Kat Manalac
Aaron Harris

Kat Mañalac & Aaron K. Harris

Office hours with partners at Y Combinator

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON October 12, 2015

Discussion

Aaron Harris
Aaron Harris@harris · Partner, YC
Oh, hi there Product Hunt. I'm Aaron. I'm a partner at Y Combinator where I spend a lot of time looking for new companies and working with the ones we fund. I used to work in finance, but managed not to turn evil. I also ran a startup called Tutorspree. I spend a lot of time thinking about how the world is changing and how teams of people make that happen. I really like thinking about the types of problems that don't seem like they'd be much fun to solve, because that's often where the biggest opportunities are hiding. I'm an accidental podcast host, and sometimes write as a way of figuring things out. Ask away :) Hey, I'm Kat -- partner at Y Combinator. I do a lot of outreach to potential applicants. One of the best parts of my job is talking to founders around the world about what they're building -- it's Product Hunt IRL. You might have seen me on Hacker News talking about programs like the YC Fellowship or Open Office Hours. I also have the pleasure of hosting the Female Founders Conference with the other women of YC. I started out at WIRED Magazine and then worked with Alexis Ohanian (during his in-between reddit days). AMA.
Ryan Hoover
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
A lot has been written about YC, by the press and founders that went through the program. What's the biggest misconception? P.S. GL to everyone applying! Deadline is tomorrow. 😊
Lauren Holliday
Lauren Holliday@laurenholliday_ · Journalist with a marketing mindset
@rrhoover AWESOME QUESTION!
Aaron Harris
Aaron Harris@harris · Partner, YC
@rrhoover @rrhoover Oh man, Ryan - there are so many. I think they mostly boil down to "YC only accepts x type of founders, I'm not that type, so why even apply??!?!" We really only have one criteria: Do we think this founder or team can build a great business. That's what we're looking for, and that's what we'll continue to fund.
Ryan Hoover
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
@harris I'll be honest, as a solo, non-engineering founder, I didn't think I had much of a chance before speaking with @katmanalac and other YC partners prior to submitting the application.
Kat Manalac
Kat Manalac@katmanalac · Partner, Y Combinator
@rrhoover Another big one is that you have to have an introduction to the partners or get a recommendation from an alumni to get into YC. The majority of people we fund never had any prior interaction with us.
George Muresan
George Muresan@gmuresan3 · Software Engineer, AdStage
Hey guys, what are some of the biggest mistakes that startups make during the 3 months that they are in YC?
Aaron Harris
Aaron Harris@harris · Partner, YC
@gmuresan3 Not spending enough time out in the world talking to customers. It's very easy to sit inside and build product. That's super important, but it's only going to lead you in the right direction when you've talked to users first!
Kat Manalac
Kat Manalac@katmanalac · Partner, Y Combinator
@harris @gmuresan3 Another is waiting too long to launch. Feedback from actual users is infinitely more helpful than feedback from potential users (and feedback from paying customers is even better).
Lauren Holliday
Lauren Holliday@laurenholliday_ · Journalist with a marketing mindset
Hi Kat! Hi Aaron! Super excited to have you here today. I have a few questions about the YC application. =) 1. In the talk Sam gave our CS183C class recently, he said YC can turn some slow movers into fast movers…. How do you determine if you can do this when reading an application? 2. I read in Sam’s recent AMA that it could take 2 minutes to review an application? How’s that? 3. I also read sometimes it could take him an hour because he had to do background research… What would make you do background research? 4. He also said the ones submitted by the cut off get read by a lot of the partners… Why’s that? I was recommended by a few YC alums to submit early. Am I at a disadvantage now? 5. What are the best answers to the “Anything you would like to add?” Or What would you like to read about in that section? 6. Is it possible we’ll hear from you before the 28th? 7. How do the logistics of the application work? For instance, I’m interested in understanding how they get divvied up between partners, etc. 8. How many applications have you received so far?
