YC Digest: November 21-27

Top Stories from the YC World -- November 21st to 27th, 2015

YC News

Jessica Livingston on the 'accidental' origin of YC

Alumni News

Prayas Analytics (S15) raises $1 million for its retail store A/B testing platform

Website building platform Weebly (W07) profiled in Forbes

Small business banking platform SEED (W15) profiled in American Banker

Zeplin (S15) raises $1.2m for its developer/designer collaboration tool

Plangrid raises $40m to expand its construction software product

The Macro

We're excited to announce the launch of The Macro, a new publication that will feature essays, interviews, research, and opinions from Y Combinator and the wider startup community.

Y Combinator’s mission is to enable more innovation in the world. Historically, that’s mainly meant funding and advising startups.

But from the beginning, storytelling has also been a core part of YC's DNA. From Paul Graham's essays, to Jessica Livingston's book Founders at Work, to the more recent Female Founder Stories series and Sam Altman’s How to Start a Startup class, a big part of what has made Y Combinator special has been the stories it has helped create and the way that it has shared those lessons with the world.

As YC has expanded, so has the amount of stories to share. The Macro is the latest part of that tradition.

The Macro is not focused on breaking news. There is already a robust network of publications that are covering the day-to-day changes in the technology industry. Our aim is take a wider-range view1, while sharing information that is useful, thoughtful, and interesting.

As with most everything YC does, The Macro is starting as an experiment, and we’re learning and iterating as we go. We welcome your submissions and feedback: email us at macro@ycombinator.com

1. [Hence the name, in part. It’s also a nod to the “macro” as a powerful operator in computer programming, particularly in the Lisp language. Paul Graham wrote in depth about how to use the macro in his 1993 book On Lisp, explaining: “Mastering macros is one of the most important steps in moving from writing correct Lisp programs to writing beautiful ones.”]

Tips for YC Interviews

We are in the midst of YC interviews right now and I had a few bits of advice for interviewees that I thought I'd publish while they are still top of mind (in no particular order):  

1. Don't use buzzwords. Speak in plain language.

2. Have a conversation with us. Don't deliver a prewritten "pitch."

3. Sometimes we'll want to see a demo, but most often we just want to talk about what you're doing. If you rely on a demonstration to explain what you're doing, that's a bad sign. Being able to explain something in words shows you really understand it.

4. Relax (I know this is easier said than done). We want you to do well! And we are very expert by now at overlooking the little things that go wrong in interviews.

5. We love learning new things. And a good startup idea usually teaches you something when you encounter it. Don't worry if the new things about your idea are things only someone in your field would care about. We like that. We'd rather have interesting details than boring generalizations.

6. We don't have lots of time for pleasantries, unfortunately. We have a fixed amount of time and we want to spend it learning about you and your idea. So please don't take it personally if we jump right into things.

7. There's no one specific set type of interview. They can go in many different directions. So don't worry if the interview doesn't take the form you expected.

And here are Michael Seibel's 10 pieces of advice for preparing for a YC interview. 

YC Digest: November 7-13

Top Stories from the YC World -- November 7 to November 13, 2015

YC News

Jessica Livingston featured on Product Hunt's AMA series

Sam Altman interviewed in Wired about investing in biotech startups


Things That Aren't Progress by Aaron Harris

Alumni news

Tesorio (S15) featured in Inc. Magazine

Bluesmart (W15) selected for MOMA design store collection

Cymmetria (S15) raises $9 million for cybersecurity platform

Docker (S10) adds $18 million in new funding

Machine Zone (W08) launches new game, Mobile Strike

DoorDash (S13) profiled by Steven Levy on Medium's Backchannel

Meadow (W15) noted in New York Times article on cannabis startups

YC Digest: October 31-November 6

Top Stories from the YC World -- October 31 to November 6, 2015

YC News

Y Combinator profiled in the Economist

Jessica Livingston interview with Aaron Harris on Startup School Radio

Luke Iseman quoted in the Korea Herald and China's TechNode

Sam Altman interview on the Jay and Farhad Show podcast


Startup Playbook by Sam Altman

A Way to Detect Bias by Paul Graham

Thank you, Y Combinator by Garry Tan

Alumni News

SunFarmer (S15) recognized by President Bill Clinton at 2015 Clinton Global Initiative

