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YC without being in YC (42floors.com)
205 points by djyaz1200 on May 3, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 41 comments

Great post. It was surprising to see this type of post from a YC alum but I guess it has to for legitimacy purposes.

I agree with almost all the points, but as someone looking from the outside in, I see YC as the most prestigious fraternity in the tech space. What do I mean by this? I go to the University of Michigan; coming in as an out of stater, I didn't know what to expect but I kept hearing this one piece of advice from current students, faculty, and friends that had also gone to big schools: "Find a way to make the school seem smaller to you." I never really understood it but when I arrived at campus for my freshman year, I quickly understood what everyone meant. There are SO many people and it's easy to get lost and have no sense of direction. So finding a community that aligns with your interests is ideal at a place like Michigan--I knew I wanted to get in with a group of bright, driven, and fun kids. One such place was described to be like this by almost everyone I spoke to in the beginning, it was a 'professional' fraternity where about 250 rushed and only 15 got in. I figured I'd give it a shot and went through the process and was selected. When asked why it's so great, I simply respond with, "The people in it make me a better person". It sounds vague, and it is to some extent, but it's true. Constantly surrounding myself with a small group of bright, driven, and fun individuals has truly made me smarter, more fun, and more open. It's been two years now (I'm a junior) and it is the single best decision I've made.

My long anecdote can be paralleled to YC. The tech space, especially in the bay area, is HUGE. Someone starting from scratch can be easily overwhelmed. YC seems to be the best place to get in a group with bright, driven, and fun individuals pursuing quite groundbreaking ideas, assuming you are one of them as well. That is why it is a desired place to someone like me.

All that being said, the aspect of mimicking a YC lifestyle is a great idea, I think all startups should do this and CAN do this given that it is not to expensive to get going.

You bring up some good points. A very powerful part of the YC network is simply being surrounded by awesome people.

I've found that type of community throughout the startup ecosystem. When I lived in Boston, before ever getting into YC, I found it at Betahouse in Central Square. While in NY, I found it at General Assembly. Now I see it at RocketSpace in SF.

this comment serves the purpose of a bookmark

Great comment. Very accurate anecdote, it really is all about finding a small community if like-minded, driven, talented individuals to purse ideas and do great things. A lof people, especially here in LA, are consumed with raising a quick buck and dropping the "change the world" statement without actually having any idea what that means or any intention of doing so. It's just "the thing to say" these days. It's disappointing. And as someone who has quite a few friends in the Valley, living in LA is very difficult when it comes to finding technology oriented people.

I need to find a YC environment here in Los Angeles... If anyone has ideas, let me know. Or we'll just start our own!

It's important to note that he's not saying the YC Alumni network and the power YC offers for fundraising isn't important, it's just that you can get 80% of what YC gives you BESIDES that without being in YC.

Think about how many companies get to demo day at YC and would, without the YC prestige, raise a TON of money because they've already launched and gotten traction. It's a decent amount. Go through these steps and be THAT company, if you can.

"Sell before you build"

This is what I learned from YC. It was from Paul Buchheit.

I'm the jackass who downvoted you...it was by accident, I meant to upvote. I just don't have the option to go back on it, sorry.

fixed :)

Thanks! Not sure how you fixed it (or how you know its fixed) but if you're an admin, I'd love to know why anything I submit is automatically 'dead'. Email is aashayk@umich.edu, thanks again :)

He probably 'fixed' it by up voting the comment you accidentally down voted.

Probably he fixed up just by up voting.

I'm glad you brought this up--I use it as much as any other. Our iteration time for creating a fake mock-up and trying to sell it is only days. We can get through 5 tests in the time it takes to build one of them.

This was probably the most important discovery I made in the startup process. Helps guarantee that you make something people want.

Would love to hear you elaborate on this...

I can't speak for Paul B but there's a great book called Ready Fire Aim by Michael Masterson that focuses on this technique that I'd recommend.

The network of YC alumni is quite awesome. Everyone’s willing to help each other out. It’s the second most helpful community I’ve ever been a part of. The first? Hacker News. Ask for feedback and you’ll get it. Ask for help and you’ll get it. Give back to the Hacker News community whenever you can.

I have to second that Hacker News has been one of the most helpful communities for me. They (you) single-handedly are responsible for helping me seed communities for 5+ different applications, and most still exist today (graffitiGeo, OfficeHours.TV, Hacker News Directory, Bloc, CupidWithFriends) and pushing the sales of a book I wrote into bestselling categories on Amazon. I know friends who have similar experiences when they launched their own products. I hope to some day write a proper thank you letter to HN.

I see other products launch and I'm sometimes envious that the owners run another large community where they promote their other apps (e.g. Let's Date promoted by Suicide Girls), but realized that the same opportunity exists for anyone on HN. Makes me wonder how most people grow their products early on, because I'm probably taking HN for granted at this point.

I think one of the biggest things you get from YC is acknowledgement. Most people who apply have jobs or at least more than one idea or project: getting into YC is kind of a confirmation that someone thinks you're on the right track.

Even though the promise of Silicon Valley is anyone can make it, a lot of people still need "permission" to go full time on a start up.

