Y Combinator Application Breakdown and Guide (2024)

Table of Contents
Advice for every question on the YC app from a late-stage YCalum Application Questions Company Section Company name: Describe what your company does in 50 characters orless. Company url, ifany: If you have a demo, attach itbelow. Please provide a link to the product, if relevant. What is your company going to make? Please describe your product and what it does or willdo. Where do you live now, and where would the company be based afterYC? Founders Section Please provide some details of the cofounders in thestartup. Please record a one minute video introducing the founder(s). Who writes code, or does other technical work on your product? Was any of it done by a non-founder? Pleaseexplain. Are you looking for a cofounder? How long have the founders known one another and how did you meet? Have any of the founders not met inperson? Recommended by LinkedIn Progress Section How far along areyou? How long have each of you been working on this? How much of that has been full-time? Pleaseexplain. Are people using yourproduct? How many active users or customers do you have? How many are paying? Who is paying you the most, and how much do they payyou? When will you have a version people canuse? Do you haverevenue? We’re interested in your revenue over the last several months. (Section to input revenue data for the past 6months). Where does your revenue come from? If your revenue comes from multiple sources (ex. multiple products, multiple companies or a mix of consulting and this product), please break down how much is coming from eachsource. Anything else you would like us to know regarding your revenue or growthrate? If you are applying with the same idea as a previous batch, did anything change? If you applied with a different idea, why did you pivot and what did you learn from the lastidea? If you have already participated or committed to participate in an incubator, “accelerator” or “pre-accelerator” program, please tell us aboutit. Idea Section Why did you pick this idea to work on? Do you have domain expertise in this area? How do you know people need what you’remaking? Who are your competitors? What do you understand about your business that theydon’t? How do or will you make money? How much could you make? (We realize you can’t know precisely, but give your best estimate. How do users find your product? How did you get the users you have now? If you run paid ads, what is your cost of acquisition? If you track metrics around user engagement and retention, what arethey? Where will most of your initial users belocated? Which category best applies to yourcompany? Equity Section Have you formed ANY legal entityyet? Please list all legal entities you have and in what state or country each was formed (e.g. Delaware C Corp, Mexican SAPI, Singapore Pvt Ltd,etc.). Please describe the breakdown of the equity ownership in percentages among the founders, employees and any other stockholders. If there are multiple founders, be sure to give the equity ownership of each founder and founder title (e.g.CEO). If you have not formed the company yet, describe the planned equity ownership breakdown among the founders, employees and any other proposed stockholders. If there are multiple founders, be sure to give the proposed equity ownership of each founder and founder title (e.g.CEO). Have you taken any investment yet? List any investments your company has received. Include the name of the investor, the amount invested, the premoney valuation / valuation cap, the type of security sold (convertible notes, safes or stock), and the investment date. How much money have you raised from investors in total in USDollars? How much money do you spend permonth? How much money does your company have in the banknow? How long is yourrunway? Are you currently fundraising? Please provide any relevant details about your current fundraise. Others Section If you had any other ideas you considered applying with, please list them. One may be something we’ve been waiting for. Often when we fund people it’s to do something they list here and not in the main application. Curious Section What convinced you to apply to Y Combinator? Did someone encourage you to apply? Have you been to any YCevents? How did you hear about Y Combinator? Key Take-aways Brevity iskey. Focus ondata. Provide complete answers to the questions. Be honest. Worth noting References

Advice for every question on the YC app from a late-stage YCalum

Hello! My name is Nick and I went through Y Combinator (YC) in Winter 2018 with my cofounder Finbarr Taylor for our software startup, Shogun . Shogun is currently at Series C stage, with 35,000+ customers and $115M in capital raised from Y Combinator, Initialized Capital , VMG Partners , Accel , and Insight Partners .

As a YC alum, I get a decent amount of questions about the application process, and often review applications from folks in my network. A lot of the advice I give is redundant, so this is me “open sourcing” it for everyone.

Worth mentioning: YC gives their own advice on how to approach the application, and I recommend you read it. Here’s the link: https://www.ycombinator.com/howtoapply/

Also, the questions in the application can change from batch to batch, and the application is publicly available here: https://www.ycombinator.com/apply/

Please note that I do not represent Y Combinator, nor do my opinions reflect the opinions of YC or the YC partners. This is just my advice on how to think about crafting responses.

