YC Lessons from two Latin Americans who walked into Silicon Valley


5 years ago

Platzi was accepted to YC after applying twice. Our customers speak Spanish, we look (very) Hispanic and talk with funny accents. We started everything in Bogotá and México, not the Bay Area. We are not your average Y Combinator company.

Here are a few things I wish I knew before doing YC W15.

Before interviewing

If English is your second language, don’t worry. Everybody is equally terrified. Try to speak slowly. You’ll do fine as long as you can communicate with each other.

But you need to speak English. It’s not that hard. Startups are harder.

Be truthful and authentic. YC doesn’t care where you come from, who you are, or how much you know about startups.

Do you know your market?
Are you growing?
Can your team deliver?
Can you scale?
Are you a good person?
That’s it.

You can’t game it. YC interviewers are lie detectors. Know your company, the good and the bad. If you have been invited to Mountain View, there’s a reason. Don’t leave anything on the table.

You win with growth, good metrics (acceleration > size) and good execution.

During YC

Congratulations, now launch as early as you can! If you already have, talk to your users and iterate.

Y Combinator is Silicon Valley’s User Manual. Read everything. Fast.

Try to live close to YC. Mountain View may be boring, but that’s good, you should be working on your startup anyway.

Your batchmates are a careful selection of the most incredible people you’ll ever meet. Yes, it sounds like an exaggeration, but you’ll have plenty of times to confirm it’s true.

Try to talk to all of them. More so than to the YC partners. Life is longer than a startup and some of them may make history.

YC partners do this for reasons beyond money. Listen to their advice, they’ve seen everything. You won’t surprise them.

Lying to YC partners is a waste of time. They won’t ask for the money back, so tell them everything. All startups are chaotic shitshows. They know. They invented the phrase.

Really, listen to their advice.

And learn to talk slowly. Nope, more slowly.

Just measure one thing. YC partners can help you figure out which one.

If English is your second language, speaking more slowly than you’re comfortable with will make you sound smarter. I don’t know why, but it works.

Fundraising is not a right and it’s possible to raise nothing after Demo Day. Prepare your company to survive that. Be humble while raising money.

Have perspective. Things can get terrible and depressing sometimes. But you were accepted to YC. A program that’s harder to get into than Harvard. You’ll be fine.

Companies can survive competitors. Companies can survive your own death. But companies die when they run out of money.

You’ll be amazed how much YC partners will help you and work with you before, during and after Demo Day. I was.

After YC


Keep in touch. Day-to-day operations and fundraising make it easy to lose contact with your batchmates. But remember, some of them may make history.

YC will help your company for as long as it needs help. Even after your batch is over. Don’t be afraid to ask.

The YC alumni network is full of incredible people. At Platzi, we’ve got help and advice from founders and employees at Stripe, Airbnb, Zencoder, Twitch, CodeNow, Gitlab, Zapier, RethinkDB and many more companies. Just ask.

Being a YC alum opens doors, yes, but be humble about it. No one owes you anything.

Hire. Hire talented, good people that love your mission. But hire, for the love of God.

You’ll quickly realize that being a YC founder means nothing unless your company is growing and making things happen. Work on your startup.

You were helped and got where you are thanks to that help. Pay it forward. Help, give advice and recommend other people walking this path. They may make history too.

Do you want to learn more? Sam Altman taught in Platzi about starting startups, Kevin Hale about startup design and we have another 20 courses in English, not to mention 70 in Spanish.

Update: this post is getting quite a bit of attention on Hacker News, you can follow the conversation here.

John Freddy
John Freddy


5 years ago

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