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Great Lessons from Y-Combinator, or Not?

The 2014 start-up school from Y-Combinator covers valuable tips from extremely successful entrepreneurs. Very inspiring to read. At the same time, it is also perhaps a bit discouraging for professionals who want to innovate. Moving to San Francisco or New York for 3 months is often not an option, and giving up your well-paying job—for which you have trained for years—is not attractive either. So to what extent are these entrepreneurial lessons applicable?

Y-Combinator lessons

To start with, the Y-combinator lessons are certainly worth taking a look at (see link).

medium_logo2000_Y combinatorThe lessons taught are certainly inspiring. However, working 24/7, focusing solely on your innovation, and moving to an accelerator to jump-start your innovation are not realistic expectations for innovating professionals for several reasons.


  • Professional innovators are often older and have families to take care of
  • Years of schooling made them expert in their domains, not necessarily entrepreneurs; to a certain extent that ship has sailed (at least according to Ron Conway)
  • They have a lot to lose, like a well-paying job and a hard-won professional reputation

The professional’s twist

It is thus not realistic, and probably not even desirable to expect professionals to become entrepreneurs on their own. Yet they are smart, creative, highly educated, and have personal and company funds available to them to innovate with. It would thus be foolish to disregard the innovative power of the professional, young or old.

The good news for professionals:

  • You don’t need to leave your job to innovate
  • You probably don’t need investors, as your organization will be able to fund at least part of the trajectory
  • You can innovate part-time, so long as you build a team around you that can focus on getting the innovation launched
  • If you consider your innovation endeavor a learning experience, you will always be successful

The bad news:

  • You need an organization, or at least a boss, who is supportive of innovation, as innovating takes time and success is not guaranteed
  • You will need external validation for your ideas, especially if they are truly innovative; the most explicit confirmation  is… external funding
  • You cannot stall the progress of others by only being available at certain times; innovating just on Friday afternoon is not going to work

Professionals can be innovation champions without having to become entrepreneurs as well. Some of the considerations mentioned above are relatively easy to overcome. External funding can arrive in the form of a first customer or client, or a grant. While limiting yourself to Friday afternoons may not get you very far, the flexibility of being able to spend at least 15 minutes every day on a project will get you a long way.

Interested in learning more how you can innovate as a professional? Contact us at info”at”organizing4innovation”dot”com or visit our website for more information:



Y-Combinator start up school 2014