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Sam Altman for President (ycombinator.com)
790 points by TheMakeA on Feb 21, 2014 | hide | past | favorite | 153 comments



I’m very excited about this. YC is the smartest group of people I’ve ever worked with, and I believe that startups are going to be the major driver for innovation and economic growth going forward.

I was thinking this morning about what it was like to start a startup in early 2005 and how much it’s changed now. PG has done a remarkable amount to improve the startup ecosystem for founders—in fact, it’s hard to think of anyone who has done more.

(Also, maybe someday soon we’ll make Hacker News work well on mobile :) )


Congrats Sam! Starting with even before we joined Y Combinator in the summer of 2008, you were always a very important advisor to us. I remember when we were first trying to raise money, no investor would talk to us. In our fundraising deck, we had our total addressable market at something like $100M, which was ridiculous considering our vision was just airbeds. We wanted to make it smaller. You told us to opposite - switch the m's to b's. I asked why, and you said that "investors want b's, baby." Ok, I may have added the "baby" part of the quote, but more importantly, you mentored us to think bigger, and you were (alongside the Justin.tv guys) an inspiration for us to join Y Combinator. Since then, you have been super helpful with showing us how to hire and scale a company. Congrats on this next part of your journey. Many startups will be better off because of you.


Very nice compliment right here.


Sam, you already know this, but I just want to say publicly how happy we are to have you leading YC.


:)


So, what about you jl? You'll still have your hands on deck?

Not to be so intrusive, but I recall pg talking about the son -- was that a factor in pg making this decision? To dedicate more time to parenting or something like that?


My role isn't changing at YC. I'm sure our clever son will have PG working on all sorts of projects for him in no time.


Seconded. Motion carried.


Congratulations Sam. Well deserved!

For a few seconds while the post loaded, I wondered if you are really running for president. It seemed improbable, but not impossible :)


It would be awesome for technology focused entrepreneurial focused people did get into the presidency and politics. Maybe guys like Sam one day or Jim Greer of Kongregate: http://www.kongregate.com/forums/1-kongregate/topics/383925-...


Agreed. I do believe Alexis will end up being the Senator from reddit :)


Senator from New York, eh? I am 30....


That's the minimum legal age to run for senate :)


Agreed -- and Jim has done a lot more critical thinking about our political system than just about anyone else I know.


This is really cool ... while all the YC partners are amazingly talented and giving, you were always the person to go to in the trenches ... wise beyond your years and extremely tactical in how you communicate.

Thanks for everything you've contributed to all of us.


Every startup has a moment where the founder has to ask, "Do I become a professional administrator, or do I hand the professional management to someone else so that we can scale while I keep spending my time on what I want to."

It's good to see that YC has done this prior to a crisis, rather than in reaction to one. It doesn't seem like there's a better use of PG's time than office hours and writing. If this allows him to do more of both, everyone benefits.


Hire pg back to work on HN's mobile interface. He'll still have time to write essays.


Congratulations Sam! It won't come as a surprise to anyone close to YC, maybe just that it happened today. I am sure you are going to have a PG sized legacy when it is your turn to hand over the reins and I can't wait to watch it unfold.


> (Also, maybe someday soon we’ll make Hacker News work well on mobile :) )

Sam, there are already mobile apps for this. But the constantly expiring links due to limitations to Arc should be fixed.


:)

I have always found this to be HN's "Badge of Irony": Funds some of the best, highest velocity startups in tech; Can't get their shit together around UX/Mobile.

It is frustratingly endearing.


I wonder why I've not seen this expressed before, I've thought it every time I see these complaints regarding the HN mobile experience.

Maybe it isn't desirable to have people writing comments on their phone. The comment quality is likely greatly reduced by people writing pithy one-liners on their phones.

The best content on this site are the long expert comments, and those will never be typed on a mobile device.

All that being said, maybe its by design that the UX isn't great on mobile devices... or you know maybe the people that could make the changes just have bigger fish to fry.


