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Twice a year in the heart of Silicon Valley, a small investment firm called Y Combinator selects an elite group of young entrepreneurs from around the world for three months of intense work and instruction. Their brand-new two- or three-person start-ups are given a seemingly impossible challenge: to turn a raw idea into a viable business, fast.   Each YC session culminatesTwice a year in the heart of Silicon Valley, a small investment firm called Y Combinator selects an elite group of young entrepreneurs from around the world for three months of intense work and instruction. Their brand-new two- or three-person start-ups are given a seemingly impossible challenge: to turn a raw idea into a viable business, fast.   Each YC session culminates in a demo day, when investors and venture capitalists flock to hear pitches from the new graduates. Any one of them might turn out to be the next Dropbox (class of 2007, now valued at $5 billion) or Airbnb (2009, $1.3 billion).   Randall Stross is the first journalist to have fly-on-the-wall access to Y Combinator. He tells the full story of how Paul Graham started this ultra exclusive institution, how it chooses among hundreds of aspiring Mark Zuckerbergs, and how it teaches them to go from concept to profitability in record time....

Title : The Launch Pad: Inside Y Combinator, Silicon Valley's Most Exclusive School for Startups
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ISBN : 9780449807873
Format Type : Audio
Number of Pages : 291 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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The Launch Pad: Inside Y Combinator, Silicon Valley's Most Exclusive School for Startups Reviews

  • Leo Polovets
    2019-02-16 07:40

    I really enjoyed the Launch Pad, which looks at a class of startups going through a famous startup incubator program. One thing that I liked was that the author wrote at length about many of the individual teams and made the startup class feel very human. The author also talked about the how the incubator works and the kind of feedback and advice it gives to its companies. As an aspiring entrepreneur, I found these bits of advice and insight to be very useful.

