If one were to rank startup accelerator programs like one does colleges, Y Combinator (known as “YC”) is about as Ivy League as it gets.
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YC offers a twelve week program to very early-stage ventures, providing founders with capital (currently $150,000) in exchange for a chunk of equity (currently about 7 percent). It all culminates on Demo Day, or, more recently, “days:” part graduation ceremony and part high pressure show-and-tell where founders pitch to an assembly of investors to secure capital to fund their next stage of growth.
Y Combinator’s most recent batch tops out at 197 startups, according to TechCrunch. And, over the past two days, they’ve made their pitch to investors and members of the press, including Crunchbase News EIC Alex Wilhelm and VC reporter Natasha Mascarenhas.
This is the program’s largest batch yet. Below, we plot the rough number of companies in each YC batch since the program’s inception.
For the record, getting precise numbers for each batch was difficult. We primarily used YC’s own official list of companies, which is segmented by batch. We cross-referenced the number of companies in each batch on Y Combinator’s list against Crunchbase data, which lists the accelerator’s more recent demo days and the number of companies presenting, media reports, and statistical analysis YC posted to its own blog. The numbers displayed above may deviate slightly from actual batch size stats, but it shows a general trend: YC is scaling up its investing efforts.
In September 2018, YC partner and CEO Michael Seibel explained the ways in which the organization needed to change as it scaled. YC now splits its batches into groups of 30-40 companies “in order to replicate the feeling of the past,” Seibel wrote. Alumni networking and communication is now largely centralized through a private social network for YC company founders called Bookface.
YC now provides support further into a company’s lifecycle too. In 2018, the accelerator launched a cohort-based program for select members of its seed portfolio who are going on to raise Series A rounds. Since late 2015, YC has invested in later-stage rounds through its Continuity Fund, a $700 million investment vehicle from which Y Combinator exercises its pro rata rights and makes growth-stage investments in its most successful portfolio companies.
On an episode of the Equity podcast recorded at this YC demo day, Crunchbase News’s Alex Wilhelm and TechCrunch reporter Kate Clark interviewed Seibel, who said that approximately 30 percent of YC-funded companies raise Series A rounds.
Y Combinator was one of the first to formalize a program to accelerate the growth of incipient ventures, and it has one of the strongest track records in the business. This being said, its banner successes today came from a simpler, smaller, more intimate program. Whether YC can replicate that old magic in a new and scaling investment program remains to be seen. If the strength is in its alumni ecosystem, though, then perhaps more nodes in the network may yet yield continued success for its portfolio startups.
Illustration: Li-Anne Dias