This year YCombinator held a new venture for young up and coming startups which they dubbed "Startup School". It was a 10 week course designed to help startups with any issues that they may be facing in their early stages. Startups were assigned team leaders, past YC alumni that would hold weekly online get togethers with all of the various startups that were accepted. And we were lucky enough to get to participate this year. Out of the over 13,000 applications that were received to participate in the program, only 2820 were accepted and out of those only about 1500 were able to complete the entire program.
As a startup, getting all of the help that you can get early on is mandatory. Each and every young company has their own unique set of challenges that turn out to be not so unique once you begin to surround yourself with others in that same boat. So getting to see how various companies approach and solve their problems definitely gives you an advantage that you normally wouldn't be able to get.
The video content
A big part of Startup School were the weekly videos that were posted (free for all) on YouTube in which tech influencers, entrepreneurs and past startup alumni discussed various challenges that young companies face in their to day. Members from many notable companies were present, such as Slack, What'sApp and Facebook, and it was definitely an excellent window into those companies humble beginnings.
One of the most worthwhile aspects of participating in Startup School is the number of connections that you get to make through the weekly meetings and through the discussion channels that were set up.
The one constant that was seen weekly and daily was that people were willing to go out of their way in order to help each other out with their various challenges. Either through advice on certain issues or through introductions to people that could help propel a company forward.
Most group members were willing to help QA each others projects. Beta testing links were getting handed out left and right, which again, is invaluable for young companies. And "real world" meetups were arranged between the various groups. Many friendly faces were met on this 10 week journey.
And the main reason that everyone wants to get into a YC program is for the priceless guidance that you can receive from others who have gone through the same experiences and saw them through to the end. Our team leader Aaron was fantastic is answering our questions and in carefully guiding us ahead without too much input that would change the way that we run operations. But just enough, that we had to take a few steps back
What we walked away with
The most valuable portion of Startup School happens behind the scenes. You'll never notice it really. But each lesson and each office hour meetup changes something about your company. Whether it's an idea that someone throws out that you think will make perfect sense for your company. Or whether it's the knowledgeable words from the YC alumni. During those 10 weeks your company will change.
It forces you to do the work that would normally take you months of planning and compresses it down to 10 weeks of just doing essentially. As the best way to know something, is to actually go ahead and do it. Each week you give an update to your group entailing your progress, so there's a sense of urgency that gets created. And that for sure isn't a bad thing.
The future of startups is bright, if YC makes "Startup School" into a yearly endeavor. We're very glad that we got to make it to the end. We learned a ton of valuable info, met some great people and improved our product along the way. So if you're a young and hungry startup, then for sure keep an eye out for the next batch of acceptances.
Walter Guevara is a software engineer, startup founder and currently teaches programming for a coding bootcamp. He is currently building things that don't yet exist.