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Y Combinator's Hardware Guy Leaves After 14 Months (bloomberg.com)
229 points by kgwgk on Nov 4, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 117 comments



TL;DR -- Luke Iseman, YC's hardware focused Partner founded a hardware startup, which he's now taking through YC as a founder, after having set up a bunch of deals and processes to help hardware startups as a YC Partner.

Seems like pretty good evidence YC is now great at helping hardware startups that he's choosing to go through the program himself.


Oh cool, Luke was a Maker personality in Austin for a while. I remember when he was making his own pedicabs. http://austinpedicab.org/2008/10/06/austin-cronicle-intervie...


Austin, eh? I wonder if he's friend or foe with the Kasita guy (ie. Professor Dumpster)...


It's also a pretty good way to see how those deals and processes actually work from the founder perspective and give valuable feedback to the YC team.


Luke is a great person, I love the container houses project, and it's a statement to YC quality that he decided to go trough the program.

On the other side, "a full quarter of the current batch are making physical products" and no Hardware focused partners, isn't that a litle strange.


Sounds like dogfooding, to me.


I counted at least 5 factual errors in the photo caption and first 3 paragraphs.

We also heard that this reporter was 'encouraged' to write this by someone from a competing accelerator with an obvious agenda. Seems like manufactured controversy otherwise.

All that said, we like hardware and we like Luke, and we're excited he's in the new batch! And we're thankful for the work he did to get our hardware program set up.


We also heard that this reporter was 'encouraged' to write this by someone from a competing accelerator with an obvious agenda

If you are making accusations against the writer you need to substantiate them. Or else it's just hearsay.


Heh, impressive that a lede photo caption as short and simple as, "Sam Altman, president and co-founder of Y Combinator", has an error.


At least you can use it as a source for his Wikipedia article.

In a few short years everybody will agree that sama co-founded YC. ;-)


two errors!


What's the second, is that a picture of some other person?


* Not a cofounder. YC was created by PG, Jessica Livingstone, and two other ppl who aren't Sam

* Recently changed roles. Michael Siebel runs YC now, while Sam runs the parent organization YC Group


I had to google your word "lede" in order to understand what you were saying.

I found this: http://howardowens.com/lede-vs-lead/


Ha! That's very interesting. I mean I never knew that people tried to claim that there was some long history about the word lede", but that's just how it was referred to in every journalism class I've taken and in the papers I worked at. I like using it because its distinct spelling makes it obviously different than all the other meanings of "lead", and journalism has all kinds of jargon anyway..."graf" (paragraph), "nutgraf" (summary paragraph of a story), "subhed" (sub heading inside a story), "refer" (pronounced "reefer", an item that references something somewhere else in the paper). And "TK", for "to come", which I still use when writing or coding because it's very easy to grep for.

Reading this made me want to look up `cq`, which is what you jotted into your story as meta-text, next to a weirdly-spelled name or just weird fact to indicate to whomever is going to edit your story, Yes, this thing has been double-checked even if it looks weird, so please don't change it to what you think it is -- an example might be "Katharine Weymouth `cq`", for the former publisher of the Washington Post, whose name is often spelled as "Katherine" mistakenly.

I've heard other journalists shrug and say they've heard that `cq` stands for "correct but queer". But apparently its likely origin is Latin: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cadit_quaestio


There might really have been a long history for lede... https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=Lede&year_star...


I wonder whether 'cq' is a mangling of 'sic':

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sic

FWIW, I've never seen 'cq', but I've seen (and used myself) 'sic' lots of times; it might be a leftpondian/rightpondian thing.


Maybe it evolved from that, but `cq` is distinctly different than `sic`. cq is used as a meta-tag in story editing systems (I have no idea what news writers did before computers) to communicate between editors. `sic` is used to communicate to the reader that that weird quote is what was actually said. I guess you could put "sic" in as meta-text that wouldn't get printed, but it still might be ambiguous as to the writer's/editor's intent.


Just this week somebody told me about how a competing accelerator made them accept or turn down their offer before doing their YC interview. Ugh.


That would make me turn down their offer, I don't appreciate anti-competitive business practices. Leaves a bad taste in my mouth.


I agree. I guess the other accelerator likes to imagine that they are the cast of The Shark Tank.


