A company in Mountain View, California, helps fund and advises new, or startup, technology companies. It is called Y Combinator, and it has helped launch many well-known companies like Dropbox, Airbnb and Reddit.
To expand its business, Y Combinator has put its program online at no cost in a new course called Startup School. This course has gotten more than 7,000 technology founders from 140 countries to sign up for the program.
Expanding the Y Combinator reach
Y Combinator, also called “YC”, began in 2005. It holds programs two times a year. They bring company founders to Mountain View for 10 weeks of intensive training. Those taking part receive advice from YC’s large alumni network of well-known companies.
In addition to advice, YC invests $120,000 in each startup company. In return, the company gets seven-percent share of stock in the startup.
The program ends with an event called “Demo Day”. During this day, those taking part give their business pitches to a room full of possible investors.
YC’s program has become very popular. It also is very competitive. Only two percent of those who apply are accepted to the YC program. The company created the online Startup School to permit more businesspeople to take part in their program.
Goktug Yilmaz did not make it into the normal YC program, but signed up later for Startup School. Yilmaz wanted to help his game-developing business in Ankara, Turkey.
Yilmaz says he wanted to be part of the Startup School because it lets him talk and receive feedback. “Just seeing this process would help us get better on focusing on our goals,” he said.
Helping companies early
Steven Pham helps run Startup School. He said the company wanted to reach business founders outside of California’s technology center known as Silicon Valley.
“Internet access has been only something people have access to very recently in a lot of these markets,” Pham said. “In a lot of these communities where startups are super, super early, we wanted to get in there and help them learn best practices ... best ways to think about building their product, best ways to think about sales strategies and market(s).”
According to Pham, the interest in Startup School has been surprisingly high. More than 13,000 companies and nearly 20,000 founders applied. Because of the high number of applicants, YC had to limit the first class to 3,000 companies and about 7,000 founders so that it could provide enough advisers.
Ti Zhao is an alumna with YC. She helped advise 30 companies during Startup School.
“People kind of have this idea of Silicon Valley as where the startups are at and it’s really cool for me to see so many diverse companies from so many places around the world,” she said.
Ideas from all over the world
The Startup School course ends with “Presentation Day”, which is similar to “Demo Day” of the regular program. On Presentation Day, those taking part make their pitches online. The one difference is that the objective is not to get the interest of investors, but to present an early version of their product idea in a clear way.
The pitches can come from all over the world, including one from Syria, where a group is teaching children how to create circuits. Another group from Sudan, named SocialEyeze, is trying to help blind people use social media more easily.
“I’ve learned many useful skills, and those skills appeared in the modifications we made on our solution,” said Hussam Eldeen Hassan from Socialeyeze.
About 56 percent of the first Startup School class, or about 1,580 companies, completed the course.
Y Combinator says it plans to expand the number of companies for the next Startup School. The next course is expected to take place early next year.
For Yilmaz, Startup School was a great experience for both business and relationships.
“In Startup School, we made a bunch of friends from the online chat,” Yilmaz said. “We are probably going to continue those friendships with other founders.”
I’m Phil Dierking.
Michelle Quinn and Deana Mitchell reported this story for VOANews.com. Phil Dierking adapted her report for Learning English. Mario Ritter was the editor.
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Words in This Story
alumni - n. someone who was a student at a particular school, college, or university
apply - v. to ask formally for something (such as a job, admission to a school, a loan, etc.) usually in writing
pitch - n. things that are said by someone (such as a salesman) in order to make someone want to buy, do, or accept something
founder - n. a person who creates or establishes something that is meant to last for a long time such as a business or school.
startup - n. a newly established business.
strategy - n. a careful plan or method for achieving a particular goal usually over a long period of time
circuits - n. the complete path that an electric current travels along
modifications - n. the act or process of changing parts of something