Our Interview with the Y-Combinator
Last month Derek and I got an invite for an in-person interview with the Y-Combinator. How exciting! We have been working on an internal project called Makerpro Molds for several months now and thought it would be a great project to pitch to them. I figured I would document my experience for other founders to read it in the future.
It started with a simple video pitch and an online application. Derek spearheaded most of the application process while I focused on the MVP. We applied online and about a week later we got an email saying that they wanted to do a video interview. We interviewed with Kat (one of the partners at the YC) and we were asked some simple questions about our vision and what phase in the development of the project we were in. The interview was only 10 minutes, but we were pretty much at the tip of our seat the whole time. In the end, both Derek and I felt that it went well.
After our interview, we kind of forgot about it and moved on. Would we really get accepted for an in-person interview? I mean, we are two entrepreneurs from Central Florida… It kind of felt far-fetched.
Well, about a week later we got the news that we were selected for an in-person interview and we had to fly to SF in two weeks! Not sure words could describe the feeling but it was very exciting to say the least. We spent the next two weeks reading and watching YouTube videos of other entrepreneurs and their experiences.
I quickly realized that no amount of preparation would really make a difference in how we would perform. My biggest takeaway from all those blogs and videos was that the founders themselves are the most important part of it. I learned from others that it’s not so much about the business idea itself since many YC companies go through iteration and end up changing courses. So if the team has experience in the industry in which they’re seeking investment, along with a legit track record, then getting accepted shouldn’t be too hard. With 6+ years working with Derek, I know that should not have been a problem.
I flew into San Francisco on a Saturday and our Interview was on that following Monday. I spent the one day I had there just hanging out at coffee shops. It is just amazing how big the tech community in SF is! It just gets you excited to follow through with all your ideas. I spent that day just working on the demo, reading the business plan, and testing Derek with mock-up questions.
Monday comes… Which means the interview is right around the corner. We got in 2 hours early and spent our time in the big orange room with other founders. I felt this was really helpful to calm my nerves. By the time it was time for our interview, I was already feeling like we were part of the YC. Tip: being there early definitely helped make the process easier.
We were interviewed by Kat Manalac (Chief of Staff @ Reddit, our video interviewer), Paul Buchheit (founder of Gmail), Dalton Caldwell (founder of App.net), and one other partner whose name slips my mind. Once again, we only had 10 minutes and all the questions came from Paul. The other four listened, smiled, and nodded.
Contrary to what I read online, it was all about the idea! The questions were geared towards understanding the idea, the phase we were in, and whether or not we would be ready for the demo day in March (4 months from that day). They wanted to know how many users we had on our platform, and our plan to scale the business. Derek told me I was out of breath and turning red trying to answer the questions during the 10-minute timeframe. Side note: I’m Indian and turning red is not an easy feat to achieve.
Well, those 10 minutes flew by with a knock on the door and just like that, our interview was over! I felt like we nailed it. We got all smiles from all the partners at the end and walked out of the room feeling great. We were told we would know our decisions by the end of that day.
Hours went by, we were waiting for an email or a phone call. If we got the phone call, we were in! If we got the email, we weren’t picked and had to try again. Since we weren’t from the area, any call we got from a California number made our hearts speed up! We got a call about an hour after our interview — we were jumping up and down… Only to realize it was someone calling us about a room we had inquired about in the Bay Area.
And then… It came… We got an email :’(
Unfortunately, Derek and I didn’t make it. We got a really nice email explaining that the platform we were working on wasn’t quite ready to be demoed, and encouraged us to try again next year.
Just like that, all the YC excitement was over. However, that did not stop us from pursuing our idea — to the contrary. We are full-throttle ahead.