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NYT on Paul Graham's YCombinator Bootcamp

CmdrTaco posted more than 8 years ago | from the something-to-read dept.


prostoalex writes "The New York Times tells the story of Paul Graham's YCombinator - a venture firm that specializes in funding early stage startups that's famour for startup bootcamps conducted twice a year in Silicon Valley and over on the East Coast. YCombinator's boot camps apparently attract a lot of employees out of major software companies, who are still young and want to run a software startup."

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First Post! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14768656)

First Post!

Re:First Post! (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14768802)

Wow! Keep it up and maybe someday you too can be famour!

One of the attendees... (3, Insightful)

tcopeland (32225) | more than 8 years ago | (#14768673)

....Keith Casey, blogged about his trip to Startup School here [] . There's an interesting note in his post about one of the speakers talking about how nervous CFOs feel about Sarbanes-Oxley.

Incidentally, Keith also reviewed my book [] .

Re:One of the attendees... (2, Informative)

caseydk (203763) | more than 8 years ago | (#14768957)

I enjoyed Startup School, it was a great experience. I managed to connect with quite a few people doing different things up and down the coast. Despite my travel problems (noted on another post), I would happily go again.

Re:One of the attendees... (2, Informative)

commanderfoxtrot (115784) | more than 8 years ago | (#14769368)

I wasn't able to be there in person (it's a bit far from England) but the MP3s of the talks were very informative.

Here is the link to the recordings [] . (Coralised [] )

I have some other associated bookmarks [] .

Re:One of the attendees... (1)

Moderatbastard (808662) | more than 8 years ago | (#14770195)

Keith Casey, blogged about his trip to Startup School
Who taught you, to put a comma between the subject and the verb? I, think you are a fucktard. Mod, me down. See if I, care.
Incidentally, Keith also reviewed my book.
Do you, mean to say that Keith, reviewed your book?

Look, look... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14770246)

The sentence was starting at the post title:

"One of the attendees, Keith Casey, blogged about his trip to Startup School."

You are just being an ass.

Re:One of the attendees... (1)

tcopeland (32225) | more than 8 years ago | (#14770249)

That's because the body of the post was a continuation of the subject line. Try reading it thataway and see if it don't sound right.

Re:One of the attendees... (1)

Pollardito (781263) | more than 8 years ago | (#14771097)

specifically he had this to say about Sarbanes-Oxley :
Next, there was a presentation from Hutch Fishman who has served as CFO for a number of Paul Graham's operations along with providing CFO-type support for a number of other firms. He described the various steps in the standard funding cycle for a startup along with what a company should expect in terms of transitions in equity, the Board of Advisors, and ranges. He talked a bit about Sarbanes-Oxley and explicitly stated he would not be willing to serve as CFO for a publicly traded company due to the law. I think this is huge and a very bad sign of things that are happening in the markets. Here we have a well-seasoned and experienced CFO who is being driven away from great firms because of the malfeasance of a limited number of individuals. If a company exec raids a retirement fund or cooks the books, we send them to jail. If a Senator does the same, we re-elect them. Something is wrong here.
he used a really bad analogy at the end, because IMO if a senator "cooks the books" they should go to jail too. i'm not sure how straightening that out affects Fishman's hesitance to be a CFO for a public company, unless the analogy was given with the thought that cooking the books should be ok for both sets of people.

Re:One of the attendees... (1)

caseydk (203763) | more than 8 years ago | (#14772847)

I was trying to point out that the people who wrote Sarbanes-Oxley don't even hold themselves to the same standards they beat people over the head with.

$6000 for 6%? (3, Insightful)

Wulfstan (180404) | more than 8 years ago | (#14768697)

Talk about getting a bargain - if you can't figure out a way of raising that sort of money on your own you really shouldn't be in business.

Remember, folks, venture capital is like heroin; easy to get hooked on and bloody hard to get off.

Re:$6000 for 6%? (1)

Jeff Molby (906283) | more than 8 years ago | (#14769616)

Talk about getting a bargain

I don't know, that equals a $100k valuation which isn't bad considering most of these "companies" are really nothing more than a few guys and an idea.

You're right that $6k isn't exactly hard to raise, but 6% isn't exactly a lot to sell either.

Is it worth it? Who knows? I'm sure it varies per company, but it's not like it's a rip-off.

Re:$6000 for 6%? (1)

pHatidic (163975) | more than 8 years ago | (#14769803)

I agree. Most of these companies don't even have a business plan yet. The probability of going from idea to IPO is 1 in 6 million so it isn't a bad deal if you are starting a Web 2.0 company where you won't need much cash. That way you get enough money to live on, plus the advice and company of your fellow hackers to keep you motivated. This is really much more important than the money. As YCombinator gets bigger I would like it if they could add a program more suited to hardware developers and other types of start ups. Right now for businesses that require a lot of investment YCombinator isn't really practical.

Re:$6000 for 6%? (1)

Moderatbastard (808662) | more than 8 years ago | (#14770260)

it isn't a bad deal if you are starting a Web 2.0 company
Can we please mod anybody who mentions, other than in an ironic or sarcastic sense, Web-fucking-two-dot-bloody-oh down to somewhere near minus infinity?

Re:$6000 for 6%? (4, Interesting)

sporkmonger (922923) | more than 8 years ago | (#14770051)

It's not about the money. Paul Graham and company's input and expertise, plus the advantages of being in a setting with lots of other individuals doing the same thing, plus the connections that are put at your disposal are what make it worth the 6% or so. The $6000 per person is merely a safety net to keep you from having to worry about going too hungry.

