The numbers are pretty stunning; Y Combinator's 940 companies are now worth more than $65 billion. That's an astonishing mean value of $69 million...and recall, that Y Combinator buys into those startups at a sub-$1 million valuation. Now that's a great business!
But while Y Combinator itself is a great business, I want to point out that embedded in those stats are the fact that the odds are always against startups.
I'm fond of telling audiences that only 10% of venture-backed startups succeed, by which I mean achieving an exit of $100 million or more.
Y Combinator estimates that 40 of its 940 companies are now worth more than $100 million. That's 4.3%.
Even if we double this number to account for the fact that many Y Combinator companies are too young to have reached their final stage of growth, we still only get 8.6%.
Meanwhile, YC has produced 8 "unicorns," which implies a ratio of 8 / 940, or 0.9%.
In other words, even if you get into the world's greatest, most successful accelerator (Y Combinator), your chances of building a unicorn are only 1-2%.
This is one of the paradoxes of startups: Collectively, startups are a fantastic business that contribute greatly to society. Individually, the odds against any individual startup and entrepreneur are incredibly long.