YCombinator Demo Day Observations

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I had a chance to attend YCombinator’s (“YC”) Demo Day — where the latest batch of 36 YC startups present for 2 1/2 minutes to a broad spectrum of investors.

  • It was nice to see so many of the startups had secured 1 or more key clients. This is where the YC brand and the YC team can set crucial introductions.
  • If memory serves me right, only 1 of the companies had 1 founder. Everybody had 2 or more. When I ran my own online travel agency, I was the only CXO for a very long time and that was a mistake. We have a company we’re looking to invest in and a key roadblock is it’s a 1 man show and that’s concerning when we’re putting in $500k.
  • Is it a feature or a company? I took to the companies that solved a problem that made me want to signup and pay for them on the spot. AdGrokHireHivePagerDutyBrushes. Others had nice offerings and solved simple pain points but not deep enough pain points for me to actually pay for the service even after discounting the fact that they’re early stage companies. I won’t pick on them them here but I wish them well.
  • Notable absent any B2B or B2C Facebook related companies. I would have thought at least 1 or 2 of the 36 would have something on the FB platform. It’s hardly one you can ignore and certainly not without it’s risk.
  • It was nice to see women founders. This wouldn’t have come to mind had I not thought about it after reading blog comments on a TechCrunch post asking “how many of the YC companies had women co-founders?” — there were a few.
  • Interesting how many of the founders had Harvard, Columbia,  MIT, Stanford degrees. Equally notable that a few had ‘dropped out’  to pursue their dreams. ‘Dropping out’ just means ‘taking a year of’ and resuming if the startup fails but at least they did it. It’s not easy to quite the PhD program at MIT to pursue a startup.
  • Notable how many startups had experience at larger & more established companies. Being part of the industry you are now trying to disrupt is something we look for when investing.
  • “If you remember one thing about my company, it’s _______” was a stable part of the presentation.
  • The founders did a good job of working the room after the presentations were over. Kudos to getting out there and striking up a conversation with investors — who aren’t the easiest bunch to deal with since guess what, we get pitched all the time and have our guards up.
  • It was quite a varied bunch of investors. Individual investors, angel groups, university related angel groups, early stage funds, super angels, VC’s, celebrity investors and media/press. Made for an interesting cast of characters in the room.
  • Notable how many of the startups were profitable. They offered a product or service somebody paid for; usually a few hundred people (sometimes a few thousand) paid for. Which in turn raised their valuation and likelihood of getting funded. Gone are the day of slaving away for months and months without a profit.
  • It was a good mix of B2C, B2B and mobile applications. No one sector dominated which kept the presentations interesting.
  • I attended the 3rd and final batch of presentations and undoubtedly the companies used the first two batches to polish themselves up.

Applications this time include: disposable social networks, site metrics, restaurant tablets, travel search, mobile TV apps, child tracking, email context, mobile app promotion, job interview software, tablet games, file syncing, non-virtual goods, social motivation, apartment search, SEO tools, grocery price search, sports chat, tablet paint software, project management, service provider hubs, memorial sites, eyetracking, glanceable displays, SEM software, Twitter follower management, tablet productivity software, enterprise Q&A, outsourced sysadmin, a new inbox, a financial dashboard for businesses, geolocal chat, server notifications, and debt management.

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