Application Questions

Before we jump in, please note that YC questions are subject to change, and the application adjusts based on your inputs (ie. if you respond “No” to the question “Do you have revenue?”, the application won’t show you all the revenue related questions). If you don’t see one of these questions on your application — don’t worry.

Here we go.

Y Combinator Application Breakdown andGuide (1)

Company Section

Company name:

This question is self explanatory: put the current name of your company or project. Do not spend a bunch of time stressing over the name for your startup, as it doesn’t matter much, and very well may change.

Describe what your company does in 50 characters orless.

Being able to concisely articulate what your company does is really important. This may seem easy, but it’s not. Here are some tips on crafting your 50 character response:

  • Aim for six to eight words
  • Focus on your unique value proposition
  • Find inspiration here: https://www.ycombinator.com/topcompanies
  • Don’t use a phrase like “Uber for X” — unless pretty much anyone would know the established company you’re referencing. Everyone knows what Uber is, so it works; “Wolfram for X” doesn’t.
  • Drop the jargon. Unless you’re in a sector like biotech, make it so your parents can understand this answer.
  • Write like 25 different versions of it. Choose your favorite.

Don’t worry if it’s not perfect. This is one of the things Y Combinator actually helps with. Just make sure your response is 50 characters or less.

Company url, ifany:

Drop a link to your website. If you don’t have a website yet, consider how quickly you can create one that looks decent. You don’t need to be technical to create a great looking website these days. Here are some tools to consider:

  • Webflow: allows you to create beautiful sites with interactions and basic functionality including ecommerce.
  • Wix, Weebly, Squarespace: all of these website builders have a very low learning curve.
  • Shogun: best for ecommerce specific websites that use a platform like Shopify or BigCommerce. (I’m a bit biased on that one I suppose)

Even if you don’t have a product yet (i.e. a web application), the website can still be a part of your MVP. This isn’t hard, especially when there are templates like this: https://webflow.com/templates/html/matte-saas-website-template

If you have a demo, attach itbelow.

Ideally you have a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). In my experience, the attention span for a product explainer video or demo runs 60 seconds, 90 seconds at most. The shorter the better.

If you’re looking for a format, try this:

  • 10 second intro stating the high level of what you do and what the viewer is looking at
  • 20 second UI feature exploration on your current product’s primary value prop.
  • 20 second UI feature exploration on your current product’s secondary value prop.
  • 10 second outro mentioning a small detail or two that wasn’t covered. Repeat your tagline.

Don’t worry if the video isn’t perfect or refined; it shouldn’t be.

Please provide a link to the product, if relevant.

I recommend applying when you have an MVP, but this isn’t a hard requirement. YC will consider applicants at ideation stage, but the more traction you have; the more compelling the market validation is.

Drop the link to your product (ie. web application, mobile app, website, etc.) in the input field.

Include login credentials (username and password) if access isn’t public.

What is your company going to make? Please describe your product and what it does or willdo.

I think this question trips up a lot of people. You did it before in 50 characters, now you can use more words- but brevity is still key. I recommend answering this question in 2–4 sentences. If you find yourself going beyond that, do another pass to see if you can make it shorter.

Consider a format like this:

  • What your product currently is, and the value it currently provides. 1–2 sentences.
  • What your product will become in the long term. 1 sentence.
  • The value it will provide at full maturity. Your vision. 1 sentence.

Where do you live now, and where would the company be based afterYC?

Simple question. State the location(s). Response should be no more than 2 sentences, ideally 1 sentence.

Y Combinator Application Breakdown andGuide (2)

Founders Section

Please provide some details of the cofounders in thestartup.

Most of the detail inputs are self explanatory. For each cofounder:

  • Full name
  • Email Address
  • Phone Number
  • Linkedin URL
  • Are you a technical founder?* (Required) — this is a Yes or No answer.
  • Age
  • Gender

Don’t BS if you’re non-technical; it’s fine. Being dishonest is not. Go by their definition, and only answer yes if you are a programmer, engineer, or scientist who can build the product without outside assistance.

When adding the details for each cofounder to the application, note the clarification: “Founders must have at least 10% equity in the company.” This should be a clue that major imbalances in cofounder equity can be a consideration. Why? Because the journey is probably 10+ years before any meaningful outcome, and the founders will be diluted along the way.

