What you’ll get out of Y Combinator’s Startup School

5 min read
What you’ll get out of Y Combinator’s Startup School

We just completed the inaugural batch of Y Combinator’s Startup School for our startup Canny. It was a blast, and we learned a ton.

For those of you thinking about doing the next batch, we’d love to share our experience with you. We also have ideas for how YC could do even better.

The Program

The founder track had 3,000 companies from 141 countries. This was split into 94 groups. Each group got the pleasure to work with a YC alumni mentor — someone who has founded a YC startup in the past.

We were part of group 18 and our mentor was Boris Jabes, founder of Meldium and all around awesome guy 😍.

Office Hours

Our group had office hours on a weekly basis. Since founders were from all over the world, these were held in a group video chat. Each company spent 5–10 minutes asking for advice on our hardest problems. Boris gave most of the advice, but it wasn’t uncommon for other founders to chime in too.

YC Startup School Office Hours
Boris laying down some wisdom

Video Lessons

A new lesson was released on YouTube every week. Here’s a list of them all, in the order they came out:

These videos are incredible. They’ve managed to pack decades of the best startup advice into 15 hours. Delivered from some of the biggest names in tech. For free. Stop reading this and go watch them instead! 😉

Weekly Metrics

Every Tuesday we had to submit our updated metrics, including week over week growth. This held us accountable.

If they went down, it sucked and motivated us to do better. If they went up, it gave us a reason to celebrate.

Obviously every startup should do this anyway. But like A/B testing, it probably doesn’t happen as much as it should.

Networking

We got the pleasure to meet some inspiring founders, like John Saddington. He’s been blogging for 16 years and had so much to teach us about producing content. He’s also a productivity master—raising two daughters and starting a company, all while vlogging every day.

Here’s John’s video from the day he met Sarah:

Having a great network is like steroids for your startup. It makes it easier to do sales, marketing, recruiting, fundraising, and more. This is mostly because people are so much more willing to meet with you if someone they know introduces you.

Startup School was filled with smart, motivated people. We’re lucky to have gotten to know some of them. 🙂

Live Office Hours

YC ran three sessions of “Live Office Hours”, where they had YC partners give founders advice. These were recorded and posted publicly to YouTube. (sessions onetwo, and three)

Sarah and I were very lucky to be one of the nine startups who were interviewed. The partners who interviewed us were Yuri Sagalov and Sam Altman. Not only did we get one-on-one time with tremendous people, over ten thousand people watched it.

For months after this video was posted, our Intercom was filled with messages like this:

This is from someone who is now a paying customer! Doing live office hours turned out to be great inbound marketing for us, particularly because we sell to startups.

Only 9 out of 3,000 startups got the opportunity to do live office hours, so we were really lucky 😊. Other startups will still get some inbound / awareness from the presentation videos.

Feedback for YC

This was the first batch of Startup School. The first time is never perfect, but it went pretty well. We have some ideas for how they could do it even better next time.

We wish we were grouped with other companies in our space (B2B/SaaS).
It seemed like the groups were arranged randomly. Our group had companies working on AI, VR, education, energy, and much more. While the diversity was cool and interesting, it didn’t always feel like the best use of our time.

The metrics form was confusing.
The form isn’t accessible anymore, otherwise we’d include a screenshot. It was unclear whether we were supposed to submit the total metric, or the weekly change. We filled out the wrong thing multiple times. Adding an example, or doing a content pass, would be appreciated.

Having over twenty people in a video chat was insane.
Each team got 5 minutes to talk to Boris while the rest of us listened. We didn’t even get to talk because time went over. It was low value and a bad first impression.

YC Startup School Office Hours
Our first weekly office hours

After week one, a few teams dropped off and we split into two separate calls (one morning, one evening). We ended up with about 6 people per chat, which felt a lot better. Ideally, it’d be this way from the start.

Since the experience got better by week two, we’re confident the next cohort will be a breeze.

Thanks!

Huge thanks to Group 18, Boris Jabes, and Y Combinator. We’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Andrew Rasmussen

Hi, I'm a co-founder of Canny. Before that, I was a software engineer at Facebook. I love JavaScript, rock climbing, trading tech stocks, and SaaS.

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