I was fortunate enough to go through YC with my company PropelAuth for the W22 batch. As an authentication company, we have a lot of customers that are early stage startups themselves and I often get asked what the secret is to getting in to YC.
Let me just start by saying that there isn’t one single secret to get in. In fact, if you asked some of the group partners what the secret is, I’m sure that “Go build a great company” would be the main answer.
While there is a lot of great advice already written about the YC application process, some from YC themselves, there is one thing that most people I’ve talked to have appreciated.
As a founder, you should absolutely be highlighting yourself in addition to your company.
Why are you and your founding team the best people to build this business?
It’s the difference between “We are building a better e-commerce platform” and “We are building a better e-commerce platform based on the insights I gathered running a successful Etsy store over the last few years.”
Neither of these pitches are necessarily great, but the second pitch shows off that you have a real connection to the problem and makes the reader believe that you know something that other people don’t.
How do I do that?
If you are struggling to think of the right way to pitch yourself, try thinking about why you decided to start the company in the first place. What problems did you face that lead you to want to create something better? How did you solve those problems before your solution existed? Why do you think you know more than others who have attempted a solution in this space?
Don’t be afraid to brag!
I also want to say that pitching only the business and not yourself is really understandable. The business is the thing that’s taking up the most space in your head. Also, being humble is generally valued by many of us, so talking ourselves up doesn’t come easily.
It’s only natural that when you fill out an application that you’d want to talk about all the different cool and impressive things that your company has done and will do. Just make sure that you don’t forget one of the other impressive parts of your company: you.