Unfortunately, you can look back in history and see "exploding offers" have been a pattern [1]. Sam even wrote a post "Exploding Offers Suck" a couple years ago [2].

[1]: https://techcrunch.com/2009/03/22/the-nasty-exploding-term-s...

[2]: https://blog.ycombinator.com/exploding-offers-suck


And many more errors; Wakemate wasn't the first YC hardware company - or even the second. Picwing did hardware in S08 and Wattvision was W09 (still alive), both before Wakemate.


"Sam Altman, president and co-founder of Y Combinator."

Uhh, they clearly didn't do their homework if they thought Altman co-founded YC.


Having read basically every news article ever about the startup I was involved in, they get the most basic, easily checkable facts like: What year was it founded? What does the company do? Who is the CEO? wrong at least half of the time.

And they get the more complicated facts wrong much more often, but that is because they generally directly printing either what the founder tells them or something they think that is more interesting than what the founder tells them without any sort of verification.

Basically, almost all articles about startups (and frankly most things in general) are written to be interesting, not factually correct.


I learned that when there was a natural gas explosion in the building I worked in in the 80s (nobody was hurt). I recorded several TV news broadcasts on it, and every one got the basic facts wrong in different ways. Things like one called the building a warehouse (it was an office building).

There were no political issues nor agendas nor money at stake, the news reporters just didn't make any effort to be correct.

I've often wondered what we know about history that is dead wrong.


Story time. I build an app and I got interviewed by a local newspaper:

"Is the app secure?"

"Nope, but it's in my plans to start encrypting user's data at some point"

The next week (she didn't ask me for a review or anything) the newspaper printed: "[me] built an app encrypting all of its users' data"


> Story time. I build an app and I got interviewed by a local newspaper:

I built a web app and got interviewed by a newspaper too. The article wasn't factually wrong, but it was poorly written and the tone was bizarre at a few points. The journalist chose to take many long quotes directly from my response emails. I didn't know I would be quoted verbatim so heavily, otherwise I would've written more formally. He also interviewed a professor about my app (a professor in a related field), but the professor hadn't heard of my app and clearly didn't even bother to check it out.

So a little disappointing, but all in all I was happy to get the press. Unfortunately this newspaper also had a policy of not printing links / URLs in their online articles, so anybody reading would have had to search for my site on their own via keywords.


(Also involved with creation of an app that has received press.)

Assume everything you write to a journalist, unless you specify otherwise, will be used as written in their story. You should go out of your way to write statements that you expect them to fancy and essentially copy and paste.

When emailing them, read back over what you've written and re-write sections to make them punchy sentences that could serve as introductions, headlines, captions, anything for their story.


I did write most of the emails in a formal, precise way. The guy was a bit scattered, and the particular quotes he chose and their presentation was odd. But yeah, in hindsight I think he would've been happy to just have me write most of the article and send it to him.


I'm increasingly convinced that looking and thinking too deeply on people matters(news, history, organizations, relationships) is like staring at the sun. There's nothing much to see by focusing your gaze on it, it blocks out stuff more nearby, and you go blind in the process.

Which isn't to say that being a numb automaton is ideal, either, but there is a degree of balance and good taste required to avoid converting the information into dangerous thoughts, and it's simpler to restrict quantity of exposure.


I'm not endorsing the following view of the world, but your comment reminds me of Ken Wilber's division of reality into four quadrants. It's a Cartesian product of individual vs collective times interior vs exterior.

What you are talking about as "people matters" sounds like "exterior collective": structural, social things, or "its" as Wilber refers to them.

I'm a bit worried that you might also be writing off most of the "interior collective" quadrant: the relational, cultural aspects of reality, the "we".

This is New Age fluff, but I guess we have to start somewhere. HN can be pretty hostile to humanities thinking sometimes, at least Wilber has no prerequisites.


That sounds like one of my pet ideas I was calling 'physical autism'.

I am convinced that we are surrounded by two kinds of autistic behavior but are conditioned to mostly notice one of them.

Social autism (the normal kind we're familiar with) is usually evident in person. It's a spectrum from debilitating to barely evident. Some people I've talked to online have been autistic and I'd never know it just by conversing. I generally prefer it this way because it removes any prejudgements. I liked the Net better before social networks made people's photos, names and assorted history available, I feel like you got to know people more intimately.

