Y Combinator: Advice to Summer Applicants

Advice to Summer Applicants
March 2009

If you're also applying to one of the other YC-like organizations, you may find yourself in an awkward situation. Last summer several of them gave startups offers timed to expire before YC interviews.

At least one made groups who got offers sign something promising not to tell anyone. Another actually threatened to sue a startup if they didn't show up for their program.

Using so-called "exploding termsheets" to pre-empt other offers is not uncommon in the VC world, though even there it's considered a slightly dubious tactic. But VC funding happens asynchronously. Using this tactic in a stage where funding happens synchronously is not very ethical. It would be like colleges doing it.

(YC asks people to decide that day whether or not to accept an offer from us, but we do this because at that point they already know all they need to, not to pre-empt other offers. There is no other seed firm that decides after us.)

What can you do if you find yourself being pressured to decide before you're ready? We advise approaching the situation with confidence. If your startup is going to succeed, you're going to have to learn how to push back against people who try to take advantage of you. So try negotiating. The better you are, the more willing they'll be to wait for your decision, no matter what they say about their deadlines or the number of "spots" they have.

If you get into a pinch, send us an email, and if we were going to interview you, we'll figure out a way to do it early.

Sorry about this. We started YC to make it less stressful to start a startup, not more. We never anticipated this sort of situation would arise.

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