Thursday, August 9, 2007

Demo Day at Y Combinator

I'd heard lots of great things about Y Combinator, a seed funding firm that operates a kind of summer camp for start-ups. And their Cambridge office is right down the street from me, near Huron Village. (Here's a Newsweek story and a USA Today piece about them.)

Today was their "demo day," when the start-ups they help cultivate show off what they've built. Y Combinator partner Jessica Livingston was kind enough to extend an invitation, though some of the event was off-the-record. (Jessica is the author of 'Founders at Work,' a really wonderful collection of entrepreneur interviews.)

So this was my first chance to see what Y Combinator actually does.

The good news first.

The audience was amazing: VCs from Matrix, General Catalyst, Atlas Venture, North Bridge, Fidelity Ventures, and Venrock. VC bloggers Fred Wilson and David Hornik. Execs from Microsoft and Google. Avid Technology founder Bill Warner was in the front row.

The start-ups were equally amazing: nineteen of them, all with working demos, all with really great presentation skills. Many of the demos were funny; Fauxto's demo involved turning Steve Ballmer's eyes green, and superimposing the Google logo on his forehead. Dropbox, which hasn't yet launched, made subtle and snarky references to dot-com flame-outs from the late 1990s (like GovWorks,, and Kozmo) during its demo of an online storage service.

Now the bad news... several of the enterpreneurs I talked to who have connections to the Boston area are planning to move their companies out west. The Y Combinator network is perceived to be stronger out in the Valley (the firm does a winter program in Mountain View). The VCs more adventurous. The partnership opportunities more plentiful. The potential for generating buzz better.

Is it hopeless to think about trying to change some of these dynamics?

(Here's Don Dodge's post about the event.)

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