by Garry Tan9/29/2023
When Surbhi Sarna was just thirteen, a sudden and excruciating pain in her side changed her life. The pain led to weeks of testing and flimsy diagnoses that would ultimately boil down to “Ovarian cancer, maybe?”
At this already pivotal time in her life, Surbhi and her family had to make an impossible decision: undergo a risky and potentially harmful surgery, or… wait and see. At thirteen! She chose the latter — a choice that, after many agonizing months, proved to be the right one. But that experience set Surbhi on a mission.
After finishing school and battling to find investors that didn’t write her off, she founded a medical device company focused on early stage ovarian cancer detection. In 2018, she sold that company for $275M. But she didn’t stop there.
Today Surbhi is a Group Partner at YC, mentoring the next generation of healthcare founders. Her story is one of the most intense startup stories I’ve ever heard, and it’s one best told by Surbhi herself.
I’m very proud to have Surbhi kick off our newest video series, Backstory. Each episode of Backstory will focus on a different YC Group Partner; how they got here, and often just as crucially, why they’re here. For this episode, Surbhi opens up about her health scare, how it impacted her every decision thereafter, the many ways people doubted her — and how she turned that doubt into her own personal jet fuel.
We’re making this series because we want anyone applying to YC to know the Group Partners for who we are — not just the milestones, but also the paths in life that got us to them. Group Partners at Y Combinator are in it with you for the life of your company. We’ll bring absolutely everything we’ve learned from founding our own companies and advising thousands of others, but we’re also here for you as people.
Be on the lookout for more episodes soon.
Garry is the President & CEO of Y Combinator. Previously, he was the co-founder & Managing Partner of Initialized Capital. Before that, he co-founded Posterous (YC S08) which was acquired by Twitter.