Re:$6000 for 6%? (2, Insightful)

caseydk (203763) | more than 8 years ago | (#14770604)

Yeah, no joke. He brought *Wozniak* to Startup School. I suspect that an introduction/reference from Paul (or his cohorts) is likely to open doors you didn't think were there...

Re:$6000 for 6%? (1)

sporkmonger (922923) | more than 8 years ago | (#14771144)


compared to Phil Greenspun's university (3, Insightful)

peter303 (12292) | more than 8 years ago | (#14768737)

Reminds me a bit about the "college" Phil Greenspun started a few years back. It was going to be an "accelerated" version of M.I.T. bypassing the stuff irrelevant to startup computer businesses. It also sound a bit elitest and blowhard.

Anything that can channel the energy and creativity of smart young men and women into constructive pursuits has my vote. Sometimes people are turned off by formal channels like universities and low level entry jobs and dont realize their potential.

Re:compared to Phil Greenspun's university (2, Funny)

hondo77 (324058) | more than 8 years ago | (#14770299)

It also sound a bit elitest and blowhard.

Are you referring to the "college" or Phil? ;-)

Bad trend (2, Insightful)

asadodetira (664509) | more than 8 years ago | (#14768746)

Y_combinator is focused mostrly on software and web services. That's cool, but is a sign of a trend that I don't like. This kind of focus on IT sometimes lead people and some media too to equate technology with software and web services. I think this leads the masses to think that's all there is for technology.

I think you're wrong (1)

twodot72 (867340) | more than 8 years ago | (#14771785)

I don't think this is true at all. I think the masses think primarily on gadgets such as digital cameras, mp3-players, computers, HDTV sets and the like when they hear the word technology. Not web services.

Re:I think you're wrong (1)

asadodetira (664509) | more than 8 years ago | (#14773282)

That's probably true. I'm sort of remembering the use of the word "technology" in the media during the dot com era, it became a buzzword used by businesspeople as a synonym of internet related products and services. Probably short for IT. Now it's probably starting to recover it's original meaning, probably because of the advances in the hardware front.

My impression of Y Combinator (3, Interesting)

Old Man Kensey (5209) | more than 8 years ago | (#14768761)

I'm actually beginning to look for potential VC funding for a startup idea I have, something three or four guys could prototype in a couple of months with a pretty small amount of funding, working part-time outside regular jobs (I have a team in mind but not all of them may be able to commit). I looked at Y Combinator because it's "geek-friendly" but have decided I will probably have to pass.

Why? Their boot camps require everyone involved to move to either Silicon Valley or Cambridge, MA, find their own office and living space (in two of the most expensive markets in the US for both!) and then code up a prototype in some number of weeks. After that, if you don't get funded, you're done and you go back home... assuming you have a home and a job left to go back to. Yes, they offer assistance with all this, but the whole idea isn't really practical on its face for the people they purport to be trying to serve: small-timers with big ideas trying to work on a shoestring. I can't afford to just drop my middle-income tech job, leave my wife behind while I go haring off hundreds or thousands of miles away, on a chance that my team may successfully code a prototype and get funded. Neither could any of the other people I'm thinking of going in with... except one guy. (And he already lives in Brighton, ironically enough.)

Y Combinator works if you're a single, highly employable geek with no obligations, but most of the people I know with the skill to accomplish things worth investing in are either married, have broad skills but relatively specialized job experience (= smaller market with correspondingly smaller proportion of available jobs), or have things like family and financial obligations they can't just drop and leave behind on a whim. So where's financing that's friendly to our situation?

Re:My impression of Y Combinator (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14769023)

i seems that the only alternative for our situation is bootstrapping it with credit cards and savings to build a prototype , which you could then take and get further funding...
on a side note, joel spolsky had some interesting stuff to say on why to avoid venture capital anyhow.... theres an mp3 available of the interview with him at l_spolsky_of_fog.html#more []

its a pretty neat podcast, which you may find of interest....i think he had some good points on starting small

Re:My impression of Y Combinator (1)

NoTheory (580275) | more than 8 years ago | (#14769045)

But so what? That just means that the Y Combinator isn't for you. That doesn't mean that it's not good for others. I happen to be a recent college graduate, unemployed, and looking for something new to do. Now if i only had an idea for the next killer app ;) I don't think the YC is trying to be all things to all people. They're there to serve their purposes.

Re:My impression of Y Combinator (1)

Old Man Kensey (5209) | more than 8 years ago | (#14769456)

I'm not saying Y Combinator is bad, per se -- it's good for a certain limited set of people. I'm largely just frustrated that I look out at the people I know who have skills and ideas, and I see a lot of people like me. And when I look at the field of people willing to fund startups I see either VCs looking for 24-year-old ABT grad students to fund at a pittance, or VCs looking for buzzword-compliant ideas whether or not they're any good (and often wanting a majority stake and management control in anything they fund to boot). There doesn't seem to be anyone willing to moderately fund a small group and allow it to retain control of itself both professionally and personally.

If I had to pick one thing I thought Y Combinator ought to change that would bring it more and better-quality teams, it would be to add that they would assist with job (re)placement (in a meaningful sense, not just "here's a random recruiter's business card" like a previous job did to me) for teams they accept that do not continue past the end of the boot camp. For one thing a lot of VCs carry a stable of "session geeks" and these people would be the perfect pool for such talent in a lot of ways.

