A Glimpse of My YC Experience
I wrote this 8 months ago as we we’re finishing up the S15 Y-Combinator batch. I didn’t publish it at the time and came across it recently. It gave me a chuckle in our current struggles. Hopefully, it gives feel goods to other founders, especially for the W16 batch as it nears the end!
August 3rd, 2015 (S15 Batch)
At the final YC dinner, I smiled most hearing one partner give his final words of advice. “Being successful doesn’t make you any happier. I’m more ‘successful’ than all of you and no happier than any one of you,” said Justin Kan. It’s kind of screwed up advice taken at face value. Startup life meant spending months working 90-hour weeks; success requires ideally another 5 to 7 years of blood, sweat, and tears. It’s twisted to hear the founder of startup acquired for $1 billion dollars tell you that even if you succeed, you still won’t be any happier.
YC was probably the most painful 3 months I’ve ever experienced. But, most, if not all, of that pain was self-imposed. Everyone who gets into YC recognizes the opportunity they’ve been given, and to the furthest extent, you try to take advantage of it as much as possible. So you work. A lot. Then you hear Brian Chesky, a co-founder of AirBnB, say to you “I was sitting where you were not too long ago”, and it creates the unhealthiest sense of FoMO (I mean this as a compliment). So you work even more. A lot more.
But as I take a bird’s eye view of it all as it comes to an end, I’m nostalgic. I think about the 6AM beers my co-founder and I shared because we were so caffeinated we couldn’t sleep after working through the night. I think about the ecstatic joy of closing our first deal erasing the shittiness of the previous 100 rejections. I laugh remembering that we spontaneously went to a shooting range because we were so god damn frustrated with the result of the days work. The takeaway is so simple but so easy to forget sometimes: starting a company is so rewarding because it’s so difficult. It’s one of those good things that are incredibly painful, like running a marathon. It’s good because it’s hard.
Did YC suck? Yes. Would I do it again? Surprisingly, yes.
As I leave YC and inevitably move on to greater failures, hopefully I can remind myself, echoing the wisdom of YC, if it never gets easier, it can only, in some twisted way, become more rewarding.
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Thanks Andrea Liou.