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How to Read this Guide

This guide began as a series of personal notes to help friends and acquaitances interested in applying to Y Combinator. Their main purpose are to illuminate the YC process and equip you with ideas and approaches to bring out the best in your application. Read them like extended notes from a long coffee meeting – and then go use them to make your app stronger.


I’d to thank Paul Graham for writing such wonderful essays which have taught me yearn for the vast and exciting world of startups (apologies to Antoine de Saint-Exupery). My cofounders Kalvin Wang and Randy Pang, who have taught me strategic thinking, taste, humility and ambition. The partners (and staff) at Y Combinators, the amazing YC alumni I’ve be lucky enough to know and learn from, and the many folks who asked me so many great questions about their applications.

PG vs Other YC Partners

Paul Graham has a vast body of work around startups, hacking and business success (among other topics) and so I often quote his writing in this guide. As one of the founders and partners at YC, I believe his views are influential in determining what kind of team, idea and market YC is interested in funding.

However, he does not have the final word on applicants.

There are 10 partners that read applications and conduct interviews, and already not every partner interviews with every startup – meaning you may not even present in front of PG if you get a YC interview. If you were wise, you’d read up on all the YC partners and figure out how your application will impress them based on their experiences and world view.

Version History

v 2.0 (March 2012)
  • Transferred Google Doc on to guidetoyc.com, cleaned up for web viewing
  • Fleshed out several sections, reviewed new sources (eg: mixergy interview)
  • Added Resources section (YC founders advice, giftrocket interview advice, links)
v 1.0 (September 2011)
  • Original notes drafted up in Google Doc
  • Major chapters covered: why apply, team, idea, customers, video, writing tips, recommendations,


This guide is based on my personal experience / judgement, conversations with YC alumni, and things that Paul Graham and other people have written and/or stated about getting into YC. Act on this advice at your own discretion – if things go well, congratulations! If things go poorly, you agree to hold me harmless (though if you’re really distraught I might buy you a beer).

The content in this guide (outside of the direct quotes) is not validated or endorsed by Y Combinator, Ridejoy or anyone else besides me, Jason Shen.

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