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We wrote a solid application, made a silly video, and got into YC (hack-free?) (makegameswith.us)
79 points by jvrossb 1846 days ago | hide | past | web | 37 comments | favorite

"We’ll never know if we got in because of our silly accent video."

You did not get in because of your silly accent video.

(As a rule it's a mistake to try to do amusing things in your video. Gags usually make you harder to understand rather than easier, and since we are usually at or past the limit of understanding when reading applications, any loss there is dangerous.)

I really appreciate that you comment on these application posts. It's interesting to hear their theory contrasted by your comments.

If there's a trend, it's that we like people for simpler reasons than they think.

So why did you like them, if not for their accents?

I'm no YC dude, but if I were a betting man, I'd give them money due to:

1. History of shipping stuff 2. Huge ass market 3. Solving a real pain point for indie game devs out there 4. Simple, easily understood, business model 5. Domain experience

That's about it.

Yup. Pretty much everything is in this book:


Do you have any advice on the length of the video? The application asks for a "one minute long" video, but most of the accepted videos I've seen are usually longer. Some are as long as 4 minutes. Does the length factor in to your decision?

We stuck to about a minute. I don't have any specific insight into how the YC acceptance process works, but it seems like a minute should be roughly the right amount of time to describe what you're doing. Remember that people have short attention spans.

they sure do

It's really nice to hear a really genuine story about this process. The long list of "hacks" strike me as orthogonal to the simplicity of the application. This is the story I had hoped to hear about the YC process: simple, humane and honest.

You summarized it exactly as we experienced it.

It's refreshing to hear someone suggest they got in due to their ability to build something, rather than a shortcut or gimmick.

Good luck with your business.

Thanks! It occurred to us that had we been reading HN before applying we'd have gotten a little demoralized once we found out that all YC companies had apparently "hacked" their way in with some generally non-reproducible gimmick. We figured we should point out that this probably isn't the case.

If you have time, it'd be nice to read a "what we got out of YC, and how it's shaped our path going forward." This would be interesting independent of whether you are still working on the startup you did with YC.

YC changed a lot for us and we're still going strong on the startup we did with YC. Perhaps that'll be next week's blog post :)

EDIT: And it'll be full of more silly things we did that probably didn't matter and that you should also not do.

OT, but if someone publishes though you, and you provide art and music, who owns what? What happens if they want to go cross-platform? Do you sign over the rights (if any) to the art to them? Or will you take royalties off the game if ported to, say, Android? Or will it not be permitted at all?

Simplified, we own the art and music, the developer owns all the code. We get a license to the code and can publish it across multiple platforms, we owe the developer their share no matter what platform their game ends up on. The developer gets a license for our art only valid if published through us. So if the game is ported by us to Android, we still take royalties.

The developer can strip out all of our assets and republish on any platform without giving us a rev share if they want.

Thanks, that answers my questions. I didn't realize you do cross-platform publishing yourself.

We're planning on doing this soon!

Glad you wrote this. Looking at my YC batchmates, I don't see a lot of people with "how I got into YC" stories.

YC tends to select founders who are both talented and confident, so the overwhelming attitude among founders is, "of course I got in," not, "oh wow, I can't believe that happened!"

Of the 80-ish companies in the S12 batch, I can think of 3 with interesting "How I got in to YC" stories, and two of those boil down to, "we had amazing traction." Only Instacart's beer delivery was really a hack, and even that was a demo that their service really worked.

The hack stories are interesting because they're rare. It's important to show off your scrappiness and tenacity, but most founders do that by describing something they've done that produced a worthwhile outcome, not by performing a stunt during the application process.

The only reliable way I can think of to "hack" the YC application process is to apply with a business that you're going to pursue regardless of whether or not YC accepts you. The YC application is full of questions young companies should ask themselves, anyway, and the added confidence can't hurt during interviews.

I do wonder what percentage of people drop or pivot due to a YC rejection. It seems weird to me that not continuing would be the norm.

I feel like a "How to hack the front page of HN" that is about how you shouldn't hack HN: you should just post/write/produce great content is also needed. I'll write it now, post it tomorrow.

I feel like the title of this post hints at a similar sentiment.

I haven't heard much about the Skype pre-interview. Does anyone know more about that? Are they common?

I'm not sure if everyone receives the same email but last year we got one from Harj Taggar to setup a video call. They wanted to:

1. "Give you a heads up on the kinds of things likely to come up for you specifically at interview".

2. "Let you ask us any questions you might have about YC".

It was a 5-10 minutes thing.

Interesting, thank you. Was that after they had already invited you out?

Yes, a week or two after being invited.


Never had a pre interview before my interview. I think it may be if YC wants to understand something about your application that isn't totally clear, before making a judgement on giving an interview.

Thanks, that makes sense.

You should've just started video in your native tongues, then slowly transition to the accented English and then phase out the accent as well :)

Can you share a link to the actual application?

PDF here: https://s3.amazonaws.com/mgwu/YC+GM.pdf

What is interesting to us (discovered as we just re-read it), our slight pivot mid YC was to another idea we listed on our application.

The proximity sensor hack is delightfully ingenious.

Looks interesting, good luck with it! Good to see more game-dev related startups coming through.

Hahaha. Glad my misuse of "hack" inspired you to write this great post :)

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