Is Y Combinator for me?

If you’re a startup founder considering applying for an accelerator like Y Combinator*, you’ll have many considerations on your mind

Things like, is it worth the ~7% of equity for the $120K or, how will I move down there for 12 weeks, or have I gotten enough traction to show that customers want what I’m making.

Those are exactly the things you should be thinking about.

What you shouldn’t be worried about is this:

Is YC for me because I am a (female, black, hispanic, older, foreign etc) founder.

You should never be asking that question.

Because as a non-white, female founder that started her company when her kids were 3 years and 4 months old, I was never made to feel the reality of any of those descriptors in my journey to become a YC-funded founder.

This isn’t to imply that my path was easy. As a non-technical, solo founder, I applied once with Poppy and was rejected after the interview. I had to hustle and build a team and prove I deserved to be funded, with tangible growth.

But I know precisely how rare it is for me to be in a situation where I don’t feel my gender, my race or my parent priorities so when it happens, I take note.

I am a YC founder because I chose to be and worked hard to be. I pursued YC in the first place because I believed it could change the very trajectory of my company with its funds and focused mentorship and most importantly, continued community. And I have worked hard since to make sure those hypotheses became reality.

Whether an accelerator is the right thing for your company at the stage you’re at – that’s your decision to assess and make. It’s a decision that should be weighed really carefully so you can be sure you’re extracting all the right value for your company.

But you shouldn’t be worried if “it’s the right place for you” or “you’ll fit in”.

If you are intellectually curious and passionate about solving big, hairy problems, I’d say you’ll fit in just fine.

It’s the spirit that shines through, not any of this superficial packaging. And it’s high time that gets cleared up.

That isn’t to say there isn’t much work ahead – I was still only one of 13 female CEOs in a sea of 130 companies. But on YC’s part, that was in line with the % of female-led companies that applied.

So we need more applicants of every gender, race and background. Because the big problems need bold thinkers from surprising backgrounds.

Is it still a level playing field for females or minority founders? Hells no. Is it simple or easy trying to build a fast growing startup with a young family at home. Hells no.

But it’s possible. And necessary.

And there are a lot of people that are working really hard for it to be easier. So let’s clear away any misconceptions about fit and get to the hard work of actually building these enduring companies.

My fellow founders that worry if you fit – you’re the first to know that fitting in has never been an option and it is not what matters. It’s the content of your ambition.

So make sure that what you and your company needs is something like a Y Combinator. Then go and show it with your results and your passion and your boldness.

You’ll fit right in.

PS – if you’re a female/minority founder with questions or need someone to review your application, tweet me at @apatelthompson and I’d be happy to help.

*while I can only speak to my experience at YC, much of this is applicable for Techstars and other notable accelerators.

2 Comments

  1. Avni, I heard you speak at the YC FFC this past year, and your story is inspiring. I’m also a mom (of two little boys) and have been working on a startup for a couple of years, and I just wanted to thank you for writing and discussing about your experiences. We all need inspiration from leaders like you!

    Like

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