Model the dilution with your cofounders at the beginning to avoid surprises. Try it with these assumptions:

  • Pre-Seed (YC): 7% dilution
  • Seed: 20% dilution
  • Series A: 20% dilution
  • Series B: 20% dilution
  • Series C: 10% dilution
  • Series D: 10% dilution

If you need to adjust equity, now is a good time to do it. Startups are usually an arduous endeavor, and you’ll want solidarity with your cofounders. Also, cofounder disputes and breakups are one of the top reasons startups fail.

Please record a one minute video introducing the founder(s).

This video isn’t a pitch video, they’re just trying to get a sense of who you are.

Part 1: Founders introduce themselves:

  • Cofounder name
  • Cofounder function (i.e. software engineer, product designer, scientist, salesperson)
  • 1-2 companies the cofounder has (most recently) worked at or started
  • Repeat for each Cofounder
  • One cofounder can add some detail on how the cofounders met each other

That part should take about 30 seconds.

Part 2: Small bit about the company

  • “We’re {name_of_startup}.”
  • State the 50 characters or less description of your company
  • State what inspired you to solve the pain point you’re addressing with your startup
  • “And we…” and then state an impressive thing or two your company has accomplished so far: customer count, revenue, product launch, etc.

That part should take about 30 seconds.

Keep it under 1 minute in total.

Who writes code, or does other technical work on your product? Was any of it done by a non-founder? Pleaseexplain.

Part one: “Who writes code, or does other technical work on your product?” State the person or entity that has done the R&D work on your product, specifically the engineering and the design. Make clear their relationship to the company. Address this part of the question in 1 sentence.

Part two: “Was any of it done by a non-founder? Please explain.” Ideally all of the R&D work was done by a cofounder. If not, it needs to have been contracted properly and you need to be the owner of the intellectual property. If this isn’t the case, you can still apply, but make sure to answer this question thoroughly and truthfully. Address this part of the question in 1–2 sentences.

Are you looking for a cofounder?

(This question may appear if you’re applying as a solo cofounder.)

If you are looking to add a cofounder, state so, and include 1–3 sentences on what role you’re looking to fill (eg. CTO), and what your efforts have been thus far. If you’re not interested in adding a cofounder, just state: “Not at this time.”

Worth mentioning that while YC certainly accepts solo founders, they know that the startup journey can be tough to go alone, and actively support cofounder matching. They even have a platform for it: https://www.ycombinator.com/cofounder-matching.

How long have the founders known one another and how did you meet? Have any of the founders not met inperson?

There are 3 key pieces of information for this response. Here’s a suggested format:

  • The amount of time each of the cofounders have known each other. 1 sentence.
  • How y’all met. 2–3 sentences based on how many cofounders there are.
  • If any of the cofounders haven’t met in person: explain. Else, just mention that you’ve all met in person. 1 sentence.

The response to this question should run 4–5 sentences in my opinion, which is on the longer side. YC likes to get a sense for cofounder dynamic, as it has a significant impact on the success of the startup.

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Y Combinator Application Breakdown andGuide (6)

Progress Section

How far along areyou?

This question is looking specifically for the data on your traction. And this is where a lot of applicants tend to add fluff. Stick to the facts of what has happened, and not what you believe will happen. Examples of data to include here:

  • Launched our product/MVP on XX/XX date.
  • Have $YYK in annual recurring revenue.
  • Have ZZ Weekly Active Users (WAU).
  • Achieved {hard_tech_biotech_etc_specific} R&D milestone

It can be really tempting to go into persuasion mode, but what will make you stand out even more is an objective attitude and focus on data and facts.

Keep the answer 2–5 sentences. Make sure to be concise.

How long have each of you been working on this? How much of that has been full-time? Pleaseexplain.

Part 1: “How long have each of you been working on this?” You can start counting from the first line of code, the incorporation, the first customer conversation, team meeting between the founders, etc. Whatever your definition of the company’s inception is. You can include any important details for clarifying anything unique about the inception. If there is not anything that needs clarifying, don’t add detail unnecessarily. 1 sentence for this.

Part 2: “How much of that has been full-time?” Start counting from the day that this was your only job. Include the data for each cofounder. Include any unique or important details. 1 sentence for this.

Part 3: “Please explain” The third sentence can be used if there are multiple cofounders and multiple unique circ*mstances that require clarification.

Keep the response to 1–3 sentences in total.

