How to Get Into Y Combinator? (YC Application Guide for Startups)


Getting into Y Combinator is the dream of many startup founders and this is due to the fact that YC is one of the best startup accelerators in the world.

If you are looking for capital for your startup, you need world-class mentorship and a network of great talents and business founders, then YC is definitely. 

This is not the only reason you may want to get into the YC startup accelerator program, but the fact that they give more cash for low equity is a big deal.

Oh, if you are new to all these startups of a thing, you may not understand what is YCombinator or what they do. Let’s quickly talk about what YC is;

What is Y Combinator?

Y Combinator or simply “YC” is a startup accelerator launched in March 2005. Ever since then, the superstar accelerator has over 3,000 strong companies in its portfolio. Y Combinator startups include the likes of Stripe, Twitch, Reddit, and many others including the biggest startups in Africa like Flutterwave.

YC: Y Combinator Startup Application

YC started its accelerator program in Boston and Mountain View before it expanded to San Francisco in 2019, and the program has been entirely remote since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Who can apply to YC?

Him, she, they, you, and anybody with a good and working business idea. It doesn’t matter your skin color or where you live, anybody can apply to Y Combinator.

Why should I apply to YC?

If you have a crazy idea but would like some cash, experienced mentors and to join the network of great and successful entrepreneurs, Y Combinator will give you all the opportunities in one.

They (YCs) know that most applicants are first-time entrepreneurs, the whole process is very simple and made to favor you.

  • Aside from that, once your application is accepted, YC will give you $125k for 7% equity of your startup to start building your idea to the point you are ready for a more significant scaling.

You are not losing anything, they are risky $125k for just 7% equity, that’s a lot of money and sacrifice.

  • You also participate in a 3-months program where you meet with other companies. The program creates a competitive environment that will motivate you to create the best product. It ends with a demo day where you present your products to investors to try and raise more money for your startup

NOTE: YC doesn’t entirely end after three months, only the formal parts do. They continue to give advice and introductions for as long as the startups need. 

  • The reputation speaks! Y Combinator is the biggest and most successful startup accelerator as at the time of writing this blog post. They have a lot of Unicorns in their portfolio and have generated over $300 billion.

You don’t have to Network to meet founders or have a series of meetings and lengthy conversations behind long desks giving detailed financial plans. YC summarizes everything into a detailed application on their website that anyone can fill out. They decide who they fund based on just a ten minutes interview.

When should I apply to YC? 

There’s no wrong time for your startup to apply to YC. This means you can neither be too early nor too late. Your company can not be too early. Any idea you have about the time you should apply is a roadblock that you are setting for yourself. 

You don’t need to have a particular amount of stuff before you feel like you’re ready. Even if your startup hasn’t launched, apply, according to YC;  “you don’t have anything to lose”.

In the same light, you cannot be too late to apply to YC. A lot of companies apply after raising money, hiring employees, and launching.

The only thing that should stop you is if you’re not planning on developing your company. If you don’t have plans for your company, then you definitely should not apply. YC is not ready to invest in your side hustle. You must be ready to put in your all or you shouldn’t apply at all.

Requirements for YC’s Application? 

The requirements are so simple, have a good team, a good idea that creates value, and a billion-dollar market.

Oh, that sounds too easy. But let me break it down more

Your team should consist of the right set of people that cannot only work with you but also believe in your idea. The team should be consistent. You shouldn’t have a co-founder that has doubts about your idea or the company.

They are investing in the people behind the idea, if the people are not capable, then the idea won’t fly out.

Y Combinator really like a startup that follows ensure the following;

  • You MUST have a person with technical background on your team
  • Each of your co-founders MUST have at least 10% equity
  • All the co-founders MUST fill out the application form: the CEO will fill the main form, while you will add your co-founder’s email during the filling process and YC will send them what to fill.

If you don’t have a co-founder and you need one, YC has something for people like you. Simply sign up for an account and enable “matching” on your profile, you will start to see people who match up with your idea or the type of co-founder you may need.

Lastly, if your idea is not a billion-dollar idea, it will be tough, it has to be big, that is what they need, not a side-hustle.

So, What Makes a Good YC Application? 

So many people don’t even get selected for the interview due to many misconceptions about how your application should look. Still, you’re going to see that writing a YC application is not rocket science.

The following are the few steps to writing a successful YC application:

  • Attend the Y Combinator Startup School

This is not necessary at all, but then I think it should be the first thing to do especially if you are a first-time founder of a startup. The school is totally FREE and you will from big entrepreneurs. They will teach you what you need to know right from the start to the time when to apply for funding.

The school is different from the 3-months program when you are accepted, the school is before you even apply. And you may decide not to apply to YC and still attend the school.

Oh, lest I forget, the school is currently 100% online. 

If you don’t have the time to keep up with the school, you watch the videos on YC’s YouTube channel.

  • Your application should be fully filled out

Don’t leave stones unturned in your application. Make sure you fill in every possible question asked. They are not hard 

You’re not filling out a college application of course but attention should be given to grammar, spelling, and punctuation.  Understand that someone will actually read it. 

