People often ask us what happens at Y Combinator. Here is an overview of what happens during the YC program and the benefits you get as a YC founder.
YC hosts two 3-month programs — one from January through March, and one from June through August. Here’s what happens during the 3 months of YC:
The overall goal of YC is to help startups really take off. They arrive at YC at all different stages. Some haven’t even started working yet, and others have been launched for a year or more. But whatever stage a startup is at when they arrive, our goal is to help them to be in dramatically better shape 3 months later.
For most startups, better shape translates into two things: to have a better product with more users, and to have more options for raising money.
Startups at all stages benefit from the intensity of YC. That’s probably the best word to describe the atmosphere. For 3 months, it’s all startup, all the time. Everyone around you—us, the other founders in your batch, the alumni, the speakers, the investors—wants to help your startup succeed. In that atmosphere it’s hard not to be highly motivated. And that kind of extraordinary motivation is what one needs to do something as difficult as starting a startup.
Many founders describe the 11 weeks leading up to Demo Day as the most productive period in their lives. Though YC continues after the 3 month cycle, and the alumni community is an increasingly valuable resource, those 11 weeks are still the most important thing. You can’t make people something they’re not, but the right conditions can bring out the best in them. And since most people have way more potential than they realize, they’re often surprised by what they’re capable of.
YC invests $500,000 in every company on standard terms. Our $500K investment is made on 2 separate safes:
During the batch, startups are sorted into 4 groups. Each group is led by group partners who advise the founders in one-on-one and group office hours. Each group is split into 12-14 sections (6-10 companies), so that founders get the benefit of an intimate setting within the larger batch.
Much of what takes place at YC happens during office hours. Group partners host group office hours every two weeks and one-on-one office hours as often as founders want. What startups talk about at office hours depends on the stage of the company and where they are in the YC cycle.
Bookface is the platform founders use to connect to one another—imagine a combination of Facebook, Quora, and LinkedIn. Each founder has a profile and can tag themselves as an expert in any topic. If you have a question, need an introduction, or want to poll for knowledge, you can post the request to the forum on Bookface. The knowledge base of the YC community is both broad and deep—the community includes founders who are the world’s foremost experts in everything from security to community building to nuclear energy.
During the first week of YC, we host a 3-day series of tactical talks from the YC team. Topics range from “SEO for Startups” and “How to Measure and Reach Product Market Fit”. We pack these talks into the first week of the batch on purpose, so founders can spend the rest of the batch focused on building their company.
Once a week we invite an eminent person from the startup world to speak. Most speakers are successful startup founders — the founders of Airbnb, Stripe, Doordash and Ginkgo Bioworks often come back to tell the inside story of what happened in the early days of their startups. Talks are strictly off the record to encourage candor, because the inside story of most startups is more colorful than the one presented later to the public.
Once a startup has something built that’s ready to launch, we help founders figure out how to present it to users and the press. We prepare founders for launches on community sites like Product Hunt and Hacker News, and for their first press pitches and interviews.
B2B and consumer companies often get their first 40-50 paying customers from the YC community. With that, you not only get first customers, you get the smartest early product feedback possible.
On Demo Day, the latest batch of Y Combinator-funded founders present their companies to an audience of specially selected investors and press. We doubt there’s another occasion when such a large percentage of the top startup investors have their attention focused on the same thing.
In the weeks following Demo Day we keep in close touch with the startups as they negotiate the fundraising maze, and help them decipher the real messages in investors’ sometimes deliberately ambiguous responses. Often we talk to the investors ourselves, to find out what they’re really thinking about a particular startup. Because YC-funded startups are a known quantity to investors and get introduced to enough of them to create serious price competition, companies tend to get higher valuations than they might otherwise.
YC doesn’t stop after the 3 month program ends. Here are some of the resources available to YC alumni as their companies grow.
Office hours don’t stop after the YC program. We have office hours year round, and startups from all previous cycles can book time whenever they want.
These are workshops we put together for the founders of YC Continuity portfolio companies to get advice and learn from the best people in a given function.
Today the YC alumni community is probably the most powerful community in the startup world. It’s powerful not just because of its size, but also because its members have such a strong commitment to helping one another. A culture of helpfulness has been an important part of YC since the beginning, and founders know that if they ever come across a challenge they need help with, they not only have the partners at their disposal, they have 6,000+ domain experts they can call on.
Each year, YC hosts a formal gathering of alumni: Camp YC. Camp YC brings together alumni from every batch for a weekend of workshops and summer camp-style activities. Exciting things happen when you bring founders together — ideas are exchanged, deals get made, problem solving happens amongst peers.
Founders have access to WhatsApp groups and Bookface channels that reach specific communities. There are lists for hardware, biotech, edtech, non-profits, international, women founders, Black founders, Latinx founders and more.
Active YC founders get an early look at the YC companies in each batch at Alumni Demo Day. The event has also become a de-facto alumni reunion.
Each YC company receives access to discounts and free accounts for over 100 products. Some of these are highly significant, including hundreds of thousands of dollars of free hosting for each company provided by major cloud hosting companies.
When one company in YC does well, the whole community benefits. Because YC has such a strong track record, early adopters, investors and press are often more willing to take a look at YC founders, even if they’re first time founders.
YC companies are showcased in the YC Startup Directory. Our startups can be filtered and discovered by potential customers, investors, or hires.
YC founders get access to a suite of recruiting tools -- a jobs posting platform, an applicant tracking system, a hiring knowledgebase and much more -- available only to YC startups.
Work at a Startup helps YC founders build their team — from first employees to VPs of product and operations. Thousands of jobseekers across hundreds of YC companies have landed roles through the platform and extended YC community.
HN is a news aggregator where users can find and discuss the latest news and submit content on anything that gratifies one’s intellectual curiosity. YC alumni also post engineering, product, and design jobs on HN.
YC Continuity leads growth-stage investments in the top 1% of YC companies. We help our founders master the art of company-building—the biggest challenge they face after finding product-market fit. YC alumni are eligible to participate in YC Continuity programming, including:
Help founders achieve the best possible outcome when raising a Series A via year-round workshops, fundraising guides and 1:1 support.
Batches for YC startups immediately after their Series A to share best practices for growth: managing a board, building a team, key metrics for a Series B and more.
Graduate school for startups. We bring together cohorts of CEOs of rapidly growing YC companies to focus on the challenges of company building: the changing role of a CEO at scale, setting strategies and success metrics for the organization, hiring and managing great leaders, and more.
To learn more about the YC Continuity program, click here.