Y Combinator announces Launch YC, a way for its portfolio to shout to the public

Y Combinator has announced Launch YC, a platform where people can sort accelerator startups by industry, batch and launch date to discover new products. The famed accelerator, which has seeded the likes of Instacart, Coinbase, OpenSea and Dropbox, invites users to vote for newly launched startups “to help them climb up the leaderboard, try out product demos, and learn about the founding team.”

In a blog post announcing the news, Y Combinator said that the program has existed for years but only internally for YC founders.

Y Combinator is using Launch to target founders, developers, investors and job-seekers looking for the “Stripes and Airbnbs of the future.” Y Combinator founders, meanwhile, can launch on any day at any time. YC Head of Communications Lindsay Amos said that YC founders who are currently participating in an accelerator batch can announce via Launch before Demo Day. To me, it makes the biannual event a more evergreen affair.

“​​We did this to solve a problem every founder faces: getting in front of early customers and investors,” Amos said over email.

Launch YC feels like Y Combinator’s strategically sound answer to one of the loudest critiques of its model in recent years: as its cohort size has bloated, standing out within a batch is harder than ever. As standing out inside of YC has become more difficult, and given how important distribution is for early-stage startups, YC offering a way for startups to make a bit more noise might make the implied equity cost of its program more attractive.

In my view, it looks like the accelerator is taking a not-so-subtle swipe at Product Hunt, a nearly decade-old website — and Y Combinator alum — that is the go-to place for founders to launch their products and services to users. Unlike Product Hunt, Y Combinator doesn’t have a comment section, yet they are taking feature requests. As of right now, Launch will only be for recently backed YC companies and product updates from YC alumni.

In response to questions about the overlap between the two institutions, Amos wrote that “we encourage YC founders to launch on many platforms — from the YC Directory to Product Hunt to Hacker News to Launch YC — in order to reach customers, investors, and candidates.”