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Sunday, December 02, 2012


The Launch Pad by Randall Stross - Book review

The Launch Pad

Inside Y Combinator, Silicon Valley's Most Exclusive School for Startups

By: Randall Stross

Published: September 27, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 288 pages
ISBN-10: 1591845297
ISBN-13: 978-1591845294
Publisher: Portfolio/Penguin

"Individual angel investors have long made seed investments in software startups. But YC pioneered its own twist: mass-producing startups by investing not one at a time but in semiannual batches", writes New York Times Digital Domain columnist Randall Stross, in his eye opening and fascinating book The Launch Pad: Inside Y Combinator, Silicon Valley's Most Exclusive School for Startups. The author describes how one batch of sixty companies went through the process of seeking funding through the exclusive Silicon Valley school for startup businesses known as Y Combinator.

Randall Stross takes the reader on an groundbreaking tour of the entire journey for five dozen hopeful software startup companies in the summer of 2011. The author was granted unprecedented access to Y Combinator (YC) entrepreneur and investor Paul Graham, and uncovered the thinking and vision behind this unique school for potential Silicon Valley ventures. Randall Stross follows the would be Google and Twitter type companies, as they vie for cherished and fiercely sought after spots in the school, the preparation of their products and plans of the funding hopefuls over the summer months, and the final revelation of the products for potential funding on the final Demo Day.

Randall Stross (photo left) Randall places a very human face on the struggles, successes and failures of these would be software businesses of the future. The author provides what amounts to a guided tour of the activities, philosophy, and outcomes of the Y Combinator experience. Not every company that enters the YC program succeeds. On the other hand, the startups are pushed very hard, by YC founder and self proclaimed hacker Paul Graham, to achieve greatness. The emphasis on taking large numbers of potential startups through the intensive engagement is part of the secret of the organization's success.

Producing such high profile success stories as Dropbox, Airbnb, and Heroku has developed and enhanced the school\s reputation and verified its methodology as effective and instrumental in achieving positive outcomes. Randall Stoss tkes the reader behind the scenes as well. The author presents the insider stories of meetings not open to the public, long hours of fatiguing work, and the personal experiences of those potential entrepreneurs who accepted the Y Combinator challenge.

For me, the power of the book is how Randall Stross combines the human element of the would be software entrepreneurs in search of funding, with the overall story and process of the inner workings of Y Combinator. The author provides insights into how the future of technology, and of how people live and work, is being created in this Silicon Valley startup school, and through the investments of venture capitalists and angel investors. Randall Stross presents the Y Combinator founder as both visionary and hacker, as well as a bottom line oriented business leader seeking investment opportunities that will yield enormous profits. The YC story is one where the romanticism of hacking and disruptive technology meets the harsh realities of business plans and return on investment. The book is an object lesson in the process of Silicon Valley style funding, and the creation of the future today.

I highly recommend the landmark and revealing book The Launch Pad: Inside Y Combinator, Silicon Valley's Most Exclusive School for Startups by Randall Stross, to any would be entrepreneurs, seekers of venture capital, providers of venture capital funds, and anyone interested in how the real world of startup schools works in Silicon Valley. This book will both entertain and inform you, as you follow the trials and triumphs of tomorrow's business success stories.


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