An inside look at a Silicon Valley training program for nascent online companies.
In 2011, New York Times columnist Stross (Business/San Jose State Univ.; Planet Google, 2008, etc.) was granted round-the-clock access to a small but prominent venture capital firm called Y Combinator. Sometimes called a “seed accelerator,” Y Combinator offers seed money to a very select group of startup companies (in exchange for equity in the company), combined with an intensive three-month program of instruction and critique. It culminates in a presentation to a group of outside investors who will hopefully invest in these new companies. Graduates include file-sharing site Dropbox and the online commenting service Disqus, used by many major publications. With so much at stake, this book should be thrumming with dramatic tension: Who will fail or succeed? Unfortunately, instead of highlighting a few budding CEOs, Stross tries to cover far too many, leaving readers with little insight into the struggles these (often quite young) entrepreneurs must be experiencing. The book also suffers from a lack of insight into key issues. For example, a chapter ostensibly meant to look at “the dispiriting lack of women founders in tech” begins by pointing out that “[i]n the six-year history of YC...there had been only one instance in which there had been an all-female team.” But instead of seriously examining the question of why the YC applicant pool is largely, in the words of YC founder Paul Graham, “a bunch of white and Asian dudes,” Stross introduces the male YC teams who happen to have wives and young children, before concluding the chapter with only vague theories behind the lack of women in tech.
A superficial examination of the tech elite.