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Insights Into the Human Capital at YC Top Companies

Insights from a sample of ~100,000 current and previous employees at YC top companies.

Insights Into the Human Capital at YC Top Companies
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We’re a month away from the Summer 2023 funding cycle for Y Combinator-backed startups.

Over the last 18 years, YC has funded and supported over 4,000 startups including the likes of Airbnb, Dropbox, GitLab, and Reddit. Every few months, YC compiles a list of its top companies, all of which are valued at over $150M or have gone public.

In this installment of our VC portfolio insights series, we took a look at a sample of almost 100,000 current and former employees across the 293 private YC top companies, including:

  • Founders: people in a founder role and what they are building
  • Stealth: employees that have gone from a YC-backed company to stealth mode
  • Alumni: current employees whose previous role was at another YC company
  • Open to Work: Former YC portfolio talent that is on the sidelines and open to work

In addition to our regular portfolio insights, we looked at company-specific insights and employee trends at OneSignal – a recent add to YC’s top companies list.

Read on to explore the human capital at “top companies”.


From the 100,000 people we sampled, almost 2,300 are current founders or co-founders. This means that YC talent is over 40% more likely to be a founder than talent from First Round-backed companies and on average over twice as likely to be a founder than talent from a16z, Sequoia, or Bessemer.

  • 488 of the founders or co-founders are currently at a YC top company
  • 442 current founders came directly from a YC top company and have now started their own company not yet backed by YC
  • 230 of the current founders started in 2023

Looking for the next batch of potential YC founders and companies? We’ve surfaced over 50,000 new founders in the last year. What are they building and how many of these founders will apply to YC in the future?


From our sample, we found 235 people who have been at a YC top company and are currently in stealth. This includes 69 employees whose most recent previous role was at a YC top company and who are currently in stealth.

  • Over 35% of the people in stealth were previously in an engineering or product role
  • 70 people previously backed by YC have gone stealth in 2023
  • Over 50% of the people now in stealth are in a founder or co-founder role
  • 10 people spent time in “super stealth” before announcing their stealth company

How many of the people in stealth, that were previously backed by YC, will apply to a future YC cohort? What learnings will employees that were at a YC-backed company during the company’s YC days take with them on their stealth journey?

Multiple Port Co

500+ current YC top company employees came from another YC top company. 

  • 217 of the 500+ have had more than 3 roles at a YC top company
  • ~50% are product or engineering talent and ~20% are sales talent
  • 61 of the 500+ are VP-level or higher talent

YC’s specific focus on early-stage companies highlights another reason that employees may choose to move between portfolio companies – many of the people who choose to work at early-stage companies are passionate about building the next great company.

Many of the employees that have moved between YC top companies are also likely drawn to companies whose founding teams have gone through YC’s program and have a similar style or set of experiences that shaped them as founders.

Open To Work

Almost 4,500 former YC-backed employees are currently on the sidelines. Given their experience at successful startups, these individuals would likely make a great addition to a growing team.

  • 39% of the former YC talent that is open to work came onto the talent market in 2023, including 347 people in the last 30 days
  • Almost 60% of the talent that is currently open to work was most recently at a YC top company
  • In the last year, YC top companies have hired 234 people that were open to work and had previously been at another YC top company

Finding good startup talent is hard (and is often expensive). Hiring people who have “been there, done that” and are open to work can make it easier.

If you’re looking to help one of your portfolio companies fill a specific open role, there is likely a roster of alumni talent that is on the sidelines that can serve as a great way to source talent.

Insights Into a “New Top Company” – OneSignal

OneSignal was part of the YC Summer 2011 cohort. In January, they extended their Series C and passed the milestone of a valuation of over $150M.

We mapped the human capital investments that OneSignal has made over the years to fuel its trajectory to “top company” status.

  • $25M Series B in July 2019 following 53% headcount growth in the previous 15 months
  • Undisclosed raise from Hubspot in April 2021 following a 96% headcount increase since the last raise
  • $50M Series C in September 2021 following 20% headcount growth since the previous round
  • $50M Series C extension in January 2023 following 28% headcount growth since the initial Series C raise

Employee arrivals and departures and the quality of talent at a given company is a foundational part of any company's success. Analyzing the movement of employees provides insights into the stability, growth, and potential of a company. Monitoring trends such as the hiring and retention of top talent, and the departure of key personnel allows investors to assess the human capital at an organization.

Human capital analysis aids investors in making informed decisions about the investment potential and long-term viability of the company.

Investing in Human Capital

Human capital is foundational to the success of a startup. The people building, innovating, selling, and strategizing dictate the eventual outcomes.

Venture capital investors considering an investment opportunity, carefully evaluate the quality and experience of the founding team and employees. After all, the people behind a startup are what ultimately drive its success, and without the right human capital, even the most innovative idea, product, or service is unlikely to achieve its full potential.

Simply, human capital is a crucial factor in evaluating investment opportunities and the growth potential of a business. By investing in the right people, investors and startups can set themselves up for success and create long-term value.

Looking to source investment deals or help fuel your portfolio company growth? Simply curious to understand the people building in and disrupting billion-dollar industries?

Get real-time human capital insights at the industry, company, and employee levels.

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