Power

Y Combinator launches a new way for co-founders to find each other

Only four of YC's top 100 companies came to the program without a co-founder. Promoting matches could widen the pool of successful applicants.

Mug that says "we heart founders"

Founders are getting a matchmaking boost from Y Combinator.

Photo: Shannon Rowies/Unsplash

It's a question Y Combinator's Kyle Corbitt has heard over and over again: How do I find a co-founder? As leader of YC's Startup School, its free entrepreneurship curriculum, Corbitt found many aspiring founders wanted to work on a problem, but faced a roadblock when it came to finding a partner who they could build a company with.

That's why YC is unveiling a new way to help co-founders find each other. Its new co-founder matching service will allow founders to fill out profiles about what their interests are and what attributes they're looking for in a co-founder.

"We realized this is a problem a lot of founders face, particularly internationally," Corbitt said. "I think it's less of a problem if you've gone to Stanford or live in San Francisco where there's a stronger established network that makes it easier to find people, but our community is all over the world. We have startup founders in 190 countries."

There is also proof in the data that having a co-founder is important: Of YC's top 100 companies, only four went through the famed accelerator without a co-founder. (Those would be Ryan Petersen's Flexport, Blake Scholl's Boom, Aaron King's Snapdocs and Ryan Chan's UpKeep.)

A common match is non-technical founders looking for technical founders, said Catheryn Li, an engineer at YC who built the service. Founders also often narrow it down by geography, from "entirely remote" or "same time zone" to looking for people within a country or within 30 miles of their town. After founders match, YC sends them a survey and encourages them to work on a project together. It's even templated an agreement to help dodge co-founder disputes.

Already 4,500 people have used it, and over 9,000 matches have been made from people testing it within the Startup School community. Li said the median number of profiles someone goes through is around a hundred. On Tuesday, anyone will be able to sign up to be added.


Screenshot of Y Combinator's matching service Co-founder profiles on Y Combinator's matching service let people select their location preferences, job responsibilities and whether or not they're set on an idea.Image: YC


If it feels a bit like founder dating, well, it's not far off. There are companies, including one actually named FounderDating, that have tried doing this before. CoFoundersLab, which bought FounderDating, claims to have over 400,000 members. Founder2be had over 100,000 founders before it shut down in December. It now recommends people to try Stealth, another startup community for founders to find each other.

"It's also worth noting that any company who tries to monetize this will be clearly not super aligned with the objective, whereas, because our school's main mission is to make entrepreneurship free and accessible to everyone, it makes sense that we can make resources to really care about whether the companies are being made or successful," Li said. "We're not trying to monetize and make money off active users, or we're not selling ads. We don't want you to stay on the platform, even. We want you to actually find the right co-founder and go do something else."

Other venture firms simply advertise job postings. Greylock, for example, is currently hiring a technical co-founder for an ecommerce-related position and a data scientist to be co-founder of an enterprise B2B company.

YC, though, is going for scale with the hopes that some of the co-founder pairs end up applying to its accelerator batches. It started by testing the service within its own Startup School community and has already seen co-founders like an NFL player sign up, Corbitt said. The question now will be what happens when it's open to everyone. So far, YC plans to manually vet applications to make sure it's really entrepreneurs looking for co-founders.

"For any product like this, where the community is really important, we have to make sure to build trust in the community," Li said. "So we don't want to let on anyone who's soliciting leads for sales or a consultancy or even trying to hire. We really want to make sure that everyone you meet here is really looking for a co-founder."

That part, at least, is working. There are two companies going through its current accelerator batch that met through the co-founder matching platform, and it remains in YC's interest to create more. Around 10% of each batch is solo founders, "but when we look at the companies that do well in the long term," Li pointed out, you can count on one hand the number of solo-founder startups that top the list of YC's best companies. Today, the average number of people on a founding team going through YC is 2.3.

"Intuitively, it makes sense that starting a company is just so hard," Li said, "and you'll run into so many problems, that having someone with you, someone who may have complementary skills, someone who can be there with you for the ups and downs of your company is just extremely, extremely valuable."

Protocol | Policy

5 things to know about FCC nominee Gigi Sohn

The veteran of some of the earliest tech policy fights is a longtime consumer champion and net-neutrality advocate.

Gigi Sohn, who President Joe Biden nominated to serve on the FCC, is a longtime net-neutrality advocate.

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Joe Biden on Tuesday nominated Gigi Sohn to serve as a Federal Communications Commissioner, teeing up a Democratic majority at the agency that oversees broadband issues after months of delay.

Like Lina Khan, who Biden picked in June to head up the Federal Trade Commission, Sohn is a progressive favorite. And if confirmed, she'll take up a position in an agency trying to pull policy levers on net neutrality, privacy and broadband access even as Congress is stalled.

Keep Reading Show less
Ben Brody

Ben Brody (@ BenBrodyDC) is a senior reporter at Protocol focusing on how Congress, courts and agencies affect the online world we live in. He formerly covered tech policy and lobbying (including antitrust, Section 230 and privacy) at Bloomberg News, where he previously reported on the influence industry, government ethics and the 2016 presidential election. Before that, Ben covered business news at CNNMoney and AdAge, and all manner of stories in and around New York. He still loves appearing on the New York news radio he grew up with.

