About three years and more than 100,000 participants later, Y Combinator is relaunching its free online bootcamp Startup School as a continuous year-round program.
“Over the last 15 years, startups have exploded and it's no longer just students working on a summer project,” said Eric Migicovsky, a partner at YC. “We wanted to make sure that Startup School is available for founders as soon as they had an idea, and as soon as they were kicking things off.”
Like any accelerator that touts cohorts and demo days, Y Combinator is an exclusive organization by design. But to help more founders tune into startup advice, the famed accelerator launched Startup School in 2017 as a free 10-week online course, sans an equity investment from YC itself. In 2018, after the accelerator sent acceptance emails to the wrong companies, Startup School became accessible to all companies -- no application required.
Since then, Startup School has grown from a 10-week annual course to an 8-week program held by Y Combinator multiple times a year.
Founders at various stages of the startup journey, from pre-idea to pre-fundraise, can now access a curriculum of information for free and on-demand through Y Combinator’s website.
Once logged in, a Startup School attendee can sift through video-based lessons like “how to plan a minimum viable product,” taught by YC CEO Michael Seibel; “how to prioritize time,” taught by YC partner Adora Cheung; and “how to talk to users,” taught by YC partner Eric Migicovsky.
There is also a directory section, the Startup School Library, where students can access lessons and blog posts of previous YC founders and partners.
Students can communicate through a forum, where advice is shared on everything from feedback on a new app to how to value a pre-seed startup. It’s a focused breeding ground for ideas and help — one student offered to create other student’s websites for free, and another asked for test users for their new chat API.
According to Migicovsky, Startup School’s relaunch to be asynchronous has been in the works since the beginning of 2020. Today’s news comes after Y Combinator announced it will be taking its next accelerator cohort fully remote.
The shift to remote has seemingly led to a proliferation of online resources around how to grow a startup. For example, a number of investment firms have thrown their hats into the advising and investing game, like NextView Ventures and Cleo Capital.
Migicovsky isn’t worried about competition, and says that YC is linking to other resources in its platform that are more industry-specific or geographic-specific.
“We think that startup advice, in some ways, is kind of cheap,” he said. “Like there's a lot of people on the internet who offer startup advice, but for us you really need a large sample size in order to synthesize the best advice.”
While Startup School is more inclusive because it is free and online, diversity efforts are a little more muddled when it comes down to actual material and curriculum. Migicovsky said that YC hasn’t tracked demographic data yet, but it may be something the team will track in the future.
For context, here are Y Combinator’s 2020 Winter batch statistics: 20.9% of the companies have a female founder, 8.6% of companies have a Black founder and 9.0% of companies have a Latinx founder.
Migicovsky also noted that YC has four full-time people working on Startup School, including himself, to work on creating more inclusive content.