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What do people want in a co-founder? YC has some answers – TechCrunch

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If I went to Stanford and worked with YC-backed startups, chances are I’d find it relatively easy to find a co-founder or two, get millions in funding, and build a billion dollar business. .

However, as someone who grew up in Lagos, Nigeria, and studied at the University of Nigeria, those chances are much slimmer and it will be difficult to find the same resources to build a successful business.

When Y Combinator launched Startup School as an in-person program for start-up founders starting a business, it was targeting the first group of privileged founders. But then he decided to level the playing field a bit by putting the program online so that founders from other parts of the world could participate.

The free program, which offers a program similar to the main YC content used in its biannual starter packs, has attracted more than 300,000 participants.

Startup School hosts a question-and-answer session every Monday which new members of the program join for the first time. After several meetings, the program officials noticed that they had to solve another problem.

“The most common question we get is where can I find a co-founder? How to find the right co-founder? How to find a technology co-founder? So it was very obvious to us that this was a huge problem for people, ”said Catheryn Li, product engineer at Y Combinator, in an interview. “I think about 20% of our active founders are actively looking for a co-founder and this applies to our 300,000 founders.”

So the team started testing a co-founder correspondence platform with some of the early adopters in January of this year and it went live in July.

When aspiring founders come to the platform, they describe themselves and the type of co-founder they need. The platform then proposes a pool of candidates who could be suitable for the aspiring founder. If their requirements overlap and a mutual interest exists on both ends, a connection is made.

YC Startup School

For example, if an aspiring founder with an engineering background is looking for a sales / marketing co-founder, the other person would need to be a sales and marketing co-founder interested in an engineering co-founder.

During the three and a half months of putting YC’s co-founder matchmaking platform online, more than 16,000 co-founder profiles were created. These founders sent out 130,000 corresponding invitations; with an acceptance rate of 25%, the platform made 33,000 matches.

While it’s too early to determine the platform’s long-term results, TechCrunch spoke with Li and Kat Mañalac, YC’s outreach manager, to discuss a few short-term trends – some surprising and others don’t.

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The matchmaking platform received profiles from 146 countries – 40% from the United States and 60% from 145 countries.

The pandemic and a new work-from-home culture have fundamentally changed the way founders think about location when choosing a co-founder. Sure, that’s an ancillary attribute – according to the report, 50% of founders don’t care where their co-founder resides.

“When we started to create this platform, we assumed that it would be really important for someone to find a co-founder nearby so that they could meet in person,” Li said. it turns out people don’t care about that anymore. “

A further breakdown of the location of the founders shows some similarity between a typical YC lot and the countries represented in the twinning program.

For example, the largest representative outside of the United States (both in this correspondence platform and in YC’s most recent batch) is India. The South Asian country accounts for 14% of profiles, followed by the United Kingdom, Canada and Nigeria.

On the other hand, a continental breakdown looks like this: North America, 46%; Asia, 23%; Europe, 21%; Africa, 6%; South America, 3%; and Australia, 2%.

But the matches played on the platform tell a different story as the founders found partners nearby. Of the matches made so far, 55% are from founders located in the same country, 69% between founders from the same continent, while 61% of matches are from founders located in three time zones relative to each other.

Shared interests and skills

If founders care less about the location of their business partners, then what do they care about most? According to the report, 79% of profiles want their co-founder to commit to a certain number of hours for a few weeks in a project, while 74% prefer to have common interests with their co-founder.

Shared interests, in this case, are synonymous with industries or sectors generally known in the startup world, from blockchain and e-commerce to fintech and hardware.

YC Co-Founder Matching Platform

YC Co-Founder Matching Platform

Profiles are allowed to select multiple interests on the match platform and the most selected are almost identical to the categories of a typical YC lot: 36% of founders selected B2B / company; 34% of selected consumers; 34% chose AI; 32% indicated an interest in the marketplace category; while 29% chose fintech and e-commerce.

To build in any of these industries, founders need skills, and on the corresponding platform, five skills are held in high regard: product, design, engineering, sales and marketing, and operations.

It’s no surprise which skill is most in demand: engineering. According to the report, 63% of platform founders want a co-founder who does engineering. Even engineering founders want engineering co-founders: 44% of engineering founders prefer an engineering co-founder, according to the report.

For other skills, 42% of founders want a product manager; 39% prefer a design co-founder; 37% are better off if they find a co-founder who takes care of sales and marketing; while 28% want a co-founder qualified in operations.

More work to do for under-represented founders

A widely held consensus in the startup world is that it’s best to work with someone you’ve known for a while, maybe a friend or colleague, when looking for a co-founder.

A 2011 Harvard Business Review article says, “A long-term relationship can help you overcome the learning curve of close collaboration, which can sometimes take years to develop.

At first glance, YC’s co-founder matchmaking platform doesn’t seem to heed this advice. One Twitter user called it a “meeting with the co-founders” and said Startup School’s YC professors disapprove of the idea.

But Li explains that the matchmaking platform has a pretty different model from other co-founding dating platforms.

“I think the typical advice you should have met your co-founder a long time ago is less about the duration than the fact that you are really comfortable working with them and that you understand their working styles,” said she declared. noted.

She adds that YC recommends that when two profiles match, they don’t immediately become co-founders of the program. Instead, YC gives them the opportunity to experience each other’s personalities and compatibility by offering them a trial project to work on for weeks, if not months, together.

In the project, clearly defined scopes and expectations are defined so that the corresponding profiles can determine each one’s working styles and compatibility.

Although it is too early to tell, the model seems to be working. Of the thousands of businesses founded on the platform, 50 applied to the Y Combinator Summer Lot – and three entered.

One of the startups is Sequin, a fintech that creates a debit card for women to create credit. The founders, Vrinda Gupta and Mark Thomas were among the first testers of the match platform.

CEO Gupta is one of the 13% of profiles who identify as a woman. The percentage reflects the global under-representation of female founders, but Mañalac believes YC’s correspondence platform will help close that gap.

“How to find a co-founder is one of the most common questions we get, especially from women who are solo founders. And, so we hope that this is a way to help increase the pool of women who can start businesses and obtain funding.

She also hopes more founders who are underrepresented in international markets will find out about the platform. In this way, they ‘can meet more people interested in construction and hopefully one day start a business with them.

YC alumni also see the value of the platform. Li recounted a case where a founder of this year’s winter batch got a technical co-founder through the correspondence platform – besides her, more than 150 alumni are using the platform to find new co-founders. -founders with whom they can start a new business.


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