Either that, or just drop the relocation requirement.

Re:My impression of Y Combinator (1)

AlbanyGuy (956201) | more than 8 years ago | (#14769047)

I'd say that the true mark of an entrepreneur is one that willingly takes the risk required by jumping into the fray like this. Granted, I'll always advocate having 6 months to a year of living expenses set aside before attempting it, but then I say go forth. Eh, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Wunderkinder fetish. (2, Insightful)

C10H14N2 (640033) | more than 8 years ago | (#14769297)

Basically, middle-aged successful people are trying to re-live their "gee, what if *I* had a million bucks when I was 22" youth. Well, that's great, but really, not that many great--and complete--ideas really do come from fresh college [under]grads. It takes experience, whether in advanced degrees or out working in "the real world" to get the combination of [K]nowledge [S]kills and [A]bility to make a business work. I mean, at the point when you're barely qualified to be a decent employ-EE, how the hell can you reasonably expect to be a decent employ-ER?

It would be far more realistic to design something like this around the assumption that you *will* be over 30, married, with kids and solid decent paying job (that you can hopefully self-fund with) and teach people how to start a business in THAT scenario. Chances are, by the time most of the attendees in these things actually get their collective sh*t together, they WILL be in that situation. But, by the time their in that situation, they're no longer sexy wunderkinder that make Daddy Warbucks stiff and proud...and part owner.

more realistic? maybe (3, Insightful)

jbellis (142590) | more than 8 years ago | (#14769330)

But also a lot harder for paul & co: instead of people willing to move to where you can coach them and live on $2k/month or so, you've got someone who is less able to relocate AND has significantly higher fixed expenses.

Business 101: if your costs are higher, your return needs to be higher too, or it's not worth it.

I suspect that paul simply doesn't know how to get 3x the output from 30-somethings that he can get from 20-somethings in return for the higher costs. This is amplified by the relocation issue; _you_ might not think paul's advice is worth relocating for, but _he_ clearly does. And he's doing the investing. :)

Re:more realistic? maybe (1)

C10H14N2 (640033) | more than 8 years ago | (#14769543)

Oh, I'm not devaluing his advice. What I question is the utility of the advice at the point in time when such relocation is possible. Sure, there will always be "winners" who will bang something out to make daddy proud, but there's kind of a sick S&M trip going on here when the "losers" go home as if "real" businesses are built in this sort of X-Treme sport mockery. It reminds me of the "Drawn Together" episode with the Louie Anderson-esque riff on Donald Trump where every ten seconds he, erm, "discharges" his sage advice all over his nubile contestants.

This is basically a game show where the real winner is the host and the contestants, winners and losers alike, are essentially arbitrary.

Re:more realistic? maybe (1)

jbellis (142590) | more than 8 years ago | (#14769700)

For you or me, that might well be the case.

But for his target market, hey, here's a guy offering to pay kids to move to Cambridge for a few months. Maybe their company works out. Great! If not, well, a lot of young singles like Cambridge an awful lot, and there's plenty of more pedestrian tech jobs available.

Maybe it's not such a bad deal for the recent grad with no ties that he's looking for.

You're absolutely right (2, Informative)

jbellis (142590) | more than 8 years ago | (#14769304)

Y Combinator isn't targetting people like you. Or me, for that matter. They're quite up-front about this.

Does that mean that Paul Graham is a bad person or Y Combinator is a bad choice for the people they _are_ targetting? Not at all.

Um, he doesn't want you. (1)

Some Random Username (873177) | more than 8 years ago | (#14769495)

The whole thing is for recent graduates, or even people still going to school doing this for the summer. He is convinced that people with jobs and families can't start companies.

He should say he doesn't want me (1)

Old Man Kensey (5209) | more than 8 years ago | (#14769556)

I wish he were more up-front about that -- when I looked at the site a month or so ago there was a lot about what a great idea they'd had and such. It wasn't until I started digging that I found the tiny funding numbers and the burden (to most people) imposed on applicants.

If it had said at the front page "Y Combinator funds shoestring technology startups run by recent grads -- click here to apply!" I wouldn't have looked past that and just gone blissfully on my way.

Re:He should say he doesn't want me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14769725)

If you read the rest of Paul's writing, he thinks it's very unlikely that an old has-been like you will ever be able to start a start-up.

Re:He should say he doesn't want me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14770977)

After all, Paul Graham was only pushing 34 when he looted Yahoo with ViaWeb. Practically a newborn. Truth is, Paul just wants to leech off of the ambitions of naive college students

Its probably just an ego thing. (1)

Some Random Username (873177) | more than 8 years ago | (#14769931)

I think he just assumes that everyone has read his insane babblings, so they will already know they are worthless if they are older than 25. The obvious exception being PG himself of course, since getting lucky once, and then being a blowhard forever after makes you something akin to a god.

Re:My impression of Y Combinator (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14770133)

If you can build a prototype working part-time outside of a regular job, why do you need VC funding at all? Finding VC funding is a full-time job in itself, and it comes with lots of strings and lots of pressure. Just build the prototype; if it's great, you can probably pick up users and bootstrap your way. And if you can't bootstrap, at least you'll be in a much stronger position when you go looking for money.

