In a blog post this Friday afternoon, Y Combinator’s president Geoff Ralston said that the accelerator would make two changes to its terms for startups.
The first would see the size of the standard deal for YC startups decline from $150,000 for 7% (roughly a $2.1 million post-money valuation) to $125,000 for the same equity (or roughly a $1.79 million post-money valuation). The deal will continue to be offered using a SAFE, which YC and a group of others pioneered as a simpler investment option compared to convertible notes.
Interestingly, the firm is always writing into its terms that it will only take pro rata up to 4% of a subsequent round’s size, which is obviously smaller than the 7% ownership that the company is buying in its financing. That 4% number is a ceiling — in cases where the accelerator has less ownership than 4%, the smaller percentage applies. Full terms of Y Combinator’s deal are available on its website.
The new deal will apply to startups who join Y Combinator in the Winter 2021 batch, and doesn’t include startups in the current summer batch (who have already presumably been funded)
YC’s deal has varied over the years. When it first launched more than a decade ago, it offered terms of $20,000 for 6%.
A Y Combinator spokeswoman said that the change was in line with the fundraising and budget realties of the accelerator going forward. “The future of the economy is unpredictable, and we feel it is prudent during these times to switch to a leaner model," she said. "In our case, we want to be set up to fund as many great founders as possible — especially during a time that is creating an unprecedented change to consumer and business behavior; with these changes comes endless opportunities for startups. And with the changes made to our standard deal, we can fund as many as 3000 more companies.”
Outside of budget, at least a couple of factors are potentially at work here. One is the increased use of Work From Anywhere, which presumably can help lower some of the running costs of a startup, particularly in its earliest days (e.g., no need to pay for that WeWork flex desk).
Y Combinator has also invested more of its funds into emerging markets startups, which can have dramatically lower costs of development given prevailing wages for talent in local markets.
Yet, the cutback is also a sign that the flood of capital entering the Valley in recent years has receded — if ever so slightly — in the wake of COVID-19. Valuations are depressing, and while $25,000 is not a massive loss considering the scale of later venture financings, the 16% valuation haircut is in line with other numbers we have seen in the Valley in recent weeks.