Things change, so it’s always good to be on the look for signals. I want to share what are some possible contenders to disrupt the startup scene, something YC did 13 years ago.
While I was filling the Y Combinator application they ask you about something you have discovered and a question came to my mind instead of an insight, but in some way, the question IS the insight. The question is pretty obvious since it’s the title of this post: what will the next YC look like?
Don’t get me wrong, YC is still the biggest known advantage for a startup that wants to scale, and I don’t think that is changing anytime soon, but what I’m trying to discover in this post, it what could disrupt the startup scene once again after all these years.
One way could be something to give founders such an advantage over all the current acceleration programs. It could also be something that is as good as current “solutions” to be a successful founder, but by being less known, the chances to take that advantage will be higher.
First I want to clarify that I intentionally mentioned the startup scene, and not the more common “produce the next billion dollar startup”. Here we can make a quick stop to analyze that the startup ecosystem is changing by itself with a wider diversity of paths. There are more and more indie founders (check out India hackers if you haven’t) for which the current VC model is not suited for most of them since they aren’t looking to scale as fast as possible in an exponential way, but to stay profitable and grow linearly, many of them bootstrapped. This will produce an atomization of the scene with smaller startups, where new innovation could boost them.
Unicorns by Zebras Unite
The clearest option that already has a big impact is Startup School from YC. After all, they have the most information about what startups need and how to help them. Doing it in a scalable way could change the scene completely.
Another option is Pioneer, founded by Daniel Gross, who runs AI on YC. This startup looks for the undiscovered “Einsteins” of the world. They do this through gamification. People from all over the world can apply, the ones chosen to compete will receive $5.000. They will compete for three months to see who has the best results, If they are among the first in their group they will receive an offer up to $100.000 and an invitation to the Bay Area. Next cohort’s application is open until October 21st. I think this model is really interesting because of the low barriers and the caliber of mentors with people like Marc Andreessen, Patrick Collison, Balaji Srinivasan and Tyler Cowen among other amazing experts.
Also, Stripe is a candidate for this with its Stripe Atlas initiative. They are enabling starting a business more easily, and have lots of metrics that can help them take action. I know this is not probably going to happen in the short term but some hints like Atlas’ guides focused on entrepreneurs and the acquisition of Indie Hackers show that there are intentions to at least collaborate in the ecosystem.
A not so well known contender is 42 Born to code, a free school to learn how to code. Right now they focus on programming, but their peer learning model based on projects would work perfectly for founders. So, it would be more of a change of focus. Also its worth noting that 42’s founder, Xavier Niel also started France’s biggest accelerator Station F, which has a more traditional program. At Linhub, we try to leverage on peer learning but for startup founders, following some of 42’s principles but applied to tech entrepreneurs. Instead of using pre-created cases, we use real-life cases from each member, so the solution has a real impact and people learn from experience. Another difference is that all of this happens online, so there are no offices like the fancy ones 42 have in their French and US schools.
Bootstrapped by Zebras Unite
There are also micro funds, like the recently created Tiny Seed Fund by Rob Walling who has bootstrapped Drip and runs MicroConf. This fund wants to back bootstrappers and let them grow without the expectations of becoming unicorns. This initiative by itself probably won’t have a huge impact, but if this is replicated by many investors, it could change the way we think about startups today. They would still be high-growth companies, but without stepping on the gas in the same way a potential unicorn would. There’s even an organization called Zebras Unite that goes further and states to be a “movement to counter existing start-up[sic] and venture capital culture”.
My final approach would be something unknown. It could come from a totally different place, like China or from a new technology, like blockchain.
Thanks for the feedback Ben Sheldon.