The Launch Pad: Inside Y Combinator, Silicon Valley's Most Exclusive School for Startups

Overview

Number of teams that applied to Y Combinator?s summer 2011 batch: 2,089
Teams interviewed: 170
Minutes per interview: 10
Teams accepted and funded: 64
Months to build a viable startup: 3
Possibilities: BOUNDLESS
 
 
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The Launch Pad: Inside Y Combinator

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Overview

Number of teams that applied to Y Combinator’s summer 2011 batch: 2,089
Teams interviewed: 170
Minutes per interview: 10
Teams accepted and funded: 64
Months to build a viable startup: 3
Possibilities: BOUNDLESS
 
 
Investment firm Y Combinator is the most sought-after home for startups in Silicon Valley. Twice a year, it funds dozens of just-founded startups and provides three months of guid­ance from Paul Graham, YC’s impresario, and his partners, also entrepreneurs and mostly YC alumni. The list of YC-funded success stories includes Dropbox (now valued at $5 billion) and Airbnb ($1.3 billion).
 
Receiving an offer from YC creates the oppor­tunity of a lifetime — it’s like American Idol for budding entrepreneurs.
 
Acclaimed journalist Randall Stross was granted unprecedented access to Y Combinator’s summer 2011 batch of young companies, offering a unique inside tour of the world of software startups. Most of the founders were male programmers in their mid-twenties or younger. Over the course of the summer, they scrambled to heed Graham’s seemingly simple advice: make something people want.
 
We watch the founders work round-the-clock, developing and retooling products as diverse as a Web site that can teach anyone program­ming, to a Wikipedia-like site for rap lyrics, to software written by a pair of attorneys who seek to “make attorneys obsolete.”
 
Founders are guided by Graham’s notoriously direct form of tough-love feedback. “Here, we don’t fire you,” he says. “The market fires you. If you’re sucking, I’m not going to run along behind you, saying, ‘You’re sucking, you’re suck­ing, c’mon, stop sucking.’” Some teams would even abandon their initial idea midsummer and scramble to begin anew.
 
The program culminated in “Demo Day,” when founders pitched their startup to sev­eral hundred top angel investors and venture capitalists. A lucky few attracted capital that gave their startup a valuation of multiple millions of dollars. Others went back to the drawing board.
 
This is the definitive story of a seismic shift that’s occurred in the business world, in which coding skill trumps employment experience, pairs of undergraduates confidently take on Goliaths, tiny startups working out of an apart­ment scale fast, and investors fall in love.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
An inside look at a Silicon Valley training program for nascent online companies. In 2011, New York Times columnist Stross (Business/San Jose State Univ.; Planet Google, 2008, etc.) was granted round-the-clock access to a small but prominent venture capital firm called Y Combinator. Sometimes called a "seed accelerator," Y Combinator offers seed money to a very select group of startup companies (in exchange for equity in the company), combined with an intensive three-month program of instruction and critique. It culminates in a presentation to a group of outside investors who will hopefully invest in these new companies. Graduates include file-sharing site Dropbox and the online commenting service Disqus, used by many major publications. With so much at stake, this book should be thrumming with dramatic tension: Who will fail or succeed? Unfortunately, instead of highlighting a few budding CEOs, Stross tries to cover far too many, leaving readers with little insight into the struggles these (often quite young) entrepreneurs must be experiencing. The book also suffers from a lack of insight into key issues. For example, a chapter ostensibly meant to look at "the dispiriting lack of women founders in tech" begins by pointing out that "[i]n the six-year history of YC...there had been only one instance in which there had been an all-female team." But instead of seriously examining the question of why the YC applicant pool is largely, in the words of YC founder Paul Graham, "a bunch of white and Asian dudes," Stross introduces the male YC teams who happen to have wives and young children, before concluding the chapter with only vague theories behind the lack of women in tech. A superficial examination of the tech elite.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781591845294
  • Publisher: Portfolio Hardcover
  • Publication date: 9/27/2012
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.36 (w) x 9.16 (h) x 0.98 (d)

Meet the Author

Randall Stross writes the “Digital Domain” column for The New York Times and is a professor of business at San Jose State University. He is the author of several acclaimed books, including eBoys, Planet Google, and The Wizard of Menlo Park. He has a Ph.D. in history from Stanford University.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1

1 Younger 9

2 Older 22

3 Grad School 34

4 Male 45

5 Crazy But Normal 56

6 Unsexy 67

7 Genius 77

8 Angels 86

9 Always Be Closing 98

10 Clone Myself 110

11 What's Up? 118

12 Hackathon 130

13 New Ideas 140

14 Risk 150

15 Married 161

16 Fearsome 171

17 Pay Attention 183

18 Growth 194

19 Find A Dropbox 206

20 Don't Quit 218

21 Software Is Eating The World 227

Acknowledgments 241

Appendix: The Summer 2011 Batch 245

Notes 251

Index 269

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