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Y Combinator interview tips (drraw.blogspot.com)
32 points by rwalker on Apr 7, 2007 | hide | past | web | favorite | 9 comments

One of the problems with our YC interview was that we were overly attached to our idea. The idea was to develop a web based operating system for people that have never used or are uncomfortable with current computers. We had initially envisioned it as a product bundled with hardware but decided we would be unable to finance that, so we'd start with just the software.

Of course, the YCs immediately understood that the associated hardware was an important part. They suggested that a good starting point was an "internet picture frame with email." Instead of going with their suggestion, we defended our own.

They also spent a lot of the interview comparing our product to yahoo.com which was another direction we didn't think the interview would go.

In the end, we were rejected because we didn't have a functioning demo. It was a dumb move on our part, and I would say a demo is an absolute must for the interview. I really regret making it as far as we did and not having a demo. We threw away our opportunity. I've heard that one demo-less team was told at their interview to make a demo in the next 24 hours, so be prepared for a serious test of your ability to get things done if you don't have a demo. Being undergrads didn't help us either. If you're an undergraduate, make it clear to the YCs that you are absolutely committed to starting a company and that you intend to drop out and work on it whether or not you get funding from them.

For me, it's all moot because I got myself banned from Y Combinator after I made a really dumb Techcrunch comment. I've burned my bridges, but at least Paul lets me post here. :) One of my partners that didn't go to the interview was reading one of Paul's Lisp books at the time and commented on how surreal it was to be blacklisted by the guy who wrote the book he was reading.

When I was younger, I always separated the internet and internet-based friends from the real world. They weren't the same. My internet persona and the real me were different. I've since come to understand that the internet now is the real world. The real world is the internet. My internet persona is me and actions in both worlds truly impact each other.

They also had really good drinks and cheese available. I could tell by the cheese labeled with the country of origin that Y Combinator was an amazing company. We waited in a coffee shop because we didn't want to be too early, but I wish we would have gone earlier so we could have talked to more people that were also interviewing. We did got a chance to talk to the Zenter folks and I'm glad they seem to be doing so well.

To all YC applicants, I wish you the best of luck and I hope no one else is dumb enough to become a member of the banned from Y Combinator club.

Agreed. This advice was candid and valuable. Hacker News and the community of people here is a really great resource. Good luck in the future rms. We're about to submit our application for Winter 2008, so we'll see how it turns out...

Wow, thanks for sharing that and being so honest about past failures. Rare quality - kudos.

This is the most valuable advice I've seen on YC News yet. Good luck rms on your startup pursuits. I think you definitely have the right attitude..

Dont know if we got an interview yet but we will start hardcore development of a demo right now.

I disagree with one part here. It's not always good to be passionate about your idea.

The Zenters happened to be working on a good idea, so we were glad they were psyched about it. When people walk in with a fully-formed idea, we just start the YC process right there-- ok, how do you make the perfect web-based Powerpoint killer? But when a group walks in with a semi-broken idea, which is much more common, the conversation becomes: what good idea can we morph this into? In that case, being passionately attached to your initial idea is not a plus.

Good point. There's a fine line between being passionate and being stubborn - I've added a section to the original post to reflect this.

To anyone else who may not be familiar with the abbreviation Q.E.D. in the post, here's the definition from wikipedia:

"Q.E.D. is an abbreviation of the Latin phrase "quod erat demonstrandum" (literally, "which was to be demonstrated"). In simple terms, the use of this Latin phrase is to indicate that something has been definitively proven."

'... it's actually true. I hate job interviews - they're very artificial and weird ... The YC interview is a conversation that honestly is exhilarating ...'

excellent, no fear.

I think you need to be passionate about your idea at the interview...if your not, who is going to be?

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