The mobile apps all kind of suck though. i keep installing new ones, and always end up back in the browser, exercising my pinch-to-zoom muscles.


PG once said something to the effect that some day you would be president. How right he was! Looking forward to seeing where you take things.


Do you plan on carrying over the Birkenstocks?


no i prefer running shoes


And Tommy Bahama shirts.


Congrats Sam. I love your thoughtful writing style and think you're the natural choice for the job.


Congrats Sam. I hope other founders have taken notice recently that Sam's posts - especially about raising money - are some of the best playbooks you can get your eyes on in terms of starting and fundraising successfully as a startup today. Well done.


Congratulations Sam! Can you share a little bit about how you plan on growing YC?


Congrats Sam! I've come to anticipate your essays as a way to inform my own thinking. I'm certain this is excellent for YC and the entire startup ecosystem.


Congrats buddy... you gave instrumental advice during every funding round we've raised, and we're better for it.


Congrats sam! Look forward to great things from you @ YC.

Does this mean you will have less time to write blogs ?


Congrats, Sam!!! Your blog shows a ton of thought leadership and meshes really well with this.


Congrats Sam! You've recently shown your ability to be a thought leader with your writing, and I couldn't be more excited for this opportunity to show your mettle as an executer as well. Here's to a bright future for YC!


Likewise, to echo the sentiment from PG, you're one of the smartest people I've worked with and I think you'll do great at YC. Congrats!

Edit: so my prediction a few months ago that you'd be joining Sequoia wasn't too far off ;)


Happy to add my congratulations to the wave of orange users already doing so... it's clearly reflective of the impact you've had on so many YC startups. Thanks Sam and can't wait to see where you take YC next!


What will change about YC?


Congrats, Sam! We were stoked to get you as an advisor for AdGrok, and the advice you gave us was remarkably insightful and spot-on. Thanks again.


Awesome to hear Sam! You were the influential voice when we were fundraising and always pushed us in the right direction. Congratulations!


Huge congrats and well deserved! Thanks for all the advices when I was going thru the bottom of my roller coaster ride.


Congrats Sam! Your advice for us has always been great and I'm eager to see how that shapes up with the new role.


Congrats Sam! Thank you for the advice to continually focus, focus, focus even in the face of temptation to do more.


Congrats sama, you gave us help even before we were in YC. Definitely one of the most benevolent in the valley.


Congratulations Sam! Here's to a very exciting future, and looking forward to see how you help shape it.


super excited for this! congrats sam!


Congrats but I won't be satisfied if you don't find time to continue you blog, Sam! ;)


Congrats Sam!


Congrats Sam. Ace news.


Congrats a ton Sam.

Best of Luck.

With the Mobile part ofcourse, you'll do brilliant with rest, no wishes needed there :-)


Congrats Sam, and congrats YC!


Amazing, Sam. Congratulations.


Congrats Sam! Your advice was incredibly useful when I went through YC.


Congratulations Sam :) Looking forward to more big things from you.


Congrats Sam! Looking forward to the big things to come at YC.


Very cool. There's a lot you can do with YC. Good luck!


Congrats Sam! I've learned a lot from you.


Congrats Sam! :)


Congratulations!


Yay! Very excited for you and YC. Congrats!


Congratulations, Sam! Best of luck!


Congrats sam!


Congrats!


Congrats, this is awesome!


Awesome, congrats man!


Congratulations Sam!


Congrats Sam!! Woo!


Congratulations!


Congratulations!


Congrats Sama!


Congrats Sam!


Congrats!


Congrats!


"You could parachute [Sam] into an island full of cannibals and come back in 5 years and he'd be the king." - PG 5.5 years ago[1]

Congrats Sam.

[1] http://paulgraham.com/fundraising.html


So Y Combinator is slightly harsher than an island full of cannibals?


Sam was 'parachuted' into YC 9 years ago - so almost twice as harsh!


Building a startup is slightly harsher than an island full of cannibals.


