March 27, 2021
Image: Jane Seidel/Protocol
Hello and welcome to Pipeline. This week: YC's global Demo Day, Dispo's VCs cut ties and the vestpocalypse.
Is Y Combinator a global accelerator, a remote educational software company or a growth stage investor? The answer is: yes.
While there are clear downsides to going remote — and Biz wrote about some of the challenges that arose last year — it has many positives, YC President Geoff Ralston said. Through Slack and YC's own internal software, it makes investors more available to founders than ever before. "Companies have access to group partners literally 24 hours a day," Ralston said.
That global makeup of the startups is the most significant feature of this batch. The firm had already invested in international companies prior to the pandemic, but the pandemic has accelerated that. Slightly more than half of its companies are based outside the U.S., and 41 countries — from Côte d'Ivoire to Croatia — are represented in the batch. It's a function of the economic growth and interest in startups globally.
How big can YC get? The limits are the number of quality applicants and how YC designs each batch. With quality applications from around the world rising, the firm wants to build its infrastructure to meet that demand. "Every batch we basically figure out … how to make the next batch better" in terms of software, hiring or the program, Seibel said.
While going fully remote, the firm has leaned heavily on its software, such as onboarding software, directories to reach YC alumni, an internal wiki for advice, a YC library and meeting integrations for video conferencing.
The Demo Day itself had its usual mix of a range of startups. B2B software and services were popular, with 46% of companies, but there were also companies in sustainability, housing, fintech and health care, doing everything from autonomous street sweepers to online meditation to bioengineered kidneys to electric "boat-planes." In terms of diversity, 19% of the companies have a woman founder, 7% have a Black founder and 13% have a Latinx founder.
As for YC's plans post-pandemic, the firm says it hasn't decided yet whether it will remain fully remote.
Greg Goldfarb, who is VP of Products and Commerce at GoDaddy, admires the resilience and ingenuity of small business owners. "It is amazing to see entrepreneurs figuring out the new context really quickly to adapt and survive." We sat down with Goldfarb to talk about the rise in ecommerce, the impact of COVID-19, the major trends emerging this year and more.
Renata Quintini is co-founder and managing director at Renegade Partners. She was previously an investor at Lux Capital and Felicis Ventures, and before that was an investment manager at Stanford Management Company. She has worked with companies such as Dollar Shave Club, Bonobos, Planet and Cruise. Her firm's current investments include Coda, Syng, Built and Rewire.
What's your favorite pandemic meal?
Our Saturdays, Mexican fiesta takeout. Not sure if it's because of the delicious fajitas or the pitcher of margarita it comes with. Kids and adults are equally happy: not a single crumble (or drop) left!
What is the biggest issue that your partners are thinking/talking about at your Monday partner meeting?
How to make (good) decisions and home in on the right opportunities. We're constantly learning. It is a moment of exciting abundance: so many interesting companies getting started, and things are moving fast. It is a fine line between not letting an outlier opportunity pass and endlessly chasing shiny objects.
A startup founder's time is a scarce resource; we want to surface the pivotal questions as early in the process as we can (we call it the 80/20) — focus on what matters. One approach that has been valuable for us is to answer three questions: 1. What needs to be true for this company to succeed? 2. What would be irrecoverable pitfalls? 3. What are the things we can objectively learn in the time that we have that will better inform our views on items one and two?
What's a secret obsession of yours that most people don't know about?
Guitars. I have a closet with eight different ones — and counting! They all feel and sound unique; they all tell a different story. Also, most of them have a sentimental value to me, and I love connecting to those memories when I play them (my Fender Strat, for example, was a surprise gift from my parents when I was a teenager).
What's one way you changed working in 2020 that you plan to keep going forward?
Structuring a calendar that optimizes for "what gives me energy." By month two of the pandemic, it was clear that I needed a reboot. I had become a slave to the calendar and an endless stream of Zoom meetings. I turned the table and asked how to make the calendar work for me. I have this quarterly process of understanding how I'm spending my time and triangulating to Renegade's goals and how I best show up. We also do this at the team level on our "How are we working together?" sessions.
What company, outside of your portfolio, have you been most impressed to watch this year?
Shopify. The pandemic pushed us all completely away from the brick-and-mortar world into the digital one. Along with many other industries, commerce had to reinvent itself overnight. It is very exciting to watch what is happening at the infrastructure level. We are in the early innings of a renaissance! Shopify is an outlier to me because of how well it innovates — its pace and ability to launch products that are really needle-moving for both merchants and consumers is bar none. They built in 12 months what standalone companies work on for years.