YC's New Guide to Raising a Series A

by Aaron Harris2/26/2020

We started YC’s Series A Program two years ago to fix a problem faced by every startup raising an A: VCs understand how Series A’s work and founders do not. This asymmetry of information puts founders at a significant disadvantage. Much as YC had done for seed stage financings – we decided to resolve that asymmetry in order to help founders.

We also made another commitment: to share as much of what we learned with as many founders as possible. While we couldn’t work directly with every company in the world trying to raise an A, we realized that publicly distributing our learnings would help all founders.

Over the last two years, YC companies have raised 190 Series A’s and over $2B of capital. We collected information about every one of those rounds while working with founders before, during, and after close. We’ve published some of what we learned:

We’ve also been working on something bigger, our Series A Guide. We’re excited to release it today at ycombinator.com/library/series-a-guide.

This guide collects nearly everything we’ve learned about Series A’s. It is designed to help founders tactically and strategically plan for fundraises. We explain every step leading up to a successful raise, as well as the steps taken throughout the process; we also explain the logic behind every step. Along the way, we outline the expectations, incentives, and rough thought process of the investors involved, so founders feel less mystified. For instance, we learned that:

  • Founders on average have to meet with 30 investors to produce a single term sheet.
  • Founders who take pre-emptive offers take 1.4% more dilution for less money than those who run processes.
  • Benchmarks are almost meaningless. We’ve seen As for SaaS companies with 200k in ARR and with $9m in ARR.

The guide isn’t a book of magic. There is no guarantee that following it will lead to a successful raise. However, we have seen that companies that follow the guide have little fear about the process of raising an A. They know what they’re doing and make fewer mistakes.

The guide works best in conjunction with the internal programs and resources we’ve built out for YC companies. While it would be great if we could provide these programs to every founder, that isn’t feasible. Our hope is that the Guide will remove information asymmetry from the Series A process, and help level the playing field between founders and VCs.


  • Aaron Harris

    Aaron was a Group Partner at YC and a cofounder of Tutorspree, which was funded by YC in 2011. Before Tutorspree he worked at Bridgewater Associates, where he managed product and operations.