Watsi (W13) raises $3.5M in philanthropic growth round, co-founder Grace Carey featured in Self Magazine

Verge Genomics (S15) raises $4M for algorithm-enabled drug discovery

Gingko Bioworks (S14) purchases 100M base pairs of synthetic DNA from Twist Bioscience

Semantics3 (W13) raises $1.55M for e-commerce data platform

GitLab (W15), now with 1M downloads, featured in Business Insider

Pebble (W11) CEO Eric Migicovsky onstage at Dublin Web Summit

Dropbox (S07) talks enterprise growth at its first Dropbox Open conference

Genius (S11) announces partnership with Eminem

Weave (S14) raises $15.5M for small business communication platform

YC Digest - October 24-30

Top Stories from the YC World October 24 through October 30, 2015

Continuity's Ali Rowghani talks to CNBC about playing the long game in VC investing

YC Alum

Gobble (W14) raises $10.75 million Series A for its 10 minute dinner kits

SEED (W15) raises $5 million to scale its small business banking platform

Afrostream (S15) signs deals with Sony Pictures and Viacom

Blockspring (S14), the ‘do anything in a spreadsheet’ startup, partners with Tableau

Razorpay (W15) raises $9 million from Tiger Global and Matrix Partners

'Life With My Robot Secretary', Fast Co Design's review of Clara Labs (S14)

Verge Genomics (S15) raises $4 million in seed financing

Shoptiques' (S12) CEO Olga Vidisheva profiled in Forbes

Genius (S11) launches 'Genius Beta', a plug-in for annotating any page on the web

Y Combinator is hiring hackers

Y Combinator has a small team that makes the software that runs YC. Hardly any investors write software, but YC was started by hackers so it's natural for us to solve our problems that way.

The YC software is used by a relatively small number of people—mostly the YC partners and founders—but the users are sufficiently important that through them we are able to have huge leverage. YC has ambitious plans to create more innovation in the world, and the only way to reach that level of impact is to scale through software.

We're looking for a couple of great hackers to join us. It's not a job for everyone, but it could be a good fit for someone who likes startups.  If you're a hacker, have a look at the job description. If it feels like a good fit, we’d love to hear from you. If not, our startups are hiring people of all kinds, so have a look at them too.

More details: Be a Hacker at Y Combinator

Startup School Radio: 42Floors' Jason Freedman on How Startups Are Born Out of Problems

In Episode 19 of Startup School Radio, a podcast that features stories and practical advice about starting, funding, and scaling companies, our host Aaron Harris first sat down with Tyler Bosmeny, who talked about his experience going from the Harvard math department to co-founding education-oriented API platform Clever (YC S12). In the second half of the episode, Aaron interviewed Jason Freedman, who has co-founded two Y Combinator-backed companies: Flightcaster, which launched out of YC's Summer 2009 class, and 42Floors, which launched out of YC's Winter 2012 class.

You can listen to the episode on Soundcloud here, and iTunes here.

One interesting part of Jason Freedman's interview is where he talked about how all of his startups have been born out of a problem that he had personally encountered, rather than from a desire to "start a company":

Aaron: And the funny thing is, each of the ideas you've worked on, they weren't things that you'd written down in a notebook somewhere that you were going to do at some point in life. It's just 'Hey, I just realized that this problem exists. Let me go fix this.'

Jason: You know, when you think of a startup career, I don't have a startup career. What I've had is a succession of problems that have found their way into my life, and that I decided that I could figure out a way to solve.

Aaron: Yeah, it's interesting, because from what we've seen, that tends to be the places where the best startups get started. It's not the person going out and looking for a business to start or looking for a problem set that exists and to go create a startup against it. It's, 'Oh, wait, I've actually seen this. This doesn't make sense. It's in my life, let me fix it.' Because you have so much depth of understanding and so much experience.

Jason: With 42Floors, we're trying to make it easy for people to search for commercial real estate, and if I had started a startup to do that, I would've thought it would never work because it's going to be way too hard and I didn't really understand anything about commercial real estate. But solving a problem for myself, that I could figure out.

Aaron: It's interesting how sometimes ignorance is the thing that actually lets you drive and start something.

