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Tips & resources for applying to YC

A new YC batch is upon us and you can feel the buzz among founders as they prepare their applications in an attempt to join the highly rated Y Combinator accelerator program.


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Adetolani Eko

3 years ago | 3 min read

A new YC batch is upon us and you can feel the buzz among founders as they prepare their applications in an attempt to join the highly rated Y Combinator accelerator program.

I’ve had the opportunity to work with some interesting founders on their applications and I’m really excited about the future of the ecosystem.

I personally believe that the YC application stage is one of the hardest parts of the process as you have to distinguish your start-up from over 15,000 applicants from across the world. It can be hard!

As someone who has previously made it past the application stage and to the final interviews, these are some tips I’ve gathered from my experience and that of other successful applicants:

  1. Be simple and concise: The YC team have thousands of applications to read every batch and this means that they might not have a lot of time to read and decipher everything you write. It is very important to be clear, simple and straight to the point when filling the application. No unnecessary use of buzzwords, abbreviations or unnecessarily ‘long stories’. Be simple and concise. While filling our application, I constrained myself by answering the question concisely first, before giving any additional information.

As you write your application, imagine that you are writing for a very tired YC alum who has just read through a billion of these things. Keep it short. Get to the point.

No one wants to read an essay when a sentence or two will do the job. —
Aaron Epstein (YC Partner)

2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help: An important part of YC is their community and founder network. Don’t be afraid to reach out (politely) and ask for help/advice with your application. You can check here for a list of YC companies and see if you know someone you can reach out to. You can also reach out to affiliated VCs, founders and other ecosystem players that you think can help.

3. Use context where you can: This is particularly important for startups applying for YC from outside the US. It is very important to use context to pass your message across when you can. The YC team reviewing applications is majorly based in the US and although they do a good job, it can sometimes be difficult for them to understand the problem you’re solving or your solution. You need to give them a bit of background(concisely) or relate your startup/product with something they are already familiar with. An example of this is Paystack referring to them as ‘Stripe for Africa

4. Know your business/idea well: YC and investors generally tend to invest in startups that they believe will do well with or without their help. Make sure you have a solid business/idea and make sure they can tell from your application. Show how well you are doing or how well you can be doing using facts and figures. E.g “We currently have 5,000 users and we’re growing at a rate of 20% every month”, “Nigerians currently spend $2 million annually on products that solve the problem we’re solving”.

5. Remember that life goes on: When you finally submit your application, please don’t forget you still have an actual business to run. I always advise founders not to build or run their startups on the premise of getting into YC.

If you don’t get selected for the batch, remember that it is not the end. Focus on your business and growth.

You can always find funding from other sources or chose to apply to another YC batch. Of all the companies YC accepts, 40% have applied more than once.

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