Re:My impression of Y Combinator (1)

killjoe (766577) | more than 8 years ago | (#14771941)

Maybe that's his target market. Maybe he doesn't want to fund 30 something guy with a mortgage. Let's face it with a wife and mortgage you are not likely work 60 hours a week and take big risks. You are bound to be more conservative in your business then a 20 something single guy.

The only one to win is YCombinator (3, Insightful)

VirtualUK (121855) | more than 8 years ago | (#14768849)

That's insane, 6% stock for only $20k investment AND they won't sign an NDA so they're free to take your idea and pass it off to one off to whoever they want. If you're a budding entrepreneur and you can't raise $20K for seed funding you really should stick to being a wage slave.

Re:The only one to win is YCombinator (4, Insightful)

Senzei (791599) | more than 8 years ago | (#14768926)

If you're a budding entrepreneur and you can't raise $20K for seed funding you really should stick to being a wage slave.

Beyond that they require that you have at least two people on the project, and prefer three. If you and a buddy (or two) cannot raise 20K in funding you seriously should stick to being a wage slave.

I want to like paul graham, I really do, he just gives me that creepy feeling that I also get from any of the pyramid scheme head honchos I have seen. All his answers are just too easy for me to trust it. Dunno who that says something about.

Re:The only one to win is YCombinator (4, Insightful)

TerrapinOrange (805326) | more than 8 years ago | (#14770428)

If you were a 20 year old kid with 2 cents to his name and an idea in his head, how exactly would you go about raising 20,000? Sure, it's possible. You could max out your (possibly non existent) credit cards and hope for the best. You could hit up rich uncle Joe and try to get a sliver of his fish packing fortune. If you have generous parents, maybe you could keep living in mom's basement, and spend the next 6 month of your life working on business plans, slogging through meetings, and dealing with folks who are far more interested in your age than your idea.

If you do manage to get the money, then what? Mine uncle Joe's fish packing knowledge to find out how to flip a software company? Tell Visa that you'll be able to make your minimum payment as soon as you can secure your second round of funding?

Some people would rather write software than deal with business crap, get in debt, or lose their family's money. For those folks, getting 20,000 for nothing more than an idea probably sounds pretty sweet. If things go south, they're no further behind than when they started, and if they get rich, who cares about a lousy 6% to avoid all that hassle? They're still rich.

Lastly, Google doesn't even know about Jimmy Nobody and his Fabulous Web-o-Matic. You can bet your ass they're looking at Y Combinator's kids though.

Re:The only one to win is YCombinator (1)

killjoe (766577) | more than 8 years ago | (#14771878)

It's not the 20K. Most startups need knowhow more then money. These guys know how to deal with lawyers, accountants, how to schmooze the customers, play the vendors, and reasearch the market.

Maybe you could raise 20K and maybe you could not but you can bet your ass any bright tech startup geek doesn't know jack shit about market research or how to propertly keep his accounts straight. It takes more then l33t skillz to run a company and that's what the venture capital firms bring to the table.

I for one would love to have somebody with that much experience and knowledge be on my team no matter what I was doing.

Re:The only one to win is YCombinator (1)

tdi1 (805525) | more than 8 years ago | (#14773289)

exactly! I did in fact start a company while in college (while a classmate of PG, BTW) and had the good fortune of having 'adults' provide guidance and some cash. Through the years, all the hard work would have been for nothing if not for the advice of those who had 'been there, done that'. Even in my 30's, my most valuable resource was the advice of other entrepreneurs - no amount of cash could have replaced that. I totally agree with the idea that older, more entrenched people are unlikely to take the necessary risks to bootstrap a start-up. Sure, there are some old entrepreneurs, but most of them depend upon real startup money so they can feed their families, pay mortgages etc. As such, they are far less likely to attempt anything too revolutionary because those ideas wouldn't be funded. I sure as h*ll wouldn't give up my current lifestyle to go back to coding 16 hours a day.

Re:The only one to win is YCombinator (1, Informative)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | more than 8 years ago | (#14769248)

>AND they won't sign an NDA

How many VC's are willing to sign NDAs these days? They used to resist like crazy.

"How many VC's are willing to sign NDAs?" (1, Informative)

jbellis (142590) | more than 8 years ago | (#14769357)

None of them. This is SOP for early-stage investors of all sorts. Grandparent is simply ignorant.

Re:"How many VC's are willing to sign NDAs?" (1)

chris macura (899109) | more than 8 years ago | (#14770171)

What moron of a moderator flagged the parent and grand-parent as trolls?

They're both perfectly valid statements that incite precisely shit.

[burn karma burn]

Re:The only one to win is YCombinator (1)

pHatidic (163975) | more than 8 years ago | (#14769376)

A) You get the PG brand on your start up

B) No VC will ever sign an NDA

It's much more than just cash... (1)

iseff (797269) | more than 8 years ago | (#14769561)

You know, whether or not you think that the amount of the capital for the % of the company is good or bad, the cash isn't really the most enticing part of the YCombinator.

Yes, of course you have to be careful about giving away too much for too little, but YCombinator offers much more than just cash.

Paul Graham has a ton of experience and a ton of contacts. Having him, his team, his friends, and his firm on your side is a lot more important than the cash. Being able to take knowledge from these people, along with the other companies within YCombinator is a very important piece of the puzzle.

A lot of times, VC isn't about the cash, it's about the contacts and knowledge.

Re:The only one to win is YCombinator (1)

legirons (809082) | more than 8 years ago | (#14771220)

"AND they won't sign an NDA"

Because the core of any startup is its first product idea, rather than the people working there?

