Frequently Asked Questions

What Happens at Y Combinator?

This.

How can we get funding for our startup?

Apply online for our next funding cycle. We fund startups twice a year.

When will the application form for the next cycle be online?

Usually at least a few months before the deadline, which is usually in October for winter batches and March for summer batches.

We've already been working on our startup for a while. Is Y Combinator appropriate for us?

We've funded a lot of startups like that. In fact, we especially like them. We can probably help any startup that hasn't already raised a series A round from VCs.

Don't incorporate, though, if you can avoid it. It's easier to start with our paperwork than to transfer an existing LLC or S-Corp to a C-Corp.

We've already taken some funding. Can we still apply?

Sure. We've funded many startups that have.

We don't want funding, but will you give us advice?

Unfortunately we can't. We've invested in so many companies that helping them takes up all our time. But much of the advice we give is collected in these essays.

Can you recommend other investors who might be interested in our idea?

When you refer someone to an investor, you're also recommending them, and you can't recommend people you don't know. If you're looking for investors, your best bet is to find friends of friends who've started or worked for startups, and ask for intros to their investors.

How much do you invest?

Usually $11,000 + $3000 per founder. So $17,000 for two founders, $20,000 for three or more. We've also arranged for each startup to get $80k in convertible notes automatically. The goal is usually to give you enough money to build an impressive prototype or version 1, which you can then use to get further funding.

What is the valuation cap on the convertible notes?

They're uncapped.

What does Y Combinator get out of this?

Stock in the startup, from 2-10% of it. Usually 6 or 7%.

We don't really need the money. Does it still make sense to apply?

Half (maybe more) of the startups we fund don't need the money. And in fact the money is a only a small part of what YC does. The money we invest works more like financial aid in college: it ensures that the people who do need money can cover their living expenses while YC is happening.

What if we're doing something expensive?

We'll still fund you, but instead of trying to build something launchable in three months, the goal becomes to build an impressive proof of concept to take to later stage investors to raise more money.

Do we need to write a business plan?

Not for us. We make funding decisions based on our application form and personal interviews. We love demos, but we never read business plans.

Can a single person apply for funding?

Yes, but the odds of being accepted are lower. A startup is too much work for one person.

I have a great idea for a startup, but I'm not technical. Will you still fund me? Can you help me find programmers to implement my idea?

We'll consider funding you, but your chances are about ten times better if you find yourself a technical cofounder.

It's much better if you find one yourself through friends of friends than if we introduce you to someone. Teams thrown together for the purpose of starting a startup usually fall apart under stress. You need some kind of personal connection.

Can we do it without moving to where you are?

Sorry, no. We tried this once, and by Demo Day that startup was way behind the rest. What we do, we have to do in person. We would not be doing a startup a favor by not making them move.

You can leave one founder at home, but the rest, including the CEO, have to live in the Bay Area during the 3 month funding cycle.

Do we have to start a company in the US for you to invest in us?

Yes, but that's usually not a problem. It's easy for foreign nationals to start US companies (much easier than remaining here physically), and investors and acquirers prefer them.

Do we have to be US citizens?

No, as long as you can get here for at least three months. We've funded many startups founded by non-citizens.

Can you get us visas?

We don't get directly involved with visas, but we have a mailing list of overseas founders who are happy to give you advice and introduce you to good immigration lawyers.

Our group has two ideas. Can we submit two applications?

Ok. Just submit them from the YC accounts of different founders.

Do you only fund startups that write software?

No, we've funded lots of hardware startups too, as well as startups that only involve nominal amounts of software. We'll consider startups in any field.

Will you sign an NDA? How do I know you won't steal my idea?

No, we won't sign an NDA. No venture firm would at this stage. The informal commitment to secrecy on our application form is more than any VC would make.

In this connection you may want to read the first section of How to Start a Startup on the value of mere ideas.

Will you fund multiple startups working on the same idea?

Yes. If you fund as many companies as we do it's unavoidable you'll end up with some overlap. Even if you tried not to accept competing companies, you'd still get overlap because startups' ideas morph so much. The way we deal with it is that when two startups are working on related stuff, we don't talk to one about what the other's doing.

In practice it has not turned out to be a problem, because most big markets have room for several slightly different solutions, and it's unlikely that two startups would do precisely the same thing.

Why didn't you accept our application?

Strange as it may sound, the better your application was, the less likely there is to be an answer to this question. So don't take it personally. The fact is, even the best investors are quite bad at picking winners. VC firms consider themselves to be doing well if 4 out of 10 companies they fund succeed.

I'm visiting Silicon Valley. Can I come see Y Combinator?

Sorry, but we have no provision for tours. There's not much to see anyway. We don't have founders work out of our space, so all you'd see most times would be a handful of people having conversations.

I'm starting a startup. Can I meet with you?

Unfortunately we can't meet in person with every startup that wants us to invest. There are just too many. Essentially the YC application process is the way we decide which of them to meet in person.

I want to start something like Y Combinator. Can we meet to learn how YC works?

Sorry, we are just too busy working with all the startups we've funded. But we've described in some detail what we do.

Will someone from YC review my startup idea?

Unfortunately we can't have conversations with everyone about their ideas. If you apply and we invite you to interviews we'll certainly talk about your idea with you though.

What's the average age of people you fund?

About 26. A lot of people think it's younger because the press especially like to write about young founders.

Why did you choose the name "Y Combinator?"

The Y combinator is one of the coolest ideas in computer science. It's also a metaphor for what we do. It's a program that runs programs; we're a company that helps start companies.

Are you hiring?

We aren't, but companies we've funded are.

My IP address seems to be banned on Hacker News. How can I unban it?

If you request pages too fast, HN will ban your IP. To unban it use http://news.ycombinator.com/unban?ip=youripaddr (from another IP address, obviously).


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