At YC, we have a healthy problem. It’s cool to start a startup lately, and YC is an increasingly  popular place to do so. But this kind of popularity can be a double-edged sword: In the last month, I’ve spoken to more than 50 high-quality founders who would make strong candidates for our upcoming class but feel intimidated out of applying to YC. 

There are a lot of reasons.

Some think they’re too early. They don’t have a fully-functional prototype, user growth is lower than they’d hoped, their crowdfunding campaign fell short.

Some think they’re too late. They know exactly how they’ll manufacture their device, they already ran a 6-figure crowdfunding campaign, their site traffic is growing. They (nearsightedly) see a series A as the ultimate goal, and it’s just barely out of reach.

Some have been rejected previously. For their current startup or a past one, they tried and failed to gain a spot in one of our previous classes. They decide that it’s not worth trying again.

The reality is that there is no ‘just right:’ Each company is different, and there is no perfect time to apply.

If you think you’re too early, you probably aren’t. The questions in our application are all things you should be thinking about at the earliest stages of launching a startup. They will help you structure ideas around your fledgling company. These are questions you should have answers to regardless of whether you plan to apply for YC. Instead of wasting time pondering whether your company is mature enough to apply, answer the questions, add a video, and submit your application.

If you’re afraid you’re too late, think again -- particularly if you don’t fit into a traditional venture-capital-friendly category. Last year, hundreds of companies that raised over $200k applied. YC is great for entrepreneurs with ambitious visions in categories unusual to venture capital, and you’ll see us introduce additional tools to help here in the coming months.

Over 10% of our alumni were rejected the first time they applied (including Luna Sleep, a strong hardware company in our last class.) We love seeing companies apply again. Show us that you’ve progressed substantially towards product-market fit, and it will be a no-brainer to offer you an interview.

As of this posting, applications are open for another 8 days. Many of our best companies applied on a lark. Many of our best companies thought they were too late/early to apply. Apply!

[Thanks to Colleen Taylor, Denis Mars, Jared Friedman, Sam Altman, Aaron Harris and Kat Manalac for reading drafts / contributing]

YC Digest - September 25-October 2

Top Stories from the YC World - September 25 to October 2, 2015

YC Fall 2015 College Tour: Next week we'll be at Carnegie Mellon and Stanford!

Two HN Announcements

The 20 Minute VC podcast interviews YC partner Aaron Harris

Can Y Combinator find its next ‘unicorn’ in a hardware startup? - Fortune interviews YC's Luke Iseman and Michael Seibel


I and We by Aaron Harris

Airbnb and San Francisco by Sam Altman

YC Alumni News and Launches

Instacart (W12) hires Ravi Gupta as its first CFO

Watsi (W13) co-founder Grace Carey profiled in the Huffington Post

Eden (S15) launches an on-demand tech support product aimed at businesses

Triplebyte (S15) raises $3 million 

Upverter (S11) launches 'Parts Concierce,' a Github for hardware

Goldman Sachs highlights EquipmentShare (W15), TradeBlock (W14), and Yhat (W14) in research note

Naytev (S14) launches Spark, a 'dark testing' social media tool for publishers

Two HN Announcements

The HN community feels like it owns HN, and we like it that way. HN has become an important institution in the tech community, and though it was initially developed for YC founders it's clearly evolved into much more than that.

We've always felt that the best way for HN to benefit YC is simply for it to maximally benefit the community, which mostly means keeping the story and discussion quality as high as possible. We read it ourselves, so we want that as much as anyone.

In that spirit, we have a couple of announcements to make: an organizational one from Sam, and a moderation one from Dan.

Making HN autonomous within YC (Sam)

We're going to factor out Hacker News into its own autonomous unit of YC. It has de facto been like that, but it feels like a good idea to make it official. Going forward, HN will no longer formally be part of the investment branch of YC, but will be its own separate thing.

Everyone at YC knows that it's vital for HN to have full editorial independence, and we have absolute trust in Dan's decision-making in product, engineering, and moderation. Dan will report directly to me, though I don't plan to be very involved--other than as an enthusiastic user (who would, however, prefer that it be easier to read on a phone) and someone who's always happy to bounce around ideas. We're also setting it up so that Dan will have the option of reporting directly to the YC Board of Overseers instead if he ever decides to.

Dan is an incredibly talented person who really understands the art and science of HN; I'm excited to see what he has planned for the future.

Modnesty I: More Community Moderation (Dan)

HN's approach to moderation has always been three-pronged: software automation where possible, human intervention where necessary, and as much community moderation as users can provide. Our long-term vision for HN is to have the site be as self-regulating as possible, and we've been working on a project code-named Modnesty (for 'moderation amnesty') to develop new ways to do that. Today we're releasing the first experiment from this project. The idea is to let the community make the final call on decisions made by HN moderators and software.

