New: Apply to Y Combinator without an Idea

13 March 2012

Y Combinator is trying an experiment this funding cycle. We're going to have a separate application track for groups that don't have an idea yet.

So if the only thing holding you back from starting a startup is not having an idea for one, now nothing is holding you back. If you apply for this batch and you seem like you'd make good founders, we'll accept you with no idea and then help you come up with one. (We'll consider single founders too, but we prefer groups.)

Why are we doing this? Partly because we realized we already were. A lot of the startups we accept change their ideas completely, and some of those do really well. Reddit was originally going to be a way to order food on your cellphone. (This is a viable idea now, but it wasn't before smartphones.) Scribd was originally going to be a ridesharing service.

The other reason we're doing it is that our experience suggests that smart people who think they can't come up with a good startup idea are generally mistaken. Almost every smart person has a good idea in them. A good startup idea is simply a significant, fixable unmet need, and most smart people are at least unconsciously aware of several of those. They just don't know it. And we now have lots of practice helping founders see the startup ideas they already have.

If you're a group of people who are really good at what you do, and have known each other for a while and work well together, we'll take the risk if you will.

To apply with no idea, just go to and you'll find an abbreviated application form.

We're not sure this will work, but if it does we'll do it from now on.


Will applications without ideas be judged differently?

We'll judge them slightly more strictly. So if you have an idea it would definitely be better to apply with that.

What are you looking for?

The same thing we're looking for in people who apply with ideas: groups (preferably) of people who get things done, as shown by what they've done in the past, and who seem like their relationship is strong enough to endure the stresses of working on a startup.

What if we start the application this way, and then have an idea?

You can switch your application from a no-idea application to normal one (and vice versa) at No information is lost when you do this, merely hidden. So don't worry, it's undoable.

Is this the best way to apply if we have multiple ideas and can't choose between them?

No. If you have multiple ideas you should pick your best and go with that, and list the others in the question about other ideas at the end.

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