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The Launch Pad: Inside Y Combinator, Silicon Valley's Most Exclusive School for Startups

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  1,552 ratings  ·  125 reviews
Twice a year in the heart of Silicon Valley, a small investment firm called Y Combinator selects an elite group of young entrepreneurs from around the world for three months of intense work and instruction. Their brand-new two- or three-person start-ups are given a seemingly impossible challenge: to turn a raw idea into a viable business, fast.

Each YC session culminates
Audio, 304 pages
Published October 2nd 2012 by Random House Audio (first published September 27th 2012)
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Leo Polovets
Jan 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed the Launch Pad, which looks at a class of startups going through a famous startup incubator program. One thing that I liked was that the author wrote at length about many of the individual teams and made the startup class feel very human. The author also talked about the how the incubator works and the kind of feedback and advice it gives to its companies. As an aspiring entrepreneur, I found these bits of advice and insight to be very useful.
Dec 29, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Silicon Valley is in the grip of a mania where the desire to "change the world" with innovative software mingles closely with a hunger to hit a Instagrammatical jackpot. The best place to see this phenomenon is in an unassuming building in Mountain View, Calif., on a street called Pioneer Way. This is the headquarters of Y Combinator (the name, inspired by a mathematical function, was intended as a welcoming signal to math nerds). Led by a charismatic hacker champion named Paul Graham,
Natalie Feng Lin
Good introductory book to startups and founders. While most of the examples are specific to Y Combinator, there are many lessons and takeaways you can get about the startup environment. There is a decent amount of information on how to implement a strong accelerator program through proper vetting of candidates as well as how to prepare the participants for Demo Day. There is also a lot of advice in terms of startups for how to generate ideas, how to start one, and how to grow one, although it’s ...more
Apr 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
If you like reading about startups and technology, you'll enjoy this. It's well written and researched and nicely structured.

I'd not say I came away with it with deep and nuanced insights, but I wasn't necessarily looking for that. As a much deeper primer on YC's mentality and how they operate, it was definitely worth reading.

Plus, who doesn't like those stories of the early days of startups where a small and passionate team of committed founders are battling to succeed against overwhelming odds
Michael Huang
Nov 11, 2018 rated it liked it
This is a niche book. YCombinator is an elite startup launch pad — the funding partners even before angles. Their most famous alumni so far is Dropbox.
The author was embedded in the 2011 batch of YCombinator and documented what they went through. From the book you can glimpse the processes of forming a startup from the founders vantage as well as from that of investors.
Ikhsan Rahardian
Oct 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
Eloquently written. Provides an enjoyable plot (Who would have thought, a startup book can provide such storytelling?). Perfect for those looking for the real taste of startup journey and the inside story of YC (duh).

I was expecting a boring yet detailed writing, but rather I found gold.
Aug 08, 2017 rated it liked it
Well written, so could easily deserve 4 or 5 stars. But offers very little new to someone that has been involved with startups actively, read PG's essays, etc.
Waqas Abid
Sep 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A superb book thats really helped me understand the startup life and reality better.
Eric Meyers
I worked on this book a bit near the beginning--when we acquired it--but wasn't on the project when the final manuscript came in.
Dec 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: business
4.5 stars
Tathagat Varma
Mar 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A great book on what goes on inside Y Combinator told in such an engaging manner. I listened to the audible book which was even better!
Serge Boucher
Jul 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
In-depth look at the internal workings of the world's most prestigious accelerator. Definitely worth reading if you like that sort of thing.
Zeljko Svedic
May 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
While reading stories about the companies I was missing the ending: what happened to them?
Fortunately, I was able to able to compile a list about most of the companies from summer 2011 batch, find it here:

Partial list from:
Official list:
Ole Sandbu
Apr 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Although not written by a Y Combinator founder, this book provides a nice story about the YC experience.
May 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
VC Interview questions:
-Please tell us about a time you most successfully hacked some non-computer system to your advantage.
-Please tell us something about each founder that shows they are an animal.
-What are your future users hacking together now to fix the issue you’re addressing?
-Want to know revenue projections — know they won’t be right, want to see how you think. I.e.: show how you can get to a $B 5 years from now — very exciting to a VC
-If you seem fearsome like you are going to take over
Caleb Danjuma
Feb 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Steven Aitchison
As soon as I found out that there was a fly on the wall book written about Y Combinator Startup school, I had to buy it.

The book delves into the world of startups, angel funds, VC funding, and what it takes to make a success of a startup. I found it interesting that most of the founders were 'hackers', indeed on the application to get into YC one of the questions was to 'describe your most interesting hack.' It seemed Paul Graham favoured hackers for their enthusiasm, coding experience, and
Steven Aitchison
Apr 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
As soon as I found out that there was a fly on the wall book written about Y Combinator Startup school, I had to buy it.

The book delves into the world of startups, angel funds, VC funding, and what it takes to make a success of a startup. I found it interesting that most of the founders were 'hackers', indeed on the application to get into YC one of the questions was to 'describe your most interesting hack.' It seemed Paul Graham favoured hackers for their enthusiasm, coding experience, and
Rob Brock
Sep 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
I was absolutely enthralled by this account of the Summer 2011 batch of start ups funded by Y Combinator in Silicon Valley. The author had unprecedented access to the session, giving readers a glimpse behind the curtain of everything from the interview process to the launch of many of the companies.

