10 weeks of YC Startup School Founder Track

We just spent the last 10 weeks taking part in the Y Combinator Startup School Founder Track online course (aka SUS17), the end of which saw Y Combinator hosting the world’s largest startup demo day ever.

Here are some stats:

  • 13,321 startups from 141 countries applied to Startup School
  • 2,820 were selected
  • 1,584 graduated
  • 797 presented online at demo day

The experience was very positive, we came away with lessons from some of the better known people in the startup world and made contacts with several people all over.

What did the Startup School Founder Track consist of?

Startup School consisted of several pieces that came together great.

Generally, the course was very hands off, you had your video lessons to watch as you went, your chat system for networking and asking questions as needed, and the mentors and weekly checkins and office hours.

Additionally, there was no pressure to take part in “Presentation Day” or to apply for YC funding.

If you wanted, the opportunities were there, but ultimately the choice was yours.

Generally, the entire focus on Startup School was simply: continue to build and grow your product.

1. Video Lectures

The weekly video lectures were great, they hit a wide variety of topics around startups and building a business:

  • Week 1:
    • How and Why to Start A Startup By Sam Altman (YC), Dustin Moskovitz (Asana)
    • Startup Mechanics By Kirsty Nathoo (YC)
  • Week 2:
    • How to Get Ideas and How to Measure By Stewart Butterfield (Slack) and Adam D’Angelo (Quora)
  • Week 3:
    • How to Build a Great Product I By Emmett Shear (Twitch) Steve Huffman (Reddit), Michael Seibel (YC)
    • How to Build a Great Product II By Aaron Levie (Box)
  • Week 4:
    • How to Build a Great Product III By Tracy Young (PlanGrid), Jason Lemkin (SaaStr), Harry Zhang (Lob), Solomon Hykes (Docker)
    • How to Build a Great Product IV By Jan Koum (WhatsApp)
  • Week 5:
    • How to Get Users and Grow By Alex Schultz (Facebook)
  • Week 6:
    • How to Invent the Future I & II By Alan Kay
  • Week 7:
    • How to Find Product Market Fit By Peter Reinhardt (Segment) How to Think About PR By Sharon Pope (YC)
  • Week 8:
    • Diversity + Inclusion at Early Stage Startups By Kat Manalac (YC)
  • Week 9:
    • How to Build and Manage Teams By Vinod Khosla (Khosla Ventures)
  • Week 10:
    • How to Raise Money, and How to Succeed Long-Term By Ali Rowghani (YC) Jess Lee (Sequoia), Aaron Harris (YC)

Obviously, these can be more useful depending on where your startups is right now, but they hit a wide variety of topics for that purpose.

2. Mentoring

Each Startup was added to a group of about 20 to 30 and assigned to a dedicated mentor within the network of YC alums.

Ours was Anand Kulkarni, and he did a great job hosting the weekly video call & making time available in 1-on-1 office hours.

Most of these mentors are themselves actively building their second or third startup. so it’s refreshing to hear your mentor also talk about what they are encountering as they grow their startup themselves.

3. Groups

The groups were nice, they consisted of about 20-30 startups from various stages and verticals, from early stage, late stage, solo founders, etc.

I found the varying states of the startups to be nice, as the wide variety of experiences gave you a wider audience and it was nice to bounce ideas and get answers based on where your group members were at this point in time.

4. Office Hours

There was a twice weekly video call with about 20 startups and your mentor but other than that the course was at your pace.

On top of that, there were also 1 on 1 office hours with your mentor.

5. Weekly status updates

Each startup was expected to report a weekly metric in an online tool on the startup school website. For most startups this was either active users or revenue.

Defining and tracking that weekly metric was extremely useful.

There’s a whole lot of value in having a single KPI to keep you accountable & focused. We’ve been actually using Basecamp for daily and weekly checkins for the past several months already.

Since we’ve been launched for over two years, finding the right metric was easy, but some others found it harder to work with.

6. Networking

With a chat community of over 4,000 people, it was interesting to see everyone pitch in and build a nice active community that’s continued even after the school has finished.

7. Deals

Each startup was able to apply for credits from Amazon and Google, and if you asked through the YC network, ex-YC alums were happy to give you deals on their products.

8. What happens in Startup School stays in Startup School.

There was a very clear agreement to respect each other’s privacy & at no point were we pressured to talk publicly about our startup. This made it possible to talk openly during office hours & contributed to the long-term value of the Startup School network.