Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Xconomy Q&A with Y Combinator Founder Paul Graham

This e-mail Q&A with Y Combinator founder Paul Graham, conducted by Xconomy founder Bob Buderi, is worth a read.

I found it aggravating in lots of ways, but am trying to consider if there are some useful criticisms in there.

Graham repeatedly characterizes Boston as a city of ideas, which makes it sound like the only thing here is academia and research. (Don't we occasionally turn those ideas into companies, whether Akamai or Genzyme or A123 Systems or Boston Scientific?) He makes this assertion, without backing it up with any kind of data: "Stanford students are all thinking about startups. MIT students mostly think of getting jobs at Microsoft or Google." Investors here are not more prudent, he also opines, but rather "less confident" than investors in Silicon Valley.

Interesting that Graham's biggest entrepreneurial success, Viaweb, was founded in Cambridge. (Many of the Viaweb founders now work with Graham on Y Combinator.) Maybe all the reasons Boston is a bad place for start-ups were not true in the 1990s, when that company was hatched?

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Blogger jharthorne said...

I guess Paul hasn't seen the Kauffman report estimating the size of the MIT economy at $2 trillion. So, if the companies founded by MIT graduates and professors were incorporated as an independent nation, they would represent the 11th largest global economy, ahead of Mexico, Spain and Canada.

MIT Economy

Massachusetts contains the highest concentration of these firms, and they contribute over $160B in annual sales (26% of state revenue). If we are in fact a city/state full of ideas and not businesses, I guess that is more a commentary on how truly prolific our ideas really are.

Also, as a father I think Paul is mistaken to believe that California is a better place to raise his child. Massachusetts has the best public and private schools in the country, from pre-school through post-doc. Consistently. Frankly, there's a big gap between #1 and #2 in THAT category ... and California isn't #2.

Probably, Paul just can't handle the snow or the driving. His loss.

March 13, 2009 11:09 AM  
Anonymous Apolinaras "Apollo" Sinkevicius said...

This thought might not be original, since good number of my entrepreneur friends are of the same opinion. But Paul may have an ego we have all fed a bit too much, Boston's VCs and angels got tired of that ego, told him to scram, and now he wants a pi$$ing match with Boston.
I think we need to stop giving him attention. He can stay in his CA all he wants. There are plenty of good enterprises, great talent, and great investors here in MA.

March 14, 2009 1:48 PM  
Anonymous Jim Gregoire said...

Certainly agree its aggravating but think we just have to let it go and look ahead.

March 17, 2009 2:32 PM  

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