Y Combinator is a seed capital firm based in Mountain View, California. It was founded in 2005 by Paul Graham, Trevor Blackwell, Jessica Livingston and Robert Tappan Morris and has funded more than 550 startups, including Reddit, Dropbox, Rap Genius and Codecademy. Twice a year, Y Combinator invests relatively small amounts of money in a large number of startups for a small percentage of equity in the companies (on average about 6%). Startups that make the cut move to the Bay Area for three months. During that time, they work intensively with the Y Combinator team to develop and shape their companies, collaborate with other startup founders, meet industry leaders and refine their pitch to investors.
A year and a half ago, in March of 2012, Paul Graham wrote an essay titled “Frighteningly Ambitious Startup Ideas.” In it, he addressed the most potentially impactful and frightening startup ideas Y Combinator had encountered in the past seven years. Each of the seven ideas, if carried out successfully, would change the world as we currently know it, but are such enormous and intimidating undertakings that it seems nearly impossible to take any of them on and succeed. “The biggest ideas seem to threaten your identity: you wonder if you’d have enough ambition to carry them through,” Graham wrote.
The seven ideas are:
(1) A new search engine (replace Google)
(2) Replace email
(3) Replace universities
(4) Internet drama (replace cable)
(5) The next Steve Jobs (create a hardware company to compete with Apple)
(6) Bring back Moore’s Law (create the mythical sufficiently smart compiler)
(7) Ongoing diagnosis
In the coming weeks, I’ll be researching what progress has been made in the past year and a half and what companies are leading the various charges. I’ll then present individual progress reports for some (maybe all) of the seven ideas. Before beginning my research, and based solely on observation, I hypothesize that the three areas where we’ve seen the most progress made are replacing universities, replacing cable and ongoing diagnosis.
Because this is such a large project and will require extensive research, I’d appreciate any tips about companies to consider. I’m also open to collaborating with anyone who is interested and feels they can add value.
Stay tuned for the results!