At Y Combinator's Startup School, it's not all tech cheerleading

CNET | 10/18/2019 | Staff
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On a cloudy Wednesday morning in August, dozens of startup founders stream into Y Combinator's industrial-chic office in San Francisco's SoMa neighborhood. The mostly young hopefuls are attending a lecture at Startup School, the prestigious tech incubator's free online program for people starting tech companies. The 10-week curriculum is intended to be streamed online, but company founders can also attend recordings, where they can meet other participants in person.

The startup scene so often gets skewered for being tone-deaf or self-important, but the lecture taking place is surprisingly sober. Tim Brady, a YC partner, discusses the importance of instilling a healthy company culture early on. One of his what-not-to-do examples is a familiar tech-land whipping boy, though a less-expected target in the womblike venture capitalist confines of YC: Facebook.

Brady - Aim - Network - Mantra - Move

Brady takes aim at the social network's now-notorious former mantra, "Move fast and break things," and the long-term damage that mentality has wrought on the company. "It shouldn't be a surprise, when you look at this, at some of the privacy violations they've been charged with," Brady tells the group. "I don't think for a second anyone at Facebook set out to violate anyone's privacy. But the culture certainly didn't help them."

As he's talking, a siren screeches outside as an ambulance whizzes by, almost drowning out Brady's voice. It's a common occurrence in this part of SoMa, one of San Francisco's grittier areas. But it's on-the-nose symbolism as Brady sounds the alarm on Facebook's cultural problems. The social networking giant declined to comment.

Rumination - Facebook - Tone - Y - Combinator

The rumination on Facebook suggests a more measured, introspective tone for Y Combinator, one of Silicon Valley's most important and storied institutions. Started in 2005 by the investor Paul Graham, the accelerator nurtures early stage startups with funding and mentorship in exchange for equity. The company took its...
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