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YC Fellowship (ycombinator.com)
998 points by mattkrisiloff 797 days ago | hide | past | web | 378 comments | favorite



For me, the key is that they are even considering remote. I think that really is the part that is needed to get to another 10x. I am not saying remote work is intrinsically 10x better in quality or quantity, I am thinking about it more from the point of view of people who cannot or will not travel, new people that can be reached this way.

Take myself for example: I do have this thing that I am working on.. but I also have a wife and a daughter whom I adore, and I would hate to go away from them for any period of time. Having my wife close, playing with my daughter, these are the things that keep me going, not some dream of jets and fancy cars. I already have a job that I like, I am not running away from anything, I just want to do something better, because I know I can. I already work mostly remotely, and there is no going back to old ways for me. If I ever found anything, it will be remote and remote only.

Maybe there are fewer people who really get remote work, but in my personal experience, it is an absolute joy to work with them. And is it not repeated over and over again that you should not pursue something you do not believe in?

I have never considered applying because of the travel requirement, but now I am really tempted.


Well put. Geography is vastly underestimated as a limiting factor. Not simply for $ – living in the Bay Area is barely feasible for a young person without dependents – but also the many quality-of-life trade-offs that come with a move. I hope this is a successful experiment.


As a partner at YC for over 10 batches now, I've worked with lots of great founders who have come from all over the country, and many make having families work. The cofounders of MongoHQ both moved to Mountain View with their families (with kids) during YC, and it was a crowded house but a productive one too. It can be done.

There's also nothing that says you absolutely have to stay in the Bay Area afterwards. Many founders head back to where they come from if that's the right thing for the business.


what does the bay area offer that requires someone to uproot and come out there just for a few months? what if the location they are already in is ideal for their business? for instance i live where we have 3 cent per kwh power, moving to SF to work on anything power intensive will increase my startup costs 5 fold at a minimum, and that is power alone, let alone everything else being 5x more costly. the insistence that people come to you is strange to me.


Moving to an area specifically for your startup, even if you were told to do so, can really show your dedication (not just by saying it). You are proving that you are willing to do whatever it takes. I've known many who have moved for the 3 months @ YC and then have rightfully moved back... I don't think any of them have regretted. YC may be looking for someone who can make it work, if there is a will, there is a way. THAT is what they are looking for.

There is a method to the madness. They have proven it.


One problem is that, for a lot of industries, San Francisco is the wrong place to be.

If you want to be in fashion-tech, for example, you want to be in New York (or possibly London). And, there are lot of other industries concentrated in specific areas around the world.

Limiting to San Francisco is limiting your industry. Sure you can get a ton of web developers, but you'll lose access & relationships to the REAL industry insiders that matter for your vertical.


I think that can be true, but YC has a model that works for them, so it seems ok to me to not try to cover every industry in the world. Some of them are quite different, to the extent that YC's networks and expertise might not be as immediately useful anyway. For example Houston has a lot of energy-technology startups, especially in oil & gas, doing anything from the "hardware" side to analytics to GIS type stuff. But it's basically its own world that has little overlap with the Bay Area startup world. Different investors, different types of customers, different production challenges, different employee demographics, etc.


YC has proven an accelerator works when teams move to be part of it. That doesn't prove that investing in companies that are based elsewhere and take part remotely doesn't work though, or that moving was a contributing factor to success, or that founders who are willing to move are demonstrating a greater level of dedication (just a different sort of dedication).

To know whether remote will work YC needs to try it.

(Mind you, even with YC's intake, it's likely you'd never see a statistically significant result either way. There's too many variables and not enough samples.)


About living expenses, there are a few possibilities to save a little money, from couchsurfing (seems unreal, but I know a guy who lives through CS almost 2 years))) to housesitting (I saw a house, a cat sitter was needed, about in 20 miles from SF for 2 months). Or, the most popular, a flatshare - that's what we're going to do))


This, i'm really glad to see Ycombinator reaching outside of their current sphere.

I'm a (remote) early employee at a YC company and see the value the founders got from full YC but I'd simply never consider it for a personal project because of the move.

I have no interest in moving personally (as a father, home owner and someone who really likes living in the mountains) but also most of my personal projects focus on groups of people for which the bay area is not particularly enriched.

I could see applying for this fellowship in a few years once I feel i've done my current commitments justice though I'd want to be open about having no intention of doing the full YC.

For me the cloud credits would be a bigger financial incentive then the 12k as most of my ideas would involve a lot of initial data processing.


Same, I have a family and obligations in midwest USA. It's not feasible for me to move to the bay area for 3 months.


I think there are tradeoffs here, right?

For example: YC knows the Bay Area well, their roots are strong where they are situated. If you're not in their area of expertise, you're potentially missing out on a lot of their resources right?

On the other hand: There's probably a lot of opportunities YC is missing out on because they understand that there are people out there that cannot make that long-term commitment.

In the end, this is why I understand that they're running this as an experiment. And I hope that their hypothesis proves to be that remote YC companies work so that they can apply this to their flagship program.


This is a good idea and a great opportunity for many people. And I think it's fantastic that YC is doing this. However, I can't help feeling it really is intended for young people recently out of school, who have no other immediate financial obligations.

I would really love to see an option for people who are not in this group. Let's imagine someone who is married, with a couple of kids and a mortgage. Right away, YC Fellowship is not feasible.

If you really want another ten-fold increase in the number of startups, tapping into an older demographic could do it -- just because it seems to be a largely untapped resource. We're talking about people with years of experience working in the real world, on real products. We're talking about years of domain expertise, in all kinds of domains. We're talking about people with ideas, and the expertise to execute on them. And all this potential is being left on the table because they typically can't afford to quit their jobs for 3k a month (based on a two-founder team in YC Fellowship).

But if each founder had enough funding to be able to handle their financial obligations, and work full time on their startups, for a year, I think that would break open the flood gates, and you'd see a huge increase in viable startups.

There must be a sweet spot in terms of funding/equity for this scenario, in order to make it beneficial to everyone involved.


There's no question that having a low personal burn rate is an advantage when it comes to starting a startup.

That said, there are a lot of alternatives. There are more seed funds now than ever before. One of the reasons we did this program is that we believe there is hole in this part of the market--it feels like there are more people willing to write a $100k check than a $12k check.

Practically speaking, we also felt this was where we could make the most impact with dollars we're giving away. $12MM is the price of a small series B, or 1000 YC Fellowships.


I'm really excited about this move. When I was working on my startup, broke, fresh out of grad school, $12k could have been the lifeline we needed. Instead, we had to stop building while we tried to raise funds prematurely, and bled out before we could pick up momentum.

As long as you guys are as selective as you are with the startups you fund, I think we may well see a whole bunch of startups in 5 years that we can trace back to this fellowship. I think this is a great first step to leveling the playing field for those who don't come from / don't have a whole lot of capital, and might just need a shot. Very timely, in light of the recent Quartz article [1].

[1] http://qz.com/455109/entrepreneurs-dont-have-a-special-gene-...


This also keeps YC relevant even though the world in which they were created largely no longer exists:

- In 2005, there were essentially no sources for early stage capital. Now you can't tell someone about your startup at a meetup without five people trying to throw money in your face.

- In 2005, information about starting a startup was an oral tradition, and web technology was so primitive that making a scalable website basically required a CS degree. This meant that you really had to either be a business person or a CS person, whereas now being both is table stakes.

- In 2005, not only was it essentially impossible to meet VCs without some sort of special connections, it was difficult even to figure out who they were. These days they're all on LinkedIn, blogs, angellist, mattermark, etc., and as soon as you have any sort of traction they already know about you.

- In 2005, people still spent time dreaming about what the world would be like when everyone was connected to the Internet. Now the sociology is well understood, the infrastructure has matured, strategies and tactics have become commoditized, etc.

By giving away equity-free grants that come with access and advice, this basically positions YC as the next YC, regardless of what else is going on the world.


Fascinating that you are even considering making 1,000 investments per year - how are you planning to handle the processing of applications? Outsourcing, growing the YC team, AI?

You're opening up to the entire world with that seed amount, that volume (which lowers the effective level required) and no requirement to move, so there could be as many as (say) 100,000 applications a year...


I would really love to see an option for people who are not in this group.

