Will 1,000 company batches kill Y Combinator?

Note: The following content was written by me and was originally posted on Friday, Dec 10, 2021 to a private, members-only social network that is not available to the general public. The post received a very high amount of views and engagement, so I am reposting it here with a few minor edits.

A recent article in TechCrunch was lamenting (ranting?) that YC batches (“batches” is the term YC uses for its summer and winter cohorts, e.g. Summer 2021, Winter 2022, etc.) have gotten too big with the author ultimately concluding that this feels like “the beginning of the end of [YC].”

The author said as a founder, he would “question whether it’s worthwhile to be a part of a 1,000-strong cohort.”

“Will the Y Combinator badge of honor help you get a meeting with an investor?”

“Will it help you get bumped to the top of a journalist’s email inbox?

“Or will it simply cease to be valuable as a filter to the outside world, and drastically reduce the value of having been a Y Combinator alum in the first place?”

The author is missing the point.

I once heard someone describe YC as “The ‘Harvard’ of startup accelerators” which is catchy, but ultimately wrong.

Harvard is a luxury product. Harvard could easily expand enrollment of its freshman class many times over without sacrificing quality, but it won’t because its value is derived in part to its exclusivity.

YC has done the opposite. YC’s first batch had 10 companies. That increased to over 100 companies ten years later. My batch (S18) had 132 companies. The most recent S21 batch had 377 companies!

In my view, YC was never intended to be a filter or signaling device (though many inevitably treat it as one) to make fundraising and other aspects of the startup journey “easier.”

Startups are a source for tremendous good in the world and YC exists to help the world have more startups by helping founders start them.

So, not only is having 1,000 company batches a good thing, but it remains true to YC’s purpose!

That is not to say there will not be challenges with having larger batches, but I am confident that YC will be able to eventually solve them.

As a founder, starting a company is hard. Quite possibly the hardest thing one will do in their professional life. Everyone who has gone through the journey before intuitively understands this, but there are plenty of aspiring founders who do not fully appreciate this fact.

There is a quite a vast distance between the moment that one decides to start a company and the moment that one actually sees it get off the ground. Unfortunately, the reality of startup life is that the journey across this distance (and beyond) can often be emotionally brutal; rife with feelings of intense loneliness which have to be balanced against a massive faith in what you are doing – a faith that is hard to sustain alone. I truly can think of no other partner I would want more than YC in embarking on such a journey.

1 Comment »

  1. Kihyon Sohn

    March 24, 2022 @ 3:58 pm

    1

    Thanks for the great post.
    Startups are one of the adventures we can take in our life. However, not all can turn it into reality. Starting anything requires courage, strong will, endurance, etc. There would be harsher roads ahead. People with strong will could withstand it and make it their own reality.

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