This past weekend I was fortunate enough to be able to attend Y Combinator’s female founders event.
For those of you how don’t know, Y Combinator was founded in 2005 and has invested in over 1,800 companies. Instead of investing a lot of money in a few companies, YC decided to invest a little in a lot of companies and help them along the way. This concept is what we now call an accelerator.
“Y Combinator created a new model for funding early stage startups.Twice a year we invest a small amount of money ($120k) in a large number of startups.The startups move to Silicon Valley for 3 months, during which we work intensively with them to get the company into the best possible shape and refine their pitch to investors. Each cycle culminates in Demo Day, when the startups present their companies to a carefully selected, invite-only audience.But YC doesn’t end on Demo Day. We and the YC alumni network continue to help founders for the life of their company, and beyond.”
The event started off with Jessica Livingston speaking very candidly to the audience. She was one of the four founders of YC — the only one without a technical background, and the only female. She told us her hats she wore as a founder. One of her roles in founding YC was being a therapist to the teams of these small companies. When you are founding a company, you are putting your life on hold and focusing on turning a crazy idea you had into a company. Making this jump into uncertainty requires a hand to hold — Jessica was that hand for YC companies. Jessica also had a good judge of character. After companies would pitch to YC, the three male founders would all turn to Jessica at the end and ask if they should invest. She could read the personalities of the founders better than the men and made sure YC was sticking to their zero asshole policy(this policy no longer exists).
Aside from sharing stories with the audience about the early days of YC, Jessica shared 9 points of advance.
- There is no one mold for a successful founder.
- Do what you’re genuinely interested in.
- Ignore mainstream opinion.
- Find a cofounder with complementary skills, same moral compass.
- Make something people want.
- Don’t let rejection distract you.
- Start small so you can be nimble.
- It’s ok not to have gone to an elite college
- Be intrepid
All of these points are important, but there were three that really resonated with me. The first is that “there is no one mold for a successful founder”. I loved this point because I also think that there is no one mold for a successful person. Success looks different to everyone. I also believe that sometimes being so far off from the mold can work in one’s favor. The second is that “it’s ok not to have gone to an elite college”; I have free college in the state of Florida, and I chose free college over an elite college. Despite me consciously making this decision I am often self conscious that I am inferior to another person because of the name of their University. Having the idea reaffirmed that it’s what you do with your education, not where you go, was very comforting for me. The final point was to be intrepid, this means to be fearless and adventurous. I have many fears and intentionally make myself face them. I believe that in order to constantly be evolving as individuals we must seek change when we become comfortable.
I will leave you with the a quote I live my life by.
“Do one thing every day that scares you.” Eleanor Roosevelt