How to Prepare for your Y Combinator Interview
The Interview Invite
I read from HN and Reddit that the invite was supposed to be sent out around 9 PM - 12 AM PT. We got ours at 9:16 PM and immediately booked a slot for the interview.
If you got the invite, congratulations! But as Kobe said, “Job’s not finished”. So start preparing ASAP! Here’s how the Cotter team prepared.
Perfect Your 1-Liner
As expected, that was the first question that we got during our interview. To craft a good 1-liner, you need to be able to explain what your company does and who you are serving using plain English.
If you can use existing companies to describe your business go for it. Here are a few examples:
- If you are replicating an existing business model for a different country go for "We are building Robinhood for Country X".
- If your product does something similar to an existing product go for "We are building Shopify for online schools".
If you can't or you're building something entirely new, don't force it.
Try to construct your 1-liner using this template "We are building X (what does your company do) for Y (who does your product serve)".
YC partners aren't the expert in what you do, you are. The questions that they ask will revolve around them wanting to learn more from you. So, like your 1-liner, make sure that your answers are informative, concise, and short.
Keep in mind that every YC interview is going to be different, it depends on your industry, what stage you are in, where you are doing business, and lots more! Tell something that they don't already know!
You will never be able to control what the partners ask. Some of the questions from templates like https://techcrunch.com/2012/04/27/be-concise-the-top-questions-asked-at-a-y-combinator-interview/?guccounter=1 will appear. However, here's a more realistic expectation.
If you haven't launched your product then prepare to educate them about:
- The barrier to entry and how you are uniquely positioned to break through that barrier.
- What the market looks like and how your product uniquely solves a problem for that market.
- Why your team is the winning team.
If you have launched your product and it has traction then prepare your market insights like
- How did you get your users? Who are they? Where are they?
- How are they using your product? Are they hacking your product to do more?
- How much have you improved your users lives?
Your Team is the One
Remember that the founders matters more than the idea and YC knows that. So tell them that your team is the Chosen One. There are numerous YC success stories to back this such as the classic AirBnB story and most recently Segment.
A lot of startups fail because of conflict between the co-founders, tell them why your team will stick together through thick and thin. Have you worked together previously?
Tell them why each member is critical to the founding team. Why do you have 2/3/4/5 founders in the team? What are their roles?
What makes your team uniquely positioned to win? Do you have relevant experience? Do you have patents? Do you hold a license in a regulated industry?
Practice and Enjoy the Experience!
To keep your mind at peace, they wouldn't ask questions that you shouldn't already know the answers to.
Lastly, good luck from the Cotter team!