So you want to get into Y Combinator? Here’s how

Y Combinator, the popular startup incubator, unleashed its newest batch of fledgling technology companies into the world at its Summer 2011 Demo Day event last month. At six years old, Y Combinator is a veteran of sorts in the fast-paced world of Silicon Valley innovation. But the quality of its latest startup class — and the interest it’s received from the tech industry’s most powerful investors — showed that YC is sharper than ever at choosing top-notch entrepreneurs and helping them shape solid startups.

And the search is already on for the next class of potential startup superstars. Y Combinator is currently accepting applications for the winter 2012 funding cycle, and the competition is stiff: Y Combinator generally accepts only three percent of the applications it receives, an acceptance rate lower than MIT or Harvard.

I recently sat down with Y Combinator co-founder Jessica Livingston to find out what YC’s partners look for in entrepreneurs — you can watch our video below. Here are a few of her main points:

  • Co-founders should be buddies. Y Combinator prefers founding teams that consist of two or three people — and the friendlier they are with each other, the better. People who just met each other a month ago and decided to start a company usually raise YC’s red flags.
  • Hackers necessary. Being technical is important for the YC folks; Livingston is the only member of YC’s three-person founding team who does not know how to code. While they’ve loosened up their standards a bit by allowing in non-technical co-founders, YC insists that at least one member of a founding team have serious technical chops.
  • Flexibility is everything. If you’re a control freak, you probably won’t fit in at Y Combinator. YC looks for founders who are willing to take advice — and change everything about their startup if it’s not working out. Determination is important, but folks who seem stubborn during their YC interviews won’t make the cut.

Watch Jessica Livingston talk about what Y Combinator looks for in founders here: