"How can I help?" - Is it helpful or annoying?
Shared by Gabi · 20d ago · 4 comments

If you ever speak to anyone who has been through Y-combinator, they all ask, "How can I help?". While I appreciate that founder, investors, and other advisors have limited time, one should be respectful and clear of one's asks.

I find myself having a weird response to this setup in meetings (especially if I have sent agenda points/ asks upfront). Weirdly, it feels rote and inauthentic?

I was wondering is this is a script that gets taught at YC? Or is the "How can I help?" a case of Silicon/YC social contagion?

I'm wondering what other people think/feel/have experienced?

I'm having mixed feelings and can't seem to research/retrieve the origin story of this on the internet!

woutdispa · 19d ago

I'm not sure where the issue lies but let me explain how I see it. I lived in London for 10+ years, and perhaps cause of that now whenever someone adds me on LinkedIn and I haven't met them before I default to "I don't believe we've met before, so how can I help you?" or some form of that. The burden to explain it falls on them, but the last thing I want to do is sound inauthentic, as I do genuinely care. Perhaps it's a cultural thing, the fact that it grinds your gears...

kendsouza · 20d ago

Not just YC/Silicon valley jargon..could be extremely annoying in certain situations! The question lays a added burden. Now I have to come up with a task and I am not even sure if that person can do it or wants to do it. Instead the person who wants to help should lay out the precise nature of their offer if they are sincere.

Even if you have a specific ask to their 'help offer'..many do not have the time or really care about your ask.
They will indulge in some generic BS to get past the moment.
But there are a few who will always genuinely want to help. And it shows by their actions.

Of course.. I have received great help from employees asking that question at banks and grocery stores. But they get paid to help.

I remember the day when my daughter was born. A heavy snow storm was expected.
I had to rush my wife to the hospital. We got around 16 inches of snow that day.
When I came home in the evening, my driveway was all cleared of the snow.
I found out later that one of my neighbors who I hardly spoke to had cleaned my driveway.

I had several voicemails from folks I knew..congratulating me on the birth of my daughter
and ending with.'...let me know if you need any help':)

macOS · 20d ago


manojranaweera · 20d ago

When I ask How Can I help from others, I am quickly trying to qualify. It does not mean the help is one-sided. E.g. some people think I am an investor, which I am not. So when I ask how can I help, I can quickly work out why someone wants to chat with me. If it's for me, then I can follow on. If it's nothing to do with me, I can quickly educate them.

Disclaimer: I am not from SF or have ever been part of the YC.