Who cares if there are 10 companies competing for the first "method for selling carrots... on the web!", when in Paul's opinion, the lisp hackers will run rings around their competition no matter what niche they're persuing...

Curry (1)

tricore (639386) | more than 8 years ago | (#14768893)

Hmmm, but isn't this Y_combinator rather... Paradoxical? - I like curry, tastes good with french fries

"MAGGOT! Are you ready to burn through $10M?" (5, Funny)

Cr0w T. Trollbot (848674) | more than 8 years ago | (#14768905)

"Sir, yes sir!"

"I can't hear you!"


"Are you ready to convince angel investors that your fooseball table is an integral part of your creative environment?"


"Are you ready to convince gullible members of the public that your particular URL is worth several million dollars?"


"You, maggot! Front and center! What's you're name?"

"Smith, sir!"

"And what do you do, Smith?"

"Program, sir!"

"Well goddamn, a white boy who thinks he can program! Are you half-Asian, boy?"

"No, sir!"

"And what do you think your non-Asian ass is going to be programming in?"

".NET, sir!"

".NET?!?!? .NET!?!? What sort of goddamn candyass faggot shit is that??? No VC is going to give no sucking-his-momma's tit .NET programmer jack! You will program in JAVA, and you will LIKE IT!"

"Sir, yes sir! Java, sir!"

"Now drop into that Aeron chair and give me 20 lines of code!"

Crow T. Trollbot

Re:"MAGGOT! Are you ready to burn through $10M?" (0)

dgiaimo (794924) | more than 8 years ago | (#14769076)

Man, I wish I had mod points right now...

Re:"MAGGOT! Are you ready to burn through $10M?" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14769584)

Why do slashdot mods only go to +5? This post should be +100. Seriously, I haven't seen anything this creative and humorous on Slashdot in a long time!

Re:"MAGGOT! Are you ready to burn through $10M?" (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14769214)

That was really funny.

Re:"MAGGOT! Are you ready to burn through $10M?" (0)

The Lerneaen Hydra (885793) | more than 8 years ago | (#14769367)

The user that modded parent -1, Redundant was almost even funnier.

Re:"MAGGOT! Are you ready to burn through $10M?" (0)

pHatidic (163975) | more than 8 years ago | (#14769358)

I think this may just be the funniest Slashdot comment of all time. It would be even better though if you tailored it around PG's philosophy though, i.e. Lisp or Python, never Java.

Re:"MAGGOT! Are you ready to burn through $10M?" (1)

shotgunefx (239460) | more than 8 years ago | (#14770228)

Funny, but inaccurate. Yahoo! Store aka Viaweb actually was very profitable (after a few years of course).

I don't think at the time Y! appreciated it at all. People paying lot's of hard cash every month. Too busy with overinflated ads revenues from about to burst dot-coms. "I'll trade you a million impressions for 10,000 shares"

Then ads went to shit with everything else. Then I think it was appreciated a bit more. ;)

Re:"MAGGOT! Are you ready to burn through $10M?" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14772140)

(Score:6, Extremely Funny)

What I don't get... (3, Interesting)

mcho (878145) | more than 8 years ago | (#14768919)

I enjoy reading Paul Graham's essays, but I'm bothered by the logic "climbing the corporate ladder" verus starting your own company.

A common theme in many of those essays, and one of the primary reasons for starting Y Combinator, is for young hackers to create their own companies to sell (so they don't have to about climbing any corporate ladders) -- briefly, control your own destiny. So how is "flipping" your start-up any different from the corporate culture?

When you "flip" your start-up, you'll be put right back into the corporate ladder, albeit a little higher, but you're still working for the "man". Why not make your start-up into a viable, self-sustaining business? Or is that not Web 2.0?

Re:What I don't get... (2, Insightful)

ennadaiit (837188) | more than 8 years ago | (#14768989)

It is always possible to develop your start-up into a viable self-sustaining business by yourself. One reason many start-up founders flip the company is because they are passionate about their product, and realise that they are probably not the best people to manage it in the long-run. Furher, by flipping the company to a larger potential competitor you keep the product alive as opposed to having it later buried by the competitor. But that is entirely depended on competitor, market positioning and etc.

Re:What I don't get... (2, Insightful)

Kris_Tuttle (952343) | more than 8 years ago | (#14769451)

I attended the coming out party for the batch last year and they did develop some promising bits of technology. The problem was the "next step" was missing. These were all very young kids without any business experience so they had miles to go before looking like a company. Of course you never know, a Michael Dell comes around every now and again. Who sets them up with their next round? Gives them enough money and working space to start a real company? Brings in management and coordinates the process? They are all missing the "sweeper" who can make this happen in a small company. I'd tell my son to go spend some time working for the "man" and suck up every piece of information and contact you can. Then you can write your own ticket if you are smart. All that said we do need new financing models for early stage firms because there is a major gap in the market these days that seemingly nobody wants to fill.

Re:What I don't get... (1)

mcho (878145) | more than 8 years ago | (#14770050)

All that said we do need new financing models for early stage firms because there is a major gap in the market these days that seemingly nobody wants to fill.

Well said.

Re:What I don't get... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14769462)

Because sucking money out of idiots and bailing is what made Paul Graham a millionaire, and he thinks you should do it too. You know Yahoo punched itself in the kidneys for years after buying Paul's company.

