Y Combinator sees no shortage of startups that apply to be a part of their funding cycles. But they don’t always see all the ideas they’d like to see come out of the classes. So starting with the upcoming Winter 2010 cycle, they have a new idea called RFS, Requests For Startups. Basically, Y Combinator will issue some ideas of what they’re looking for in any cycle, and will accept the ones that pitch the best way to do the idea.
Now, to be clear, Y Combinator will not be forgoing its usual method of combing over any and all startup pitches outside of the ones they lay out. “We don’t expect responses to RFSes will ever be more than a fraction of the applications we accept. We wouldn’t want them to be. Most good ideas should be ones that surprise us, not ones we’re waiting for,” Paul Graham writes on the site today. The hope is that this will help guide some new startups without solid ideas in the direction of something that is missing in the market. Or encourage ones that already have a similar idea to apply.
Y Combinator’s RFSes won’t describe exactly what Y Combinator is looking for, but rather will give a general idea, with the hopes that the startups can come up with even better plans than Y Combinator is thinking of, Graham says.
So what is the first RFS? Well, it’s something near and dear to our hearts: The Future Of Journalism. Y Combinator is wondering what the online content sites will look like in the future when print publications are gone. Certainly some, like TechCrunch, have gotten large enough to support themselves now, but most content sites are still built on the notion of content first, monetization later. Y Combinator notes that in the heyday of print media, the approach was often the opposite, there was a business plan in place before the launch. It believes that approach can still work, and has laid out a rough outline of what it’s looking for from startups that want to do this:
Groups applying to work on this idea should include at least one writer who can write well and rapidly about any topic, one or more programmers who are good at statistics, data mining, and making sites scale, and someone who’s reasonably competent at graphic design. These functions can of course be combined, and in fact it’s even better if they are. Xooglers would be particularly well suited to this project.
This RFS is just the first of 3 to 5 that Y Combinator hopes to get out there before the October 26 Winter 2010 class application deadline, Graham tells us. Startups applying specifically for these RFS ideas will be able to indicate that on their applications.
Graham notes that Y Combinator has sort of passively given ideas to startups in the past, like this, but thinks this new explicit call will lead to some interesting things.
We asked Graham if this new approach means these types of startups will get different financial deals from Y Combinator. “Not significantly,” Graham says. “Execution matters so much more than the idea that even if we supplied the entire idea we wouldn’t be entitled to more than 10% of the company,” he notes. On his post he gives a bit more:
We might ask for a little more equity from startups responding to an RFS, because we’d expect to contribute more to them. But at most a percent or two, and often nothing. Ideas count for something, but execution matters far more.
[photo: flickr/eran finkle]