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Those who have experienced Y Combinator or other accelerators, what was your experience like?

What was your experience like, or what is it like now within Y Combinator. If you’re part of another accelerator the same questions applies. How did you find out about the accelerator and what was it like getting accepted? How much would you say the accelerator helped? What were the most noticeable benefits of the accelerator? Would you do things differently? I would love to read your experiences.



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9 replies on “Those who have experienced Y Combinator or other accelerators, what was your experience like?”

Just finishing up YC W20 batch. Incredible program, incredible network, awesome experience. Prior to this I took part in a few small accelerators in LA while consulting for startups.

I think the thing most people misunderstand about accelerators is that they’re not meant to be your magic key to success. They give you access to resources (feedback, knowledge, investor networks, etc), but you have to put in the work yourself and make the right decisions, manage relationships, sell your story, etc to see your company succeed.

The staff aren’t meant to, and shouldn’t IMO, hold your hand. If that’s what you want, you shouldn’t be a founder. Being a founder to me means paving the way forward, taking risks and making the hard decisions when there’s uncertainty ahead.

What you get is an environment with tons of people working incredibly hard and thinking about many of the same high level problems, which is incredibly helpful.

One thing I loved is on my first day, Michael (current YC CEO) was welcoming everyone and in his opening speech he told us all to call everyone we know and tell them to leave us alone for the next 3 months. I think most accelerators are great for this because they give you an excuse and an environment to just be heads down for a while and focus on your business. I’ve worked on dozens of startups (previously ran a software dev agency) and have never experienced the amount of growth in such a short time as while taking part in an accelerator.

The feedback & workshops given on various topics from fundraising to hiring are suuuper helpful as well. The partners at YC are incredibly candid and will outright tell you if you’re doing stupid shit, which is great because it’s hard to find such candid feedback from people that know what they’re talking about and willing to give it to you.

Lots of perks in being in certain networks as well. YC’s particular network’s perks range from credits with major tech companies (AWS, Stripe, etc), super helpful alumni network, huge inbound funnel from investors, office space, and more. The credits have made it so running our tech is essentially free for the first one or two years so our only real costs are office space and salaries.

Finally, one thing I’ve particularly enjoyed is the association with notable accelerators. The last few months I’ve noticed every time I go to an event, people will introduce me as “X from YC” or mention that I’m in the program in an opening sentence, and there’s always some astonishment / awe lol. I think what it is is that with the difficulty of getting in, people just assume you’re some kind of genius / working on something important. I’ve noticed people have taken me a lot more seriously / given me the benefit of the doubt I hadn’t experienced prior to this, this including personal relationships to investors. I’m still the same idiot though 🙃

Would highly recommend applying to one, whether YC or elsewhere.

We went through **Y Combinator** *(Winter 16, Now we are one of YC’s Top 100 Startup)* and **Techstars** *(London Summer 14)*, both were the most renowned tech accelerated in the U.S.

We pivoted our business model from B2C into B2B in 2015. Hence, it was our B2C, Mom’s online community when we applied for Techstars while it was with B2B, Chat API to be admitted to YC in 2016. Key questions, we were asked at YC’s final interview was “Does this team have an ability to solve the problem their customer’s face?”, other questions were relatively simple – you can find at other internet resources: [Founder’s Guide to the Y Combinator Interview](https://www.atrium.co/blog/yc-interview-guide/)

Techstars had a very well organized curriculum, programs helped founders to understand basics to advance knowledge of running a startup. On the contrary, YC is different. They will assign you partners with the industry expertise of where your product plays, and it’s your discretion to gain as many benefits of using their time as it allows.

Bigger perks begin the moment when you graduate from the program. YC has great branding, alumni network, and available resources so you can use it for PR, Hiring or even fundraising situations.

I don’t know what to continue here – I may wait and see if you have any questions regarding my experiences.

We were a part of YC W18. I’ve been a CEO for 25 years and this is my 4th startup with the same senior management team, so when we applied many of my peers wondered why — what could we learn from an accelerator?

Short answer is: we learned A LOT. Far more than I would have expected. On day 1 of our orientation they told us that the next three months would be among the most intense of our lives, and that we should all strive to be the “James Bond” version of ourselves. As corny as that sounded at the time, you know what? It worked.

YC is not only great to help you grow as a business and as an executive, it is an unstoppable, amazingly powerful fundraising *machine*.

And here I am. Gonna lay the pain out. Accelerators are great. Went through Mach37 in 2014. Cybersecurity Accelerator in Herndon, VA. State backed, awesome teaching, learned amazing amounts. I call it my Entrepreneurial MBA. I cannot say enough nice things about the education I got.

