3 – Basic Advice

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Summary: Engineer your application (and interview) to optimize for rapidly impressing the YC Partners YC is pretty open about its application process – which is great. Paul Graham has written multiple essays about what they look for and how one should apply to YC. So first thing to do is read this very, very carefully: How to Apply to Y Combinator [YC] Back? Great. Let’s start on my first and most basic piece of advice:

Get to the point fast

Y Combinator got 2000+ applications for YC S11 and a similar number for W12. There are 10 partners who read essays and YC also asks some founders for feedback on apps, but the sheer number of apps (paired against time constraints) means the first run through of your app is very very short. (Tedious, hand-wavey and mostly illustrative math follows)

According to PG, every partner reads every app partners read about 700-1000 apps (after the first culling by YC alums) over a period of about 10 days. Assuming an 8 hour day with 5 minute breaks each hour means each app gets about 2 minutes of each partners time on average. (440mins per day / ~85 apps per day = 5.2 mins per app)

The point here is that you need to get to the point fast and make every answer matter. At the end of the day, nothing matters except that they say “oh shit, this team is really smart / over the top hardworking / resourceful / can get things done / like each other / could successfully build a great startup”. Think constantly about how you can impress with substance, not style (unless the style is in your product). Give numbers if they seem large, explain things in the most favorable way to you possible.

Note – it’s important to not ever lie or say something false. But just as you don’t discuss your work week in the same way to your boss as to your friend at the bar – be very mindful of how your application comes across. They need to first remember you and secondly think you’re legit. And you have very little time to make your case.


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