Getting Into Y Combinator

A new trend in Y Combinator applications is that an increasing number of applicants have already been through some sort of accelerator or “pre-accelerator” program.  As we’ve dug into this trend, we’ve found that many of the applicants did these programs not because they needed the money or advice but because they thought it might help them get into YC (and specifically that some programs market themselves as a "way to get into Y Combinator).

Actually, it's much harder to get in to YC if you’ve already been through another accelerator.  We assume that a group that has already been through an accelerator should have been accelerated, and that if they don't have impressive progress something must be wrong. (A smaller issue is the extra dilution on the cap table.)  We now have enough data to know that the track record of companies that go through multiple accelerators is much worse than companies that just do YC. 

We fear that there may be cases where groups are hurting themselves by participating in bad accelerator programs that don't accelerate them and yet also raise the threshold they'd have to get over to get into YC.  It’s certainly not a deal-breaker—and we are extremely sympathetic to the need to raise money in any way possible—but it does increase our expectations quite a bit.

So we want to remind everyone explicitly: if you want to get into Y Combinator, just apply to Y Combinator or the YC Fellowship.  In both cases, we like funding very early-stage companies.  You don’t need to “prepare” to apply to YC in any way.  You should only do an accelerator if you need the money to survive or think that the resources of the accelerator will help you be more successful; you should never do one as a way to get into YC.

Speaking of that, since we can’t yet fund every good company in the world, here is some general advice about evaluating accelerators:

*Talk to the alumni and ask how strongly they recommend it.  This is the best possible data you can get.

*Look at the accelerator’s track record (it’s important to distinguish between companies that went through the accelerator and cases where the investment firm made a small late-stage investment in the company).  This will give you a feeling for how good the accelerator actually is, and also a sense of how much external validation you’ll get by participating.

*Look at the strength of the alumni network.  You want to join an accelerator that has (1) eminent alumni who (2) really care about helping other companies in the family.  You’re joining a network, and more than anything else except perhaps the advice, this is where you’re going to get value. 

*Pay attention to how an accelerator treats you before you join, when they should be on their best behavior—it’s likely to be an indicator of how they’ll behave later.  Doing founder-unfriendly things like presenting exploding offers does not correlate with good behavior down the road.

Monthly HN Office Hours

Last year, we tried our hand at some new experiments to provide 1-on-1 advice out in the open. We've done this a few times on stage at Startup School, but we figured Hacker News might be a better way to do it at scale. 

I spent a day reviewing Show HN projects and Sam and I did online office office hours for an afternoon. You can see the results of those experiments here:

Aggregated Show HN Feedback

Online Office Hours with Sam and Kevin

We had such a good experience that we've decided to now do them every month. 

Each month, a different pair of YC partners will host office hours on HN. They'll either be feedback on Show HN projects or answering questions voted by the community. We'll be starting with Michael Seibel and Aaron Harris on Jan 22 at 11am PT. Michael and Aaron will be doing the office hour format on the 22nd. If you'd like help with your startup, on the day of the online office hours, post a top-level comment with a one or two sentence description of what you do and the first thing you'd like to talk about. The community will vote, and Aaron and Michael will answer the top questions.

We'll announce the time/day/format of the HN office hours the week before they happen through a Tell HN and then the day of put up a new thread (if it's a office hour format) for people to post their questions. If it's a Show HN format, the partners will just add their feedback to the individual Show HN posts and we'll put up an aggregated set of links when we're done.

Winter 2016 College Tour

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 apply for one-on-one office hours at each stop. Get feedback on what you’re building, or ask us questions about YC. Hope to see you there!