Re:What I don't get... (1)

iamdrscience (541136) | more than 8 years ago | (#14772633)

When you "flip" your start-up, you'll be put right back into the corporate ladder, albeit a little higher, but you're still working for the "man". Why not make your start-up into a viable, self-sustaining business? Or is that not Web 2.0?
Well, there are a couple reasons. It's common for entrepeneurs to get bored with a business once it's established. Having an idea is exciting and realizing that idea is exciting (and satisfying) but once you've got a successful business running off that idea, the novelty and excitement of the idea is gone. This is not something that's unique to the world of tech startups either, you find this in all sorts of small businesses. Once things get to a certain point in a business, their founders will often either sell the business or employ somebody else to run their business for them and then they go work on a new business idea.

More particular to tech startups though, it's often more lucrative to sell your startup. Suppose you have someone willing to buy your startup for $25M. Sure, if you keep going on your own, you *might* get lucky and you *might* earn more in a few years, but that's a big risk.

credentials? (3, Insightful)

penguin-collective (932038) | more than 8 years ago | (#14768987)

I find the credentials of this group of people pretty weak when it comes to startups; making a lucky sale during the early Internet boom years is not the same as having sustained startup or business experience.

Re:credentials? (1)

SigmoidCurve (188795) | more than 8 years ago | (#14769741)

Agreed: it just doesn't make sense to take lessons on how to get rich from someone who won the lottery.

Paul Graham is an inspirational writer, and it's always refreshing to see impassioned geeks profit from their talent and hard work as opposed to the typical mindless drone with an MBA, puckered lips and a rolodex. But the rules today are majorly different. A successful startup from 1998 would fail miserably today. Be careful whose advice you take, and make sure that arrogance isn't clouding their judgment.

Re:credentials? (1)

pHatidic (163975) | more than 8 years ago | (#14769852)

The word "credentials" is a four letter word to entrepreneurs. Remember, this is a community where dropping out of college to start a business and failing miserably, losing your life savings in the process, is considered a good thing. Literally. It will make it easier to get investment in the future.

As for your comment about ViaWeb, it was profitable IIRC when they sold it to Yahoo!, which means it was sustainable.

Re:credentials? (1)

penguin-collective (932038) | more than 8 years ago | (#14772029)

The word "credentials" is a four letter word to entrepreneurs.

Actually, that's kind of my point: Graham and YCombinator has lots of those kinds of credentials (academic credentials)--books on Lisp, Ph.D.'s, etc.

The question is: what good are they as VCs?

consider the alternative, though (1)

jbellis (142590) | more than 8 years ago | (#14770274)

Most VC's have never been entrepreneurs themselves. Never started a company.

Maybe PG got lucky. But at least he's been there.

Re:consider the alternative, though (1)

penguin-collective (932038) | more than 8 years ago | (#14772061)

Most VC's have never been entrepreneurs themselves. Never started a company.

Why would I care? When I'm looking for a VC, the VC isn't the founder of the company, I am. In a VC, I want a proven track record as a VC, not as an entrepreneur or founder.

Re:credentials? (1)

shotgunefx (239460) | more than 8 years ago | (#14771150)

The sale of Viaweb wasn't luck. It was a smart idea, implemented well.

Y! Picked it up for $49 million. It brought in a ton of cash.

Let's look at it today. The cheapest package is $29.96

They have well over 20,000 merchants.

So at the minimum (20,000 x $29.96), it generates $599,200 a month just for hosting and minus the transactions.

I'd guess the number is at least 4 times that with larger merchants and transaction fees factored in.

Re:credentials? (1)

penguin-collective (932038) | more than 8 years ago | (#14772047)

Your calculation is wrong. The only value Yahoo! got out of the purchase was the few months that it would have taken them to implement their own and acquire a comparable number of customers.

(And does Yahoo! even still use any of Viaweb's original Lisp code? I suspect not.)

Re:credentials? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14772108)

No. In fact early on they replaced the clisp engine with C++. Buying ViaWeb cost Yahoo a lot. They paid a lot for the company and then had to pay out the ass to replace the technology.

Re:credentials? (1)

shotgunefx (239460) | more than 8 years ago | (#14772251)

Ummm, no.

They did rewrite it a few years ago with Perl & C++ (Note the error messages in the template editor). So they got about 5 years out of it.

Though some accounts still use the original LISP editors.

Re:credentials? (1)

shotgunefx (239460) | more than 8 years ago | (#14772375)

No, as it took them over 5 years to come up with a new platform. They eventually rewrote it in C++/Perl, but some accounts still use the LISP editors.

I headed the outsourced support for Viaweb, (Which was all the support LOL), when Y! bought it and I headed it for them until I left that company. Eventually they brought support it in-house, then out-house again.

Hell I was Y! store for the two weeks after the purchase as everyone was driving across country to California. There was no one to call at all which with all the press and increased volume was a bit much. We had no advanced warning. So I just made up policy and answers as best I could. Luckily, Yahoo! and myself thought along similar lines ;)

They liked what I did so much, that they offered me the chance to manage a Y! property, they didn't tell me which one (I suspect it was the relatively new Pager/Messenger), but due to family concerns, moving was out of the question so I had to turn them down flat. Though I was always curious which one they had in mind.

Re:credentials? (1)

killjoe (766577) | more than 8 years ago | (#14771976)

If you are not impressed with their experience then you should to agree to be funded by them.

