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YC is hosting interviews in New York in a couple of weeks; here’s what you need to know ahead of time

For years, the popular accelerator program Y Combinator has interviewed applicants to its program in the Bay Area, reimbursing teams for their travel expenses. It will continue to do so, but the outfit tells us they are for the first time also hosting interviews in New York, on February 23rd, and that plans to interview applicants in both Tel Aviv and Bangalore are in the works.

We were in touch yesterday with YC partner Dalton Caldwell, who heads up admissions for the organization, to get a few more details that might be good for potential applicants to know.

TC: Remind us of what the in-person interview process involves. What are the steps to land time with one of the partners for an interview?

DC: Founders fill out an online application. The application is reviewed by YC partners. We invite select founders to meet us in-person for a 10-minute interview. We tell founders that day if they’re funded.

TC: And that application involves . . .

DC: The application asks for a one-minute video where founders can introduce themselves and their startups. There is no change from our standard application and interview process.

TC: How many people were accepted into the winter class and how many were rejected?

DC: We’re not yet announcing the stats from the Winter W19 batch. We’ll keep you posted on when those go live.

TC: When might YC revisit a team to whom it has said no?

DD: In a typical YC batch, about the half companies have applied multiple times before being accepted. If you’ve applied before and not gotten in, we strongly encourage you to apply again. Having made progress since your last application is a strong signal to us.

TC: How many times do people typically apply to YC before they are accepted?

DC: I don’t have this data handy. But roughly half the companies in a typical YC batch had a founder that applied more than once. Some teams apply once and get in, but we’ve also had teams that applied six times before they were accepted.

TC: Why is it necessary to host these interviews elsewhere?

It isn’t necessary for YC to do this, but it seems like a good thing to do. We often plan events for founders around the world and realized we could use those opportunities to interview local startups.

TC: What are you and the rest of YC looking for in these very short in-person interviews?

DC: YC interviews let us meet the founders and have a conversation about what they’re building. We ask questions and look at what they’ve built so far. The conversation helps us understand how founders think about the problem they’re solving.

TC: Will the interview process be any different in Tel Aviv or Bangalore versus here in the U.S.?

DC: Founders will experience the same process as the interviews we host in the Bay Area.

TC: YC says a “small number” of interviews will be taking place in a couple of weeks. What does that mean?

DC: We don’t have an exact number of interviews in mind. We’ll see what comes in and plan accordingly.

TC: Any ideas from now regarding how many startups YC can accommodate for its summer batch?

DC: We don’t set a specific number in advance.

TC: Is this a first step toward anything else, like Y Combinator New York?

DC: We’re staying in the Bay Area for now — but we’re always looking for ways to better support founders who are based in other cities and internationally.

NYC launches partnership network, “The Grid”, to help grow urban tech ecosystem

The New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and CIV:LAB – a nonprofit dedicated to connecting urban tech leaders – have announced the launch of The Grid, a member-based partnership network for New York’s urban tech community. The goal of the network is to link organizations, academia and local tech leaders, in order to promote collaboration and the sharing of knowledge and resources.

In addition to connecting member companies and talent, The Grid will host various events, educational programs, and co-innovation projects, while hopefully improving access to investors as well as pilot program opportunities. The Grid is launching with over 70 member organizations – approved through an application and screening process – across various stages and sectors.

In recent years, the tech and startup scene in New York has notably ballooned – evolving from the Valley’s obscure younger sibling to one of the top cities for talent, entrepreneurship, and venture capital investment. And while the city has seen countless startups, VCs, accelerators, and other entrepreneurial resources set up shop within its borders, getting the right tools in place is only part of the battle.

New York wants to prove its initiatives are more than just “show-and-tell” projects and city officials believe that building a truly sustainable innovation economy is dependent on all its local resources working in conjunction, allowing entrepreneurship to permeate every arm of commerce. With an institutionalized network like The Grid, New York hopes it can further fuse its pockets of innovation into to one well-oiled machine, consistently producing transformative ideas.

“The Grid represents a promising new way for NYCEDC to work across sectors to strengthen collaboration and innovation, first in New York City and hopefully soon in many more cities across the country and around the world,” said NYCEDC President and CEO James Patchett in a statement. “It signals that New York City is leading with  a new approach to technology and startup culture, with a real focus on diversity, inclusion, equity, and community.”

As one of the largest and most industrially diverse cities in the world, New York has naturally placed a heightened focus on the growing sector of “urban tech” – which has been broadly categorized as innovation focused on improving city functionality, equality or ease of living. According to NYCEDC, the urban tech space has seen nearly $80 billion in VC investment since 2016, with nearly 10% going to New York-based beneficiaries.

The launch of The Grid is part of an expansion of NYCEDC’s larger UrbanTech NYC program, which has already helped establish the New York innovation hubs New LabUrban Future Lab, and Company. Alongside the membership network and a new site for UrbanTech NYC, NYCEDC is also launching The Grid Academy, an adjacent academic group with the mission of creating applied R&D partnerships between local academic institutions and corporate sponsors. The expansion of UrbanTech NYC represents the latest of several initiatives NYCEDC is pursuing to develop the broader ecosystem, coming just months after the EDC announced the launch of Cyber NYC, a $30 million investment initiative focused on growing New York’s cybersecurity presence and infrastructure.

