Charles Vest, 72, former MIT President

"The Launch Pad: Inside Y Combinator"

YCombinatorIf you care about startups, entrepreneurship and innovation, you have to read "The Launch Pad: Inside the Y Combinator" by Randall Stross. The book follows (some of) the startups selected in the Summer 2011 batch of Y Combinator, Paul Graham's Silicon-Valley-based startup accelerator. (And if you care about startups, entrepreneurship and innovation, you don't need me to tell you who Paul Graham is. But if you have arrived at this page because of some other post I wrote, say in healthcare, you might want to know that Graham is an English computer programmer and venture capitalist who co-founded Viaweb, later sold to Yahoo! Y Combinator is said to be the best, or the second best if you ask its main competitor TechStars, startup accelerator in the country. Graham is also an essayist, majored in philosophy at Cornell, studied painting after college and got a doctorate in applied sciences from Harvard, concentrating in computer science.)

What I loved about the book is that it is strongly story-driven with compelling characters - Stross explains well what the various startups are about, but he doesn't get bogged down in technical details (although he could have, given the strong focus of Y Combinator on "hackers"). Instead, he is more interested in showing the dynamics between teams or with Y Combinator's partners, and the reader gets as close as a book can bring to experiencing the summer leading to Demo Day, and to benefitting from Graham's insights. In particular, I felt the book would be particularly relevant to would-be entrepreneurs who not only want a taste of what to expect in startup accelerators, which have been sprouting all over the nation, but also are curious about Graham's thought process, because in that business what matters most for the mentors is to be asking the right questions.

Great read, highly recommended.


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