As many of you will know, for the past few months I’ve been working on the bookmark search engine startup I created, called historious. Shortly after creating it, I applied to Y Combinator because, well, it couldn’t hurt. I didn’t really think I’d get in, with all the thousands of people applying and their rather strong apprehension towards single founders, but I had nothing to lose, so I did.
On the day they were to announce the interviews, I was fairly sure I would be rejected, so I was surprised to wake up at 6 am by my phone buzzing and see an email saying “we’d like to see you in California”. I was very excited and quickly planned the entire trip, from Greece to San Francisco.
Finally, the day approached, and I arrived to San Francisco a few days ago. I took the Caltrain up to Mountain View this morning, and walked to the Y Combinator office. Walking in, there were quite a few other founders waiting for their interview, or just having given it. There were also a few past alumni, so overall the room was full with people passionate about entrepreneurship.
Waiting for the interview, I got to talk to other founders, and quickly realised how high the quality of the applicants was. There were many smart people applying, with various ideas in various stages of completion. historious launched about five months ago now, so my startup was more mature than most of the other applicants’, but that’s not really that big of a deal.
When the time came, I was led into a small room with the six people who would be conducting the interview. You can imagine how daunting it is to be in a room with six people waiting to grill you about every detail of your startup, but things were very friendly and casual. They asked me for some details about the traffic, the users, the monetization, my plans, and why historious is better than the competitors.
They did seem to be a bit dismissive about the product (as in “why would I use this, I already have bookmarks in my browser”), but I’m sure that’s just standard procedure in this sort of interviews. The ten minutes we had in our disposal quickly passed, and then we discussed for three more minutes, after which I thanked them and left.
Leaving the room, I was sure I would be rejected. I got the general feeling that they weren’t very convinced of the usefulness of historious, or my ability to run a startup, or a combination of the two. Speaking to other people, I found that mostly everyone felt the same way about their interview, but that didn’t do much to help me shake the feeling that my interview was somehow worse.
After the interview, I had the opportunity to talk to more founders who had come in and were waiting for their turn, and I was also asked if I needed any reimbursement for travelling expenses. I knew they would reimburse up to $600 per team, and my costs were about double that (flying from Greece to the US isn’t cheap), but it is a welcomed courtesy and they quickly wrote me a $600 cheque, without requiring any more proof than my word.
On the trip home I had the fortuitous opportunity to travel and talk to a founder from a previous batch, and the ride was very enjoyable. We talked about startups, life in SF and YC, and generally what it’s like to have passed through the entire process.
Arriving home, I got an email from Paul Graham saying basically that being a single founder put me at a disadvantage, because two founders can talk each other out of bad ideas, but I appeared too stubborn. I’m not entirely sure what this means, as I was under the impression, from reading his essays, that Paul was against single founders because they might give up too easily, so a founder who sticks to his idea would be desirable.
In any case, it has been a good experience, and I got to see the US and the YC office. I did, perhaps, spend too much time for my own good thinking what it would be like to be accepted, but that’s life. Now I have to go back to the struggle of being a single founder of a web startup living in a remote area of Greece.