I can sure as hell say that Accelerators in general are crap. But let me explain. 🙂

1. Throwing birds out of the nest – You get 3 months, or 5 months, or whatever, of training, learning, amazing knowledge. (Again, not shitting on this, it’s awesome). It’s an every day, work the pitch, learn this skill, read this book, revamp your pitch, oh yeah, work on your product. Then? Bye! They throw you over a cliff, and see who flies. Or they throw you all at the wall, and see who sticks to it. “But dude, you got money, education, and some seriously smart people’s time!!” I did! But I also was away from my family for 3 months, spent most of the money given on rent and people and expenses, and wasn’t working to make money for, I don’t know, my mortgage and food for my family during that time. And then, you’re on your own, and you better make sales!!! NAOW!!!!!!
2. Lack of path to further funding – You get an initial investment, and then when you’re done, there’s demo day! Where no one gets funded! (I mean, it happens, but it’s RARE!) So where do you go? I mean, I’m busy making sales! Oops, go pitch more angel groups, who are looking for high-reward, short time ROI, with low risk. (Ha). Where’s the relationships with angels/institutionals/investment groups? Hmmmmm.
3. Bursty approach – Bear with me, weird title, but I can’t think of a better one. If I thought accelerators had a better path to success, I’d be much more happy with them. It’s a “cut off your life to be a pot of spaghetti”, rather than a stepped approach. If I was able to get educated before I had to leave my job, maybe I’d decide it wasn’t for me. Maybe I’d be incentivised to be better. Maybe I could get my product done before I went in, or something, so I’m not doing 40 things at once.

So you don’t think I’m spoiled grapes here, I closed my first startup, and I’m in my 3rd now. We’re doing a product, and just had an investor meeting, and it’s going fantastic! And the knowledge I gained from Mach37 is still useful. Amazingly so! But the process? That’s a pile of crap. My $.02

YC is a unique place full of bright people attempting hard things. It is one of the few places where I felt that I had found a tribe that I belonged to. YC will push you to see if your business model is real (can you get growth or money NOW) and it vastly improves the fundability of your company.

Of course, it’s not magic. Some YC companies fail, some succeed. You come to value the community.

If I regret anything from my YC days, it’s not listening more closely to grasp what they were telling us. There are some things that we had to learn through mistakes. And I suspect that this is common. Therefore being able to take advice over experience (from the right people) might be a kind of superpower.

I went through a Techstars copycat in a smaller market back in 2011, so this may still be relevant if you’re in a smaller city:

Lots of hype, pretty poor outcomes, but it was still a very good experience for us, because we had no idea what we were doing, and the mentors did teach us how to present our idea in the language angel groups understand, and to ruthlessly question our business model until we had something more solid and pared-down.

We had a workspace, regular lunches and mentoring sessions, and a gaggle of contacts from support services (accounting, legal, etc) who would meet with us and give advice. We had a weekly pitch clinic and a demo day at the end. Three months after demo day, 70% of us were closed down; we raised a small round along with winnings from a pitch competition, and limped along for awhile on that; one startup was acquired quickly for its engineers, and a third actually raised a full round and went on to be successful.

Looking back, the accelerator founders of the fund were a mixed bag, and I got the sense they were cruising for good deals themselves. I spoke to a few founders from past cohorts and they had some nightmare experiences with toxic accelerator founders who aggressively pitched them on unfavorable investment terms and expensive “mentoring” services. Then they started making bizarre demands of the executive team.

I would say look at the ventures that come out of a program, and grab coffee with a few of them. You’ll learn quite a bit. Do your best not to raise money from people who are going to be toxic – you’ll initially think that raising a few hundred thousand dollars will solve all your problems, but you need to have a solid plan for how you will use the money, and be careful who you raise it from (if you have the luxury)

Hey—great questions! I’m part of an accelerator in my local community called The Forge. It’s an 8-month program with free office space, funding, mentorship, blah blah blah. They make you fill out these “founder surveys” every couple months to find out what we think of the program, and I always write the same thing: **The best part is the community.** Running a startup can be a very lonely game—especially if you’re a solo founder like myself—so finding out there were other people facing the same challenges was a HUGE revelation.

I should note, however: Like some other people mentioned, the value of the accelerator will largely depend on what **YOU** (and your team) put into it. Some founders rarely, if ever, show up to the office and attend the workshops. For the founders that already have an office elsewhere, fine. But for the founders who just don’t show up, I do not respect them as real CEOs. An accelerator provides you with an amazing reservoir of advice and resources—like free cloud credits, food, and office space—and the onus is on you to leverage that insofar as you are able. If you get in for the “clout” factor and not because you’re truly trying to build out a successful company, do all the founders a favour and DON’T APPLY. Just my two cents. 😉

Funny story: They actually rejected my application initially. After being extremely disappointed for a couple days, I emailed the manager explaining why they should have accepted me, and BAM, they changed their mind and let me in. Goes to show persistence matters, whether you’re applying for an accelerator or running a startup in general. This is my third time applying to YC, and I still have a strong feeling I won’t make it to interviews, but you gotta keep trying. Hope this helps!

In Pioneer’s accelerator right now with [https://shopdeft.com](https://shopdeft.com) – Amazon 2.0

**How we found out about it** – Its pretty much the only reputable remote accelerator I’ve seen. Founded by YC alumni.

**Getting accepted -** Their application process is essentially a game/leaderboard. You participate each week giving status updates, etc. If your project looks promising and is ranked highly enough, you can win the tournament and become a Pioneer. We put a lot of thought into our status updates and really focused on iterating our product quickly to make the cut.

**How much has it helped** – We’re still in the early stages, but the connections and community have been invaluable. For the business specifically – significant spikes in traffic, PR opportunities, qualified access to investment, savings on tech subscriptions.

**Would you do things differently?** – Nope! Given the current state of things and YC/500 potentially postponing their batches, we’re pretty happy with the outcome. Being a part of a global network of entrepreneurs is very inspiring and the hit to equity was far less than the benefit in my opinion.

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