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NYT on Paul Graham's YCombinator Bootcamp 116

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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NYT on Paul Graham's YCombinator Bootcamp

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  • by tcopeland ( 32225 ) * <tom@thomasleecop ... RGcom minus poet> on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @12:58PM (#14768673) Homepage
    ....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 [].

    • 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.
    • 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

  • $6000 for 6%? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Wulfstan ( 180404 ) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @01:00PM (#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.
    • 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.
      • 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
    • Re:$6000 for 6%? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by sporkmonger ( 922923 ) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @03:17PM (#14770051) Homepage
      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.
  • by peter303 ( 12292 ) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @01:03PM (#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.
  • Bad trend (Score:3, Insightful)

    by asadodetira ( 664509 ) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @01:04PM (#14768746) Homepage
    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 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.
      • 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.
        • Your problem is the crowd of people who inhabit the business tech world and liked to say "XML!" "Java!" "Multi-tiered!" and so forth a great deal. They read business tech rags that pushed so much sales hype about various things in through their ears that the nonsense started overflowing through their mouths. The "buzzword-complient" crowd.

          Those people are the ones who are currently saying "Web 2.0", "Web services are the future", and so forth. It's a load of nonsense.
    • On the whole, software (and in its most trendy current incarnation, web services) IS the only area in technology --where you can realistically start a successful company today with three guys working in a basement and $20,000 seed money. It's much harder to start a company making digital cameras, HDTVs, or automobiles these days.
  • by Old Man Kensey ( 5209 ) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @01:06PM (#14768761) Homepage
    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?

    • by Anonymous Coward
      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 poi
    • 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.
      • 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 anythi
    • 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.
    • by C10H14N2 ( 640033 )
      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
      • by jbellis ( 142590 ) <`moc.rednelbeganrac' `ta' `nahtanoj'> on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @02:03PM (#14769330) Homepage
        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. :)
        • 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, "discharg
          • 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.
      • 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.

        How, exactly, would working an entry level job at some big company provide any more experience than starting your own company? That's the primary alternative for most of these people, and one that will still be waiting for them in the likely event that the venture fails.

        It would be far more realistic to design something like this around th
    • 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.
    • 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.
      • 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.

        • 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.
    • 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.

    • Unfortunately that's the way life is sometimes. I started my first company with a partner who was the sole breadwinner in a family with three kids. I was still in my twenties and had no obligations. I had to go without pay for six months and then a low salary for two years before it ultimately paid off. He couldn't afford to take that kind of risk, so he dropped out early on and I had to find someone else.

      That said, this Y Combinator thing is just one of dozens of avenues to get going. The single most imp

    • 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.

      You're going to have to quit your job and take a lot of huge risks anyway, so don't put those up as reasons not to do it. On the other hand, if it's worth doing and it's something you can do without quitting your job, why aren't you doing it already?

      So where's financing that's friendly to our situatio
  • by VirtualUK ( 121855 ) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @01:15PM (#14768849) Homepage
    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.
    • by Senzei ( 791599 ) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @01:23PM (#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.

      • by TerrapinOrange ( 805326 ) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @04:02PM (#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.
      • 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
        • 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 n
    • >AND they won't sign an NDA

      How many VC's are willing to sign NDAs these days? They used to resist like crazy.
    • A) You get the PG brand on your start up

      B) No VC will ever sign an NDA
    • 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
    • "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...
  • Hmmm, but isn't this Y_combinator rather... Paradoxical? - I like curry, tastes good with french fries
  • by Cr0w T. Trollbot ( 848674 ) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @01:21PM (#14768905)
    "Sir, yes sir!"

    "I can't hear you!"

    "SIR, YES SIR!"

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

    "SIR, YES SIR!"

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

    "SIR, YES SIR!"

    "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

    • 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.
    • 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. ;)
  • What I don't get... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mcho ( 878145 ) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @01:23PM (#14768919) Homepage Journal

    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?

    • 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.
    • 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?
      • 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.

    • 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 an

    • Same impression I got.

      I really like reading Paul Graham's writings. When I first discovered them, I went straight through them, and while they get kind of redundant (and I think that he's way, way too defensive on Lisp -- sounds like a guy who has heard one too many "Why aren't you using C++ again?" questions), I think that they pretty consistently would get +5 Insightful mods were they Slashdot posts.

      I also wondered the same thing -- PG talks about how great it is to be your own boss, to start up a new co
      • How many people do you really need to have to run a successful Web-based business?

        You could get by with just a single person, which I'm doing right now, but I think it's better to have at least two because, briefly, life gets in the way.

        And thanks for agreeing with me because once you "flip" your start-up, your just another clog in the corporate wheel until you decide to be risky and start another company. How many times can you "flip" companies?

        Honestly, I think many people are happy to make a decent livin

  • credentials? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by penguin-collective ( 932038 ) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @01:29PM (#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.
    • 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 judg
    • 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.
      • 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?
    • Most VC's have never been entrepreneurs themselves. Never started a company.

      Maybe PG got lucky. But at least he's been there.
    • 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.
      • 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.)
        • 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
    • 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 (Score:1, Redundant)

    by El Cabri ( 13930 )
    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.
  • by jsailor ( 255868 ) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @02:13PM (#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 ...

  • by Anonymous Coward
    And if you're not young you're not interested in running your own software startup?
  • Paul Graham (Score:4, Informative)

    by pHatidic ( 163975 ) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @02:14PM (#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.

  • ...about computer science [] but no, it's just a story about venture capitalists. The Y combinator [] is fun to play with.
  • 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? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by edmicman ( 830206 )
      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
      • 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".
  • by Anonymous Coward
    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 whal
    • 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?
  • 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.
  • Shouldn't that be 'Bootstrap Camp'?! ;-)
  • 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?
  • by goberoi ( 956275 ) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @06:02PM (#14771598) Homepage
    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.

    • Congratulations. Whether your *company* succeeds or fails, you've already won because you've put yourself out there. (I'm remembering a Rudyard Kipling poem right about now: something about risking it all on the toss of the dice -- Rudyard seemed to a proponent of putting yourself out there).

      I started 10 years ago (and the company was profitable from the first year).

      I think Pauls' advice is GREAT. I think ycominator makes sense for only a small # of folks, but it's another option. take it or leave it.


Never buy from a rich salesman. -- Goldenstern