I'm sure many people would. Your proposal appears to be that YC do this exact program, but with a 200k+ grant instead of 12k. This is obviously not feasible, given that these grants are being awarded for little more than an idea.

Founding a startup is a huge risk, there's no way around that. If you're at a point in life where you can't afford risk and instability, it's going to be tough to start a startup.

Frankly I don't really get the "startups are only for young people with no obligations" problem. You have a wife, and kids, and a house, and hopefully these things bring you great joy - the prototypical obligation-free startup founders have none of them. Should we be looking for ways for young startup founders to do the family-building stuff they are missing out on? Maybe set up a fund to give them a down payment for when their startup fails and they could have been saving up with a paycheck for a few years? It just seems like...sometimes in life you have to choose one thing or the other.


You're leaving something out of your analysis, aren't you?

The type of experienced professionals that GP is talking about aren't going to waste $200k.

They currently add value to whatever enterprise they are engaged in.

> sometimes in life you have to choose one thing or the other.

Sometimes in life, you don't know that you could take the widget industry by storm until you've consumed a thousand variations of widgets yourself.

...Gah, no wonder the "get off my lawn!" thing exists... :/


They currently add value to their current enterprise. That doesn't mean that they will also add value to some other enterprise, i.e. a startup.

The percentage of experienced professionals why waste the grant might be smaller than the percentage of just-out-of-college teams who waste the grant, but the difference might not be as large as to justify $200k.


"This is obviously not feasible, given that these grants are being awarded for little more than an idea."

A patent is an idea, sometimes worth nothing and sometimes worth 10's of Billions.


Some would say that the fact that a patent is sometimes worth 10s of billions is a flaw in the current legal system. While true, I don't think YC is in the business of funding patent trolls.


A patent being worth billions is absolutely not a flaw of any legal system.


If you're a successful engineer in your 40s and have a full-time job, a family, and a mortgage in the developed world, you probably don't need $12k. That's at most two months' worth of regular salary for an experienced engineer in the U.S, and more likely just one month. You can easily save up or take out a loan with favorable interest rates if you're really passionate about doing something.

The problem is that since you already have so many long-term obligations, you cannot afford to fail and then not go back to your previous position. It doesn't matter whether the grant is $12k or $240k. That grant is gonna run out in a few weeks or months, and remember, most startups fail. And then what? There's no guarantee that your previous employer will want you back.

The need for stability, not the amount of the grant, is what's keeping older people from getting involved in startups. A startup is a risky investment, not just of money but of your life in general.


I'm married with two kids and a mortgage and I am applying. I am in an industry that has tons of room for innovation but the established firms (banks) really struggle with it as I have seen throughout my career. Too much riding on the status quo.

I read this a week or so ago and I think it is applicable to my (and many other) industries.

http://www.gsb.stanford.edu/insights/technology-small-fish-a...

I've been thinking about this startup for a few years and now is the time to make the jump. I'm not getting any younger. :)


Really curious about your idea. I've had a few startups myself in the e-commerce/fintech space (1 failed, 1 sold) and now working in the R&D department for one of the top 3 U.S. Banks. My goal was to use my time here to figure out the next good idea, but haven't come across anything yet that would fit my criteria for a good startup.

Also married and expecting twin girls, so also have the issue of giving up too much stability..


Congratulations on the girls! I tell everybody that you cannot understand being a parent until it happens. Everything is 10x-100x more than what they say. You know you will love them but don't even know what that means (and it grows with each day). People say you will be tired but you don't really know what that means for the first two months. Totally awesome though. They are now why I do everything I do.

Anyway, my idea is in the 401(k) industry which I have worked in for 13 years. Every provider has websites from prior to when web 2.0 was a thing. Individual service is expensive for providers and companies. Many people question Social Security. Financial wellness is the buzzword of the day but I truly believe that getting people who are living paycheck to paycheck some solid knowledge and advice that a difference can be made. Getting their employers to pay for it via the 401(k) might be the way to go.


Thank you! Yep, that all sounds too familiar. Everybody's been saying with twins it will be extremely tough but well worth it :) I'm kind of glad we're having twins right off the bat since there's nothing we can compare to.

Being somewhat new to the whole 401k thing (I came from another country and only had a 'real' job for the last 2 yrs) I believe I'm your target customer. Now, 2 years later I like to think I kinda figured it out. Few observations I've had so far that may help you: - my preconception is that if the employer doesn't match, there's no use to put anything in it - I'm sure I'm wrong but would be nice to have a way to (visualize?) what my gains could be anyway and prove me wrong - by default, the service provider usually invests in the employers stock (right?), I know it's possible to split it up in different funds but would be nice to get better recommendation on how to diversify the investment and be able to simply choose on a grade from 'higher return, but risky' to 'low risk but low returns'. I have had it that I had no idea where my 401k went and luckily the employers stock did pretty well during that period but would be nice still to have a better understanding/education on how to best split and allocate - probably not part of your core solution, but my wife found it very hard to transfer 401k between providers after leaving a job. I've heard from others as well as where they have 3 or 4 401k accounts with different providers because it can be hard and time consuming to consolidate.


I think there is a big opportunity to innovate on overdraft protection and those crazy fees.


Totally agree, however banks actually make a ton on all kinds of 'service fees' so they like for you to overdraft and will be hesitant to do anything about it. I do believe though that if you were to start a new consumer bank from scratch, that could be one of the USPs.


People with years of experience who have already been in industry should already have lots of money saved up. The $12K is useful for college students with no money and loans.

Joining a startup is only not feasible later in life if you're living paycheck to paycheck, which you shouldn't be doing for other reasons.


People who have a family generally aren't excited to burn their safety net on a hope and a dream. At least I'm not. I would imagine most, like me, would expect that safety net to carry them through finding a new job should the YC thing not pan out.

Or are you implying that you think everyone with 10 years of experience has a year of living expenses in the bank? If so, I tip my hat to you, but paying off student loans, buying a house, and having a kid haven't really made that a possibility for me.


Then don't start a startup. If you're not willing to work hard and lose some money, then maybe you shouldn't be starting a company.

There's no free lunch. I would love to be able to work hard during the days at the company I'm with, work on a side project at night, go to the gym every day, maintain a relationship, maintain a social life, and get 9 hours of sleep every day. But I really have to pick and choose which things I get to do.


Maybe that sweet spot is joining a funded startup, possibly at a very early stage? It seems like equity for early employees is on the rise, so that could become a pretty good version of the sweet spot (less equity, more cash).

Also - don't discount the part about participating from anywhere. There could be a handful of families whose accrued savings might increase significantly if coupled with a cost saving location change (i.e. moving away from NYC/SF/bay-area).


I agree for the most part, but it may well be enough to break through some inertia. 12k for a two man team is 3k/month, whereas in full time work most engineers would be making at least 10k/month. I know personally I'd be uninclined to ditch my entire income, but keeping at least a little trickle coming in would mean my savings wouldn't diminish quite so rapidly, and I'd probably be willing to take two months off to see how far it could accelerate my startup.

The real danger is whether follow-up funding could be found fast enough to have people quit their jobs and maintain the momentum achieved during the two month program.


That's the tradeoff that you make here is that it's not just about the money is it? I don't think YC has ever been about the money for a startup- even at $100K or whatever it is. It's about "access"...into the SV network, which gives you instant credibility to parlay that name into other funding, recruiting, partnerships, etc. So if you are a savvy entrepreneur you can leverage the fellowship in almost the same way as the YC batch.

Maybe this is also a way for YC to sort of draw a line in the sand between wantrepreneurs and the real deal. If you have an idea that keeps you up at night and you have decided to go all in, then this will give you a chance to prove it. no?


They could try this with a second experiment called "sabbatical."


I have to say that I love this idea. It addresses the biggest deficiency in the typical Silicon Valley VC funding model, in that it requires moving to Silicon Valley. It also bridges the gap in low-level seed funding which stops many ideas from becoming reality. Perhaps you could call this "catalyst-stage funding" since it will probably reduce the activation energy for getting many ideas started (to use a physics analogy).

So, in short, go YC, you rock!

That said, I have a few questions:

1) Any idea of how many slots are open for this round? I expect you will get many more applications than YC normally gets.

