Lucky coffee, unicorn stumbles and Sam Altman’s YC wager


This post is curated by Keith Teare. It was written by Alex Wilhelm. The original is [linked here]

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

This week we had TechCrunch’s Alex Wilhelm and Danny Crichton on hand to dig into the news, with Chris Gates on the dials and more news than we could possibly cram into 30 minutes. So we went a bit over; sorry about that.

We kicked off by running through a few short-forms to get things going, including:

  • Alex wanted to talk about his recent story on Lily AI’s $12.5 million Series A. Canaan led the round into the e-commerce-focused recommendation engine that has a cool take on what people care about.
  • Danny talked about the acquisition of Armis Security by Insight for $1.1 billion, the VC round for self-driving forklift startup Vecna and an outside-the-Valley round for Houston-based HighRadius.

Turning to longer cuts, the team dug into the latest

Continue reading “Lucky coffee, unicorn stumbles and Sam Altman’s YC wager”

Lucky coffee, unicorn stumbles, and Sam Altman’s YC wager

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

This week we had TechCrunch’s Alex Wilhelm and Danny Crichton on hand to dig into the news, with Chris Gates on the dials and more news than we could possibly cram into 30 minutes. So we went a bit over; sorry about that.

We kicked off by running through a few short-forms to get things going, including:

  • Alex wanted to talk about his recent story on Lily AI’s $12.5 million Series A. Canaan led the round into the ecommerce-focused recommendation engine that has a cool take on what people care about.
  • Danny talked about the acquisition of Armis Security to Insight for $1.1 billion, the VC round for self-driving forklift startup Vecna, and an outside-the-Valley round for Houston-based HighRadius.

Turning to longer cuts, the team dug into the latest

Continue reading “Lucky coffee, unicorn stumbles, and Sam Altman’s YC wager”

A Clarification

I made a point in this post inelegantly in a way that was
easy to misunderstand, so I’d like to clarify it.

I didn’t mean that we need to tolerate brilliant homophobic
jerks in the lab so that we can have scientific progress. 
Although there are famous counterexamples, most of the best scientists
I’ve met are unusually nice, open-minded people.  Generally I expect that labs that don’t
tolerate jerks will produce more impressive results than the ones that do, and choosing not to employ jerks is a good idea—jerks usually
reduce the net output of organizations.

What I meant is simply that we need, as a society, to
tolerate controversial ideas.  The
biggest new scientific ideas, and the most important changes to society, both start
as extremely unpopular ideas.

It was literally heretical, not so long ago, to say that it
was ok to be gay—the Bible Continue reading “A Clarification”

E Pur Si Muove

Earlier
this year, I noticed something in China that really surprised me.  I
realized I felt more comfortable discussing controversial ideas in Beijing than
in San Francisco.  I didn’t feel completely comfortable—this was China,
after all—just more comfortable than at home.

That showed me just how bad things have become, and how much things
have changed since I first got started here in 2005.

It
seems easier to accidentally speak heresies in San Francisco every year.  Debating a controversial idea, even if you
95% agree with the consensus side, seems ill-advised.

This will be very bad for startups in the Bay Area.

Restricting
speech leads to restricting ideas and therefore restricted innovation—the most
successful societies have generally been the most open ones.  Usually mainstream ideas are right and
heterodox ideas are wrong, but the true and unpopular ideas are what drive the
world forward.  Also, smart people Continue reading “E Pur Si Muove”

The Merge

A popular topic in Silicon Valley is talking about what year humans and machines will merge (or, if not, what year humans will get surpassed by rapidly improving AI or a genetically enhanced species). Most guesses seem to be between 2025 and 2075.

People used to call this the singularity; now it feels uncomfortable and real enough that many seem to avoid naming it at all.

Perhaps another reason people stopped using the word “singularity” is that it implies a single moment in time, and it now looks like the merge is going to be a gradual process. And gradual processes are hard to notice.

I believe the merge has already started, and we are a few years in. Our phones control us and tell us what to do when; social media feeds determine how we feel; search engines decide what we think.

The algorithms that make all this happen Continue reading “The Merge”

American Equity

I’d like feedback on the following idea.

I think that every adult US citizen should get an annual share of the US GDP.

I believe that owning something like a share in America would align all of us in making the country as successful as possible—the better the country does, the better everyone does—and give more people a fair shot at achieving the life they want.  And we all work together to create the system that generates so much prosperity.

