I met David Cohen of TechStars last week at SXSW. We attended a few panels together. His TechStars initiative is similar to Y Combinator, with some different spins — anyhow, either program is great if you have an idea you want to run with (and you can personally develop it with others on your team).
TechStars funds you $15,000 and you work 3-4 months (summer) in Boulder, Colorado with the guidance of mentors (entrepreneurs, VCs) and they only take 5% of your company. In my opinion, 5% is too small — they’re giving you money so you can hunker down for 3 months and code, opening doors to seasoned entrepreneurs and VCs, providing guidance during any stage, and also getting you incorporated. I told David my opinion and he said that some people share my opinion, but other times he hears people saying that 5% is too much. Anyhow, if you’re in high school or college, this program is optimal for you — or if you’re in-between jobs even. If you’re one of the ten chosen, you’ll be in a privileged position to learn a lot, I’m sure. Don’t fret about giving away 5% of your company — you’ll learn so much and so many doors will open for you. The application deadline is March 31, 2007 — so get your ideas submitted if you haven’t already!
Quick tip: Even if you don’t have a prototype done, I’d try to provide some visuals — even if it’s just pulling out a notepad and sketching stuff out, then scanning into computer, and providing them a URL to the PDF. Or if you operate better opening up a word processor or spreadsheet, and sketching that way.
My Advice: Feel free to email me the idea you’re thinking of submitting and maybe I can give some quick feedback on it — such as some competitors off the top of my head, monetization ideas, etc. If you’re battling between which idea to give them from a couple you have — I can give you my opinion on that as well.