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Craig Cannon: Do not be afraid of applying to Y Combinator

Latvia’s capital Riga hosted TechChill tech event on February 8-9. It involved 2000 representatives from around the world.

Craig Cannon is the Director of Marketing at Silicon Valley based Y Combinator, one of the most popular accelerators in the world. 2 times a year Y Combinator makes USD 120k investments in various startups with more than 1400 having received one since 2005.

Itel.am reporter talked to Craig Cannon within the frames of TechChill.  

Thousands of startups apply for participation in Y Combinator’s acceleration program and only a few succeed. In your view, what is the path to success?

First of all, many companies apply for more than once. For instance, 50% of the companies in a batch 2 years ago applied twice.

You need to get a team together, have traction, and do some important things to show that you are the best. Then you have to think about other obvious aspects like real market, product insights, etc.

Craig Cannon and Narine Daneghyan

Craig Cannon and Narine Daneghyan
Image by: TechChill


People think that it should be a complicated process but it’s not true. Many successful applications aren’t very long, they are just very effective.

In an interview to Itel.am Y Combinator partner Adora Cheung expressed a view that startups from developing world are mostly afraid to apply to Y Combinator. To what extent do you agree?

Yes, I think a substantial percentage of people are afraid of applying, and the idea is particularly about these countries. But it’s also true about people who are historically underrepresented in tech, female hackers for example.

A lot of people disqualify themselves before even they apply, because they get scared. They think that they aren’t good enough, or it’s too early for them, or they don’t have enough co-founders. People start making those excuses to themselves but in reality what they should do is just to apply, because there are no outsiders here.

So many companies apply more than once, as they understand that they have nothing to lose.

Do not disqualify yourself before applying. It is a chronic problem among many people, which should be overcome.  All I would say is just go for it.

Y Combinator isn’t well represented in Armenia. Do you think it’s worth to organize info days in Armenia?

Now we are trying to figure out how to take advantage of our alumni network. The reality is that we don’t have so many employees who could go around the world and hold talks.

Last year we made an attempt to expand our alumni, and now it involves 4000 people.

What are the common mistakes startups make during the application process?

Very common mistake is when nothing is clear in the application. When you are into something, you are so deep in it that you think that everyone understands what your product does. In fact, most people don’t understand your solution and your market. If you don’t communicate with them, it’s never going to work. No one is going to understand why your product is important.

Silicon Valley has been the main tech hub for decades. Do you think tech is getting more decentralized?

Historically tech has been in the Bay Area. Ex-employees of tech companies are now willing to put money in small startups and just see what happens. And I think that this effect has been forming over time.

Everything is becoming decentralized today, and I think it will deepen. Tech is basically everywhere, so it wouldn’t be surprising if central points form in every region where people move to work and study.

Narine Daneghyan talked to Craig Cannon

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