What? You say they never asked to fund you startup? Well then great!. Now you don't have to deal with them at all.

What's in a name (1, Redundant)

El Cabri (13930) | more than 8 years ago | (#14769101)

I don't know how intentionnal it is, I assume it is intentionnal : in computer science a Y combinator is, basically, a function that takes a function as an argument and returns a fixpoint to the function. so for any function f, f(Y(f))=Y(f). Oh, what's the hell : just check out the wikipedia.

Re:What's in a name (1)

Watson Ladd (955755) | more than 8 years ago | (#14772872)

Nope. Y combinators take an anonymous function and curry it in such a way recursion is possible without names.

Preparation for Exploitation (3, Insightful)

jsailor (255868) | more than 8 years ago | (#14769414)

Ok, start by handing over 6+% of your company.
If you're good you'll get you business-skill-lacking-self in front of investors. Don't worry, if they like your idea, they'll take care of the legal work for you. Kiss a whole bunch more of your ownership goodbye. Oh wait, you need more money to keep developing, that's where our funding comes in with so many strings attached you'll get dizzy if your patient enough to read the contracts. Don't worry about reading them, however, because the lawyers the VC's set you up with will take care of that. They'll look out for your best interests. Trust them.

Cookie-cutter contracts and business formation legal work can be purchased from numerous places over the 'net for anywhere between $100 and $1000.

Sorry for the cynicism, but if you can "make something people want", you can probably attract enough attention on your own. Isn't that what the Internet enables? As others have pointed out, you won't have to move and if you can't get $6k on your own ...

You mean if you're not young... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14769429)

And if you're not young you're not interested in running your own software startup?

Paul Graham (3, Informative)

pHatidic (163975) | more than 8 years ago | (#14769436)

If you don't know, there are some amazing talks given by Paul Graham that can be downloaded on the net. I will paste the links below, but all of these are copied from my lens on start ups (see my sig), where there is a good mix of free start up goodness and amazon link referral whoring (because the only thing worse than tricking Americans into reading is tricking Americans into reading while raising money for charity).

Ideas for Start ups [] -- An entertaining talk by Paul Graham on how entrepreneurs get ideas for start ups.

Hackers and Painters [] -- Another entertaining and informative talk by Paul Graham. Unlike architects (who figure out what to build) and engineers (who figure out how), great hackers and painters do both. Who makes a good hacker and how can you identify a good hacker/programmer in a job interview? Why is empathy an important skill for programmers? As a hacker who also studied painting in Europe, Paul may be uniquely qualified to write a book entitled Hackers and Painters. If you leave your day programming job only to get home and write more code, this is a great book for you.

What business can learn from open source [] -- Paul Graham, popular author and Lisp programmer, discusses what business can learn from open source. According to him, it's not about Linux or Firefox, but the forces that produced them. He delves into the reasons why open source is able to produce better software, why traditional workplaces are actually harmful to productivity and the reason why professionalism is overrated.

Re:Paul Graham (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14770372)

Or go to and he lists & offers all his essays (and some others) there.

Re:Paul Graham (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14772370)

> Hackers and Painters -- Another entertaining and informative talk by Paul Graham

Once you've read that, go read Dabblers and Blowhards [] for an alternate view on Graham's analogies.

For a moment there I thought we had a story... (1)

Expert Determination (950523) | more than 8 years ago | (#14769570)

...about computer science [] but no, it's just a story about venture capitalists. The Y combinator [] is fun to play with.

Re:For a moment there I thought we had a story... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14770155)

fun, but mostly evil, mostly.

Re:For a moment there I thought we had a story... (1)

Expert Determination (950523) | more than 8 years ago | (#14771031)

That's because fun = evil

Y-Combinator? (1)

Ibiwan (763664) | more than 8 years ago | (#14770082)

So when he was starting up this startup-bootcamp business, did he attend his own bootcamp to learn how to do it well?

Re:Y-Combinator? (2, Insightful)

edmicman (830206) | more than 8 years ago | (#14770360)

Exactly! The whole "Here, we'll show you how to succeed!" shill drives me nuts. I believe that like it or not, most of us are destined to be cogs in the machine, and only a few will ever step out of that. And those few won't get where they are going by taking seminars, leadership training, management classes, etc. It's harsh, but I truly believe "those that can, do; those that can't teach", but applied to the business world (I have nothing but respect for REAL teachers - those educating our youth). The great leaders and innovators throught the world and history didn't take classes and seminars and such - they just went out and "did it", along with a lot of luck and good timing. Just my $.02.

Re:Y-Combinator? (1)

Ibiwan (763664) | more than 8 years ago | (#14771128)

I'm sorry, I seem to have completely NOT made my point...

...but explaining puns totally kills what little humor they have.

...*sigh* but I'm going to, anyway, aren't I?

You see, a Y-Combinator is a construct used to implement recursion with anonymous functions... I don't know exactly how it works, something involving a lot of lambdas and parentheses, but don't worry about that... abstract it to "recursion" and apply to the parameter "bootstrapping"...

It should definitely return "funny".

Most VCs aren't worth much (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14770279)

Been up and down Sand Hill road and other places. Have been pitching some neat ideas for a few years. VCs say ho-hum, and months later we see newly minted startups using some of our slides in their pitches. Our idea is now generating startup capital and VC blog-drool across the VC blogverse, with nary a cent from these people for the group that developed the product to begin with.

Most VCs are looking for the next MSFT or GOOG.

