A must-read for the curious: What Happens At Y Combinator

What Happens At Y Combinator

Paul Graham
September 2010

(We realized recently that a lot of people don't understand very well what YC does, so I wrote something explaining that in detail. Since YC has been shaped by the needs of hundreds of early stage startups, this should be interesting not just to potential applicants but to anyone curious about startups, because a portrait of YC is in some ways the complement of a portrait of the average startup.)

Y Combinator runs two three-month funding cycles a year, one from January through March and one from June through August. We ask the founders of each startup we fund to move to the Bay Area for the duration of their cycle, during which we work intensively with them to get the company into best shape possible. Each cycle culminates in an event called Demo Day, at which the startups present to an audience that now includes most of the world's top startup investors.

And while you're at it, check out the comments on Hacker News, too.

How to Pitch A Tech Blogger (from a former TC writer & startup founder)

Relationships Matter

This may sound like psychological manipulation directed towards selfish ends (i.e. sales) but if that’s how it feels, you’re doing it wrong. The goal here is to help the blogger, not exploit them. When you help them (with well-articulated material for a story), they help you (with a story that will publicize your business). As with all transactions, it relies on a relationship, however temporary. And the success of that relationship will depend on how much trust and rapport you’ve established.

A lot of times when entrepreneurs are ready to pitch, they go looking for a friend who knows and can refer them to a writer. The idea here is to leverage someone else’s relationship to validate themselves transitively. This is all fine and good, and it’s certainly better than submitting a story to a writer cold. However, it’s much better to begin building a direct relationship with them well before the pitch.

One of the beautiful things about the internet is that you can develop relationships with people without ever meeting them. Get on your favorite bloggers’ radars by commenting thoughtfully on their posts, retweeting and replying to them on Twitter, and submitting promising tips to them for stories that have nothing to do with your company. If you blog, take the time to write pieces that link to their pieces; they’ll most likely read them and take note of your name. If you happen to live in their area, introduce yourself and chat with them casually at an industry event without giving an elevator pitch unless they ask.

The point is to achieve some level of familiarity and validation before ever pitching them on a story, not to become their best friend. In fact, you don’t want to be too overeager or complimentary, otherwise they’ll perceive you (rightfully) as a suck-up.

When you’re ready to pitch, make sure you’re not wasting their time with material that can’t be delivered as an interesting story. A litmus test is whether you’d honestly be interested in reading about your announcement if you weren’t the one behind it. And when presenting the story, keep it real. Certainly don’t embellish or lie about anything. Build trust by throwing in a few facts that, if published, might not make you look so good. If you must, just ask the blogger to please not publish them and they won’t, but you’ll gain credibility in their eyes.

This particular section, in an otherwise quite good post, deserved highlighting.