Background: My name is Jason Shen and I applied with two cofounders to YC’s Summer 2011 batch. We were fortunate to get in. This was my first time applying to YC and Ridejoy is my first tech startup. I’m nontechnical but happened to have two technical friends and roommates who both worked at startups. I’m aware of how lucky I am to be in this position.
We got a lot of help from friends and YC alumni when preparing our application so I wanted to make this guide to give back. Doing YC has definitely been a game changer for my life and my startup would not exist with out it. I sincerely hope this guide helps you get in.
The goal of this guide is NOT to help you “cheat” your way into Y Combinator.
It’s primarily to help people understand what I think YC is looking for and how to best convey the qualities that make for strong startups. I think the process of applying to YC in of itself can make your startup better and ultimately the partners are so good that there is no way you are going to “sneak in”.
But as Paul Graham says in How to Apply:
Like all investors, we want to believe. So help us believe. If there’s something about you that stands out, or some special insight you have into the problem you plan to work on, make sure we see it.
My hope is that by reading this guide, you can better help YC believe. You can avoid common mistakes and pitfalls and give yourselves the best chance of success. Like most things related to startups, getting into YC is not easy. But I think it’s definitely worth giving a shot.