1/22-23: University of Toronto
> 5:30pm, University of Toronto, Leslie Dan Pharmacy Building, Room PB B150, Toronto, ON
> More info 
> Sign up for office hours (1/23)

1/22-24 University of Pennsylvania
> 1/23, 5pm - Hardware Review with Luke Iseman at PennApps - Towne 100, Penn Engineering Quad
> 1/23, 7pm - Live UX Review with Kevin Hale at PennApps - Towne 100, Penn Engineering Quad
> Sign up for office hours (1/22-1/23)

1/25 North Carolina State University
> 1:30pm, Talley Student Union, 2610 Cates Avenue (Room 3285)
> More info
> Sign up for office hours (10am-1pm)

1/25 Duke
> 6pm, The Duke I&E Bullpen, 215 Morris St., 3rd Floor, Durham, NC 27701
> More info
> Please contact Sidney McLaurin ( if you are interested in signing up for office hours (4pm-6pm).

1/26 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
> 6pm, 1789 Venture Lab, 173 East Franklin Street, Chapel Hill, NC
> More info
> Sign up for office hours (2-5:30pm)

2/4 University of Maryland
> 6:30pm, Computer Science Instructional Center (CSIC), 4146 Paint Branch Dr, Room 1115, College Park, MD 20740
> More info (University of Maryland student portal)
> Sign up for office hours (2pm-6pm)

2/5 Johns Hopkins
> 5:30pm, Hodson Hall, 110 Auditorium, Johns Hopkins Homewood Campus, Baltimore, MD
> More info
> Sign up for office hours (2pm-5pm)

2/11 Washington University in St. Louis
> 5:30pm, Whitaker Hall Auditorium
> More info
> Please contact if you're interested in signing up for office hours. 

2/24 Morehouse College
> Sign up for office hours (2pm-5pm)

2/25 Georgia Tech with Startup Exchange
> 6pm, The Garage, Basement of Sq5, 848 Spring Street NW, Atlanta, GA
> More info
> Sign up for office hours (2pm-5:30pm)

2/26 Yale
> 4pm, campus location TBD
> More info
> Sign up for office hours (12pm-2pm)

2/29 Princeton
> 7:30pm, Robertson Hall, Princeton, NJ 08540
> More info
> Sign up for office hours (3pm-7pm)

3/2 University of Chicago
> 6:00pm, Chicago Innovation Exchange - Theater, 1452 E 53rd St Chicago, IL 60615
> More info
> Sign up for office hours (4pm-6pm)

3/3 Northwestern University
> 6:30pm, The Garage, 2311 Campus Drive, Suite 2300, Evanston, IL 60208
> More info
> Sign up for office hours (2pm-6pm)

YC Updates and Additions

Y Combinator now has 5 major groups—YC Fellowship, YC Core, YC Continuity, YC Research, and Hacker News—and we’re putting one person in charge of each group.

Paul Buchheit is taking over for me as managing partner of the core YC program.

We’re going to continue doing YC Fellowship (!), and Kevin Hale is going to be the managing partner of that.

As we’ve already announced, Ali Rowghani is the managing partner of YC Continuity, and Dan Gackle runs Hacker News.

As YC's President I will spend my time across the three investment programs (YC Fellowship, YC Core, and YC Continuity), and will also run YC Research until we find someone to run it full-time.

Additionally, Kirsty Nathoo is going to be the CFO across the entire YC group, and Carolynn and Jon Levy are going to be the General Counsels across the YC group too.

While we’re on the topic of who does what, I wanted to share two other roles that people outside of YC ask about a lot.  Each partner at YC is responsible for specific areas, but these are the ones that interface with external people most often.

Dalton Caldwell is going to be responsible for admissions to the core program and also for our efforts to stay engaged with alumni companies.

Kat Mañalac is responsible for the outreach efforts we do to meet potential new founders, and she'll also be working closely with Kevin on the Fellowship. 

Finally, we have a few new additions to the team to announce.

Matt Krisiloff is working with Kevin on YC Fellowship (he’ll also be doing some work on YC Research).  Matt previously co-founded a mental health directory that helped people find good therapists, and before that he studied at University of Chicago.

