Y Combinator, Startup School and Startup Library

Y Combinator is sort of a business incubator or early stage venture capital firm. They run a free discussion forum called Hacker News and they also run a free online business education resource called Startup School.

If you go to the Startup School site, they list their current curriculum publicly. So if you don't feel you are ready to sign up and do weekly updates and group sessions, you can just do a little independent study (and maybe sign up later, when you feel more ready). There is also a public online library of their resources that you can browse or search without creating an account or signing up for anything.

When Y Combinator uses the term startup, they are talking about a business that has the potential to grow fast and get really big. They were involved in helping some big name companies get their start, such as Reddit and Dropbox.

But a lot of people use the term startup simply to mean "I am starting a new business." It's fine to use it that way. I run r/ClothingStartups on Reddit and it is aimed at independent clothing businesses, not the next billion dollar clothing brand.

Just understand that Startup School is geared towards helping people develop companies that have the hope of getting really big. If that isn't your goal, you may not feel that all their videos are relevant to your small business.

If you are doing community development work in the middle of nowhere, you may have no aspirations to become The Next Google, but you may want to start a business because there are no jobs where you are or not enough good jobs or not the right kind of jobs. Startup Library and Startup School are both free resources, but you may want to pick and choose with an eye towards "generally useful business information" because some of what they talk about may not feel relevant to your situation.

And that's perfectly okay. Just be aware of that fact when looking at what they offer.

I'm currently in Startup School. I was going to just sign up for their new Future Founders track, but ended up signing up for Startup School.

Eclogiselle has more traction than I expected it to have at this stage. So even though it's really early, I think I need to go ahead and take this seriously and treat it like "a real business" and not "a dream of a future business."

I am on week three of Startup School and below is what I have done so far. I have both italicized and asterisked things that I think might be especially useful to any business, no matter how small.

Official Curriculum

  1. *How to Get Startup Ideas by Paul Graham
  2. *How to Evaluate Startup Ideas by Kevin Hale
  3. *How to Prioritize Your Time by Adora Cheung
  4. How to Talk to Users by Eric Migicovsky
  5. How to Work Together by Kevin Hale
  6. Building Culture by Tim Brady
  7. *How to Pitch Your Startup by Kevin Hale


  1. *The Power of the Marginal by Paul Graham
  2. *How to Set KPIs and Goals (SUS 2019) by Adora Cheung
  3. Advice for Biotech Founders by Elizabeth Iorns.
  4. A Conversation on Hard Tech (SUS 2018) by Eric Migicovsky, Adora Cheung
  5. *A Minimum Viable Product is Not a Product, It's a Process
  6. Advice for Biotech Founders (SUS 2018) by Elizabeth Iorns
  7. *How Pitching Investors is Different Than Pitching Customers - Michael Seibel (6:20)


  1. Does YC Fund Solo Founders? (Less than 2 mins)
  2. When is the right time to apply to YC? (2 mins)
  3. Future Founders Track Welcome (I only skimmed the transcript)
Their curriculum is apparently something that changes over time. The very first listing on their Startup School curriculum page as I write this today is the video and transcript How to Get Startup Ideas by Jared Friedman, which is different from the essay by the same name by Paul Graham that was the first entry for my curriculum about two-and-a-half weeks back.

I got a lot of value out of Paul Graham's essay, but it was a lot of work. I read through it three times and then went down the rabbit hole following up on links within the essay, among other things.

This kind of ate my first week, which I'm fine with, but maybe you wouldn't be. And I still want to read it again sometime and maybe make notes!

One of my strengths is that I'm a good student. This can be good for studying up and researching and laying a really solid foundation.

The downside can be "failure to launch." Continuing to read about business and study business topics can be an avoidance tactic to get out of the uncomfortable act of actually doing business.

So please don't be intimidated by my list, above. It is intended to be helpful information to pick and choose from and not some kind of edict from on high for how much studying you should be doing before you launch a business.

If you are doing community development work, you may want to watch the piece listed above called Building Culture by Tim Brady even if you aren't starting a business. I have taken college classes in things like Social Psychology and I already know a lot about shaping culture and I thought it was really good and it's not all that long (less than 20 minutes).

Currently, Startup School wants you to do eight weekly updates in a row, at least one Group Session (video conferencing) and fifteen to thirty pieces of curriculum based on your company profile (I was assigned sixteen). You do not need a Zoom account or other third-party software for the group session. They have their own in-house solution.

I said "yes" to a Zoom meeting with someone else a week or two back in part to get in one practice session because it's been a long time since I have done any video conferencing. I have a cheap laptop and she commented on the lag between my video and audio.

So for my Group Session for Startup School, I rebooted my laptop shortly before the meeting and closed out everything except the tab for the video conference and I had no problem with my video lagging this time.

For me, the video conference requirement was the most stressful requirement. I did kind of a bunch of prep work ahead of time.

And then I log in and it has this video from Michael Seibel (that is also listed above) about the difference between pitching investors and pitching customers and the instructions tell you that you need to do "an investor pitch." Even though the video is only six minutes and twenty seconds, it was too late for me to watch it beforehand.

They should have probably included that tip about it being "an investor pitch" and the link to the Michael Seibel video in the email they sent me the night before.

I watched his video after my video conference. I would recommend you watch it a day or more ahead of time so you can think about what you want to say. (I did think about what I wanted to say, I just did so without first watching that video.)

For me, this was the single most important video so far and I recommend watching the videos, if possible, not just reading the transcripts:

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