2) Some teams may have members with families who won't want to move to SV and will work remotely. Other teams may have members who can and want to move. Some teams may have a mix. What are your thoughts on splitting a team, having some remote and some in SV? Would this provide advantages over having no one in SV, or would splitting the team have so many downsides that it would be better to be all remote?

3) For a team that already has a prototype and is beginning to work on getting customers, but is not able to relocate, would YCF be a good choice?


1) Around 20 -- we want to keep this test batch small. If successful, we'd grow future batches.

2) I think it would depend on your company and what you're trying to do. I can think of advantages to either way, and if accepted it's something we can talk about.

3) If you're just starting to get customers (or struggling with it), still apply. It will be a judgement call on whether you're too far along and should just apply to YC W16, but relocating or not won't make a difference in that assessment.


targeted at teams that are very, very early.

How about a version of this for companies which have been around for a while?

Seriously, it doesn't sound like Tarsnap would fit into this program at all, but I'd love to be able to participate in something "lighter-weight" than YC -- something which, like the YC Fellowship, would allow me access to advice and contacts without taking funding or relocating.

Of course, I'm guessing the YC Fellowship are largely a recruiting tool for YC ($12k is a small price to pay for the opportunity to extensively vet candidates prior to offering them a YC investment), so it wouldn't make sense for YC to invite me into that particular structure; but I'm not looking for money and I'd like to think that I could help YC by being "part of the family" and being someone companies could be pointed at to help with questions relating to my areas of expertise.


Is "advice" really what Tarsnap needs? It got a lot of it (really terrific advice, too) from patio11. Looking at the home page, it doesn't appear any of that advice has been taken.


Patrick's advice (both in that article and otherwise) has been very useful to me. But when I said "access to advice", I meant in a pull sense rather than a push sense: Patrick (and other people who I consult from time to time) is great within his area of expertise, but he doesn't know everything -- whereas I get the impression that at YC, for every problem there is someone who has relevant expertise and can offer advice.


Quora being invited into YC at a late stage was a single company experiment, so I don't see why your company couldn't be a new experiment as well.


Is Tarsnap a good fit for the VC industry? It is a great product, but it looks to be a much better fit for a bootstrapped lifestyle business? Why would you want to take VC money given all the problems that come with outside investors?


I don't intend to ever take VC money for Tarsnap. But that doesn't mean that YC can't offer me any useful advice.


> But that doesn't mean that YC can't offer me any useful advice.

But what can you offer them?

It's clear what YC Fellowships offer to companies, but I suspect there's also some not-as-obvious benefits to YC.

Would Tarsnap bring these benefits to YC?


Well, the benefit to YC is that they can get a better feel for companies which may fully apply to a class for a somewhat nominal fee. Stronger branding, bigger presence, and just doing some cool shit to boot.

I agree that people need to be aware that their company should offer some benefit to YC as well, just simple business...exchange of value.


I think you are in a similar situation to me. I have no need for VC money and no interest in taking in outside investors (why sell a golden goose). By the same token I understand that no VC (or anyone from YC) would want to waste their time talking to me or giving me any advice. I would just be abusing YC’s time for me to apply for one of these fellowships - they give me more than I deserve by allowing my posts on HN :)


I started my first business (web design) at 15 with a £1,000 grant from The Prince's Scottish Youth Business Trust. It was a very significant amount for me. Without it I wouldn't have been able to start.

My family were on income support so the money went straight on a PC, internet, phone line, business cards and public transport to reach my clients to pitch them. Thankfully I still lived with my parents: no rent until I was earning.

$12k is a very substantial amount for an underprivileged kid who's making the Airbnb vs. large corp choice.

My grant was (lightly) means-tested. Did you consider means-testing as a way to make more of an impact past the ideological one?


I find this an interesting point to bring up. My family were also on income support when I was younger, and I also applied for the Youth Opportunity Funding grant in the UK and was awarded £1,250.

Similar to drsim I intended to start my own media business using the money, so I purchased a cheap PC, a camera, business cards, etc

In order to apply for the money I had to go through what was quite a lengthy process, which overall took three months to complete. I had to choose every item in advance with photocopies of the catalogue; this was to prevent people cheating the funding and spending it on other things. This also made it difficult to include consumables such as an internet subscription and transportation costs.

Does YC plan to background check and make sure the $12,000 would actually be spent on what it's intended for?

Also, does YC still consider applicants based in Asia, or is it US-based for the time being?


No. You're completely free to do with the money what you want, we just try you'll focus on your company.

And yes! You can apply from anywhere (and no need to move here for this program if you want to stay remote, though we still encourage that you do).


That is a crazy amount of bureaucracy. I doubt I'd have applied if I'd hit that.

All I had to do was two interviews, sign a simple declaration and then present receipts for purchases.


The effort involved in means testing, including verification, would be extremely taxing for an organization the size of YC and doubly so in relation to the size of the money involved. I have to suspect they never seriously considered it because it'd be so impractical, and there would be inevitable abuse (each layer of complexity makes such things worse, for YC simplicity has always been integral).


Especially considering $12k x20 is $240k, which is only two normal YC recipients.

If only one of these 20 grant recipients go on to build a solid company, then this project has been a success, I'd say.


agreed, don't forget the other salaries and expenses involved with running the class twice a year. Possibly another 100k per company cost to YC.


For my grant I was asked to sign a simple declaration of means. There was no verification. It was more to do with the aspiration of the Trust rather than an ironclad requirement (I was funded age 15: the minimum was supposed to be 16).

There would be no additional burden on YC to say 'we want to encourage more people from underprivileged backgrounds to start a company'.

At this level of funding YC's impact is going to be much greater for that demographic than those whose parents can afford to seed their startup just as they'd buy them their first car.


Means testing adds a lot of bureaucratic overhead, especially if it's international, and it could dissuade some marginal people from engaging if they have to produce a bunch of documentation.


One option I've seen, though it's not bullet-proof, is to just have an explanation of who the money is intended for, and require applicants to sign a statement about their financial condition. Someone could always lie about it, but most people won't (especially since lying on an application for money is illegal).


In most cases, lying on such an application in the private sector will fall under fraudulent misrepresentation. You might get sued in civil court for it, but it's unlikely you'll be pursued for false pretenses. Especially over $12,000.

People lie to each other on business contracts every minute of every day, nearly all of it ends up as a civil offense.


Kat from YC here. Sam, Matt Krisiloff and I are happy to answer any questions about the Fellowship. You can also send questions to fellowship@ycombinator.com.


Hi! I am 32 years old, have a young family, and a steady software engineering job at a large software company. I have always loved the idea of a traditional YC experience but have never applied because I feel like I am not at a stage in my life where I'd be a good fit. Is it fair to say that this Fellowship experiment is an attempt to examine the "may have a good idea but is not very mobile" demographic?


Yes! That's part of the reason we want to work with remote teams -- to get to work with people who can't make the move to the Bay Area.

That said, if you wanted to apply to the normal YC W16 batch after YCF, you'd still be asked to make the move.


Do YCF teams need to apply via the usual application at that point?



Great, that is very encouraging. Thank you.


Hi! Matt here -- I'll be managing YC Fellowship. I'll be answering questions here throughout the day alongside Kat and Sam.


Does YC ever consider ideas that aren't designed to be billion-dollar companies? For instance, if someone was working on a next-gen diagnostics tool for VoIP, they might realistically be able to get to $10-20M, maybe 10x if things go really well. But it's hard to see that becoming a billion+ company under any circumstances.

What advice do you have for such ideas?


YC funds startups. Startups to us are companies designed to grow fast. Read this if you haven't: http://www.paulgraham.com/growth.html

It's OK to be working on something that's hard to imagine how it would grow to be a really big thing, that's how most ideas start out. (Apple made hobbyist computers, Google was another search engine of 1000 -- how big of a deal could they have thought these would become?). It's important to be open-minded to the pathways of how your idea could become something big as it keeps growing though, and it's good to stop and think about those ideas every once in awhile.


One of the biggest things I've learned from being around YC community is that most successful ideas start out as small but end up being very large. I would encourage you to think bigger about the fundamental problems you're solving and then how you can turn solving the immediate problem into something really big down the line. Hope this helps!


bootstrap. Then worry about VC money if and when you think you are ready to try to become a billion dollar company


10-20M sounds like a realistic projection for Dropbox. But they grew a little more than that.


