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Last Minute Y Combinator Application Guide - Apply in 30 Minutes

Posted by Gleb Arshinov on October 21, 2013

Strangely enough, a lot of the most successful startups we've funded applied at the last minute.
-- pg

YC applications are due later today. Which means that if you've considered applying, now is a great time to start working on it.

Sure, applying earlier is better, and spending more time on your application can help. But the fancy application matters vastly less than your prior accomplishments and your startup's traction. And those cards are dealt already.

Bottom line is that you will either get in or not. Your chances with a MVP application are not much worse than with the perfect one. And one thing is certain - your chances of getting in are rather improved if you apply.

To help you out here's my guide to filling out your YC application in 30 minutes. You don't have a lot of time left to spend reading guides, I'll keep it short and simple.


You got 3 ways to get the interview. Traction is the only deterministic one. That's because a company with traction is a sure thing. And investors like sure things.

In YC application traction is the "How far along are you? Do you have a beta yet? etc. etc." question.

Now - building products, getting users, making money and growth - that's hard. But reporting on this takes only 5 minutes.

Also keep in mind - sure it's ideal if you are doing $500k/month and growing at 20% a week. But having any progress - code, private beta, etc. - is infinitely better than having the idea alone.

Don't overthink this. This is one question people have real easy time answering. Probably because the question itself is factual and fill-in-the-blank detailed.

So, answer this first.


They say that past performance does not guarantee future results.

That's true but not helpful for investing. Other than traction using founders' prior accomplishments is the next best way an investor can judge a company.

Now - this is less deterministic than traction. But as a very early stage investor, YC doesn't usually have the luxury of relying on traction. And YC is really good at judging founders. The best in the early stage investing by a long shot. You just got to help them out a bit.

The question that matters the most here is: "Please tell us in one or two sentences about the most impressive thing other than this startup that each founder has built or achieved."

Somehow many people screw this one up, and put up something trivial. A good trick to get a better answer is to rephrase the question: "I've never achieved anything more impressive in my life than the following ..."

Unsure what makes achievement impressive for YC? Check out my post on that here.

Idea / what are you going to make

And now we are down to the least likely thing to get you in - the idea. "What is your company going to make?"

Here's a problem with relying on the strength of the idea to get in - it's just not a very useful signal.

That's because:

And here's a bigger problem:

So you should have exactly one goal when answering this question - make yourself understood.

Use 4th grade English. Short sentences. Simple words. Keep it short. Just explain what it does. Get get rid of all the adjectives. See more suggestions here towards the end of the post.

Wrap up

Now go answer the factual questions. And the rest of them top to bottom, as the time allows. You are done!

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