  • Lee
    2019-02-16 07:37

    (FROM WSJ)Silicon Valley is in the grip of a mania where the desire to "change the world" with innovative software mingles closely with a hunger to hit a Instagrammatical jackpot. The best place to see this phenomenon is in an unassuming building in Mountain View, Calif., on a street called Pioneer Way. This is the headquarters of Y Combinator (the name, inspired by a mathematical function, was intended as a welcoming signal to math nerds). Led by a charismatic hacker champion named Paul Graham, YC, as it is known, is the most prestigious of a number of so-called boot camps, incubators and accelerators: a company that breeds other companies.Twice a year, YC's partners comb through applications from thousands of potential start-ups and choose a few dozen "founders" for its three-month program. It's the geek equivalent of getting into Harvard. In exchange for a small piece of the company, Y Combinator offers advice, freebies like cloud-hosting and connections to high-tech luminaries. The climax of each season is Demo Day, a kind of start-up Super Bowl, when founders present their ideas to an audience of the Valley's top investors—a 2½-minute endgame drill.It all sounds like a plot for a reality-television show, but it is very real. While Instagram did not spring from YC, the program has had its jackpot winners. A YC company called Heroku sold itself to Salesforce for $212 million, and the still-private alum Dropbox has an estimated value of $4 billion. Y Combinator's reputation is so vaunted that Russian billionaire Yuri Milner and top angel investor Ron Conway, hoping to snare the next Dropbox, have created a fund that bestows $150,000 on every YC company, sight unseen.No wonder Randall Stross was drawn to write "The Launch Pad," the first book-length study of Y Combinator. Mr. Stross, the author of books on Google and Steve Jobs and a business professor at San Jose State University, tracked Y Combinator's summer 2011 batch, intending to cast light on the Graham enterprise in particular and, more broadly, the gold-rush atmosphere of the Valley itself. (Mr. Stross's publisher boasts that he was the first to get "fly-on-the-wall access," but I had a similar behind-the-scenes pass when I followed the previous YC class for Wired magazine.)The chronological procession of the YC program, with specific milestones leading to Demo Day, provides Mr. Stross with a fail-safe narrative scheme. Even so, the book could use more of the energy of its main subject, the fast-talking, geeky and brilliant Mr. Graham. Mr. Stross has a strong grasp of Silicon Valley history and business models (though I would have liked more detail on the wonky particulars on how investors put a value on start-ups). But storytelling is not his strong point. For instance, though Silicon Valley's chronic diversity problem is a suitable topic for discussion, spending an early chapter on why there aren't more women founders derails the story just as it should be gathering steam.Sometimes Mr. Stross fails to follow up on interesting leads. Late in the book, he mentions that one founder was a former journalist who wrote a Forbes cover story about YC and ditched writing to pitch "the Groupon of groceries." Whoa—isn't that worth hearing more about? Other times, he gives almost verbatim accounts of long, inconclusive meetings. Readers might be tempted to take out their laptops and read email, just as people do in Silicon Valley.To be sure, there is an abundance of editorial options when your dramatis personae includes 63 start-ups, each with its own story. Which to focus on? Fortunately, Mr. Stross offers sufficient portraiture to give us a sense of the young entrepreneurs. Even when the business plan seems dicey—I doubt that the next Facebook will spring from a website decoding hip-hop lyrics—it's fascinating to see how the eager founders attempt to create a great product, attract Web eyeballs and win over investors. And Mr. Stross hits a jackpot of his own when he lights on the story of Codecademy.The founders of that start-up, Zach Sims and Ryan Bubinski, began the session as one of the runts of the litter. The idea that got them into YC was BizPress, a system enabling business owners to easily create a company website. But after exploring the market, they realized that their ideal customer didn't exist—businesspeople were perfectly happy outsourcing the work. So a few weeks into the session, the pair "pivoted" to a plan for a phone app. Mr. Graham rejected it, and with less than a month before Demo Day, Messrs. Sims and Bubinski had bupkis.Then Mr. Sims had an inspiration—create a website with fun tutorials in programming. The pair feared that they couldn't possibly get this idea online by Demo Day. But four days before the event, their bare-bones affair, dubbed Codecademy, went live—by mistake. It drew 250,000 users and was the hit of the big day. Soon after, the young founders received $2.5 million in investment. In January, hundreds of thousands of users, including New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg, accepted the company's challenge to learn coding in a year.It's too soon to tell if Codecademy will be the next Dropbox. But as Mr. Graham himself wrote recently, the financial payoff of accelerators like Y Combinator depends on such outsize wins. When Mr. Graham did the numbers, he found that of the $10 billion aggregate value of YC companies, 75% came from two of them, Dropbox and Airbnb. When I was following Y Combinator, I heard Mr. Graham frequently say that he put money into this company or that not because he was sold on the idea but because it was audacious—so big that if it succeeded and he missed out he would be kicking himself forever. "I was scared not to invest," he would say.Venture capitalists are learning the same lesson. Even if you're already loaded, missing an opportunity to fund a ten-bagger like Dropbox or Instagram will haunt you to your grave. Mr. Stross does mention this phenomenon but could have done more to explain how much it motivates investors. Such second-guessing leads to more investment and a hunger to get in early, not only on the well-vetted Y Combinator start-ups but ones from TechStars, 500 Startups and countless other boot camps.Either way, Codecademy's unlikely rise illustrates that there is at least one sector of the economy that is still going wild. Once on the launch pad, a tech company can quickly shoot into the stratosphere. As Mr. Stross notes, "All beginnings embody hope." And Silicon Valley is where hope still rules.

  • Natalie Lin
    2019-03-09 07:39

    Good introductory book to startups and founders. While most of the examples are specific to Y Combinator, there are many lessons and takeaways you can get about the startup environment. There is a decent amount of information on how to implement a strong accelerator program through proper vetting of candidates as well as how to prepare the participants for Demo Day. There is also a lot of advice in terms of startups for how to generate ideas, how to start one, and how to grow one, although it’s mostly in the words of the experts in the book rather than practical methods to do so. He begins and ends the book with Marc Andreessen’s well-known saying, “Software is eating the world”, reminding us that startup culture is here to stay.

  • Andrus
    2019-02-16 00:00

    Well written, so could easily deserve 4 or 5 stars. But offers very little new to someone that has been involved with startups actively, read PG's essays, etc.

  • Jon Lay
    2019-02-20 23:54

    If you like reading about startups and technology, you'll enjoy this. It's well written and researched and nicely structured.I'd not say I came away with it with deep and nuanced insights, but I wasn't necessarily looking for that. As a much deeper primer on YC's mentality and how they operate, it was definitely worth reading.Plus, who doesn't like those stories of the early days of startups where a small and passionate team of committed founders are battling to succeed against overwhelming odds (etc)?

