Photo: Bloomberg TV
Y Combinator has had a lot of success stories so far. Dropbox, Airbnb and Heroku have all seen a lot of success.But it’s tough to get in — most applications are going to be rejected outright, and very few are going to get a coveted interview with Y Combinator partners Harj Taggar and Paul Graham.
Taggar has posted a lot of tips on how to get that interview on Quora, which we’ve assembled into a list.
You'll want to focus on unique insights you have about this product or area that other people don't have.
'Did you get this idea from a pain in your own life? For example, Heroku was built as a solution to the pain felt by the founders when trying to deploy software.'
If a normal person can't understand what you're actually building, you'll want to re-write it so they can.
'A lot of things that seem obvious to you, won't be obvious to someone reading your application for the first time,' Taggar says.
This one seems like a no-brainer.
'The bar for late applications is really high -- much higher than during the on-time application review process.'
No one is going to want to read a poorly-written application. Write it as concisely and clearly as you can, and don't use big dense blocks of text. Stay away from market-speak like 'revolutionizing the world of digital communication via the social web.'
'It gets me no closer to understanding what you're actually doing,' he writes. 'Write in plain speak e.g. 'a mobile application showing you nearby restaurants your friends recommend'.'
'realise the question asking about the most impressive things you've built or achieved is one of (possibly the) most important question on the form.'
Give them a straight answer. Don't answer with 'this startup' or use it as a chance to show them you have a sense of humour. Y Combinator is looking for determination in a founder -- they want to know if you've stuck with something regardless of the outcome.
You'll need either a 'really impressive answer to the question about something impressive you have built/achieved' or have some traction for the app.
'While we don't look for traction as a way of assessing applications, we do look at whether the team seems like it will get stuff done -- getting some traction as a single non-tech founder would be very impressive in this regard.'
Y Combinator doesn't appear to be opening offices internationally or outside the San Francisco Bay Area any time soon.
'It's an intense challenge to keep up with the increase in applications to YC in the US alone. I can't even imagine how we'd be able to open another YC internationally. I get a lot of inquiries from people wanting to operate on some kind of YC franchise model abroad.'
'PLEASE include a video. it makes such a difference and will significantly help your chances of making interview.'
Taggar's first startup was actually a European startup before joining Y Combinator. You'll still have to move to the San Francisco Bay Area, though.
'Since then YC has funded a number of British startups, the most prominent being Songkick and HeyZap.'
About 1 in 20 applicants to Y Combinator are women founders.
This could give you an edge, though you'll still have to prove yourself to Y Combinator like everyone else.
'It's a shame, we'd love to see more applications but it's a problem applicable to technology from startups through to universities.'
Y Combinator will bring in young founders -- like those that haven't graduated -- but you'll still have to be determined and mature.
'Pursuing a startup rather than completing a college education isn't the right choice for everyone. We need to be convinced that an undergraduate founder has a sufficiently high level of determination to cope with a startup, such that they can resist the lure to go back to school when things get tough.'
Recommendations are important, but it varies depending on the quality of the endorsement. You'll want to get 'high-quality' endorsements.
'An example of a high quality recommendation would be 'I worked with X at my previous company, they are one of the most determined and productive people I've met and I tried hard to hire them for my current startup but they're set on doing their own thing'.'
Historically, between 96.5 - 97.5% of applications are rejected.
Just getting in is usually good enough to catch the eye of other investors and founders.
But what happens if you don't take it?
'We used to require the soul of your first born child but we've relaxed that rule now and decided there are no consequences,' Taggar says. 'We'd even be happy to hear from you again if you wanted to apply in the future.'