Bakz T. Future
Bakz T. Future@bakztfuture · Founder, AtSign.co
@laurenholliday_ asking the tough questions! Haha awesome work
Aaron Harris
Aaron Harris@harris · Partner, YC
@laurenholliday_ Hmmm - that's a lot of questions, and Sam should probably answer based on how he reads his applications when it comes to timing. For me, there's a lot of different factors that play into reading the applications. Sometimes you see something and you just know you want to talk to them. That's the fastest type. If I'm really intrigued, but don't know much, I'll dig more or ask some friends some questions. Not sure what you mean by 4. We read all of them, and there's no disadvantage to submitting early/at the deadline. 5 - Don't overthink it :) 6 - sure, if we have questions about your application 7 - we have some really awesome software running in the background 8 - Not actually sure at the moment. It's changing pretty fast
Lauren Holliday
Lauren Holliday@laurenholliday_ · Journalist with a marketing mindset
@harris @laurenholliday_ Thanks for the answers! Sorry there's so many. We want to be in YC more than anything in the world so I had a lot. =)
Natalya Matyushenko
Natalya Matyushenko@ambercamel · Co-founder/COO at Spycob
@harris: , @katmanalac Hi guys) Wanted to hear your opinion on early vs later monetisation for an early stage startup. The choice is whether we should start maximising revenue now, with 20K installs, or focus on growing user base and maintaining 6-8%/week growth and introduce paid features once we have critical mass (let's say 1M)? Our idea is discovery commerce, "buy for $1" button has been tested.
Aaron Harris
Aaron Harris@harris · Partner, YC
@ambercamel This is such a great question, but it's also super hard to answer without much more context. Some businesses can survive without charging their customers because their path to scale is rapid enough, and their funding large enough, to get them to the point of making money. Others need to make money sooner because of their costs. 6-8% a week is pretty good, but I'd generally edge towards at least experimenting with revenue so you start to have an idea of what you're going to do. Of course, if you're going to run out of money before you get to profitability...you might have to charge sooner!
Natalya Matyushenko
Natalya Matyushenko@ambercamel · Co-founder/COO at Spycob
@harris I think, we'd rather focus on growth until we reach critical mass rather than pinching pennies from just a few thousand MAUs. In addition, we are a small team and can't really build the payments/transaction infrastructure with the resources we have and keep the growth we have at the same time...Thanks)
Zahi Darwazeh
Zahi Darwazeh@zdarwazeh92 · Co-Founder @OrderCircle
Hi @harris @katmanalac, We are wrapping up our application for Dweller, what is the biggest mistake people make on the application?
Kat Manalac
Kat Manalac@katmanalac · Partner, Y Combinator
@zdarwazeh92 One mistake lots of people make is not being succinct. People can write novels about what they're building. It's best to be as clear and concise as possible when describing what your company does. Another mistake is not explaining what it is your company does. Many people lead with why and don't get to the what until a few sentences (or paragraphs!) in.
Lukas Fittl
Lukas Fittl@lukasfittl · Product Hunt
@harris @katmanalac Thanks for taking the time to chat! Whats the thing you see on YC applications from outside the US that is the most problematic? (e.g. busy cap table, not enough commitment, etc)
Aaron Harris
Aaron Harris@harris · Partner, YC
@lukasfittl Not enough applicants! Seriously, there's so many more intl companies that should be applying that aren't. It's a big world out there.
Larry
Larry@larry_lawal
@katmanalac Hi Kat! In your Startup School Radio episode with @harris, you mentioned that the Summer 2012 increase in tech startups coincided with The Social Network movie and an overall 10-year shift to where every news organization covers tech or has dedicated staff reporting on the startup scene. My question: Do you feel a similar trend is underway with science startups now that media sites like BuzzFeed, Vox, IFLScience are setting up or growing science-specific coverage? What area of science/research interests you the most?
Sydney Liu
Sydney Liu@sydney_liu_sl · Co-Founder of Commaful.com
@harris: Hey Aaron! Startup School Radio is my daily listening when I cook or run. Absolutely amazing to get inside the mind of the partners and the founders. I've at least tripled the number of users and potential users I talk to on a weekly basis now because of it. My question: This is one of my favorite posts of yours: http://www.aaronkharris.com/thin... and has been a great guiding principle for me. What would your ideal schedule (ideal, so could be in retrospect) look like for when you were full time on Tutorspree? What would have been yours in the pre-product market fit stage? What % of time talking to users, working on product, growing, brainstorming, exercising, etc.? @katmanalac Hey Kat! Really love how open you are around the community, from tweeting through YC, scheduling and putting on events, like the Female Founders conference, etc. My question: Having seen many resources (and providing many of them through YC), what resources would you say an early stage founder SHOULD look at, given there are so much content going around? What would be the "vitamins" you'd give to a newbie founder what to watch, listen to, or read to give them what they need to know to build a great startup without distracting time from actually spending time with the users and product? Thanks so much!!!
Aaron Harris
Aaron Harris@harris · Partner, YC
@sydney_liu_sl I wish I knew what an ideal schedule looked like. The truth is it changed over time, and it's going to be different for every founder because of what people are good at, and what the business needs. I do know that I used to explicitly block my time on my calendar for different activities. One of my best tricks now is that I only do a real run through my email once a day, and then mostly ignore it. If I open an email, I have to respond. That's a good motivator.
