If you're thinking about applying to Y Combinator - you should.
For those unfamiliar, Y Combinator (YC) is a startup accelerator that funds technology companies at their earliest stage. YC hosts two 3-month programs — one from January through March, and one from June through August. They invest $500,000 in every company on standard terms, and are tech vertical agnostic.
Many founders are excited and intimidated by YC's alumni network and limited acceptance rate. Twice per year over 10,000 companies apply to participate and they typically admit 1.5% - 2% of applicants.
That said; it never hurts to apply, and I can attest to the value the partnership from my experience with Shogun.
I won't go into a whole rant about YC because it would end up being an infinite scroll, but here are 2 of the most common questions I get, and my replies:
I feel like we're too early for YC. We're at idea stage. Should we still apply?
Yes. YC accepts founders/companies at idea stage, and sometimes they make a bet purely on the talent of the founders.
I feel like we're too late for YC. We already have a product, paying customers, and investors. Why should we still apply?
When we applied for Shogun, we had 2,000 paying users, and about ~$400,000 ARR - fully bootstrapped. We were over $1.3M ARR when we presented at YC Demo Day, and $30K+ in profit every month. Although we didn't have investors at the time, I don't view that to be an issue. Your investors would likely be over the moon about your acceptance, even with the terms of the YC deal valuing the company lower than your last valuation/cap, because they know the round after Demo Day will be a markup.
I hope this helps clarify!
Application and Interview Guidance
If your interest is piqued, you can start your application for YC's next batch here: https://www.ycombinator.com/apply
Some founders find the application process intimidating. I think that's because they're overthinking it. As a YC alum, I get a decent amount of questions about the application and interview process, and often review applications and conduct mock interviews for folks in my network. A lot of the advice I give is redundant, so I “open sourced” it for everyone.
Y Combinator Application Breakdown and Guide
Start with this guide. Take a deep breath, and remember that less is more- keep your answers concise and data driven.
Y Combinator Interview Guide
If you're reading this next guide, it may be because you landed an interview- CONGRATULATIONS! That's no small feat in and of itself. Here are some tips to consider for the interview.