Y Combinator Names Seasoned Entrepreneur Geoff Ralston As Its Newest Partner

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Gillmor Gang Live 01.27.12 (TCTV)

Y Combinator has just announced the newest partner to join the prestigious firm: Geoff Ralston. Ralston’s previous credentials include founding Four11, which was acquired by Yahoo back in 1997 for $96 million and served as the foundation for Yahoo Mail. Ralston spent eight years at Yahoo, eventually becoming Yahoo’s Chief Product Officer. Several years after leaving Yahoo he was named CEO of Lala, before it was acquired by Apple in 2009.

Most recently he cofounded Imagine K12, a tech incubator for education-related startups, which presented at TechCrunch Disrupt SF (you can find the incubator’s first batch of companies here). In his post announcing the news, Y Combinator’s Paul Graham writes that Ralston will continue as a full partner at Imagine K12. He also writes that he’s known Geoff for 13 years, ever since his days at Yahoo (Graham’s startup, Viaweb, was acquired by Yahoo in June 1998).

The news comes only a few days after YC announced two other new partners: Garry Tan (formerly of Posterous) and Aaron Iba (formerly of Appjet/Etherpad), both of whom are YC alumni. The timing probably isn’t a coincidence — YC just opened up applications for its Summer 2012 batch yesterday, and a bigger team will doubtless help the firm deal with the growing number of inbound applications (and larger batch sizes).

Fun sidenote: Ralston holds the honor of taking part in one of the most entertaining startup pitches I’ve ever seen, when he and fellow Lala execs Bill Nguyen and John Kuch (now both at Color) explained how Lala — whose previous incarnations included a CD swapping and a failed music hub — was being reborn as an innovative streaming music service.

It took around an hour (and a lot of hilarious handwaving and bickering between the three then-Lala execs as they debated what they could tell me — in front of me), but I went from being convinced Lala was launching something completely illegal to believing it was a taste of the future. Lala never got too much traction, but it was great, and it had a nice exit: Apple acquired the company for a reported $80+ million.