So, he eates cannibals for breakfast [until they are all gone and he's king!]?

;0)>


For a second I got irrationally excited that Sam was announcing a Presidential run, then read the post. Beyond my initial excitement at a potential USPOTUS candidate I actually believe in, I'm much happier that Sam is taking over YC, where he can add much more value, and hopefully free up PG to do more thinking (writing, giving advice, etc).


OT: USPOTUS threw me for a loop there. :)

I'm not sure how I even noticed as I was just skimming the thread but I hit that line and lost all train of thought. Must be one of those things...

POTUS is "President Of The United States" so USPOTUS is redundant, but no more so than "ATM Machine" which my brain parses no problem. Sometimes its interesting to think about why we notice what we do :).


Yea, don't know why I did that. I've never used that acronym before, must have been my brain processing POTUS as President rather than the actual acronym.


POTYC.


President of The Your Country..?


President of the YCombinator.


Yeah, but as POTUS, he would be able to tie in his location-based experience at Loopt with drone strikes and Jihadist check-in sniping!


It's a bit early to announce 2016 campaigns. Maybe we should just stay tuned.


Sam, it would be great since you are the new President of YC if you could update the How to Apply to Y Combinator[1] page with your views on what a successful application looks like and your typical thought process when reviewing applications.

Also, congratulations!

[1] http://ycombinator.com/howtoapply.html


4 years ago, I had a feeling something like this would happen. See #4:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1025798

5 years earlier than I predicted and for a better job. Congratulations, sama.


Funny, but I'm pretty sure pg is not eligible to be President.


That's really impressive.


As a past YC founder that sat on the receiving end of some awesome advice from Sam from time to time I think this is a great thing for YC and for future YC founders.

Aside from being a smart, well connected guy Sam has the innate ability to solve complex problems in a well thought out and efficient manner.

I can't wait to watch YC scale like so many of the companies it has funded. It might be the gold standard for this model of financing, but I think they've only just begun.

Glad to have been a part of YC and glad to be a part of the awesome network of Alums. I sold my first company before I graduated college and never got to be an "Alumni" anywhere else, so in some ways I feel like this is watching my Alma Mater make great forward progress, I'm proud to watch it.


Wow, awesome news! I've noticed a lot more Sam Altman posts on HN recently, and I have to say I'm a fan, at least of his writing.

What does this mean for your role at YCombinator, PG? Will you still be spending most of your time helping out with companies there, or are you going to work on other projects?


I'm going to continue doing office hours with startups in future batches. And since office hours are the main way founders interact with me, YC should feel the same to companies we fund. It will feel a lot different to me though. Not so much because I'll have more time as more attention to spare. For years now YC has been the thing in the top of my mind. That has made it hard to write essays. Now I'll be able to focus most of my attention on writing again.


Will you still review all the preview/demo day pitches?

For those who haven't witnessed this: pg stands there for an entire day (maybe longer now), watching every pitch, slicing and dicing like a samurai. It's super rapid-fire, and with one or two pieces of advice each presentation doubles in effectiveness.


Probably not. But though it's an impressive feat of standing, the stuff that comes up then is so basic (slow down, look at the audience, etc) that any YC partner could make those sorts of comments.

I'll still talk about pitches individually with startups at office hours.


Ha, what I remember most is you modifying presentations based on the psychology of the audience (investors).

For example, for Pebble you said, "put this joke in there: 'I bet you guys really want to check your phones right now but you can't because it would be rude... if you had one of these babies on your wrist you'd be able to see those precious emails'".

OK maybe not the most world-changing example but there were 100 more of those.

I'm sure Sam will be excellent at this too.


So is that the main motivation - so you have attention to spare for essays? Any other plans?

EDIT: I know how you say that writing => other ideas. So I guess the question is whether

1) You have something else in mind currently

2) You're writing with the intent to come up with other ideas

3) You're writing, and if another idea happens to come up that you like, you'll pursue it, or

4) You want to write and not pursue other ideas


It's not the only motivation. It really will be better for YC to have someone running it who is actually interested in running an organization.