Are people using yourproduct?

Yes or no question. Both answers prompt separate follow up questions.

How many active users or customers do you have? How many are paying? Who is paying you the most, and how much do they payyou?

(This question appears if you select “Yes” to “Are people using your product?”.)

Part 1: “How many active users or customers do you have?” Numeric response. Active users means the number of individuals who engage with your product on a Daily or Weekly basis (you’ve probably heard of DAU or WAU). Customers means business entities (prosumers, SMBs, enterprise companies, etc.) who pay for your service or who are in a free trial period or on a free plan. 1 sentence for this.

Part 2: “How many are paying?” Numeric response. State the number of individuals or business entities that are providing revenue to you. 1 sentence for this.

Part 3: “Who is paying you the most, and how much do they pay you?” If you segment your user base into groups (eg. developers, early stage startups, late stage startups) — state the user segment and corresponding average amount of revenue they pay you. Based on your the nature of your business, you can consider one of these calculations:

  • Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) = Total revenue in a given period / Number of users
  • Average Selling Price (ASP) = Total revenue in a given period / Number of units sold
  • Average Contract value (ACV) = Total value of all contracts / Number of customers

Address the final part of the question in 1–2 sentences, for a total response length of 2–4 sentences.

When will you have a version people canuse?

(This question appears if you select “No” to “Are people using your product?”)

The response should be a specific launch date, or timeline if you’re in hard-tech (eg. biotech).

Do you haverevenue?

Yes or no question. Revenue means money in the bank or obligated by legal contract and invoice. Use your discretion on LOIs, and disclose later if that’s the nature of the agreement.

If your response is yes, this prompts an additional line of questioning in the application.

We’re interested in your revenue over the last several months. (Section to input revenue data for the past 6months).

Revenue received per period. The period they’re asking for is a calendar month with 6 inputs for the past 6 months. Revenue means money in the bank or obligated by contract and invoice. Follow the instructions:

  • Do not make the mistake of stating cumulative revenue; they’re looking for revenue received for that specific month.
  • They also mention that they’re not looking for Gross Merchandising Volume (GMV). If you’re a company that sells goods (ie. an eCommerce brand), use Gross Profit (Total Revenue — Cost of Goods Sold) instead of GMV.
  • If you didn’t have revenue in that month, put $0.
  • All values should be in USD.

Where does your revenue come from? If your revenue comes from multiple sources (ex. multiple products, multiple companies or a mix of consulting and this product), please break down how much is coming from eachsource.

First part: “Where does your revenue come from?” Some things to include in your response:

  • Revenue source type. Examples: consumers, companies, channel partners, etc.
  • Revenue model type. Examples: monthly or annual software-as-a-service subscriptions, percentage of spend or payment as a fee (aka “take rate”), pre-orders, affiliate commissions, consulting fees.

Second part: If you have multiple companies or multiple products, include those 2 details for each as separate line items, and include a total.

The response to this question should be data oriented and no more than 2–4 sentences total.

Anything else you would like us to know regarding your revenue or growthrate?

If there is anything important or unique about your revenue that needs clarifying, and hasn’t been addressed in the previous questions; address it here in 1–2 sentences. This is where I would disclose if revenue due hasn’t been received, or revenue isn’t contractually obligated (eg. LOIs). Else leave it blank.

If you are applying with the same idea as a previous batch, did anything change? If you applied with a different idea, why did you pivot and what did you learn from the lastidea?

If you haven’t applied before, state that in 1 short sentence.

If you have applied before, and you’re applying with the same idea; write 2–4 sentences on your progress since your last application. Just like with the traction question, “How far along are you?”; the response should be focused on notable measurable progress. Aim for a response grounded in quantitative metrics.

If you have applied before, and you’ve pivoted, or are applying with a new company; write 2–4 sentences on the inspiration for the pivot and emphasize the learnings you took away. The latter is very important, and that’s where I would focus most of the words. Startups are all about moving quick, failing fast, and iterating toward the right solution.

If you have already participated or committed to participate in an incubator, “accelerator” or “pre-accelerator” program, please tell us aboutit.

If you’ve participated in a program like YC, disclose that here. Some information to include:

  • Name of the program
  • When you participated
  • The result of the program (ie. did you raise money after?, did you get clients?)
  • How much equity you gave to the program and any funding you received in return

Keep the response to 2–4 sentences total.