Kat Manalac
Kat Manalac@katmanalac · Partner, Y Combinator
@sydney_liu_sl I'll create a PH collection with my favorite resources! Here's a great list @mattkrisiloff put together for our YC Fellowship teams: https://docs.google.com/document...
Russ Frushtick
Russ Frushtick@russfrushtick
@harris No need to share names, but could you talk about the worst pitch you've ever gotten?
Aaron Harris
Aaron Harris@harris · Partner, YC
@russfrushtick @qasar has given me some pretty bad ones...
Melissa Joy Kong
Melissa Joy Kong@melissajoykong · Content, Product Hunt
Kat! You talk to so many startups in your role. Given everything you've seen, and any patterns you've identified, what are some of the leading early indicators of a startup that is on the path to being a "success" down the road?
Kat Manalac
Kat Manalac@katmanalac · Partner, Y Combinator
@melissajoykong I love learning new things from the founders I talk to. Hearing that they have new insights about the space they're diving into is always promising. Those insights may come from personal experience -- because they're building something that solves a problem they personally experienced. Or they may come from talking to a lot of users (or potential users).
John Reynolds
John Reynolds@reynolds_wrap · director
what are the 3 techniques, mindsets, skills, etc. new/first-time entrepreneurs have that result in large part 90%+ of their success? ( mentors/books/sites/social media feeds ect)
Aaron Harris
Aaron Harris@harris · Partner, YC
@reynolds_wrap I think there are two really important things for all founders, not just first timers: refusal to accept the world as you find it, and the tenacity to keep trying to change it to be better. Fundamentally, this what building a startup boils down to. If you have that, you'll be able to identify problems other people miss, and you won't let anything stop you from fixing those problems.
Ben Rahnema
Ben Rahnema@brahnema · Co-Founder at Returnbase
Hey @harris and @katmanalac! Any advice on how to best capitalize on way more users and engagement than expected at launch? What can we do to scale up quickly enough to take advantage of early explosive growth while not sacrificing on experience for our users?
Aaron Harris
Aaron Harris@harris · Partner, YC
@brahnema That's a good problem to have, but there's no silver bullet to solving it. You'll have to keep balancing the two sides, and, when in doubt, over communicate what's going on to your users (especially if and when things break)
Josu San Martin
Josu San Martin@josusanmartin
@harris Hey Aaron! I love your podcast and I think that you are a great host. My cofounder and I have a very early stage startup, and although we complement each other fairly well neither of us are technical. I can code at a very basic level and I can take technical decisions, but I can't really build the platform we need. So we feel like we have 3 choices: 1. Find a technical cofounder. We have tried this, but we haven't found anybody yet. 2. Outsource the development, at least until we can raise some capital and hire engineers. We are based in Mexico, so this is relatively cheap. We have also found a pretty reliable firm in order to do so. 3. Hire an engineer. There may even be more options that we haven't thought about. What would be your advice at this stage? Thank you!
Aaron Harris
Aaron Harris@harris · Partner, YC
@josusanmartin Tough to actually say without knowing a lot more about your product, market, and customers. You did, however, leave out the 4th option - get good enough yourself to be the CTO! That would be the best.
Nicki Friis
Nicki Friis@nickifriisw · Entrepreneur. Former Partner @ Ideanote.
@harris Hey Aaron and Kat, why is focusing on customer experience a good idea - from your point of view?
Aaron Harris
Aaron Harris@harris · Partner, YC
@nickifriisw Here's one way to think about that: why are you building what you are building? My guess is so that it changes the way someone does something in their lives. If they're not happy making that change (because you make their lives painful), then they're not going to want to use your service very much. That just gets more important if you start to charge money, or if there are viable alternatives to your service.
Rohit Goyal
Rohit Goyal@imrgoyal · CEO, Mudrex
Hi Aaron, Thanks for doing this AMA. My question is... What have you found the better strategy among the below 2 in your time at YC. 1) Completely focus on building the traction first like setting a target of x% MOM growth and put unit economics for the later stage. 2) Focus on unit scale first with lesser traction (good enough to work on) and focus on the growth in the later stage once you reach the right unit economics. I understand this might vary from startup to startup so let's focus on products/startups which can have revenue from starting days itself.
Aaron Harris
Aaron Harris@harris · Partner, YC
@imrgoyal Check out my answer to Natalya Matyushenko at the top.
