Last night Mountain View, CA based start-up incubator Y Combinator held its first event YCNYC in New York City to connect with start-ups and future start-ups. The YC experience according to some alum is something like going away to camp. Once you are accepted you move to Silicon Valley and for the 3-month duration of the program and do nothing but work on your start-up with the support and guidance of founder Paul Graham, and his team. During the program you fine-tune your idea, meet investors, perfect your pitch and at the end present at Demo Day to a room full of investors.
I’ve known about the YC and Paul Graham for a couple of years now, so I was really excited to attend. Held at the Metropolitan Pavilion, the event was almost all guys talking tech and I figured this is what being in Silicon Valley must be like. It was a nice departure from my usual fashion scene and I love anything related to start-ups.
The event opened with a talk from PG, as everyone called him, about New York as a start-up hub. He contemplated the idea if New York will ever catch-up to Silicon Valley as a star-up hub. He eventually came to the say that no it wouldn’t. His reasoning was that New York was already a hub for finance. But he forgot or (didn’t know) that New York is also a hub for….fashion start-ups! I forgive him for it, he is a tech guy talking to a tech audience. So while I felt a little out of place among all the tech talk I felt really in place in New York because I’m in fashion and New York is the fashion hub. Then I realized that the fashion industry has something of an equivalent to the YC and that’s CFDA’s Fashion Incubator. The structure and terms might be different but the role they play in cultivating new ideas and talent is the same. Going back to NYC as a tech start-up, Graham technically dissed the city, but I was not offended, just like I don’t think he would be if I said Silicon Valley will never catch up to New York fashion.
Graham’s talk was followed by alumni members of the YC presenting their companies and sharing their experiences. These included Airbnb, Weebly, WePay, Loopt, Greplin and a fashion shopping start-up called Inporia. Tech and fashion can mix!
The YC is not opening a New York office in the foreseeable future.
My take-away from the talks:
1. The anecdote for start-up failure is people and chance meetings. People connect you with other people and that connection is necessary when you are start-up. So whether you are in fashion in New York or tech in Silicon Valley meeting people is crucial because they have ideas and connections to other people who could help prevent your company from failing. So one word: Network!
2. Start-ups are like cults and you want to be the cult leader. You want to be able to engage people and have them listen to your ideas, get excited about them and spread them around. The YC group tried to keep away from the cult analogy but it made the point.
3. Make 100 people love you and your company. This came from the Airbnb founder and it’s a great point because those that love you will tell everyone they know about you.
4. One of Graham’s predictions for future companies is that most will be technology companies selling products, with 2 already known: Amazon and Ebay. In the future he sees institutions like banks going from having an IT department to becoming tech companies dealing with money.
5. Investor mentioned:
Ron Conway– According to PG he is like the air traffic controller of chance meeting and if he invests in your company you have access to all of Silicon Valley. He is now a New York investor.
Fred Wilson also based in New York.