Y Combinator has been on the defensive recently.
Last weekend, leaders of the popular accelerator X (formerly known as Twitter) were vocal in their response to comments made by the CEO of another accelerator at an event.
Ali Partovi, who founded Neo in 2017, was the keynote speaker at HackMIT on Saturday, September 16. During his 15-minute speech, Partovi says he once mentioned YC: “Mentor ratio: We have as many mentors as Y Combinator. , except they’re serving 20 startups instead of 250.”
The comment infuriated YC CEO Gary Tan, who wrote to X on September 16: “Competition is good. It’s not fair when competitors like Neo criticize Y Combinator by saying ‘YC doesn’t give personalized advice’ as they did recently on the MIT forum. YC has 12 group partners including me: You get 1:1 mentorship for the life of your startup once we get you funded.
Partovi told TechCrunch that he was surprised by Tan’s response.
“I was surprised because I didn’t tell him what Gary had done to me. I felt threatened because Gary accused me of defamation, which would have legal implications,” he said. “It’s not slanderous to compare themselves to an industry leader… They haven’t experienced real competition in a long time, if ever – and it shows.”
Partovi said that at the time he gave the speech he was not aware that YC was a sponsor of HackMIT. Neo was not a sponsor, he said, but Partovi was invited to give the keynote address.
He responded to Tan’s comments with a post of his own, which he eventually deleted, before he made another post saying that people should assess the situation for themselves.
When Partovi was asked for his honest opinion about YC, he pointed me to another X post in which he wrote that he “loves” YC founders and that some of his best investments were YC startups. Also said he praised YC as “one of the best ideas”. of the 21st century” and he “did not say that YC is useless.”
Still, he said his accelerator, Neo, is different from YC and “is a better program for early-career tech founders.”
When contacted by TechCrunch, Tan and YC declined to comment on the public uproar.
For context, Partovi describes Neo as “a mentorship community that supports the next generation of founders and tech leaders with a startup accelerator, recruiting platform, and VC funds.” Earlier this year, it raised $235 million from two new funds, and is backed by Bill Gates, Reid Hoffman, Sheryl Sandberg, Satya Nadella, and other founders of Airbnb, DoorDash, and Dropbox. Since its 2017 founding, Neo has funded 175 companies valued at over $33 billion.
In contrast, Y Combinator was founded in 2005 and, according to its website, has since funded at least 4,000 startups with a combined valuation of $600 billion. Those funded startups include Airbnb, Coinbase, Cruise, DoorDash, Dropbox, Instacart, PagerDuty, Reddit, Stripe, Zepto, and Twitch.
In Partovi’s view, Neo Accelerator offers an advantage over other accelerators because it has 30 advisors and offers a “better advisor-to-founder ratio.” It’s this approach that unsettles Tan.
Amid the increasingly heated debate on X about Neo, Y Combinator managing director Michael Seibel also wrote on September 16 that he had “heard a lot of dirt” about Partovi.
Specifically, he posted: “I’ve heard a lot of shit about Ali Partovi @apartovi From YC founders over the years… Anyone thinking about working with them or Neo needs to be careful and do their due diligence. Ali- The thing is that you are calling. @Garryton A bully is ridiculous. You should check out what’s going on in your own backyard…the founders are too scared of getting sued by this guy. He silences them by threatening them. But the stories always come out @apartovi -The startup world is a small place.
When asked specifically about this allegation, Partovi told TechCrunch that he “has not done anything that YC is alluding to.”
He said: “As they know, I know exactly who made each of these false claims and ignored them for years. I have never sued, threatened to sue, or been sued by anyone in the tech industry. I have never asked a founder to sign an NDA (I have often proposed to founders without a lawyer that I sign an NDA).”
This isn’t the first time in recent weeks that YC has been aggressive with its defense.
A recent article by Rebecca Szkutak on TechCrunch, titled ‘Here’s why some investors are sitting out YC Demo Day,’ quotes a venture capitalist claiming that YC Demo Day is now offering pre-seed and Seed was not useful to investors because “at this point, most companies are already funded.
Gary Tan also took to social media at the time, with a post on LinkedIn asking, “Why are VCs (sic) lying about the YC Demo Day?” In that post, Tan wrote: “WARNING: VCs are lying about YC and YC Demo Day, and TechCrunch isn’t even doing us the courtesy of fact-checking these lies so we can set the record straight “
TechCrunch also contacted Tan for comment regarding his comments but did not receive a reply by the time of publication.