Rohit Goyal
Rohit Goyal@imrgoyal · CEO, Mudrex
@harris Thanks for the answer. But i feel it is a generalised answer and as you said the answer depends more on context. Is it possible to give you more context on the same? Thanks.
Melissa Joy Kong
Melissa Joy Kong@melissajoykong · Content, Product Hunt
Hi Aaron! What company do you think *doesn't* exist yet that, if it did, might significantly spur the growth of revolutionary new startups?
Aaron Harris
Aaron Harris@harris · Partner, YC
@melissajoykong Either one that solves visa/immigration issues around the world or one that finally makes telepresence work as well as being there.
Jake Crump
Jake Crump@jakecrump · Community Team with Product Hunt
What would the you of 2 years ago think of yourself today?
Teresa Hammerl
Teresa Hammerl@colazionearoma · Socialmediapreneur
Hi Aaron, you mentioned writing as a way of figuring things out. Do you ever get negative comments and what's your approach on dealing with them? Hi Kat, what's the most exciting part of being able to talk to many founders from different cultures? I guess you learn a lot. Does this also help you with including more people from different parts of the world at the Female Founders Conference? Thanks!
Aaron Harris
Aaron Harris@harris · Partner, YC
@colazionearoma All the time. There's an important difference, though, between negative comments and critical comments. Negative comments are mean spirited take downs. With those, I try to remove the emotion from them and see if there's a valid critique underneath. Sometimes there is, and sometimes there isn't, but it's important to learn wherever you can. Critical comments are typically far more constructive. These help me learn and get better, so I love them. This isn't to say you should only ever look for criticism, because it is really nice to hear you did a good job, but it is valuable when you get it.
Tom Calabrese
Tom Calabrese@tomcalabrese · Cofounder of Quill
@harris thanks for Startup School Radio! As part of being in YC, and being a founder in general, you receive a lot of advice. What would your recommendation be in trying to figure out which pieces of advice to implement or ignore?
Aaron Harris
Aaron Harris@harris · Partner, YC
@tomcalabrese For sure! Glad you like it. Such an important question. You need to evaluate each piece of advice you get in context. You have to know that anyone giving you advice doesn't have nearly as much context about what you're doing as you do. Use that framework, but make sure you're not discarding feedback simply because you don't like it. You'll also learn, over time, who gives you good advice, and who gives you bad advice. This isn't the same for every advisor/advisee pair, so don't look exclusively to other people for your indicators. Of course, now you have to apply this set of rules to this set of rules. So now we're a bit stuck in a recursive loop.
neeharika sinha
neeharika sinha@neeeharika · Google, Threadchannel
Hello Aaron /Kat, Would love to learn more about Office Hours program. I see an upcoming event for Female founders would like to learn more about office hours session. Another question, We are in development stage fashion tech company. Would like to know if these office hours are meant for company at a certain stage? Would like to learn more about 2016 Female Founders Conference as well.
Kat Manalac
Kat Manalac@katmanalac · Partner, Y Combinator
@neeeharika We'll be announcing the date for our next Female Founders conference later this fall, and I'd love to do an open office hours for female founders in conjunction with the conference. Stay tuned for more info on that. Open office hours are open to teams at any stage. We can be most helpful if you come in with a specific question or challenge you're facing.
Aaron Harris
Aaron Harris@harris · Partner, YC
@neeeharika They're not meant for any particular stage, but usually very useful for companies thinking of applying to YC. We treat them as we treat office hours for our companies. We talk about your company, what problems you're facing, and try to come up with some solutions to try out.
Laksman
Laksman@laksman · Entrepreneur
@harris Does YC have a volunteer program or actively hire for the organization itself?
Aaron Harris
Aaron Harris@harris · Partner, YC
@laksman What do you mean by volunteer? We definitely hire for YC itself.
Laksman
Laksman@laksman · Entrepreneur
@harris @laksman I know StartX has volunteer positions for people who want to gain experience working at an accelerator and working with startups in multiple departments, so I wanted to see if YC has a similar offering. Good to know that you hire for YC itself, is there a web site that has current open positions up?
Chauncey TK Hamilton
Chauncey TK Hamilton@imchauncey · Operations Manager, First Round
@Katmanalac what are you going to be for Halloween?
Kat Manalac
Kat Manalac@katmanalac · Partner, Y Combinator
@imchauncey @ilikevests stole my original idea (Rick & Morty). I'm leaning toward Bob Ross.
Amrit Anandh
Amrit Anandh@amritanandh · Chief Experience Officer, Revmakx
@harris how does YC look at a startup that's bent upon being bootstrapped with steady organic growth vs. one being VC funded and scaling early. Which would you prefer to fund?
