The Launch Pad

The Launch Pad

Inside Y Combinator

Additional Formats
  • Ebook
  • ISBN 9781101601440
  • 304 Pages
  • Portfolio
  • Adult


Number of teams that applied to Y Combinator’s summer 2011 batch: 2,089

Teams interviewed: 170

Minutes per interview: 10

Teams accepted and funded: 64

Months to build a viable startup: 3

Possibilities: BOUNDLESS

Investment firm Y Combinator is the most sought-after home for startups in Silicon Valley. Twice a year, it funds dozens of just-founded startups and provides three months of guid­ance from Paul Graham, YC’s impresario, and his partners, also entrepreneurs and mostly YC alumni. The list of YC-funded success stories includes Dropbox (now valued at $5 billion) and Airbnb ($1.3 billion).

Receiving an offer from YC creates the oppor­tunity of a lifetime — it’s like American Idol for budding entrepreneurs.

Acclaimed journalist Randall Stross was granted unprecedented access to Y Combinator’s summer 2011 batch of young companies, offering a unique inside tour of the world of software startups. Most of the founders were male programmers in their mid-twenties or younger. Over the course of the summer, they scrambled to heed Graham’s seemingly simple advice: make something people want.

We watch the founders work round-the-clock, developing and retooling products as diverse as a Web site that can teach anyone program­ming, to a Wikipedia-like site for rap lyrics, to software written by a pair of attorneys who seek to “make attorneys obsolete.”

Founders are guided by Graham’s notoriously direct form of tough-love feedback. “Here, we don’t fire you,” he says. “The market fires you. If you’re sucking, I’m not going to run along behind you, saying, ‘You’re sucking, you’re suck­ing, c’mon, stop sucking.’” Some teams would even abandon their initial idea midsummer and scramble to begin anew.

The program culminated in “Demo Day,” when founders pitched their startup to sev­eral hundred top angel investors and venture capitalists. A lucky few attracted capital that gave their startup a valuation of multiple millions of dollars. Others went back to the drawing board.

This is the definitive story of a seismic shift that’s occurred in the business world, in which coding skill trumps employment experience, pairs of undergraduates confidently take on Goliaths, tiny startups working out of an apart­ment scale fast, and investors fall in love.


“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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