Richard Bronson is the founder of @ 70millionjobs, the first national, for-profit employment platform for people with criminal records. 70 million Americans have a criminal record and most have trouble finding employment after incarceration. Richard’s startup helps people with criminal records get jobs.

Why did you decide to apply to YC?

As a tech startup founder, I recognize that I needed an education in a variety of different disciplines in order to maximize my potential for success.

Things like learning about fundraising, business strategy, building team relationships, etc.

Despite the fact that I’ve been in business for a long time, I haven’t been in business for a long time specifically with tech companies. And YC has a reputation as being the best source for smart advisors and mentors, an organization that has had a huge number of companies go through it.

They’ve learned through their observation of these companies what works and what doesn’t work. Companies that have had enormous success have gone through it at a greater rate than any other incubator or accelerator program, and its relationships with the VC world are peerless.

Everybody who’s a serious investor wants to access the deal flow that goes through Y Combinator. Everyone wants to attend their demo day, and the rate by which the companies in a given cohort are successful in raising funds are unmatched. So I considered myself very fortunate to go through the program.

I got an enormous amount out of it. I made some great friends, made incredible connections, and learned a great deal. I loved doing every minute of it and feel like it is a community that continues to add value to me and my company. There’s always help available from the 1600 companies have gone through it.

Did you already have traction before applying?


Okay, and how much time and effort did you put into the application itself?

To be frank, I did not put that much time and effort into the application.

I think it’s fair to say that many if not most of the people who are drawn to Y combinator are young founders with limited business experience and are for the most part technical as opposed to business founders.

For folks like that, given the stakes of being accepted, it’s natural that they would spend a great deal of time and work on their application and subsequent preparation for the interview.

Me on the other hand, I felt very comfortable as I understood what they were looking for in the application and in the interview. I’ve been selling and marketing my whole business life, that’s pretty much what the application and interview were all about, you have to know how to sell yourself and your company.

So for me, it was a no stress thing.

For others who have a lot less experience with marketing and sales and in general business, I could see how it could be a much more stressful situation.

What were the biggest benefits beyond just the funding from entering into YC?

Having gone through it I became a sort of a “made man in Silicon Valley.”

Before Y Combinator I felt like I was kind of observing everything from the outside, looking in on the window. I knew no one, no one knew me, and no one knew my company.

I knew there was money, funding, connections, and opportunity, but how could I access it? Y Combinator is that invitation. Getting accepted into Y Combinator gives a certain level of credibility that’s automatically bestowed upon you.

Richard Bronson - Founder of 70millionjobs

It’s not difficult to get a meeting set up with prominent VCs because the VC’s know that Y Combinator has its choice of almost every new business out there and that they’ve proven that they know how to pick good companies. So being included within that gave me the social credibility that I never would have had.

And it meant more than just funding. It meant that the landlord would rent space to us no questions asked, it meant recruitment became easier, and certainly it would give me a data source that I could access when I needed help and had questions.

So in every way imaginable, I felt like the switch was flipped and I was asked to join the party. It’s an incredibly powerful advantage and one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life.

If you have one tip for a Founder that’s thinking about joining Y combinator, what would it be?

Well, first of all, I would definitely say do it.

People have asked me, “Is it worth it the deal?,” and I tell them I would pay them to get in knowing what I know now.

There’s a misconception that they only accept companies at a certain phase in the evolution of their company and that’s not really what they’re looking for.

Some people say, “I don’t have traction so I can’t do it, I don’t have an MVP or I do have traction and that’s why I can’t do it,” as far as they’re concerned, that’s not what they’re looking for.

They understand that almost every company’s going to pivot the business, plans are going to change, things are just going to be different. So what you have today is not necessarily what you’re going to be working on in the future.

There have been companies who two weeks into Y Combinator completely change their business. I mean completely. And they’re very very happy about that if that happens. Sam Altman who was the president of YC until recently, he said that in his opinion the greatest determinant of startup success is how quickly the founder can iterate.

They’re looking for not so much what phase your business is at but rather for really smart open people who have a curiosity, who are not caught up in their ego thinking that they know better than anybody else.

They’re looking for people who have the openness to listen to the marketplace and act accordingly.

Many companies don’t get in the first time and they don’t get in the second time either. If you’ve applied before and you didn’t get in, do it again.  So my piece of advice is don’t think about it. Just do it.

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