Y Combinator – advice for applicants

In the chaos that followed our public beta launch, demo days, viral press, bug fixes, and rounds of interviews in the valley… we forgot that we could finally reveal we’re a YC start-up.

For those who aren’t familiar, Y Combinator is an advisory pre-seed project started by Paul Graham that funds and supports start-ups. YC does two sessions per year: summer in Boston and winter in Silicon Valley.

Our session was the largest to date with 21 start-ups. For the past 3 months we met once a week for a huge dinner and to take part in a presentation. The presenters offered the range of experience we’ll be facing, starting with previous YC start-ups and moving up into (very cool) industry leaders.

In the meantime, we worked. Non-stop. Every day. For 2 & 1/2 months build build build. The attitude was release early, update often. We drank the kool-aid. And two weeks ago we were able to present to over 100 investors in the valley and say “yeah, we make mixtapes!”

Crazy.


So, now that we’re at the end of our YC session, I wanted to turn around and offer whatever advise I could to the applicants who are waiting to hear if they’ve been accepted to Summer ’08 YC in Boston.

To all applicants:

Welcome to the fold. Sorry, no hoodies or white sneakers, but please drink the kool-aid.

Paul Graham is cool. He’s very smart and the core of YC, but you’ll quickly discover he’s not everything. He didn’t invent Apple. He didn’t invent the flux capacitor. What he is really good at is intense positive support, quick decision-making, and the ability to accurately point you towards your next step.

The biggest benefit was meeting and working with other YC start-ups. Making friends. Not just our batch, but other start-ups too.

To the accepted:

Don’t show up a few minutes early for dinners: arrive an *hour before dinner*. It’s quieter, there’s yummy snacks, you’ll get a good seat, and there’s always other start-ups hanging out.

Other advise: Start now. Work hard, nonstop. Take a quick break if you’re burnt out, but expect to put aside “life” as much as possible for a few months. Build your product. Get it out to people. Test test test, debug. Talk to other start-ups. Ask questions. Be excited, be motivated, but *please* don’t be arrogant ;-)

Embrace your YC session as a fun life experience and you’ll find how much your idea of “life” can really change. Follow these simple steps and at the end you’ll know you’re *one of us*.

To the rejected:

Rejection sucks. Yup. Particularly if you’re a huge YC fanboy/fangirl.

If there’s anything I can share, it’s this: you can still do it, you can be a start-up. Start now. Work hard, nonstop. Take a quick break if you’re burnt out, but put aside “life” as much as possible for a few months. Build your product. Get it out to people. Test test test, debug. Talk to other start-ups. Ask questions. Be excited, be motivated, but *please* don’t be arrogant ;-)

Embrace your start-up as a fun life experience and you’ll find how much your idea of “life” can really change. Follow these simple steps and within the same amount of time you’ll realize you’re *one of us*. (You just didn’t need the training wheels.)

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3 comments so far

  1. James on

    I see what you did there.

  2. Jonathan on

    Nice – good sincere advice. You’ve worked hard, and sounds like you had fun.

    Kool aid though….

  3. David on

    At age 57 and retired from IT, I wish Y had been around years ago.

    Back in 89, a state agency paid a Big 3 accounting firm $1 M to study building an application. They concluded it couldn’t be done.

    As a state employee, I was given the same task at the same time. For $350,000 my team designed, built, and fully implemented the application.

    A major DB vendor flew staff in from their corporate office to review the application. Over a year later, they had a new product.

    I didn’t even get a free lunch.


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