How To Get Into Y Combinator (From Someone Who Did)

10/23/2016 08:59 pm ET Updated Oct 24, 2017

If you're not familiar with Y Combinator, it's like the "Harvard" of startup incubators. Startups or people with a startup idea can apply to be in their three-month program in which they offer seed funding for your business. They work with you for three months (you have to move to San Francisco) and prep their startups for a demo day, in which they pitch to investors.

It's extremely competitive, and many aspiring entrepreneurs vie for admission to their program. If you're unique enough to get admitted, then your chances of having a successful startup skyrockets.

What do you have to do to get into such a prestigious program? We sat down with Avi, a Y Combinator grad who's currently working on a company called Ivory Clasp a subscription service that delivers a brand name purse right to your door.

He's taught classes on how to get into accelerator programs and has a fascinating background; he started a company called skurt, threw dubstep rave parties, created a viral fishing site - that got him a cease letter from Myspace and has worked with musicians such as Migos and Young Thug...

We interviewed him to get the skinny on what it takes to write an application worthy of admission:

1.Be succinct and Follow the rules
A surprising amount of applicants fail to do this simple thing...only answer what they're asking and don't get sidetracked. You're not original, just follow the rules. They also provide you with several examples of what a good application looks like.

2. Read Paul Graham's essays

Paul Graham is the founder of Y Combinator, so read his essays. They'll give you insight into what an "investment-worthy" company looks like.

3. Solve your problem
Don't build things that you "think" will make money because you "researched" the market. Build something that you need, and that you don't care whether or not it succeeds.

4. Your idea should sound bad but be good
Avoid ideas that sound good, and that are indeed good ideas. Say what? Yes, avoid ideas like a self-driving car, rechargeable battery, etc. Why? Because they're good, and big companies with a lot more resources than you, are tackling those or will tackle those problems eventually.

A few examples of ideas that sound bad but turned out to be good are Airbnb; no one thought letting strangers stay at your house would ever be a thing. Ebay, selling collectibles/niche products like Pez dispensers and Beanie Babies. Facebook, Myspace already existed, and Facebook started as a social network for Harvard college kids.

The tricky part is finding that sweet spot of a bad/good idea. You do that by creating something for yourself first. Testing it to a small segment of people and scaling it from a niche market.