My First Y Combinator Demo Day

On a 5 hour layover in Tokyo Haneda airport en route home to Singapore from San Francisco. As good a time as any to write about my experience attending YC Demo Day for the first time.

Spent the last 2 days at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View watching over a hundred YC startups from the Winter ’15 batch pitch on stage. Each startup gets about 3 minutes to showcase their company in front of an audience of about 450 investors.

My thoughts:

  1. Diversity. The types of startups and the verticals they are going after is incredibly diverse. There were of course lots of B2B SaaS and B2C consumer marketplace startups. Also a fair number of startups targeted at the developer community (B2D startups). Beyond pure software, a handful of hardware startups (sous vide machine, smart cooking grill, personal training hardware, smart luggage etc), nearly of which are playing in the IOT space. What’s perhaps surprising is the three non-profits raising philanthropic rounds, as well as the relatively large number of biotech startups.
  2. Ambition. Many of the startups that presented are trying to solve incredibly hard problems. Spire wants to improve your well being by helping you breathe better. Lully wants to help babies (and eventually adults) sleep better. Transitmix develops software that runs cities. Diassess wants to have your DNA tested in 20 mins. Bagaveev is building rockets to launch nano-satellites into space. The list goes on.
  3. Traction. I have never seen so many hockey stick charts in my life! These startups are growing very, very quickly. I thought 85% month-on-month growth is impressive until I saw another startup growing 65% week-on-week!
  4. Accessible. Even though I’m not from a big name Sand Hill Road VC, nearly every entrepreneur was eager to engage and discuss funding opportunities. It probably helped that I had already invested in 5 Y Combinator startups, but the point is most of the founders didn’t know who I am but were still happy to talk. It probably helps that I am based in Asia because entrepreneurs want investors who can value add beyond providing funds. An Asia-based investor like myself gives them ready access to a business network in my part of the world.

All in all, my first YC Demo Day was a wonderful experience and I went away feeling incredubly inspired by the startups that I saw. This batch of YC startups has certainly lifted my bar for making investments. I am already in talks with a few.