This month a A successful business entertainment newsletter written by an influential reporter teamed up with publishing legend Janice Min to form a startup news company. Buried in the story was a cool detail: the founders signed up to go through the three-month Y Combinator accelerator program.
If you weren’t paying attention, this news might stun you. Why would a magazine singer join a crowd of hooded geeks, and give up 7 percent of her company in exchange for the $125,000 stake that YC gives to her startups? But after nearly 17 years and 3,200 companies, Y Combinator has evolved into something far beyond a tech bro boot camp.
In its latest batch, YC selected 401 companies from a pool of more than 16,000 applicants for its permit along with training from veteran founders on building products, formulating business plans and raising funds. On August 31 and September 1, 377 of them presented their companies — remotely, of course — to the investment community in a bi-annual ritual called Demo Day. Each company’s founders had one minute to explain themselves: just enough time to plant a seed in the mind of a potential financier.
Their ideas reflected YC’s implicit view that there is a startup solution to every problem in the world, even though some of the solutions may sound familiar. There was a ghost kitchen in the Philippines. “Bar for the countries of the former Soviet Union.” “The Vanguard of India”. One of the founders promised to increase the income of dental practices by using deep learning to identify cavities. Another founder claimed, “We’re building a better search engine than Google!”
At the end of each 60-second show, a Spartacus-like battle cry appeared in the company’s name.
We… strive to pay!
We… Yemaachi Biotechnology!
There is nothing certain when it comes to starting a business, and in fact most of them fail. But inclusion in Y Combinator is definitely a thing; YC has launched companies whose combined total value exceeds $400 billion; Its alumni include such notables as Dropbox, Airbnb, Stripe, CoinBase, and DoorDash. There are other names you may recognize: Substack, Instacart, Scribd, and OpenSea. In most cases, companies entered the program with a valuation of zero, but many YC founders have more lucrative options and understand that what might seem a bad deal on paper is actually a bargain. Even experienced founders decided to pursue the program, some for multiple terms. Then there’s the misguided publication icon like Miss Maine.
So what do you get when you join? Sure, there is mentorship. YC has also greatly simplified tasks that used to take weeks – embedding, branding, setting up web services and, above all, getting in touch with the right investors – a lot of that through software of course. “We’re kind of like Crispr for startups. Startups come to YC with raw DNA. We edit the DNA so that they have alleles that increase their likelihood of success,” says Jeff Ralston, president of YC since 2019. Broad – attended hundreds of thousands of start-up schools open to the program – and has been embraced by hundreds of replica accelerators, incubators and boot camps, even some within companies like Google’s Area 120. Y Combinator has hosted more than 3,500 companies, but countless companies have used their schemes .