Thanks for making yourself available, Matt. Sounds like an incredible opportunity.

What kind of progress do you expect founders to make by the end of the Fellowship? Put another way, if the goal of participation in Y Combinator is for companies to build enough traction to become top-tier candidates for an institutional fundraise, what is the outcome that participants in the Fellowship should hope to achieve?


We'd like teams to make as much progress as possible during the 8-weeks of the fellowship. If you have a prototype, that would mean launching and getting your first customers. If you're at idea stage that would mean building a prototype and talking to users. At the end of the 8-weeks we hope the teams will be ready to apply for YC W16 (it's not a requirement -- but we'll encourage it).


Hi, Matt and Kat. Cool to see the focus on helping more people start companies - I had written off an article bouncing around over the weekend alleging that rich families are the key to entrepreneurship [1]. Maybe it is true, but with enough YC fellowships it doesn't have to be.

Question: my organization is a nonprofit co-op. I know YC recently started accepting nonprofits - what's your opinion on them for YC fellowships?

--

1: http://qz.com/455109/entrepreneurs-dont-have-a-special-gene-...


Unfortunately we're not going to be accepting non-profits for this first experiment. If it goes well though, we hope to fund some this way in the future.


Hi Matt, we run a web design & development business and have been trying to free up resource to work on a saas product which we already have potential customers lined up for...

We would put full-time focus on this, but we can't really close up shop completely, we could put projects on hold, but we'd need to at least lightly manage/delegate tasks when things come up occasionally. Is that going to work?


Hi!

I am a grad student working on a purely research based concept that I feel could make a good start to a company. However, I'm fully committed to the research at the university for the next year. The YCF would be used to get this project from just a thesis to an applicable concept. Would this be a good start to what YC is looking for?


It would, but not until you're ready to work on it full-time. We're not sure yet whether we'll offer YCF again (will depend how it goes), but if we do in the future it could be a good fit.


Are there any plans to do a normal YC program (7%/$120k) but also be inclusive of remote teams?

0% for $12k is obviously a great deal, but my main stumbling block has always been the loss of income from dropping paid work, and $12k over two months is barely half an engineer's salary - let alone to cover multiple team members.

That said, it may well be enough to make someone like me think "well, at least I won't be earning zero dollars..."


You aren't "earning 12K" you are using that 12K to kick start your idea.


Ok, rephrase that as "at least I'm only losing 80% of my salary instead of 100%".

Plenty of people who could create great things are also saddled with families and expenses that run to 80+% of their disposable incomes. It's all well and good to suggest that an individual can live on ramen noodles, but a family and young children cannot and should not have to. That leaves only a few options left for such people to start a company: do it on the side in evenings/weekends; and save up a nest egg then quit/reduce your job to work on the startup.

Suggesting that willingness to forgo having a family is a pre-requisite for entrepreneurship is fallacious.


Amen brotha. That is the difference between employees and entrepreneurs when the bubble bursts.


hey Matt, what are key differences b/w the fellowship and the YC incubator?


It's a 12k equity-free grant, it lasts for 8 weeks, you can do it remotely, and it's primarily meant for idea and prototype-stage companies. No dinners and no formal Demo Day, but there will be kickoff and end events in Mountain View where teams will present to the YC community. We'll fly out remote teams for those.


Can my company join, aiming to finish our flagship product?

My company released lots of products, all of them had critical acclaim and high user reviews, but we ran out of money before releasing our main product, and we never had marketing money, so our sales are nowhere interesting.

I am wondering if you consider this early enough or not. (we had no investment beside from extra money from the original founders).


It sounds like you might be doing a company re-launch from the ground up? If that's the case, definitely apply for YCF.

If you still have successful ancillary products and just want to develop your flagship product with YC's help, consider applying to YC W16. Applications for that will open up in August.


Our other products were "successful" as in people liked them, but we never broke even.


I think you have the most fun job in Silicon Valley.


Is this US-only?


Nope, welcome to apply from anywhere.


Hi, my co-founder and I are currently working on our idea from Hawaii and Portland Or. Will separate remote locations be ok during the fellowship, or will you want us to both work from the same location?


Would it be ok to apply solo but also as a co-founder on another team?


Please only submit one application! Figure out whether you'd rather work on your solo project or with the co-founder, and then choose whichever idea you think is more promising.


Hi Matt! As I know it is not required to move to the Bay Area for the program. Will be possible to join in person in 2-3 weeks later, let's say, in October? Thanks


Question: what's the "end event?" Is it a demo day? Or something different?


Great opportunity, thanks guys. I'll point out that first yc.submittable form is a bit confusing: http://imgur.com/ITk71jN

I guess the "YC Fellowship Application" is a link to it? I wasn't sure where to click besides 'submit' and was a bit afraid it'd submit a blank form and lock me out of a real submission later! (It didn't, of course – the submit button is just an anchor tag pointing to https://yc.submittable.com/submit/44764)


Sorry about that -- it's definitely safe to click through that first button. The actual application page's submit button, however, will submit your application!

edit: we've changed it to link directly to the application form now. Thanks for pointing this out.


Is there a bias against solo founders? I've yet to find any coworkers or friends that want to work on a project together (not enough technical skills or too busy working overtime at their jobs).


No bias, but it generally is harder to build a successful company as a solo founder (though totally possible! Dropbox, Zenefits, Instacart all started with solo founders). If you're applying alone, tell us how you plan to overcome the solo hurdles of being alone / managing everything to do, and if you plan to bring someone in soon, let us know.


http://fellowship.ycombinator.com/faq/

"Can a single person apply for funding?

Yes, but the odds of being accepted are lower. A startup is too much work for one person."

I'm pretty sure you don't mean it is "too much work" for success to be a possible outcome, but that's what your copy says at the moment.


Where would be best to put this in the application form? I have explained that I am looking for co-founders and what I look for in them in the "Is there anything else we should know about your company?" section and am at the word limit. Can't seem to find a question that prompts me to to talk about how I will make do for the time being.


You could put it in your video -- that's how Parker Conrad from Zenefits did it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-S83fysRwn4&feature=youtu.be


But to me this seems like a great opportunity for a solo founder to build a prototype and network with great potential cofounders.


I thought Zenefits was started by the SigFig team.


Also if you look at the TOP tech companies of the last 20 years, they were all started with a dominant founder:

  Apple - Steve Jobs
  Amazon - Jeff Bezos
  Microsoft - Bill Gates
  (Google - Larry Page)
So if you're looking for a runaway unicorn hit like that, perhaps having a very dominant founder and a founder with like 20% ain't half bad.


I think this is entirely misguided. People have selective memory: all but one of these companies had multiple founders. Hell, most companies we associate today with a single person had more than one founder. It's just that one held the most publicly visible role:

    Apple:     Steve Jobs      | + Steve Wozniak + Ronald Wayne
    Microsoft: Bill Gates      | + Paul Allen
    Google:    Larry Page      | + Sergey Brin
    Facebook:  Mark Zuckerberg | + Dustin Moskovitz + Chris Hughes + Andrew McCollum + Eduardo Saverin
    Uber[1]:   Travis Kalanick | + Garrett Camp + Ryan Graves
    Tesla[1]:  Elon Musk       | + JB Straubel + Martin Eberhard + Marc Tarpenning + Ian Wright
[1]: Travis & Elon musk weren't even founders of Uber & Tesla. They just "became" founders post factum in startup lore.


Having a dominant founder is different than being an only founder. But what's common to all these companies is that one founder was really dominant and had the vision. In fact, out of the top companies, it's safe to say that very large proportion have a dominant founder, who wound up having much more equity than the other founder.

I don't understand why there are so many downvotes on something that is, indeed, a verifiable statistical fact. Can you downvoters write a message that elaborates on why you have such a strong reaction to this data?


dominant founder is highly subjective and simply wrong in some of those cases, as pointed out above. Even if you want to argue there was a 'dominant' founder (whatever that means), your examples don't make sense:

Apple would not exist without Steve Wozniak

Google started as a partnership

Allen sold qdos to IBM which established Microsoft


I'd argue that Apple had a dominant founder in the early days, but it was Steve Wozniak, not Steve Jobs. He'd basically built the Apple I in its entirety and shown it off at Homebrew before Steve Jobs said "Let's build a company around this and sell it."