If you've ever tried to pick up a new fitness routine like running, chances are you may have fallen into the "motivation vs. habit" trap once or twice. You go for a run when the sun is shining, only to quickly fall off the wagon when the weather turns sour.

Similarly, for many businesses, 2020 acted as the storm cloud that disrupted their plans for innovation. With leaders busy grappling with the pandemic, innovation frequently got pushed to the backburner. In fact, according to McKinsey, the majority of organizations shifted their focus mainly to maintaining business continuity throughout the pandemic.

Keep Reading Show less
Gaurav Kataria
Group Product Manager, Trello at Atlassian
Protocol | Workplace

Adobe wants a more authentic NFT world

Adobe's Content Credentials feature will allow Creative Cloud subscribers to attach edit-tracking information to Photoshop files. The goal is to create a more trustworthy NFT market and digital landscape.

Adobe's Content Credentials will allow users to attach their identities to an image

Image: Adobe

Remember the viral, fake photo of Kurt Cobain and Biggie Smalls that duped and delighted the internet in 2017? Doctored images manipulate people and erode trust and we're not great at spotting them. The entire point of the emerging NFT art market is to create valuable and scarce digital files and when there isn't an easy way to check for an image's origin and edits, there's a problem. What if someone steals an NFT creator's image and pawns it off as their own? As a hub for all kinds of multimedia, Adobe feels a responsibility to combat misinformation and provide a safe space for NFT creators. That's why it's rolling out Content Credentials, a record that can be attached to a Photoshop file of a creator's identity and includes any edits they made.

Users can connect their social media addresses and crypto wallet addresses to images in Photoshop. This further proves the image creator's identity, but it's also helpful in determining the creators of NFTs. Adobe has partnered with NFT marketplaces KnownOrigin, OpenSea, Rarible and SuperRare in this effort. "Today there's not a way to know that the NFT you're buying was actually created by a true creator," said Adobe General Counsel Dana Rao. "We're allowing the creator to show their identity and attach it to the image."

Keep Reading Show less
Lizzy Lawrence

Lizzy Lawrence ( @LizzyLaw_) is a reporter at Protocol, covering tools and productivity in the workplace. She's a recent graduate of the University of Michigan, where she studied sociology and international studies. She served as editor in chief of The Michigan Daily, her school's independent newspaper. She's based in D.C., and can be reached at llawrence@protocol.com.

Protocol | China

Why another Chinese lesbian dating app just shut down

With neither political support nor a profitable business model, lesbian dating apps are finding it hard to survive in China.

Operating a dating app for LGBTQ+ communities in China is like walking a tightrope.

Photo: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP via Getty Images

When Lesdo, a Chinese dating app designed for lesbian women, announced it was closing down, it didn't come as a surprise to the LGBTQ+ community.

It's unclear what directly caused this decision. 2021 hasn't been kind to China's queer communities; WeChat has deactivated queer groups' public accounts and Beijing has pressured charity organizations not to work with queer activists.

Keep Reading Show less
Zeyi Yang
Zeyi Yang is a reporter with Protocol | China. Previously, he worked as a reporting fellow for the digital magazine Rest of World, covering the intersection of technology and culture in China and neighboring countries. He has also contributed to the South China Morning Post, Nikkei Asia, Columbia Journalism Review, among other publications. In his spare time, Zeyi co-founded a Mandarin podcast that tells LGBTQ stories in China. He has been playing Pokemon for 14 years and has a weird favorite pick.

The Oura Ring was a sleep-tracking hit. Can the next one be even more?

Oura wants to be a media company, an activity tracker and even a way to know you're sick before you feel sick.

Over the last few years, the Oura Ring has become one of the most recognizable wearables this side of the Apple Watch.

Photo: Oura

Oura CEO Harpreet Rai swears he didn't know Kim Kardashian was a fan. He was as surprised as anyone when she started posting screenshots from the Oura app to her Instagram story, and got into a sleep battle with fellow Oura user Gwyneth Paltrow. Or when Jennifer Aniston revealed that Jimmy Kimmel got her hooked on Oura … and how her ring fell off in a salad. "I am addicted to it," Aniston said, "and it's ruining my life" by shaming her about her lack of sleep. "I think we're definitely seeing traction outside of tech," Rai said. "Which is cool."

Over the last couple of years, Oura's ring (imaginatively named the Oura Ring) has become one of the most recognizable wearables this side of the Apple Watch. The company started with a Kickstarter campaign in 2015, but really started to find traction with its second-generation model in 2018. It's not exactly a mainstream device — Oura said it has sold more than 500,000 rings, up from 150,000 in March 2020 but still not exactly Apple Watch levels — but it has reached some of the most successful, influential and probably sleep-deprived people in the industry. Jack Dorsey is a professed fan, as is Marc Benioff.

Keep Reading Show less
David Pierce

David Pierce ( @pierce) is Protocol's editorial director. Prior to joining Protocol, he was a columnist at The Wall Street Journal, a senior writer with Wired, and deputy editor at The Verge. He owns all the phones.

Latest Stories