I believe that a new social contract like what I’m suggesting here—where we agree to a floor and no ceiling—would lead to a huge increase in US prosperity and keep us in the global lead.  Countries that concentrate wealth in a small number of families do worse over the long term—if we don’t take a radical step toward a fair, inclusive system, we will not be the leading country in Continue reading “American Equity”

Reid Hoffman, Bill Gates, Sam Altman invest $30 million in Change.org

 LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman announced today that he’s making a big bet on Change.org, the site for social justice petitions. Hoffman is leading a $30 million round, with other investors including big names like Bill Gates and Y Combinator president Sam Altman.
“Change.org, the global hub for collective action, is a crucial democratizing force in this era of growing civic… Read More

Join the YC Software Team

If you want to get funded by YC as a founder in the future, but you don’t have a startup that’s ready for that yet, joining the YC software team is a great hack to get there.

The YC software team is a small group of hackers in SF that write the software that makes all the parts of YC work.

As a member of the software team, you’ll get full access to the YC program, just like founders do.  You’ll learn the ins and outs of how YC works, and you’ll get to follow and learn from hundreds of companies.  You’ll meet the best people in the startup world and get exposed to the best startup ideas.
Software is how we can scale YC, and the limits of that are probably further out than most people think.

You can apply here: http://bit.ly/1Od0T2l.

Tech Workers’ Values

For good and bad, technology has become a central force in all
our lives.

As members of the community, we’re interested in ways in which
tech companies can use their collective power to protect privacy, rule of law,
freedom of expression, and other fundamental American rights.  

We’d also like to discuss how tech companies can heal the divide
in our country. We believe that tech companies can create a better economic
future for all Americans by spreading high-paying technology jobs around the
country and other measures. We also
believe tech companies have an opportunity and an obligation to reduce the
polarization we’ve helped create.

Tech companies are very receptive to their employees’
influence. We believe that employees should come together and clearly
define the values and policies they’d like to see their companies uphold. A tech union isn’t the
perfect metaphor for this, but it’s not far off.

We Continue reading “Tech Workers’ Values”

Keep the Internet Open

The FCC has announced plans to roll back policies on net neutrality, and its new head has indicated he has no plan to stop soon.

The internet is a public good, and I believe access should be a basic right.  We’ve seen such great innovation in software because the internet has been a level playing field.  People have been able to succeed by merit, not the regulatory weight of incumbency. 
It seems best to keep it regulated like a common carrier. [1] Doing this allows the government to ensure a level playing field, impose privacy regulations, and subsidize access for people who can’t afford it.
But this idea is under attack, and I’m surprised the tech community isn’t speaking out more forcefully.  Although many leading tech companies are now the incumbents, I hope we’ll all remember that openness helped them achieve their great success.  It could be disastrous for future Continue reading “Keep the Internet Open”

Greg

A lot of people ask me what the ideal cofounder looks
like.  I now have an answer: Greg Brockman.

Every successful startup I know has at least one person who
provides the force of will to make the startup happen.  I’d thought a lot
about this in the abstract while advising YC startups, but until OpenAI I
hadn’t observed up close someone else drive the formation of a startup.

OpenAI wouldn’t have happened without Greg.  He commits
quickly and fully to things.  I organized a group dinner early on to talk about
what such an organization might look like, and drove him home afterwards. 
Greg asked me questions for the first half of the drive back to San Francisco,
then declared he was in, and started planning logistics for the rest of the
drive.

From then on he was fully in, with an average email response
time of about Continue reading “Greg”

Startup School will soon be in session at Y Combinator

screen-shot-2017-03-06-at-12-16-54-am Y Combinator is Improving upon its Fall 2014 Stanford course, How to Start a Startup, with a larger scale online course called Startup School. Whether you swear by startup bibles like Both Sides of the Table or Zero to One, there’s no denying that Y Combinator, now having backed over 900 startups, has a tip or two to share about starting companies. The ten week class is a… Read More

2017 YC Annual Letter

Dear YC Community:

In response to a comment on Hacker News, I’m going to try writing an annual letter to the YC community with an update on our progress.

Our mission is to enable the most innovation of any company in the world in order to make the future great for everyone.  We believe new technology, economic growth, and new ideas about how our society might function are more important than ever before.

As of January 1, 2017, YC has funded over 3,200 founders and 1,470 companies.  This year, assuming there is not a macroeconomic meltdown, we expect the total valuation of companies that have gone through our program to surpass $100 billion.  We have also funded more than 30 non-profits.

