I've been thinking about this for a while:
- small companies rarely fund university research
- the grant application process is complex
- grad students get paid so little compared to tech workers
- hiring a PhD student before they finish means abandoning their research
One of the nicest surprises about the YCR announcement was how many very rich people and large organizations reached out saying they wanted to give money. It seems there is a lot of potential energy here that's been looking for something to do.
They want to give money outside any specific research initiative? That YC brand is strong!