by Ali Rowghani12/14/2017
We sent the message below to all our YC founders yesterday. Today, we are excited to share the news of our Growth Program with our friends outside of YC.
We launched YC’s Continuity Fund two years ago because we felt that there was more that YC could do to help companies as they scaled, not just with capital, but also with advice and mentorship modeled on how YC has been helping startups for years. Today, we are excited to announce the YC Growth Program, our first formal program for later stage startups.
If we imagine Y Combinator as the university degree for startups, the Growth Program is grad school. The program is designed for founder-CEOs of post-Series A companies with between 50-100 employees who are in the early stages of company-building. The basis of the program is a 10-week dinner series, with each dinner focused on a specific issue that every startup has to overcome in order to scale successfully. We ran a pilot of this program this past Spring that included YC companies like Segment, Front, Checkr, and Gitlab, and we received great feedback from participants. We learned a lot about how we can make the program better, so we are planning a formal launch in April 2018.
Admission will be open to active YC companies that meet the broad criteria of being post Series A with 50-100 employees and strong product-market fit. Though we may consider companies that are bigger or smaller, we think companies approaching 100 employees are ideal candidates. There will be a short application to complete, and if invited, participation in the program is free. It will not “cost” you anything other than time (we are very strict about attendance and expect a commitment of 3-4 hours per week). We plan to run the program twice per year, in two batches of around 15 companies each, starting in April and September each year. In time, we hope to be able to accommodate every growth stage YC company that wants to participate.
Out of 1200+ active YC companies today, there are only about 100 with more than 50 employees and only 60 with more than 100 employees. Founders whose startups reach this stage tell us that their YC network thins over time, especially within their batch. Our hope is that the Growth Program can “re-batch” startups, giving founders a new set of batchmates who are all facing similar problems. Though YC companies are our priority, we plan to invite a few companies that did not participate in YC’s core program as well. In our pilot, we included some companies that YC had not previously funded (e.g., OfferUp, Discord). The consensus among YC alums was that they benefited by having great founders involved, whether they had previously been part of YC or not. We hope to include these founders in the broader YC community by asking them to conduct office hours with YC companies and giving them access to YC resources (i.e., Bookface).
Dinners will focus on questions that all founders confront as they scale their startups, including:
As a founder-CEO, how do I scale myself? How does my job change as my startup grows? How do I hire and manage a great senior management team? When is the right time to hire people to replace my early team? How do I build an organization that can recruit engineers at scale? How do I build a successful sales and marketing team and approach that will allow me to grow revenue faster? How do I accelerate user growth and acquisition systematically? How do I manage the compensation, performance, and career paths for employees at my growing company? How do I scale product development and engineering to allow me to support more of the core use case while also innovating in new areas? How do I finance the growth of my startup in the optimal way?
Practitioners are the best teachers, whether they are your batchmates in the Program or founders at larger startups who have already solved these problems. In some cases, the best practitioners are seasoned executives who have particular expertise about a given topic. We recruit expert practitioners for each dinner to share first-hand experiences, answer questions, and provide tactical advice. We also provide YC’s perspective on each issue to help founders think through and solve these challenges.
Our goal for the YC Growth Program is to increase the number of enduring and important companies in the YC network. We are excited about this new initiative and wanted to let you know about our plans. In January, we’ll distribute details on how to apply, criteria for admissions, etc. In the meantime, please feel free to contact us with comments, questions, or ideas.
Ali is Managing Director of YC Continuity, where he invests in & advises growth-stage startups. Ali directly contributed to the growth of 2 great companies — as CFO / COO at Twitter and COO at Pixar.