Michael Seibel. Photo: Y Combinator

Y Combinator has won acclaim for a twice-yearly training program that produced Silicon Valley crown jewels such as Stripe and Airbnb. But for the first time since the startup accelerator’s inception in 2005, all 220 participants had to dial in remotely, threatening a valuable component of YC—its ability to help founders forge connections. 

For Michael Seibel, who became CEO of YC's startup accelerator in 2016, restrictions on in-person meetings added to the challenge of running the program. Heading into this year, it had already faced criticism for increasing the number of companies in its batches and for stoking a Silicon Valley hype cycle through its demo day, when venture capitalists compete to invest in untested young startups.

Seibel, in an interview with The Information Monday, deflected those complaints, suggesting some came from people who prefer “superelite groups.” He shed light on how the accelerator adjusted to the year’s upheaval, including encouraging founders to focus on breaking even rather than growth at all costs, and showed how the recent graduates resembled earlier founders who had set up companies in a crisis. 

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