Denis Mars is working with Dalton on admissions for YC Core. Denis is a YC alumni (he was the founder of and the founder of several other successful companies.  He was also the Chief Engineer of a Formula 3 championship-winning team.

Verena Prescher is working with Kirsty as the Controller of YC Continuity. Prior to joining Y Combinator, Verena was the Controller at Felicis Ventures.  Previously, Verena was a tax manager in PwC’s Asset Management practice, providing tax compliance and consulting services to investment partnerships with a primary focus on the venture capital and real estate industries.

Holiday Gift Ideas from Y Combinator

We've just launched a collection of clever and unique gift ideas from 60 Y Combinator startups.

Yesterday I was doing some last-minute online Christmas shopping for my dad (I got him an Airbnb gift card), and it occurred to me how many of the YC startups were making things that would make really neat gifts. But they needed to be centralized, so I began pinning them to a Pinterest board. It was so cool how varied and "one-of-a-kind" these products were. Smart watches and jewelry, DIY iPhone repair kits, handcrafted shoes, beauty products and fragrances, Watsi donations-- there was something for most everyone there.

I wanted to share this collection with everyone, so I put together a web site. It's a real v1-- not perfect or complete by any means. But there are only 8 more days until Christmas, so I've scrambled to launch it and will continue to make updates/changes!

To YC alumni: if I've overlooked your product or you'd like a change, email me.

Thanks to Colleen Taylor for her wonderful writing and Strikingly for the quick and easy site building.

Happy holidays!

YC Digest: December 5-11

Top Stories from the YC World -- December 5th to 11th, 2015

YC News

Announcing new Open Office Hours

Introducing Open AI, the first initiative from YC Research

YC partners Qasar Younis and Kevin Hale's AMA on Tech in Asia


Function of Beauty (W16) Creates Personalized and Precise Haircare Formulas

Alumni news

Gigster (S15) raises $10 million for its software development platform

Paribus (S15) featured on Good Morning America for its online shopping savings app

Greentoe (S14) brings its "name your own price" shopping app to Android

Panorama Education (S13) featured in NPR

How Lugg (S15) got its on-demand moving app off the ground

Noora Health (W14) helps ease strain on doctors in developing countries

Level (W15) launches Level Vinyl for finding and custom framing records

Function of Beauty (W16) Creates Personalized and Precise Haircare Formulas

If you walk into any drugstore, you'll find an aisle full of shampoos and conditioners. But ultimately, these are all still one-size-fits all solutions. The actual amount of variation among each product and brand is quite small, and many consumers shop around for years trying out different haircare products without finding one that really works for them.

Function of Beauty is a startup launching out of our Winter 2016 class that creates truly customized haircare products. Founded by two MIT grads, computer scientist Zahir Dossa and engineer Joshua Maciejewski, along with cosmetic chemist Hien Nguyen, Function of Beauty has built a software platform that allows customers to create a personalized profile from 36 different features, encompassing options regarding hair type, style goals, fragrance preferences, and more. Ultimately, the company says that its platform can be used to create more than 450 million unique end products.

TechCrunch's Jordan Crook wrote about Function of Beauty in a story published this week:

"For now, the team is hand-filling each bottle and using a software algorithm to determine ultra-precise formulas for both the shampoo and conditioner. Eventually, however, Function of Beauty will use an advanced robotics machine to automate the creation of each formula and fill the bottles.

'Once we build the machine, we’ll be able to handle 100 different ingredient blends, leading to 900,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 combinations,' said Dossa. 'That number dwarfs the number of people on the planet, much less the relatively small number of shampoo and conditioner options on the market.'

Beyond formula customization, the company also offers the ability to name your specific formula, with that custom name printed right on the bottle.

...Function of Beauty keeps prices relatively low by selling directly to consumers online. An 8oz set will go for $26 and a 16oz set goes for $38. Comparatively, low-end products like Suave will cost you around $10 to $15, whereas high-end products like Fekkai shampoo and conditioner can cost up to $50/set."
Read the full story here.