YC Digest - October 10-16

Top Stories from the YC World -- October 10 to October 16, 2015

YC News

YC Continuity

Q&A with YC Continuity's Ali Rowghani

Hacker News discussion on YC Continuity

Startup School Radio, hosted by YC's Aaron Harris, named in Forbes' "12 Best Podcasts For Entrepreneurs"

Upcoming events

Y Combinator at Make School - 10/24

YC Office Hours at Money20/20 - 10/27

Alumni news

Optimizely (W10) raises $58 million Series C

Smart luggage maker Bluesmart (W15) raises $11.5 million

Legal automation platform Ironclad (S15) on The Pitch podcast

Housing nonprofit New Story (S15) featured on ABC 7 and in Webflow (S13) video

Subscription fashion rental service Le Tote (S13) launches maternity line

MoveLoot (W14) launches retailer partnership platform Trade

CareMessage CEO Vineet Singal (W14) and Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky (W09) named in New York Times' "Five Visionary Tech Entrepreneurs Who Are Changing the World"

Stripe (S09) and Zenefits (W13) listed in Forbes' "These Four Tech Unicorns Could Reshape Their Industries"

FullStack Academy (S12) launches Grace Hopper Academy, a programming school for women

Markhor (S15) founder Waqas Ali's AMA on Tech In Asia

Home improvement platform BuildZoom (W13) raises $10.6 million

Q&A with YC Continuity's Ali Rowghani

Today we announced Continuity, a new venture capital fund run by Y Combinator. You can read our blog post here, and coverage from the Wall Street Journal here.

Below, Continuity's Ali Rowghani answers a few commonly-asked questions about what Continuity is, how it will work, where it fits within the venture capital landscape, and why he decided to lead this effort at YC.

What is the Continuity Fund?

Ali Rowghani: The Continuity Fund is YC’s follow-on investment fund that will allow us to provide capital to YC companies years after they graduate from our program.  

How will the Continuity Fund invest capital?

AR: The Continuity Fund will invest capital in two ways:
  • First, we will exercise YC’s pro rata investing rights in follow-on financing rounds, beginning with the Series A.  For rounds priced below $300M, we will exercise our pro rata rights in a programmatic fashion.  In other words, we expect to exercise pro rata rights in all YC companies that raise capital at valuations below $300M.  For rounds priced above $300M, we will exercise our rights more selectively.
  • Secondly, and on a purely elective basis, we will consider leading or participating in growth financing rounds of YC companies.  For these elective investments, we are open to taking Board seats where it makes sense for founders, but do not expect to do so in every investment.

Will the Continuity Fund invest in any non-YC companies?

AR: No. Our focus is exclusively on companies that have been through our program.
Why did YC decide to raise this fund?
AR: The idea actually came to us from our founders, many of whom have encouraged us to raise a fund so that YC could remain a financing partner for them as they grew their companies.  We ultimately decided to do so because we realized that the ability to provide capital beyond the seed stage was pretty crucial to fulfilling our mission of enabling more innovation in the world.

Isn’t this Fund going to bring you into conflict with VCs?

AR: We will not be competing with early stage VCs at all.  These investors are vital parts of the startup ecosystem, and we have no desire to compete with or otherwise disrupt this ecosystem.  So other than exercising our pro rata rights, the Continuity Fund will not be investing in seed or traditional Series A rounds.But as we all know, good companies are staying private longer, and the market for private growth capital has grown considerably. These later stage rounds tend to be larger, shared rounds rather than winner-take-all. 

So while some competition is unavoidable, we foresee a lot of collaboration with other late stage investors as well.

Why did you decide to lead the Continuity Fund?

AR: Over the last 15 years, I’ve worked at two iconic companies, Pixar and Twitter, and helped them manage rapid growth and scale.  I joined YC as a part-time partner last November precisely to help maturing companies in the YC portfolio with these same challenges.

I didn’t realize at the time how truly distinctive YC  is.  There’s no other organization in the world that has the kind of founder network and loyalty that YC possesses.  Having observed the last two YC batches closely, there’s no doubt in my mind that YC dramatically increases the probability of success for every one of its companies...not just the probability of raising Series A capital, but also the probability of building great long-lasting companies.  

So when Sam asked me if I would be interested in leading the Continuity Fund, I realized that this was an opportunity to extend the mission and impact of YC into more mature companies.  Supplying capital is one part of that mission.  But supplying meaningful company-building help and advice for rapidly scaling companies is even more important, and that’s something that my prior operating experiences have prepared me well to do.