The kind of autism we mostly don't notice is physical. There are people who are experts at social interaction, but who genuinely cannot understand the physical world, they never think about it. Their world is filled with people and nothing but people. These are the people who are blinded by the sun.

All of the world's accumulated knowledge is utterly lost on them and they have no sense of an objective reality outside of the realm of relationships. In its own way, this is a disability because they can never be more than their network of connections.

Most people know people like this but think that those people choose not to be interested in X,Y,Z. I suggest that maybe they literally cannot fathom those things, or at least have a severe hindrance in their path to doing so, similar to the social autism spectrum.


That's the same as saying it's too complex for you to understand so you're not going to bother. It'll hurt you in the long-run, your own relationships depend on your ability to understand people. Furthermore, if you don't understand other people you'll never fully understand yourself.


It could be they tried to be correct and did the best they could on a meager time budget. Doubly so for TV news

I have a hard time ascribing too much to effort. For the one wrong fact, there could be many things that were checked and were true. But of course the wrong thing stands out

That said, I feel like journalists know how to Google for basic company info...


No google in the 80s :-)

It was clear they just assumed things and didn't do any checking. Part of that was probably the pressure to hurry up and get it in the can, the rest was it was just a job to them and they simply didn't care. They got the video of the hole in the building, and that was good enough.


Unfortunately, if the Bloomberg reporter used Google, it didn't help the reporter any. Here's a screenshot of Altman's bio from a search I just ran, which lists him as president of Y Combinator, which he is not:

http://imgur.com/a/UE2Oy

Yes, that info is drawn from Wikipedia, but Google really doesn't do a good job of highlighting the source of its Knowledge Graph boxed results. Any tech-savvy reporter (I hope) would hesitate to automatically trust Wikipedia results, but Google's bio boxes are so authoritative looking by their placement that I can see (but not endorse) reporters just going with it.


Relevant Michael Crichton quote on "the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect":

“Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray's case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. I call these the "wet streets cause rain" stories. Paper's full of them. In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.”


Scared me so much the first time I thought about it that way. Believing so much news, although articles about my area of expertise obviously get so much wrong.


Almost every time the mainstream media covers a subject I have some level of expertise in, the coverage is laughably inaccurate or misleading, and almost everyone I've talked to about this says the same thing for their own field, and yet inexplicably it still takes a conscious effort to remind myself to bear this in mind when they cover subjects I'm ignorant of.


I had intimate knowledge of an Act of Congress and some DOJ seizures that resulted from it years ago, and that's the first time I really experienced what you just described. The basic inaccuracy and sensational bias in the reporting and the level of discourse it generated was truly eye-opening, and I'll never see the news (or people reacting to the news) the same way again.

Every time they cover a subject I know well, it's been the same story, even among major reputable news outlets. No facts are safe, not even basic high-level details.


Btw this is known as the gell-mann amnesia effect.

I don't read much news, but I do read the nytimes tech section. It seems accurate with some necessary simplification that doesn't hurt the truth.

Their other articles seem pretty well researched and fact checked.

That said their election coverage seems pretty biased.


I think this is an appropriate situation to bring up the Murray Gell-Mann effect, which is a succinct explanation of why the average reader should be more skeptical.[1]

[1] https://seekerblog.com/2006/01/31/the-murray-gell-mann-amnes...


Can't find this, but just recently I asked what it's called when you see reporters getting basic facts wrong about your area of expertise, but continue to trust their reporting in all other areas.


Answered in this thread 7 minutes after you posted :)

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12877188


Is there a term for not bothering to remember things, because someone will just answer for me? :P


"Crowdsourcing"


As Kanye said once, "They rewrite history; I don't believe in yesterday."

I have seen some startups even use this technique themselves to "erase" past or exited co-founders. Once you edit the AngelList, Crunchbase, team page, etc, you really can erase the existence of co-founder or early team member(s) if desired because eventually no one will look hard enough to find the early material.

It's something that bothers me a lot actually. I'm working on a project now to track founders and early teams across startups to get a better understanding of how often it happens and if there are any discernible patterns.


Not just startups, the trope is prevalent even among established companies. Off the top of my head, here are some examples:

• Cisco was started by a husband & wife duo - Sandy Lerner and Lenard Bosack

• Steve Jobs did not start Pixar - depending how far you go back, it was Alexander Schure that gave birth to the original roots of the company (as CGL) and later on, branched off by Edwin Catmull and Alvy Ray Smith.

