Handbook for Applying to Y Combinator

Chapter 2: The YC Admissions Process


September 2020

last updated:

June 2021
Photo by Suzanne D. Williams.

One of the cool things about YC is that anyone in the world can go to ycombinator.com and apply in a matter of hours — no need to ‘have an in’ or fancy recommendations. The process itself is very straightforward, and meant to let you focus on what actually matters: building a great company.

📋 Stages of the Admissions Process

Stage Zero: Something People Want

The bare minimum to apply is a team and an idea, meaning you have identified a problem you want to solve, a possible solution, and the founding team to do so. Beyond this, you don’t really need specific metrics to apply to YC, all that matters is that you’re moving as fast as possible towards that solution every single day.

Stage One: Online Application

The first stage is an online application, which consists of two written questionnaires (one as a team, and one each founder as an individual), and a 1-minute team video. Chapter 3 is focussed on advice for this stage.

Stage Two: Partners Interview

The second and final stage of the YC Admissions process is the Partners Interview. This is not a pitch or a demo, but an intense 10-minute conversation between the founders and a panel of around four YC partners. Sometimes partners request a follow-up interviews to make a decision. Chapter 4 is focussed on advice for this stage.

🧗 Admissions Funnel

As of 2020, around 15,000 companies apply every batch. Out of these, about 1 in 10 advances to the Partners Interview stage. Of these, a bit less than 1 in 5 companies gets admitted. Overall, ~1.6% of companies that apply every batch get admitted (source).

YC funnel as of September 2020.

🧠 Keep in mind

Don’t let the odds scare you

YC partners are known to say that the number one reason startups don’t get into YC is because they don’t apply. As I already mentioned, thoughtful and clear applications have a significantly higher chance of getting in than the average ~1.6% acceptance rate. Don’t let that number discourage you, you’ll face slimmer odds in your path to having a successful startup.

You can try many times

You can apply to YC as many times as you want. Even if you don’t get accepted, partners will give you valuable feedback, and encourage you to apply again next batch if you address it. In fact, up to 40% of admitted companies every batch apply more than once.

You’ll learn from the process

The process is designed to force you to face important questions about your team, idea, market, and more. Even if you don’t get in, or aren’t interested in participating, going through the YC Admissions Process always yields important insights for the company.

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