US-based start-up incubator Y Combinator has revamped its selection criteria, opening up a separate application category for aspiring entrepreneurs who don’t yet have a start-up idea.
Considered one of the most prestigious incubators in the United States, the Y Combinator concept is centered around a three-month program that culminates in a demo day.
As part of the program, Y Combinator invests a small amount of money – around $18,000 – into each start-up. In exchange, it takes a small stake in each one, usually 6-7%.
The start-ups move to the US to participate in the program, during which time Y Combinator helps them to develop their start-up idea and refine their pitch.
Now Y Combinator has decided to open its program to those who don’t necessarily have a start-up idea.
“If the only thing holding you back from starting a start-up is not having an idea for one, now nothing is holding you back,” Y Combinator spokesperson Garry Tan wrote in a company blog.
“If you apply for this batch and you seem like you’d make good founders, we’ll accept you with no idea and then help you come up with one.”
According to Tan, many Y Combinator start-ups change their ideas completely and still go on to succeed, hence the decision to shift its focus from ideas to the teams themselves.
“The other reason we’re doing it is that our experience suggests that smart people who think they can’t come up with a good start-up idea are generally mistaken,” Tan wrote.
“Almost every smart person has a good idea in them. A good start-up idea is simply a significant, fixable unmet need, and most smart people are at least unconsciously aware of several of those.”
“They just don’t know it. And we now have lots of practice helping founders see the start-up ideas they already have.”
“If you’re a group of people who are really good at what you do, and have known each other for a while and work well together, we’ll take the risk if you will.”
“We’re not sure this will work, but if it does we’ll do it from now on.”
Y Combinator is known for pushing the envelope with regard to its start-ups. In January, it announced a plan to invest in companies that challenge Hollywood and the movie industry.
The move came after the US Congress shelved the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect Intellectual Property Act, which led to protests from the likes of Google and Wikipedia.
In its own act of protest, Y Combinator issued a blog post titled “Kill Hollywood”, offering advice to start-ups and entrepreneurs prepared to challenge the industry.
“If it were an ordinary industry, it could look forward to a couple decades of peaceful decline. But this is not an ordinary industry,” Y Combinator wrote.
“The people who run it are so mean and so politically connected that they could do a lot of damage to civil liberties and the world economy on the way down.”
Y Combinator therefore believes it would be a good thing if competitors “hastened its demise”.