Quick-Hit Wisdom From Y Combinator’s Female Startup Stories

A new site launched today by Y Combinator offers frank advice from some of the most successful women in Silicon Valley.

Quick-Hit Wisdom From Y Combinator’s Female Startup Stories
[Photo: Flickr user Peter]

Y Combinator announced today the launch of Female Founder Stories, a website compiling the experiences and wisdom of 40 of the incubator’s female alumni.


In an industry where harassment runs rampant and diversity statistics are grim, these women provide a frank assessment of their experience in the tech industry.

“We got an interesting variety of responses when we asked the women whether being a female was advantageous or disadvantageous in their roles as founders,” Y Combinator partner Jessica Livingston wrote on the company’s blog. “Some felt they had been harmed but as many felt it was an advantage. Interestingly, many said it got them attention for being unusual, and that they’d used this to their advantage.”

On the site, founders including Adora Cheung of Homejoy, Michelle Crosby of Wevorce, and Jessica Richman of uBiome, recount their early days, their time in Y Combinator, and what it’s like being a woman in Silicon Valley.

Here are some highlights; head over to for more:

  • Adora Cheung, Homejoy: “I found it incredibly useful to always map out the growth curve you wish for. It should have a healthy sense of optimism and realism to it. The reason is, all things being equal, it’s easier when you know where the goal line is. When you’re a new company with few users, you should always be hitting your growth goals. If you don’t achieve this for two or three weeks in a row, either you fundamentally need to change what you’re doing or it’s time to move on to the next idea.”
  • Lauren Kay, Dating Ring: “I wish I was told to spend a lot less time trying to maintain a perfect GPA, and a lot more time making friends and working on extracurricular projects, without worrying about the outcome. I was always so concerned about what people thought of me, which stopped me from pursuing a lot of the crazy ideas I had as a teenager.”
  • Michelle Crosby, Wevorce: “I found being a female founder was an advantage. Investors now pride themselves on the number of female founders they fund in their portfolios. The press is catching on as well and now support female founders more vigorously.”
  • Jamie Wong, Vayable: “Investors are biased toward industries and founders they understand. Most investors are men. ‘Pattern matching’ is a term many investors abuse as a euphemism for institutionalized discrimination.”
  • Jessica Richman, uBiome: “Make really good use of your time in academia. There are so many resources there for you; your schedule is flexible; and you have a lot of time to think. Use that time wisely to find something you’re very passionate about and see how your skills can apply (even in a totally different field).”

About the author

Erin Schulte is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in Fast Company, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Harper's Bazaar, and Entrepreneur, among other publications. You can find her on Twitter @erin719nyc.