Startups Weekly - The 36 questions that lead to love (but with your co-founder)

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Saturday, July 10, 2021 By Natasha Mascarenhas

After months of beta testing, Y Combinator has launched a co-founder matching platform. The platform invites entrepreneurs to create profiles, which include information about themselves and preferences for a co-founder, such as location and skill sets. It digests that information and offers a number of potential candidates that fit those needs — kind of like Tinder for co-founders. To date, the accelerator says it has made 9,000 matches across 4,500 founders.

Y Combinator is obviously well positioned to execute this tool. The accelerator offers the popular Startup School, a free online program with resources and lectures surrounding how to start a company, to anyone who wants to start a company. The school has cultivated a community of 230,000 founders in 190 countries. A matching tool is thus an easy jump to make, one that could help the partners there move even earlier in aggregating and eavesdropping on nascent talent. Notably, two companies who met through the matching platform are part of the YC Summer 2021 batch. Yay ecosystems!

Here’s my hot take, though: The tool may appear as a neat, in-demand and simplistic tool that connects people to each other, but this is far harder to execute in a meaningful way than one may think — even if you’re an accelerator as famed and well known as YC. What follows is a list of suggestions, or rather wishes, for the tool, put together after I spoke to January Ventures co-founder Jennifer Neundorfer for her thoughts as well.

  1. Co-founder matching tools are best for founders who don’t have built-in networks and need ways to find collaborators in their earliest days. Startup School is indeed a wide net, but because Y Combinator struggles with diversity and representation of minorities in its batches, it will need to find ways to make sure that doesn’t get compounded when matching founders with each other. Can there be a filter for gender or ethnic background? Should there be? It’s a slippery slope.
  2. YC told me here that “we don’t ask for demographic information from Startup School participants with the exception of a recent open text box for gender; and a large percentage have yet to fill this out. Right now, we’re using this info within co-founder matching — if you’re a woman, we let you mark that you’re seeking a woman co-founder and we increase the chances the co-founder candidates you see are women.”
  3. Adverse selection is a real thing. Neundorfer told me that in the past, co-founder matching tools only attracted founders without networks, which didn’t do much good once they combined their backgrounds and still couldn’t get meetings with VCs. How does a co-founder matching tool find its Goldilocks situation — attracting the star PM at a hot startup thinking about entrepreneurship and the ambitious post-graduate with a love for code but absolutely no connections to people in the Valley.
  4. It’s never as easy as swiping right. Can YC figure out a way to help co-founders within the matching service learn easy ways to vet compatibility? A riff on 36 questions that lead to love, as popularized by the NY Times, but with your co-founder would be perfect.

In a blog post announcing the tool, YC addressed this last point. “You probably shouldn’t marry someone after just one date, and similarly, it’ll take more than one video call to decide whether to co-found a company with someone,” it reads. “We encourage matched co-founders to meet and, when appropriate, work together on a time-boxed trial project with clear expectations and goals in order to vet co-founder compatibility.”

All in all, I’m rooting for this because, well, who wouldn’t? As Neundorfer puts it, “founder matching tools are an interesting way to expand the supply of founders and diversify the base of founders.” It just matters that the tools are built with diversity and accessibility in mind.

In the rest of this newsletter, we’ll get into a rare executive shuffle at a pre-IPO company, an EC-1 that digs into the modern web delivery tech stack and Didi. You can find me at Twitter @nmasc_ and DM me for my Signal for tips (no pitches, please).



The Instacart shuffle

Instacart has hired Facebook executive Fidji Simo as its new CEO ahead of an expected IPO. The grocery delivery company, last valued at $39 billion, will transition current CEO and founder Apoorva Mehta to executive chairman.

Here’s what to know: A major executive shuffle ahead of a public debut is as rare as it is questionable. Instacart’s Mehta is leaving his original role before taking the company he founded nearly 10 years ago public. But, per The Information, Simo’s new job is yet another example of Instacart’s long-going “talent raid” of Facebook. The publication estimates that in 2021, Instacart has hired at least 55 engineers, product managers, recruiters, designers and data scientists from Facebook. Of course, Simo’s new job means that Facebook has lost one of its highest-ranking female executives, which is not a good look for a company that already struggles with diversity.

Speaking of chief executive drama:

The Instacart shuffle image

Image Credits: Instacart

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The NS1 EC-1

Say that subhead five times fast. The latest EC-1, our deep dive into a company from origin to execution to challenges ahead, is all about NS1, which launched with a plan to disrupt the core of the modern web delivery tech stack.

Here’s what to know: It’s a key read even for those of us who aren’t the biggest nerds on IT and enterprise infrastructure. Why? Because the story talks about how a startup competes in a matured space full of well-funded Big Tech companies and VC-backed heavyweights — and why the need for a reengineering of internet traffic isn’t a niche one.

The breakdown:

The NS1 EC-1 image

Image Credits: Nigel Sussman

And finally, Didi

The Equity team had an especially amazing episode this week — and I wasn’t even in it, so you can take my semi-less-biased word.

Here’s what to know: The most interesting part of the episode was the conversation around Didi, and its impact on Chinese companies listing in the United States. Regulatory problems have a way of lessening investor interest, and Didi isn’t the only example that we’ve had to point to in recent weeks.

Other things in the show via Alex’s notes:

Around TC

  • Make sure to use code “STARTUPSWEEKLY” for a discount on ExtraCrunch, our premium subscription business where most of our deep analysis lives. The investment will break open access to some of the most interesting tidbits on the site, and support our team!
  • Big shout out to all the amazing founders and builders who attended TC Early Stage this past week. For those who didn’t attend, recap posts are coming in the next weeks, so keep your eyes out for them.

Across the week

Seen on TechCrunch

Clearco gets the SoftBank stamp of approval in new $215M round

Dispatch from Bangalore

Mmhmm raises $100M, which is a fun thing to say to people who don’t follow tech

Why former Alibaba scientist wants to back founders outside the Ivory Tower

Seen on Extra Crunch

What I learned the hard way from naming 30+ startups

VCs discuss the opportunities — and challenges — in Pittsburgh’s startup ecosystem

Startups have never had it so good

Pakistan’s growing tech ecosystem is finally taking off

And that’s a wrap! This is my first dispatch from San Francisco in over a year, so if you’re in town, happy to be neighbors yet again :)


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