How Six BYU Teams Earned a Spot with Y Combinator
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The Y Report

Incubating Ideas

A baby chick hatches out of a lightbulb.
Illustration by Keith Lee

It’s easier to get into Harvard than it is to earn a spot with Y Combinator, a San Francisco–based start-up incubator with a 1.5 percent acceptance rate. Yet in the last two years, six BYU-student-led companies made the cut.

“The fact that so many BYU teams have gotten in is pretty significant,” says Jeffrey D. Brown (MPA’14), the associate director of operations at the BYU Marriott’s Rollins Center for Entrepreneurship. Turning a young entrepreneur’s idea into a business reality requires investment, and Y Combinator is one of the best ways to attract funding.

Attending Y Combinator was a game changer for C. Blake Rouse (’25), the cofounder of the AI-powered software-development tool Buster. His team got started in BYU’s own start-up incubator, Sandbox, which “surrounded [us] with resources” and motivation needed to grow an idea into a business.

Y Combinator was the next step. They applied three times before being accepted in 2024 and saw their resources expand from there. “They’ve helped us acquire early customers, expand our vision, hit key milestones, raise additional funding, and much more,” says Rouse.

“The talent density at Y Combinator is unbelievable,” adds Rouse. Even among the Ivy-League dropouts and Silicon Valley alums, BYU students have some marked advantages, says Aaron Cooper, founder of scheduling software company Sameday. “Maybe [BYU students] are not MIT-level engineers on the technical side,” says Cooper, who joined the Y Combinator program three years ago, “but they’re pretty ambitious and they know how to get to market and talk to people.”

This advantage is credited in part to the mentorship offered at Sandbox. “If you’re a first-time founder having never done this before,” says Sandbox director Christopher B. Crittenden (BS ’06, MAcc ’07), “it’s really nice to have people around you to help [direct you].”