Also, Larry was always the primary driver behind Google; it started out as his thesis project, PageRank is named for him, and he'd already started crawling the web by the time Sergey joined. Sergey's initial startup idea was to order pizza via fax machine. Google obviously wouldn't exist without both of them, and Larry was smart enough to share equity and credit equally, but a startup at the YC fellowship stage is much more likely to look like Larry's thesis project than Google when it took VC.


Jobs had to persuade him to leave HP, and do all the selling and marketing, those are also important parts of building a business. In my view it was a partnership and you're ignoring a huge part of what made Apple Apple. That leaves you with Google, which also had two very early significant players.

I'm not arguing against single founders, it's perfectly possible, but most companies are not started by a single founder, they are collaborations and are all the better for it.


A few questions about tax (guess who is doing their taxes right now)

1. What are the tax implications of these fellowships for non-US citizens? The reason I ask is anyone with any experience of the IRS will want to avoid dealing with it if at all possible.

2. Will accepting such a grant mean the recipient will have to file a tax return with the IRS?

3. What about withholding taxes? Will the non-us recipient need to file a W-8BEN or W-8BEN-E form?


> We encourage you to come to Mountain View if you can make it, but remote interviews over video chat will be okay too ...

For remote teams with viable ideas that YC is interested in funding, how remote can such teams be? Can teams apply from outside the US; from Europe, Asia or Africa?


Yes absolutely. Teams from anywhere in the world are welcome to apply. We just ask that you have a strong internet connection that allows for clear, reliable video chats.


Hey Kat, thanks for being available for questions!

I'm currently on F-1 (student) visa, and I'll be graduating soon. And I think this may represent some other people's situation as well.

In order to maintain the visa status after graduation while working, I'll need an OPT (Optional Practical Training). OPT is supported by the school AND a company that hires the person full-time, and is commonly used before the employee gets an H1-B. Clearly if I work on an idea full-time, I won't be working for a established company in full-time. Will YCF be a able to help in this case if accepted? For example, by hiring the team as YC employee in paperworks for the 8 weeks, but allowing the team to work on their own ideas?


Unfortunately we don't have the bandwidth to get involved with visas before or during the program :( If you can't do it from the Bay Area though, you can still apply to do it remotely--we want to try working with remote teams!


You don't need a job offer to do OPT. I'm on an F-1 student visa in the US, and just finished a PhD, and will be starting a company on OPT. You even qualify for the STEM extension (you just have to register your business on e-verify). This gives a total of 29 months of runway, which is more time than I have money for.

You don't need any help from YC to do this - talk to your international student office, they process lots of OPT applications. Read the instructions on the USCIS website. They are very clear on this, you can start a company, you don't even need to incorporate to satisfy those requirements (although, this is not legal advice, talk to your international student office, and their lawyers).


Thanks for sharing. I guess registering your own company e-verify counts that you are employed, so you don't need to worry about the 90 days unemployment limit? Also good luck with your start-up!


Hi Kat, considering applying for a hardware-based startup. I have enough savings to quit my current job for 2 months but the 12k would be enough to build a few prototypes. Would you consider a robotics-based startup?


Yes - we are considering hardware-based startups. We know $12k isn't a lot to get a hardware company going. We'd ask that you tell us in the application how you plan to make progress in the short amount of time, with a small amount of funding.


Hi Kat! We're considering applying and wondering if you folks have a conception of companies that would be considered too far along for this program. In our situation, we're have not yet taken investment, but we would definitely love to and still have much to learn about getting ready for that. We're also somewhat beyond the prototype phase, but only to the extent that we're soon shipping a version 1 product to crowdfunding backers. Thanks!


It sounds like you may be far enough along to apply for Y Combinator (those applications open in late August). But I don't have quite enough information -- so if you're in doubt, you should go ahead and apply for the Fellowship. If you're working on hardware you'll have to illustrate how you plan to make progress with the limited amount of funding the fellowship provides.


Thanks. The last question is: does YC have restrictions about the types of companies that can apply?

Our company makes open source sex toys, and we've got an ever-growing list of places that just won't work with businesses related to adult products (stripe, square, mailchimp, kickstarter, ...). Fingers crossed that YC doesn't care.


We are open to any category of company.


I see a lot of emphasis in other comments on the importance of teams. I'm a solo founder that is close to launch. I realize my company would be stronger with a cofounder, but I just haven't found the right person/people who are willing to take on that role yet. I'll be applying, but I was curious if the chances of being accepted are less for single founder companies.


Hi, I just started filling out the form when I encountered this question - 'Will all founders commit to working exclusively on this project for the next six months?' Isn't the point of this, that you are definitely committing 8 weeks and going from there?


We're requiring that you'll work on it full-time for 8 weeks, but we hope you'll commit to it longer; the most important founder trait to us is determination -- answering no to that question won't disqualify you, but we'd love it if you were able to answer yes!


How about a conditional yes?

e.g. "We've been working on this project() for over a year on evenings and weekends, collectively contributing >1500 effort hours, and we have spent $75k on rent and expenses. To keep that going, and have each member meet their familial costs, at least some of us need to earn money from consulting. However, if sufficient follow-on funding can be found, we'd be very glad to answer yes, and focus on this exclusively."

It's a hardware project requiring a fair amount of warehouse/build space, hence the expenses.


I'd say you should answer that question honestly there, but explain the situation in the video you make. We're pretty understanding, and don't want to discourage people from giving their ideas a real try.


Hi Kat.

Two questions:

1) If we are still looking for / selecting technical co-founders, can we apply?

2) Does the entire team need to dedicate itself full time to this? Alternatively, if the "paying bills" job is quite light (2-3 hours per day), and we are willing to forego some sleep, can we still apply?

Cheers


1) You can apply as a solo founder, though we do think it's important that the fellowship teams we fund are able to build product themselves. Working with contractors is expensive and can slow you down considerably. If you are non-technical, try to make a strong case for why that won't be a problem.

2) We prefer that you are able to work full-time on the product for the 8 weeks of the program.


Thank you for answering.

The same way students can take a semester off, could employed people take a sabbatical to focus on this?

Cheers


Yes! Though we'd hope that you'd make significant enough progress during the 8-weeks that you'd want to continue working full time on your startup.


If we have raised funds through a Kickstarter campaign but have no outside investment, are we still eligible?


How much have you sold through Kickstarter? I'd say use your best judgement, and if you're not certain, still apply. If it's a lot, you may just want to apply to the W16 batch of YC (applications open in August).


How do you feel about teams pursuing a very long-term plan?


Extra credit for that.


Hey Kat, thanks for taking questions. I noticed you said the main aim of the program is to build a prototype or acquire a first customer. Our company is still working on our prototype, but we just got our first 3 paying beta customers last week. Is that a bit too late stage?


Probably not -- that still sounds pretty early. Apply!


Should have specified we're B2B. But that's great to hear. Thanks.


Hi, Do you look at how many lives will be impacted because of the idea or how easy it is to monetize the idea? I feel my webapp can help users find needle in the haystack but I haven't really gotten to the business model part yet.


Hey Kat, Thanks for answering our questions.

I was wondering what is the expected next 'round' of investment after successfully finishing the program.

Could one join the usual YC program or should he raise a larger amount of money after the program?


We'll encourage YC Fellows to apply for Y Combinator -- but they won't be required to.


How many teams are you hoping to accept into the fellowship for the first round?


About 20 -- we want to keep it a small experiment for this test batch.


Hey Kat (Sam and Matt too)! I am a grade 11 High School student from Singapore, and I’m considering applying with my buddy. The problem is that we have our End-of-Year / Promotional exams from 23 Sept to 30 Sept, and we won’t be able to get excused from school for this. However, we will be able to skip school and commit for the whole of October + November + December.

Can I still apply?


It's not specified nowhere what you are getting for your $12K and mentoring. Could you expand on that? Are you taking equities?


It's equity-free for this batch http://fellowship.ycombinator.com/faq/


Hey Kat,

Would YC Fellowship be open to later stage startups?

