What The World's Most Successful Incubator Can Teach Us about Biomimicry Education

startups May 08, 2024

In a world where the future is faster than we think - what does it mean to ‘learn’ in the 21st century? 

Education has often been thought of as lacking innovation. Though if we look closer - there are a number of organisations that are rethinking education. 

Today, we’re gonna be benchmarking - i.e.) learn from what the best has already figured out. Today’s case studie is Y-Combinator. 

Side note on benchmarking: Benchmarking is the practice of comparing business processes and performance metrics to industry bests and best practices from other companies. Dimensions typically measured are quality, time and cost.

We fundamentally believe that Y-Combinator have figured out some critical factors to success. 

This shows in the innovative businesses that they’ve helped start.  

An Introduction to Y-Combinator

Y-Combinator is a science led approach to starting a business, and if you’ve heard me speak on this before - starting a biomimicry project is not unlike starting a business… just on a fractionally small scale. 

For some background, Y-Combinator is the most successful startup studio in the world. It’s responsible for helping start up billion-dollar companies like Airbnb, Dropbox, and Stripe.

Y-Combinator does the most important things right - it raises the collective ambition, creates and fosters an entrepreneurial network, is output orientated (not process orientated)... and this arrives at a project-based approach. 

The facts speak for themselves. Today Y-Combinator has helped start 5,000+ startups and has a $600B+ combined valuation. 

That’s $600 Billion… with a B 🤯

What Y-Combinator gets right about Education

People are most productive when they can spend most of their time just building. 

With this in mind, Y-Combinator has created an environment where founders can focus exclusively on what matters - building products and talking to users. It’s very hands-on and "student centered". In other words, it's a real-life example of project-based learning.

One of our strongest beliefs about education is that knowledge is not something that is delivered, but rather something that we need to build ourselves. 

Y Combinator gives startups a disproportionate advantage, through project based learning.
We do project-based learning in our Biomimicry Practitioner Programme too. 

Creating a Culture of Collaboration

It’s funny. We get our best ideas when we talk to friends. 

If you go at it alone, starting a biomimicry project can be a lonely pursuit.

“Exciting things happen when you bring biomimics together - ideas are exchanged, projects get built and problem solving happens amongst peers” - Jess Berliner, Programme Director

Networks can nurture talent and drive innovation. Through Y-Combinator emphasis on empowering startups to build, experiment, and iterate, Y-Combinator demonstrates that true education is not merely about the delivery of knowledge, but the cultivation of skills and insights through active engagement and collaboration. 

By embracing this philosophy, we too can harness the power of connections and networks to propel our journey in mastering biomimicry and unlocking its transformative potential.

Focus on the Desired Outcome, Not the Indicators

The outcome Y-combinator desires is a successful startup. There are no scorecards or tests. Why would there be? So why do education systems still keep so focused around indicators, not outcomes? 

Whilst computer science and GPTs are moving at the speed of light, our classrooms are still like an industrialised factory with human-powered production lines.

Firstly, evolution does not aim for an A scorecard or a standardised, centralised approach. 

The idea of a standardized curriculum, with standardized tests in standardized classes, thrived in a different era. 

Our context has shifted radically. The surface-level problem is the countrywide standardized tests and curriculums, the root problem is that the approach isn’t evolutionary… not if you consider the approach hasn’t changed in 100+ years. 

Landing your dream job? That's a reason to celebrate. 
This is a screenshot of an email we received from a recent
graduate of the Biomimicry Practitioner Programme.

Raise Your Ambitions

This is often a neglected part of most learning journeys. I speak for myself here in saying that we can always dream bigger, aim higher, etc. 

Raising ambitions is not about talking or saying something audacious. Rather, it’s about beleiving it. 

Something I’ve got fixated on recently is seeing excellence. 

Excellence is defined by the most excellent thing you’ve seen.

Seeing excellence can help you raise your ambitions. As the saying goes ‘shoot for the Moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars’.

In summary

Try to create a culture of collaboration: connect with other biomimics. Join a biomimicry conference, start a biomimicry short course. Biomimicry is requires a multi-disciplinary approach, and for that - you'll need a network.

Focus on the desired outcome, not the indicators. The best programmes don't focus on grades. They focus on outcomes. At Learn Biomimicry, we too believe that success is not a number, but rather being about to think critically about a problem and coming up with creative solutions. We’re not a university. We do learning instead. We’re 100% focused on keeping biomimicry practical and applied. 

Raise your ambitions. Excellence is defined by the most excellent thing you’ve seen. Also, it’s important to understand - what is your objective for learning biomimicry. Is it to think outside the box or create a sustainable innovation, land that dream client, start or move to a new job, or strengthen your biomimicry knowledge. 




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