Remember, the worst that can happen is a polite rejection e-mail. You can always reapply next time. Spending time time to fill out the application is alone an incredibly valuable experience.
You're definitely showing persistence, the fact that it hasn't paid off yet is not a reason to give up now or to tell others to give up. What you probably could do is to evaluate your own application against the companies that got picked in previous cycles and ask yourself what if any differences there are, if you are maybe lacking some other crucial ingredient.
But kudos on the persistence, if you just start to execute on one of your ideas and you maintain that level of persistence there is a good chance that at some point you will see some return for your work.
I believe the point he is making is not to start startups with pseudo-random ideas generated largely for the purpose of getting into YC.
(Wow, it doesn't even seem like the Winter 2013 were 6 months ago yet. I wonder how much the reduction in class size (previously discussed on HN) will affect YC S13.)
Demo day for summer YC is towards the end of August.
I've heard anecdotally that many investors travel during August, and that it is a poor time to fundraise.
But I've also heard that many investors come to Demo Day.
Is the anecdotal information that I heard incorrect?
Whatever the cause, there's no observable difference between the amount that gets raised by summer and winter batches.
Yay! I am just 27, non-achiever and already knew that! :) </joke>
I'd imagine n is going to get larger over time for us before we can prove ourselves worthy, but we'll keep applying. In retrospect, I think it'll be fun to look back at all our applications and see what progress we've made and how our idea changes over time. If anything, we'll have a clear message by then. ;-)
I want to produce something similar to Google Fiber. I cannot give up my life and source of income to fly out to San Francisco and pursue the "cultural" side of incubation and all things startup related. I need a non-technical guy who understands the business side. I work at a community college as a NOC. If we landed a spot in YC, while you are in San Francisco doing that, I will be taking courses which specialize in this field.
My contact info is in my profile.
If you really want to start a network like Google Fiber, JFDI. Neither college nor YC should delay you.
There is ~no chance you'll be building a national or global network out of the gate, though -- unless you have a lot of experience or some exogenous source of capital, you'd be doing a local network in some city or region, and then expanding from there.
Just pointing this out.
There's a reason there's only one, and it's Google Fiber, and not Bob's Fiber of Main Street.
The masochism will stop when the motivation subsides!
I'm curious as to why you would put so much value in joining an incubator when you could spend the same amount of time in growing your business. Funding is not the goal, but gasoline for the vehicle that will take you to your goal. Seems like a waste of time for such little money. I know the "status" from joining the YC program is quite high there, but it does not guarantee success.
Thank you for the thorough explanation rdl.
It's also the wrong way to look at it. A better way is "what does it cost to apply" -- it's maybe 30 minutes to 10 hours of your time to fill in the application (it's more if you needed to do more thought about the business anyway). There is zero downside if you don't get in -- it doesn't prejudice YC against you at all in the future, and is confidential within YC -- and potentially high upside.
The ultimate test of "is it worth it" is to ask how many YC alums would recommend YC to someone else. As far as I can tell, that number is >80% (I can't think of anyone who wouldn't). I would recommend YC with only two reservations:
1) If you're doing a non-US startup (say, something local in China), and have exploding growth, no plans to expand to the world market, and unlimited capital, YC might be a distraction (although I doubt any company like that reads HN)
2) I think the biggest benefit to YC is to be able to launch during YC, or to have already launched. If you can't launch during YC, it might be worth doing YC later (when you're about to launch), or more likely, change your launch to something smaller that you can do sooner. There is probably 10x more value in YC if you launch before or during YC than after demo day. We made that particular mistake ourselves. OTOH, spending an extra year or two pre-YC building something no one wants is ALSO bad.
To be able to get advice from the caliber of YC's network as well as be around teams that are trying to do things that others deem "crazy" or "destined to fail" is an enlightening experience you can't just get anywhere. There's so much I don't know. YC is a great way to bridge some of my many ignorances. Certainly not the only way, though.
I'm not suggesting that wannapreneurs should just blindly shoot off a half-baked idea to every incubator and just sit on their asses waiting for someone to dump money in their laps. Are there people like that? Sure. But setting a little time aside from working on your startup to apply to a once-in-a-lifetime experience that can only help your chances of success is, I think, a justifiable use of time.
From the replies of other members it is obvious that my comment here is not correct.
Not getting into YC hasn't slowed me down one bit. I'm on my second attempt at growing a business and I'm far smarter and self-aware than when I started. I'm doing quite well on my own now. I'd still probably benefit from YC a lot, but if I never get in then so be it.
