When YCombinator Came to Abuja

I was chatting with my friends on #WeCode Dev Meetup WhatsApp group when Dimgba dropped the bomb that YCombinator will be coming to abuja and they’ll be seeing a few entrepreneurs and some government officials.

We waited until the eventbrite invitation was opened to go and register. To my surprise, I was late! How come?! Unlucky me, the invitation was sent out earlier and I didn’t find out until it was fully booked. I was really bummed that I will miss this opportunity. I got onto the wait list with my fingers crossed, praying, hoping they will let us in. A few days (almost two weeks) later, I got the email that I was in! I was so excited that I replied OO Nwoye with a question I wanted to ask them, I felt so bad when I realized I made that mistake. He replied me

Just Come by 4pm

I covered my face and replied with the little dignity I have left. I got ready and got there waaaaaay earlier than 4pm…just in case there’s traffic, terrorist attack, flood or a volcanic eruption that might stop me. I arrived on time and STILL, I was pointed to the street to park my car. urgh, really? you’re in abuja and you don’t have parking for just a few cars?

I parked the car, had my prayers and then proceeded to the building. On my way, I met a friend (Ahmad) who is there for the event with his team of IOT geeks. We chatted and talked about what he is working on and how many Nigerian companies YCombinator has funded so far. On reaching the gate, I found out that my name is not on the list. Like…come on! after all the stress now my name is not there? we waited for some seconds and the let us in after the drama.

Here I was inside Ventures Park. For the first few seconds,I have forgotten all my problems and open my mind to new possiblities and ideas. Ventures Park is amazing! if this is what I get as a resident entrepreneur, I don’t mind them keeping 10% of my company. the place is DOPE!

I got in and met friends and acquaintances waiting for the event to start. As usual with our timing, the event started 30–40 after the time it was supposed to start. This meant the front row was empty when I came in, and everyone was running away from there like it’s a classroom seating that the teacher will frustrate your life with questions and scolding.

After catching up with friends, the event started with our panelists introducing themselves. Plus, they brought their Nigerian Unicorn-in-the-making Company Paystack CEO Shola Akinlade to tell us what he went through before he could into YCombinator. Michael talked about YCombinator and the number of applications they go through. What surprised is the high rate of failure in the applications. A whopping 6000 apply in each cycle, 500 of the companies get an interview at their offices. At that stage, you have a 1 in 6 chance of pitching. And out of that number, only 120 are accepted. 120!

If you’re intimidated by the high rate of failure, don’t apply — Michael Seibel

He pointed something really important for me, and I will just paste it down here

When I read an application, I look for negatives not positives. So as quickly as possible, I wanna look at your team, how many are you, how long have you known each other, how are you splitting your equity, how do you value your team, what have you done before? What can you show us? Some map on how many customers you have or how many u can take. Unless you’re building a billion dollar company, we ain’t investing. What have you done as a company? You need to show me that you move quickly. If you started it and then become committed only a year afterwards, tell me. If you can tell your mom what you do in two sentences, you’re golden.
— Michael Seibel

Really, he has said all that is needed. I didn’t even ask my question when he said all that. All I did was just laugh, take notes and just nod. When you look at it, a person looking through 6000 applications really does not have time to listen to you tell all your sob stories and what not to convince him that you have a billion dollar idea. Oh, and if it’s just an idea, forget about it, Michael doesn’t believe in ideas.

Michael passed the Mic to Shola and there he narrated his own story on how he got into YCombinator W16. Interestingly, they applied in 2007 and failed. It’s only after 8 years that they tried again and they made it. Shola did mention it felt like they were the only ones doing something simple. They met people building Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality and Machine Learning apps that looks like science fiction to us. Also, them being in Silicon valley made it easy to be in touch with a lot of advisors that are willing to help them out in everything they want. I remember him mentioning the time they passed CloudFlare’s office and Ezra shouted about how much he loves the company.

After Shola, Ross Answered some questions which I did not get to hear some of, but this is what I got from him

It only takes a small group of people to change the world. Solve those big problems, when you look back, you can say you helped build something that helps people. And don’t be intimidated by big problems.

Ross is an entrepreneur and a visiting Scholar at Stanford. He is the founder of American Efficient and Reputation.com

After the chat came the Q&A session where the audience get to throw questions at the panel. A lot of questions flew up and down. Someone asked something funny yet important, if YCombinator has ever invested in something they regretted investing in. Mike said they did have an instance where a co-founder was just spending money uselessly, his partner ended up firing him. But Mike still pointed out that he did not regret the decision. A question came from the Government representative on how they can help the Tech sector. Mike said most of the time the government should just put infrastructure in place (Fiber in particular) and just get out of the way of the entrepreneurs, oh, and make registering a business an easy and fast process.

After the questions, they provided their email addresses and then took pictures before leaving the venue.

It really was an awesome event. They mingled with everyone and took pictures with everyone that asked. Don’t know why, but Shola seemed interested in what I was working on. And the moment I mentioned it, he said he heard about it. That got me thinking, how did he know? we haven’t launched! Anyways, we took a picture and told him our progress before he headed out

Well, I hope events like this happen more often. It was really awesome to see what people can accomplish when they have the drive to solve a complex problem. Places like this help us learn a lot from them, and eventually help us launch our own.

That’s all Folks!