I think this is absolutely correct. In particular, it gives you a socially acceptable (and externally validated) excuse to ignore many of other commitments in your life for three months so you can get your idea off the ground. It's a lot easier to tell your family that you're going to quit your job and hole up in a cave working on a crazy idea for 3 months if you can hand them a New York Times article on YC and explain that you are going to be a part of that thing they keep reading about.

I think the best way to get the "permission" should not be from any of investors, more from customers.

With many of customers who love your product,you should be able to attract investors or incubators more easily.

OK, does this mean the time is right for a YCaaS site? ("For just $X/month we will poke and prod you along a simulated YC path. Start anytime!")

Thats what nReduce was (http://www.nreduce.com/). Not sure if its still running.

If there is the option for online interaction, why not?

Your market would be terribly small though ;)

Can someone explain the mantra "Do stuff that doesn't scale"? Is this another way to say focus on the hard stuff? Then scale later?

It's an acknowledgement that the early days of a startup don't need to look like the later days. At 42Floors, we met with every landlord in person and then manually typed in every listing. Obviously, we can't do that at scale, but it was an important step to getting our startup off the ground when no one had yet heard about us. Later on, when we had built up credibility, we built web scrapers and integrated data feeds

I completely hear what you're saying and I'm glad you said it. There's a certain level of understanding your customer that can only come from meeting in person. I'm glad to hear that I'm following the same footsteps that you guys did. We're working to solve the issue of API integration, and there's only so much you can understand about a customers pain point through email or over the phone.

The classic YC example is AirBNB. Brian & Joe flew to NYC every week to personally recruit hosts, take pictures of their apartments, etc.

Clearly recruiting hosts in person, one by one, doesn't scale. But it's okay to do these kinds of things at first because they help you understand your users & help create super-users who will go out an evangelize your product.

I believe that this important mantra is illustrated by the use of a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) technique. This is described in detail by Eric Ries in The Lean Startup (pgs. 99-102), wherein he explains the tremendous amount of learning and customer discovery that a startup founder/team can experience first-hand by making the effort to personally provide initial customers with customized one-on-one "concierge treatment"...

I like to view it as in the beginning do as much as you can get to get open-ended discussion with prospective customers. Later on use that learning to build a more scalable/product-focused approach optimized for acquisition/growth.

The first thing to do is actually validate that people need your product. If you can't win in the short term then there won't be a long term.

On a sort-of semi-related note... has anyone here participated in nReduce? The "Open Source YCombinator" that launched to much fanfare a while back? They seemed to get quite a bit of buzz out of the gate, but I haven't heard much about them lately. Anybody gone through the program and care to write up your experiences and submit here? I, for one, would love to read something like that.

I hadn't heard of nReduce. Very interesting. My take is that if you are accepted to YC and are willing and able to move to SV, then there are clear benefits in doing so: network, external validation, brand, access to capital, etc.

If you are not accepted and/or are unable to relocate to SV, then a MOOC version of YC makes sense for the reasons that MOOCs make sense in higher ed: location & time independent, high quality learning, structured peer review, clear milestones and deadlines, tuition free, and most importantly ... it is far superior to the alternative, which is often doing nothing.

If you are not accepted and/or are unable to relocate to SV, then a MOOC version of YC makes sense for the reasons that MOOCs make sense in higher ed: location & time independent, high quality learning, structured peer review, clear milestones and deadlines, tuition free, and most importantly ... it is far superior to the alternative, which is often doing nothing.

I tend to agree, but would love to hear any first-hand experiences from anyone who has participated. I'm sure there are a few, maybe I'll throw up a "Ask HN" sometime and solicit some input from some of them.

I haven't participated, but a few months ago I went to one of their meetings. I spent most of my time talking with one particular startup I thought was interesting.

To my delight and surprise, they just presented at YC's demo day. :)

This is a great idea for GTD on your project, but it leaves out something pretty significant that YC also gives you, when you go to do your next round of investment: validation and DD. You see investors offering deals on the spot at demo day, not just because you show them 5 weeks of traction, but because of their trust in PG and crew. They probably discussed your co. with PG during the past 10 weeks without you knowing about it.

If you run the process on your own, at the end you'll have something built, but still have 1-3 months of work ahead of you securing another round of money.

Would anyone be interested in having a YC for those out of YC? You could organize meetups for those in the Bay Area and show off your tech that you built in the week, do a bit of a book club instead of having PG at your side... it obviously wouldn't be the same, but yo could mimic a lot of the features, especially the feedback and accountability measures. I'd be happy to work on putting something together if there's interest.

Isn't that like YC Reject? no idea what happened to that though.

Great post. I think one key to the whole program are the weekly deadlines. And of course the big deadlines. It's the same as not having a boatload of startup cash. It forces you to figure out what is really important.

The trick is, deadline only work if there are consequences. There can only be consequences if you feel accountable to someone or something. So, tell someone you're going to accomplish something by a certain date.

I'm going to contact 25 potential customers next week.

We did something pretty similar to this when we didn't get into YC in W13: https://plus.google.com/u/0/115851397461982481700/posts/AUX1...

On review, the meetings and advisory help were effective, trying to track a peer group of startups was not. I would highly recommend it for any kind of serious project you're taking on.

Awesome post, just did a pretend Hackathon with a friend of mine and it turned out great! Deadlines and structure really force you to work efficiently and to prioritize.

excellent post. sounds like the story of "Ekalavya" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ekalavya

Excellent mindframe hack.

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