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The Launch Pad: Inside Y Combinator, Silicon Valley's Most Exclusive School for Startups Hardcover – September 27, 2012


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Portfolio Hardcover; 1ST edition (September 27, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591845297
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591845294
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #768,520 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“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

About the Author

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.


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Customer Reviews

Read this book anytime but preferably as early in your student life as possible.
Suvendu Mahapatra
How the YC program works, in great detail (what advice is offered, how to raise money, how these companies should deal with investors, etc.).
Randall Degges
The author recounts conversations, has organized the book very well, and draws interesting conclusions.
S. Jamal

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Jeremey Donovan on November 4, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Like most books of this kind, the author took what could be a 5 page article and turned it into a 240 page book. However, the fun of this book is in following the journeys of the entrepreneurs and investors the author observed while embedded at Y Combinator. The twists and turns in the fortunes of the young startups keep you engaged all the way through.

For those that want the short version, here is what you will learn: (YC = Y Combinator)
- YC accepts 3% of (the mostly B2B Internet software) startups that apply, funding them with $11K to $20K in exchange for 7% equity. In addition, most companies receive a $150K convertible note from loosely affiliated angel investors
- Startups must spend 3 months in Silicon Valley. However, YC intentionally does not provide office space. Most founders live and work from their rented apartments and come in to the YC Mountain View facility only for "office hours" and weekly dinners with guest speakers. The rationale is for founders to be in a distraction-free environment.
- The YC philosophy:
1. "Launch Fast" & "Get Big Slow": Release quickly and iterate based on CONTINUOUS feedback from customers.
2. Invest more in the founders than in their ideas since they are likely to "pivot" to a new idea. The founders must work well together, be brilliant coders, and have nerd-esque passion for the segment they are pursuing. Moreover, the idea should be challenging to others but not the founders to implement.
3. Make something that customers want (i.e. serves a compelling unmet need)
4. Focus on B2B opportunities
5. Share your failures
6. Pursue ideas that scale well (low variable cost to produce, easy to sell without a "door to door" sales force, easy to service)
7.
Read more ›
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Jason Y. Shen on September 28, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Disclaimer: I'm one of the entrepreneurs who participated in the Summer 2011 Y Combinator session that Randall covers in his book.

Here's the deal. Silicon Valley is a really interesting as a hotbed for innovation and entrepreneurship. Y Combinator pioneered the "seed fund / accelerator" model and has scaled it to impressive levels. As an entrepreneur, it was a tremendous boost for me and my cofounders to participate in the YC program as we started our business. Randall got to see everything that went down and writes about it in a fair and honest way (which means I am left cringing numerous times when I encounter the sections about myself and my company). It also means I got to learn some really interesting things myself about the other companies in my "batch".

The book is roughly chronological, but touches on various themes like female founders, generating ideas, acquiring customers, fundraising and risk in each chapter. As a professor and journalist, Stross makes the effort to explain the jargon and clarify the concepts behind startups. His prose is clear, sturdy and never overly dramatic. The Launch Pad shows how tech companies are built at the earliest stages, and more broadly shows how Y Combinator is influencing Silicon Valley and the broader tech community around the world.
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16 of 21 people found the following review helpful By I'm a PC on October 2, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I wanted to like it, but it felt as though I had read most of it before. I guess it was probably the Bloomberg Businessweek article that previewed/had a chapter of the book or ran a similar story very recently. If you've read other startup books like 'Founders at Work', or 'Do More Faster' (TechStar's- YC's competitors book), you've already heard these/similar stories before. Stories of the birth, growth and sometimes death of successful and well-known startups and of YC and YC companies are also chockful and free on Quora.

If you haven't read the other books or are not familiar with the software startup world, this might be a good book, else its a so-so.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Rob Ryan on November 9, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As someone who has followed ycombinator for many years now I couldn't go past a book like this that chronicled a batch going through the program.

I thought it was quite a good read. In contrast to another reviewer who said it was a bit long and monotonous I think it was actually far to short. The book mainly focuses on a small batch of companies in the batch, maybe 5 and then does bits and pieces on probably another 10 to 15. It misses so many of the other really great companies and founders coming out of this particular batch though.

I guess it is really a question of audience, depending if your writing for the startup founder audience that laps this stuff up or for a wider audience that may not already know the ins and outs of startups, accelerators and seed/ venture capital. I would definitely recommend reading though for anyone that even has a passing interest in startups.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Marcelo Olivas on May 20, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I was really looking forward to this book, but overall I was disappointed. It might be because my expectations were pretty high, or because the author was a journalist not an entrepreneur. I was looking for insights or patterns that Y Combinator have gathered throughout the years, but instead it was just a series of anecdotes from different teams.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Steven Aitchison on October 14, 2012
Format: Hardcover
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.
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