- Y Combinator, Silicon Valley’s most famous starting accelerator, is known for its exclusivity.
- Only about 1% to 2% of startups with more than 20,000 applications per year are accepted for each cohort.
- YC’s head of admissions, Stephanie Simon, shares the features she seeks in applications.
For novice founders who want to develop their startup in Accelerator, few names cause as much excitement as Y Combinator.
The Starter Accelerator is known for its exclusivity and accepts only 1.5% to 2% of the more than 20,000 applications for its summer and winter cohorts.
Stephanie Simon, Y Combinator’s recruitment team leader, goes through all of these applications. She joined the team in 2016 and took over its management in November 2020. During his tenure, Simon reads thousands of applications and offers his best tips to beginning startup founders who want to be accepted into an exclusive accelerator program.
A spokesman for the Combinator told Insider that even though the deadline for the program had expired in the summer of 2022, the admissions team would still check all applications submitted late until the cohort began in June.
The process for applying for Y Combinator is quite simple, Simon said. Once the founding team submits the application, the admissions team and even several executives review it.
If the commission decides that it wants to interview the founder, it will schedule a 10-minute video interview and shortly afterwards will decide on the founder’s request.
“I’d say in 99% of cases you have a 10-minute interview and we’ll answer you within a day,” Simon said.
She also stressed that no startup – no matter how trendy – will be automatically selected in front of others.
There are times when Y Combinator sees an influx of applications in certain categories, such as crypto in recent years or “chat bots” in 2016. But more importantly, the strength of the team. “The lens is ‘what are smart and impressive teams working on?'” Simon said.
Having a technical founder in the team is key
Simon says one way startups can excel is to have a co-founder and a team member from a technical background.
“Basically, we are looking for start-up teams where they could build a product, or at least an initial version of the product in the team itself,” she said.
By having a startup, a technical founder, he will be able to solve problems faster and more creatively thanks to his previous knowledge of this technology, Simon explained. The technical founder will also make it easier to hire engineers, which may be one of the hardest things startups have to do, she said. And technical founders usually have networks from which they can hire.
The startup should solve the real problem
Another key quality of the most successful YC pitchers is the feeling that the startup is trying to solve it is real.
“When it’s a problem that the founders themselves or someone they know close to them, they feel it’s just more reality-based and much more likely to succeed,” Simon said.
He says that on the pitch, he can tell if there is sincerity and authenticity in the problem the founders are trying to solve, rather than just a good idea to start.
In some cases, domain expertise is also important, Simon said. For start-ups in certain sectors, such as insurance and biotechnology, it will be much more important for the admissions team to be an expert in checking the application.
Few properties would completely disqualify the company
The biggest hurdle for YC recruitment managers is “unauthenticity,” Simon said. In each batch, the application receives some with startup ideas that do not seem real.
“It’s pretty obvious when the idea is made up and they [the founders] “I have not experienced it personally or I do not know anyone who would experience the problem they are trying to solve,” she said.
However, Simon points out that there is only one criterion that would completely disqualify a startup: “I think the only absolute no for us is if imagining that the company is successful would be a negative negative for the world.”