Currently, when an account is banned, a software filter trips, or enough users flag a post, the post goes [dead], meaning only users with 'showdead' turned on in their profile can see it. The trouble is that some posts end up [dead] when they shouldn't be. Banned accounts sometimes post good comments, software filters sometimes have false positives, and users sometimes flag things unfairly.

Today's new feature lets users rescue [dead] posts on a case by case basis. Beside the 'flag' link, you'll see a 'vouch' link to click when a post should not be [dead]. When enough users vouch for a post, the software will unkill it. Think of vouches as the inverse of flags: a flag says that a post shouldn't be on HN; a vouch says it should.

We'll review all vouched posts to make sure that they don't violate the HN guidelines. If we notice abusive vouches, we'll take away vouching rights (again, by analogy with flagging), so please vouch responsibly! Only rescue civil, substantive contributions to the site.

You need a little karma (currently 30) to see flag links, and the same threshold applies here. If you don't have 30 karma but would like to participate, email and we'll try to help.

I called this feature an experiment above. We'd like everyone to understand that when we say 'experiment', we really mean it. It's important to us to be able to roll out new ideas and drop the ones that turn out lame. HN's simplicity is its core design value, and we shudder at the thought of only adding features and never removing them. The freedom to retract bad experiments (like we did recently [1]) enables us to try more things, which benefits HN most in the long run. So if Modnesty turns out to have unintended bad consequences--which I hope won't happen, especially since we've been testing it for a while--we'll withdraw it. As always, whether it turns out bad or good is mostly a function of your feedback, so please be generous with it!

1. See my edit of

YC Digest - September 18-24

Top Stories from the YC World - September 18-24, 2015

YC Fall 2015 College Tour: Next week we'll be at Harvard, NYU, UIUC, and Columbia

YC Alum

Startup School Radio: YC's Michael Seibel on the Toughness of International Founders

In the latest episode of YC's 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 his fellow YC partner Michael Seibel, who talked about his experiences co-founding and Socialcam, and his work traveling around the world meeting startup founders. In the second half of the episode he interviewed Wade Foster, the co-founder of app integration platform Zapier, which launched out of YC's summer 2012 class.

You can hear the episode in its entirety on SoundCloud here and on iTunes here.

One especially interesting part of Michael's interview is when he talked about his focus on seeking out top startup founders internationally:

Aaron Harris: You've traveled all over the world meeting founders. I think you've probably traveled more widely than almost anyone I can think of in terms of meeting founders in different places... Are there different signs that you see in other places that aren't the valley, that are good indicators of people being committed and passionate?

Michael Seibel: You know what's really interesting? When I meet founders across the board in the States and outside of the States, I basically feel as though the ones that I'm really impressed by are the ones that don't let anything get in their way. And whether fortunately or unfortunately, for international founders, oftentimes, especially for startups, that means finding a path to America.

Aaron Harris: Interesting. Because there's more funding here? It's more accepted here? What is that?

Michael Seibel: There are two things I did not realize this about America until I left America. First of all, the terms and the amount of money available in America is massive.

Aaron Harris: And by "terms" you mean?

Michael Seibel: Meaning founder friendly terms for funding, for terms that don't deep-six your company from day one. The number of funds that can actually write a $10 million check on Sand Hill Road, just one road in Silicon Valley, is more than the number of funds that can write a $10 million check in all of Italy. And I bet that number's actually most countries in Europe. So that's the first thing. The second thing is America has a huge population that all speak the same language with the same culture.

Aaron Harris: Right. Yeah, there aren't a lot of homogeneous populations like that, that you can target. I mean, China's an example, but it's closed to anyone not in China. One of the things I think about when meeting international founders, they're often just tough to a level that you don't normally see of first time founders here, because I think they actually have to overcome so much more. If you're coming from India, from Delhi, rising above the other startups there, and then getting here, getting to us, you are just...

Michael Seibel: Well, it's about life. We have one founder from Colombia who, when he was growing up, there was violence. We had one founder who grew up in Croatia during the Balkan Wars.

Aaron Harris: Where half the country was leveled.

Michael Seibel: I mean, literally, I remember I was in Croatia visiting a founder and he told me this story about how up there in the hills somebody had a gun and was shooting down on this little valley that we were standing in. That was his life memory. So, yeah, they are tough.

Aaron Harris: And I think when we look at companies, one of the things we're trying to identify most is toughness.

Welcome Anne, Ben, and Joe!

I’m delighted to announce three new part-time partners.

Anne Wojcicki is the cofounder and CEO of 23andMe.  Anne is one of the world experts on biotechnology and healthcare companies; her guidance will be invaluable to the increasing numbers of these companies YC funds.

