Lessons from the Y Combinator Program for Startups

CEO and cofounder of Victoria-based tech company, Cuboh, Juan Orrego shares his take-aways from the reputable Y Combinator program.

Y Combinator Program for Startups Douglas Vancouver Island Magazine
Members of the Cuboh Team in their new office space in Downtown Victoria. Photo by Belle White.

Getting into Y Combinator (YC) in San Francisco is a big deal. It’s a signal to influential tech investors that you have an investment-worthy venture. At YC’s Summer 2019 Demo Day, Victoria-based start-up Cuboh — one of only 11 Canadian companies (out of 197 companies in total) — showcased its restaurant platform, which consolidates different delivery services like Grubhub and SkipTheDishes onto one easy-to-use dashboard. The company was also recently included on New Ventures BC Top 10 list. CEO and cofounder Juan Orrego shares his take-aways from YC.

You Can’t Get in if You Don’t Apply
With a rumoured acceptance rate of 1.5 per cent, there’s fierce competition for the coveted spots at YC, which are offered twice a year through its winter and summer programs. But you have no chance at all if you don’t apply. “It’s one of those things you don’t think is going to happen to you, so many companies don’t even try,” Orrego says. “I wish more companies from Victoria applied. They might be surprised.”

Don’t be Married to a Business Plan
As YC outlines on its site, it doesn’t consider business plans in the application process, so reconsider the use of your time before you develop that eight-page plan. “Business plans are a little bit tricky because with startups things can change really quickly,” Orrego says. “I like the Lean Canvas model where you outline your hypotheses and then prove each, one by one. When one doesn’t work, then you change it.”

Know Your Talking Points
“We had five days to prep for the interview [to be accepted into the program], and I don’t like to practice too much because I don’t sound natural if things are too rehearsed,” Orrego says. “But I did go for dinner with our operations guy, Tyler, and we ran through the questions on ipaulgraham.herokuapp.com.”

Take Advantage of Networking
The weekly dinners are an important component of YC. Along with the influential speakers, they’re an opportunity to share that week’s progress. “All startups have similar stages so you could see how others were solving problems and where you were doing well.”

Set Your Goals at the Start
“Our goal for the end of the three months was to grow our existing customer base and our revenue,” Orrego says. ”We wrote that on the wall and thought about that metric literally every single day.”

This article is from the October/November 2019 issue of Douglas.