My Y Combinator Experience

Posted December 1, 2014

1555491_10152691116659039_6463490390902653257_nAfter flying cross country, with one layover, and a 30 minute delay to my final destination of San Jose, my short journey had begun.  This was the journey to convince a small room of people that they should help fund our project.  Oh yeah, did I mention, we had 10 minutes to do it?  We were here because we got past the application stage of Y Combinator and were given the opportunity to present our new start up company.  After the interview process was done they said they would either call us to say that they would like invest in our company or they would email us telling us why they had turned us down.  Spoiler alert!  We received an email around 6:50pm PST.  At least the wait was over and it came quickly.

We arrived about 2 hours early before our scheduled interview time.  In my opinion, we probably arrived too early because those 2 hours were some of the longest few hours of my life.  One very positive thing was that we met one of the Y Combinator Alumni, who gave us some great advice on the interview process.  He had mentioned that when he interviewed a few years before, he came out of the interview feeling dejected but got a phone call later that night with the news that they were going to invest.

The time was finally was approaching and the nerves started to increase.  The group before us was walking out and we were waiting to be called in.  In preparation for the interview we had been practicing to answer possible questions that the partners might ask us.  These questions came from one of the past companies who had interviewed at YC.  You can take a look at the questions here.  I won’t give you the exact details of the interview but I will say, it was the quickest 10 minutes of my life.  After the interview we came out a little bit in shock.  One reason was we all felt that the time had gone by too quickly, but the other reason was we weren’t expecting the line of questioning that came to us.  Feelings were mixed and we were definitely doubting ourselves.  They asked us to stick around until the next group went in just in case the partners had more questions to ask us.  At least the interview was over right?  All of a sudden, one of ladies working at the front said that they wanted us to interview with some of the other partners.  Another long hour to wait.

We found out who we were interviewing with next and we thought that this was our chance.  One of the partners in the next interview was the founder of the company that our project was directly related to.  Now that we had about 10 minutes of experience under our belt, we were ready.  I remember walking into the second interview feeling the same way I felt about the first one, pretty darn nervous.  This time we felt that the interview went 1000% better than the first.  It was another 10 minute interview but this time it didn’t feel like 2 minutes.  This time it felt like 5.

IMG_0097Now that the interviews were over, it was the waiting game.  When we got back to the house we made sure that the cell phone that was on file with YC had reception.  Our hearts would beat a little harder every time the phone would buzz because of a text message or an instant message.  All of us were on our computers reluctant to check our email.  Less than two hours after our interview, we received the news that we were not going to become a YC company in the winter.  The house was a little quiet and the news was slowly settling in.  We had flown into Silicon Valley for a 20 minute interview, but was it worth our time?  Of course it was because of the experiences that we had gained but especially for what happened afterwards.

The YC Alumni that was there while we were waiting for the interview invited us out that night for drinks.  I wasn’t able to go but my two business partners went.  What I found out afterwards was that one of the partners that was in our first interview was there.  He explained why they didn’t accept us.  It wasn’t that they didn’t love our idea or our team but one of the main goals of YC is to get you ready for demo day, the day at the end of the program where you present your product/idea in front of potential investors.  They felt that in three months we wouldn’t be ready.  He also said that we should continue to build the business and apply for the summer batch.  He mentioned that he applied 5 times before getting in.  After hearing this I felt better about what we were doing and felt more motivated to continue in our work.

From this experience, here’s some advice I would give to other YC applicants.  First and foremost, believe in your product.  If you really believe in your product, it will show when you interview.  Make sure you know everything about what you are doing…. the market, the audience, the potential market, etc.  If you know it, then you’ll be ready for any question that comes up.  Yes, you can practice with all the practice questions that are online, but be prepared for anything.  The last advice I would say is, don’t wait for YC to start working or to finish your project.  With that said, I hope someday I can write another blog post entitled “My 3 Month Y Combinator Experience”.

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