YC Interview Guide for African Startups

YC Interview Guide for African Startups
November 1, 2021 Oreoluwa Aremo
Y Combinator Interview Guide for African Startups (Future Africa)

At Future Africa, we firmly believe that Y Combinator is one of the most impactful opportunities for any founder keen on building high-growth, globally relevant businesses. This belief is grounded in our Managing Partner’s experience and that of other founders we have closely supported in their journey pre and post YC. Some of our portfolio companies that have gone through the accelerator include Flutterwave, Kobo360, Bamboo, PayHippo and more.

With this evidence in hand, we constantly deploy resources to help more exceptional founders get accepted into YC. And today, we are excited that several African founders have now made it to the interview stage for the YC W22 batch. 

We share this helpful guide from Wil Eyi (Toolbox, YC S20), who collaborated on our FAVE-YC program. The same advice is valuable to other founders taking their interviews this week.

”The following reminders and questions are my combined notes from the most valuable articles and advice I was given before my own interview, as well as some fresh takes from recent interviews.” 

Wil Eyi. 

Key reminders

1.Remember that YC is not a school or a job. You are not trying to convince the YC partner to “let you in”. Your main job is simply to make sure you can be very clear about what you are building, who you’re building for, and who you are as a founding team. The goal is not to impress, but to drive home the key points about your startup and your founding team.

2.Whenever possible, eliminate verbs from answers. For example, the answer to “What’s your go-to-market? Should be A, then B, then C”. This is to make sure your key points come out in a very succinct way

3.Whenever possible, use primary data from customers instead of analogies.

4.Start with the name of your company and what it does. There’s no need to set up the problem; just get to the point. Too many people spend too much energy trying to make their idea sound impressive, and it is okay to keep them simple.

5.Be intimately familiar with the existing options and what, specifically, is wrong with them (or how you compliment them).

6.Be ready for constant interruptions (even after the first 2–3 words of response).

7.Be prepared for a narrow and deep drill on a single question. This is unlikely but has happened.

8.Because the interview goes by in a blur, you don’t want to walk out having left out a significant selling point of your company. To prevent this, write down three important things that you MUST convey. E.g., Founder Stories; Moat thesis; traction, etc.

9.The most important outcome of your YC interview is to convince the interviewers that you are a great founding team. Your interview should demonstrate the great synergy on the founding team, and you don’t want to undermine that in any way.

10.Maintain interest. You need to earn their attention, and the easiest way to do so is in direct, concise answers that don’t meander. Remember, they’re interviewing A TON of incredible startups.

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Questions you should expect

1.Opening description (should be simple but deep, i.e., {Company_name} is a what for who in location (if geo-specific), which enables them to do {major_benefit})

2.What is the most important metric for your company? Why?

3.Describe your traction using 3-5 clear metrics.

4.How big is this market? (think about this bottom-up; how do you charge and how many people you can charge).

5.What’s your progress? (Make sure the interviewer can feel impressed with how much you’ve done in the period you’ve had to do it.)

6.What is your Unique insight? (It truly must be unique; this is what differentiates your startup from current options)

7.Why haven’t previous companies taken hold in this space?

8.Who are the most important people for you to focus on?

9.How will you know you have a product-market fit?

10.What makes new users try you? Why do the reluctant ones hold back?

11.How far can you get by the end of YC?

12.How will YC help in the next 3-4 months?

13.Main risks in the next 3-5 months?

14.Main obstacle going forward? 

15.What was your biggest mistake?

16.How do you know your team will stick together?

Other vital questions and notes

1.Who needs what you’re making? How do you know they need it? What are they doing now?

2.What, exactly, makes you different from existing options?

3.Why isn’t someone already doing this? How will customers and users find out about you?

4.What are the critical things about your field that outsiders don’t understand?

5.Who is going to be your first paying customer?

6.If your startup succeeds, what additional areas might you be able to expand into?

7.Why did you choose this idea? What have you learned so far from working on it?

8.What does each founder do on the team?

9.What are your unit economics?

10.What are the top things users want?

11.What has surprised you about user behaviour?

12.Who would you hire, or how would you add to your team

Sources & additional resources

Yuri Lifshits’ guide

Michael Seibel’s 7 questions

Advice Video by YC partners (old)

We wish you the best of luck!