It was fascinating to see the evolution of the companies as they refined their products, or in some cases abandoned products all together to start over. I was particularly inspired by one pair of
Johnny Leon
Mar 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A first-hand account from inside the world's premier startup incubator, The Launch Pad is a short but poignant look at Y-Combinator. The book follows the Winter 2011 batch of 63 potential startups (which includes future heavyweight companies like RapGenius and CodeAcademy) through their 3-month journey of going from an idea to a company that can compete in the tech space with notable alumni Dropbox, Twitch, & AirBnB. The book goes very in depth and details all of the conversations that take ...more
Bruce Harpham
Mar 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: business
Picked up this book to better understand the software industry and the art of startup investing. The drama of building a startup over the course of a 3 month period and pitching investors gave the book a great sense of drama. I also liked that Stross explored the question of why Y Combinator has funded very few female founders. For aspiring startup founders, the sections on preparing a 2 minute pitch about your company will be particularly helpful. The book was well narrated by René Ruiz.

Nov 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: technology
interesting book about a group of 63 entrepreneurs who attend boot camp for startups run by paul graham. each group gets to present its product to investors with guidance from a proven group of business creators. most are college students, some who don't even have solid ideas when they are admitted to the camp, and very few are women. it's interesting to read about foreigner's views of how great it is that americans have opportunities like this. one british attendee said he was considered a ...more
Marie Smith
Nov 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
After first reading an excerpt from this book in a magazine, I had to read this book, which provides insight into the world of startups. This book covers the setup for the Y Combinator program (application process, development period, interaction with other teams, funding procurement, sendoff back to the world, and followup months later). For each phase, the author describes the specifics of a few teams, sometimes returning to teams that have been previously described for an earlier phase, so ...more
Steve Bennett
It's hard to read this book and not let your opinion on it be tainted by your thoughts on Silicon Valley, and the start-up and tech cultures. I think that those who are living in these cultures, or on the fringes will find it enjoyable, however living in the UK, the story doesn't resonate in the same way.

From what I can tell (from media), the story told is pretty accurate. Focussing on teams as they progress through the incubator is a good way of hitting all the main points. The book also covers
Nicholas Moryl
May 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
An insightful look into how YC operated circa 2011. Undoubtedly things have changed since then but the general precepts are there.

The book follows a handful of companies as they go through YC. It's interesting reading this with hindsight, knowing which companies did well and which ones struggled. It's a good reminder that ideas that seem minor at the seed stage may be interesting longer-term, while ones that were obviously interesting actually had major pitfalls. (And some teams that barely had
Sep 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am a big fan of PG and Altman. I've attended many of their events and demo day. If you are looking to do startup sometimes then this book is a must-read. YC is the mecca of startup words and was started by PG after he sold his first company to Yahoo. After selling his company, he didn't do another startup since he mentioned that he became work free and the zeal for a startup wouldn't be possible for him at that stage. On top of that, he had so many ideas and it wouldn't be possible to work on ...more
Dec 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: business, audiobook
Well written and very interesting for the behind the scenes view of Y Combinator as well as a number of startups going through their program. I found the specifics of how the variety of companies profiled came up with their ideas and moved them forward to be interesting. I also learned from the description of the pitch presentations, which are just like very short and highly important sales presentations. I found that a lot of what I do in my work, technical sales, is very similar to what the ...more
Akmal Anuar Batcha
Jul 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
(Audiobook format from Audible)

This book really appealed to me because the author presented the real-life lessons from the startup world in a story-like manner with its own characters and plot.

It got me googling up Paul Graham, Kulveer Taggar, Drew Houston etc. Codecademy's was the most inspirational story to me!

This is a definite must-have for business/startup enthusiasts, but anyone can probably benefit from it because it feels like you're following a story and the reader won't be overwhelmed
Jul 29, 2013 rated it liked it
Randall Stross has written some great books about the tech industry, so it makes sense that he take on the accelerators that have been such an important part of Silicon Valley in the last decade. However, while it's a find book, it doesn't provide sufficient insight beyond what most people in the valley already know. I was hoping to get unique perspectives on something that I already had a good sense of. Essentially, if you are a novice to this area and the Y Combinator legend, read the book. ...more
Oct 30, 2016 rated it liked it
This was a pretty good look at the Y Combinator program, with nice small profiles of various companies. I was a bit disappointed that there was no "where are they now" of all the companies profiled, but I assume that's because the book was published shortly after the program finished its course, even though I'm listening to it 5 years later, so that's hardly a fair criticism.

A minor point is that Stross mentions in very general terms why it is called Y Combinator, but does not in the least
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“advice: “In general, don’t hide your disasters. We’re not going to take the money back.” He says this lightly, as if delivering a joke, but it is reassuring for the founders to hear. They laugh, perhaps with a touch of relief.” 0 likes
“As the other startups do at the end of their presentations, Shen offers to the batch the expertise of his team's members: "Kalvin and Randy are developers," he says, and as for himself, he knows how to stay motivated in the face of rejection. "I've gotten rejected thirty days in a row," he says, a reference to his putting himself through "Rejection Therapy," in which one must make unreasonable requests so that one is rejected by a different person, at least once, every single day- inuring one to the pain of rejection. (One example of Shen's first bid to be rejected: he asked a flight attendant if he could move up to first class for free. In another case, he saw an attractive woman on the train and decided he would ask her for her phone number, and when she would turn him down, he would have fulfilled the day's required quota of rejection. He sat near her, fell into a conversation, and when they got off the train and he asked for her number, she said, "Sure." He categorized this as "Failed Rejection.") "So if you need to get pumped up for your sales calls, talk to me. p121” 0 likes
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