Ben Silbermann is the cofounder and CEO of Pinterest, and a two-time YC alumni.  Ben has an exceptional product sense, and is one of the more thoughtful people I’ve ever met when it comes to building a company and its culture. 

Joe Gebbia is the cofounder and CPO of Airbnb (YC W2009.)  He is also on the Board of Trustees at RISD, where he went to school.  He will help companies with any challenges they face, but especially with design.

Welcome to YC!

YC Fall 2015 College Tour

How do you come up with an idea?
What makes a great founding team?
How do you raise money from investors? 

Join YC partners and alumni at colleges around the country. Hear their stories and find out what it's really like to start a startup. You'll also have the chance to sign up for one-on-one office hours. 

9/19: Hack the North at the University of Waterloo
> 11am ET, Hagey Hall, University of Waterloo 
More Info and RSVP

9/25: YC at University of Michigan with MPowered
> 6pm ET, TechArb, 500 E Washington St #10, Ann Arbor, MI
> More Info and RSVP
> Sign up for office hours: Email

9/27: Startup@Brown 
> Alumnae Hall, 194 Meeting St., Providence RI
> 11:15am ET - UX Workshop with Kevin Hale, 12pm ET - Keynote
More Info 
> Sign up for office hours

9/28: YC at Harvard
> 7pm ET, Harvard Innovation Lab - Lobby Area, 125 Western Ave., Boston, MA
> More info 

9/28-9/29: YC Office Hours in Boston
> Sign up for office hours 

9/30: YC at NYU
> 6pm ET, Stern School for Business, 44 West 4th, Room 5-90, New York, NY
> More info
> Sign up for office hours 

10/1: YC at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
> 5:30 CT, 1404 Auditorium in Siebel Center, 201 N Goodwin Ave, Urbana, IL
> More Info and RSVP
> Sign up for office hours

10/1: YC at Columbia University
> 7:30pm ET, Lerner C555, 2920 Broadway, New York, NY
> More Info and RSVP
> Sign up for office hours

10/6: YC at Carnegie Mellon University
> 5:30pm ET, Rashid Auditorium - Gates Hillman Center, Room 4401, 5000 Forbes Ave., Pittsburgh, PA
> More Info and RSVP
> Sign up for office hours

10/12: YC at Stanford University
> Sign up for office hours

Questions? Email

New Story Charity (YC S15) Rings the NASDAQ Opening Bell

New Story, the nonprofit that recently launched out of our Summer 2015 class that crowdfunds the building of new homes for families in need, rang the opening bell at the NASDAQ stock exchange in New York City last week -- marking a big milestone for the company, and a first for a YC nonprofit. 

The ringing of the opening bell on September 8 coincided with the last day of New Story's 100 Homes in 100 Days campaign, which ended with a total of 103 homes being funded for families left homeless by the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. New Story's aim is to change the status quo of traditional charities, with a fully transparent platform that lets donors see that their funds are being used to help the people who need aid.

Congratulations to New Story founders Brett Hagler, Matthew Marshall, Alexandria Lafci, and the rest of the team!

YC Open Office Hours for Black and Hispanic Founders

Startups are often best at solving the personal problems of their founders. The more diverse the founders, the more types of problems can be solved -- and the more people who will be positively impacted by technology.

As a result, we're piloting a program called "Open Office Hours". We are reaching out to underrepresented communities in the startup world and giving them direct access to YC.  They can ask us questions, get advice, and grow their network.

Each company who participates will get 20 minute office hours with a YC partner. They can do them in person at our office in Mountain View, CA or remotely on Skype.

Our first Open Office Hours event will happen on 9/24-25.  We will start with Black and Hispanic founders and if successful we hope to launch future Open Office Hours for Women, Veterans, and International founders. 

We'll start taking sign-ups on Wednesday 9/16. For this pilot we'll be starting with 50 slots.  Learn more and apply by following this link:

The deadline to apply is Monday 9/21.

Echo Locker (YC S13) Acquired by Microsoft

Echo Locker, the startup that makes a popular app for personalizing the lockscreen on Android devices, has been acquired by Microsoft. Echo Locker launched out of YC in our Summer 2013 class as Prim, and later turned its focus to the Echo product in July 2014.

In an interview with Business Insider's Matt Weinberger, Microsoft's Chief Experience Officer Julie Larson-Green praised the Echo lockscreen app for helping take "productivity to the next level" and allowing users to stay "in the moment."

According to Business Insider, the Echo app will continue to be a standalone product for the time being, though its technology will be incorporated into future Microsoft products: "A lot of what Microsoft comes up with via the Next and Echo lockscreens will make it back to Windows 10, Office, and any other Microsoft product that sends out notifications," Weinberger reported.

Congratulations to Echo's co-founders Xuwen Cao and Yin Yin Wu.