Aaron Harris
Aaron Harris@harris · Partner, YC
@amritanandh I think they're both awesome, and just a question of what you want out of it. If you've already solved for long term organic growth, you should definitely think carefully about taking any outside money, because it can change your dynamics.
Amrit Anandh
Amrit Anandh@amritanandh · Chief Experience Officer, Revmakx
@harris thanks for the answer. Let me rephrase my question. Theoretically speaking, if you have applications of 2 companies solving the exact same problem in the exact same way with equal traction, would you prefer to fund the one that wants to be bootstrapped or the one that wants to take external funding?
Aaron Harris
Aaron Harris@harris · Partner, YC
@amritanandh That's a pretty elaborate hypothetical which, honestly, I don't think we'd ever find ourselves answering :)
Karlos
Karlos@karlosferra2
@harris , @katmanalac Hi Aaron/Kat! For founders that still have a leg on the enterprise world, when do you think is the best moment to jump ship to fully focus on their startups? I've already made my decision since i just have to do it no matter what, my mind and focus were every day on my product and company, so for me I hope it was the right call; however, a friend of mine is still worried to jump ship before having any revenue yet. Any thoughts on this?
Aaron Harris
Aaron Harris@harris · Partner, YC
@karlosferra2 That decision is different for every person, but I will say that a startup doesn't have a great chance if its founders aren't willing to commit full time. In the immortal words of George Michael you "gotta have faith."
Iulia
Iulia@iulia90 · WoYoTi
@harris @katmanalac hello! Thanks for doing this today. Wanted to hear more on the YC interest in the UK/London. Last year YC organized a Startup School event here in London, creating rumours that a UK based accelerator might be underway. Yet in 2015, we didn't even get a repeat of the Startup School day. Was it not seen as a successful endeavour? Why did YC lose interest?
Aaron Harris
Aaron Harris@harris · Partner, YC
@iulia90 We totally didn't lose interest in London! We love London, and all of the UK and Europe, and the rest of the world as well. We're always experimenting with where and when to do different events and outreach efforts. This is just a continuation of those experiments.
Kat Manalac
Kat Manalac@katmanalac · Partner, Y Combinator
@iulia90 We plan to do Startup School in different locations every year - so while you're not likely to get one in London every year, that doesn't mean we've lost interest in you! We are not, however, going to be opening another YC location in the near future.
Rom
Rom@rom · space scavenger
Can you bring Startup School to the Philippines, @katmanalac?
Ian A. McNeice
Ian A. McNeice@ian_a_mcneice
@harris Hey Aaron, really enjoying your insights so far. Great AMA. I have a couple of general questions: 1. What is your #1 book recommendation for a new founder? 2. What is your advice for finding a compatible cofounder? 3. What was the biggest lesson you took away from Tutorspree? 4. What do you know now as a partner at Y Combinator that you wish you'd known when you started your first start up?
Aaron Harris
Aaron Harris@harris · Partner, YC
@imcneice Awesome! 1 - Maybe "Don't make me think" for its focus on users. 2 - Look to your long term friends. 3 - Maybe this: http://www.aaronkharris.com/when... 4 - That all startups are broken inside most of the time
ShitEllenSays
ShitEllenSays@shiterrensays
Hi Aaron and Kat, Today, I read the Campus Job/WayUp Medium piece (https://medium.com/@jdotjdotf/yo...) about how later-stage companies can derive a lot of benefit from YC, despite its reputation as being early-stage focused. Our company is profitable and should finish the year with $700,000-1,000,000 in revenue. We applied to YC for W16 (viahartdotcom is our username - "America's Lowest Cost Seller of Consumer Products"). Assuming we are lucky enough to get in, how will your and YC's approach to our company be different relative to those which have not already launched? Thanks and hope to meet you both soon! Mike P.S. @harris What do you think of the Bridgewater Principles?
Aaron Harris
Aaron Harris@harris · Partner, YC
@shiterrensays I'd have to know more about your company than your revenue figures - though it sounds like you're doing awesomely well, congrats! With a post revenue company, we'd probably spend more time iterating on product/market optimization and experimenting with various growth channels. Pre-launch cos aren't even thinking about growth channels, usually. The truth is, though, I don't think of advice to startups as sitting in pre-determined buckets based on metrics on individual attributes. Those are important, but I think it's helpful to look at a co more holistically.
Kate
Kate@katesegrin · Head of Social @ GitHub
@harris Kat/Aaron what are some of the "roadblocks" you've faced in your life, and how did you overcome them or "reroute"?
