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Talking with Y Combinator founder Paul Graham [Audio]

Posted by Scott Kirsner  October 26, 2012 03:31 PM

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While in the Bay Area earlier this month, I had a chance to sit down with Y Combinator founder Paul Graham.

Founded in Cambridge in 2005, Y Combinator created a new model for investing in "classes" of promising startups, and offering guidance and mentorship to help increase their chances of success. The program now operates out of Mountain View, and included 84 startups in its most recent cohort. Y Combinator's alumni include Airbnb, Reddit, Omgpop, Disqus, WePay, Hipmunk, and Dropbox. (Those last three were founded by entrepreneurs who went to school in the Boston area.) Graham is also the author of a thoughtful series of essays on entrepreneurship.

We chatted for about a half hour on the outdoor patio at Coupa Cafe in Palo Alto; that explains the background noise. Among the topics we covered:

- What role Graham sees himself, and Y Combinator, playing in the Valley
- Whether there is a limit to how big Y Combinator can get - The profusion of other accelerator programs for startups
- Which Y Combinator alumni haven't gotten the attention they deserve, in Graham's view
- Kickstarter as a fundraising mechanism for startups
- His experiment with letting entrepreneurs into Y Combinator, even if they didn't yet have an idea for a startup
- The relative health of the startup ecosystem in New York and Boston
- The "demo day" at which Dropbox presented
- His decision to stop holding the Y Combinator summer program in Cambridge, and operate in Mountain View year-round

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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