Early Photos of Y Combinator

Paul Graham
August 2011

Thanks to the magic of Snapjoy I was able to upload and organize (or rather, have organized for me) thousands of pictures that had been sitting around for years on flash memory cards. Among them were some early pictures of Y Combinator.

11 March 2005

Jessica and I decided to start Y Combinator as we were walking home from dinner on March 11. Of course what we decided to start was a lot less ambitious than YC is now. Jessica and I agreed that I'd put up $100k to fund a summer program for undergrads to start startups, and she'd quit her job to work for a new company we'd start to run it. We recruited Rtm and Trevor the next day. Jessica was so excited to be quitting to work on this new idea that I took her picture to commemorate it.

29 March 2005

Trevor sitting in my house in Cambridge reading applications. At first people applied by filling out an ascii form and emailing it to us. We'd print out all the emails and grade them by hand, like exams. We got more applications for that first batch than we expected, so reading them all was quite a schlep.

8 April 2005

Rtm and Trevor sit in our original building in Cambridge the day before the first interviews. That building had great light because the roof was full of big skylights. The blur in the background is our architect Kate Courteau, rushing about with a punchlist in her hand, fixing things. Kate is responsible for practically everything you can see in our California building.

9 April 2005

Rtm imitating a caricature I drew of him on the first day of interviews. Underneath it says "It will never work." Rtm is the official wet blanket of YC, as he was of Viaweb. If a crazy idea makes it past him, that means it's worth trying.

9 April 2005

The original 4 YC partners at the end of the first day of interviews. Behind Trevor is a list of the startups we interviewed that day, written in order on the whiteboard at the end of the day as we still do today. We couldn't use Hacker News usernames to identify groups then because HN didn't exist yet, so we made up nicknames for them. The "Cell fo" behind Trevor's shoulder is "Cell food muffin" and refers to Reddit. The founders' original idea was to order food on your cell phone, and Jessica called Steve Huffman a muffin because he looked about 15.

16 August 2005

The first YC batch. This is missing a few people, but not many. It was almost that small. By this point we were starting to realize that we were onto something, because some of the startups looked like they might actually succeed.

Strange as it may sound now, we didn't expect the startups we funded that summer to succeed. Our goal in funding a bunch of young founders all at the same time was simply to learn how to be good investors. That still drives a significant fraction of our decisions.

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