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Y Combinator holds "Office Hours" at USC

October 03, 2017
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Y Combinator, the Silicon Valley-based startup seed fund, had “office hours” at USC Thursday, Sept. 29. And students showed up in force.  

The fabled startup incubator, where disruptors such as AirB&B, Twitch and Dropbox got their start, goes on “tour” twice a year, visiting cities and universities far afield from Silicon Valley, looking to meet young, hungry founders with big ideas. During these tours they offer “office hours,” in which interested students have 20 minutes to pitch their startup ideas.  

Eight teams of entrepreneurs took full advantage of YC’s USC “Office Hours” from 3-5 Thursday at the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies.

“Everybody wants to get in front of YC,” said Jenny Liu MSEI ’17, who, along with Irfan Faizullabhoy, a Viterbi senior, helped organize the event. “They’ve got the most dynamic model for helping launch startups and it’s a proven success story.”

After a reception on the fifth floor porch of the Greif Center, in which students and YC alumni networked, YC partner Tim Brady and admissions manager Stephanie Simon spoke to an overflow crowd of students, including Greif lecturer Albert Napoli’s BAEP 552 feasibility analysis class.

“AirB&B wasn’t AirB&B when it started. It took them 10 years to become what they are. Don’t be intimidated. Everyone starts at zero.” - Tim Brady, Partner, Y Combinator

“This was a great opportunity for my students, most of whom are already taking steps with their own startups, to meet the group that wants to help them take that next step,” said Napoli.

Brady, one of 14 YC partners, gave the group a backgrounder…and a little pep talk.

“AirB&B wasn’t AirB&B when it started. It took them 10 years to become what they are,” he said. “Don’t be intimidated. Everyone starts at zero.”

Y Combinator is a startup seed fund based in Mountain View, CA.  It launched in 2005 with a different model of startup funding. "Before 2005, anyone wanting to raise money to launch their startup had to go to Sand Hill Road and ask for VC (Venture Capital) money,” Brady told the class. “We came up with another way.”

Twice a year it invests a small amount of money ($120K) in a large number of startups. Those teams move to Silicon Valley for three months, and work closely with YC partners to get them into the best possible shape and refine their pitch to investors. “Tell your family you’ve joined a cult,” laughed Brady. “You won’t be available at all over that time, so that you can focus. But you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish in those three months when you have that focus.”

Each batch culminates in Demo Day, when the startups present their nascent companies to a group of investors.

To date, Y Combinator has invested in more than 1,500 companies, many now household names. The combined valuation of Y Combinator companies is $85 billion.

The event was hosted by SparksSC and USC Marshall’s Master of Science in Entrepreneurship and Innovation (MSEI) program.