Most of them wouldn't know the next MSFT or GOOG if it came up to them and whalloped them in the ass. Which, coincidently enough, happens often enough that these folks lose lots of their investors money.

VC money is a drug. It is cheap, you don't have to work for it. You just need to find a sufficiently gullible VC who is foolish enough to believe you. There are far too many of those. Just look at the internet bubble these yahoos created. You could have a loose bowel movement, bring it in to a VC and get 10M$ funding for it.

Re:Most VCs aren't worth much (1)

snwobird122 (779810) | more than 8 years ago | (#14771295)

Please make up your mind - which is it? Is VC money a) hard to get because they just want to steal your ideas and slides? b) easy to get - just hold out your hands and they fill them with money?

Re:Most VCs aren't worth much (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14771786)

Read the post next time. During the internet bubble you could get money for having the runs.

Re:Most VCs aren't worth much (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14771895)

I have had the same experience. I attended Graham's StartUp School at Harvard last fall. While I was there I mentioned some of my ideas and showed some people my slide presentation. How utterly stupid of me. My idea is now one of Y Combinators newest ventures, and is getting lots of media attention. Can I prove they took my idea? Well, I can show documents from TWO YEARS ago detailing the EXACT SAME product with the EXACT SAME NAME EVEN!! Their website even lifts several of my presentation slides. But alas, its my own fault for 1)telling my secrets and 2)not developing the idea myself

So why should someone risk going to Y Combinator? Because if youre in, youre in. Sure you may have a great idea, technical talent, money resources, but what you dont have is connections. I know it has been said many times, but in the end, the connections make the difference.

Combifrikkinator? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 8 years ago | (#14770297)

Is combinator a real word? I mean even without the leading Y, which one can assume is because Apple would have sued if they'd used an i.

Re:Combifrikkinator? (1)

archnerd (450052) | more than 8 years ago | (#14771300)

Somebody needs to study [] his lambda calculus.

'Startup bootcamp' (1)

andygood (244363) | more than 8 years ago | (#14771365)

Shouldn't that be 'Bootstrap Camp'?! ;-)

I have a brilliant idea for a company... (1)

Kevin143 (672873) | more than 8 years ago | (#14771415)

I'm 19 years old and have a brilliant idea for a company. I recognize that something like ycombinator is a rip-off for someone like me. They're not really offering anything and moving to Boston or San Jose is a bitch.

So, is there a better way to get investment besides personal networking?

Personal experience with taking Graham's advice (4, Interesting)

goberoi (956275) | more than 8 years ago | (#14771598)

Five months ago I quit my job as a software developer for to start my own software company with a friend (also ex-Amazon). I heard Paul Graham speak at the Amazon Developer's conference just a few weeks before I left. While he wasn't the reason I took this leap, his arguments helped me make the difficult decision to leave a secure and well-paying job in pursuit of something far more risky.

Here is my personal experience on some of Graham's commonly touted suggestions for entrepreneurs:

  1. Do it when you are young.

    I have no wife or kids, no mortgage, and sufficient savings to last for long enough to give entrepreneurism a shot. Paul suggests people do this young not because of any inherent bias, but because the young have very little to lose.

  2. Let the market decide your worth.

    The tech startup market is booming. The amount of available funding and interest shown by VCs, and large companies is very attractive to a couple of small entrepreneurs. With several startups having been acquired in the last year, there are rewarding exit strategies on the table too. If you are skilled, and good at your job, why not let the market decide your value instead of your manager?

  3. It's cheap - fund yourself.

    The cost of creating value on the Internet is very low. Our product is a web-based application (some may call it Web 2.0), built entirely using open source software. With an abundance of cheap machines, and the fact that most web-apps simply don't need much more than lots of memory and some big disks, our hardwares costs have been low. In fact, we have funded the entire thing ourselves from our savings. With such low startup costs, you don't need to give equity away to try out an idea.

  4. Failure is not that bad.

    What really happens if I fail? Well at worst I'll be nearly broke, and back in the job market. But even then, I will have ways to commoditize my failure. Though by no means a given, having entrepreneurism on your resume often suggests some traits that employers look for: self-motivation, willingness and ability to work hard, maturity, technical expertise, ability to prioritize etc. I conducted many interviews during my time at Amazon, and candidates who had tried something on their own and failed were nevertheless, generally more interesting.

Graham helped me assert to myself that the risk calculation I was doing was right enough. At the end of the day, the risk is mine, and the rewards too. We launched the site 5 weeks ago, already have over 3000 users, have been contacted by several VC firms, and have gotten some great press on blogs like TechCrunch, and the Scobelizer. If you're interested, check out what I've been up to at [] , and decide for yourself.

One thing I can say for sure: this is the best job I've ever had.

So What's Your Personal experience, Dumbass! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14772876)

You forgot to tell us how you're doing! You're still losing money hand over fist and telling us how nice it is! Come back when you're either
  • making money or
  • losing money and headed for immanent failure.

Who gives a flying f*** about Paul Graham's advice unless it works. And since it was based on a sample size of 1, you make 2. Now let me know once we get about 28-30 of these and we can talk about the possibility of a statistical trend.

Sheesh! How stupid "bright" people can be!

As for

having entrepreneurism on your resume often suggests some traits that employers look for

I don't think so: most employers will look at you and say "How long will he stay before he bolts out the door again with a good idea, possibly one he got while working for us?" Most employers want docile workers, not entrepreneurs.
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