The group will be led by a steering committee that will guide decisions related to strategic priorities, funding, events, and communications. Members of the committee include some of The Grid’s largest government and corporate members including the Bronx Cooperative Development Initiative, the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, Civic Hall, Company, New Lab, Urban Future Lab, Dreamit UrbanTech, URBAN-X, Urban.Us, Accenture, Samsung NEXT, Rentlogic, Smarter Grid Solutions, Civic Consulting USA, and the World Economic Forum.

“Since its early days, innovation has been part of the DNA that is New York City,” said Jeff Merritt, Head of IoT + Smart Cities at World Economic Forum. “Nowhere else in the world can you find an ecosystem that combines as many industries and nationalities. New York’s thriving urban technology community is a natural byproduct of what happens when you allow diversity, entrepreneurship and ambition to collide in one of the greatest cities in the world.” 

The Grid’s first meeting will be held on February 19th at Samsung NEXT’s New York HQ. Membership applications for The Grid are accepted on a rolling basis and can be found here on the UrbanTech NYC website.

Rebooted startup program WeWork Labs celebrates its one-year anniversary

It has been just about a year since the relaunch of WeWork Labs, an accelerator-type program operating under the WeWork umbrella. Since then, it has grown to 37 locations in 22 cities. And it’s truly international, operating in 12 countries, including Brazil, China, Germany and India.

These Labs offices are often — but not always — housed within a larger WeWork space, and, like an accelerator, they offer mentorship and programming. However, WeWork doesn’t take any equity; instead, it simply makes money by charging rent. (In New York, a desk costs between $450 and $550 a month, but the price varies by location.)

I spoke to Roee Adler, the program’s global head, about how Labs has evolved over the past year. Adler actually has a long history with startups — in fact, his company Soluto won the very first Startup Battlefield at TechCrunch Disrupt. He’s held a number of positions at WeWork, including chief product officer, and he said that as his role was evolving, he found himself asking, “What is the next startup we can build inside WeWork?”

The answer: “We decided to reevaluate our level of commitment and investment with the earliest of stages for startups.”

WeWork actually had a startup program called WeWork Labs back in 2011, but it languished in the years since. Adler relaunched the program with its first New York space in January of last year, and he’s been opening locations at a furious pace since then.

Roee Adler

Roee Adler

Each Labs office is supervised by a Labs manager, who Adler said is usually “a former entrepreneur whose life’s mission is to manage startups.” For example, before Mor Barak joined the program last year to launch Labs in Tel Aviv, she was the general manager of Israel’s oldest accelerator program, The Junction.

“I got to a point where I felt like I finally found what I loved to do, which is to work with startups and to support startups and understand how our connections and our network can help them move forward,” Barak said. “And then I wanted to take that and do that on a bigger scale, as part of a company that can reach new geographies and bring forward local entrepreneurs.”

As a Labs manager, Barak said her main role is to “be that business connector for the startups,” which means meeting with the entrepreneurs on a weekly basis to understand their needs and challenges. At the same time, she emphasized that Labs is a global program: “As a Labs manager in Tel Aviv, I can quite easily connect to my colleagues around the world to find the people that I need to get to in order to help the startup.”

Adler made a similar point about sharing resources between the different locations.

“A lecture that is at our Najing Xi Lu Road space in Shanghai will get captured, summarized, translated and become available to all of the entrepreneurs around the world,” he said. “Does that mean every piece of information is relevant for everyone? No. But truthfully, who knows?”

Adriana Vazquez of Lilu

Adriana Vazquez of Lilu

To celebrate the one-year anniversary, WeWork Labs held a pitch competition at the company’s New York City headquarters last week, with $250,000 in funding distributed among the winners. The $150,000 grand prize went to Lilu, a startup making a compression bra that helps mothers pump milk. (It’s another Startup Battlefield alum.)

CEO and co-founder Adriana Vazquez told me that Lilu has been working out of the WeWork Labs in Dumbo since August. Vazquez has participated in other accelerator programs and worked out of other co-working spaces, and she said Labs is something else — it allows you to “get the community of an accelerator without the prescribed schedule,” and it offers a very different feeling from a co-working space.

“There is that understanding and respect that everyone’s really busy and has fires to put out,” she said. “We had a brief stay at another co-working space with creatives and small businesses, and there wasn’t that camaraderie, where you see someone that’s working on a weekend and you know you’re not here because they want to hang out on a Friday. It’s almost an unspoken understanding: Yeah, I know what you’re going through.”

As for what Adler has planned for Labs’ second year, he said he wants to do more work connecting startups with larger corporations: “WeWork has really become the only natural nexus in the world where you can have a three-month-old startup entrepreneur bumping shoulders with a senior vice president of Microsoft going to get coffee from the same machine and engaging in a conversation about the future.”

WeWork Labs Dumbo

WeWork Labs Dumbo

And of course, he plans to open more offices, with the goal of reaching 100 locations by the end of 2019.

“The three of us are sitting in Manhattan right now, one of the wealthiest cities in the world … but it’s not about here,” Adler said. “It’s about the people who aren’t sitting in the big tech hubs or bubbles. That is exciting.”