Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Paul Graham’s Y Combinator Start-Ups Strut Their Stuff and Investors Eat It Up

One way you can tell that Y Combinator’s Paul Graham is a big deal: The start-up founders he mentors refer to him by his initials. As in, “PG says we should…” And, “PG always….”

A more pertinent measure of Graham’s influence: His “Demo Day,” when his start-ups strut their stuff after three months of product-building, packs a roomful of Silicon Valley’s most connected investors and buyers. Firms I spotted in attendance yesterday include Google (GOOG), Intel (INTC), AOL (AOL), Accel, Benchmark, Spark and Bessemer.

And I wasn’t looking at name tags that closely. Because I spent most of my time watching the Y Combinator guys (and yes, there was nary a woman among the 26 start-ups) make their pitches, which were generally compelling. And at the very least, enthusiastic. One even included this promise: “This is literally the next Google.”

Gotta love that. I’ll tell you about some of them down the road.

But first, let’s talk to Graham himself about the state of the start-up world, the renewed interest in angel investing, and his definition of a successful start-up. Actually, I’ll spoil the last one for you: “The founders end up rich.”

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik