About Y-Combinator Startup School
Y-Combinator (YC) has always been recognized as one of the top accelerators/incubator for promising startups to apply for. They recently launched the first session of Startup School, which provides thousands of startup founders to learn from the experience of the YC alumni without the paperwork overheads of equity and incorporating a foreign entity.
YC Startup School Highlights:
The key highlights of Startup School as below:
- Mattermost, a Slack-like chat room for all the founders to interact and exchange ideas with each other.
- Progress Reports where founders track how much growth they have progressed the past week for their core metric (revenue, active users, weeks to launch etc)
- Video Lectures: This was what made the difference. Instant access to video lectures from YC alumni and investors.
- Office Hours where an assigned mentor (YC alumni) hosts a weekly video conference for the founders within their group. Each founder will share their challenges with the team.
There’s also some free credits with hosting providers, a dedicated networking directory with other startups. Every startup will present a short online video pitch at the end of the course.
Some of our key learnings from YC Startup School:
- Growth Hacking can scale your growth faster after you’ve received product market fit, but it does not replace product-market fit. Our mentor shared how he utilized the APIs of some applications to access contact information and scale growth. Even though they growth-hacked their mobile application downloads, they didn’t gain any active or returning users. Which brings to the next point on:
- Importance of Analytics: It’s important to have an analytics platform for any startup to understand how their business is doing, and the traction they gain.
- Product: The 2 key interest topics for us were on product market-fit and product positioning. Though we didn’t share in person, we really appreciate the sharing from Peter Reinhardt, (Co-founder of Segment.io) and Aaron Levie (Co-founder of Box) for being open to share what they know about B2B SaaS. These are companies we really look up to!
What we really loved about Startup School was being able to feel the frustrations of other startup founders within the same space. While we all read about struggles that startup founders go through, it feels refreshingly sincere to listen and empathize with the challenges that they share in person. This provides a very real sense of community that we are not able to replicate with theoretical readings.
That being shared, we felt some areas could be improved for future batches joining YC Startup School:
- Reddit Forum: While the chat channels were great, they didn’t allow good discussion topics to be surfaced up, and didn’t provide a good interface for a thoughtful response. A Reddit-style forum will be great for founders to upvote topics and insightful comments.
- Weekly Progress Report: The weekly progress report make us update a specific quantitative metric (revenue, active users, weeks till launch) to be updated every week. Finding a key measurable metric may be great for startups who have found product market fit, but may not be the most suitable instrument for early stage startups.
- Reflection Blog Posts: Getting blog posts and reviews on the video lectures from the perspectives of different founders/startups may be interesting for the community. All of us learn something from these videos, and we share our learnings at Holistics on our key take-aways from these videos too.
It’s not easy to manage the administration of so many participants, and we have to say Startup School has done a very good job at it. Special thanks to our super cool, sincere and smart mentor, Cao Xuwen, who makes us look forward to our weekly office hours! What’s even more awesome is that our chat channel will be kept open even after Startup School is completed. It marks the end of a shared learning experience, and the beginning of a community bond.