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How Y Combinator's powerful alumni network operates. (Interact by hovering over the titles on the left.)


Pay it forward is the default ethos of YC alums. For example, founders from 2009's WePay and 2010's Stripe, both finance startups, advise GiftRocket, a service that launched last year to let anyone create a gift card for any business. "They were really influential in helping us understand how the payments business works," says GiftRocket cofounder Kapil Kale.


Y Combinator companies boost one another's businesses as customers. Most popular: Startup-friendly tools such as Dropbox or ZeroCater, a meal-delivery service that boasts 8% of its client base from YC alumni. The result, explains Ben Congleton, cofounder of the web customer-service tool Olark, is, "people see successful YC companies using our product and want it too.


YCers often live together during and after their program--which leads to further socializing and, of course, business opportunities. Reddit cofounder Steve Huffman let Adam Goldstein crash in his apartment when he first moved West; Goldstein later asked Huffman to be his cofounder in the travel site Hipmunk. The building--San Francisco's Crystal Towers--housed so many alums that they called it the "Y scraper." Get-togethers can feature sports, poker, and regular dinners. "In fact," says Anywhere.FM cofounder Anson Tsai, "I just came back from dinner with all of them [Drew Houston, Adam Smith, and Aaron Iba] to discuss how we can take over the world."


YC alums routinely invest in one another's companies. Longtime members of the YC community such as Steve Huffman and Tikhon Bernstam attract the most interest when they go through YC a second time. "We found investors through the YC alumni network," says Hipmunk's Goldstein. Successful alums such as Reddit's Alexis Ohanian and Zenter's Wayne Crosby and Robby Walker have started their own investment funds for startups.

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