The Launch Pad

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

By (author) Randall E. Stross


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Number of teams that applied to Y Combinator's summer 2011 batch: 2,089Teams interviewed: 170Minutes per interview: 10Teams accepted and funded: 64 Months to build a viable startup: 3Possibilities: 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 guid-ance 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 oppor-tunity 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 program-ming, 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 suck-ing, 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 sev-eral 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 apart-ment scale fast, and investors fall in love.

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  • Hardback | 240 pages
  • 154.94 x 231.14 x 30.48mm | 453.59g
  • 30 May 2013
  • Penguin Putnam Inc
  • New York
  • English
  • 1591845297
  • 9781591845294
  • 351,488

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Author Information

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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Review quote

"Y Combinator is a national treasure, a Silicon Valley seed fund that is mass-producing new startups. Randall Stross's behind-the-scenes look at YC offers a rare glimpse into what it really takes to conceive an idea and get it to market as quickly as possible. The Launch Pad is a must-read for anyone interested in the realities of modern entrepreneurship."--Eric Ries, author of the "New York Times" bestseller "The Lean Startup" "The Launch Pad is an intimate look at the white-hot center of the new Silicon Valley star tup ecosystem. Stross's account of the best new entrepreneurs and the exciting companies they're building at startup schools is a great read for founders and would-be founders alike."--Marc Andreessen, cofounder, Andreessen Horowitz

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