Learn what YC looks for in applicants and why they’re excited about African founders.

Click the play button to catch the entire AMA Chat with YC Partner, Kat Mañalac.

AMA Highlights

Q: What advice can you give to African startups on framing their narrative?

Kat: Start with the one-liner of what you do, which includes what you’re building and who you’re building it for. Afterwards, follow up with context that show the scale of the problem being solved.

Q: What does YC *not* look for?

@KatManalac: They're not looking for companies that don't show traction or high growth. They’re looking for startups that have high growth and can show progress.

Q: If I’m currently a solo founder, is it ok to put that on my application?

@KatManalac: Yes, solo-founders can apply. However, solo- founders have to do a bit more to show that they can execute on their vision alone.

Q: What number of words or characters is best for application responses?

@KatManalac: Partners have to each read thousands of applications, so it helps to be as succinct as possible in the description of what you do. Also, have others read your application.

Q: Are there specific industries that YC is especially interested in where women founders are under-represented?

@KatManalac: Women are under-represented in most tech-related industries. However, it would be great to see women tackling problems in every category.

Q: What are the more common causes for startup failure you've seen and how can they be avoided?

Kat: Founders should be equally invested. Keep burn low, don’t hire too fast. Don’t take too long to launch.

Additional Advice:

“What we look for in founding teams…”

  • Founders who can build the product

  • Companies that require software in some way (with at least one engineer on the founding team that’s ideally built it themselves vs outsourcing)

  • Communication. They need to be able to describe what they're doing and why it matters to people outside of their domain

  • People who are going to build their company regardless of us

  • Teams that are familiar with each other with a productive/healthy dynamic

  • Fast. If they’ve applied before, we want to see significant progress

  • Working on mostly meaningful things (building/talking to users/selling vs advisors/biz plans/partnerships)

  • Equity split - as close to equal as possible

  • Unique insights

  • Team vs. solo founders (however, solo founders are still accepted. See Common Misconceptions. Shola Akinlade of Paystack applied solo until YC asked him about a co-founder and he asked Ezra. See Shola’s explanation here)

  • A launched product

YC Partners care about Market...

They want to know: is this a multi-billion dollar market? Can this become a billion dollar company? Is it solving a problem of significance?

YC Partners care about Traction...

They’re asking themselves: is the amount of work this company has done since starting impressive? Are they moving faster than their competitors? Have they built an MVP and if so how long did it take? If they don't get into YC - will they continue working on this company? Are they dependent on investment to move forward?

When reviewing applications, YC Partners prioritize…

Concise answers. Numbers. Team. Proof you’re making something people want. Proof they can build/execute. Answers to “Why?” and “What do you know?” Critical insight. Market.