Y Combinator’s Michael Seibel Says This Area Is Ripe for Disruption

Mother holding hands with son on ledge
Photograph by Paul Bradbury — Getty Images

There’s an app for everything these days, but for parents with young kids, there’s a need for more.

That’s how Michael Seibel feels about it, anyway. In a live chat on Product Hunt Tuesday, the Y Combinator partner said that demographic is “completely underserved” and ripe for disruption.

Two startups he is particularly excited about: Clever and Panorama Education. Clever is a platform that allows schools to protect student data across apps used in the classroom. Founded in 2012, the company has raised $43 million and is used by more than 50,000 U.S. schools. Panorama Education is a research-backed survey platform for students, teachers and parents designed to help schools make better decisions. It has raised $16 million and is in more than 200 school districts. Both companies graduated from Y Combinator.

Seibel’s comments come as Y Combinator (YC) looks for its next batch of startups. Founded in 2005, the prominent Silicon Valley startup incubator has been a launching ground for companies such as Dropbox, Reddit, Airbnb and Instacart. Accepted startups come to Silicon Valley (if they’re not there already) for three months, where the YC team offers them a small investment and provides them with resources. At the end of the program, the companies present their ideas to an invite-only room of investors. The deadline to apply to join the next class of startups is March 24.



Here’s a look at some of Seibel’s views on the startup landscape:

Michael Seibel Photograph by Martin Klimek — Courtesy of Y Combinator

On what founders need to prove

When looking for companies, Seibel prefers founding teams who can build their product in-house over those who rely on outside developers. “I believe tech should be a core skill of a tech company,” the 33-year-old said. “The best advice for a first time CEO is make sure you have built a strong technical founding team and then launch!”

Seibel knows a thing or two about what it takes to build a company. Before joining Y Combinator, he had co-founded two video startups — Justin.tv and Socialcam — which also participated in Y Combinator. Socialcam was bought by Autodesk for $60 million in 2012. Justin.tv eventually became Twitch and was sold to Amazon in 2014 for $970 million.

On what can be done to foster local startup communities

When it comes to where, Seibel says there’s nowhere quite like the Valley.

“I think co-working spaces, incubators, and accelerators outside of the Bay Area do a lot to foster a local startup scene – which is really important for early founders, but I also think that exposure to the Bay Area is extremely valuable for startups,” he said. “I wish that instead of trying to copy the Valley more local efforts were focused on created feeders to the Valley (either for their companies to live or raise money and get top quality advice).”

On diversity

Diversity is an issue being tackled not only in YC, but in the startup community as a whole. Since joining YCombinator in 2014, Seibel has been aiding in those conversations.

The best way we can improve inclusion in the startup community is to get great underrepresented founders funded!” he said. “We are trying hard to move the needle on racial and gender equality at YC – 10% of the founders in this batch [are] Black or Latino and 10% are women,” he says. “These numbers need to improve. We are hoping that our outreach programs like YC Open Office Hours and YC College Tour encourage more underrepresented founders to apply. We also believe that our underrepresented alumni are great role models and examples of how YC can help all founders succeed.”

On who inspires him

“After reading the Elon Musk book and getting a Tesla – he is at the top of my list of inspiring founders.” Why? “The dude has the balls to take on super big problems.”

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