What do you do all day? I assume you work on building / refining FL with the YC advisers, but there's probably more to it than that.
You spend most of the time running your business. There are normally 1-2 days a week when you are actually at YC. The rest is spent working on bottlenecks/problems that stands in the way of you and your success. You can request office hours with one of the many YC partners or experts to help you solve these problems and get advice etc.
It's important to note that if you come in with the same problem, next week you're gonna be called out as to why it isn't solved yet.
There is one night a week with a mandatory dinner. This is where the magic happens. They have accomplished entrepreneurs come talk with us and we can ask them very candid questions and they give very candid answers. I'm not allowed to mention who talked or what they said. It's off the record so that these people feel comfortable being open and honest. -This makes a big difference in how candid they were. These dinners were awesome.
What's the best advice you've gotten? Did you ever drastically change course?
At first we were pursuing being both a stem cell banking and a therapeutic development company, all right now. When we mentioned this to our advisor, Geoff, he said, "this is bad. This fucking sucks! You're a house boat!" We all looked confused. "You know what's wrong with a house boat?" We remained stunned. "It's a shitty house and it's a shitty boat!"
Geoff's point was that at this stage of our company we need to be doing one thing and one thing very well. We decided that we will focus our efforts on being the best stem cell banking company, expanding quickly. We will continue to quietly file IP but the lionshare of our efforts will focus around expanding and growing the banking business. #nohouseboats!
What's the story you'll tell your grandkids?
How did you guys decide to go for YC?
The way we got in to YC is the story I will tell my grandkids. Some YC alum had banked their stem cells with us and we got in YC's radar. Sam asked to meet with us and asked us to apply. We did and voila. This is a very unusual way to get in. YC wasn't something we planned to do but it's the best decision we could have made for Forever Labs.
Did you find any 'unknown unknowns', i.e. some aspect of building FL that you had never thought about before?
Hmm.. good question. I don't think there is anything about our company that I didn't already know, beyond us being a houseboat :) That said, I learned a lot about entrepreneurship that I didn't necessarily know. One of the common threads in the talks was about embracing and getting to know your customers. This seems like a no brainer, but it is something we are continually getting better at.
It was refreshing to hear, at the dinners that there's still a lot of chaos in a billion $ company. That never goes away. The feeling, at times, that your company is all over the place is normal. Also, all founders experienced immense obstacles and near catastrophic failures. Some of which were enormous.
The thing I've not mentioned, but is extremely valuable is the environment. It's no frills, it's about ideas and hard work and fellowship. You're surrounded by founders trying to do the same thing you are, build a product people want. You are also surrounded by past founders that have successfully done this already. This is what makes it an amazing experience. There's a magic in the room and it's tangible.
Hope that answers your questions :)