Future Founders Track Welcome

by Geoff Ralston

YC President Geoff Ralston welcomes participants to the future founder track of Startup School.


Good morning, everyone. I hope you are all well and staying healthy. I'm Geoff Ralston, YC's president, and I want to welcome you to YC Startup School's Future Founders program. Most of all, congratulations on taking what I hope will be your first all-important step towards becoming a startup founder.

YC was founded 15 years ago with the singular purpose of finding people, perhaps people just like you, and persuading them that becoming a founder is not only a viable choice but often, really the very best choice. Next, we do everything we can to help the founder be funded, turn their vision into reality. That's what founders do. They believe in a version of a future which doesn't exist without them and without their company, and then they do everything they can to make it so. For YC, this has worked out very well over time. And from our first batch of 8 companies, we now fund about 250 startups per batch, so twice that many every year.

However, although we've funded over 2,500 companies since 2005, we're still only able to work with a tiny fraction of those that apply to our core program. And that's why we created Startup School in 2017. This free online class taught thousands of founders about startups. The program was such a hit that we've run Startup School every year since then. We wanted to get YC's take on building startups to as wide an audience as possible. We believe that's good for the world. Yes, also, we were sure that in the process, we'd likely find more great founders for our core program. And we sure did. Since that first Startup School course in 2017, over 110,000 companies and over 142,000 founders have made use of Startup School. And over 15,000 of those companies have applied to YC's core program. Hundreds of those have actually been funded.

Now, I thought I'd tell a little bit about how I got into the startup game. Personally, I dreamed of starting a startup once I arrived in California a long time ago to work for Hewlett-Packard. But there was no obvious path. It was difficult to know where to start and venture was a big mystery. Frankly, I had no idea how to start a startup. It actually would be decades later that Paul Graham was to give a talk at the Harvard Computer Society called How to Start a Startup, which led directly to the creation of Y Combinator, later, of Startup School, and now, to the Future Founders program. But that was far in the future and I didn't take my first leap until the 1990s. I'd just returned from five years at HP in France and was searching for my future when a friend called me on the phone and informed me that I just had to check out Mosaic. "What's that?" I asked, "I don't know," he said. "I guess it lets you look at the internet." So yes, the very first browser that integrated text and images was the final straw for me. I left my job three months later, and I've never looked back since.

But I wanted to pass on a couple of things I learned. I learned that starting a startup is the hardest, most rewarding thing you can do in your professional career. It's hard in almost every way you can think of, but perhaps, mostly because there are so many possible answers to every single question you'll have. But the joy of taking on and overcoming such epic challenges makes the struggle worthwhile and the journey priceless. I've also learned that every version of that journey is unique and there's no strict formula. But what we've done here is pulled together all sorts of knowledge that will definitely not define your path but it will certainly make it more likely that you stay on that path.

Actually, building a successful company is perfectly simple. All you have to do is make something people want and then sell it to them. How hard can that be? Well, I guess, I hope you'll find out. In this course, you'll cover the first, most basic things required to execute on this simple project. First, well, how about getting the right idea, then finding the right co-founders. And, of course, figuring out your product, talking to users and writing code, building whatever you're gonna build with the goal towards finding that magical, minimum, viable product, mystical MVP, one step on the way to the even more magical, more elusive product-market fit. Every week of the course, there will be both lectures and usually, an exercise to illuminate the ideas discussed. And there will also be plenty of opportunities to meet and discuss with other future founders taking the course.

I think you're about to begin a marvelous adventure, and I wish you all the very best of luck in your journey.