Another older post, but one that is interesting to follow as we build Data McFly.
Why not just pretend we were in the program. When you’re in YC, going from zero product to a launched product in 10 weeks is the name of the game. When you’re not in YC, building something that fast feels overwhelming.
For the next 10 weeks, we tried to mimic each step. We wrote up our various ideas as if they were YC applications. I re-read a bunch of Paul Graham essays and got myself back in the mindset. Once we landed on an idea (it was an enterprise travel product), we gave ourselves 4 weeks to get to Prototype day, just like YC. We demoed weekly–to each other, other entrepreneurs, and our investors. It wasn’t as good as Tuesday night dinners, but it worked–our productivity shot up as we wanted to make significant progress each week. After that, the pressure was on to launch something. We held off working on a business deck stuff until our Demo Day approached.
I was amazed how simply adding some YC-like structure to those several months made everything we were doing feel better. Before that, we had been pretty lost. But once we pretended to be in YC, we were motivated because we had a schedule to hit.
When we started building Data McFly, we set a similar schedule and we are currently on track to keep it.
Paul Graham's essays are also good reading. There is no set of YC secrets that he hides from the rest of the startup world. In fact, much of what he says in person simply reinforces the advice that he has already doled out through his essays. Having watched him for several years now, I also find that if he starts to give out new advice within a YC batch, you will soon find that idea better articulated in an essay a couple of months later. The same goes for many of the other YC partners who give their advice out for free in their blogs.
Another good resource from the Y Combinator crew is Start up School, which also hosts all their speaker series videos on youtube from their site so it's good to set aside some time to watch some of them.