• Elon Musk did not cofound PayPal - He founded X.com and that company merged with Paypal which was founded by Peter Thiel, Max Levchin, Luke Nosek and Ken Howery)

• Same Elon did not cofound Tesla - it was started and incorporated by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning

• Etsy was not cofounded by Jared Tarbell - It was a trio of Robert Kalin, Chris Macquire and Haim Schoppik that launched the initial company.

I could go on but my memory is escaping me at the moment. I am sure other people have more examples.

tldr; this is common enough. :)


My theory about how this error happened:

Bloomberg reporter checked Wikipedia where it clearly says, "In 2014, Altman was named president of Y Combinator, which he had been a part of as a founder..."[1].

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sam_Altman

Of course, if the reporter had spent a few more seconds reading the entire sentence he may have gotten it right: "In 2014, Altman was named president of Y Combinator, which he had been a part of as a founder in the first batch of funded companies in 2005."


For fun, look up the history of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jessica_Livingston , which was submitted for deletion twice and even now is pretty short.


Oddly, because pg wrote a really lovely piece extolling her contributions and character.


The entire article fails to be coherent.


The headline also implies that 14 months is a short amount of time, which in my book could be a long period if you're doing startup work. Perhaps just the right amount of time to spend with any one venture.


They also said the fund was based in Palo Alto instead of Mountain View.


If you search for Y Combinator on Google Maps it gives you a giant circle centred on Mountain View that spans all the way from Palo Alto to Santa Clara. Address is definitely Mountain View, though.

Interesting, I've never seen that before.


Finally looked at it and it's because the address is generically "Mountain View, CA" in Google Places. I tried to suggest an edit to give it a more precise address but it wasn't one of the available options. Perhaps YC asked for their address to not be listed so random people don't show up to pitch.


That said, YC could make all of this easier to grok with two sections in "About":

- Structure of the entire org, with the head of each

- History of the org (just the major announcements)


Sam can easily correct them.


Still, hardware is, well, hard. Silicon Valley has produced a raft of world-changing software startups, from Airbnb (a YC veteran) to Facebook. But it's a whole lot easier to beta-test an app than to prototype and then manufacture a gadget with a bunch of moving parts. Then you have to market the thing to the masses, who are already enamored of their Apple and Samsung products. Exhibits A and B: Fitbit, the fitness tracking company, and GoPro, maker of rugged little cameras. This week, both cut their sales forecasts for the crucial holiday quarter and watched their shares plunge. (Neither started life at YC.)

Fitbit and GoPro's downturn is mostly fueled by mismanagement and poor decisions than hardware being intrinsically hard.

The hard part of hardware is building something that works well enough and is in demand. When you have your device on people's wrist or mounted on their helmet, you have overcome the "hardware is hard" part. (for the most part).

After that it's building on your original success, expanding your market and creating value for your customers; all of which are true for any other business, not strictly hardware. For fitbit and GoPro, the latter has proven more difficult.


I don't know abut GoPro, but Fitbit deserves to fail. Their hardware is terrible. The warranty only lasts one year, yet I've had to replace both Fitbit devices I've had twice within that one year. I'm now Fitbit-less because the latest, a Charge HR, failed for the third time, and it's now out of that one year warranty.

To give you an idea of how bad the Charge HR is, its charging plug attaches with metal prongs, but it plugs into a slim plastic housing that is only glued to the rest of the device. The obvious result is that the plastic housing eventually gets pulled off with the plug. That's how two of my three Charge HRs have died. It'd be like if your laptop were ruined within four months because the power cable pulled off an essential piece of the laptop housing rather than detaching cleanly, and now it won't attach in order to charge. The third Charge HR bricked itself during an unprompted firmware update, which started randomly and then I guess got interrupted midway through when I moved my phone too far from the device. It never recovered.

I don't know what the hell they're optimizing for over at Fitbit HQ, but they're trying to sell $10 throw-away quality devices for >$100. It's outrageous. I actively discourage everyone I know from ever buying anything from them, and many other people I know have also completely sworn them off for the same reason. Their product just sucks.


