Simon Willison’s Weblog


What is the single greatest value-add from Y Combinator?

15th August 2016

My answer to What is the single greatest value-add from Y Combinator? on Quora

It’s very difficult to pick the best one, but from our experience here’s something that really stood out: the sense of camaraderie and trust you have in others who are also going through YC.

Building a startup is incredibly difficult. Almost by definition, you have no idea what you are doing and every day you’ll need to figure out how to do something brand new (to you) to as high a standard as possible: interview a candidate, pitch an investor, prepare a press release etc etc etc.

Unfortunately, it’s also a bad idea to be honest about how difficult you are finding it. If someone asks how your startup is going the only correct answer is “yeah, totally awesome!” even if you are completely drowning. After all, that person might be or know a potential investor, employee, business partner or customer!

YC helps here because when you join you enter a code of fellowship with your fellow YC companies (certainly those in the same batch, but it extends to alumni companies too). You’ll keep their secrets, and they will keep yours.

This means you now have the largest, most engaged and helpful support group you could possibly imagine!

Having trouble putting together a plan for your launch? So are half the other companies in your batch. Go swap notes with them and figure it out together.

Raised money in dollars but need to convert it to another currency and don’t know how to do it? Someone else in your batch had to figure out exactly that last week, and since they only just learnt it themselves they are the best person to learn from.

Feel like everything is going to pieces and your company is doomed? Get together for dinner and you’ll find that EVERYONE feels like that, then swap stories about your latest disasters with each other.

If you’re not in YC it’s still possible to build up a trusted network like this, but it’s s huge amount of work: find other founders you trust at a similar stage to you, get them to trust you, then introduce them to each other and hope that everyone clicks. YC does that all for free and grants you a much larger network than you could ever build by yourself.