  • Ikhsan Rahardian
    2019-02-28 23:48

    Eloquently written. Provides an enjoyable plot (Who would have thought, a startup book can provide such storytelling?). Perfect for those looking for the real taste of startup journey and the inside story of YC (duh).I was expecting a boring yet detailed writing, but rather I found gold.

  • Serge Boucher
    2019-02-19 03:50

    In-depth look at the internal workings of the world's most prestigious accelerator. Definitely worth reading if you like that sort of thing.

  • Eric Meyers
    2019-03-15 03:05

    I worked on this book a bit near the beginning--when we acquired it--but wasn't on the project when the final manuscript came in.

  • Waqas Abid
    2019-03-19 00:41

    A superb book thats really helped me understand the startup life and reality better.

  • Johnny Leon
    2019-02-22 23:45

    A first-hand account from inside the world's premier startup incubator, The Launch Pad is a short but poignant look at Y-Combinator. The book follows the Winter 2011 batch of 63 potential startups (which includes future heavyweight companies like RapGenius and CodeAcademy) through their 3-month journey of going from an idea to a company that can compete in the tech space with notable alumni Dropbox, Twitch, & AirBnB. The book goes very in depth and details all of the conversations that take place between the founders and the directors from Y-Combinator. Through this, the reader will gain invaluable insight from Y-C cofounder Paul Graham into what separates an Airbnb or Dropbox from a dud. Entrepreneurs, business folks, and startup founders alike will learn so much from this book and may even be inspired to start their own company.

  • Anshu
    2019-03-13 03:04

    I am a big fan of PG and Altman. I've attended many of their events and demo day. If you are looking to do startup sometimes then this book is a must-read. YC is the mecca of startup words and was started by PG after he sold his first company to Yahoo. After selling his company, he didn't do another startup since he mentioned that he became work free and the zeal for a startup wouldn't be possible for him at that stage. On top of that, he had so many ideas and it wouldn't be possible to work on all of those so he started the incubator and rest is history. They have produced so many unicorns such as Dropbox, AirbnB, Stripe, Braintree, Codeacemedy and lot more. They bet on 60-70 startup in a batch, twice the year.

  • Scott Wozniak
    2019-03-13 23:53

    It's a decent description of what happens in a summer of Y Combinator. But there are very few insights added. So it ends up being a play by play of key moments in the summer--and that's all. I'm a big fan of the incubator (I have worked with a few already) so I recommend the concept, but probably not this book unless you're an insider looking to do your own study of Y Combinator (and willing to create all your insights from the raw data yourself).

  • Saurabh
    2019-03-15 06:46

    This is apparently one of the best books you'd get on YCombinator. The author literally spent ample amount of time hanging around YC talking to PG, Sam Altman and other notable luminaries along with the YC startups hence the learnings are amazing especially if you are a startup. A must read for entrepreneurs.

  • Ivan Atanasov
    2019-02-16 23:42

    The only reason that I'm giving 4 stars is that the book suggest that you can start a great company only in the Silicon Valley, but last five ears the game was changed and we saw this wit wit.ai API.ai, Luis and etc. Fantastic book and everyone that is going to start a new product/company can learn a lot from it.

  • M. O Fouda
    2019-03-04 00:51

    A very good book If you want to learn about YC and the insides of it, and the environment, and how it works. Also serves as a good template for what an incubator/accelerator space should be like (especially if you're outside of Silicon Valley like myself)

  • Adánowsky Galván gonzález
    2019-03-16 07:43

    Good stories about parse and mongolabs, I loved the quote: "the only thing I do on Fridays is work, I'm not a 20 something anymore"

  • Jonathan Mckay
    2019-02-25 04:39

    Makes me want to start a startup.

  • Suddenven
    2019-03-14 02:47

    A primer for anyone wishing to start a startup.

  • Nick
    2019-02-25 08:01

    Not much meat here. Ok, if you want to see you how incubators aim to commoditize innovation.

  • Christian Jensen
    2019-03-12 05:39

    Awesome behind the scenes look into the world of startups. Really inspiring! Must read for founders and wannabe-founders alike.

  • Pawel Dolega
    2019-03-10 01:54

    An interesting reading - assuming that you are interested in startups. Perhaps the biggest advantage of the book is that it allows folks like me to glimpse into how startups are methodically being built in YC. Also contains some helpful insights from Paul Graham, Sam Altman or other YC partners. If you are thinking about starting your own VC backed startup or participate in one - definitely worth to read this one.

  • Kelsey
    2019-03-11 23:48

    I enjoyed the inside look this book provided, it was an honest account of what Paul Graham looks for when deciding who might make a really awesome startup in this competitive industry. I liked seeing what drove these startups to create their ideas and then watching them evolve (or crash and burn) throughout their time at Y Combinator. I'm also thankful that the author didn't leave out some of the troubling parts about Y Combinator. For example, it seems that in order to create a successful startup you need to be a single guy in his early to mid-twenties. Women, who were a rare sight to begin with, are considered a large risk when it comes to startups because they may have children at some point in time. However, once they're past their childbearing years, they'll be too old to participate in this industry. Oh, and this criteria of a successful founder was thought up by the head of Y Combinator, Paul Graham himself.While it was very clear in the book that the startup life is very time consuming, I do think there needs to be some thought diversity. Maybe Y Combinator can sponsor daycare for the parent founders while they stay in Silicon Valley?Before I get too sidetracked by my issues with Paul Graham's views on founders, I will say this book did a good job at giving us an inside look at startup life. It'll be a great read for anyone who's interested in technology or the system behind financing startups. I just hope there are more people who will find issue with the criteria for founders and be more vocal about the discrimination. I applaud the author for adding this to his book.

  • Gabriel
    2019-03-09 05:42

    The Launch Pad is a quick and interesting look into the world of "start-ups." Anyone spending significant time reading Hacker News (http://news.ycombinator.com) already knows a lot about Y Combinator, but I found the insight into the personalities and the behind-the-scenes of some of the businesses as they were starting-up made the book worthwhile anyway. The book was pleasant to read, with sound prose and a truly interesting topic that leaves one thinking hard about economics, business, communications, and the world.For those who don't follow these things closely, start-ups are (broadly speaking) distinguished from any other business by their initial size to capacity for growth ratio. They are tiny new businesses that contain the potential to blow up into giant new companies that change your world. Y Combinator is one of the best of the "schools" for start-ups - there are different approaches to these schools (complete with their own jargon - accelerators vs. incubators depending on how much hands on guidance they provide). As a "school," this offers a fascinating model of education, one that is very future-looking. Y Combinator is not a trade school per se, but it is definitely not providing a classic liberal arts education either. Of course, it is closer to a replacement for business school than for college, but many YC "alum" are dropping out of college to work on their start-ups, so it really is a fundamental education for many. I suspect it is closer to what college will look like in a couple of decades than many might think.

  • Tara
    2019-03-10 05:01

    I have read more than two dozen books on startups and each has some points of benefit. I found The Launch Pad to be a very simplified/insightful approach to this side of entrepreneurial experience. Y Combinator is 'front and center' of the modern day gold rush. Mostly 20 somethings scrambling to find the 'next Facebook' and fodder for Tech Crunch to over hype. This 'ripe' demographic (mostly male, asian, white, and young) compete to be a 'top dog' amongst a sea of tech behemoths. This book highlights some of the trails and tribulations. Hundreds of companies in the six plus years (at point of publication) excavated for that one jewel (Dropbox would be that company during summer 2011). More than half will fail and out of that only a sprinkle will make it past a few years (even with investors). There were a few parts that dragged however, most of the book was insightful enough to keep me paying attention. I do run on the treadmill when I read so, the test is how fast the workout goes and how engaged I am in content. The key takeaway for me was how I would not have pegged some of these early startups to get the level of funding so early (or at all). My conclusion: angel investing is just slightly better odds than the casino (pick the game and insert here).

  • Jonna Higgins-Freese
    2019-02-19 03:50

    I enjoyed this tremendously, in spite of the "gee whiz isn't everything Silicon Valley does wonderful" tone, which I often find offputting.I enjoyed the insistence on rapid prototyping and iteration, "[YC startups] are encouraged to release something as quickly as possible, discover what needs to be fixed, and try again" (5). And this: "'Launch Fast' is Paul Graham's mantra. Move from the idea to a minimally functional product as quickly as possible. Only by getting a product into the hands of customers, even if the product is only a prototype, is it possible to know what customers want. Launching fast is how to make something people want" (77). [Taggar] reminds founders that "'You try out something, people are, 'I liked _this_, but I didn't like _that_,' and now you have more information about what you should do next. Basically, inaction, not doing stuff, is the thing you should be worried about.'" (85)The author is honest about the obstacles that face female founders, and spends an entire chapter on it.Other interesting things:ToontasticImagine K12, a YC-like program for startups that develop software for schools.

  • Pranav
    2019-02-26 01:46

    This is an absolutely riveting read about the most prestigious startup school in Silicon Valley, the Y Combinator: a school that has nurtured, guided and funded some of the most disruptive startups in the technology space (Dropbox, Airbnb, Reddit, Heroku, Codecademy). With the valuations of some of these companies in billions, one cannot help but search for reasons why so many YC companies succeed.Well, this book does exactly that: it revisits the summer of YC's 2011 batch wherein 63 startups were accepted, several of which went on to raise millions of dollars in venture funding and acquired hundreds of thousands of customers in a short span of 3 months. The author delves into the journey of 5-7 startups in this batch, the YC alumni and their startups, the YC partners, few YC success stories and above all, the man behind YC, the guy spearheading the 'Make Something People Want' movement, Paul Graham.For everyone who've heard of YC, this book is a no-brainer, you've got to read it. For others who've not, this book will definitely justify the gung-ho and over-enthusiasm surrounding Silicon Valley and YC in particular.

  • Mighty Rasing
    2019-02-26 04:53

    I read this book as part of my research on how the strategies and processes of the startup movement be applied to ministries with youth and young adults around the world. The stories and case studies highlighted in the book helped me understand the driving force of young people (and a few older ones) as they pursue the startup life. Along the way, the author showed the difficulties and challenges that founders face. Through the advice from Y-Combinator partners given to the founders, I saw some practical ways to come up with ideas, narrow them down, and test their viability. A big number of startups fail. That's just the reality of it. And going to Y-Combinator is not a guarantee for success. But at least, perhaps, the founders get a running start and the money needed to test their ideas. This book is not a step-by-step process of founding a startup. It's not even about growing a startup, but rather, it shows the process that Y-Combinator follows in coaching and mentoring founders to increase the likelihood of their success.

  • Steven Aitchison
    2019-02-25 00:38

    As soon as I found out that there was a fly on the wall book written about Y Combinator Startup school, I had to buy it.The book delves into the world of startups, angel funds, VC funding, and what it takes to make a success of a startup. I found it interesting that most of the founders were 'hackers', indeed on the application to get into YC one of the questions was to 'describe your most interesting hack.' It seemed Paul Graham favoured hackers for their enthusiasm, coding experience, and determination to succeed. I had to check out one of the startups in the book called CodeAcademy, which teaches non-programmers to program in various languages, definitely worth checking out.I couldn't put the book down and couldn't wait to hear about the fate of the summer of 2011 batch of founders at YC.The book also disperses some great advice to would be founders, and businesses in general.If you're in business, thinking about it, or dreaming about it, you'll love this book.

  • Steven Aitchison
    2019-03-01 00:49

    As soon as I found out that there was a fly on the wall book written about Y Combinator Startup school, I had to buy it.The book delves into the world of startups, angel funds, VC funding, and what it takes to make a success of a startup. I found it interesting that most of the founders were 'hackers', indeed on the application to get into YC one of the questions was to 'describe your most interesting hack.' It seemed Paul Graham favoured hackers for their enthusiasm, coding experience, and determination to succeed. I had to check out one of the startups in the book called CodeAcademy, which teaches non-programmers to program in various languages, definitely worth checking out.I couldn't put the book down and couldn't wait to hear about the fate of the summer of 2011 batch of founders at YC.The book also disperses some great advice to would be founders, and businesses in general.If you're in business, thinking about it, or dreaming about it, you'll love this book.

  • Rob Brock
    2019-03-09 05:36

    I was absolutely enthralled by this account of the Summer 2011 batch of start ups funded by Y Combinator in Silicon Valley. The author had unprecedented access to the session, giving readers a glimpse behind the curtain of everything from the interview process to the launch of many of the companies.It was fascinating to see the evolution of the companies as they refined their products, or in some cases abandoned products all together to start over. I was particularly inspired by one pair of founders who scrapped their first and second ideas to shift to a third option late in the summer, a product that went on to become a well known and highly valued web service today. (I won't tell you the company - you'll have to read the book yourself to find out.)If you have any entrepreneurial bent hidden anywhere inside you, I highly recommend this book.