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How Y Combinator's powerful alumni network operates (fastcompany.com)
68 points by alagu on Feb 14, 2012 | hide | past | favorite | 12 comments

Heh, I'll chime in as the lone orphan connected to this glorious network as a "video game buddy." Someone from FC wanted me to confirm a few connections and the relevant part of my original response is below (I imagine most people ignored FC and a lot of replies were trimmed -- all mention of my co-founder is gone!):


It turns out three YC company founders used to all play in the same corporate basketball team back in Microsoft around 2004-2006! It was [redacted] and myself (RentHop). At the time we were all working on Windows Phone 6.0 and Blackberry was our biggest competitor (pre-iPhone days), so the name of our team was the RimBusters; a pretty deceiving name since our entire team consisted of short Asian guys averaging out at about 5'7". We didn't all leave at the same time though, but certainly knowing just a few other people go the risky founder route made the task seem more manageable.

Also, Lux Chen (Anywhere.fm), Anson Tsai (CardPool) and I used to all be connected on a team as well, though this one less athletic and physical, more nerdy and virtual. We were all fairly bored at our software jobs and had plenty of free time for video games. We've joked about this many times but I increasingly believe it is true: playing competitive video games might be a good test of whether someone is a suitable co-founder. Not only do you see someone's raw competitive ability and persistence, but you gain a lot of insight into how they behave and treat others during moments of stress and low morale. I also learned quickly that a person's raw ability in solo playing is not nearly as important as how well the two of you mesh as a team, hence it's better to partner up with a compatible friend than simply the most skilled person you can find. You probably think I'm over-dramatizing here but I've got an incredible number of both positive and negative data points; I almost want to do a Starcraft trial now before I ever agree to partner up with someone! Imagine a future where investors insist on your founding team reaching Master League before they will fund you.


It's true, I spent hundreds of hours healing Anson's suicidal gnome warlock in WoW before we ever started working together.

Interesting strategy on the starcraft idea. Might work for startups too. Every barcraft I've gone to has basically been entirely developers of one sort or another.

I wonder how much of this is YC networking and how much is HN networking. Tarsnap isn't a YC company, but some of my largest customers are; I've never asked, but I suspect they're only aware of Tarsnap because of my presence here.

This is cool in all, but this is probably more information than I need to know about these people's lives. I would have rather had something more useful on the front page.

Yes seriously, what is with the YC alum idolatry? I understand that these people have very valuable experiences to share in the context of our discipline, but it should stop there.

Let's not put a subjective subset of entrepreneurs on a pedestal and lose our time gossipping about who they play basketball and go to parties with.

Beyond the silly graph, it's interesting to note that with each passing year, YC's value proposition shifts more from "We'll give you a bit of money and a lot of good advice and top investor introductions" towards "We'll plug you into the most powerful startup founders network in the world"...

One of the common strategies for a startup to achieve dominance in a market is:

  * figure out how to make network effects important, and
  * build a bigger network than your competitors
As YC is essentially a startup in the startup-funding market, it shouldn't come as a surprise to see this happening. As the number of startups YC funds grows, it will become harder and harder for them to keep the quality of their advice high. Without network effects, seed funding companies will eventually reach an equilibrium with each company offering a similar value proposition, and their market share determined primarily by the number and quality of their individual advisors (similar to consultancies). If YC can figure out some kind of systemic competitive advantage, however, they have a chance at dominating the entire market.

Vaguely creepy.

Definitely. To a level that surprised me. I'm a YC alum and I immediately rushed to see if I was on the chart :> I remember passing on talking to a FC reporter about the alumni network, I guess this is the result.

This doesn't really surprise me. I always thought part of the value of YC was its alumni network. If YC alums didn't socialize and help each other out, I'd be worried.

I'm sure there are many more social connections than what is shown here too, though it must've taken FastCompany quite a bit of sleuthing to unearth at least this much.

But more importantly, has anyone gotten a YC tattoo yet?

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