I forgot to write my conclusion because I got so livid and carried away about how much Fitbits suck, so here it is:

I don't think Fitbit's troubles are necessarily an indictment of the hardware industry as a whole. I think they're particular to that company having a horrible product and horrible hardware engineering, to the point where poor build quality actively repulses users rather than creating repeat customers. GoPro similarly has lots of issues that I've heard from others, but I don't have first-hand experience like I do with Fitbit so I won't spend any further time on it.

Contrast with, say, Apple, which is still a hardware company more so than it is anything else, and has become the largest publicly traded company in the world by doing so. I'm not a huge Apple fan by any means, but at least the devices don't suffer from such horrible flaws. My next laptop might not be another Macbook Pro, but it's at least in the running as an option because I've liked the one I currently have. Fitbit does not have that same charity from me.


My wife was an avid Fitbit fan a few years ago. Unfortunately her device failed after a few months, and the replacement a few weeks later.

Her tone regarding the company is very much in line with what you've posted.


> they're trying to sell $10 throw-away quality devices for >$100

I can say their software is in the same category from personal experience. Their Android app was written through minimum cost outsourcing, has no comments (since the developers didn't speak English well), a half dozen layers of abstraction when two would work, and is riddled with countless poorly documented strange edge cases and hacks throughout that make maintainability and enhancement a disaster.

On the user side, this is why features are rarely added and the software tends to lock up and crash a lot, and can brick devices during firmware update. Fixing even trivial bugs or adding basic features like social or counterfeit detection right takes much more work than it should since you have to navigate all that and may break something else while trying to do what you are doing.

They hired a few internal people around the time of the IPO, but they universally don't do much. The tech lead of the team generally came in, complained about some random thing that wasn't even accurate to make it seem like he did something, then left at 4PM. He wasn't in the office enough to know anything about what his team was doing.

A typical internal developer played Clash of Clans all day. When showed logs of his code not working he called meeting after meeting with management to get the guy with logs of the failing use case fired. The culture there is that there's no reason to do work there if you can office politics with your friends to get out of it.

Even given a reasonable commit adjusting timeouts to match the time taken for Bluetooth operations to the slowest observed device and fix several long running file transfers timing out by resetting the timeout each block transferred, he blew up and removed all timeouts for file transfers (bringing back the potential lock up issue) and called a half dozen meetings to fight it.

The culture there is just noxious and actively fights anyone trying to do work.


Wow, thank you for the insider perspective. That's truly horrifying that a $2B company (previously $10B) that depends heavily on software outsourced so much of its core competency like that. Talk about being penny wise and pound foolish. I've worked at two ~$10M companies that used all in-sourced development (i.e. me and my coworkers) and, while not without their faults, were significantly higher functioning.

Also, how the fuck do you brick a device by updating it? Wasn't this problem solved decades ago? You upload the new image and then, only once it's completely transferred and verified, do you atomically switch over to it. Are you telling me that they really made it so that the firmware update overwrites the existing firmware, so that any interruption in the process causes it to go poof? Ugh. I know that requires double the internal memory, but c'mon, this is 2016. The cost of that is some very tiny insignificant fraction of what an RMA costs. Never before in my life have I ever irrevocably bricked a device by updating its firmware.


The plastic housing failure is how my Charge HR died :(


we build hardware (flair.co) and have just started shipping (woot!) and I think the trick with hardware is figuring out how to do the 'software wrapped in plastic'. If goPro was quicker to move into video storage and editing to go with their cameras or fitbit managed to push on fda approval and share data with your doctor (or their own doctors as a service) they could do some really cool stuff (and have really cool revenue...). Its not that as a stand alone product its not compelling - reminder, they IPOd... Looking at them and calling them failures is such a myopic perspective if you talk to any preseed, seed or A stage company. The trick is building a killer product and not worrying about the service if you can. Then transition over to a service model, selling leads, data, tools etc. If you can layer on services early on, thats fine, but not needed. If you never do it, it will come back to bite as challengers show up and erode margins and you saturate your 'ideal customer' market.


But just to be clear, hardware IS hard.


Yeah. Anyone remember WakeMate? They had nonstop problems with their hardware. And Lockitron had yield issues for two years on their deadbolt operating robot before cancelling it. Hardware is hard.


Aside:

Shoot - this wants me to make a "front fell off" joke... but HN hates jokes.


Personally I don't mind some jokes here but I can't see what the joke is you're trying to make. If it was a clearly funny comment it perhaps wouldn't fair as badly.



