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]