Edit to the reply below
I'm just curious as to what benefits you get. I know of the program. Though I'm not their target market.
Im not being pedantic, just genuinely interested in your POV.
For those who are like me, and have only just begun building their startup, if's enormously useful to sit down and do a few takes of an impromptu video, and answer each question on the application.
It is almost like an outside opinion asking the right questions to critique your idea and your determination. It allows you to think about your ideas and the challenges you'll face in ways you may not have before. Basically, it forces you to bring your idea down to earth from the clouds and think critically - and realistically - about it.
I second any opinion claiming it's worthwhile to fill it out even if you're not funded for this exact reason.
Specifically, if you're demoing an iPhone/Android app, you should probably have a textual description, which then links to screenshots, which might also include some video/screen capture. Then, link to an install URL. Essentially no one is going to casually install a random iPhone, Android, FB-login, account-creation website, Facebook, etc. app just to try it out, especially in the earlier screening stages. But at the same time, having a "live" demo people can use as soon as they're interested is ALSO great. So, the best way is probably something which allows progressive engagement.
(the YC application says to not require a login, just to provide a special URL, but for something like a mobile app, that advice is a little outdated and non-specific.)
- How open is Ycom to applications if all you're coming with is an idea, and no proof of concept?
- Is it true that there's an age bias?
There's an age bias in that our standards get higher as the founders get older. You can't reasonably expect a 19 year old to have achieved as much as a 35 year old. But there's no sudden cutoff.
Since Bill Gates is unlikely to apply to YC, what are YC's expectations regarding older founders?
If my idea is very specific to an industry because that's what I'm interested in pursuing but would require developing applications that would benefit almost all general industries conceivably, is that considered good or bad?
For example, my company is only looking to be a player in the legal information industry but the base application I've designed would work just as well for any industry where text analysis is useful.
Of course, you have to start small - there usually isn't a choice not to. But, I think it's best to have a product which can serve a huge market in its most basic form without adding more features.
There are very few examples of startups which start with a product with features highly specific to one group of users and then expand out successfully to a huge market. Most startups die or get stuck in a vertical.
>> There are very few examples of startups which start
with a product with features highly specific to one
group of users and then expand out successfully to
a huge market.
Succeeding in a vertical is a positive step, which most startups fail at.
For one thing, it give you enough money to keep trying for a larger success.
If you haven't already, get a book that talks about estimating startup value, and then create some rough numbers.
All I have left to do is make a video demo. I don't know if this question is "cheating":
What would you rather hear about in a demo, the founders and their past ability to succeed, or the idea, and why it is original and viable? Or both? Or neither?
EDIT: Aw, why'd you delete it? I think that was good advice to share for anyone else, even if it's not applicable to my question :(
- What is your company going to make?
- If this application is a response to a YC RFS, which one?
- Please tell us in one or two sentences about the most impressive thing other than this startup that each founder has built or achieved.
- Please tell us about the time you, keiferski, most successfully hacked some (non-computer) system to your advantage.
- Please tell us about an interesting project, preferably outside of class or work, that two or more of you created together. Include urls if possible.
- How long have the founders known one another and how did you meet? Have any of the founders not met in person?
- Why did you pick this idea to work on? Do you have domain expertise in this area? How do you know people need what you're making?
- What's new about what you're making? What substitutes do people resort to because it doesn't exist yet (or they don't know about it)?
- Who are your competitors, and who might become competitors? Who do you fear most?
- What do you understand about your business that other companies in it just don't get?
- How do or will you make money? How much could you make? (We realize you can't know precisely, but give your best estimate.)
- If you've already started working on it, how long have you been working and how many lines of code (if applicable) have you written?
- How far along are you? Do you have a beta yet? If not, when will you? Are you launched? If so, how many users do you have? Do you have revenue? If so, how much? If you're launched, what is your monthly growth rate (in users or revenue or both)?
- If you have an online demo, what's the url? (Please don't password protect it; just use an obscure url.)
- How will you get users? If your idea is the type that faces a chicken-and-egg problem in the sense that it won't be attractive to users till it has a lot of users (e.g. a marketplace, a dating site, an ad network), how will you overcome that?
- If you're already incorporated, when were you? Who are the shareholders and what percent does each own? If you've had funding, how much, at what valuation(s)?
