Interviewing At Y Combinator Part 1

This is part one of a series of posts describing my experience interviewing at Y Combinator this past summer.

Interviewing at YC is a lot like the first time you have sex. You’re trying very hard to convince the other person that you know what you’re doing, and it’s all over much too quickly.

During the middle of my freshman year at UPenn two friends, Wesley Zhao and Ajay Mehta, and I created a weekend app called WhereMyFriends.Be. It was a very simple Facebook API/Google Maps API mashup that just mapped all of your Facebook friends on a map. After we created it we cold-emailed a bunch of tech blogs about it and waited to hear back. To our complete surprise Mashable agreed to cover it, and it was our first taste of real success.

After that experience which I’ve chronicled here, we continued to develop web apps at a fairly rapid clip (about 7 in the next few months.) We also applied to Y Combinator basically on a whim. One weekend Ajay came down to Penn from NYU, we recorded a video of ourselves and we submitted it for consideration not really expecting anything to come of it.

As the day when we were supposed to hear back about being interviewed approached, I distinctly remember not being the slightest bit nervous. I honestly thought that we had no shot. We were just a couple of college freshman who had put together a few websites. The best of the best get interviewed at YC. There was no reason to get my hopes up.

Early May was the day we were supposed to hear back. I was sitting in my writing seminar on Philosophy listening to the professor talk about utilitarian ethics. Then I got a text from Wesley.

He said, “Dude we just got an email from PG.”

“Shut up man I don’t believe that for a second,” I replied. Wesley is notorious for trolling people. I went back to listening to my professor.

“No seriously, login to my Y Combinator account I just sent you the password.”

Ok, I said to myself maybe he’s being serious. So I opened my laptop, logged into his HN account and then promptly almost jumped out of my chair in the middle of class. PG had sent us a message. All it said was:

“I like you but not your idea, would you be willing to come up with a new one?”

I don’t think I even said anything to the professor, I just booked it out of class and called Wesley. We immediately replied saying that of course we would be willing to think of a new one, and waited. Soon enough we got another email from Kirsty.

“Your application looks promising and we’d like to meet you in person.”

I couldn’t believe my eyes. We were actually going to interview at Y Combinator. This wasn’t happening. 

This is the end of Part 1. Part 2 will appear here tomorrow!

You should follow my on Twitter. Or check out my current project DomainPolish.

12 Sep 2011, 4:55pm | 5 comments


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