We've already gone through a previous accelerator, done some fundraising (below series A) and have employees. Moving would be difficult for us since our key business is in fashion (we're in NYC) and also employees. As founders we're happy to go down to SF once in a while, but the remote option would suit us perfectly.

thanks!


Seems clear from the about / FAQ pages that (at least for now) the answer to this is no. But would be cool to have something along these lines available for companies that prefer remote!


I think otherwise though, it seems like the fellowship was to try for remote program. See this article by SamA: http://techcrunch.com/2015/07/20/y-combinator-just-introduce...

I'm just concerned if they're going to cut out later stage startups who have fundraising but re-launched or pivoted.


Hi Kat, we're very excited to hear about this and we look forward to applying. The FAQ for the normal YC program says that it's fine for the cofounders to submit separate applications focusing on different ideas. Does that apply for the fellowship as well?


We'd like you to submit just one idea for this. Choose the one you think is most promising.


We don't have beta ready, but we do have wireframes. Should we post them instead in "If you have an online demo, what's the url? (Please don't password protect it; just use an obscure url.)" question?


Hi,

Can you let me know the timelines for the following,

1. When are we likely to have our interview? 2. When are we expected to kickstart our work?

We are currently working in a company. Answers to the above questions will help us to plan on quitting our regular job.


How do you feel about teams with a year of college left?


So close to graduation, I wouldn't throw away your degree for 12k. Degree may come in handy if you ever want a day job...


As Sam said, take a semester off. I did that during college just for some personal exploration and its one of the best decisions I ever made. Once you get started with work, taking a 6 month break is MUCH harder - aka it'll never be this easy to get time off again.


If you work for startups taking time off is not hard at all! Startups fail all the time and it is an ideal time to take 6 months off. There is a bit of a stigma to taking too much time off between jobs, but if you can show that you actually built something during that time, it isn't hard to overcome. I even took off 8 months after I quit a job to write free software. I simply showed prospective companies the code I wrote during that time.

The main thing is to save money while you are working! It gives you freedom.


I took a year off college to build a startup. I went back after the year cause we got acquired. But regardless, I learnt more about building products and leading a good life in that year than rest of my 24 breathing years.

If your school policies are as flexible as mine (I was at CMU, which is awesome when it comes to leaves), definitely consider taking a semester off.

5 years down the line, it won't matter that much. So it's not the big battle you should be fighting.


good if you're willing to take the fall semester off.


Hi Kat,

This program sounds amazing. We took 30K from a good friend and they took some equity. Can we still apply? We would be willing to forfeit on the 12K


Are company cofounders required/suggested to have technical background or are industry professionals (non-technical) welcomed as well?


It's important to us that the team itself can build the product it's trying to create. When you try to hire contractors to build out an idea, it's expensive, slows down iteration speed, and it's really hard to judge the quality of their work if you're non-technical too. If your team is entirely non-technical, try to make a good case for why that won't be a problem, and what you're doing to close that skill gap.


When are the interviews?


Hey Kat, is it possible to apply for the fellowship & still be eligible to apply for the W16 class when the application opens up?


Yes!

We hope accepted teams will still apply to YC (the timeline for that will be a little bit later than the normal application period.

If you aren't accepted to YCF, you're definitely welcome to apply to YC W16 with no penalty as well -- try to make good progress though in the interim period.


I'm not sure why it is repeated over and over that 12k is small sum of money.

12k can easily pay off 2-3 months rent, server costs, marketing stuff, even a few flights. That's mental peace for 12 weeks to build something with 100% focus. That's an extremely high value priviledge.

This should make sense for a lot of startups.


http://www.sfchronicle.com/business/networth/article/Average...

12k is a small sum of money in SF. Assuming the founders don't want to live together in a studio, looking at >5k month in just rent. Other costs of living are also high. This leaves almost nothing for any actual start up costs.

Makes some sense if you're 22 and have no dependents, but 12k wouldn't be persuasive for a Bay Area founder with a family.


Easy solution with no drawbacks: don't move to San Francisco.

I've lived here for a while, and I wouldn't move here to do a startup today. Whatever marginal advantage there may have been to founding something here (and it was always small) has been more than consumed by the ridiculous costs. There's not even a recruiting advantage to locating here -- unemployment amongst software engineers in the SF bay area is like -150%. Every experienced engineer gets recruited on a daily basis, by startup companies that are basically indistinguishable. Startups here are increasingly hiring remote just to make it work (which seems like the worst of all worlds, really.)

Unless you're doing something where your customer base is in San Francisco (i.e. writing something for startups...or maybe tourism), you should definitely be somewhere else. Go where your customers are.


There is plenty of less expensive real estate along BART. Take a look at San Leandro, for example.

Other costs can be reduced as well.

I consider living in SF as an unnecessary luxury.


Plus the pitch doesn't even encourage people to move to SF; it encourages them to move to Silicon Valley, which is also where YC is based. It's not super-cheap either, but there is plenty of Valley housing <$3k.


> It's not super-cheap either, but there is plenty of Valley housing <$3k.

You're right. You can find studio and one bedroom apartments sub-$3K in places like Redwood City. The problem for starving founders is that landlords aren't going to lease to you when you can't show a sufficient, reliable income source (read: a real job) and sufficient credit score/history.


Yes there's Fremont, Hayward, Oakland, South SF, Daly City, and even more as well. Renting a room instead of an apartment helps a lot. It's $600-800 with utilities.


For rich people, it is a small sum. I've lived in a private room in East Palo Alto while working on startups for years for $500/month rent. If having your own private place is a must, I think you should be working at a big company anyway, since you sure aren't sacrificing any comfort for your startup.


I agree that $12K is not so small. I don't remember the exact numbers, but $12K was very close to the money in the first YC batch, IIRC $4K*(n+1), where n is the number of founders.


12k per team. Ideally founders colocate but that isn't an option for everyone.


For a team of 3, it is roughly equivalent to Australia's minimum wage for 8 weeks. It ain't much*

Best bet is to beg friends/family to look after to you (or to save up for living expenses) then chuck the $12k into the business idea where it is best used. I guess it is a test of resourcefulness, which one will definitely need to succeed in that game.

*That said it is $12k of strings-free money, and a very generous offer from a private company!


3k a month for a two-founder team. A single guy with no other obligations living in a cheap place might be able to pull it off. Married with kids -- forget it.


Eh, $3k/mo is not a great income, but it's exaggerating to say that it's an income only for a "single guy with no other obligations living in a cheap place". It's a typical middle-class American income, in fact it's almost exactly equal to the median income of a full-time worker in the United States [1]. Which, yes, is not great (the middle-class in the U.S. is not in great condition at the moment), but it's clearly neither just young single guys nor the bottom quintile living on that level of income. And, in larger households typically there's nowadays an expectation of two income earners.

Now if the goal is to entice people making 6 figures at a tech job to quit their jobs and join this program, it probably isn't enough money. But maybe that isn't the goal?

[1] http://www.bls.gov/news.release/wkyeng.t01.htm


This is exactly why Y Combinator is the best. This is what leadership is (and what those other accelerators do, is follow the lead).

> but as always we’ll consider solo founders too.

Please be extremely open minded about solo founders. I feel that is one consideration that hasn't been adapted with the changing tech landscape.


I think you're setting yourself up for a world of hurt here. Starting a company is really hard, and there is very little downside to being in a team. VCs agree on this, and will show the same attitude towards solo founders as YC does.

The real question is why you're even contemplating being a solo founder. Discounting you actually wanting to be solo (that's a whole different kettle of fish) the reason is probably because it's really hard to find a co-founder. Co-founder dating doesn't work, meetups have terrible SNR, etc.

It's an unfortunate (for the rest of the world, YC might disagree) fact that the best place to find a co-founder are places like Stanford. Elite US universities, which encourage entrepreneurship, where external factors align to create lots of liquidity around able co-founders.

So while I think something like the YC Fellowship is great, the team has missed the boat. The actual problem in very early stage startups is not money, but suitable co-founders.

(Of course I'm totally biased, since I run a startup program based on this concept in the UK [1].)

[1] http://joinef.com


We may try something in a future iteration to help people meet cofounders. In the mean time, working a large tech company is a good strategy.


