Geoff Ralston and Adora Cheung are both partners at YC.

This episode is about Startup School. It’s a free, online course we’re offering that starts on August 28th.

We’re also offering equity-free grants of $10,000 to 100 companies that participate in the course.

Anyone can sign up for the course at StartupSchool.org.

Read the transcript here.

The YC podcast is hosted by Craig Cannon.



0:40 - What is Startup School?

3:40 - Who are the speakers this year?

5:00 - What are the different paths in Startup School?

7:00 - Success stories from last year’s Startup School.

8:55 - Why offer $10,000 grants?

10:00 - What deals are offered to the startups in Startup School?

11:00 - When does the course start?

12:45 - What are the requirements to complete the course?

15:15 - What are the topics that will be covered?

18:00 - What happens during office hours sessions?

22:30 - Who else is working on this course at YC?

United States


00:00:00Hey how's it going this is Greg came in and you're listening to why combinators podcast today's episode is with Jeff for Austin and Adora Cheung Jeff in the door are both partners at YC in this episode is about start up school start up school is a free online
00:00:15course were offering that starts on August twenty eight we're also offering equity free grants of ten thousand dollars two hundred companies that participate in the course anyone can sign up for the course at start up school dot org alright here we go all right Jeff an indoor thanks
00:00:31for coming in we we're here to talk about started school so Jeff could you haven't breakdown what's happening this year was started school sure all started school began a couple of years ago with a course Sam taught online called how to start a start up and last year
00:00:50we involved it intercourse without the staffer called started school and we're continuing that this year it's an open online course that is a way for us to reach as many companies as possible throughout the entire world help maximize really the amount of innovation amount of value created by
00:01:11startups everywhere in the world in it or how it is the course work different this year from any previous version %HESITATION well it's there are similarities two weeks this time we course and %HESITATION you you can either audit the course or you can actually be part of the
00:01:29human life to be part of the course of and to be part of the course you get obviously access to materials and lectures %HESITATION you're put into a group %HESITATION you get %HESITATION adviser who will you will meet once a week T. you go over the obstacles that
00:01:45you're having %HESITATION the more poorly to talk with other founders as well who were in you know doing similar challenges out and then also you have access to community which will be a forum in which you can talk to everybody else who's taking start school so it's really
00:02:00great because at the end the day what we wanna do is reduce the barriers to starting a start up and %HESITATION I come from the middle of nowhere personally and so you know it's near and dear to me because I I I you know I didn't learn about
00:02:15start up until very late like I am I would consider like a left winger people who are from here and so I think that what's important is to give people out there who are not until come Bally access to community access to mentorship %HESITATION access to really great
00:02:32knowledge to build a start up so the amazing thing about startup schools it's not just the content this is really unique it is about the community and the arm and the mentorship that every single one of the founders in in this adviser track where you can assign an
00:02:50adviser and you meet with them on a weekly basis now it's also true that the content this year is going to be different than the content last year all of the content from the last two years is available online will remain available online and is relevant and useful
00:03:06but it turns out also that the content relevant to starting startup is both broad and deep there's a ton of things to cover so we're going to cover everything up a little bit differently we're going to go over similar as of a start up how to get going
00:03:23what the mechanics are how to think about product think about growth healthy about prison but we'll do them all in in in new and different ways that I think will be valuable additions to the site of content that we've already actually made available in a public library that
00:03:39you can get at it started school dot org slash library and the speakers for this year is that list public at well that the list is about to be public I think simultaneously with the publication of this podcast yet so we can start to talk about it one
00:03:56of my favorite speakers is going to be a Torah and what we're we're really focusing on on %HESITATION why she partners and why she founders for the start of school so a number YC partners are going to be participating I'm really excited to to say that Paul Graham
00:04:20and Jessica Livingston will be taking part in the course and giving some of their wisdom which is also providing to founders everywhere in the world but we're also going to have %HESITATION have otherwise he partners Sam Altman who's the president why commentator will be giving a talk Michael
00:04:39sizeable the CEO why commentator will be giving a talk so we have an amazing line up of folks were going to be out there talking okay cool so we should just clarify all these questions around the tracks right now I think that like isn't necessarily clear for folks
00:04:54who have maybe participated before or just heard a little bit about it so adore could you explain like the different paths of going through started school yes so there are two paths one is you can audit course in which case you just get access to the live stream
00:05:09in lectures in the notes %HESITATION or you can be if your exercise your full time founders you can just apply and be part of start school officially which means like I said before you get %HESITATION access to of mentorship mentor at sorry visors you get access to the
00:05:26forum acts you get exclusive deals like what Amazon straight out lives and so forth %HESITATION and and you also can qualify to receive a ten thousand dollar equity free %HESITATION grant from us if you complete the course and and we're going to choose a hundred companies that yes