I have a whole bunch of ideas for essays I'd like to write, but I almost never pick a topic. The way I decide which one to write is that one starts to write itself in my head.


"The way I decide which one to write is that one starts to write itself in my head."

As someone who only comments in two places on the web (HN and at another place that I'd rather not mention) that is exactly how it works when I make comments.

You read something you react you write.

It's not an assignment. It's not a job. It's not required. You just do it because you are moved and/or inspired by something you read or observe.


Cool, I look forward to reading them!

Just a thought (I know you've got a huge "to-do list" in your head), I'd like to hear your opinions on effective altruism, and what you think the best ways to change the world are.


Do you think this will provide you with an opportunity to approach prospect and current yc startups in a less "adversarial" manner, for the lack of a better term?


Does that mean you will start working on Arc as well ?


"Now I'll be able to focus most of my attention on writing again."

Sounds to me as if you have bigger ambitions in that area than just writing essays.



hmm...

i predict you will surprise us all ;-)


Congratulations. Succession is hard. Books in the pipeline?


"Books in the pipeline?"

An opinion column in a well respected publication has the ability to wield more influence. Books are hit or miss and ephemeral.


I think there are some dead guys who would argue with that ephemerality point.


On Lisp and ANSI Common Lisp are still relevant in regard to their subject matter while the essays of Hackers and Painters can at times seem dated despite being more recent. That's not to say that Graham's essays haven't had more impact, it is possible they have.

But even the essays when presented in book form seem to hold a greater claim upon us than a dozen or so links in an email or blog post. Then again I don't deny my bookishness.


The focus on scaling YC in this post is interesting:

> Because YC needs to grow

> we'll have to grow proportionally bigger

I'm excited to see how this plays out!


This is absolutely fantastic news for YC, their startups and the community as a whole.

pg was a huge influence on me - I've read all of his essays, watched his talks and studied his comments on HN. I've learned so much about startups and making cool things from him and am now in SF hacking away at a startup solely thanks to the inspiration "How to Make Wealth" gave me.

sama, if you'll take a piece of advice from a lowly HN commenter, please be the same to the next generation of founder/hackers. Don't just be really good at accelerating startups. Teach, inspire, and care. You're inheriting a legacy, now build one of your own.

I've never met you in person but from what I've heard, you're just as capable of this as pg was in your own way. Godspeed.


On semi-unrelated note: Can YC-like incubators/accelerators ever become a public company? Lot of people I know would like to invest in startups but have no time, resources or experience to personally do due diligence. It would be great if public could buy shares of these accelerator companies. The amount from their IPOs can truely trigger exponential growth of startups.

Right now most incubators/accelerators are busy playing small investment/big exits model but there is huge untapped area where one need medium to large capital but can expect 2X-5X return with lower risks. I'm not sure if SEC has any rules against incubators/accelerators going public but for next exponential growth it seems essential.


I don't think there is a shortage of capital right now. I haven't heard of anyone with a really good idea being turned down recently because the VC firms were currently out of money.


It takes tremendous self-knowledge and insight to take a step like this. It's what makes Paul Graham, Paul Graham and it's incredibly inspiring.

Welcome to YC 2.0. Looking forward to following the original meta-startup under Sam's leadership.


I think it's a sign of how good this choice is that I can't think of any serious changes which it will bring immediately (other than maybe freeing up more of pg's time to write essays and do office hours); the long-term changes are all positive.


A smart, young, relatable person of the next generation to grow the company. Looking forward to seeing what Sam's got under his sleeves. Has Sam done anything in the entrepreneurial world after Loopt was acquired? Or has he just been an investor?


>So when Sam became available in 2012, I started trying to recruit him. It took me over a year, but eventually I succeeded.

All you had to do was ask for my help...

Jokes aside, congrats Sam!

PG: What's your next primary focus going to be?