Some companies have non-solicitation clauses in their employment contracts, which make this a troublesome way to meet cofounders.


> Please be extremely open minded about solo founders. I feel that is one consideration that hasn't been adapted with the changing tech landscape.

This is something I always worry about too. I have several really amazing people that I could partner with on a few different things but due to financial obligations there isn't anyway they'd be able to join full time unless there was an investment. So pitching as a solo always makes me nervous that I'll be immediately discounted even if I could bring in a partner shortly thereafter.


> I have several really amazing people that I could partner with on a few different things but due to financial obligations there isn't anyway they'd be able to join full time unless there was an investment. So pitching as a solo always makes me nervous that I'll be immediately discounted even if I could bring in a partner shortly thereafter.

It's a fair point, but you have to take into account the fact that a lot of those people won't join you when you do get investment. It's the same thing as when two founders show up and talk about their rolodex of talent they have waiting to be hired as soon as there's money in the door - it's a useful data point, and certainly something to consider, but a good percentage of those people will typically not work out, or won't like the terms, or will want too much money, etc. So you can't treat it the same as the people who have the team onboard now.


Oh I completely agree and understand just commiserating with the previous poster as I have some of the same concerns but I don't blame YC either.


The bias against solo founders seems to be being mentioned a lot. There's actually a solution to this in Europe - Entrepreneur First (joinef.com), a seed investment programme which you can apply for before you have a team (and even a concrete idea). Most people who come to us as individuals meet their cofounder on the programme and go on to raise some of the largest seed rounds in Europe.

Full disclosure: I work for EF - but if you're experiencing the sole technical founder problem you should check us out.


I just submitted the "I'd like a coffee" thing on the EF site. Looks interesting.


I'd still encourage you to apply -- there's nothing to lose, and definitely no penalty for applying again later if not accepted. Dropbox, Instacart, and Zenefits were all accepted as solo founders -- you can talk about your plans to bring one of them on soon.


This quote caught my eye from the FAQ section of the fellowship page:

Can a single person apply for funding? Yes, but the odds of being accepted are lower. A startup is too much work for one person.

A statement such as "A startup is too much work for one person" seems unusually stark and absolute for a company as progressive as YC. There are always exceptions, as mattkrisiloff as noted below.


There is a reason that solo founder companies are considered exceptional.

I've been running my own solo small business for 8 years now. No need to mince words, it sucks. Trying to do the same, but with a startup? Where rapid growth is the key indicator for whether your business is dead or alive? I honestly don't believe most people are capable.

They are very strongly advising people to get help. It's good advice.


But they use empirical evidence to back up that statement. YC is in the trenches everyday and see how much work it is. It's an observation from past experiences.


...which is why they still accept applications for solo founders, but are straightforward about it knocking you down a peg.


I'm not even sure I could do it alone. It's so much work. My co-founder and I lean on each other for motivation and support. When it's you against the world, a teammate can be invaluable. Particularly when it's looking gloomy. Which it will.

But if you strike out alone, good luck! I can't speak for everyone obviously and I can't generalize and say it only works this way. Just giving my two cents.


If you're like me and prefer to draft writing elsewhere, here's a Google Doc you can copy with the questions and word limits: https://goo.gl/K5M3LM

Update: Document is fully public now.


Can you open up access to everyone versus everyone asking for permission?


^ "The app is currently unreachable." I'd like access too!



Oh, thanks for the heads up. The link should be public now.


A very interesting proposition! I am thrilled to see this kind of model come to life.

> Selected teams are strongly encouraged to move to the Bay Area for the program, but it’s not required.

I wish it wasn't so strongly encouraged. To move anywhere on a whim for 8 weeks is crazy to me, especially since the processes and tools for remote work are so readily available. It's becoming increasingly important to know and understand how to work with team members and stake holders all over the globe, so why not encourage that mindset from the very beginning?


From my point of view this is very much aimed at the just graduated crowd. These are young people thattypically just graduated in May, maybe took the summer off or had a summer internship and are debating what to do next. 12k to them is more than plenty for living with Mom and Dad for a few more months or going on an 8 week adventure to SF.

Of course this will be a great opportunity for someone debating quitting a job or something, but it seems the most available people will be those just out of college.

To that end it will be interesting to actually see what types of people that this program works for and are accepted.


Don't underestimate that 12k + YC network and help. Most unicorns that came from the YC program started with 20k not long ago. Too much money can kill a small and inexperienced team, be lean, scrappy and bootstrap to prove then raise to grow.


If I hear that word "scrappy" one more time, I won't have any veins left in my neck to pop.


That's rough. How on Earth do you make it through Scooby-Doo?


What's wrong with the word "scrappy"?


> "...kickoff and end events in Mountain View where teams will present to the YC community. We'll fly out remote teams for those."

YC community? Is this going to be like Demo Day but without investors? I know this is an experiment, but what is envisioned here? Is it envisioned that the Fellows will/will not be ready for funding at the end of the fellowship...or completely unknown at this point?

Starting with idea/prototype where are Fellows expected to be at the end of 8 weeks?


Could you clarify what sort of access to YC office hours fellows get? Will they be able to sign up for office hours with any of the partners, or will all contact have to go through a single dedicated partner (and if so, which partner is handling this)? The blog post implies that there's "a dedicated partner", but the FAQ implies they get normal access to "YC partners" and office hours.


The announcement's discussion of 'good founders' led me to view this as supporting individuals, as well as teams. In contrast to YC's stance on only really exceptional solo founders, could this program be more tailored to a solo founder, perhaps still looking for a co-founder?


We will be slightly more open to solo founders because we think at this stage you still have a good chance of finding a cofounder.

But the bar will still remain higher for solo founders given all of our historical data.


I'm glad you will be slightly more open to solo founders. I also like that you are open to a more remote experience.

I think this project could be very helpful in my situation, I have a great idea that is progressing (Deep Learning/AI Image Recognition SaaS) but would have a hard time putting together a suitable team that could survive with our current obligations in San Francisco (families, house payments, etc.) Maybe getting myself working on it full time could get it to the point where it could sustain itself enough that YC proper could work out financially for a bigger team. Very excited, I'm definitely going to apply.


We're treating it the same way -- solo founders are definitely encouraged to apply, but everything being equal, it's better to have co-founders.


At the risk of repeating myself, if you're thinking of applying as a solo founder you're solving the wrong problem. You need a co-founder more than the money (see also: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9918690)


So, I read through the description three times. And I'm puzzled as to what the real differences are between a YC Fellowship, and traditional YC investment.

Are the key differences - that the Fellowship is a grant, not an equity investment (for $12K, rather than the larger YC investment), that it lasts for only 8 weeks, and that the Fellowships aren't required to move to the Bay Area?


It's also designed for prototype and idea-stage teams in mind. Also, there won't be a traditional Demo Day at the end, but there will be an end event where teams will come to Mountain View to present to YC partners and alumni.


Yup.


I'm not sure about the US, but in India this would be huge. The early stage ecosystem is fairly broken, but the startup scene is crazy hot - everyone is doing a startup and the talent pool is huge.

Early stage investors put around 20-50K USD and take 30% of equity (yes equity - convertible notes are shunned in India).

A USD 12K grant and the YC cred, would go a long way in rebalancing the ecosystem.

I personally believe that early stage pre-prototype money is so easy in the US... or the Kickstarter ecosystem is so effective (cant do a kickstarter from India).... or the university aided startup infrastructure is so mature, that this would not materially impact as many people as it would in India/Asia.


I was thinking the same thing as I read the post. This would be huge in Nigeria and other African countries. I'm rooting for this to be a success.


Here in the Philippines also. The biggest startup competition here will give you $12,000 for 20% equity of your startup.


There's a lot of focus on $12K that I think is a red herring. This isn't a substitute for seed funding, it's not masquerading as a full-fledged accelerator, it's a chance to borrow some of the momentum of an organization that seems to have a pretty remarkable record at moonshots.

I've been working out of Denver and Vegas for several years now and the timing of this couldn't be better. After all, why iterate on the same dimension over and over and not try something new? I turn 50 on July 27. I've been working on fun projects for pretty much all of my adult life and I have better things to do than worry about things I can't control.