00:05:45that they get that grant based on what that the how they do during the course and the the information we're going to get from the advisors and %HESITATION and and the the progress that company makes what we're going to judge how promising that companies those companies are yeah
00:06:03in those companies that could be applied any stage like who were the founders that you guys are looking for I think the most interesting are people who are early stage founders %HESITATION so there either other either they have an idea and they're ready to work on a full
00:06:17time or they are currently working idea and anywhere from no users to you know any number of users is fine I think we can be helpful along those lines extra school it is is it fair to say certainly targeted at very early stage companies there is knowledge in
00:06:39that and the knowledge base that that we've built in the past and are continuing to build with this year started school there is probably useful to tech companies in later stages as well but for the most part this is I think it or put it well is about
00:06:55as about lowering the threshold for people to get started okay tenderly get your start up gold catcher do you guys recall so from last year were there any success stories that kind of stood out to you %HESITATION so we had thirty eight companies who actually %HESITATION got into
00:07:10our core YC program after going to start up school and so they don't they I think but for the most part most then did a lot of their iteration and talking to users during start school and they learn a lot how to do that which I Russian spies
00:07:22here say that that's a very high percentage of the batch like thirty eight because across across yes but still even across yes that's your ten percent yeah yeah yeah %HESITATION ands success stories %HESITATION I mean I'm very excited about a few of those companies so one of them
00:07:38is actually I worked very closely with %HESITATION in my group its connection IP they actually went through move with the something legal space which they're stolen %HESITATION but they iterated towards their current product during startup school so I think that's really set in their condition ideas there a
00:07:56tech enabled that law firms and if you need any patents you go to them you just add a door through in this term moke which %HESITATION we often use internally to talk about the course that stands for massively open online course yeah and it's sort of a most
00:08:11people know that term but this is how we think of start up school it's it's it's it's a moot kits for everyone's open to everyone so no matter what if you apply to be part of the the main course and get an adviser and and for whatever reason
00:08:28we do have a limited number of advisor so we can't take everyone but you can still take the course everyone who applies can cannot at the course can can go through all of the lectures and sell the content and at the end of the course of that as
00:08:43we sat all of the content is going to be available online catches so so given the success of last year's Moock which Jeff you're organizing why did you decide to do the grants this year it was already working we want to maximize the amount of innovation in the
00:08:58world and it's just a hard fact that starting start up takes cash so it to me honest it's a bit of an experiment right arm certainly it helps to attract companies to come to start school we think starts was good fun we we derive no benefit unless they
00:09:22apply to why commentator get into I commentator except we think it makes the world a better place to have more startups so it's good if more do start of school and we think that the most promising startups that don't get into why commentator but still have a shot
00:09:39have a better shot if they have some capital to work off of so our fervent hope is that by giving ten thousand dollars these hundred startups we'll have startups that might otherwise die knocked out seated thrive and become viable companies catcher okay into just to clarify the deals
00:09:59you mentioned earlier what are they explicitly so people now of the X. at the exclusive deals not so we have a call credits from Amazon web services and %HESITATION dissolution of and maybe some others %HESITATION and then every company that comes through will be able to incorporate and
00:10:17a critic account with three strike out let's see there mate mazing company to work with Okey for incorporation yes %HESITATION and will have four we will have a bunch of others but those are the highlights so applications are open right now and they've been open for a week
00:10:35they've been over for a week or more when this process to yeah yeah once the package has it'll be two weeks and I I do want to really encourage people to get their application and it turns out this is a really popular thing and lots of people are
00:10:50applying for were already thrilled by the response it's great we have thousands and thousands of companies are already applying in one of the course begin the course is going to begin the week of August twenty seventh it's going to actually have a a live in person component in
00:11:08Mountain View California at %HESITATION at the original YC offices and pioneer wrote up we have higher wages me but %HESITATION but also the obviously we can't take everyone there since there will be many thousands of people taking the milk so the the all of the the lectures and
00:11:31the sides will be made online made available online shortly after each match and who can attend in person how does that work what we're actually working through the we you know we think the demand is going to be super high and we want to be as equitable as
00:11:47possible it's SA really interesting cracked up the start up companies in circle are that comes from around the world but it's also true there's a there's a good number who are in the bay area yeah so we don't we don't expect or really even recommend people travel from
00:12:05and try to come to the course because that actually will probably detract from your start up you should be focusing on start up the star of itself in building your company in talking to your users and and and building your products not traveling out to Mountain View right
