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on November 4, 2012
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. Set and focus on ONE weekly target for growth (revenues or # of users)
8. Startups should hire friends and friends of friends
9. Be aggressive at sales
10. Avoid funding startups with only one founder
11. When presenting, speak slowly AND passionately (have "swag")
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on September 28, 2012
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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on December 26, 2012
I've been a long time Hacker News (YC) reader, and when I saw this book for sale I immediately purchased it, although, to be honest, I didn't have high hopes for the content. I figured that since I'm already extremely familiar with the YC stories, this book would be more of the same.

Luckily, I was completely wrong.

This book is a MUST READ for any programmers, entrepreneurs, and aspiring business people hoping to start their own company, work hard, and build something great.

This book is essentially an accounting of the experiences of a particular YC group. The book talks about:

- How YC works.
- Who the founders are (what are their backgrounds, how did they meet their co-founders, what are their personalities like?).
- How these companies got into the program.
- What advice is offered to the companies when they first get started.
- How the companies cycle through ideas, trying to find a perfect business niche to pursue.
- How conflicts cause issues (some founders don't heed YC warnings, some founders have family commitments that end up causing lots of personal issues, etc.).
- How these companies mature as they're working on their products.
- How the YC program works, in great detail (what advice is offered, how to raise money, how these companies should deal with investors, etc.).
- The final progress that each company makes before the important YC 'Demo Day'.
- How some companies raise money from investors, while others are unable to do so.
- And lots more.

What really makes this book great is that you (as a reader) are essentially getting a fly-on-the-wall, intimate view of YC, from start to finish. The author wrote this book while sitting in with YC companies, going to all of the YC dinners, meetings, office hours, etc., and essentially picking the most important parts of these meetings and condensing them down into a great story that anyone can benefit from.

The book reads like a movie (almost)--you'll be introduced to the founders and their personalities, then you'll learn about YC and how it works, then you'll be taken on an adventure through the ups and downs of each company as they make their way through the program--all of them striving to do something great.

I found this book extremely motivational. While reading through the book, I could see myself struggling with the same problems as these YC companies: working tirelessly, trying to beat the odds, attempting to stay optimistic even with the realization that the odds are greatly against you.

If you plan on building a successful company, and aspiring to greatness, this is an extremely intimate book that serves to encourage and inspire you--definitely worth your time.
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on October 2, 2012
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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on November 20, 2012
This book is pretty cool. fully details what YC is like, and stories about select YC companies.

The majority of YC stories have come out on blog posts through hacker news that mostly seem to be building links for YC companies.

The author had access to interviews that nobody else had access to, and he tells stories that help you understand the economics and attitude around accelerators.
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on May 20, 2013
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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on August 19, 2013
This book is an excellent account of the journey that a batch of y-combinator startups take as they progress through the program. No part of this book was boring. Maybe the reason that I liked it so much is because I am interested in startups and technology, but I do think that it would be interesting to a wider audience than just techies. The author recounts conversations, has organized the book very well, and draws interesting conclusions. Highly recommend.
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on September 27, 2012
The author( a good writer) spent the summer of 2011 with the 64 start-ups funded by Y combinator and recored what happens. It is three month uber intensive (selective 3% of applicants get in) program ending in a marathon Demo Day in front of several hundred qualified investors. The book has similarities to Tracey Kidders 1981 classic , The Soul of New Machine, in that all the covers are off and you get to look right into how it is done - warts and all. This makes this a new classic. Y Combinator is really Paul Graham the founder, and his core of follow on investors who put up $150 00 for every company that demos. About 2/3 of the companies each session get even more follow on investing, 1/3 a small amount more and 1/5 none at all. The success rate shows that by 2010, Dropbox exited for more than the next 199 all together , and No 2 OMGPOP exited for more than the next 198 cos altogether. Perhaps you can add up another 21 of non exiting stars who had a value of $ 4.7 b. So the odds are long, but this model appears to work better than any other startup model. You need highly selective auditions, companies that had a killer coder and a killer salesperson, non stop attention to the job at hand and sufficient guaranteed follow on funding to make the time/effort expended worth the while of the participants.
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on April 19, 2014
This is an excellent book about what seems to me an amazing organization. Paul Graham must be a rare human being and what he and his colleagues have created speaks brightly from within the lines of this book. The Renaissance has moved to California!
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on July 9, 2013
I really like a lot the way the author takes us on a journey of what a batch at Y combinator is. When reading this book I actually could imagine how some things happen inside YC and why the approach they have at accelerating companies is still the most successful.
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