I am really curious about YC corporate structure. Is it a partnership or LLC? Does PG still have "controlling vote block" in significant matters? Can I buy YC shares?


For your questions, it doesn't matter if it is a partnership, LLC or C-corp.

I don't know if PG has control.

You can't buy YC shares.


It's kind of sad to see pg stepping down, but I'm sure sama will do a great job. Should we expect any fundamental changes in the way things get done at YC?


Congratulations Sam! We only had an office hours or two during my YC batch but you instantly struck me as a remarkably bright and quick-witted mentor.


Weird - I saw this about a minute after reading the AI post - and I did for a second think that he was actually going to run as an Independent candidate for US Presidency.

The weird part of course was "oh on some kind of business / privacy reform ticket. Yeah that makes sense - he might be like a privacy Ralph Nader. "

I think either I live in a bubble or the world really is changing.


Always enjoy Sam's writing. Wondering how this will impact YC (how much of YC is PG's aura and how much is YC? We will find out).

Change is hard and exciting. If PG is monitoring these comments, my question is: "what was the hardest part about letting go?"


"Always enjoy Sam's writing"

I'm surprised that so many people are saying this, since I find his writing mediocre.


Congratulations Sam, and well-done Paul. I consider both of you to be mentors who have educated, inspired, and motivated me to push myself further than I ever thought possible. Paul, you'll continue your mission... it'll just be at a higher level. And Sam... I wish you the best of luck as you elevate Ycombinator to the next level and beyond with your drive, enthusiasm, and talent for spotting patterns, trends and opportunities as well as pain points worth addressing and problems worth solving. dh


Huge congrats Sam! I think this move makes a lot of sense for a lot of reasons. You've been cranking out some really great stuff lately. Best of luck to you and YC!


Congrats Sam! Thank you for the ridiculously good advice you give us and our fellow YC founders. The future is very bright for YC.


Altman's recent essays have used the same phrasing/style as Paul's.. hope Paul isn't handing that off too. =P


I hope this means PG will write more - PG's essays are why I got into startups (an increasingly common phenomenon), and while some of them are timeless, there are issues of the day that need constant tackling. Here's moar essays PG.


Congratulations to Sam. This was as interesting for the topics it didn't dive into as to the topic it did. I'm sure there'll be an outcry and wild conjecture requiring a longer post on the reasons for doing this.


My first reaction "Sam Altman for President? Is he running for POTUS office? wow! that would be awesome if a hacker would be the president". And then logic part of brain kicks in...


Wow, didn't see that coming. I hope the direction stays the same.


>I'm convinced there's a fundamental change happening in the way work gets done. It's becoming normal to start a startup.

I'm hoping this will be the topic of PG's next essay.


Congrats

>There will be a lot more startups in 10 years than there are now

Pity pg phrased this in such a fuzzy fashion. Does he mean more in the absolute sense or per 1000 people?


Came here thinking he was running for public office.


Congratulations Sam! Good luck with what is coming next in this adventure and I hope you will continue writing on your blog.


Huge congrats to Sam! Can't think of a more deserving person. Excited to see the transition and effect this has on YC.


Is this the first time pg has stepped down?


Congratulations Sam and PG, this is exciting news. Lots of <3 and support from the ZenPayroll team!


Am I the only one who thinks hn is fine on mobile? It's not perfect but the contents the same.


Sam is a very intelligent, likeable and knowledgeable guy. Best man for the job. Congrats!


Wow, congrats Sam. Seeing the title I thought it was a "Altman 2016" joke.


Congrats Sam! Exciting times for YC.


congrats Sam! Thanks for your help the last few months!


Congratulations Sam!


Exciting, congrats.


I am very excited!!


Congratulations!


daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaamn


excellent news.


One wonders what pg is going to be up to now.

Maybe lobste.rs?


definitely techendo.co he's always over there commenting on how great of a job we're doing.


What a horrible overreaction: http://www.techendo.co/posts/yc-is-dead


not this thread (congrats Sam!)




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