YC Open Office Hours

Earlier this fall, we announced our first Open Office Hours where founders got to meet one-on-one with YC partners. We piloted the program with Black and Latino founders, over 650 founders applied in under a week, and we were able to meet over 50 teams in just 2 days. 

We learned three things:

  1. There are a large number of talented Black and Latino founders eager to make their startups a success (we didn’t see a pipeline problem).

  2. There is an incredible appetite for open office hours throughout the startup community. Founders from a wide range of backgrounds and countries reached out and asked to participate.

  3. Open office hours are an incredibly efficient way for us to get to know and help founders who don’t have access to great startup advice and mentors.

We believe that startups are often best at solving the personal problems of their founders. The more diverse the background of the founders we help, the more problems can be solved, and the more people who can be positively impacted by technology.

So, starting in January, we’ll be hosting Open Office Hours every month and each month, we’ll focus our outreach on a different community (under-represented minorities, vets, women, international founders, etc.). We'll also open some months to anyone in the startup community.

Each company who participates will get a 20-minute office hours appointment with a YC partner. They can do them in person at our office in Mountain View, CA or remotely on Skype. Founders can ask questions, get advice, and grow their network. Additionally, Amazon is generously offering $5,000 in AWS credit for all participating teams.

We’re taking signups for Q1 starting today.

Check out the Q1 2016 schedule below.  

Learn more and apply here:

- Kat Manalac and Michael Seibel

PS: If you would like to help us spread the word please email: or

Q1 Open Office Hours Schedule

January 28: General Open Office Hours
All founders are welcome to apply.
Apply here
Deadline to apply: Jan 7

February 11: Veterans (VetTechTrek + YC)
VetTechTrek, an organization that helps military veterans connect to the tech community, will be leading a trip that includes stops at YC and some of our portfolio companies. The trek takes place in San Francisco and the Silicon Valley on Feb 10-11. YC partners will do office hours with Vets on Feb 11.  

Apply to join VetTechTrek
Deadline to apply: Jan 21 - Applicants are selected on a rolling basis so there is a strong preference to apply early.

If you can’t make it to the trek in person, you can still apply for Vet Open Office Hours here.
Deadline to apply for office hours only: Jan 21

March 10 - International Founders
All founders from outside of the US, whether you are looking to sell in America or in your local market, are encouraged to apply.
Apply here
Deadline to apply: Feb 18

April - Female Founders
May - Break
June - General
July - Black and Latino Founders

Late Applications

Not many people know this, but Y Combinator accepts late applications.

Typically startups are busy executing at their own pace, often moving very quickly. As such, it makes sense for us to allow teams to apply to YC whenever they believe we can add the most value. 

As with many things at YC, we started by thinking about late acceptances as an experiment and have collected data over the last few application cycles. We found that some of our most promising teams would have missed out on YC if we hadn’t accepted them late.

While we do accept late applications, we still strongly encourage founders to apply on-time. On-time applications get the most partner attention, the quickest response time, and the best shot of getting accepted into Y Combinator. We’ll consider late apps without any penalty, but there are three downsides for founders to keep in mind:

  • Responsiveness. We can’t say exactly when your late app will be reviewed or you’ll be interviewed, as that’s based purely on partner availability.
  • Coverage. Fewer partners will review late applications, which means there’s a greater chance we might miss exactly why your company has such great potential. 
  • Acceptance rate. We’ve already filled out most of the batch, so you’re competing for fewer slots. Because of this, late applications must be more compelling and reflect a higher quality than standard apps.

Partners review and vote on late applications just the same as they do for on-time applications. We’ll invite late applicants to interview with us if we think their application is compelling, either alongside the on-time interviews (if we have spots available) or later on a separate day dedicated to interviewing late applicants.

For more information about late applications, check out our Late Applications FAQs.

To submit a late application, visit: Apply to Y Combinator