Answer by Vu Tran, Founder, Slidemailapp.com, on Quora

I got in [to YC] twice. Once for Framebase (now shut down) and the second time for SlideMail. How I thought about this problem is you essentially have to mitigate three types of risks for any investor, whether YC or a VC. The more you can mitigate these risks, the better your chances.

Below are the three risks factors. The importance of #1 vs #2 varies upon partner to partner. Overall, I feel like YC in general favors strong teams but you can't have one without the other.

1. Team risk
2. Market risk
3. Distribution risk

Team risk

  • How long have you guys known each other?
  • Have you worked on projects together?
  • Is at least one technical? What is your previous track record?
  • Is the equity split even between all the co-founders?
  • How many co-founders do you have?
  • Are there any previous issues? (Lawsuits from ex co-founders)
  • Do you have specialized experience in the market?
  • Is there chemistry between the co-founders at the interview?

Market risk

  • Is there validation that your product has traction in this market? Do you have passionate users?
  • Is the market big enough? What's the TAM?
  • What is the trend of this market? Is it growing or downsizing?
  • What are the big competitors? What stops them from completely destroying you?
  • Do you have IP?

Distribution risk

  • How will you sell your product? (If you're doing an enterprise product and have no one with previous enterprise sales experience, that's a bad sign)
  • How will you expand to different tangental markets?

In summary, if you just have a product that's growing like a weed and you can demonstrate you're competent, you stand a pretty good shot.

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Published on: Jul 2, 2015