Paul Graham Says Y Combinator’s New Class Could Have “Less Than 50” Startups

Y Combinator co-founder Paul Graham just had a few interesting things to say about the accelerator’s Winter 2013 batch, the biggest of which is that it’s going to be smaller than before. There’s no firm number just yet, but he notes in a new post on the Y Combinator website that there may be less than 50 startups in the mix this time around.

In case you haven’t been keeping track, that means that Y Combinator has gone from its largest class to date (84 in Summer ’12) to one of its smallest in a long time.

“The reason we accepted fewer applications was that in summer 2012 we grew too fast, Graham explains. “We had 66 companies in winter 2012, and that was fine, but for some reason more things than usual broke when we jumped from 66 to 84.”

He doesn’t detail how the process “broke” with such a large class, with the implication being that YC isn’t sure yet. The news comes just days after Graham announced a considerable change to how the Y Combinator start fund works, with startups receiving a much smaller initial investment and more face-time and input from advisors in the form of office hours. Word on the street for some time has been that this class would be smaller, as Alexia noted recently in a larger piece on the cooling investing climate around consumer startups.

The issue of overall class size is one that seems to crop up regularly as the number of applications continues to increase, with the recent expansion previously billed as an experiment. YC Partner Harjeet Taggar said on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt New York 2012 that despite that summer’s large class size, it was the accelerator’s most rigorous selection yet (the number of accepted companies was around 2% of the total number of applicants).

That commitment to selectivity and rigor Taggar mentioned is naturally still in play, as Graham and company didn’t actively set out to put together a smaller class this time around — he notes that the dip in class size is thanks in large part to being more selective in general. That involved “looking for qualities that were missing in the top startups we’ve funded, and by looking at things the failed startups had in common,” as well as coming to the conclusion that YC partners tended to be more lenient after having lunch.