Y Combinator Application Breakdown andGuide (7)

Idea Section

Why did you pick this idea to work on? Do you have domain expertise in this area? How do you know people need what you’remaking?

First part: “Why did you pick this idea to work on?”. Write 1 sentence on what inspired or compelled you toward this specific pain point. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a deeply personal or profound reason, just be honest and stick to facts.

Second part: “Do you have domain expertise in this area?”. If you have domain experience, great; write 1 sentence stating your experience and any credentials. If you don’t have domain experience, don’t worry about it. There are plenty of instances where outsiders won because they came in without preconceived notions. Keep this part to 1 sentence either way.

Third part: “How do you know people need what you’re making?”. This question is effectively looking for a market validation data response. You’ll want to convey that there is a meaningful pain point, and that your solution will be positioned to solve it. Reinforce your argument with data, considering these 2 data types:

  • Supporting data: prospective customer interviews, market research, surveys, expert opinions, and even your own observations or hypotheses (although that starts to become more subjective).
  • Primary data: product usage and payment are the main two. Current customer interviews coming in third.

Needless to say, primary data will be the most compelling. There are a lot of hypotheses that logically make sense, but if the customer behavior doesn’t validate it; those opinions aren’t worth much.

Aim to respond to all 3 parts of this question in 4–5 sentences total.

Who are your competitors? What do you understand about your business that theydon’t?

First part: “Who are your competitors?”. Personally, I think of competitors in 3 categories:

  1. Large incumbents: major industry players who need to be disrupted.
  2. Old way of doing things, or fractional competitors that need to be “stitched together” to form a solution.
  3. Other startups: any startup that has gained market attention (or venture capital) that you’d consider directly competitive.

If you don’t have competitors in each of these categories, that’s fine, but the answer to this question should not be: “We have no competitors.”

Second part: “What do you understand about your business that they don’t?”. For each competitor, or competitor set, from the aforementioned; clarify where they’re missing the mark in best serving the market.

Keep your response to 3–5 sentences total.

How do or will you make money? How much could you make? (We realize you can’t know precisely, but give your best estimate.

First part: “How do or will you make money?”. This should be a 1 sentence recap of your answer to “Where does your revenue come from?”.

Second part: “How much could you make?” is effectively looking for a Total Addressable Market (TAM) calculation. Yes, a significant TAM is necessary for most venture scale startups, but the other purpose of this question is to gain insight into your thought process- so stay data driven.

Write out the TAM calculation in 1–2 sentences. The calculation should go something like this:

  1. Determine the total number of potential customers in your target market. (hint: Google and/or ChatGPT can help with this, make sure it’s good source data)
  2. Determine the average cost of your service per customer on an annual basis.
  3. Calculate the total addressable market: Multiply the total number of potential customers your business could have by the average cost of your service per customer on an annual basis.

TAM = total number of potential customers your business could have X average cost of your service per customer on an annual basis

There is no right or wrong answer to this question- it doesn’t matter if your TAM looks meager or massive, just share the data and the calculation behind it.

How do users find your product? How did you get the users you have now? If you run paid ads, what is your cost of acquisition?

This question will only appear if you select “Yes” to “Are people using your product?”

First part: “How do users find your product?”. List all your active user acquisition channels. Examples include direct sales, social media, paid ads, organic search, content, channel partners, etc. Do this in 1 sentence.

Second part: “How did you get the users you have now?”. This question can seem the same as the one just before it, but this is asking for the user acquisition data on your current user base. Optimal response would be numeric focused, and include detail such as “57% came from direct sales” or, for smaller numbers, “12 of the 21 clients came from direct sales”. Do this in 1 longer sentence.

Third part: “If you run paid ads, what is your cost of acquisition?”. If you haven’t calculated Cost of Customer Acquisition, this is how:

  1. Determine the time period: Decide on the time period you want to measure, for example, monthly, quarterly, or annually.
  2. Calculate the total cost of sales and marketing: Add up all the costs associated with your sales and marketing activities during that time period.
  3. Count the number of new customers: Determine how many new customers you acquired during that time period.
  4. Calculate the cost of customer acquisition: Divide the total cost of sales and marketing by the number of new customers acquired during the same time period.

CAC = Total cost of sales and marketing / Number of new customers acquired

For example, if you spent $5,000 on sales and marketing activities during a month and acquired 50 new customers during the same month, your CAC would be $100: CAC = $5,000 / 50 = $100.

