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Getting into YC as a single, non-technical founder (pandodaily.com)
42 points by hamiltonchan 1071 days ago | 21 comments

How to get into YC as a single, non-technical founder, in 4 easy steps:

1. Graduate from Harvard College (Phi Beta Kappa, Magna Cum Laude are pluses)

2. Work at JP Morgan as an investment banker

3. Graduate from Harvard Law School

4. Work at a major law firm

So easy, anyone can do it!


Congratulations. But I'd like to see a follow-up in 1-2 years for all those recent "how we got into YC" boasting posts, detailing how successful the products ended up being. ;-)


Hamilton is a great guy and I think the thinking behind his acceptance to YC is pretty clear ... "Let's give him a chance. He's succeeded at everything else he's ever done in life."


I suggest that getting into YC as a solo business founder should be called "pulling a Hamilton."

I hope to pull a Hamilton.


I think that might have other less desirable connotations.


so is have multiple Harvard degrees the answer to how to get into YC as a single non technical founder?


It's not merely the degrees and accolades that are impressive, it's also the fact that the decided he wanted to revive his family's printing business.

His results speak for themselves, and almost as importantly, his decisions show an independence streak and willingness to break with the herd and win in his own way. This is something every founder needs to get through the trough of sorrow.


I agree with you, for me I found his background very impressive event without the Harvard stuff, it shows he is dedicated, not afraid to take risks, and move where his carrer taken him

I mean, good for him, I'm not surprise he was taken in


Nope, it is to have multiple Harvard degrees, worked at top law firm, run a company, been featured in a magazine article, and already built a product that has paying customers.


+ be a banker in HK


so how helpful is an article that says the real key is to just generally be awesome at everything?

True or false, the people who get into havard are the people who don't need to go to harvard?

the people who get into YC, are the people who don't need YC?


It helps to set expectations.

Getting into YC as two MIT undergrads who've been coding since kindergarten is very hard.

Getting in a solo business founder is much harder.

So, if you don't have a track record of doing incredible stuff, you should a) calibrate your expectations, and b) start doing incredible stuff (and apply later)


I think the better take is to not treat YC as the gatekeeper to your success,

1. Its hard to get into

2. tons of great companies have been started that didn't go through YC (in fact with a few exceptions almost all of them)

3. its a great opportunity, but most of the companies that get into YC, don't amount to jack

just getting in doesn't mean you've made it, and there is no reason you can't make if you don't

calculus is similar to what I'd tell a high school kid about going to Harvard, if you happen to get to go cool, its a great opportunity, but you shouldn't treat that as the gatekeeper to your success


'In my opinion, the most important question on the Y Combinator application, is this one: “Please tell us about the time you most successfully hacked some (non-computer) system to your advantage.”'

Not a criticism per se, but pg recently said that is actually one of their LEAST ("not in the top 10") important questions.


I don't think it's quite that simple. Here's some other things Paul Graham has said about that question:

"There's one question that acts like a wildcard, at least for me: [the question] ... We're looking for people who like to beat the system. So if the answer to this question is good enough, it will make me go back and take a second look at an application that otherwise seemed unpromising. In fact, I think there are people we've invited to interviews mainly on the strength of their answer to this question."

From http://ycombinator.com/howtoapply.html July '09

"Sam Altman of Loopt is one of the most successful alumni, so we asked him what question we could put on the Y Combinator application that would help us discover more people like him. He said to ask about a time when they'd hacked something to their advantage—hacked in the sense of beating the system, not breaking into computers. It has become one of the questions we pay most attention to when judging applications."

From http://www.paulgraham.com/founders.html Oct 10


Actually not that hard of a question to answer if you know how to stretch the term 'hack' to mean various things..


Great article! While I have some technical background, I'm not a coder and I'm also a single founder applicant. From his comments, it seems that YC wants what everyone who is passionate about their career wants in a teammate. Drive.

I work in a neuroscience lab and I've trained a lot of undergrads, lab techs and grad students. From a state school to IVY league schools I continue to see the same thing. Drive, ambition, and motivation are way more important than technical knowledge. This is a winning combination of traits that always works as the people who have those traits can typically pick up anything you throw at them. My best students have been those with OK GPAs but and a serious competitive nature to them.


So hackernews doesn't have PM's. If you don't mind letting me pick your brain a bit about startups/research/neuroscience, shoot me an email at cantsayimpleased@gmail.com (or put your email in your profile).


If Hamilton is reading this. Do you (or did you) actually work 130 hour weeks as said in the article? I'm trying to imagine this, and my mind boggles. I just read this article out to a friend and he's seriously depressed now :P

What do you think is the major contributory factor to your achievements? extreme IQ? work ethic? some unique insight about the world that you leverage?

Thanks in advance,


Just remember: outsourcing your tech development is usually not a good idea except if you have the funds and need it to secure more funds to build the real thing.


Really insightful article, thanks Hamilton!


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