Some quick context: I am a partner at Y Combinator, and one of my responsibilities is to be in charge of the YC admissions process. We are going to be doing all of our interviews for the S20 batch over video and so I’m sharing a few behind the scenes thoughts.
Y Combinator has been making changes to adjust to the post COVID-19 world. For admissions this means that we won’t be doing our typical in person interviews in Mountain View this batch. Founders instead have their final YC interview as a video call. In addition, it’s looking like the S20 batch itself could be largely or fully remote. We did the final weeks of the W20 batch over video, including individual office hours, dinner talks, and Demo Day. S20 might be the only YC batch to be selected, funded, and conducted remotely. We’ll make a final decision as things progress.
Over the years I have heard requests for a fully remote YC experience from certain founder groups including: founders leading companies with a large physical component the founders can’t leave (ie laboratory, manufacturing, logistics), or international founders whose business is taking off and wouldn't be able to move to the Bay Area for 3 months, or post product market fit founders with a team of 10+ people where it would be difficult to move. We can’t predict when or if a fully remote batch will ever happen again, so if a remote batch is appealing to you, this could be your shot. You can still apply with a late application if you would like, just realize our bar is higher for late applicants.
A couple of weeks ago I put together some tips for the YC W20 batch on how to raise money over video. I think some of the tips are relevant for YC applicants as well:
The single biggest mistake I see in a video meeting is founders doing a bad job of telling when the investor(s) are engaged with what you have to say. Being nervous makes this worse. And so the nervous founder just drones on and on and on and then the meeting is over. In a good investor meeting, video or not, the investor will be extremely engaged and be talking and asking questions a great deal. You need to give the conversation room to breathe so that this back-and-forth has a chance to happen. The higher latency of video vs in-person means you have to try that much harder.
You should look at the screen carefully so you can watch the eyes of participants and make sure you still have them engaged. If the video is lagging or there are sound quality issues it's even harder, so please try to have a great setup to do these calls in. The worst calls I ever have been on are ones with tons of background noise, video and audio lag, not being able to parse what the founders are saying, and/or distracting stuff going on on the founders side (or all of these things at once).
In closing, we are going to keep interviewing and funding startups, we are just going to do the entire process over video. We want to fund founders that can survive and thrive in any market conditions. Stay safe out there.