The Y Combinator accelerator in Silicon Valley is one of the most prestigious programmes in the world for IT startups. Sytse Sijbrandij, founder of Dutch startup GitLab, recently walked through the programme. What’s it like living in the Valley attending Y Combinator?
During the Y Combinator programme the Gitlab team, being a group of ten, lived in a suburb of Mountain View. Sijbrandij: “Our living room was full of desks. In every corner of the house we were working on the company.” Working that hard wasn’t difficult: “There is nothing to do in Mountain View anyway. If we wanted to go out we took the car.”
Only a select group of entrepreneurs gets admitted in Y Combinator – which translates to an enormous amount of eagerness from the participating startups.
“We operate at a really high level and the atmosphere is fantastic. Everybody is eager, ambitious and pretty straight-forward. We raise the bar for ourselves because the teams around us perform enormously well. It’s contagious, really. There are entrepreneurs among them who build up a company from scratch in three months and already make revenue. 2 clients become 20 clients in 3 weeks. This made me a lot more ambitious. I saw what you can achieve with hard work and it got me some crazier ideas.”
It’s contagious, really
Meetings with mentors
Every two weeks Gitlab had a progress interview with a group of mentors. “Every visit they asked us to do an 30-seconds elevator pitch. Did you meet your goals? What holds you up? What KPI’s do you have? Where are you in two weeks? Their questions and their involvement motivated us to work even harder.”
According to Sijbrandij, Gitlab was able to ask the major players and the most influential persons in the Valley for advice during the programme. “During the Office Hours Sequoia Capital and Kevin Carter came by to share their expertise. I also came in contact with Ron Conway. He is the most well-known angel in the Valley and you can imagine that it felt good when he told us he liked Gitlab.”
For ten weeks the team worked towards a Demo Day. This last event is, of course, an important day for all participants. In Y Combinator’s case, it’s a two-day event which takes place in the Computer History Museum and has an audience of 450 investors.
What about the pitches of the startups? “They are extremely good! In the Netherlands we can learn a lot from them. After the pitches I wanted to invest in every company myself, they were that good.”
According to Sijbrandij a lot of investors agree with him. “Normally investors are very hesitant, but that’s not the case on Demo Day. They are blown away by the quality of the pitches and they all want to find the next Facebook or Google.” Still, it’s not all about the promising startup gems. “The goal of the program is that every participating startup ends up with enough money to proceed with their business. Whether a company becomes a success or not can only be said after two years.”
Even our real estate agent was interested in a piece of the pie
Move to San Francisco
“At the moment we’re three months on the way and we mainly work in the cloud. This week we open an office in San Francisco. That’s where we put our Sales and Marketing division. Also, I’m moving here. I’m really looking forward to be living in this city of the future – everything and everyone is focussed on startups. Even our real estate agent was interested in a piece of the pie – he asked for options in GitLab.”
This article was edited and appeared first on the UtrechtInc blog
Photo provided by GitLab