Introducing the YCensus

(or What’s the state of inclusion of under-represented people in Silicon Valley?)

Nov 25, 2018 · 4 min read

(Note: We are NOT affiliated with Y Combinator.)

Remember that episode in the first season of HBO’s Silicon Valley, where Pied Piper was at Tech Crunch Disrupt? Disrupt’s organizers made an uproar saying that actual TechCrunch Disrupt events had more diversity, but then one of HBO’s Silicon Valley’s producers dropped the bomb:

“Those were real shots of the real place, and we didn’t frame women out. The world we’re depicting is f — -ed up.”

Alec Berg explained that they didn’t stage Tech Crunch Disrupt shots. Instead, they filmed actual footage from a Tech Crunch Disrupt event.

How have things changed? Are Silicon Valley’s demographics slowly changing for the better? How are the female to male ratios? How about the presence of minorities such as African Americans and Hispanics?

Well, it’s too expensive in both time and money, for one person to conduct a full census of the real Silicon Valley, but… it’s not impossible if we just put the focus on a segment of Silicon Valley.

Y Combinator (YC) is arguably the best of Silicon Valley. It is the premier SV launchpad for startups. As Alex Blumberg puts it, YC is like a Hogwarts for startups with less than 5% of applicants being accepted every round. It also makes a nice snapshot of Silicon Valley since there’s so much data available on both the companies it funds and founders of those companies. More importantly, there are only about 1600 companies that YC has currently funded. It’s a reasonable amount of data to analyze within a limited amount of time. What’s even better is that YC has started their own effort to map this.

(We are NOT affiliated with Y Combinator)

Since we’re done with context, let me finally introduce YCensus!

What are the goals of the project?

The main goal is to provide transparency on Silicon Valley companies in regards to inclusion. More transparency is good. The point of this project is not to criticize or skewer anyone. The aim is the same goal of every aspiring tech company: to improve and make things better over time. It’s hard to improve things that you aren’t tracking or measuring. We can also now see the effects of an active strategy for inclusion and see how it affects YC batch startups over time.

Along the way, we can probably kill some old startup myths like a founders being college dropouts or the lone inventor.

Wanna know what it takes to get into YC? You’re in luck. This is the last goal of YCensus. While we do not have clear, definitive answers for every YC startup; the YCensus can give you an idea based on what YC founders have worked on or built in the past, who they worked for, worked with, and where and what they studied.

Things to note:

  1. This will not always be up to date. It probably isn’t up to date even now. Why? Keeping track of organizations may be easy, but keeping track of the people within those organizations is nearly impossible without their participation.
  2. We currently have very little LGBT data on YC founders.
  3. We currently do not have a lot of immigration data regarding YC founders. Unless the founders themselves volunteer this information, it would be hard to accurately determine the percentage of immigrants.
  4. We also do not have the ages of founders, even approximate. That’s probably not going to be possible without founder participation.
  5. There’s potentially a lot of missing data in general. a. There are a lot YC funded companies that never left stealth mode. b. There are a lot of YC funded companies that failed and didn’t leave enough of a digital footprint; sometimes on purpose. Consequently, results will probably be skewed towards YC startups that succeeded for now.

I’m going to need help to finish this. If you’re interested, ping me at brian at theymadethat com.


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