How YCombinator Solves The ‘Credentials Trap’ Problem

December 22, 2012 5:00 am

Chris Dixon wrote about this very dangerous problem called the ‘credentials trap’ – basically it is the fact that we are used to getting external validation for most of our career moves – this is how he states it:

“But optimizing for external validation is a dangerous trap. You’re fighting over a fixed pie against well-credentialed peers”

Part of his post is based on a thought from Jessica Livingston, who made this interesting observation during her talk at Startup school:

“What you don’t realize until you start a startup is how much external validation you’ve gotten for the conservative choices you’ve made in the past. You go to college and everyone says, “Great!” Then you graduate get a job at Google and everyone says, “Great!”

What do you think people say when you quit your job to start a company to rent out airbeds?”

Getting into a structured program like YC solves that problem for you. It is an option that did not exist few years back. That is huge. The fact that “I am doing YC” fits into that group of statements (“I am going to college”, “I got a job at Google”) is huge for someone with an idea and is actually taking a risk. It has taken years for YC to get to this point, but right now it is a risk reduction and odds improvement engine. And that changes perceptions. Lets say, if 1 out of 10 people with an idea would have pursued it in 2004, now, maybe 3 out of 10 would. You get the idea.

A program like YC helps you get the best of both worlds – it essentially proves that credentials and risk need not be mutually exclusive. It might be an unintended impact – but in a lot of ways, making “I am doing YC” not something weird – that is huge, and is a heavily underrated impact of YC overall.

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3 Comments for “How YCombinator Solves The ‘Credentials Trap’ Problem”

  1. Tim peterson

    Wrong. NOT doing YC and succeeding solves the credentials trap.

  2. Srishti

    So to solve “this very dangerous problem called the ‘credentials trap’” is to create another credential based on the prestige of a startup incubator? Doesn’t really sound like solving the ‘credentials trap’ to me.

  3. spudgun

    What is this nonsense? The two universities I went to weren’t full of yes men. I was often questioned and challenged to excel. And quite a few of us have never worked at google or any other Big Company of the Week. We’ve worked at companies that also question and challenge us on a daily basis. So when we go down that route of starting our own business, its more of the same. If you led a blinkered life where everybody just tells you “well done, you are wonderful”, and expect it to be like that, everywhere else good for you, but you have some big surprises in store. Perhaps I’m validating your point, but the amunt of people who do not resemble your post far outnumber those who do, making your target audience smaller than the amount of change in my wallet.

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