Y Combinator Q&A @MIT: Start-up Advice from Michael Seibel

Michael Seibel, the current CEO and Managing Director of Y Combinator (YC in short), ‘visited’ MIT as the main guest speaker on a Zoom Q&A to connect with the MIT students.

He claimed that he was there to answer any questions we might have about startups, fundraising and gossips about YC companies. I was lucky to be attending the event as an MIT alum and entrepreneur among the audience group of 40+. I will be sharing some notes I took from the advice he shared down below. Let me know if you agree with what he said.

But first, here are a bit pre-requisites to read for YC and Michael…

Y Combinator

Y Combinator (YC) is an American technology startup accelerator launched in March 2005.[1] It has been used to launch more than 3,000 companies,[2] including Stripe, Airbnb, Cruise, PagerDuty, DoorDash, Coinbase, Instacart, Dropbox, Twitch, Flightfox, and Reddit.[3] The combined valuation of the top YC companies was more than $300 billion by January 2021.

Y Combinator provides seed funding for startups. Seed funding is the earliest stage of venture funding. It pays your expenses while you’re getting started.

Find out more on their official website: https://www.ycombinator.com/about

Michael Seibel

“Hello, my name is Michael Seibel. I am 39 years old and have lived and worked in the Bay Area since 2006. Currently, I work at Y Combinator as a Group Partner and Managing Director of YC early stage.

Previously, I was a co-founder and CEO of Justin.tv from 2007–2011 and the co-founder and CEO of Socialcam in 2012. During 2012, Socialcam participated in Y Combinator, raised angel financing from a group of amazing investors, and sold to Autodesk Inc. for $60m (link). Needless to say — it was a busy year. In 2014, Justin.tv became Twitch Interactive and under the leadership of Emmett Shear and Kevin Lin sold to Amazon for $970m.

Before getting into tech, I spent a year as the finance director for a US Senate campaign and before that I graduated from Yale University with a bachelor’s degree in political science. Today I spend the large majority of my free time cooking, reading, traveling and going for long drives. I live in San Francisco, CA with my amazing wife Sarah and our son Jonathan.”

The above is a self-intro with his own words from his personal website: https://www.michaelseibel.com/

Advice Advice Advice…

He surely has experienced a lot in the world of startup founding, fund raising and mentoring, over the past couple of decades. To founders, when YC CEO speaks, it’s like when Lee Kuan Yew comments on world politics, they listen.

  1. Great ideas sometimes come up post-YC, post-fundraising. Coinbase today is not who they were since they joined YC when they just wanted to build an android bitcoin wallet.
  2. Some part of being a young founder, is partly being unaware of the unknown risks. Structured lessons or trainings, like an entrepreneurship class, on how to build your startup could harm you.
  3. Having prerequisites for founders are ‘stupid’. Fundamentally you will learn 10x more during building your startup than when you are working towards meeting your resume prerequisites.
  4. What YC does is public, not hidden. They don’t believe YC companies are better because of some secret formula. YC just push YC companies to actually do shit.
  5. Better to have 10 people loving your product than 1000 people kind of liking it. The better you make people love what you build, the faster you grow.
  6. When YC read an application, they just ask themselves if they wanna bet against this person, even if they would never wanna build this company themselves.
  7. Choose something that you do wanna go all-in, for smart or dumb reasons. Don’t hedge your risk. Most company died because when they think their ideas don’t work the way they want, they stop believing in it.
  8. Why do you care if YC cares about you or not. Ask the most important questions: are you obviously getting shit done? If so and YC doesn’t accept you, YC is an idiot. And if you can get shit done, YC will help you get the legal crappy shit done.
  9. YC can help you walk through a common death path coz they saw too many failures. But to success? Good luck.
  10. They wanna earn that 7% of their companies and they provide them with ‘software update’ for the rest of their lives. E.g. a database of customers, especially for B2B companies.




Product & DataScience @Google. MIT ’20. UCL’19. Passionate about Startups/VC, Product/DS, and Pokémon

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Product & DataScience @Google. MIT ’20. UCL’19. Passionate about Startups/VC, Product/DS, and Pokémon

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