now you don't even need that.
The reason that I think its awesome is because, there are a lot of startups that I have seen recently that are not actually viable or a good idea and this has created a lot of low-value startups (you know the ones I'm talking about)
I personally believe that great people/founders will only start a company if they believe their idea is good and viable. The reason they haven't is because, they know their idea sucks - this is where YC comes in as they will help those great people/founders by providing the tools and resources to help them curate their ideas so they can build meaningful and valuable companies.
Sure, YC focuses on people but great people often have great ideas, even if they don't know it yet and this is why this is awesome.
I also have a few currently that I'm slightly more passionate which are not on the list. But still haven't found The One True Idea. I do know my general area of interest, though, which is e-learning, personal development, and skill acquisition.
In hindsight, several of "my" ideas have been turned into workable startups (example off the top of my head: Verbling).
I think I have two main challenges:
1) I'm too critical of my ideas.
2) I have a hard time getting started and evaluating my ideas. I would like to be able to create quick mock-ups of lots of ideas and test them quickly against the market.
1) Lots of ideas, very creative
2) Technical skills (programmer)
3) Already have a team in place around the world and locally + lots of potential team mates who I trust
4) Already have execution/management experience on a project (Interesting Times Magazine) - sure, it's not software but I'm still VERY familiar with the entrepreneurial emotion roller-coaster
All in all, this new stance from Y Combinator is giving me some hope for the future. Now I just need to sit down and write a good pitch. How would you guys rate my chances? Any tips?
I have experienced it a lot while doing projects; starting with something i thought was cool, did a bit of research couldn't find anything similar, worked on it for a couple of weeks, then finding out the product does exist in the market already.
Overall, I think you have a really creative mind and should start working on some of your ideas, to make best use of it :).
Me too :) I just need to partner up with someone who is more grounded and has the mindset of testing everything. I live too much in my intuition and ideaspace.
For example, there are people who would pay to be part of YC and also fall in the gray area where it seems they aren't bad investments but it isn't clear that they are likely good investments. A handful of those people may be invited to participate in YC with the exception that their investment is conditional: a don rag would be held half-way through, and if they weren't doing considerably well, they would be cut (otherwise, they would earn the investment).
An argument against that example may be that the applicant ought to prove worthiness beforehand, but that's just the point: maybe all the applicant needs is the right environment (YC) to dominate.
"One might be tempted simply to take the best individuals and ignore the other. However, that would lead to a quick loss of diversity. Those individuals currently not doing as well as the others may have properties that will prove superior in the long run." Understanding Intelligence (ch. 8.2 / pg. 239; Pfeifer & Scheier)
Is it broken or am I missing something?
FYI, the "no idea" form is exactly the same as the regular form, except it is missing 18 questions that are idea-specific.
I did apply to YC but i changed my mind and erased everything. Not because i wasn't confident in my idea, or anything on YC's part (i think at least) but just pure numbers: too many people know about it so even for the brilliant ideas (or people) that get through, even more would be left out.
Sure i may be taking myself out of the race before its started, but i've applied to some other places around the country that seem to offer the same type of quality (more money,more impressive informatics resources), even one not to far from where i live (midwest) which is awesome (especially since its the first year for it) Always been a risk taker and i like my chances else where.
Besides we should be spreading this throughout the world and not just hoarding it in SV =)
What YC is doing, (particularly with the guaranteed convertible) is extending this concept to people (presumably) somewhat earlier in their career.
That's not to say it's a bad move. Education is one big, slow target screaming "make money off me!" There's also a really big chance to help people at the same time, which is of course a nice overlap. But some of the dangers that make elementary schools suck, and high schools suck, and both American and foreign colleges suck will be waiting for you as well. Education has an impressive record as an institution-killer.
So be careful. We like you guys, and it would hurt to see you go down when you started out so well.
Anyway, it's an interesting experiment.
I've been involved in a lot of companies, I can code, do (simple) multi-layer PCB layout, server-admin, tons of real-world business experience, can go in cold to a group of hundreds of people and present almost any topic and manage positive or negative audience feedback under pressure.
I have an idea (submitted in the past, denied, still working on it though)... But, YC might frankly have a BETTER idea for me. Or together we might be able to identify an exploitable market.
I see this as kind of YC's version of an EIR, and frankly I think it's cool and will likely produce several successful projects.
Is it fair to say that YC has decided to step up their offering by guiding founders through the idea brainstorming session? Instead of playing the bidding game of taking smaller equity stakes or coughing up more cash, YC has decided to give founders something much more valuable: an idea. It is always refreshing to see companies focus on innovating the product and not the pricing. Kudos to YC! I expect other accelerators to follow through.
What are exactly the merits to determine "good" untested founders?
My other question is, which has been eating at me slightly is the trend of the startups I have seen come from Y Combinator being "extremely" similar to each other. Of course there is going to be overlap, but even the backgrounds of founders are largely similar creating this trend of "hive" mind ideologies for startups. Is this intentional?
Overall, I'm curious to see how it will turn out either way.
