Guide To YC

by Jason Shen

What's in the book?

Founders share their stories, tips, and advice from applying to Y Combinator.

    • Why to apply to Y Combinator, and what happens when you do
    • Breaking down and analyzing the application with experts who've been there
    • How to make a great video
    • Writing tips and tons of sample answers
    • Advice & recommendations from YC founders, and startups funded by YC

Description

ABOUT THE BOOK

This guide began as a series of personal notes to help friends and acquaintances interested in applying to Y Combinator. Its main purpose is to illuminate the YC process and to equip you with ideas and approaches to bring out the best in your application. Read it as you would peruse extended notes from a long coffee meeting – and then go use it to make your application stronger.

My name is Jason Shen and I applied with two cofounders to YC’s Summer 2011 batch – we were fortunate to get in. This was my first time applying to YC, and Ridejoy is my first tech startup. I’m nontechnical, but happened to have two technical friends (and roommates) who both worked at startups. I’m aware of how lucky I am to be in this position.

We got a lot of help from friends and YC alumni when preparing our application, so I wanted to make this guide to give back. Working with YC has definitely been a game-changer for me and my startup would not exist with out it. I sincerely hope that this guide leads you to a similar place, and provides you the benefits I’ve received.

Disclaimer: This guide is based on solely my personal experience and judgement, conversations with YC alumni, and things that Paul Graham and other people have written and/or stated about getting into YC. Act on this advice at your own discretion – if things go well, congratulations! If things go poorly, you agree to hold me harmless (though if you’re really distraught, I might buy you a beer).

MEET THE AUTHOR

Jason Shen is the co-founder of Ridejoy - a Y Combinator-funded community marketplace for ridesharing. His blog, The Art of Ass-Kicking, has been featured by Lifehacker and ReadWriteWeb. Jason studied biology and philosophy at Stanford where he led the men's gymnastics team to an NCAA national championship.

EXCERPT FROM THE BOOK

Get to the Point Fast

Y Combinator received over 2,000 applications for YC in S11 and a similar number for W12. There are a total of ten partners who read the essays and YC also asks some founders for feedback, but the sheer number of applications, paired against time constraints, means the first run-through of your app is very very short.

Tedious, hand-wavey and mostly illustrative math follows:

According to PG, every partner reads every app. Partners read about 700-1000 apps (after the first culling by YC alums) over a period of about 10 days. Assuming an 8 hour day with 5 minute breaks each hour means each application, on average, gets about 2 minutes of each partner’s time. (440mins per day / ~85 apps per day = 5.2 mins per app)

The takeaway here is that you need to get to the point fast and make every answer matter. At the end of the day, nothing matters except that they say “oh shit, this team is really smart/over-the-top hardworking/resourceful/can get things done/likes each other/could successfully build a great startup.” Think constantly about how you can impress with substance, not style (unless the style is in your product). Give numbers if they seem large, and explain things in the most favorable way possible.

Note: It’s important that you don’t ever lie or say something false. But just as you don’t discuss your work week in the same way to your boss as to your friend at the bar – be very mindful of how your application comes across. They need to first remember you and secondly think you’re legit. And you have very little time to make your case.

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