Incubated: Y Combinator’s Approach To Finding And Helping Startups Become Big Winners

Y Combinator is the most famous of all startup accelerators out there, thanks to success of companies like Airbnb, Dropbox, and Stripe, all of which have gone through its program. YC co-founder Paul Graham once referred to the process of finding and nurturing those big hits as “Black Swan Farming.”

But how does YC do it? What sets it apart from some of the other accelerators out there, and why does it seem like its alumni companies are disproportionately successful? With the latest episode of Incubated, we set out to find out.

At first glance, Y Combinator doesn’t look that different from most accelerators in part because it defined the category. Founded in 2005, its success has inspired multiple other programs to copy its 12-week format of weekly meetings, partner office hours, and access to alumni and mentors from the tech world.

But one of the things that sets it apart from other accelerators is just the depth and breadth of knowledge that exists within its network. In part, that stems from running for so long — there are about 1,500 YC alums available to learn from. And many of those alumni end up becoming the first partners or customers for startups in a current class.

While startups are expected to have their own space, Y Combinator companies meet weekly on Tuesdays to catch up, discuss their progress, and learn from famous entrepreneurs who are invited to talk about their own challenges in scaling up their businesses. It also hosts a series of other events, like Y Combinator Startup School, that are open to entrepreneurs who wish to attend.

One other thing that sets it apart is the selection process: YC takes online applications to help screen applicants, but bases its decision mostly on one 10-minute interview with the accelerator’s partners. It looks for founders who have deep domain expertise, and companies that can be big outliers in different technology.

Y Combinator just opened applications for its winter class this week. If you’re interested in learning more, check out he video above before applying!

This is the fifth of ten episodes for a new TechCrunch TV series called Incubated. We’ll have a new episode after Wednesday afternoon for the next two-and-a-half months, each of which will take a look at what it’s like inside some of the top accelerators in the U.S. Please join us each week to find out how all the different incubators and accelerators help out the startups that participate in them.

Check out all the episodes of Incubated here: