Two months ago I pre-ordered Randall Stross’s new book The Launch Pad: Inside Y Combinator, Silicon Valley’s Most Exclusive School for Startups in anticipation of his storytelling and insight into Y Combinator. Stross wrote one of my favorite books about the dotcom heyday titled eBoys: The First Inside Account of Venture Capitalists at Work, which is a must read for anyone interested in the crazy startup world of the late 1990s. The Launch Pad was a fun, quick read, but didn’t leave me in awe in the way eBoys did. Part of that is likely attributed to my level of understanding of Y Combinator from reading about it and talking with entrepreneurs who have gone through it. Nevertheless, for people that want to get a taste of the Y Combinator experience, the book is required reading.
Here are a few takeaways from the book The Launch Pad:
- Exclusivity is the norm with an acceptance rate of 3% of the applicants
- Priority is placed on top flight technical skills
- Co-founders are more important than the idea (a fair percentage of teams pivot during the 90 day process)
- Grad school is the most closely related non-startup idea with self-starting and independence being a common theme
- Alumni, cohort teams, and partners make up the bulk of the experience (not outside mentors like most other accelerator programs)
- Fundraising is still hard for the majority of the teams in the cohort, beyond the $150,000 convertible debt everyone gets
One message the book did drive home, that I didn’t appreciate before, is how much emphasis is placed on the founders, and not on the ideas. Codecademy was the result of a late-in-the-program pivot, and turned out to be one of the most successful by Demo Day. Y Combinator is a bet on people, knowing that ideas are plentiful.
What else? What are your thoughts on the book The Launch Pad and Y Combinator?