Citing concern over COVID-19, Y Combinator moves demo day online

Startup accelerator Y Combinator has moved its famed demo day online, citing a “growing concern over COVID-19,” or coronavirus. The demo day has historically drawn crowds of Silicon Valley elite, journalists, and both national and international venture capitalists to watch more than 100 startups come out to the world. 

“While we won’t be able to recreate every aspect of Demo Day, we’ll try our best to create an amazing experience for our founders and investors,” Y Combinator said in a memo. Y Combinator’s 30th annual demo day will be pre-recorded and released to investors on Monday March 23, per the memo.  

Thanks to a mix of history and glamour, for Y Combinator startups, demo day is the culminating day of their accelerator experience. It’s a big audience full of check writers and fast typers, and at the least, they’ll get a tweet or a couple of sign ups. The move to remote, in some way, dims that excitement. 

Beyond digital presentations, YC has said it will “provide additional written background information on each company and access to their decks.” It also will provide software to help investors and founders arrange one-on-one meetings. 

Seth Bannon, a founding investor at Fifty VC and previous YC graduation (S12), said “the face to face human element is incredibly important, as founders try to gauge if they want to partner with an investor for the next tens years and vice versa.”

“At Demo Day you can have hundreds of those quick face to face interactions in hours. That said, I think this is the right decision for YC,” Bannon told TechCrunch. “The safety of founders and the broader community is most important. Good on them for making a really tough decision.”

The blog post ends with this: “For 15 years, startup investors have supported every new batch of YC companies, and we know the same will be true for this batch.”

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