YC Continuity

YC will fund its 1,000th company this year, and many of these companies are now scaling their organizations, revenue, and operations.  Though years removed from our program, these founders continue to come to YC for advice and support, and we would like to do more to help them.

To that end, I'm delighted to share that Ali Rowghani has joined YC as a full-time partner.  Ali has quickly become a trusted advisor to many of our growth-stage companies, and is helping a great deal with our vision of continued support for our alumni companies after they finish our program.

Also, in response to requests from a number of YC founders, we've raised a new fund called the YC Continuity Fund, which Ali will be running.  This fund will allow us to support YC companies well after Demo Day in two primary ways.

First, we're going to do our pro rata investment for every YC company in every round with a valuation below $300 million.  We believe we generally pick good companies for YC, and we want to be able to continue to support them in future financings.

Second, we will consider leading or participating in later stage growth financing rounds of YC companies.  We are open to taking Board seats where it makes sense for founders, but do not expect to do so in every investment.  We hope to be a founder-friendly partner for maturing companies in the same way we have been a founder-friendly early-stage investor.  Also, there are some companies we think are very good and important to support with growth-stage capital that traditional investors are less excited about, and we're looking forward to being able to do that.  Finally, we look forward to being a very long-term focused investor in a sector where most players are not.

We also want to be very clear on what we're not doing. We are not pursuing investments outside of the YC portfolio.  We are also not leading seed or traditional Series A rounds or trying to otherwise disrupt early-stage VCs, whose participation in the ecosystem is very valuable.  It'd be the wrong thing for our companies, as it would both create massive signaling issues for companies we didn’t fund and deprive companies of valuable additional advisors.  By doing pro rata in every company, we should avoid any signaling issues.

Our mission at YC is to be the organization that enables the most innovation in the world.  Capital especially long-term capital willing to invest outside of the current trends is an important ingredient in that mission, and I'm excited we are now able to better support some of our companies.  In doing so, I hope that joining YC is an even better deal for companies just starting out.

Welcome Jared!

I'm delighted to share that Jared Friedman is joining YC as a full-time partner.  Jared co-founded Scribd, the world's online library, which was funded by Y Combinator in 2006.  He was the CTO there.  Jared has also been an investor in more than 30 YC companies.  Before Scribd, he studied computer science at Harvard.

There are now 16 full-time partners at YC.

YC Research

Our mission at YC is to enable as much innovation as we can.  Mostly this means funding startups.  But startups aren’t ideal for some kinds of innovation—for example, work that requires a very long time horizon, seeks to answer very open-ended questions, or develops technology that shouldn’t be owned by any one company.

We think research institutions can be better than they are today.  So we’re starting a new research lab, which we’re calling YC Research, to work on some of these areas.

We’re going to start YCR with one group (which we should be ready to announce in a month or two) and if that goes well, we’ll add others. 

YCR is a non-profit.  Any IP developed will be made available freely to everyone.  (The researchers will, of course, have full discretion over when they’re ready to release their work, and we’ll have a process in place to address technology that could be dangerous.)  Because of the openness, the researchers will be able to freely collaborate with people in other institutions. 

We’re not doing this with the goal of helping YC’s startups succeed or adding to our bottom line.  At the risk of sounding cliché, this is for the benefit of the world.  As we’ve seen throughout history, new technological breakthroughs help all of us.  Fundamental research is critical to driving the world forward, and funding for it keeps getting cut. [1] 

To start off, I’m going to personally donate $10 million, and we will raise more money for specific groups soon.  In addition to salary, researchers at YCR will also receive equity in Y Combinator as part of their compensation. [2]

YCR researchers will be full-time YC employees (instead of us making grants to other organizations).  We’ll especially welcome outsiders working on slightly heretical ideas (just like we do for the startups we fund) and we’ll try to keep things small—we believe small groups can do far more than most people think.  Also, smallness usually means less politics, which has plagued science in recent decades.

The researchers will have full access to YC and the YC network.  YC has a very high problem flux at this point—we fund hundreds of companies per year.  Compensation and power for the researchers will not be driven by publishing lots of low-impact papers or speaking at lots of conferences—that whole system seems broken.  Instead, we will focus on the quality of the output.

We plan to do this for a long time.  If some of these projects take 25 years, that’s perfectly fine with us. 

We’re very excited to see what comes out of this.


[1] Funding for technological development is actually relatively high, but funding for fundamental research keeps getting cut.  Investors want to fund incremental progress—and the world has gotten very good at delivering that.  This is more valuable than it sounds; incremental progress compounds quickly. 

But it’s not all we need—we are dependent on the unpredictable breakthrough jumps to drive humanity forward.  Technology startups today work very well for making a super-efficient piston engine, but they are unlikely to fund the kind of open-ended R+D required to develop a jet engine.

[2] We think it’s important for the researchers to make as much money as they might in at a large company or a startup.  YC equity is fairly low-risk (we fund hundreds of companies per year) and high-reward (they have historically done very well), so it will hopefully be a good solution.

