What Silicon Valley really thinks about Y Combinator’s Demo Day

For investors at Y Combinator, it’s best to follow a formula. Come prepared, and float your favorite startups by your peers. And if you’re really confident, you might pour a few hundred thousand into the coffers of an early-stage startup by the end of the week. It’s a bit like betting on a horse race.

Yesterday, Silicon Valley’s highly competitive incubator held its 15th Demo Day for 80-plus companies to pitch to press and investors from the big venture capital firms, folk like Draper Fisher Jervetson and Andreessen Horowitz.

My feedback? At 2 minutes, 15 seconds, the presentations seem abrupt and missing vital information. Y Combinator’s cofounder, Paul Graham, banned the funding slide this year, supposedly to even the playing field. But it felt odd as we heard about companies for the first time that had already closed about a million dollars in seed funding. Another noticeable absence? There were almost no female entrepreneurs, nor were there many non-white, non-Asian entrepreneurs.

I had my eye on a few companies that were gaining traction and pulled in funding before the event (such as Sponsorfied, SmartAsset, and Referly), but I was surprised by a few stand-out successes that emerged in the postmortem coverage, like 9GAG.

I scoured Twitter and blogs, and I asked a few investors for their thoughts on the day. Here is their feedback on the startups to watch, and how this batch of Y Combinator startups compares to previous years.

Startups to watch this year 

Show me the money!

Presentations were too short

  • “Each of 82 companies is getting 2 minutes and 15 seconds to talk about themselves to the audience. It’s like sitting through an entire day of advertisements about new companies that we have no context upon which to decide which companies are good. It almost makes me want to go home with my list of companies and just start making interview requests and playing with their products. In fact, that’s probably what I’ll do after lunch” — Scoble, Scobleizer

What the hell happened to the funding slide? 

  • “As a reporter, it’s a bit of a bummer — I always like to get the nitty-gritty metrics on just how much seed funding a startup has raised.” — Colleen Taylor, TechCrunch

A broader range of startups 

  • “Demo Day is a marketplace for founders and investors to find each other.  It’s like how they get all the food trucks in San Francisco together at Off the Grid.  There’s something for everyone.” — Leep, Floodgate Fund
  • “There was a little bit of everything: social, mobile, cloud and even some healthcare related companies” — Drew Olanoff, TheNextWeb
  • You could almost see [Paul] Graham flinging wave after wave of young entrepreneurs at the big problems in areas like transportation and logistics, social networking and entertainment, e-commerce, finance, telecommunications, travel, advertising, publishing, healthcare, education, and developer tools. Collectively, these startups have a pretty good shot at changing the world, if only because of their sheer numbers. — Wade Roush, Xconomy

Nostalgia for previous years

Just for fun

  • Genius guerrilla marketing tactics from Tripl with the fake, parking lot ticket! “A few comments on Hacker News – sort of a Y Combinator mini-Reddit —  are a little dubious, speculating that recipients would find it annoying and not dissimilar to junk mail. I suspect, however, they are simply kicking themselves for not thinking of the idea themselves.” — John Koetsier, VentureBeat
  • “I need a VC to just stand up at YC Demo Day & shout, ‘I’ll fund you all.’ Then everyone can go out for beers.” — Hunter Walk, Google 
  • “So, how did the Tributes from District YC perform today? When you’re ‘ramen profitable,’ there are no Hunger Games.” — Hunter Walk, Google 

Who are your favorites from this year’s batch? Check out our coverage from the front lines of Demo Day here. 

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