As always, most of the credit goes to our founders—they, and the astonishingly strong and helpful community they create, are what make YC special.  The second-most Continue reading “2017 YC Annual Letter”

Time to Take a Stand

It is time for tech companies to start speaking up about
some of the actions taken by President Trump’s administration.

There are many actions from his first week that are
objectionable.  In repeatedly
invoking unsubstantiated conspiracy theories (like the 3 million illegal
votes), he’s delegitimizing his opponents and continuing to damage our
society.  So much objectionable
action makes it hard to know where and when to focus, and outrage fatigue is an
effective strategy.

But the executive order from yesterday titled “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry
Into the United States” is tantamount to a Muslim ban and requires objection.  I am obviously in favor of safety and rules, but
broad-strokes actions targeted at a specific religious group is the wrong solution,
and a first step toward a further reduction in rights.

In addition, the precedent of invalidating already-issued visas
and green cards should be extremely troubling for Continue reading “Time to Take a Stand”

Affordable Care

The Affordable Care Act is far from perfect–for one thing, I think health insurance should be entirely separate from employment–but I hate the thought of losing it without a replacement for people who will lose insurance. If Congress ends up repealing it, I hope they earnestly try to preserve the best parts, and put in place something better.

One thing the ACA definitely did was help a lot of founders start their companies–without it, being a founder would make sense for less people. The Department of Health and Human Services released a lot of new data yesterday showing how the ACA helped support entrepreneurs, and in light of that, I thought it would be good to collect and share stories of how the ACA helped some Y Combinator founders get started.

Here they are in the founders’ own words:

Dan Carroll, Clever, S12

March 3, 2012: I’m Continue reading “Affordable Care”

Affordable Care

The Affordable Care Act is far from perfect–for one thing, I think health insurance should be entirely separate from employment–but I hate the thought of losing it without a replacement for people who will lose insurance. If Congress ends up repealing it, I hope they earnestly try to preserve the best parts, and put in place something better.

One thing the ACA definitely did was help a lot of founders start their companies–without it, being a founder would make sense for less people. The Department of Health and Human Services released a lot of new data yesterday showing how the ACA helped support entrepreneurs, and in light of that, I thought it would be good to collect and share stories of how the ACA helped some Y Combinator founders get started.

Here they are in the founders’ own words:

Dan Carroll, Clever, S12

March 3, 2012: I’m Continue reading “Affordable Care”

Hacker News calls for “political detox,” critics cry censorship

censorship Can social media even exist without political debate? What about trolls? Hacker News, the social news site run by Y Combinator, is trying to find out.
The head of the Hacker News community since 2014, Daniel Gackle (whose HN handle is “dang”) on Monday initiated a site-wide “Political Detox Week.”
To introduce the temporary ban on political content, Gackle… Read More

$1 Million VotePlz Sweepstakes

The 2016 US Presidential election feels like the most important one so far in my lifetime.  No one able to vote in the US should be sitting this one out—we have a major choice to make.

With some friends, I helped start VotePlz to make it easier for young people to participate—technology has moved forward but registration has not (for example, young people generally don’t have printers or stamps, and many states still don’t have online registration).
A lot of people are working hard to get their friends registered to vote, and we wanted to do something for them. 
So today, we’re announcing a VotePlz sweepstakes with a million dollars in prizes.
Some of the prizes are $50,000 in student loan payoffs or scholarship.
After you check your registration, you get a referral link. For each person you get to check their registration, you’ll get one entry into the Continue reading “$1 Million VotePlz Sweepstakes”

With a new CEO, Y Combinator will wind down fellowships and start a MOOC

YC Group President Sam Altman Y Combinator, which has been expanding rapidly in recent years, is making broad, organizational changes– for the second time this year.
Most dramatically, Y Combinator will be winding down its YC Fellowships and launching a MOOC, or massively online open course, in 2017.
Additionally, the venture fund that started as an accelerator in 2005, has appointed Michael Seibel as CEO of its Y… Read More

YCombinator makes every SimCity player’s dream reality with new research initiative

alternative energy solar cell for the city Ever wanted to design a city from scratch? All those years tinkering with SimCity and Legos are going to finally start paying dividends for a lucky few. YCombinator is looking for urban mavericks to address everything from the creation of affordable housing to the design of public spaces in its new research undertaking. The buzz-word smart-city is rapidly becoming platitudinous but YC will… Read More