How to Apply to Y Combinator

 In Cofactor Genomics, Entrepreneurship
Cofactor's founders at Y Combinator

Cofactor’s founders at Y Combinator

As we’ve talked about before, Cofactor is now backed by Y Combinator  and was accepted into their Summer 2015 class. Applications for the Winter class are open now (go apply!), so I thought I’d share a few tips:

  • Read what they’ve written. Absorb and understand their philosophy, and think about your company through that lens.
  • Think bigger than you’re used to. YC wants (and wants you) to make a big impact on the world. Aim your company at a $1 billion+ total addressable market. It’s not that you can’t start in a smaller market, but your vision must have a route to a big one.
  • A good idea is not necessarily a good business.  It’s important to have an answer for “What do you know that no one else knows?”. It’s equally important to have an answer for “How will you make money?”.
  • Be precise and concise. 1-2 sentence answers are best1. This also holds if you get an interview; you’ll only have 10 minutes, so be brief and direct.
  • Write clearly, without jargon. Communicate your vision with the simplest language possible. You will not sound smarter by using big words; you’ll just be harder to understand.
  • Don’t bullshit them or yourself. They’ll know. If you feel shaky on something about your business and are tempted to fudge, try thinking about it from a different angle. Often a perceived weakness can become a strength.
  • Don’t be a jerk. Would you want to work with one? Neither do they.
  • Get advice. There are over 1000 YC founders who have been through this process and are willing to help. Email me if you want mine.
  • Make something people want. It’s the YC motto for a reason.

 

 

  1. Update 10/08/2015 5:28 pm CDT. Upon reflection, this is a bit extreme. Clarity is the most important thing, and often verbosity comes from vague thinking or including unnecessary detail.
Dave Messina
Dr. David Messina serves as Cofactor's Chief Operations Officer. He has spent the last 19 years in computational biology and genetics. He worked on the Human Genome Project at Washington University in Saint Louis, trained in molecular biology and human genetics at the University of Chicago, and and earned his PhD in computational biology in Stockholm, Sweden.
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