State the CAC in 1 sentence, for a total response length of 3 sentences.

If you track metrics around user engagement and retention, what arethey?

(This question will only appear if you select “Yes” to “Are people using your product?”)

When I’m considering an angel investment, I often ask the question: “What are your customers’ “value associated behaviors” in your product and how do you measure them?” In this context, “value associated” means that when the user performs those behaviors, they are experiencing delight with the product.

Ideally you are measuring those key behaviors with product analytics software and can list your top 3 user engagement metrics and their current values in 1–2 sentences.

For retention, if you haven’t calculated it before; this is how:

  1. Determine a time period: Decide on the time period you want to measure, for example, monthly, quarterly, or annually.
  2. Count the number of users at the beginning of the period: This is the number of users who used your product or service during the previous period.
  3. Count the number of users at the end of the period: This is the number of users who returned to use your product or service during the current period.
  4. Calculate the retention rate: Divide the number of users at the end of the period by the number of users at the beginning of the period, then multiply by 100 to get the percentage.

Retention rate = (number of users at the end of the period / number of users at the beginning of the period) x 100

If you had 100 users at the beginning of the month and 50 of them returned during the month, your retention rate would be 50%: Retention rate = (50 / 100) x 100 = 50%

State the retention rate in 1 sentence, for a total response length of 2–3 sentences.

Where will most of your initial users belocated?

Self explanatory dropdown option. Choose the country where your initial users will be located, or the country you plan to target.

Which category best applies to yourcompany?

Self explanatory dropdown option. Choose the category that best applies from the dropdown.

Y Combinator Application Breakdown andGuide (8)

Equity Section

Have you formed ANY legal entityyet?

Yes or no question. Any legal entity counts, regardless of location. The application will adapt based on your response.

Please list all legal entities you have and in what state or country each was formed (e.g. Delaware C Corp, Mexican SAPI, Singapore Pvt Ltd,etc.).

List out all of the entities. Follow their instruction: “This might include subsidiary companies, legal entities you formed in other markets to do business, entities you created before a pivot, or legal entities you set up to employ developers or other service providers.”

Please describe the breakdown of the equity ownership in percentages among the founders, employees and any other stockholders. If there are multiple founders, be sure to give the equity ownership of each founder and founder title (e.g.CEO).

Think of the response like a 3 column table.

  • Column 1: Name of anyone with equity (stock) in the company
  • Column 2: Role in relation to the company (title or list as an investor)
  • Column 3: Percentage of ownership in the company

The response should be focused on those data. If something requires explanation, you can include 1–2 sentences clarifying.

If you have not formed the company yet, describe the planned equity ownership breakdown among the founders, employees and any other proposed stockholders. If there are multiple founders, be sure to give the proposed equity ownership of each founder and founder title (e.g.CEO).

YC notes “This question is as much for you as us.” because is an important consideration. If you haven’t determined this, take the time to do that now, and re-read the guidance from “Please provide some details of the cofounders in the startup.”

Other than that, the guidance here is the same as if you had already formed the company and assigned equity. Think of the response like a 3 column table. If something requires explanation, you can include 1–2 sentences clarifying.

Have you taken any investment yet?

Yes or no question. Any investment counts, regardless of amount. The application will adapt based on your response.

List any investments your company has received. Include the name of the investor, the amount invested, the premoney valuation / valuation cap, the type of security sold (convertible notes, safes or stock), and the investment date.

Think of the response as a 5 column table.

  • Column 1: Legal name of the investor or investment firm
  • Column 2: The dollar amount they invested in USD
  • Column 3: Valuation the investment was made at. Specify the nature of the valuation: pre money valuation (ie. priced round), valuation cap (ie. SAFE note), etc.
  • Column 4: the type of security sold. List the name of the vehicle (ie. convertible notes, safes or stock)
  • Column 5: the investment date. Month/day/year.

The response should be focused on those data. If something requires explanation, you can include 1–2 sentences clarifying.

How much money have you raised from investors in total in USDollars?

Numeric response. Total amount raised in USD.

How much money do you spend permonth?

Numeric response. Average monthly spend in USD. You can default to the average spend of the past 3 months.

How much money does your company have in the banknow?

Numeric response. Total amount in your company bank account(s) in USD.

How long is yourrunway?

