Today’s blog takes a different direction from usual because, love it or hate it, this week held Y Combinator‘s back-to-back demo days for its summer 2020 cohort. Why is YC so important anyway? The 15-year-old accelerator was the first of its kind when it began, inspiring many of the startup programs we now see worldwide. The program is also the breeding ground for many technology “unicorns” we’ve seen appear over the last decade, with graduates including Airbnb, Stripe, Doordash, and Dropbox. To date, the company has backed over 2,000 startups and over 4,000 founders.
Graduating from YC has become a goal for many startups in Silicon Valley and emerging markets. Acceptance into the program is a bragging right for many investors and founders worldwide, allowing them to tout how far their startup ecosystems have come and how much influence they have in their region. The program provides a cash investment for an equity stake and opens up access to capital, mentorship, and free publicity for the startups within their program. They also provide a framework for accelerators within emerging markets to model their programs off of, allowing various ecosystems to implement best practices right in their regions.
YC has received criticisms in recent years due to its expansion of each cohort, with over 200 companies participating in the current batch. Some investors also miss out, as elite VC firms get access to deals long before demo day when companies pitch publicly. This exclusivity was on display with Trove, who didn’t pitch this week after receiving $16M from A16Z early in the program.
Covid-19 concerns have also disrupted the operation this year. In April, the program had announced plans to run a fully remote summer cohort, given travel restrictions. According to founders, this separation has removed some elements of competition commonly found amongst each company. Also, the summer cohort has missed the magic of bonding during preparation for investors.
These issues aside, Y Combinator has been a positive influence for startup ecosystems by providing an accelerator model and giving opportunities for founders outside of the U.S. Acceptance of a founder is a bellwether for investors for how far along an emerging startup ecosystem has come. Below, I’ve highlighted all of the Summer 2020 cohort startups from emerging markets around the world. There are quite a few, so I’ve attempted to keep their descriptions concise. I highly encourage you to dig deeper into the startups that interest you by visiting their websites. If you would like some further reading on all of the below companies (and the entire cohort), TechCrunch put together more information about the two-day lineup here and here.