Which is funny to me, but the parent might as well have been referencing something their mate told them; how much of the global audience on HN knows that skit. Anyway, we're well OT.


That's pretty funny.


As evidenced by you getting downvoted. Oh, HN, I would say "never change" but I already don't expect you to.


Based on some analysis I've read, GoPro's growth is somewhat limited by market saturation: a significant proportion of the people who are likely to be enthusiastic action camera users already have an action camera.


"Iseman says his departure was purely about his desire to get back into the founder's role and build something new. He's already been accepted into the winter 2017 YC cohort with his new housing startup."

Doesn't sound very acrimonious.


I am more surprised that he wanted to go through YC. I can understand the appeal of YC for the inexperienced and unconnected, but this is like Sam or Jessica deciding to start a new startup and then joining a YC cohort.

Edit. Anyone want to explain why he would want to be part of YC? What can he possibly get out of YC for the equity expended?


Isn't that the definition of a conflict of interest? Or am I reading this wrong?


An allegation that there is favoritism among the closed off society of YC elites? I'm astonished, astonished, I say!


Favoritism?

It is a lot easier to vet someone you have worked with extensively, or if someone you trust gives a recommendation. It isn't like there is some secret society -- it is simply the way the world works.

Those are extra bits of information that go into the equation and they happen to count for a lot. I don't really see a problem with it.

Why wouldn't they give extra weight to those bits of information?

Also, this happens all of the time with positions across the board in startups/companies. If I am a senior engineer somewhere, and we are hiring and the company thinks I have good judgement... of course they are going to take my recommendations of candidates more seriously than someone off the street.


Why? YC partners go on to start companies. And it's not uncommon for a founder to raise money from a VC firm they worked at in the past.


Ycombinator insists that being part of their in-crowd does not warrant special treatment. It would have been more appropriate to find funding elsewhere.


No, it wouldn't. It's exceedingly common for companies to raise money from places that have invested in the founder before. What YC's policy is saying is that you do not get a bonus over a better qualified founder by being in the YC network. Again, the incentives for YC align with choosing the best investments. What does YC get by inappropriately giving someone money who doesn't deserve it? Nothing.


What is the conflict of interest?

Being a partner at YC is certainly a unique qualifier that would basically guarantee acceptance. There is nothing wrong with that. It is awesome, in fact.


Being a partner do you really need the startup 'help'? Don't you already have all the connections you need?


If you see a $100 bill on the ground. Would you not pick it up?

*edit cuz i'm bda at spelling


Exactly, why give up that much equity if you already have the connections and benefits of being a YC partner?


Well, it could also mean that someone else who isn't a YC partner was rejected to let him in. Of course, I don't know whether or not that is the case, but this is where a conflict of interest could potentially arise from.


He was a YC partner. He no longer is. And there's a difference between an equity partner and other types of partners. But again, YC is incentivized to let in companies they believe will deliver the most total value to the YC portfolio, so admitting Luke at the expense of another founder who was better qualified is directly contrary to their interests. Also, the YC batch sizes aren't fixed, and they have wiggle room. To avoid the conflict, they could just admit one additional startup who would have otherwise been cut.


That would make sense. Again, I'm not familiar with how the YC selection process works, so it's just speculation.

But it still seems kind of strange to be honest.


We don't fund a fixed number of startups.


You are alleging bias, not a conflict of interest.

YC accepted into their program as a founder someone who was a partner. Does that really sound like bias to you? If a former professor at a university applied to be a grad student, would you accuse the university of a conflict of interest?


Firstly, other comments have disproven my claim already as I was under the assumption that YC accepted a fixed number of startups per batch.

> You are alleging bias, not a conflict of interest.

I'm not sure I understand the difference.

> YC accepted into their program as a founder someone who was a partner. Does that really sound like bias to you?

Yes, if and only if the decision resulted in another equally strong application being rejected, either directly or indirectly.

> If a former professor at a university applied to be a grad student, would you accuse the university of a conflict of interest?

Perhaps, because the committee that decides whether or not to accept a student consists of professors who likely know the former professor, which will likely introduce bias (positive or negative).


IIRC the exact number of startup that are founded is not fixed, they have some approximate idea but they found whatever they think is promising enough. So they didn't fill an slot in a fixed amount of startups.


