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The Launch Pad: Inside Y Combinator by [Stross, Randall]
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Editorial Reviews


“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.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1142 KB
  • Print Length: 306 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1591846587
  • Publisher: Portfolio (September 27, 2012)
  • Publication Date: September 27, 2012
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007X5ZBU4
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #207,678 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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)
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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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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.
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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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