Sunday, September 2, 2007

Go West, Young Start-Up

I can't explain why this speech from Y Combinator founder Paul Graham aggravates me.

Graham writes:

    There is now a whole neighborhood of [Y Combinator funded start-ups] in San Franscisco. If you move there, the peer pressure that made you work harder all summer will continue to operate.

Wait, I know why it aggravates me. There are three reasons.

Graham's company, the pioneering online shopping start-up Viaweb, was based in Cambridge until it was sold to Yahoo for $49 million. It had just 21 employees.

Second reason is that Y Combinator holds a summer camp for start-ups it funds in Cambridge, and a winter university for them in Silicon Valley.

What's the difference between a summer camp and a university? Almost no one sticks around in the place where their summer camp is located after camp is over...but lots of people stick around after they've graduated from college.

Reason #3: while I wish that Graham and Y Combinator would be more encouraging about planting a start-up in the Boston area, most of their companies could be described as Web 2.0 apps, destined to be acquired by someone else. (Google, Yahoo, eBay, etc.) And I must acknowledge that it can be easier to get the attention of the relevant acquirers if you're in the Valley.

Your thoughts?

Labels: , , ,


Anonymous Dharmesh Shah said...

Reason #4: Though slightly more dispersed than being in a single apartment complex (as the YC folks in SF have), we do have a growing number of startups in Central Square and Davis Square now.

One other downside to going west:

If you're actually from the Boston/Cambridge area (you grew up here, went to college here, etc.), chances are, this is where your network is.

I think entrepreneurs often underestimate the value of knowing a bunch of people in the area. Though an affiliation with a group like YC helps a lot, it still takes some rebuilding effort to start knowing people again.

September 2, 2007 11:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Reason #5 - the VCs are better out West then in Boston if you want to do something in the Web 2.0 or consumer Internet space. Stop trying to fight that truism and focus on other sectors.

September 2, 2007 7:30 PM  
Anonymous REM said...

My thoughts are: he is agreeing with the article you wrote not too long ago about Boston catching up and so now you want to disagree to get a dialog going with the most active participant for Boston in Web 2.0. It is an interesting choice of terms for the two sessions. Seems not much is done to try to keep the newbies here, though why fight the fact that most activity is on the West Coast for YC companies. At least the Boston VC's can have a look at them and maybe stem the tide if they choose.

September 3, 2007 9:25 PM  
Blogger Scott Kirsner said...


Just to clear things up... I'm not disagreeing just to get a dialog going.

In my article a few weeks ago, I think I was stating some facts about the conditions in Boston that can make it unfriendly for Web 2.0 and other consumer-oriented companies.

But I do think there are some things that techies, VCs, universities, and others in the "innovation sphere" here in Boston can consider doing to change the current state.


September 4, 2007 9:34 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home