Well, at this level, no not really...

However, you could make a stretch connection between this and Dick Cheney if you were trying:

1. take a job that allows you to setup infra and policy for a certain type of relationship

2. foster the field for companies to take advantage of said infra and policies

3. leave to work at company to benefit from said setup...

I doubt thats what is going on here - but it has precedence in politics quite often.


YC is a private corporation, they can fund anyone they want. It's not like a public office.

The mistake you're making is similar to the one where right-wing conspiracy theorists argue that getting censored by Twitter is a First Amendment violation. It isn't because Twitter is not part of the government.


Not saying you're wrong about this specific case, but I don't think the term "conflict of interest" is exclusive to the government. For (a somewhat vague) example, if I recommended my friend to a position at the company I worked for, "conflict of interest" would be an accurate descriptor for me being the one who interviews him for the position.


Sounds more to me like an agreement of interest ;-)


How is it a conflict of interest? They are all interested in making money... It isn't like he was a public official and decided he was going to give himself tax money.

It is also a private company and can do what it wants in this regard.


The headline is clickbait, you say?


Everything must be a controversy these days in the news world. Including all of the times they're really not. Like this time.


From the title to the tone of the article, I felt like they were going to drop a bombshell, something like "Luke was fired" or "Luke hates how YC is being run".

Very poor journalism, Bloomberg.


Hardware development requires a lot of spare resources, it doesn't pair well with startups.

The development cycles are much less predictable compared to software, you never know how many prototypes you have to burn through until you reach the production stage. Small changes become hugely expensive once you've finalized the designs, and even a minuscule error like a tolerance mismatch can cause hundreds of thousands in damage and ruin a startup almost instantly. I'm always wary of a HW startup, unless the lead engineer is well known and has experience.


I met Luke while he was working on Edyn (pre-YC). He was really interesting, and clearly enjoys hacking and tinkering with hardware and physical things more than anything. It's not surprising to me that he'd get bored after a working process for supporting hardware startups was established. Interested to see what he's doing around housing, and somewhat hopeful it won't just be tiny homes (since while I think they're cool, living in one isn't for everyone).


WRT goPro...

(I do not know if they already do this);

Should it not be a sound idea to work with companies that make the THINGS that your users would be on to bundle a device with the things...

Rosignol branded gopro when you buy a pair of skis

[SkateBoard] branded gopro bundle, or a tony hawk edition

Water-proof versions bundled with every [insert water product]

Specialized/Brooks branded versions...

Try to get the companies already selling the transport mechanisms the users of go-pro would be using to boost sales. Lower margins, higher(???) volume?


A potential issue is that if someone wants a branded helmet-cam, they can apply their brand label to a knock-off model for a lot less coin. For the bundle to be attractive to the consumer, it has to be cheaper than the parts bought separately. These days, folks do extensive price research before spending more than a few bucks on anything.


I don't know Luke Iseman's vision for Boxouse. But if the goal is to produce structures like the ones shown in the link below then I am really glad he made the decision to focus full time on his company.

http://www.architecturendesign.net/22-most-beautiful-houses-...


Hardware may be a bad fit for YC, with its low initial funding and short deadlines. If you're doing some me-too product, others can do it too, probably better. If you're doing something hard that takes R&D, it may take more time and resources than YC provides.


As someone who saw Luke & Heather's Boxouse talk at HOPE conf with some friends, and were inspired to go at it stealth, I've gotta say I'm so so glad they're focussing on the housing project. I just got my rental shipping container dropped off last week, and am working to quickly and non-destructively insulate it for Canadian winter :)


There's "silicon" in Silicon Valley. The reason it exists is hardware, yet they seem oblivious to that fact and make it seem that, somehow, SV's pursuit of hardware is a new path.


I don want to sound like a jerk, but Trevor Blackwell has always filled the ycombinatoe hardware 'slot' from my perspective.


the position is probably pointless and is why he left.

it's cool that yc experiments with shit like this but didn't work out and now he's doing something else.

hardware is hard.


This shows being YC founder is more fun than YC partner.


That's a brilliant photo.


Is it just me or does that picture make him look like a zombie on TWD?


That's... not even him, that's not Luke, that's Sam. For a second they had me thinking Sam had stepped down from his position at yc. Sam wouldn't do that to us.




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