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Y Combinator: How to Get Onto the World’s Most Famous Startup Accelerator Program

Lindsay Amos, Y Combinator’s spokesperson, shares some tips with Bloomberg Línea on how to form part of the program, from how to fill in a submission form to how to have a successful interview

Y Combinator
May 04, 2022 | 12:20 pm

U.S. startup accelerator Y Combinator (YC) is one of the most reputable in the world, and its programs have been used by globally recognized companies such as the lodging platform Airbnb or the video streaming service Twitch.

YC, founded in 2005, has three-month programs that run from January to March and June to August, during which time startups are empowered, irrespective of the stage in which they are at.

Latin American companies that have participated in such programs include Brazil’s Kovi, Colombia’s Rappi, Mexico’s Nowports, and Peru’s GoJom, among others.

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One of the concepts advocated by YC is that it is never too early or too late to apply, as the company believes it can help companies at any stage.

In fact, several of the program’s most recognized beneficiaries applied several times before obtaining funding, including Dropbox co-founder and CEO Drew Houston.

In an interview with Bloomberg Línea, Lindsay Amos, spokesperson for Y Combinator, revealed some key points about the process that startups must follow and the aspects the company considers when investing in a company.

Bloomberg Línea: What are the keys to being part of the Y Combinator program?

Lindsay Amos: We look a lot at two aspects: the founding team and the idea. We like to see that the team has the ability to build. Often that means having a technical founder.

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It can also be about a track record, or evidence that you can build an amazing team around you to help execute. When building in a highly regulated industry, such as financial services, it helps to have some industry experience. In terms of the idea, you need one that the team is eager to work on. For teams that have applied more than once, we look at the progress made between applications.

Startup founders attend a meeting at Y Combinatordfd

What should be the level of evolution of a startup that wants to be part of Y Combinator?

We consider startups at any stage and in any field. We have funded companies engaged in everything from microbes to fusion reactors to supersonic aircraft. We fund companies with just an idea, and also companies already making hundreds of thousands of dollars a month.

What recommendations do you offer before applying to Y Combinator programs, especially for Latino companies?

When deciding whether to fund a startup, we are most interested in the team, specifically their technical skills, the proof they can build, and how well they work together. We also look for ideas that have the opportunity to become big companies if the business succeeds, but this is secondary to the founders.

Is there a key to correctly answering the application form to enter Y Combinator?

The application must be filled out completely. The video should be one minute long and include all the founders. One quality that underlies a good application is clarity of communication. The application should be easy to read and simple to understand the key points: what is the idea, who is working on it, how does it work, what is the status of the company.

It should be clear that at least one of the founders of the application has the personal knowledge necessary for the product to exist.

How does one interview successfully for Y Combinator, how should a startup prepare?

We look for a good indication that we will be able to have a productive working relationship. The interview should feel like a productive 10-minute conversation. Overly practiced scripts are often counterproductive.

Demonstrate mastery of your own business: the numbers, the biggest issues you face, and a clear idea of what you need to work on next.

There is no right answer. We’re just trying to understand what you’re doing.

We expect big risks in an early-stage startup. We expect founders to be aware of the risks in the interview.

How many startups will enter the program in this new cycle?

For the 2022 batch, more than 17,000 companies applied, while 414 companies were funded.

* Do you have a business, or an idea for one? Any startup can apply for the programs directly through Y Combinator’s web page.