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

80%

5 Critic Reviews

Stross peppers the book with his [Graham's] mottos: “Make something people want”, “Launch fast.” “Write code and talk to customers.” If not the definitive history of this explosion in technology start-ups, Stross at least provides lively source material.
-LA Times

Synopsis

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.

 

About Randall Stross

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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.
 
Published September 27, 2012 by Portfolio. 306 pages
Genres: Other, Business & Economics, Computers & Technology, Science & Math. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for The Launch Pad
All: 5 | Positive: 4 | Negative: 1

Kirkus

Below average
Aug 15 2012

Unfortunately, instead of highlighting a few budding CEOs, Stross tries to cover far too many, leaving readers with little insight into the struggles these (often quite young) entrepreneurs must be experiencing. The book also suffers from a lack of insight into key issues.

Read Full Review of The Launch Pad: Inside Y Comb... | See more reviews from Kirkus

WSJ online

Good
Reviewed by Steven Levy on Sep 21 2012

...Mr. Stross offers sufficient portraiture to give us a sense of the young entrepreneurs.

Read Full Review of The Launch Pad: Inside Y Comb... | See more reviews from WSJ online

LA Times

Excellent
Reviewed by Tim Bradshaw on Sep 12 2012

Stross peppers the book with his [Graham's] mottos: “Make something people want”, “Launch fast.” “Write code and talk to customers.” If not the definitive history of this explosion in technology start-ups, Stross at least provides lively source material.

Read Full Review of The Launch Pad: Inside Y Comb... | See more reviews from LA Times

Ars Technica

Excellent
Reviewed by Cyrus Farivar on Sep 27 2012

One of the most surprising things I learned from The Launch Pad is how silly some of the startup ideas sound to begin with. Graham et all are often more interested in the founders themselves, rather than their idea for the company.

Read Full Review of The Launch Pad: Inside Y Comb...

Giga Om

Excellent
Reviewed by Eliza Kern on Aug 30 2012

...the book does provide an interesting glimpse into the mentorship style of the YC partners, and shows just how many companies and founders have actually successfully come through YC’s doors.

Read Full Review of The Launch Pad: Inside Y Comb...

Reader Rating for The Launch Pad
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