00:12:21for people who are local and who who want to come in what will have some mechanism for them to reserve a spot and come in and out and actually tend the lecture person in just to clarify %HESITATION or to add on to that is the live is just
00:12:35you know an option it's not a requirement for course completion or qualify for the ten thousand dollars but there are requirements we %HESITATION I'm sure doors but to say that but what we to be eligible to arm to take part in in in a presentation day at the
00:12:58end where you can present your company in hopefully they'll be the be an audience of investors and other four and the community to to to take a look at what you've done what you've accomplished but also to be eligible for the for the ten thousand dollar grant you
00:13:14need to attend nine out of ten of the weekly group meetings with your adviser and you need to consume at least nine out of ten of the nine ten yes you know twenty that that occur on rainy days okay got so the course adore mention this the corset
00:13:37runs for ten weeks starting %HESITATION it on the week of August twenty seventh and it runs to the end of October you ought not coincidentally that is right in the application period going into the interview period for our winter twenty nineteen action so we actually will help people
00:13:58apply to YC will give you maybe not insider information but accurate information about how to think about creating an application and having your best shot at having your company considered for membership in in that there's a lecture dedicated to that there's no actually a lecture dedicated to helping
00:14:18people do that %HESITATION look it's hard to get into our core YC program the admission rate is somewhere between one and two percent so we think we think that alone is a great reason to come to start of school the main reason startup school we'll help you get
00:14:39into what I see however is not because we have a lecture dedicated that the main reason it will help you get into I see is because we sincerely believe it'll make your start up that right and you'll have the forcing function of working with the group over ten
00:14:52weeks well that's part of it there it turns out that forcing function of working as part of a group and having community over ten weeks makes startup better it makes you focus it makes you achieve it makes you grow so we on we expect those things to really
00:15:07be relevant companies that are applying so in addition to this section on applying to I see what else is in the curriculum like let's go from the beginning of the first first course and then just go from there yeah this is hard because we have to do it
00:15:20from memory and it's ten courses but up it follows an arc that I think will be pretty familiar to folks we're going to start off by talking about some of the really basic Tom ideas behind starting a start up why you do it how you should think about
00:15:39it high high should even mechanically go about doing what you need to do some of these things every part of doing a start up is hard but sometimes just getting over those first you know small steps is the key thing to actually getting on the road to building
00:15:55your start up then we'll spend a fair amount of time talking about product for free what is a start up without what is any company without a product why sees motto it turns out is make something people want so we'll spend up a fair amount of time talking
00:16:13about what it really means to make something people want to find sort of the proverbial product market set at and then we'll go on to one to talk about well so how do you think about getting users and growing once you start to have a product that's reasonable
00:16:35and then the and you know we'll spend a fair amount of time on that and we'll spend a fair amount of time on and things like how to think about running your company in hiring people and and then we'll transition to to talking about fundraising how that works
00:16:52how you think about cap tables and in then and as we get towards the middle part we'll talk about a plane to YC which is sort of right in that it sort of in a lot of people think about my see as a as a mechanism for fund
00:17:07raising although I tend to argue it's much less about fundraising that's a piece of it and way more about making your start up more likely to succeed and then we'll have some cool stuff at the end that'll help with that %HESITATION I will revolve around thinking big thinking
00:17:26big for the future thinking about that that the key things that make startups succeed and fail and %HESITATION and even psychological emotional things because as anyone who's gonna start up adores been through this in as an intense wages a start of his emotional roller coaster it's really complicated
00:17:51and hard and and coming out the other end as good a person enter the beginning is really a that is really a hard challenge what about those sessions with advisers here we we in or around my see we talk about office hours and group office hours and advisers
00:18:07and all that stuff I think is not always clear what actually happens during those meetings and and to be clear like these are online session yeah just a line and so they're happening weekly correct of what's actually happening during the because you know following the course work is
00:18:25interesting which is like the traditional model if you're working with a TA for example but in reality what they're more talking about what product growth during the whole course I would say the course work is a little bit more on the theory side an abstract in an attempt
00:18:41to teach everybody something relevant to what they're doing and then ingroup office hours up it comes down to more tactical things in very specific things and so we're going to try to group you with fellow founders who are working on similar type similar industries and obviously hopefully some
00:18:58locations %HESITATION so you you don't have to get up at like two times for this %HESITATION but most importantly I think the general structure is %HESITATION you come in and you describe you know what has happened in briefly %HESITATION what's happened the past week have you met your
00:19:14goal if not %HESITATION what was the main obstacle and how can the group help you into the mentor actually is not there to I would say tell you exactly what to do they are there to facilitate conversation facilitate a conversation because I think in most cases a lot
