Y Combinator’s online Startup School Founder’s Track Program has produced 1,584 graduate companies. It is being coined as the biggest day for the startup industry as this program has spread its wings globally spanning over companies from 22 countries.
The response to the program has been overwhelming as 13,321 companies applied for the Y Combinator’s 10-week program. Out of the given applications, only 2,820 got accepted where they received a one-on-one mentorship from past YC founders. The previous founders provided virtual coaching using a group of students while extending online lectures.
Transition from the fellowship program to the Founder’s Track program
The program provides training on a very personal level where the primary accelerator teaches two batches of 100 startups every year. Different experts and guest speakers share their experiences and teach them how to grow faster. Every start-up receives an amount of $120,000 as funding along with education and networking opportunities. In return, they will have to give 7 percent of the start-up equity.
In the beginning, YC started an YC Fellowship program where only a few dozen small companies were given support and mentorship in exchange of a 1.5 percent equity stake. Later, YC was planning, as said by Altman, “to advise not just a few hundred companies a year but a few thousand”.
However, the fellowship program was abandoned because the President said, “it was not going to be the thing that added another zero to what we were doing”. Once Stanford’s online classes became successful, YC started a massive open online course (MOOC) and named it the Startup School. This course includes variety of experts that talk about the foundations of building a startup, how to raise funds, how to hire the right people, and maintain diversity in the company. Some of the big names in mentoring include Facebook’s Dustin Moskovitz and Slack’s Stewart Butterfield.
YC aimed to trigger economic activity globally by encouraging and preparing companies for a more formalized accelerator program. The MOOC course was informative but it lacked accountability and required a bigger support network.
YC finally initiated its Startup School Founder’s Track where the founders would apply and if they get selected they will participate in the program. Each founder would be given a mentor (YC alumni) and a group of 20 other startups working as their peer group. YC has no investment or stakes in the respective startups and participants don’t have to pay a fee as well.
The duration of the course is 10 weeks where the participants will be given online lectures. They will have to attend at least 9 out of 10 online office hours along with their peer group. Later, they will have to submit a progress report of at least 9 weeks out of total 10. In anyone needs personal mentorship, they can contact the mentor through emails. Interestingly, Altman said, “The amazing thing is that it worked at all”.
The graduating startups are very diverse
The result of the entire effort is more than 1500 startups passing the program successfully. The biggest achievement of YC is the extended diversity it has maintained as it includes startups making drones and alternative energy to augmented reality. Out of the given number, 797 of them have posted their demo videos online while they might not be as convincing as the presentations given at the YC demo day but still they give you a fair idea about their diversity.
Talking about the global nature of the program Altman said,
“One big and obvious but important difference is how much more internationally focused this is”.
The graduates of Founder’s Track however, will not benefit from YC’s alumni network just like the ones participating in the accelerator would do. The primary reason behind this is that YC wants to maintain the exclusivity of its accelerator as the startups which are selected, are scrutinized very carefully.
Nonetheless, converting an online school into a full time online accelerator is indeed a great achievement for YC. Sharing his future plans, Altman said:
“If this keeps working I think we can have a significant impact on the financial outcomes of the world. Next time we could do 10,000”.