Aaron Harris
Aaron Harris@harris · Partner, YC
@katesegrin Well, I probably shouldn't have gone into investment banking after college, but I did...I eventually quit and went on to my next thing. I think that one of the most important things to remember when you hit roadblocks is the sunk cost fallacy (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Su...). Basically - most of your life is ahead of you, so do what it takes to go around, and just keep going to something that will be better.
Jake Crump
Jake Crump@jakecrump · Community Team with Product Hunt
What's the biggest thing you changed your mind about in the last year?
Aaron Harris
Aaron Harris@harris · Partner, YC
@jakecrump Salad.
Bakz T. Future
Bakz T. Future@bakztfuture · Founder, AtSign.co
Hey @harris @katmanalac, Just wanted to ask: 1) how does being a single founder eventually impact the dynamics of a company? 2) any heuristics for finding the one metric that matters to optimize on? 3) any tips for projects less iterative and more focused on a "complex coordination" modality Thanks!
Aaron Harris
Aaron Harris@harris · Partner, YC
@bakztfuture 1 - It actually has impacts right up front. There's a lot to do at a startup from day one. That's harder, though not impossible for a single founder (and in general, startups are hard anyway). 2 - Generally a deeper conversation about the business, but you can usually rule out things like "pageviews" unless you're an advertising business. Ask yourself this question "What number would, if it kept increasing, end up leading to my being a billion dollar company?" 3 - Not sure what you mean.
Justin F Harris
Justin F Harris@justinfharris · Co-Founder, Beehive
@harris Hi Aaron, Is there something you look for in teams when examining applications? What is your favorite period of history? Also I'm jealous of the great last name and twitter handle. I signed up for twitter late and wanted that handle such a good one. Thanks!
Aaron Harris
Aaron Harris@harris · Partner, YC
@justinfharris Hi Justin 1 - Yeah, good chemistry, complimentary skill sets, toughness. 2 - Well, I studied History in college, so I've got a few. I did spend a lot of time on WWII and postwar America, though. Pretty fascinating time. 3 - :)
Tara Pham
Tara Pham@tarapham · CEO, CTY
@harris Can you elaborate on the YC Fellowship? Were fellows selected? Are they publicized? What were deciding factors when you selected them? (And/or what have you learned should be deciding factors if/when you do another cohort of fellows?) How does this differ from the "normal" YC cohort? Thanks!
Kat Manalac
Kat Manalac@katmanalac · Partner, Y Combinator
@tarapham We launched a YCF pilot earlier this year and we're in the middle of the first Fellowship batch right now. For the pilot, we invested $12k in 30+ teams who are participating in an 8-week program. Unlike the YC flagship program, we allowed teams to stay remote -- so they could participate from anywhere in the world. Only 3 of of the Fellowship teams had launched products. Most haven't launched. And we always let companies decide when they want to announce their funding or YC/YCF affiliation, so it'll be up to the individual teams to decide when they want to talk about being part of YCF. We processed YCF applications somewhat similarly to the way we read applications for the YC core program -- we looked for strong founders who we believed could build a huge company. The major difference is that we looked for teams who hadn't previously raised funding.
Justin F Harris
Justin F Harris@justinfharris · Co-Founder, Beehive
@katmanalac or @harris Hi Kat, Amazing work with the Female Founders Conference and YC Fellowship. How could potential applicants connect with Aaron and/or yourself about cool projects we are building? Having worked at Wired magazine where do you see the online publishing and magazine industry going in the future? Thanks!
Kat Manalac
Kat Manalac@katmanalac · Partner, Y Combinator
@justinfharris You can always shoot us a tweet or email - I'm kat at ycombinator. Re: online publishing -- A lot of really smart people are putting their heads around that question right now, but no one has figured it out yet. I think VR is going to change everything.
OllyCard
OllyCard@getollycard · CEO
@Harris @Kat whats a good way for a fintech startup to indicate traction? e.g. a partnership with a large bank and access to their customers is traction but its still just a customer! Traditionally fintech startups are late bloomers :)
Aaron Harris
Aaron Harris@harris · Partner, YC
@getollycard This is a really tough, and generally company specific question. Bank "partnerships" often aren't much in the way of partnerships, so I'd probably discount it unless I knew a lot more.. At the end of the day, though, fintech cos are business, they have to generate revenue (or some other core metric, but in fintech, that's probably revenue).
Dragos G
Dragos G@dragos_wyt · Woyoti Founder
@harris have you guys had the chance to see any differences in rate of success of international founders who move back and the ones that stay in the bay area ?