00:19:30of the things a lot of the problems you run into other founders have run into interest very different forms and so it is the other founders who %HESITATION will probably help you the most out and so that's what we're that's what we're hoping for the important aspect of
00:19:46the about hours even though they're done in group is that they're actually individual attention for each company each company gets to spend time talking about what they're working on what progress they're making what problems there were barriers the running into and and it's the S. or points out
00:20:06it's the policy adviser and the other founders within that context who can help and and you know in the community of start ups trying to be successful it's actually the coolest part I I just actually it's worthwhile seeing just a word on the advisors who I think more
00:20:24than anything make this work and it's really a testimony to the power of though YC network that YC founders are so interested and like I don't know how how how open I should be about this but I'll just say we don't pay these folks yes they do not
00:20:42want to hear their time yet for free course to spend time with companies that they've never heard of before and to help them be successful and these folks are amazing there there are there in in many or most cases working on their own start up the same time
00:21:01but they dedicate their time they're very valuable time to help the strangers make their start up working and it's it's really more than anything else what I think makes start school our full and and and interesting beyond sort of any online course you can follow and and you
00:21:23know and any book you can read about how to start a start up this is way more real way more effective and I would say %HESITATION way more substantive to the future success of your star yeah well I think it really helps you stay locked into the course
00:21:40because that's been you know churn has been a huge problem with many Moock some right I think that it's not uncommon to have less than twenty percent of the class recites from single digit percentages and and last year fifty six percent finished and in our goal is higher
00:21:57this year at an end at I think adore pointed out you only get a chance at the ten thousand dollars if you finish so we expect that is one of the reasons we have this in place at the tail end of the course because we think that is
00:22:14going to incite people to finish because we think it's good for them to write right here your start that has a better shot right so before we move on I think we should also shot out the people out why see that we're working on this with you guys
00:22:25because it's not just you two no not running who also is working on it with you well Stephen Sam has even as the main means yeah Steven does more than anyone he's amazing he worked on it with him last year and I think your concerns are on how
00:22:38to star search too as well but he's amazing heat crusade visors he puts all everything together he makes he makes it work when it works so he's he's sort of he's the guy yeah and we have that two engineers are working with us as well Ramon and Kyle
00:22:56the way she suffer to get here is awesome our side to this obviously yeah we both like for the most part we build this ourselves we use our own software and %HESITATION we medicines with our own stuff we actually it's actually non trivial to put together software that
00:23:10makes it that that makes it scalable to work with you know thousands of thousands of companies yeah obviously we we have smaller scale but even within my see when we have hundreds of companies working with we need software to help the scale at this level we need it
00:23:26all the more so and so that they've done and they did awesome job last year were proving it again this year we get lots of feedback from companies from the advisers on how to make this offer even better so yeah there caller one of the amazing yeah right
00:23:41on so on on a personal side for you guys when you were start offenders which of these classes you think would have been most valuable to you I what was the thing you knew Lisa about where you could have learned the masses probably all this it's all my
00:23:58gosh like I mean I'm from a slightly different generation and when I when I'm when I want when I want to star struck there was nothing available here the the there's there's that what we said this before but its force repeating the contents awesome like just if you
00:24:18if you go to that that that you are all I mention for library you start going through there it's incredible there there's also a lot of star content elsewhere on the web and some of it Arnold itself is pretty good too I happen to believe that the star
00:24:32of content that's been put together both at why so it's it's a mix of started school content and other content that's been generated around some actual content that we think is actually particularly good it and we we point to pot that coupled with the community and the mentorship
00:24:48that start up school represents the like that alone is worth the price of admission which is free but that alone is is amazing and and game changing as far as I'm concerned we have an answer the question though can make my question is not made that's for the
00:25:13community and the focus and having that for me like again the content is great is fantastic but but you that nobody around here yeah I think I answered the question it's a question about your same yeah I I I think you know me think about why see it's
00:25:29it's all about the network %HESITATION and you know it's it's a community of high quality on printers yeah and you can't get that anywhere else and so yeah I want to do this research school as well it's like you can live anywhere and plug into a network on
00:25:43you don't you know like this will be the highest quality place you can be at %HESITATION to talk with people that are sort of all right thanks guys thanks yeah time Hey thanks a lot crackles fun yes all right thanks for listening so as always you can find
00:25:57the transcript and video at blog dot why commentator dot com and if you have a second it would be awesome to give us a rating interview wherever you find your podcast see you next time

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