- If you're not incorporated yet, please list the percent of the company you plan to give each founder, and anyone else you plan to give stock to. (This question is as much for you as us.)
- If we fund you, which of the founders will commit to working exclusively (no school, no other jobs) on this project for the next year?
- For founders who can't, why not? What level of commitment are they willing to make?
- Do any founders have other commitments between June and August 2013 inclusive?
- Do any founders have commitments in the future (e.g. finishing college, going to grad school), and if so what?
- Where do you live now, and where would the company be based after YC?
- Are any of the founders covered by noncompetes or intellectual property agreements that overlap with your project? Will any be working as employees or consultants for anyone else?
- Was any of your code written by someone who is not one of your founders? If so, how can you safely use it? (Open source is ok of course.)
- Are any of the following true? (a) You are the only founder. (b) You are a student who may return to school when the next term starts. (c) Half or more of your group can't move to the Bay Area. (d) One or more founders will keep their current jobs. (e) None of the founders are programmers.
(Answering yes doesn't disqualify you. It's just to remind us to check.)
- If you had any other ideas you considered applying with, please list them. One may be something we've been waiting for. Often when we fund people it's to do something they list here and not in the main application.
- Please tell us something surprising or amusing that one of you has discovered. (The answer need not be related to your project.)
It's easier if you 1. try to get your visa as soon as possible (now), 2. haven't incorporated yet, 3. can move most, if not all cofounders to California.
EDIT: I'd like to add I'm not formally associated with Y-Combinator. Just trying to help.
In practice, people tend to feel they're too late before they are. E.g. while a post series A company would probably feel they were too late, the number of post series A cos that would be net ahead from doing YC is probably nonzero.
Should students in this latter category even consider applying if they have zero intention of dropping out of school?
Maybe in my case, school is a bit less of a zero sum game. I'm working on a legal research tool (prototype: http://dokket.aws.af.cm/about) that serves an under-addressed market (communications law). Think MarketBrief (http://marketbrief.com/), but instead of the SEC, the focus is on the FCC.
Not-so-incidentally, I'm about half-way done with law school in a part-time/evening program in DC.
Would this be a content site, or would you have a paid subscription model or deeper analyst pieces, or something else? What is to stop the FCC-focus from just being a niche channel on marketbrief itself?
I'm focusing on building the dataset and alerts system, so it's more of a subscription service--for now at least. Looking ahead, there's a wealth of information buried inside these documents that I'd like to leverage.
If Eastern European founders have a weakness, it's that their English is sometimes bad. That's a real problem in a startup, because you often have to talk about subtle distinctions.
We like the video because it's a so much more efficient way of seeing what someone's like than just reading a written application. Not as efficient as meeting them in person; we'd meet everyone in person if we could; but there are just too many applications to do that.
Out of curiousity, when you or the others review applications, do you have a negative feeling when you see the location?The reason I am asking is because investors tend to favor some countries and no one wants to be the underdog right from the start just by having the "luck" of being born in a small country.Thanks.
IIRC the CEO of the startup from Hungary had lived in the US for a while and didn't have too much of an accent, so that application felt to me almost like one from the US.
It was weird because we actually had intentionally not prepared any ideas because we were on the "no ideas" track. We spent our prep time practicing questions about ourselves, and our team.
What we learned after and what was said to us by YC staff was that the no ideas track ended up having a higher bar of entry. It makes sense because you're bringing less to the table, so the bar has to be higher.
My suggestion would be, sit down and make some ideas with your team, and build a small prototype. That's really your best bet if you want to get in, it will make your interview more predictable, etc.
P.S - I can have a demo ready by interview process.
But talking about the odds is misleading, because this pool is a mix of a large number of people for whom the chance is zero and a small number for whom it's quite high. So if you're another Drew Houston (who was a single founder when he applied), the odds are very good.
The next morning, on the train back to Virginia, hung over, somewhere in the middle of Connecticut, I get a call from Paul. He says, "I'm sorry, we made a mistake. We don't like your idea, but we like you guys." We got off the train, and I was able to sweet-talk the Amtrak lady into not charging us to turn around. In our conversation, Paul said, "You guys need to build the front page of the Internet." That was all Paul, and that became Reddit.
When drew was first applying to YC I didn't know him. But I'm going to presume that, like most young people, 6 months or a year is a lot of time for personal growth.
YC alumni, what stage was your startup in when you applied for YC (idea, sketches, working prototype, launched product(s), etc) and did you make any radical changes to your product(s)?