Aaron Harris
Aaron Harris@harris · Partner, YC
@dragos_wyt Not sure we have a large enough data set to draw real conclusions.
Dustin Phipps
Dustin Phipps@dustinphipps · Co-Founder, Healthstem
@harris Hi, Aaron. We applied to YC for the first time this cycle. From what we've heard, it seems there are whispers amongst the VCs about the implosion of some overvalued unicorns. Given the coming interest rate hikes and the resultant economic slowdown, will YC shift its focus towards business with more stable putative revenue models over fast-growing viral ideas with shaky profit outlooks?
Aaron Harris
Aaron Harris@harris · Partner, YC
@dustinphipps If I were you, I wouldn't spend much time thinking about the implications of global macroeconomics and late stage investing on your startup. Great startups get founded in all parts of the economic and business cycles. We've never really shifted what we look for - great founders building great business. Those will succeed no matter what happens elsewhere.
Dustin Phipps
Dustin Phipps@dustinphipps · Co-Founder, Healthstem
@harris Thanks for taking the time to respond. I have great respect for the "YC way", so to speak, and I know you all will continue to be leaders in innovation. Keep up the great work! Next time I'll ask about your thoughts on salad...
Doug Pfeil
Doug Pfeil@dpfeil36 · TenTrip
Hey Aaron - will we ever see a Startup School episode where a guest is the interviewer and you're the subject?
Aaron Harris
Aaron Harris@harris · Partner, YC
@dpfeil36 The old switcheroo, huh? We should totally do that!
Kat Manalac
Kat Manalac@katmanalac · Partner, Y Combinator
@harris @dpfeil36 I was just thinking about that! Hey @harris, want me to interview you on an upcoming episode?
Doug Pfeil
Doug Pfeil@dpfeil36 · TenTrip
@katmanalac @dpfeil36 Would love it. Aaron refers often to his background but we get bits and pieces, never the whole story.
Berk Taner
Berk Taner@hexnorify · Co-Founder @PathPlug
Hi @harris , At this point, bar is getting higher each class, will YC consider funding closed beta stage startups with 100 users or so? We're generating api source-code from databases as a service as a first step.
Aaron Harris
Aaron Harris@harris · Partner, YC
@hexnorify The bar is probably higher, but the bar isn't traction. This is a pretty big misconception, actually, do @rrhoover's question above. We're way more interested in the team, the vision, and the capacity to execute than in traction up to the point of applications. I like to say that if you have traction, we'll want to consider it, but if you don't, we're not going to red flag you.
Berk Taner
Berk Taner@hexnorify · Co-Founder @PathPlug
@harris thank you for open reply. Submission sent, it's time to go back to pleasing HRBs.
Kévin Bosc
Kévin Bosc@kjbosc · CEO & Co-Founder of Refer Me Please
Hi @harris! thanks for answering our questions today! I have a quick one for you: I just launched my startup a couple of months ago, I have a great team and showing a really good weekly growth rate. Because we don't have someone technical in the team yet, the website is built and managed by an agency before we find the right CTO. Is it a deal breaker for YC? Thanks :-)
Aaron Harris
Aaron Harris@harris · Partner, YC
@kjbosc I'd say it's not a total dealbreaker, but that's a really tough way to build a startup. It's rare that a company built by an agency is actually all that great from the technical side. But, that applies mainly to software products. If you're building widgets, and had someone build out a simple ecommerce site, it's not that big of a deal.
Reza Khadjavi
Reza Khadjavi@rezakhadjavi · CEO, Shoelace
@harris, @katmanalac, we have been offering our product mostly via 'Wizard of Oz-ing' (manually) for 5 months, in order to validate + learn from our users. We have now started to automate a lot of the processes. Do you have any general tips for us at this stage based on seeing YC founders 'doing things that don't scale' at first and then transitioning to scale/automation?
Aaron Harris
Aaron Harris@harris · Partner, YC
@rezakhadjavi Try to automate the things that cost you the most time and make users happiest. Make sure that whenever you automate a feature, the software works as well or better than you do.
Kat Manalac
Kat Manalac@katmanalac · Partner, Y Combinator
@harris @rezakhadjavi And @samclamdisco will be thrilled you're using that phrase.
Reza Khadjavi
Reza Khadjavi@rezakhadjavi · CEO, Shoelace
@harris @katmanalac haha! is @samclamdisco a fellow Wizard of Oz-er?
