Highlights from Startup School NYC 2014

I recently attended Y Combinator’s first Startup School in New York City. It was held at the Best Buy Theater near Times Square and was MC’ed by Alexis Ohanian (who told us there were in fact 28 YC co’s in NYC now!), featured talks by great founders and investors, live office hours with Sam Altman and Garry Tan, and a good turn out of several hundred tech-oriented people.

I remember sneaking into my first Startup School at Berkeley way back in 2009.

My friend (and later roommate-turned-cofounder) Kalvin couldn’t make it and I tried to claim I was him. I’m not sure the person at the door fully bought it, but she let me in anyway. It was an eye opening experience as I had just started working at my first startup gig at isocket. I don’t remember anything about the talks but I do remember feeling a general sense of inspiration and excitement about doing a startup.

Of course, I went on to do a Y Combinator startup and learned many of the lessons those founders shared first-hand. But I think if I was a newbie all over again, Startup School NYC would have delivered that same feeling.

I wrote about the most memorable parts of Startup School 2012 at Stanford and thought I’d again try to share the experience of this event.

I did a lot of live-tweeting so I’m going to try embedding them in the blog post. Let me know what y’all think.

Shana Fisher – High Line Venture Partners

Shana_Fisher_webShana runs her own venture fund, High Line Venture Partners, where she’s invested in MakerBot, Pinterest, Vine, FiftyThree, Refinery29 and Stripe. She’s also a board partner at Andreessen Horowitz. In her talk, Shana noted how she’s been told she often gives founders the opposite advice of what they typically, so she outlined some of those ideas in her talk.

Fred Wilson – Union Square Ventures

Fred-WilsonFred Wilson is a legendary figure in the NYC tech scene as a partner of Union Square Ventures and the author of the amazing AVC blog. In this interview with YC Partner Aaron Harris (formerly of Tutorspree) they touched on pricing, thesis-based investing and more.

Zach Sims – Codecademy

ZACH SIMSZach is the co-founder of NYC-based Codecademy, and was my YC batch mate in the Summer of 2011. He told the story of how Codecademy came to be, and which included some hilarious anecdotes, like when Paul Graham opined that they were “the smartest founders with the dumbest ideas”, as well as the inspiring story of how one of their users went from not knowing how to code, to building a one of Time’s ’50 Best Websites’.

Kathryn Minshew – The Muse

kathryn-minshew-silicon-valley-feminine-touch3Kathryn Minshew is another YC founder of an NYC-based startup called The Muse. She shared how they started with a career advice site before moving into their paid offering around helping companies showcase their culture and better recruit talent.

Apoorva-Mehta – Instacart

Apoorva is the founder of the YC-backed which recently launched grocery delivery in several parts of New York City. Aproova is famous for applying and getting into YC with a super duper late application (in part via a delivery of beer to YC partner Garry Tan) and for, at least at one point, the fastest growing company in all of YC.

Sam Altman & Garry Tan – YC Office Hours

Screen Shot 2014-06-19 at 3.51.32 PMOne of the things YC has started doing in recent years during Startup School is running office hours, their informal mentoring/advice session they do for founders when they’re going through Y Combinator. My guess is that they want to show the audience how “regular” startup founders are probably going through the same mundane/common challenges and that entrepreneurship isn’t as polished as perhaps the speakers sometimes make their end result out to be.

First Team: Salary Fairy

Second Team: Pare Up

Third Team – Joint

David Lee – SV Angel

David-Lee-3x3David Lee is the managing partner for SV Angel, the incredibly prolific venture fund run by Ron Conway. We were fortunate enough to have David as one of our investors in Ridejoy – he’s the real deal. Smart, thoughtful, and really understand the founder experience. He shared some great stories from portfolio companies along with time-tested founder advice.

Chase Adam – Watsi

tumblr_inline_mpoh1dpOBN1qz4rgpY Combinator has now begun to fund nonprofits and Watsi, Chase Adam’s funding platform for medical treatments was the first one they ever did. Chase told the incredible story of how after finishing up at the Peace Corps, he found a way to marry the power of Silicon Valley with a meaningful social mission.


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Jason Shen

Jason is a tech entrepreneur and advocate for Asian American men. He's written extensively and spoken all over the world about how individuals and organizations develop their competitive advantage. Follow him at @jasonshen.

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