Tips from 5 entrepreneurs on how to apply to Y Combinator

For a company to be selected to participate in one of the programs of Y Combinator, the most exclusive accelerator in Silicon Valley, is a great achievement. But some entrepreneurs selected by the aforementioned organization shared tips for a successful application.

Y Combinator is the North American group that, through its business accelerator program, has been involved in huge successes in the tech ecosystem such as Airbnb, Dropbox and Reddit, among others. They also participated in the formation of Bluesmart, the “first smart suitcase” – which is actually an Argentinian invention – among other Argentinian entrepreneurs promoted by the organization.

What Y Combinator has been doing since 2005 is to select twice a year a group of companies from around the world in which invest seed capital. The chosen settle for three months in California and They participate in a program that shapes both their project and their leadership and communication skills..

Each edition ends with a “Demo Day” where they present theirs “pitch” to a select audience of Silicon Valley investors.

Tips for applying to Y Combinator

Creating the perfect app is critical for a startup to have a chance to pass the filter and be invested by Y Combinator. However, the process changed a bit after the accelerator went hybrid.

Instead of a trip to Silicon Valley, the entire interview phase is now conducted remotely, and it can be difficult to gauge how a particular conversation with a Y Combinator partner went after a simple Zoom video call.

Tips for Entrepreneurs: The Y Combinator interview can be a remote video

Business Insider spoke with 5 startup entrepreneurs who were recently accepted into Y Combinator. Here are your top tips for a successful application.

Short and clear written answers

For founders of Knowtex (a company that streamlines medical notes with AI), Jocelyn Kang and Carolyn Zhang, who landed a spot on the summer 2022 cohort, the key moment was the initial application. Both felt the application was well designed because it required them to present a clear and concise description of their startup.

However, even for those who have a more solid idea for their startup, it’s okay not to have a perfect answer to every written question.

When Alan Novogrodsky and his co-founder Marshall Johnson filled out their summer 2022 application for sales programming startup Caddy, both were frank for areas where they are still figuring out their business strategy. “You don’t have to make everything up because nobody wants it,” Novogrodsky told Business Insider.

“But it’s nice to be someone who can recognize a problem, understand what’s going on and communicate it effectively, because those are very powerful skills for attracting employees, attracting investors, getting people excited and selling to customers,” he added he. “If you can’t communicate effectively, chances are you’re going to fail anyway,” he warned.

Practice the interview well in advance

After submitting the written application, founders must practice in case they make it to the first round of interviews.

Advice from entrepreneurs: practice the interview as a team

Advice from entrepreneurs: practice the interview as a team

“We did at least 3 different versions of our application and 6-10 practice interviews,” Zhang said.

They wanted to have as direct an answer as possible to every question YC members asked them because first calls last only 10 minutes. “They want answers in a few sentences, basically”Jan tells.

According to Saurabh Jain, summer group member and co-founder of HR benefits software startup Feather, the very fact of getting an interview is a good indicator that YC responded well to your request “because not everyone comes to the interview,” he commented.

At the interview stage, one of the most important things entrepreneurs can do is emphasize why they are the right people to run their startup right now. “I think what works for us is the team because of our technical knowledge and our years of experience,” says Jane.

Zhang also sees the importance she and Kang place on their partnership as key to getting an opportunity: “YC puts a high priority on the team, and my co-founder and I already had a very strong relationship with each other,” she said.

It is also important to assume that the interview partner will have done their homework on their own initiative. “They’re doing a really good job of understanding what we’ve already done,” recalls Caroline McKeon, co-founder of climate technology startup Alga Biosciences.

Tips for Entrepreneurs: Teamwork and partnership dynamics are critical to Y Combinator

Tips for Entrepreneurs: Teamwork and partnership dynamics are critical to Y Combinator

She and the other co-founders spent the entire application process remotely for the group in the winter of 2022, conducting their interviews from one of their rooms. “Our group partner really understood what our idea was, knew exactly what we were doing and asked the right questions,” he said.

If the interview goes well, entrepreneurs should know right away if they made the cut, especially if they show up close to the deadline.. The co-founders of Caddy and Knowtex told Business Insider that a day after their second interview, they received word that they had been accepted.

All of the founders said that the most important thing is to coach every step of the application process and be as flexible as possible in explaining why you and your startup are a good fit for YC.

Articulate something in very few words or in a very short time is more difficult than giving a 10-hour speech,” Nowogrodski explains. “It might be just one day and one online application, but the goal is to put all the effort into that one short application and one short meeting to get it,” he closed.

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