> $12000

France gives you a lumpsum of your unemployment benefits if you start a business. If you were paid an average engineer salary, 2200€ net pm, it makes 42000€, and it's called ACCRE. The condition is to be fired, and not on our heavy fault. Most of my friends negotiate giving cash to their employers to get fired, so they could get ACCRE.

There are other grants (e.g. 6000€ for being a woman) and loans (28000€ for being a woman, and others named CIR if you employ PhDs). For all of that, you don't even need to have a good project, as opposed to applying to YC.

What I mean is, YC isn't targetting France, or is it?


> Most of my friends negociate giving cash to their employers to get fired, so they could get ACCRE.

Perhaps something got lost in translation, but that sounds unethical at best, and highly illegal at worst.


YC has already funded a couple great teams from France.

And we want people from all over the world to apply to YCF too. As long as you have a good enough internet connection for clear video chats, you don't have to move here either.


YCF offers office hours for 8 weeks, two events with the partners and the alumni network. And the $12k and €42k are not mutually exclusive.

How many €10M+ companies got started with ACCRE money? Probably not even as many as there are $1B+ YC companies.


Do we even have €10M+ startups in France? Besides Gemalto which is 30 years old.

There's just no way we could create an Apple in France. It's too agressive, therefore we would forbid it.


Iliad is a €10B telco started about 20 years ago by a twenty-something. There was Business Objects which sold for some billions circa 2000. Criteo started in the 2000s and is worth billions. In tech, there are also DailyMotion, Deezer, BlaBlaCar, Withings and Sigfox in the €100M+ range.

YC certainly fares better in a decade than France in 30 years. But you shouldn't be self-deprecating, or you may start to believe it's impossible to start a startup in France. When there's a will, there's a way.

Anyhow, we're getting off-topic.


I think algolia might count soon given their last funding round.


Does Criteo count? Yahoo finance says its market cap is 3.3B[1].

[1]http://finance.yahoo.com/q?s=CRTO


Money isn't the main motivation to get into YC. The YC network (of businesses, people, and investors) and the credibility it gives you are far more valuable than even their ~$120k seed.


12k gets them first dibs on an individual and/or a team ... a smart idea.

Essentially a variation of Cialdini's "reciprocity" principle (among others..)

http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/six-principles-influe...

People are free to do whatever they want with the grant and not go any further with YC but it's obvious that the good will and grant will cause a large percentage of them to not do that.


I love Cialdini, thanks for linking. I recommend his book on Influence to everyone.

I did think about this reciprocity initially when I heard no equity involved, however I don't think YC & Co's problem is getting startups to agree take their money after mentoring? Their issue is likely getting enough investment opportunities to put cash into as fast as they can raise it. ( ie-pretty fast ). For that they need a bigger opportunity pipeline.

So, i basically agree that they are getting first dibs, but due little to Cialdini's rule on reciprocity. I'd point more towards 'Liking' (ie building the trust early) or 'Authority' since they are getting in the door first with founders and are likely the initial startup mentor.

What I see, is that this program is just a simple (relative) way to ignite some ideas that are on the cusp of being implemented, remove some of the founding barriers, and start a conversation with their team earlier on in the process (no one wants to be the third on the list to call to invest in a great co.). The standard YC class schedule and size limitations are likely the gating factors to their growth, especially when interest in 'startup investing' isn't declining, and YC has already made moves to make it easier for non-accredited investors to invest.

Maybe this is in line with what you were referring to.


It will be up to the wider community to educate the young impressionable kids who take the money that they have no obligations to YC and that there is no such thing as loyalty in the valley. YC is sure as hell gong to chuck them to the road if they don't work out.

Unfortunately a lot of these kids will probably feel guilt over taking the money and feel like they have some kind of obligation to take deals that are much worse for them.


This is great. It's the natural evolution of going earlier and earlier into lifecycle of a startup (or even idea).

As a next move, I'd like to see them go "pre-team" and put talented individuals with complimentary skill sets together behind a single idea.


If you are interested in 'pre-team' you should check out EF in London (joinef.com). They are all about helping technical co-founders meet. Some of the companies have raised amongst the largest seed rounds in Europe.

Full disclosure: I have worked with them


What kind of progress are you expecting teams to make during the 8 weeks?

How greatly do you anticipate this program impact getting into the "real" YC winter batch? Do you expect that after 8 weeks most good startups would be "ready" to be accepted into the winter class?

Do you expect that after completing the 8 weeks, teams will be ready to raise funds?


We want teams to make as much progress as possible based on wherever they're starting at (ie for an idea-stage team, it could be building a prototype and getting it into the hands of some users, for a prototype team, launching and getting customers)

We hope we'll be able to help teams a lot -- YCF teams will be held up to the same standards as all other YC applicants though if they choose to apply. There won't be special treatment for YCF teams.

Maybe -- we at least hope they'll apply for funding from YC!


The application form was getting hit pretty hard -- it's temporarily offline while the Submittable team migrates it to its own server. Should just be a few minutes -- will update when it's back up!

Edit: The application servers are back up! Look forward to reading your apps :)


It seems to be back up, but I lost my draft application, which I saved multiple times.


I'm sorry that happened :( I hope you'll still be willing to write it again -- the system should work smoothly now.


Not a problem! :)


This could shift how technology is funded on a scale much larger than YC already has. Teams probably need more like $50k, but even $12k is going to be the difference for some great people. Congrats to YC for pushing things forward, again. Let a million flowers bloom!


12K is more than I'd make in a month (because I'm a terrible negotiator when it comes to money - and old) but what do they want you to get done in what 5 or 6 weeks?


Note to the organizers -- this sounds awesome, and I'd even love to apply, but something announced now is too short notice for a round that starts in September for those of us living in Germany and who currently have jobs (maybe this applies to all of Europe? Not sure).

I have a work contract through the end of December and must give at minimum three months notice to my employer if I leave before then, in order for them to have time to find a replacement. And three months is the legal bare minimum; better to plan more like 6 months out. Pretty sure this is the standard timeframe throughout the country, if not continent.

Just a heads up -- I'd guess there are at least a handful of others in my position.


This seems really close to what YC started as. Why the spinoff?


YC has evolved quite a bit. This seems like a good way for us to scale and to enable more innovation. A lot of companies need the full $120k, but I bet many will be able to make great progress with just $12k.

We thought about trying to combine them, but they seem too different.


I think as the popularity and # of applications of YC has increase over the years, YC has naturally leaned towards startups who were further along. This way they can make that shift official without losing the original vision of YC.


I like this idea. But I agree, it's a problem and this is probably one reason for experimenting with this. It sounds like the number of apps are already crazy, so not sure how YC will be able to sort through them all with more than a crap shoot probability of success.

According the PG, the big ideas are not obvious at first, so how can you make good decisions on so many ideas in so little time? Probably YC is going to filter the apps through 1-2K YC founders or something and then have a score sheet, silos of expertise, etc. Basically selection by committee.

Though I like the concept, I am skeptical of the judging, as well as the sheer number of apps coming in worldwide - too much white noise which hurts the ability of the many US based startups trying to get a seat at the table.


I think the underlying goal here is to broaden yc network, really to find more workers, not founders.

The fwd.us initiative seems dead in the water, so can't do much there. This is a much more clever, more politically astute approach to finding possible candidates.


(Posting from a throwaway account)

> for some people, [YCF] may be the difference between going to work at a big company and starting the next Airbnb

This is me. I applied to the YC summer batch and was rejected (I applied late, as a single founder, with only an idea). I've tried to push ahead anyway with my idea/startup and built a small prototype, but in the end decided to find a job. I have just now gotten a job offer from big G.

YCF looks really interesting to me. What should I do? Accept the job at G and then if accepted to YCF quit my job after 1 month? Any advice is appreciated


Do you really want to be a googler or an entrepreneur? Visualize yourself one year from now, have you made progress towards what you really want to be?


You will make 12K at Google quickly enough. I'd take the time to work there for a year, get your 100K in cash or whatever you manage to save (try to keep at least 50K), build your product, then either launch or apply for S16.

Of course, you can decide to launch sooner. :)


^ same situation, but the big difference is that i am in a country where the annual salary can be around $12k, and its the big Q instead of G, i have already started the job but will be applying regardless, hope to quit if accepted, if anybody has any views/opinions on this then let me know

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