* You don't have to use 4-5th grade level English for our
sakes. It might force you to explain things better though.
* When answering the question about the most impressive thing you've
achieved, it's not necessary to "focus on things that can be useful
in a startup." In fact that's a common mistake. If you won an
Olympic gold medal and can also write hello world in Ruby, we want
to hear about the former, not the latter.
* How you hacked some real-world system to your advantage is not a
super important question. Probably not even in the top 10.
I don't know about the other YC partners, but the two most important
questions to me are what you've done in the past that's impressive,
and why you chose the idea you're working on.
The biggest mistake founders make when applying is to confuse us. Half the time when I'm reading an application I'm thinking "I have no idea what this person is even talking about." I suspect this often the writer's own confusion showing through.
It's surprisingly hard to explain oneself. Even startups that we've accepted and have spent months working with say things in draft Demo Day presentations that make me ask "what does that even mean?"
"things useful in a startup" does seem like misleading advice. Because people applying don't yet know what's useful. So it's obvious to me that having won an Olympic medal is super useful, but it's probably not obvious to the applicant. Hmm, and "useful" is probably not quite the right word here ... I'll try to cover this more in emails.
You comment above rates 6.5. Your writing style is very unusual though. It remains easy to understand despite being somewhat complex linguistically. 6 is about the maximum I can usually understand in a single pass. And after reading a bunch of applications my abilities degenerate. Best direct response copywriters consistently rate at 4.
I assume that these applications are very similar (although different in that you can take your time and reread parts as you see fit). But the shear amount of applications and the time frame allotted to go through them, I imagine it can be difficult to remember large parts of applications.
I was actually considering writing a post entitled "4th Grade Writing Level: Why I Should Have Had an Engineering Major Write My YC Application". I still think that would be a good joke.
Yes, suggesting that engineers have the writing skill of 4th graders is sure to go over well on a site called Hacker News.
One solution would be to only add to our answers, not subtract, by adding "EDIT: I wanted to clarify this point by saying x,y,z" at the bottom of a question.
Of course, the problem is that adds to the verbosity, making your lives more difficult with more to read, not less.
If I was a reviewer, I'd be annoyed if I spent a bunch of time debating the merits of an application with another reviewer and discovered we'd been looking at completely different versions, submitted a month apart. "This application is awesome, they clearly have what it takes as founders and have a cool idea with a prototype." "What are you talking about? That application was one of the most confusing I read. And it was just an idea, no prototype." "Oh, we were looking at different versions. Damn."
It sounds like it isn't a problem though, so maybe this situation is rare, or for the first cut you don't discuss at all and just go by pure score averages, or there's something else I'm missing. Thanks for the feedback.
No one would try to talk about an application without it open in front of him; they're too complicated and there are too many of them.
1. Each partner has a queue of pending applications that have changes or have yet to be seen.
2. Each application shows a simple diff between the last time this partner saw it and now, if changes have been made.
3. Each field on the application has a space for the partner to write his or her own notes.
4. Each application has a space for the partner to write his or her own notes.
And then it's just a matter of having changes put your application back into the queue for each partner. Come the submission deadline, everyone is up to date once all of their queues are empty and then discussions about who to interview can commence, etc.
If so it'd be great to hear about them.
Edit: Oops! Caught you before your edit. Thanks!