Product Hunt Radio

The evolution of Y Combinator and counterintuitive advice for founders

Oct. 3, 2018

In this episode of Product Hunt Radio, I'm visiting Y Combinator's San Francisco headquarters to talk to two of the people who are integral to Y Combinator — Kat Manalac and Michael Seibel.

Kat is a Partner at Y Combinator and one of the people that convinced us to apply to join the program back in 2014. She's been at YC for five years, focusing on founder outreach, company pitch perfection, and much much more.. Prior to joining YC, she was Chief of Staff to Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian and also worked on brand and strategy at WIRED.

Michael is CEO of Y Combinator's accelerator program. He has been through YC himself a couple of times — first in 2007, as co-founder and CEO of Justin.tv — and again in 2012 as co-founder and CEO of Socialcam. Justin.tv later became Twitch and sold to Amazon, and Socialcam was sold to Autodesk.

In this episode we talk about:

  • The evolution of Y Combinator. It's changed a ton since Product Hunt went through the program four years ago. They've been working on several programs for founders — things that Michael wishes existed when he went through the program.
  • Michael and Kat's advice for founders, including counterintuitive tips they've learned after working with literally *thousands *of startups.
  • A key mistake that trips up new founders when pitching their company, as well as advice for founders seeking a technical co-founder.
  • How YC has scaled the organization as a 50-person company with its 4,000 (and growing) alumni.

Of course, we also chat about some of their favorite products, including a virtual assistant that will do anything, a $1,500 smart mirror that will get you fit, and a beverage that will get you high.

We’ll be back next week so be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Breaker, Overcast, or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts. Also, big thanks to our sponsors, Airtable, GE Ventures, Intercom and Stripe for their support. 😸

Quotes from This Episode

"80% of the pitch is to tell me what you do and 20% is to tell me why it's good." — Michael

"[When pitching] it is always best to start [by answering] one line: 'what do you actually do'?" — Kat

“The goal is always to make sure that people who are smart and want to build things have the opportunity to get funding and startup advice no matter who they know or where they come from." — Michael

"I think that a lot of people try to hustle around having a technical co-founder, which is possible, but I don’t think they realize how hard it is to hustle around that, [and if they did] I think they would just hustle to get a technical co-founder." — Michael

"Instead of pitching your tech friends on whatever your solution to that problem is, instead pitch your friends on how important that problem is." — Michael

"I recommend talking to as many people as possible about your idea because you never know who is going to be excited about it, or who might be interested in being an early investor, or who might want to join the team." — Kat

"You’ve got to get it out and into the hands of users, otherwise how do you know that they actually want what you’re building." — Michael

"It takes a special personality I think [to be a startup founder] — that you wouldn’t want to do anything else — that you couldn’t maybe. A lot of startup founders I know would be terrible employees." — Michael

Companies and Products Mentioned in This Episode

Bitwise — The world's first cryptocurrency index fund.

California Dreamin' — Cannabis infused sodas.

DearBrightly— Personalized prescription skincare products.

Fin — Virtual assistant service.

Gixo — Live fitness classes wherever you are.

JUMP — Electrified, dockless bike rentals.

Magic — Get whatever you want on demand with no hassle, through SMS.

Mirror — The mirror that's also an interactive home gym.

Nanit Baby Monitor — Smart baby monitor that tracks sleep using computer vision.

Peloton — World class indoor cycling experience wherever you are.

Remix — The platform for designing your city’s transportation future.

Robinhood — $0 commission stock brokerage.

Station.io — One app to rule them all.

STEEZY — Online dance classes with the world's best instructors.

Titan — Built like a hedge fund.

Tonal — Machine learning digital gym + personal training built in.

Twindog — Find other dogs and their owners around you.

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