Trevor Friedman
Trevor Friedman@trevormfriedman
@harris @katmanalac Hi Kat and Aaron, What is the earliest stage a company has been accepted and funded through Y combinator? (For example I just started on an MVP and don't have other team members)
Aaron Harris
Aaron Harris@harris · Partner, YC
@trevormfriedman We've done that :). We tried accepting founders with no ideas, but it didn't work so well. We've yet to fund an idea without a founder.
Eric William Dolan
Eric William Dolan@eisforinnovate
@harris what type of health/digital health products do you look for?
Jean-Claude Yawili
Jean-Claude Yawili@jcyawili · Apostell
@harris @katmanalac Hi Kat and Aaron, was just wondering how it worked for companies that had their main activities overseas, but are required to move to the Bay Area. How does being in the Bay help?
Kat Manalac
Kat Manalac@katmanalac · Partner, Y Combinator
@jcyawili I believe it's beneficial for any startup to spend three months in Silicon Valley. There's still no other ecosystem like it in the world. In most other places, investor appetite for risk is much lower. In the three months you spend in the Bay Area, you not only have the opportunity to build relationships with investors, but you have access to a dense network of founders. For YC at least, I believe being part of the YC community and having access to the other founders is an incredible asset. You can always take those relationships with you when you go back to where your users are. At this point there have been a good number of companies come through YC who've built products for a non-US market. Off the top of my head, there's ClearTax and Razorpay in India and Chaldal in Bangladesh.
Aaron Harris
Aaron Harris@harris · Partner, YC
@jcyawili Probably a better question for those companies, as there are a number of different answers depending on what that company needed to accomplish, and which activities were here vs. there.
Tony Diepenbrock IV
Tony Diepenbrock IV@tonydiepenbrock · CEO FlowerCompany.com
@harris - when should a company focus on engagement vs. growth? Obviously they are related, but let's say there were 2 features you could build, one that improves growth, the other that improves engagement. Which would you build in the early stages of a product with users?
Aaron Harris
Aaron Harris@harris · Partner, YC
@tonydiepenbrock It's a trade off you have to weigh differently at different times in the life of a startup. The two are intricately related, because very engaged users will bring more friends and will stick around, so your churn will be lower (which is like free growth). You have to make the call, balance resources, and keep re-evaluating.
Karlos
Karlos@karlosferra2
@harris @katmanalac Have YC considered other ways to "screen" startups other than the traditional application? For instance, could you leverage some type of "pre-screening" done by other YC Alumni so that they could "veto" or "upvote" a particular startup before sending it to the partners to review? It would be pretty helpful for founders if they actually had a chance to do a short demo or live presentation of their startup/idea rather than completely rely on a written application. If not, would this be something worth bringing up with the YC partners for additional thoughts?
Aaron Harris
Aaron Harris@harris · Partner, YC
@karlosferra2 Our alums actually do an initial screen of applications. We also get lots of recommendations from alums and friends of startups to talk to. This helps cut through the noise, but a huge number of the companies we interview come from completely outside our network. We're always trying to figure out better ways to review applications, though, so thanks for the suggestions!
Jake Crump
Jake Crump@jakecrump · Community Team with Product Hunt
@harris @katmanalac Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us. It's been very insightful!
Sanchayan
Sanchayan@sanchayan · Co-founder, Voxcast Inc
How much does the Video represent in your selection process. What should we highlight in the video ?
Aaron Harris
Aaron Harris@harris · Partner, YC
@sanchayan It really is incredibly important. If it isn't in there, I'll ask a team to repost it. We just want to see the team talking about their idea. It's amazing how much you learn about people that way.
Sanchayan
Sanchayan@sanchayan · Co-founder, Voxcast Inc
@harris @sanchayan Thanks Aaron, will make the best one we can. Hoep to talk to you soon!
Tommy Nicholas
Tommy Nicholas@tommyrva · CEO @ Alloy
@harris @katmanalac most people on this forum, and just in general, will not get into YC this application cycle. What's the #1 thing those that end up not getting in this time around should do to change your minds in 6 months?
Aaron Harris
Aaron Harris@harris · Partner, YC
@tommyrva Hi Tommy! I don't think there's a #1, but the teams that do change our minds are the ones that prove us wrong and demonstrate that they're just going to keep better at an ever increasing pace.
Sanchayan
Sanchayan@sanchayan · Co-founder, Voxcast Inc
@harris @tommyrva Tommy if i may, I had applied last year with a particular idea and did not get selected, but trudged along pivoted and looks this one getting a lot of traction.
Tony Diepenbrock IV
Tony Diepenbrock IV@tonydiepenbrock · CEO FlowerCompany.com
what's the most interviews anyone has received without being accepted?