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Y Combinator Is Boot Camp for Startups (wired.com)
228 points by twakefield on May 18, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 31 comments

Steven Levy put a ridiculous amount of time and effort into researching this article, and I think it shows. He really immersed himself into the whole experience--for months! In some ways, it felt like he was a part of the class, working alongside us as we worked to build our companies.

This kind of real journalism is something that I didn't think existed any more, at least not in the tech world. But after watching him work, and seeing his process, I think it's just a damn shame how rare his kind of journalism is.

Didn't mean for this to turn into a puff comment, but I have to admit the whole production was quite impressive.

I couldn't speak any more highly of Steven Levy's writing as well. He wrote a story for Newsweek during our batch: http://www.newsweek.com/2007/05/20/meet-the-next-billionaire...

The feeling was very similar. Having experienced all of the time he put into it, how he listened to all of our seemingly pedestrian stories and masterfully wove an eloquent story line out of mere tidbits -- it's a pretty awesome experience.

He's one of the best writers around and one of the last bastions of true, old-fashioned journalism in the tech world.

Glenn Chapman of AFP is another great old-school journalist who focuses on tech. Well researched, concise, balanced - as good wire stories should be.


I enjoyed the article, too and agree that Levy did a great job telling what could have been a bring story in a lesser reporter's hands.

The whole "it's a damn shame how rare his kind of journalism is" sentiment comes up fairly often here on HN and always bugs me a little bit. This is a community where people heap praise on folks who create things like Instapaper and Readability, link to the printer-formatted version long articles, complain about pay walls, and generally take an extremely liberal view toward copyright infringement and content monetization subversion.

Those are all fine things, but I think it's important to understand that we can't have it both ways. Online ads pay for the great journalism people on HN claim to want more of.

I think you've set up a false dichotomy here. There are probably other ways to support good writing than the clumsy methods existing media companies have tried so far.

This is true, it's not a direct if/then relationship. I do think however that the spirit of gleeful copyright subversion is at odds with the desire to read great journalism. It's very hard for a publisher to derive value from content when they have no control over the experience in which the content is consumed. A story that's been Readability-ed creates no immediate value for the publisher.

I do think however that the spirit of gleeful copyright subversion is at odds with the desire to read great journalism.

I think you're mistaken about that. I'm not 100% sure, but I suspect copyright is a (mostly) obsolete concept, and that gleeful copyright subverters are just the people who are already living in the future.

A lot of musicians have already given up on the idea of making money from selling recorded music, and expect to make it from concerts instead. I suspect we will see similar displacements in writing.

I'm not disagreeing that it's the direction things are going, but I don't think we should take the "I'll just try to make money from concerts" attitude from musicians as a good thing or one they embrace. It's more of a surrender and it's not good for consumers.

This future everyone is living in may be one where artists start recording only 5 song EPs and playing a lot of shows, which I would consider a major loss. There will be many albums that don't get recorded because there's no financial incentive. I already know some great musicians who have given up on albums because they're not willing to pay $20k to record something nobody will pay for, despite the fact that there is plenty of "demand" for the content.

You get worse content when you don't pay people for creating content you like. If that's the future people are accelerating toward by taking things without paying for it, then they're just going to get the crappy music they deserve.

That is absolutely what's happening and where things are going for musicians. The equivalent for writers and reporters is to go teach at a local college on the side to earn more. But time spent teaching is time spent not writing. So yes, there are other opportunities, but I don't think they're going to lead us toward more great longform pieces like this one.

To be fair, as it gets harder and harder for publishers to support longform content like this, the stuff that does get funded will be better and better.

As a student of Classics do you think the patronage model that companies like Kickstarter enable will become dominant or at least mainstream?

It seems like a key to understanding the future of copyright heavy industries will be to understand how people like Vivaldi (or any artist up until the 1950s) made art that persists to this day without the benefit of recorded media.

I was an intern at a YC company (Allerta of inPulse) during the W2011 term, and I got to attend a few YC dinners and meeting. I can say that Steven Levy was always there, always jotting down stuff and meeting and talking to people.

I was quite amazed how involved he was with the research for the story.

Agree 100%, this is the best piece I've read in Wired for a while (I've been pretty dissatisfied with the quality of Wired for some time). This gives me hope for the publication.

I agree, I'm frustrated that I'm in work and I cant justify readying the whole thing...

Makes me wish someone was doing a YC documentary.

As a YC hopeful, this article really helped me to understand what really goes on during the three months. It's inspiring to hear stories about companies who pivot right before Demo Day and actually receive help with their ideas from PG. I'm just starting to learn about the difficulties of running a startup. We're really lucky to have guys like PG out their who are truly interested in innovation and not just the money. This article proves his dedication to the industry and to all of the people who are working so hard to get to the top. My day = motivated.

Heh, I'm the "Greece" in that article.

For a relatively brief piece on YC I think it was very accurate, capturing the significance of YC, the experience of the founders, and the general excited feeling all around that imbues YC. Obviously it's for a more general audience so probably contains nothing much new content-wise for HN readers but is interesting to see it all put together.

This is something I'll email my dad, who when I mentioned I mentioned I applied for an incubator asked "What do you need office space for?"

I know it's cliche, but what I got most from this article is that traction matters most.

Growth is the lifeblood of the industry.

To get that, you have to make something people want.

Everything else is pretty insignificant.

Simple, but not easy.

The Viral Me is another long article profiling Y Combinator from December 2010.


Ummm needs to be corrected: LikeALittle: A slick iPad-based app for doctors that collects all of a patient’s chart info in one place. The application has gotten raves from the physicians who have tried it so far.

I'm all for promoting entrepreneurship but it'd be nice to highlight those who actually make money and care about building businesses too, rather than celebrating simply taking investor's money and spending it.

Plenty of YC companies make money. If you are referring specifically to the ones in the article, many of them are in the initial stages of building the company. Unless you are a consulting company it is not easy to make money from day 0.

I guess we will all agree that there is an outrageous error in the article. It should not be 'Terminator itself', but 'Terminator himself' rather, shouldn't it?

Some part of me really thought that a "Y Combinator is so great" article can't be more interesting to HN people then understanding Fourier Transformation or discussing the development of ML research.

Maybe I'm just too naive. Thanks for that lesson.

This one's written by Steven Levy.

And people down voted you for this! Sigh!

Probably people expect that I say something bad about this article, where my comment wasn't about the article at all.

But hey. That was the result I expected and I happily pay the price.

Please. Someone who has actually been to boot camp debunk this ridiculous metaphor.

Boot Camp : Military :: Y Combinator : Startups

a·nal·o·gy/əˈnaləjē/ Noun 1. A comparison between two things, typically on the basis of their structure and for the purpose of explanation or clarification.

Should the readers of Wired not be familiar with Y Combinator, the analogy implied in the article's title should actually give them a good idea of what YC is all about.

I don't think anyone (or at least many) will take the analogy literally and expect to see photos of YC founders going through the rigors of military boot camp. Instead, I bet most people who read that title will get the comparison right off the bat: Y Combinator is a short, intensive, exhaustive program focused on preparing new founders to be more successful in the business world. Just as military boot camp is a short, intensive, exhaustive program focused on preparing new recruits to be more successful on the battlefield.

YC is a unique thing so any analogy will break down. The article did mention 'American Idol' which I thick is a lot closer, as A.I. has that same sense of people pinning their hope on getting in, the best talent winning out (in theory), constant all-around testing, competition, access to resources, and the large stakes for the players involved.

Wouldn't you need someone who has been to both?

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