Many of the best researchers in the world are forced to choose between high-paying engineering work to support their families or doing the work they really want to do; the fact that this is an either/or choice is bad for all of us.  

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 hn@ycombinator.com 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 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10223645.

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 stats

We get asked (a lot) for statistics on the YC portfolio about valuation and fundraising.  Although these are very imperfect indicators of success, here they are.

All of these companies actually went through a YC batch and got their start with us (e.g. we do not include Quora).

Also, the YC application for the next batch opens tomorrow! :)

Total "valuation" of all YC companies: >$65 billion

Total money raised by all YC companies: >$7 billion

Number of YC companies worth more than $1 billion: 8 [1]

Number of YC companies worth more than $100 million: >40

Number of companies funded by YC so far: ~940

Number of companies funded by YC that have dissolved: 177

Number of companies in the last batch: 107

Number of hardware + biotech + healthcare companies in the last batch: 32

Number of companies we offered to fund yesterday for the first YC Fellowship: 33

[1] This includes Twitch, which Amazon bought for ~970MM plus an earn-out.

A new role for Qasar

I'm delighted to announce that Qasar Younis will be YC's first COO. Qasar will help scale our organization and operations as we tackle bigger and more ambitious projects--we've grown quite a bit in the past few years and now have a lot to do on the operations side. Along with his new responsibilities as COO, Qasar will primarily continue to invest in and advise companies.

Qasar first joined YC as a founder and CEO of TalkBin, which was part of the Winter 2011 class. TalkBin was acquired by Google where he went on to lead business-facing products inside of Google Maps including google.com/business. He joined YC as a part-time partner in 2013 and full time in the 2014. Qasar has been in operational roles most of his career and we are all excited to see what he can do at YC.

Fortune wrote about this here.

Welcome Simon

I'm delighted to announce that Simon Lu is joining YC. He will focus on our investment activities and advise YC alumni companies.

Simon joins with both operational and investment experience. He joined Twitter in 2010 and held various roles during his five years with the company in business development, corporate strategy, platform operations, and corporate development. Prior to Twitter, he was at The Carlyle Group, where he focused on technology and education investments.

I mentioned to a few people today that Simon was joining us; the response in all cases was "Wow, he's one of the best people I've ever worked with."

Welcome, Simon!

Pro Rata

For a long time, YC founders (and other investors) have asked us why we don't continue to financially support our companies after our initial investment by doing our pro rata in future rounds.  Many new investors really like to see the support of existing investors.

There were a lot of reasons why we couldn’t do this in the past. But starting in the Summer of 2014, we added a pro rata provision to our standard investment documents, and starting now, we're going to aim to support all these companies in future financing rounds by doing our pro rata. We will try to do this for every company in every round with a post-money valuation of $250 million or less.

To make it extra-clear, we're not going to lead any of these rounds or set the terms, just follow other investors.  And by doing this in every YC company, there will be no signaling issue of us supporting some companies and not others.

YC Fellowship

Ten years ago, Paul Graham said there could be ten times as many startups if more people realized they could try. Thanks to the work he, Jessica, Trevor and Robert helped do, that’s become true.

We think there is still room for another ten-fold increase in the number of (good) startups. But even now, a lot of good founders never get started because they can’t scrape together a relatively small sum of money at the idea stage.

So we’re going to try a new experiment, which we’re calling the YC Fellowship. This is targeted at teams that are very, very early.

Like YC, we will accept applications and evaluate both the team and the idea. We expect these startups to be early–a prototype is more than enough (though we expect you to have an idea). In order to have the most impact, we’re only considering companies that haven’t yet raised money from investors. Unlike companies that YC funds, YC Fellows won’t have to move to the Bay Area (though we strongly encourage they do). For this experiment, we’re willing to try office hours over video chat.

YC Fellows will receive $12,000 per team as a grant (though if this continues past this test run, we will probably do a more traditional investment with equity for future Fellows) and access to advice from the YC community.

The program will be much lighter weight than YC, but we’ll still try to help you a lot. A dedicated partner will advise YC Fellows and be available for office hours. Fellowship recipients will have a kickoff day and an end event in Mountain View, and we’ll pay for remote teams to fly out for these. We’ll also make some things from YC available to YC Fellows, like AWS and Microsoft hosting credits. We’ll encourage but not require that Fellows later apply to Y Combinator.

The program runs for 8 weeks, from mid-September to mid-November. You should expect to work full-time on your project for those 8 weeks.

Also, this doesn’t have to be a one-time thing. If you fail but seem good, we’ll happily consider you again with a new idea.

We understand that $12,000 is not a lot of money, and this won’t make sense for everyone. But for some people, it may be the difference between going to work at a big company and starting the next Airbnb. Those are the people we hope to help here.

Applications are open now and are due July 27th at 8pm PT. That’s not a lot of time, but it should be enough – the right teams are likely already tinkering with ideas.

Although this is an experiment, if it seems promising we’ll iterate quickly just like any good startup. Our goal at YC is to enable as much innovation as we can. Someday if it works, we’d love to fund 1,000 companies per year like this.

Apply to the YC Fellowship here