Numeric response. Runway = Cash Balance / Monthly Burn Rate. You just input how much money your company has in the bank (Cash Balance) and how much you spend per month (Monthly Burn Rate). Divide the former by the latter, and you have your runway in months. If you have debt or you know there is a major capital expense coming up, subtract that from the “Cash Balance” part of the equation.

Are you currently fundraising?

Yes or no question. If you are pitching investors, taking calls with investors, or accepting investments, the answer is yes. If you’re not doing any of those things, the answer is no.

Please provide any relevant details about your current fundraise.

Consider these details as being particularly relevant:

  • When you started the fundraise.
  • How much you’re aiming to raise.
  • How much of that you’ve raised so far.
  • How admittance to YC would impact your current fundraising plans.

Try keeping your response to 2–4 sentences.

Y Combinator Application Breakdown andGuide (9)

Others Section

If you had any other ideas you considered applying with, please list them. One may be something we’ve been waiting for. Often when we fund people it’s to do something they list here and not in the main application.

I’ve been asked a few times if this is a trick question to test your loyalty to your mission; it isn’t. If you have other ideas you’re interested in or passionate about, list them here. Consider this format:

  • Idea in 50 characters or less.
  • 1 sentence that inspired or intrigued you toward this problem area.

Repeat for each idea. Each idea should be 2 sentences. Keep it to 3 additional ideas max.

Response should be 2–6 sentences.

Y Combinator Application Breakdown andGuide (10)

Curious Section

What convinced you to apply to Y Combinator? Did someone encourage you to apply? Have you been to any YCevents?

Part 1: State what inspired or convinced you to take the interest in applying in 1 sentence.

Part 2: If a person encouraged you to apply, name the person or list the people. Otherwise state, “No one encouraged me to apply.”

Part 3: If you attended a YC event, name the event or list the events. Otherwise state, “I have not been to a YC event.”

You can combine the last 2 points into 1 sentence if no one encouraged you to apply and you haven’t been to a YC event.

Response should be 2–3 sentences total.

How did you hear about Y Combinator?

They’re looking for the referral source. If it was word of mouth; name the person or people. If it was Paul Graham’s essays, HackerNews, YouTube, etc., name the source. 1–2 sentences max.

Key Take-aways

Brevity iskey.

If there is any opportunity to use less words, or less sentences; do so. Most responses should be either 1–3 sentences, or 3–5 sentences max. Why is this so important? YC gets about 20,000 applications per batch right now. Imagine you had to read 50 of these applications in 1 day. The applications that stand out are the ones that spare the partner the task of having to separate the data from the fluff.

Focus ondata.

YC partners look for facts and metrics. If there is any part of the app that feels like it’s “selling” or “pitching”, consider replacing it with facts and numbers. They don’t want to be pitched; they’re the ones who teach startups how to pitch. They just want the relevant data so they can make a decision.

Provide complete answers to the questions.

The application has questions that have an initial question and a follow up question, or two follow up questions. Address all questions, concisely.

Be honest.

To be clear: YC gets all kinds of applicants, and there isn’t a standard formula for what gets accepted or not. There are no wrong answers to YC’s application questions, except for dishonest ones. YC is serious about ethics. If you knowingly misstate or withhold requested information, that’s one way to get disqualified or even kicked out post-acceptance. If you find yourself “smoothing” or BS-ing a question; don’t. The partners have reviewed hundreds if not thousands of applications, and can spot it a mile away. Stick to the facts.

Worth noting

YC applications and interviews can be stressful. The acceptance rate is really low- about 1.5% — 2%. I think that some founders can get this perception that if they can just get into YC, they’ve made it, and if they don’t, their startup isn’t great. Neither of those things are even remotely true.

YC rejects many founders that they eventually accept; so keep working on your startup and applying. Consider this:

  • Shogun first applied to YC for the Winter 2015 batch and was rejected.
  • Shogun applied again in 2015 to a more junior YC program (the discontinued YC Fellowship program), and we were rejected again.
  • We then bootstrapped Shogun to about $500,000 and applied for a 3rd time, and were accepted to the Winter 2018 batch.

If you’re intimidated by the process, don’t be. Treat the YC application like any other task you'd do to support your startup. Get it done, and get back to talking to customers and building product.

I hope this was helpful.

Y Combinator Application Breakdown and Guide (2024)

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