  • Founders’ video

Instructions given concerning the video are expected to be followed. The video is expected to be one minute long. You don’t need to make a movie out of it in an attempt to seek attention or do something extra.

Someone will watch the video, don’t make it complicated for that person, just a minute video of the founders introducing each other, and do not read any script! Be natural, do the video as if you are shooting a random WhatsApp video call.

All the founders should be in the founders’ video. It’s an opportunity for YC to know your team. The video shouldn’t be done by just one person or some of the members. 

Members of the team not being on the video are already showing that your team isn’t taking the company seriously and you don’t want whoever is watching it to think that. 

A quick question;

What if I and my co-founders are living very far from each other?

YC knows that this will happen in most cases, that is they allow founders to send any video they like as long all the co-founders are there.

What you can simply do is use a teleconferencing app like Zoom, Google hangout, or Meet to do the video. Start a meeting for all the founders and screen record but ensure everybody can be seen and audible.

  • Clarity of thought

What you are saying should be clear and audible enough, don’t imitate any tongue but be yourself. Y Combinator has never said they find it difficult to understand what a Nigerian was saying.

Also, your expressions should be very lucid. Remember you can’t convince someone if they can’t understand what you’re saying and besides it’s an application, not a novel.

In answering the questions, economize your words as much as possible and don’t write something too long. Don’t let your reader get bored in the process. A few sentences that contain the main ideas are better than pages and pages and you can’t make a head or tail out of it.

Note: Do not use technical words thinking that you will use that to entice them or make them feel you are brilliant enough to execute your idea, be simple, natural, and straightforward.

  • Clarity of idea

 Your application should be clear about who and what you are doing. Don’t try to obfuscate the whole idea. You should very well explain what you’re building, who’s building the product, how it works if you’ve launched, and basic things like that. You shouldn’t try to hide anything about your idea.

Here are some tips:

  • Summarize what you are building in a simple word, not more than 50 characters. This is not easy as you have a lot of things on your head, but try to. A good head up is to reference your startup idea to a popular company, E.g Homesilo is a Zillow for Africa, or if you can find anything catching without referencing.
  • The YC Interview

The interview is ten minutes long. The questions are basic questions to know more about your business.

Steps to prepare for the Y Combinator’s Interview:

  • Don’t think too long about the questions: In preparing for the interview instead of planning your answers to every question, you should focus more on developing your product before the interview.

This will help you answer any questions about your product better. It’s not really good for your listeners to detect a kind of memorized speech in what you’re saying. You don’t expect anyone to invest in your business if you can’t freely talk about it without a rehearsal.

  •  Don’t try to be exciting: You shouldn’t try to just dazzle your listeners instead just focus on answering the questions, you are not in an audition.
  • Be concise: Remember that you have just ten minutes for the interview so you have to make sure that your listeners can get everything they need. You are supposed to tell what you’re doing, how you’re doing it, and how it will solve a problem to make it thrive in the market.

Don’t try to be all fancy in your expressions.

  • Talk about numbers, not just theories and hopes: It’s important to talk about the statistics, the problems you might face, and how you plan to handle them. How much have you made, plan to make, or how many people have joined your waitlist? 
  • Don’t be over confidence: In the interview don’t be too confident that everything will work out the way it should because that denotes a lack of self-awareness. Your interviewers understand that it’s a business and it’s risky.

You should show that you understand that and you’re ready to do your best. 

Telling them you will make $1bn in the first two years is still part of overconfidence, simply learn how to use words like “estimate”, “can”, “may” etc.

For tailored tips, I advise you to find yourself mentors or you can reach out to people who have applied to Y Combinator or any startup accelerator, and ask them to give you some tips, they will be glad to.

What happens if you’re not accepted into Y Combinator? 

If you do not get in, Y Combinator will send an email with feedback. The feedback contains the things YC is concerned about. It’s important to take the feedback into consideration and this will help you when reapplying. 

Thousand of startups with crazy ideas and some with tractions are applying to get into Y Combinator which they can only pick a few hundred. So, it’s okay to not get accepted the first time. The good news is you can totally reapply. It is important to show progress from your first application to the second one. 

The skills you need for a successful interview are what you need to be a successful founder. 

Just remember to be yourself in your application and interview. Don’t try to be weird or extreme and you would most likely make it to YC. And if you don’t, it’s perfectly okay to try again. 

You’ve got nothing to lose, just apply!

To get started, go to and you are good to go.

DISCLAIMER: This post should be taken as a piece of online information telling you what you can do, and should not be consumed to replace Y Combinator’s policy and guidelines. 

Are you building a startup that you would like us to talk about here on kindly send us a message via hello[at]

Stephen Gbolagade
Stephen Gbolagade
Stephen is a Frontend engineer, technical writer, owner and part-time blogger here at Gbolamedia, incoming data scientist, an enthusiastic cynophilist, and a curious introvert. Stephen is currently available for full-time, part-time or contract-base role. Contact him here: on WhatsApp or check him on Linkedin


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