Y Combinator alumni share application process experiences
Having a funding application accepted by US-based seed accelerator, Y Combinator (YC) – ranked one of two “Platinum Plus Tier US Accelerators by Forbes – is no mean feat for any Nigerian tech startup.
For the successful start-ups, it could be a seal that says “haven gotten here, we are ready to take on the world.”
Last weekend, Paystack, the first Nigerian company to join Y Combinator, partnered with other alumni to organise a YC Lagos Meet-up that was well attended by start-ups eager to learn what it takes to be an alumnus.
To broaden the reach and impact of the discussion, Paystack (Nigeria), Tress (Ghana) and OMGVoice (Ghana) sponsored three Ghanian start-ups namely Anitrack, Dext Technology and Joluud to attend the meet-up.
Y Combinator was established in March 2005. It was designated the World’s Most powerful startup incubator by Fast Company. Fortune magazine also called YC a “spawning ground for emerging tech giants.”
YC interviews and selects two batches of companies per year. The companies receive seed money, advice, and connections in exchange for 7 percent equity. Part of the program is “office hours”, where startup founders meet individually and in groups with Y Combinator partners for advice. Founders also participate in weekly dinners where guests from the Silicon Valley ecosystem speak to the founders.
Being an accelerator of choice, Y Combinator according to some of the startup founders receives thousands of applications from around the world.
What separates the few successful applicants from the rest?
According to Jesse Ghansah, founder of OMGVoice, while the chance of acceptance for first time applicants could be possible, this only happens on few occasions. He pointed out that OMGVoice, an African millennial publishing platform he founded, did not get into YC until the fourth attempt. Hence, founders must learn to be patient and determined to keep trying.
Benjamin Ufaruna, CEO of Buypower, said start-ups should also pay attention to their traction before submitting an application.
Most applicants do not follow instructions which reduce their chance at being accepted, said Femi Kuti, CEO of Kangpe, a health startup.
“Just follow the instructions on the form and answer the questions. They are very specific about certain things,” Kuti said.
For Kendall Ananyi, CEO of Tizeti, a start-up’s product needs to align with what people really want to buy, “Not for a small niche but for a wider and massive population.”
Start-ups also should seize every opportunity they are giving to sell their companies. For those that have applied before but were not accepted, Femi Kuti said “Apply again to Y Combinator but if you do apply again make sure you are significantly better than you were before.”