Also consider that while some "ideas" are the classic "twitter for dogs" or some other improvised nonsense others are actually very elaborated and go far beyond the idea and into the "concept" stage. That a concept gets thrown into the garbage bin together with all the dull "twitter for X" ideas is very demeaning to all the teams that spent a long time working on that.
And speaking of teams, is very VERY difficult to build one let alone keep it together without an actual goal (idea->concept->objective). Is next to impossible to keep things going when every session can be summed up as "any ideas?", the sound of crickets and no actual work. I don't know where you guys are but here if you walk into engineering and say "who wants to be in a startup?" followed by "there's no idea yet" you are not going to get the 10X engineers there, not even the 1Xs. The only ones paying attention will be the CS101 guys, and not the ones that learned Ruby by themselves but the ones that don't even know what PHP is yet.
Ideas keep the group together, give the team an actual goal rather than a vague outcome (eg: "we're going to be rich!"). Many like to talk about failed startups, but they rarely mention that the startups that fail the most are those founded by wantrepreneurs with no idea, no concept, very little knowledge and only one clear objective: make lots of money. What's the problem? you're not making any money by just wishing, you need an actual product that gains traction, and then a coherent business plan that actually works (or will work but in that case you better have lots of investors friends).
I don't mind YC is doing it but I think they should change their strategy: 3 months is a very short time to come up with a decent non-half-baked idea considering you also have to <execute it> which is a nice way of summing up all the actual work you'll have to do to get your product out there.
Your idea is important too, but mainly as evidence that you can have good ideas.
It would be interesting to see some kind of startup bootcamp emerge. For those who want more in life, but don't quite know how to get there, or don't yet have the confidence to do it themselves. Even better, you'd come out of it pretty well connected with others in such a program. Even more so if YC was involved.
Though perhaps the best way to get involved is still to work for an early-stage startup, if you can take the risk.
I personally don't have one all consuming idea that I'd choose to apply with and that has stopped me applying in the past.
I have many ideas, all of equal interest & potential, each compliments a different side to my personality/experience.
The idea of running these ideas past the YC team for their input would be amazing!
I could imagine that a team with a single-minded focus on one idea would have more difficulty changing aim if it were suggested they pivot.
I think the 'no-idea-yet' teams that get chosen will be steered well by the YC team. They'll have a much more objective view on their business and will follow head not heart.
I'm also glad they'll consider single founders :)
If they've known each other for, say 10 years, and still don't have a startup idea they want, it seems like it will take more than 3 months, I think that's the Y combinator length, to get an idea that they are truly passionate about.
Note, I'm sure that smart people can come up with many ideas in 3 months, it's the becoming passionate about it part that I have a hard time seeing.
I'm guessing that people become truly passionate about say 5 -10 things in their lives, it seems odd to suspect that they'll come across the idea in such a short time and then be able to act on it in time to take advantage of Y combinator.
What am I missing?
Being able to work out the viability of 5 or 10 ideas with the resources of YC would be very compelling.
I'm surprised you're willing to consider single founders at all. No team, no idea/product... what's left?
(Disclaimer: I've applied many times as a single founder and have gotten justifiably rejected.)
You would feel pretty stupid turning him down right? It's a reasonable bet that whatever he did next would also be successful. At the very least you'd be scared to bet strongly against him.
There are many people who, while not being so famous, have accomplishments and abilities of some kind which could inspire a similar feeling.
Announcing the Y Combinator Amex...
I think one of the biggest challenges will be founder motivation. I have no supporting data, but my guess is that you'd be willing to work a lot harder for an idea that you created based on some issue you were facing in your life. I think a challenge for YC will be to prevent the founders from feeling like they're some new sort of contractors, and feel less involved.
Title: A new kind of advertising company
Synopsis: Startup pays Stanford students to wear t-shirts and sells the ad space to companies that pays the startup to hand out its t-shirts. Students must submit evidence of themselves wearing t-shirt to stay on distribution list.
There are obvious ways to grow (expand to other schools, target advertising by age or gender, etc.)
The basic value prop is to create new ad space and sell it. Students get free t-shirts. Advertisers get brand awareness. You get money.
All I ask is that you take me out to lunch once you get off the ground!
Most of my startup ideas tend to be cheeky like this.
I hope YC is fair in their judging. I'd hate for them to accept a non-idea applicant over a more capable team who applied with a mediocre idea, just for the sake of seeing if the non-idea experiment works out.
They're pros though, so I'm sure that whatever format they come up with will be fair for everyone who applies.
I'm not at a point where YC is feasible for me (so I won't be applying), but I think this is a great idea which could lead to some very unforeseen ignition of sweet stuff.
If it was feasible for me, I would apply.
Good founders are resourceful. You'll make the visa stuff work, because you'll have to.
That said, it is a risk. If your cofounder quits, he may have to leave the country, and may not get back in on visa waiver since he has shown intent to emigrate.
So go ahead and apply to YC. They wont even ask about visas. But talk to a lawyer now, so you can get started on making this work.
From a personal side note, I wonder how that affects applications with ideas? I mean pg said, that its already what they are doing, but the two track application makes me wondering