How was YC?

Théophile Villard
Sep 22, 2019 · 6 min read

This past summer Multis participated in Y Combinator. The batch is now over and having added the mandatory “YC S19” label to our profiles we’re now (almost) back in Europe.

After four months away from the old (and probably best) continent it’s been good to catch up with friends and family. Inevitably, I’ve been getting the “How was YC? / Alors YC c’était comment ?!” many, many times. It’s given me the opportunity to refine my answer. This is the short-ish version.

So, how was YC?

A bit of context 📗

Q2—2018

I started working with eFounders on a project dubbed WalletX. The idea was to imagine what would be a crypto-wallet for companies. Kudos to titi (also know as “le Jean Dujardin de la tech”) for having the guts to start a crypto project in the bear market of 2018.

Q3/Q4—2018

The project WalletX started to look like something people could want. We gave it the name Multis (as in multi-signature) and we brought my business co-founder Thibaut Sahaghian on board.

Q1—2019

In the most violent bear market, the product was basic but working: a slick interface on top of a multi-signature wallet so you can manage your crypto as a company. We launched on Product Hunt to start acquiring our first alpha users. And we applied to YC.

Note: eFounders had already sent 4 companies to YC. Which was both encouraging but also created a lot of pressure: you don’t want to be that company that couldn’t make it in. It turns out that one of the most successful startups out of eFounders had been turned down from YC… You never know!

Getting into YC 🤞

Q2—2019

We received an email from YC saying they’d like to chat via video. We were thrilled, but didn’t get our hopes up just yet.

On a Sunday evening in Paris, we did a Skype call with a YC partner (the one who speaks the fastest). He asked many questions, and it was over before we felt we’d really gotten a chance to make a positive impression. #ChampagneSunday anyway!

On April 17 at 7am, we received an email saying they’d like to meet in person: the infamous YC interview!

On May 29 at 2:45pm Pacific Time, we entered a room inside one of the YC warehouses in Mountain View, California. There was four people interviewing us but only one partner seemed interested and asked questions around fiat and crypto interoperability. After the interview, we felt our odds of being accepted were low since crypto appeared not to be a topic of interest.

On May 29 at 7pm PT on Castro Street in Mountain View, my phone rang. Skype call. SKYPE CALL. On the other end was Aaron Harris, the same partner who’d been so curious about Multis in our interview (and probably YC’s strongest advocate for crypto), telling me they’d like to fund us. BOOM.

PUTAIN MEC ON VA FAIRE YC !!!

During YC 🏡

After being accepted into YC we had 5 days to find the house where we would be spending the summer. Obviously we couldn’t find one but a kind batch-mate named Jonathan offered to let us crash at their house in Palo Alto. We spent the first 10 days of YC living with the Actiondesk team and it was terrific — thanks again guys!

On June 14 we moved in what would become “The cryptohouse / La zonzon”. As you can see rent was not cheap… But we had the luxury to have desks as well as a nearby park. The sunsets were ridiculous.

Santa Clara, California

In this house we did only three things:

As the tech founder I did zero meetings, no conferences, and I only took two business-related calls. The rest of the time was just about drawing stuff on the whiteboard and shipping ClojureScript code.

This YC “remove all distractions” advice turned out to work wonders for us. Here’s a (non-exhaustive) list of what we shipped:

Toward the end we started to all go a bit crazy because of the same repetitive routine every single day. But YC dinners were a weekly highlight where we could chat with fellow founders/gladiators and be entertained by the guest speakers—Airbnb’s cofounders missed out on a great standup career!

Demo Day 🎙

On August 20 in the morning, we arrived at Pier 48 in San Francisco. The goal of Demo Day is simple: every startup gets 2 minutes (TWO MINUTES) to convince investors they cannot ignore them.

It’s a great day and these are 120 seconds of immense leverage. That’s why it takes more than a week to prepare and rehearse pitches. And that’s when you realize the unfair advantage YC is giving your startup.

Backstage!

As we were waiting backstage I took a moment to appreciate that the innocent kid who had been born and raised in the French Alps was about to stand on stage in SF next to his co-founder pitching their cryptobank in front of 3000 investors. The feels!

Onstage!

Thibaut did a great a job and we then chatted with many investors. A truly memorable — albeit exhausting — experience.

On a les droits !

After YC 🚀

First, we took the YC “don’t spend your money” advice at heart and sold all the things we could on Facebook’s marketplace. And in the most “Silicon Valley” moments of all we ended up handing out the cryptohouse’s whiteboard to a young AI startup.

Y Combinator has launched Multis into space, now our job is to fly that rocket while being cheap on gas!

  • On the tech side, we wanted the month after YC to be dedicated to hardening the platform, so we are ready for the next wave of exciting things coming to Multis.
  • On the business side, Thibaut is finishing up the tiring/time-consuming fundraising process and will be back to “sell the product” mode soon.

We’re thinking of regularly doing “micro YCs / CRYPTOFF”: a week or two somewhere in Europe where we can live and ship like we did in sunny/boring Santa Clara in the summer of the delicious year of 2019.

Complaints 🇫🇷

As PG said, people need stuff to complain about. Here we go:

  • Travelling to Cali just for a 10 minute interview is crazy (ok now the interviews are in Paris for European startups — better!)
  • Finding a house when you’re in the last interview slot is virtually impossible. YC could buy a campus and host companies there, like they do at “The Institute for Advanced Study” ;)
  • We had some group office hours in SF—that’s more than an hour commute from Santa Clara. Not so great for “no distractions”. Also, it’s too cold in SF!
  • Coffee at YC was nasty. Let’s sell some Stripe shares and buy a good coffee machine with freshly roasted beans. Come on!

Summary paragraph 😜

(Always end with a summary slide, they said)

  • We’re Multis, the Cryptobank for companies
  • We did Y Combinator
  • YC was INTENSE
  • You should do YC
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